by Roger Ver
November 12th, 2012
My road to becoming a voluntaryist began in junior high when I found a copy of the book SOCIALISM by Ludwig von Mises. At the time I hadn’t given politics much thought and was a typical statist who assumed that there wasn’t any reason to limit the State’s power if it was being used to help people, but I also had a vague idea that Americans were opposed to socialism.
When I initially started reading SOCIALISM I thought it would be a pro-socialist book, but that it would be a good idea for me to hear the other side of the argument. By the time I finished it, I had learned that it is an impossibility for the government to centrally plan an economy as efficiently as the free market. After this book, I was inspired to read other books on economics by Ludwig von Mises, Adam Smith, Fredric Bastiat, Leonard Read, Henry Hazlitt, Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, and just about anything else I could order from Laissez-Faire Books, since this was before the internet was wide-spread. I learned that prices transmit the information required to most effectively allocate resources and that government intervention in the economy is preventing the world from being as wealthy as it should be. The more I read, the more appalled I became at the economic ignorance displayed by politicians and governments around the world. I became frustrated because anyone who spends the time to study economics can learn that nearly everything the government does makes the world a poorer place and that people, especially the poor, would be much better off if everyone were simply allowed to do anything that is peaceful.
At this point I had a firm grasp of the economic benefits brought to all by the free market, but it wasn’t until I found Murray Rothbard’s works that I started to think about the moral case for freedom. I devoured all of Rothbard’s books and was persuaded by the logic of his arguments. I remember being almost afraid to read such powerful truths. In all my years of schooling, no one before Rothbard had ever pointed out that taxation is the moral equivalent of theft, and the military draft is the moral equivalent of kidnapping and slavery. It shattered my remaining hopes that the State could be morally justified. For the first time I saw them for the criminal band of thieves, slave masters, and murderers that they are. My life has never been the same since.
Up to this point everything I had learned seemed ideological and somewhat abstract, but I felt the need to point out these truths to others. To help spread the ideas of liberty at the age of twenty, in the year 2000, I became a Libertarian candidate for California State Assembly. I vowed that if I were elected I would not accept any salary, considering the money would necessarily have been taken from others by force in the form of taxation. I also promised to cut as many taxes and repeal as many laws as I could.
As part of the election process I was invited to participate in a debate at San Jose State University against the Republican and Democrat candidates. In the debate, I argued that taxation is theft, the war on drugs is immoral, and that the ATF are “a bunch of jack booted thugs and murderers” in memoriam to the people they slaughtered in Waco, Texas. Unbeknownst to me at the time there were several plain clothed ATF agents in the audience who became very upset with the things I was saying. They began looking into my background in the attempt to find dirt on me. I had already started a successful online business selling various computer components. In addition to computer parts, I, along with dozens of other resellers across the country, including Cabelas, were selling a product called a “Pest Control Report 2000.” It was basically a firecracker used by farmers to scare deer and birds away from their corn fields. While everyone else, including the manufacturer, were simply asked to stop selling them I became the only person in the nation to be prosecuted.
The reasoning for the prosecution became crystal clear after a meeting with the US prosecuting attorney and the under cover ATF agents from the debate. In the meeting, my attorney told the prosecutor that selling store-bought firecrackers on Ebay isn’t a big deal and that we can pay a fine and do some community service to be done with everything. When the prosecutor agreed that that sounded reasonable one of the ATF agents pounded his hand on the table and shouted “…but you didn’t hear the things that he said!” This summed up very clearly that they were angry about the things that I had said, not the things that I had done.
After being told by the US attorney that I would be sent to jail for seven or eight years if I took my case to trial I signed a plea agreement. At the sentencing the judge asked me if anyone threatened or coerced me in any way to sign the plea agreement. When I said “Yes, absolutely,” the judge’s eyes became very wide and he asked “what do you mean?” I explained that the US attorney told me that he would send me to jail for seven or eight years if I didn’t sign the plea agreement. The judge responded that that was not what he was asking about, so I replied that I must not understand what it means to be threatened or coerced. The judge then proceeded to lecture me extensively on politics. He carried on about why government is so important and how “taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society” and that government is wonderful in general. He summed up his lecture by telling me that, “I don’t want you to think that your political views have anything to do with why you are here today,” and then sentenced me to serve ten months in federal prison.
After my release from Lompoc Federal Penitentiary I had to deal with three years of lies, insults, threats, and general harassment by the US Federal probation department. I moved to Japan on the very day my probation finished.
Currently, I am working full time to make the world a better, less violent place by promoting the use of Bitcoin. Bitcoin totally strips away the State’s control over money. It takes away the vast majority of its power to tax, regulate, or control the economy in any way. If you care about liberty, the nonaggression principle, or economic freedom in general you should do everything you can to use Bitcoin as often as possible in your daily life.
[Roger Ver was born and raised in Silicon Valley and now resides in Tokyo. He is the CEO of MemoryDealers.com and directly employs thirty people in several countries around the world. Roger is also an investor in numerous Bitcoin startups. He spends his free time studying economics, moral philosophy, Bitcoin, and Brazilian Jujitsu. This article first appeared on the website www.daily dailyanarchist.com on November 12, 2012.]