How has Bitcoin changed the anabolic steroids black market?
“On 17 March 2010, the now-defunct BitcoinMarket.com exchange is the first one that starts operating. On 22 May 2010, Laszlo Hanyecz made the first real-world transaction by buying two pizzas in Jacksonville, Florida for 10,000 BTC. In five days, the price grew 900%, rising from $0.008 to $0.08 for 1 bitcoin.” –
Soon after this day, libertarians (or criminals if we’re speaking technical) began to use the cryptocurrency as a means of anonymous transaction to sell illicit drugs and other illegal items on the internet. The black market’s very own eBay, Silk Road, was born—the first of its kind. At first, like any disruption of the culture, this idea of purchasing drugs from a total random sounded senseless. With enough time though, the public began to see the many benefits to this new way of life—and conversely, the obvious pitfalls of the “old school way” too.
The key to this success was an honest moderator(s) of the ecommerce platform where these transactions would take place. That’s right, they were no longer considered “deals.” A deal face to face in person would require the good word of the dealer and the customer to keep his/her end of the bargain. The dealer promises he’s secure and that the product is of the highest quality. The customer promises that he is secure and that he has the full payment, in cash, ready upon meeting. Clearly, things do not always go down this way. Often, people just go down instead. From rats who are wearing wires to dealers who provide impure products—with no repercussions for their actions other than violence? This was hardly the marketplace most humans wanted to be in to purchase their drugs. But this was kind of just the way things always were. “Know your source” was the best piece of advice anyone could give. Although, with careful investigation, what was missing from a rational point of view? Early innovators of online black markets knew:
1.) Anonymity. Not everyone wants their dealer to know about their drug habits or drug business.
2.) Regulation and quality Control. With face to face deals, there was no good way to control for quality unless you trusted your dealer. With platforms like Silk Road, it now allowed for reviews from customers that were controlled by the moderators who were a third party of sorts. Not a perfect metric, but much better than the old school route. With the ability to review a dealer and customer, this enabled for a higher standard of quality across the board. Not just of drug quality, but customer service also. This tended to attract a more noble type of tribe also. One would think anonymity would be a cause for disaster, but this was rarely the case.
3.) Access to more range of products. This is kind of like comparing Amazon to your local shire’s clothing store. Online shopping is taking over for a reason. Better range and often better prices too. Another key point to this is that for whatever reason, being it location or social status—not everyone knows a local street drug dealer. The invention of the online black market allowed for anyone to participate. Not only as a customer, but a vendor too. It turns out that street gangs were not always the most honest suppliers and that there were some nerds who could provide a really needed service for those who seek a quality product; without the iron bar over the head if there were issues. Issues were solved as they should, in a diplomatic manner.
4.) Efficiency. No need for long drives and missions to get your goods for the weekend. Online black markets allowed for time efficient transactions so you could get back on with your day.
5.) Security. Enhanced security was a huge turning point for the online black market. Sure, there are some cons to ordering online (like there are to any transactional model), but overall, online black markets allowed for customers and vendors to remain anonymous. Gone was the fear of rats, wire taps, audio taps, video footage, robbing, violence or any of the other negatives that often came with a traditional anarchist culture of exchanging illegal goods.
As I mentioned, there are some cons to this nuanced way of purchasing illegal goods, but in my opinion, they are far outweighed by the pros. The most significant con is the risk a customer has of their products being seized in the post by law enforcement. However, despite some of the ruckus online, the risk of seizure is still relatively small (less than 1%) and a reputable supplier will often offer free re-shipment of your order. As far as convictions are concerned, for Australians purchasing anabolic steroids and performance enhancement drugs, the risk for conviction is minimal unless the quantities seized are large. Most orders that are seized are simply intercepted by law enforcement with a letter of notification sent to the receiving address. Due to encrypted communications between vendor and customer, it is difficult for law enforcement to prove you even ordered the mail. Mainly though, law enforcement does not have the resources to chase up everyone who ordered 10 x vials of testosterone in the mail. For Class A substances the discussion here is quite different. Overall, this new way of life has been a blessing for the vast majority of us and this blog post is dedicated to those early innovators that made this all possible for us. Libertarianism is about doing what you want to do without hurting anyone else. Libertarianism is positively guided anarchy and I am in favour.