"At the Village Pizza shop, as they were sitting down to consume a pepperoni, Dorothy asked Jim, 'So what other inventions are you working on?" Jim replied, 'I've got a new idea, but it's really revolutionary. Literally REVOLUTIONARY.' 'Okay, Jim, which government are you planning to overthrow?,' she asked, playing along. 'All of them,' answered Jim."
Political Implications Imagine for a moment that as ordinary citizens were watching the evening news, they see an act by a government employee or officeholder that they feel violates their rights, abuses the public's trust, or misuses the powers that they feel should be limited. A person whose actions are so abusive or improper that the citizenry shouldn't have to tolerate it.
What if they could go to their computers, type in the miscreant's name, and select a dollar amount: The amount they, themselves, would be willing to pay to anyone who "predicts" that officeholder's death. That donation would be sent, encrypted and anonymously, to a central registry organization, and be totaled, with the total amount available within seconds to any interested individual. If only 0.1% of the population, or one person in a thousand, was willing to pay $1 to see some government slimeball dead, that would be, in effect, a $250,000 bounty on his head.
Further, imagine that anyone considering collecting that bounty could do so with the mathematical certainty that he can't possibly be identified, and could collect the reward without meeting, or even talking to, anybody who could later identify him. Perfect anonymity, perfect secrecy, and perfect security. And that, combined with the ease and security with which these contributions could be collected, would make being an abusive government employee an extremely risky proposition. Chances are good that nobody above the level of county commissioner would even risk staying in office.
Just how would this change politics in America? It would take far less time to answer, "What would remain the same?" No longer would we be electing people who will turn around and tax us to death, regulate us to death, or for that matter sent hired thugs to kill us when we oppose their wishes.
One of the attractive potential implications of such a system would be that we might not even need a military to protect the country. Any threatening or abusive foreign leader would be subject to the same contribution/assassination/reward system, and it would operate just as effectively over borders as it does domestically.
This country has learned, in numerous examples subsequent to many wars, that once the political disputes between leaders has ceased, we (ordinary citizens) are able to get along pretty well with the citizens of other countries. Classic examples are post-WWII Germany, Japan, and Italy, and post-Soviet Russia, the Eastern bloc, Albania, and many others.
Contrary examples are those in which the political dispute remains, such as North Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Cuba, Red China, and a few others. In all of these examples, the opposing leadership was NOT defeated, either in war or in an internal power struggle. Clearly, it is not the PEOPLE who maintain the dispute, but the leadership.
Consider how history might have changed if we'd been able to "bump off" Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Tojo, Kim Il Sung, Ho Chi Minh, Ayatollah Khomeini, Saddam Hussein, Moammar Khadafi, and various others, along with all of their replacements if necessary, all for a measly few million dollars, rather than the billions of dollars and millions of lives that subsequent wars cost.
But that raises an interesting question, with an even more interesting answer. "If all this is so easy, why hasn't this been done before?" I mean, wars are destructive, costly, and dangerous, so why hasn't some smart politician figured out that instead of fighting the entire country, we could just 'zero' the few bad guys on the top?
The answer is quite revealing, and strikingly "logical": If we can kill THEIR leaders, they can kill OUR leaders too. That would avoid the war, but the leadership on both sides would be dead, and guess who is making the decisions about what to do? That's right, the LEADERS!
And the leaders (both theirs and ours!) would rather see 30,000,000 ordinary people die in WWII than lose their own lives, if they can get away with it. Same in Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War, and numerous other disputes around the globe. You can see that as long as we continue to allow leaders, both "ours" and "theirs," to decide who should die, they will ALWAYS choose the ordinary people of each country.
One reason the leaders have been able to avoid this solution is simple: While it's comparatively easy to "get away with murder," it's a lot harder to reward the person who does it, and that person is definitely taking a serious risk. (Most murders are solved based on some prior relationship between the murder and victim, or observations of witnesses who know either the murderer or the victim.)
Historically, it has been essentially impossible to adequately motivate a assassin, ensuring his safety and anonymity as well, if only because it has been impossible to PAY him in a form that nobody can trace, and to ensure the silence of all potential witnesses. Even if a person was willing to die in the act, he would want to know that the people he chooses would get the reward, but if they themselves were identified they'd be targets of revenge.
All that's changed with the advent of public-key encryption and digital cash. Now, it should be possible to announce a standing offer to all comers that a large sum of digital cash will be sent to him in an untraceable fashion should he meet certain "conditions," conditions which don't even have to include proving (or, for that matter, even claiming) that he was somehow responsible for a death.
I believe that such a system has tremendous implications for the future of freedom. Libertarians in particular (and I'm a libertarian) should pay particular attention to the fact that this system "encourages" if not an anarchist outcome, at least a minarchist (minimal government) system, because no large governmental structure could even survive in its current form.
In fact, I would argue that this system would solve a potential problem, occasionally postulated, with the adoption of libertarianism in one country, surrounded by non-libertarian states. It could have reasonably been suspected that in a gradual shift to a libertarian political and economic system, remnants of a non-libertarian system such as a military would have to survive, to protect society against the threats represented by foreign states. While certainly plausible, it would have been hard for an average naive person to imagine how the country would maintain a $250 billion military budget, based on voluntary contributions.
The easy answer, of course, is that military budgets of that size would simply not happen in a libertarian society. More problematic is the question of how a country would defend itself, if it had to raise it defenses by voluntary contribution. An equally simplistic answer is that this country could probably be defended just fine on a budget 1/2 to 1/3 of the current budget. True, but that misses the point.
The real answer is even simpler. Large armies are only necessary to fight the other large armies organized by the leadership of other, non-libertarian states, presumably against the will of their citizenry. Once the problem posed by _their_ leadership is solved (as well as ours; either by their own citizenry by similar anonymous contributions, or by ours), there will be no large armies to oppose.
[end of part 2]