How do you make moral decisions if you have no frame of reference other than your own opinion? The tale of Silk Road, part 1

On what basis do you decide which is the right path?   Image of “decisions” by Impact Hub is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

What is the relative moral ranking of people selling the following illegal products:

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Weapons
  • Explosives
  • Lethal poisons
  • Harvested body parts

Early in the growth of the Silk Road, which was a hidden place on the internet where you could buy anything you wanted, and I mean aaaaanything imaginable, a debate emerged about the outer limit of products that would be allowed on the site.

The website was set up and run by Ross Ulbricht. Ultimately the feds busted him, his senior staff, and another couple hundred people who worked for Silk Road or sold stuff there.

I just finished reading a book telling the tale of Silk Road, American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road, written by Nick Bilton. Have had that book on my wish list for some time.

This five-part series will be published at both Nonprofit Update and Outrun Change. Posting at the Nonprofit site is because of the spiritual dimension, and at the Outrun Change site since I have a lot of other articles there describing Silk Road. People of faith will quickly figure out the spiritual and theological implications of these posts.

Some vendors didn’t like being around other vendors who obviously were less ethical

Fairly early in the life of the site it evolved that the mellow marijuana sellers and buyers didn’t like having those hyped up coke sellers on the same website, who in turn really didn’t like being around the hard-core heroin peddlers.

In turn, the heroin dealers didn’t like their wonderful stuff showing up in the same shopping cart as the handguns and rifles sold by those wacky, weird, anti-government kooks. In turn, the gun peddlers didn’t want to be on a website with those low-life dope dealers.

What to do? How to resolve this conflict between people who thought they were morally better than the other sellers?

Each of those groups of crooks thought they were morally superior to the others.

So tell me, who is in the morally superior position when ranking sellers of pot, coke, “H” (a new term I learned in the book), semiautomatic handguns, fully automatic rifles, hand grenades, and rocket launchers?

Without any moral framework other than one’s feelings at this moment (which are subject to change at the merest whim), how can any one of those be considered better or worse than the others? Which vendors should be allowed on the site and which banned?

Well, Ross Ulbricht, also known as Dread Pirate Roberts, also known as DPR, had no moral framework other than what he felt like at the moment. As a result, his decision was to allow all of the drug and weapon vendors to sell whatever they wanted on the website. Everyone was welcome. For more details jump in at page 123 of the book.

Continued in part 2. 

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