This week, Lyn Ulbricht attended the International Students For Liberty Conference and graced attendees with a presentation on the appeal of her son Ross Ulbricht’s sentencing in the Silk Road trial. Lyn’s presence and tireless advocacy for her son and for the preservation of our rights is a blessing in the face of our unaccountable justice system. Her speech was concise and moving; her demeanor was what you would expect from a strong mother whose son has been sentenced to a double life sentence.
Unfortunately at the same event, on the same day as Lyn’s presentation, there was an unforgivable snub by the Students For Liberty Alumni. Ross was up for an award as an SFL alum himself. However, those responsible for nominating the winner ultimately chose a libertarian writer with a significant social media presence. This was a devastating moment in my weekend activities, and was all I really wanted to talk about the rest of the night. Most people simply shrugged their shoulders — they chalked it up to typical organization culture and politics. But what does it say about the movement when such behavior is glossed over and forgotten about? It is a sign of seriously misplaced priorities.
Ross Ulbricht has taken a stand against the leviathan state. His actions represented the greatest opposition to the Drug War in its history, and they have provided millions with the motivation and incentive for a new and subversive kind of radicalism that captures individuals’ interests directly. It engages rather than explains. Rather than lecturing it meets people face to face as equal partners and as equal opponents to an oppressive government regime. What an insult it is to Ross and to Lyn to ignore this most spontaneous form of activism.
Since Ross’s arrest, Lyn has shown us just how important this kind of imminent spreading of libertarian ideas is. Lyn does not come from a background of political agitation. She is one of many mothers who has had her child taken from her by the U.S government. She is one of many people who has sat helplessly in court proceedings as a judge condemns a man to isolation in order to silence and shudder them away from the rest of the world. Much like the participants of the Silk Road project, Lyn is not interested in political gamesmanship, but in the freeing of unfree people, the liberation of an oppressed populous. She comes to advocate for libertarian positions not because of ideological bias, but because she has seen up close just how easily the system can squash people and file them away without consequence. While we write about agorist theory and its possible implementation, Ross built a multi-million dollar black market that turned theory into a reality. While we snipe at ideological adversaries, Lyn Ulbricht is fighting to her last breath to see her son freed and the unjust conditions of the criminal justice system smashed.
The hypocrisy on display at ISFLC must be confronted. These are the people this movement needs. Ross’s and Lyn’s work deserves better than to be overlooked like it was. We must understand that our ideas really are grounded in the interests of everyday people. This isn’t a chess match or a Twitter argument. It is a real and bloody battle between the people, fighting for their liberty against a system that seeks to destroy it. The snub of Ross and Lyn is of course just over a meaningless award, but it’s symbolic of an illness that plagues large swathes of the libertarian movement.
There is great understanding among many young libertarians of just how important Ross’s actions, trial, and his mother’s dedication are. Ross himself was involved with Students For Liberty, and he should be honored as one of its most significant alums. We need to foster the spirit of Lyn’s and Ross’s activism. We need to take our philosophy into the streets as they have. Let’s stop honoring popular authors for the numbers of shares their articles get and start focusing on the “boots on the ground” like Ross and Lyn who risk their lives through concrete action. In her speech to conference-goers, Lyn recommended visiting a prison to see what our government in action. That’s where people live out the full experience of state control. What good are words if we don’t recognize the significance of the people who live them?
You can donate to Ross Ulbricht’s legal funds at FreeRoss.org.