I picked up a copy of American Kingpin last week for an upcoming flight and was completely blown away by the details of a story I thought I knew most of.
The book tells the story of the Silk Road, a dark web platform for buying and selling illegal drugs, guns and much more. The site's now infamous founder, Ross Ulbricht, is now in jail where he'll likely spend the rest of his life. Ross, a staunch libertarian, was incredibly sharp and thought the site would be an outlet to 'change the world' (he wasn't wrong). The platform would take back power from the government and allow people to decide what they do and do not ingest, smoke, sniff, snort, and shoot up.
It was remarkable to me how fast someone's morals can get corrupted by power and money. The site morphed from an idealistic place to buy small quantities of recreational drugs to the lifeblood of the seedy underworld.
It didn't happen all at once. No. It was a snowball of small decisions that eventually led to Silk Road listing and selling explosives, grenade launchers, poison, and even human organs. Yes, kidneys and livers could be bought on Silk Road using bitcoin right next to an ounce of medical-grade cannabis.
Because the operation was very secretive, Ross couldn't talk to anyone about the problems he was having with the site and talk through the potential repercussions with friends or family that had any modicum of a moral compass. The anonymous folks that he worked with on building the site and talked to every day further normalized the incredible lengths Ross had stretched his belief system.
The money the site was bringing in also helped justify the need to accept more and more goods and services on the platform. I wonder if Ross was able to have a few close friends to talk with during the growth phase of the Silk Road if the outcome would've been different. Would it have actually made a change to the way the world thinks about and legislates drugs? Maybe.
Anyway, the book was fantastic and I can't wait for the movie.