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One Silk Road employee—a family man in central Utah, no less—had been arrested in a cocaine deal, and Ulbricht believed he’d stolen 0,000 of his money.Ulbricht, who operated on the site under the pseudonym “Dread Pirate Roberts”—a nod to the 80s movie , a Canadian whom he had never met in real life but who operated on the Silk Road under the nom de plume “Variety Jones.” The first solution to the management crisis seemed the easiest: to simply pay the employee, Curtis Green, a visit and subsequently scare him into returning the stolen money.The real problem with the drug business, he surmised, was that it was violent and opaque.So he came up with the germ of an idea: what if there were a Web site, like Yelp, that rated buyers and sellers, so that exchanges would be fair and more transparent? But Ulbricht wasn’t simply a precocious and edgy libertarian.
So why, Ulbricht provoked, were recreational drugs illegal?As a rakishly handsome wanderlust kid from central Texas, Ulbricht had traveled north, away from his small life. Travis Kalanick, or early Facebook investor (and Donald Trump supporter) Peter Thiel, both of whom had been fans of Rand, Ulbricht adhered to a particularly defiant strain of Randian dogma: “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.”In political-debate clubs and at the Corner Room diner, on campus, the young Ulbricht fixated on the ostensible inconsistencies in how the U. government determined what was, and was not, legal.He matriculated at Penn State University, where he studied materials science and engineering, and acquired interests not uncommon among contrarian millennials—particularly those who enter the technology business. His philosophizing relied on a particularly college-aged line of argumentation.The entire system, at least from a tech perspective, was admirably efficient.Yet the site soon morphed from Ulbricht’s original, if naïve, plan.
But as the Web site became a billion-dollar enterprise, its creator, Ross Ulbricht, went from idealistic to dangerous.