The ground is shifting beneath our feet. Those in power feel it, and it scares them. The innovation can be slowed, but it can’t be stopped, much less reversed. This great transformation is already underway. The theme, as always, is human freedom, which is the insuppressible urge within all of us to live full and ever more prosperous lives, regardless of the barriers put in the way.
State management of society is not only contrary to human liberty; it is also unworkable. It cannot achieve what it seeks to achieve, which is often all-around control of some sector of economic and social life. The attempt provokes a social backlash. People find loopholes and workarounds or just invent new ways to make progress possible. This is because people will not be caged. They struggle to be free, and sometimes they succeed.
Over the last century-plus, the Leviathan state has gained the upper hand, sometimes through big periods of upheaval but mostly through a million daily nicks and cuts. What if this process is being reversed in our time? What if the apparatus of control is being undermined with a million acts of entrepreneurship that evade the state's attempt to plan and command? There is a fundamental asymmetry between the structure of government and the structure of a networked people.
In our times, innovation has provided people with more tools. And often they use these tools to get around the barriers that politicians and bureaucrats have erected. Some of us take note of them every day. And while we may revel in their cleverness, we don't take time to look at the big picture. Here is where this phenomenon of small ways to break out from and break down the system — which pop culture often labels "breaking bad" — gets really interesting.
Consider the post office. It has not been privatized. It's just fallen gradually into disuse thanks to the advent of email, texting, and thousands of other ways of communicating. It may stick around for another decade or so but as a kind of zombie. Surely its days are numbered.
This is the archetype. Government was supposed to provide but didn't. Now markets are picking up the pieces and making new products and services that facilitate better living, which reduces the role and significance of public policy. Every time the state shuts a door or closes a loophole, people find and exploit two more doors, two more loopholes.
If this model of disruption and defiance is part of a larger trend, it provides a very revealing look at a strategy that liberty-minded people ought to intellectually codify, encourage, and practice.
Compared with politics or the slow road of mass education, the work of hacking Leviathan through innovation is a promising road forward. Something's happening. It's like the Singularity for civil disobedience. Pandora's box. Perhaps a series of innovation tidal waves. A whole lot of people are participating in a great unfolding. And if you're drawing up grand social engineering plans, throw them out. The world is about to get a lot more dynamic.
It is happening quickly by any historical standard, but it is also happening incrementally in ways that cause us not to notice. The bigger the pattern, the more slowly we tend to recognize it. The bigger the implication, the more resistant we are to acknowledging it.
We even take it all for granted. In reality, the ground is shifting beneath our feet. Those in power feel it, and it scares them. The innovation can be slowed, but it can't be stopped, much less reversed. This great transformation is already underway.
The theme, as always, is human freedom, which is the insuppressible urge within all of us to live full and ever more prosperous lives, regardless of the barriers put in the way.
Here are 99 ways to leave Leviathan. Each one is worthy of a separate article and analysis, but assembling them this way shows how one paradigm of social and economic organization is crumbling and another is taking its place. The unrelenting power and energy behind these innovations and workarounds are making the old models of social organization obsolete.
99 Ways to Leave Leviathan
1. Rent that room. The Keynesians used to complain about "idle resources" and proposed government planning to fix this supposed problem. It turns out that the market is the solution, particularly for idle space in your own home. Airbnb.com allows people to rent out their homes — or just a room, basement, or attic in a home — for a couple of days. Like so many other innovations, the software is designed to connect people peer to peer. It offers competitive prices compared to hotels and gets around the whole of the regulatory apparatus, zoning control, union monopolies, and other barriers to entry. Of course, in some states, hotel cartels aren't happy.
2. Defy the taxi monopoly. Taxis have their licenses, which drive up fares. It's a cozy and well-protected cartel. Uber.com and Lyft.com let you get around this system: you can find great rides in clean cars for better fares — all while checking (gasp! unlicensed) chauffeurs with reputation ratings. Both drivers and consumers get a rating every time. It all works through easy-to-use apps that get around restrictions because you are not paying the driver directly. It's dramatically cut drunk driving in large cities. And thousands of people have found new careers they love. As a consumer, you will be amazed: it can be pleasant to catch a cab after all. It's not so pleasant for taxi-medallion holders, who are seeing the value of their asset fall by half.
3. Get hip to cryptocurrency. Government ruined money long ago. The market has made an end-to-end cryptocurrency, beginning in 2009. There is Bitcoin but also hundreds (even thousands) of alternative currencies. These monies are both payment systems and means of exchange. Both national and private cryptocurrencies are now used in parallel. But eventually? The private alternative is so much superior that they could mean death for the euro, the dollar, and other fiat currencies. The implications are awesome and inspiring.
4. Generate your own private power. Big companies like Google are tired of dealing with regulated utilities. They fear outages and need more reliable power. They're generating their own power. Only a few companies are doing this now, but then again there used to be only a few rich guys using cell phones. That's where innovation happens. Then, the price goes down and the quality goes up. Moore's law kicks in. Someday this trend could challenge the grid. Public-private monopolies have vexed power generation and distribution for a century, but it needs to end. Innovation will make the difference.
5. Use concierge health care. Doctors are opting out of Obamacare and the third-party payer system that has existed since after World War II. Pay the service provider in advance and pay them out of pocket. Get the care you need and go buy a catastrophic plan if you can (instead of taking whatever's on the Obamacare exchanges). The failures of centralized, cartelized health care will give rise to ever more alternatives. Health care is too important to be left to the regulators and government planners.
6. Send silent emails. Want to evade the surveillance state? Bitmessage is the latest in crypto communications, poised to replace email. A few more tweaks on the user interface, and we are good to go. Such distributed systems are a key to evading the egregious spying by the NSA, FBI, and every other government agency. There are other such services — like Silent Circle — that allow private phone calls.
7. Don't forget the glory of email in general. The process of destroying the USPS as a monopolistic provider of mail is pretty much a done deal. It took twenty years, but now email is the new first-class mail. Meanwhile, the government's service loses billions each year. Such a moribund provider could go for decades as a tax-subsidized monopoly. But the market moves on. There is always another app.
8. Online free markets. Yes, that can and does mean narcotics such as those that were sold on Silk Road 1, 2, and 3, plus another dozen darknet platforms for P2P exchange. These anonymous websites let you use cryptocurrency to buy illicit substances, including not-yet-FDA-approved drugs and food. You might find this alarming but consider: the sites bring a beautiful peace to an unstoppable market that government has otherwise caused to become violent and deadly. But what about the many attempts to shut down these platforms (the founder of the first is in jail)? Remember Napster. The hydra lives.
9. The decay of YouTube copyright rules. They were once simple, but as remixing, parody, and covers evolve, the exceptions to strict copyrighting are growing. Now a Miley Cyrus video released at sunup is covered 1,000 times before sundown. In effect, the initially imagined scenario of copyright — government confers monopoly status on every piece of art — is dying before our eyes. If you doubt it, go to any bar on Ocean Drive in Miami. "Piracy" and remixing is a way of life. Effective enforcement is impossible because, as Leonard Read used to say, it is impossible to cage an idea (or a song or video).
10. Print your way to freedom. Using 3-D printing, not only will people circumvent unconstitutional gun restrictions (like Cody Wilson has with guns), but people will be able easily to get around patents and regulations by printing their own high-flow showerheads. When everyone is a maker, no one is regulated. If you don't like the government blueprint, make a new one and press "print."
11. The privatization of lending. Prosper.com and LendingClub.com let people bypass big incumbent banks and crowdfund as borrowers and lenders. Where there is communication, there are deals being made. Such services have proven crucial since the 2008 financial crisis. The policy of "zero percent interest" has been deadly for conventional loan markets. Just because it is a mandate doesn't mean you can actually get a loan. The fully private alternative market works because its interest rates reflect underlying realities.
12. Health coverage cooperatives. It doesn't have to be just Christian organizations (such as CHMinistries.org) that set up health-coverage co-ops. These groups cover catastrophic health care costs for members, bypassing — for now — Big Insurance and the government regulatory apparatus. Yes, they have rules for how you need to maintain your health, but that's how markets work. It should be insurers, and not hectoring public-service ads, that inspire us to be as healthy as we can be.
13. Celebrate the raw-milk movement. The government has tried for decades to suppress this unpasteurized brew, but fans won't be stopped. Buyers' clubs (see RealMilk.com) are everywhere. The more the feds crack down, the more the demand for the product grows. This is a movement that defies all ideological categories. The victims of the crackdown are nearly always sympathetic.
14. Private arbitration. If you have a dispute with someone, the last place you want to end up is in the thicket of the government's court system. People are opting for private arbitration. Private arbitration may be nothing new, but the extent of reliance on it is. There are a zillion bricks-and-mortar arbiters. Online, Judge.me is now defunct, but Net-Arb.com is still working. Stay tuned.
15. Escrow. How do you guarantee that you will get what you pay for online? Escrow.com is glad to hold the payment and verify the transaction before rewarding both sides with the results. It is security for property that lives in the cloud — and no government courts (or even laws) are involved.
16. Space tourism/exploration. XCor, SpaceX, and lots of other groups are getting into the private space race. They're doing NASA — only better, faster, and cheaper. Can you imagine the consumer markets that are waiting to be fired up here? Profitable space tourism is coming, with or without government's "help."
17. Reach your audience directly. YouTube stars like Lindsey Stirling, Tyler Ward, Rebecca Black, Justin Bieber, and a thousand other musicians have bypassed the old centralized system of getting an agent and begging a monopolistic record label to take control of your life. Lindsey, for example, has made sharp YouTube videos that have launched her into stardom, complete with lucrative tour dates. Such decentralization is happening in movies, music, comedy, and more.
18. Go dark with TOR and the Deep Web. This browser (TorProject.org) for the crypto web bounces your originating IP address all over the planet. That way you can surf anonymously — i.e., away from the eyes of the NSA panopticon. It's one piece of a newly emergent infrastructure for the web. Internet service itself will eventually become distributed.
19. Universal publishing. At one point, a few people maintained the primary conduits of information. Blogging and web publishing make it easier to express yourself. Censorship has become nearly impossible. The newspapers are finally staking out their territories online. But they are losing control of the primary conduits of information. Tumblr alone has millions of unique publishers.
20. Get the water flowing again. Government's absurd regulations on household appliances have severely restricted how much water we can use, though it makes a miniscule difference in total consumption (domestic consumption, including lawns, accounts for only 2 percent of water use). But you can hack your water pressure, hack your showerheads, and crank up the water heaters to restore civilization.
21. The death of prescriptions. You can order your inexpensive drugs from many countries now — safely, cheaply, and securely (and with no prescription). No need to give your overpriced Obamacare doctor or Big Pharma a cut. The greatest irony is that most of these services are happy to use the US Postal Service for delivery. Finally, the post office does something good!
22. Enjoy pot legally because it's not only about medicine. Forty years ago, Richard Nixon started a war on pot as a political maneuver. It boosted his credibility and attacked his enemies. Sadly, tens of millions of innocent people have been abused and caged as a result. But the public isn't standing for it anymore. States and cities are decriminalizing it all over the country in response to noncompliance and voter revolt. Nearly half the states have liberalized. Only the South remains to act in some form. It's a beautiful thing to see freedom from the drug war dawning at last.
23. Expatriation. Sometimes if you don't like it somewhere, you just have to leave. It's easier and easier to find better climes, whether for weather, taxation, or culture. Expatriation from the United States reached record levels in 2014. While this number is still only in the thousands, the option to leave is there, and more people are availing themselves of it than ever. You have the right to leave!
24. Startup cities. People in developing countries are starting to understand that rich countries are rich for a reason. So poor countries are starting to import good institutions, or are "rezoning" for prosperity (all while the rich countries are going in the wrong direction). Outside of China's special economic zones (SEZs), Honduran startup cities are a new experiment worth watching.
25. Seasteading. Blueseed.com is one of the earliest examples of entrepreneurial ventures that will take people to the sea in search of opportunity and superior rule sets. The Seasteading Institute (Seasteading.org) has also successfully worked with a Dutch firm to design the first seasteading modules. The harder the tax and regulatory state pushes, the more viable the sea becomes as a place to live and do business.
26. Radicalization of media arts. Goodbye network television from the Cold War era and hello subscription-based content. Today's shows (Breaking Bad, Orange Is the New Black, Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, The Wire) sport themes of defiance, disruption, and the persistence of freedom in the face of regimentation. Not only is the à la carte model disruptive, the content is subversive.
27. Up with private schooling and homeschooling. If you don't like the government schools, take your kids out. Millions of families are doing it. Some are even forming virtual co-ops and getting content from online sources. A free market in education would produce thousands of new forms and structures. But even absent such freedom, education is evolving to meet human needs rather than political priorities.
28. Alternative nicotine delivery is booming. From a revival of roll-your-own cigarettes to snus (smokeless tobacco) to e-cigarettes, people are responding to health concerns and ever-higher cigarette taxes — just not the way anti-tobacco zealots think they should. Cue increasingly shrill backlash. Anti-smokers should be rejoicing, and many are, but not the bureaucrats charged with the war on tobacco.
29. Farmers market cooperatives and urban homesteading. Farmers market co-ops have people trading goods in kind. People barter and contribute their labor outside the auspices of government skimmers. Plus, people in big cities are growing their own food — USDA free. No matter how much the government purports to control what we eat and what food is available to us, this is a movement it can't stop.
30. Employ private neighborhood security. There's not a large city in the United States today that doesn't have a thriving private-security enterprise. They once served only the commercial sector. Now they serve homes and neighborhoods. Even more impressive: the individuation of security. Check out new apps like Peacekeeper. It's just one example of the ways local communities can reduce the cost of security and emergency services — and keep it local.
31. Evade the revenuers with barter markets. If you are in business, you know the score. If you can trade services or goods directly, it's best to forego the paper trail. You donate programming time, I'll give you web space. You promote my product, I'll promote yours. If money doesn't change hands, you can avoid all kinds of problems with the government. Barter has become a natural response to the tax collector.
32. Email/social-media swarming. With social media, it is possible to ignite popular outrage against the machinations of legislators. The outcry against SOPA/PIPA is a good example. The floods of protest against invading Syria had an effect on the pullback from that near disaster, too. Political activism will never be the same. It's desktop democracy. Aaron Swartz lives forever.
33. Use that camera phone. One powerful weapon against the state is probably in your pocket right now. Consider the Peaceful Streets Project. They keep politicians and agents of the state — even judges and bureaucrats — accountable through tech-enabled "eternal vigilance." The more people who stand up in the face of intimidation (or simply film from their windows with a zoom lens), the better.
34. Private venture-capital markets. There's a problem with Fed-set interest rates. No one really wins. Since the policy of zero percent interest rates began, a gigantic non-bank lending and borrowing sector has picked up where the banks left off. And its rates are set by the market. If you are starting a new business and are looking for capital, who are you going to call?
35. P2P file sharing. The survival and persistence of file sharing through "torrents" shows that civil disobedience in the face of intellectual monopolies is alive and well, despite a twenty-year war on the practice. The more the monopolists fight, the more file sharers win. Sharing in the online world is possible without creating contests over who owns what. It's the magic of the digital world to make the scarce infinite.
36. Speed. At a certain point, no one bothered driving 55 any more (not just Sammy Hagar). People sped en masse until Congress decided to let the states set speed limits — higher. It's a paradigmatic case: people disobeyed until the law was changed. If everyone is driving 80 miles per hour, no one is breaking the law.
37. Crowdfunding. If you need startup money, you can pass around the virtual begging bowl (for example, Kickstarter.com and Indiegogo.com). But it can't be just any old thing. You have to convince the crowd to let go of their resources. But that might be a much lower barrier to get over than snagging the attention of venture capitalists or prying a loan out of your bailed-out bank.
38. Social entrepreneurship. The welfare state tends to make people dependent supplicants. Foreign aid does, too. But entrepreneurs with causes are creating better ways of helping the poor, from microfinance to the return of mutual aid societies like the Christian health care co-ops cited above. The social entrepreneurship sector is enjoying a tech-enabled renaissance despite the state.
39. Medical tourism/opt-out. For a while now, people have been taking their medical problems to other countries that offer comparable care more cheaply and without all the red tape. In fact, people used to come to the United States from Canada to get care they couldn't get in the land of "free" health care. Medical inflation is so bad in the United States now that a lot more people are leaving to get treatments abroad, or opting out of the third-party payer health care cartel. Meanwhile, some people are leaving to get treatments the FDA hasn't approved.
40. Self-managing organizations. Firms like Valve and Morning Star show that you don't need formal hierarchies — "bosses" — for an organization to run well. These firms might teach us that the world doesn't need bosses, either. But aren't bosses part of the market? Sure, to some extent, but changes in the tax law and corporate code after World War II made firms look and act like government bureaucracies. This new movement is starting to reverse that.
41. Tax sheltering. Value creators are tired of having their rewards raided by the people with the guns and the jails. Apple, for example, uses a multinational tax-sheltering scheme so complicated that mere mortals can't possibly follow it. The result: extra capital to make the iPhone ever cooler. Politicians whine, but consumers cheer. (Just when you thought Swiss privacy laws were finished, there's no doubt that clever people will find new ways to hide their capital from the state.)
42. Supper clubs. Underground foodies are paying visits to chefs and great cooks outside the auspices of the public-health nannies. Every home is a restaurant, every kitchen an income earner. Supper clubs sprouted up in Chicago when aldermen in that city banned foie gras (a ban that was eventually overturned thanks to popular outcry, civil disobedience, and counter-special interests).
43. Offshoring and inshoring. Sometimes corporate taxes, union controls, and regulatory control are all just too much. US corporations take their production elsewhere (currently the United States has the highest corporate tax rate in the world, when state taxes are taken into account), even as foreign corporations venue-shop for the best production facilities in the United States (away from high taxes and cartelized unions).
44. Behold the food trucks! Bricks-and-mortar restaurants love regulations because they can keep a boot on the necks of competitors. That's why cities that tolerate food-truck culture are giving these restaurants a run for their money. If you can stand to eat your tacos on a park bench, it might be worth hitting a food trailer — the ultimate in microentrepreneurship. They are often at the forefront of experimentation and variety.
45. Use social networks and Skype. Millions of people from all over the world are interacting as if they were next-door neighbors. Subtly this blurs the lines created by nation-states and creates a far more cosmopolitan world — one that exposes the arbitrariness of jurisdictions that you may or may not happen to have been born in. Controlling people depends on preventing them from communicating without permission. But these days, that's not possible. Not even exile is possible: not even the United States can shut Edward Snowden down.
46. Driverless cars. The technology is here. It certainly changes the calculation for distracted or intoxicated drivers, and it fixes the problems with public roads the state won't fix. Driverless cars will give us safe, automated travel and deny the state funds it gleans from hassling people for both major and minor offenses that result from bad infrastructure, human error, and poor judgment. It'll just take one or two areas of the world to deploy them successfully to unleash the change.
47. Crowdsourcing private equity. Kickstarter and other online fundraisers were required by law to restrict their services to donations and not sell stock. But what about premiums for donations? How big can they be? The limits are being tested by sites like Angel.co. In a few years, you will be able to buy startup equity with Bitcoin and the whole world will benefit.
48. With private conservation, you can be a real environmentalist. And you can do it without agitating to have pristine lands given to the state for taxpayer management. Groups like the Nature Conservancy and Ducks Unlimited do great things when they don't turn land over to the state. And private individuals are opting to conserve land rather than sell it.
49. Immersive environments. We're in the process of creating the Matrix around us. From Second Life to immersive games, we may soon see linkages between the virtual world and the crypto economy that result in interesting new forms of order.
50. Twitter revolutions. Having troubles with a tinpot dictator or religious zealots? Organize, demonstrate, and overthrow with Twitter — #overthrow. But be careful you don't end up installing a regime that's worse than the one you helped overthrow. And right at home, every politician lives in fear of being the subject of a trending hashtag, even more so than a critical editorial in the New York Times. The power of the press has almost fully devolved to the people.
51. Become an e-resident of Estonia. Estonia was once an unwilling satellite of the Soviet socialist empire. Today, the country is leading the way toward the breakdown of nation-based political organization, especially with its new e-resident program. Anyone can become a resident for $61. What can you do with that? Well, you get a cool card, and there might be some business and banking benefits. No one knows for sure, not even those who champion the program. But it's a step in the right direction. Digital residency might mean more than physical residency in the world of the future.
52. Skip licensing with TaskRabbit.com. Occupational licensing is one of the dumbest ideas ever, a real holdover from eighteenth-century mercantilism. Why must we create a state-protected cartel for every task? Well, TaskRabbit is helping to bust them all up with a system for connecting service providers with service seekers. Know how to fix a sink or need one fixed — or hundreds of thousands of other tasks? Get connected in minutes. So much for the gatekeeping monopolists who stand between us and our needs.
53. Get anything delivered with WunWun.com. When you need a government service, you get it on their terms. More and more, when you need anything else, it will come to you. WunWun is fairly new and only operates in New York and San Francisco, but you can see where this idea is headed. Click a button on an app and, if it can be brought to you on a bicycle, it will be there in no time. You pay with a credit card. This service is going viral, and paying with cryptocurrency will be an option.
54. Hire or be hired with oDesk.com. In the old days, getting a job meant impressing a company enough to take you on long term. But in the digital age, anyone can work for or with anyone else, and oDesk is one of hundreds of platforms that make this possible. Freelancing was once the exception, but with government rules and mandates making conventions less viable, millions are turning to task-based employment. Work for whomever you want, whenever you want. It's a great way to overcome the barriers to labor exchange created by the regulatory state.
55. Moonlight with eLance.com. If you have a skill and a job, but government regulations limit you to thirty or forty hours of work per week, you can still put those nights and weekends to productive use. Many services, such as eLance, allow you to pick up extra cash without checking with the central authorities. It is completely beyond the capacity of the Department of Labor to monitor this type of work. They call it "exploitation," but we all know it's just a matter of making ends meet.
56. Foil the revenue cops with Fixed.com. Since the financial crisis of 2008, local governments have been hurting for revenue, so they unleashed the cops to bring in the money. This is one major reason why nearly everyone feels oppressed by the police these days. But the app economy has come to the rescue. Scan your ticket and submit, and a local attorney will push for dismissal. The fee you pay is a fraction of what the government demands. For now, it's mostly a San Francisco service, but it will soon expand.
57. Put that car to use with Getaround.com. You have to get somewhere, but it is not always easy because government transit systems are so terrible. Now there is a way to share your car with others and make money at the same time. This app, one of many such services, allows you to rent a nearby car for the day, putting idle resources to work without crazy government mandates for carpooling and public transport. It's the market at work fixing yet another big problem.
58. Your house becomes a restaurant with EatWith.com. Why should the regulators say what is and what isn't a restaurant? If you have a kitchen or an appetite, there are others who might want to make an exchange with you. Such services are busy every day busting up the eating cartels. They are also helping to bring back the dinner party.
59. Get a business loan at the FundingCircle.com. The Fed broke the banking system in 2008 with its crazy bailouts and zero-interest-rate policies. It is not a reliable source for doing what banks have always done to make money. But the private sector has come to the rescue with online sources for business loans. The interest on such loans is market based, revealing the weird world we have today with regard to interest: there's the official rate, and then there's the real rate.
60. Monitor overlords with copblocking. It's become a thing now that the police are filmed by regular citizens all across the United States and the world. Ten years ago, filming a cop might have gotten you arrested. Today, there is nothing they can do about it, since everyone carries a video maker in her pocket. Filming is not a perfect solution, but it sure makes the cops more accountable. Livestreaming means that the video is still out there even if your phone is confiscated or smashed. Copblocking has become a way of life.
61. Try mobile health care. Time was when health care came to you. As the industry became more cartelized and expensive, the industry dictated the terms and you had to go to them. But regulations have pushed matters so far that the system is breaking down, and many providers are seceding toward a consumer-driven model. Even companies like Uber are looking into putting doctors and nurses on wheels. Such services will only be for the well-to-do — for now. But just as mobile phones got better, faster, and cheaper, so will health care delivery. Mobile health care startups are already attracting a lot of venture capital. First up: Uber for hangovers, with HungoverMD.com.
62. Get married on the blockchain. Marriage before the twentieth century could be a purely private affair between individuals or within religious institutions. States took over marriage in the twentieth century with licenses and strictures everywhere. There's no better way to depoliticize this institution than finding another way to contract a marriage besides going to the state. The blockchain — bitcoin's payment system — is perfect for posting contracts that are time stamped, nonforgeable, and verified. Why not let it be the way out of state-controlled marriage? (See Bitnation.co.)
63. Use blockchain contracting. People who love the distributed ledger have counted fully eighty-four possible uses of the blockchain for keeping all kinds of records and contracts, including public and private equities, bonds, spending records, crowdfunding, microfinance, land titles, health records, forensic evidence, birth certificates, wills, trusts, escrow, business accounting, and just about anything else that involves contracts. This is serious future stuff: a fully functioning body of law in the cloud that works without lawmakers or bureaucrats.
64. Manage transactions with Counterparty. Let's say you have an idea for a legal institution that isn't yet available, or you want to pioneer a new system for business-to-business exchanges and invoicing. There are at least two well-funded platforms that specialize in innovation on distributed networks: Ethereum.org and Counterparty.io. They are busy working (in private) with some very large companies right now. Private, lower-cost alternatives to government are on the way.
65. Encrypt your smartphone data. Ever since people became aware that government is using surveillance to track our every online move and every phone call, people have demanded solutions. Apple was the first to act to encrypt all smartphone data to the point that not even the company itself can access it (iOS8). The same change is being made to the Android operating system. The FBI went nuts and denounced this encryption, but it's too late. Users feel safer, and there's no going back.
66. Buy and sell through Open Bazaar. In 2013, the government took down the Silk Road online marketplace, seemingly ending a peaceful solution to the violence of the drug trade. Several more sites popped up to take its place, but the ultimate solution lies with a distributed network with no central point of failure. This is what the company OpenBazaar.org is doing. It will be a marketplace that anyone can download and implement. It lives on a network too diffuse to be dissolved. And it is designed for bitcoin.
67. Use tax preparation software. It is nearly beyond the capacity of mere mortals to prepare taxes by hand these days, but software has come to the rescue. There are so many packages available that put the power of a huge team of accountants in the hands of every person, and at a very low price. It's amazing to see how the private sector has managed to save us time and money in this most arduous task.
68. Ditch college and go Praxis (DiscoverPraxis.com). Everyone knows there is a huge college bubble developing, with debt and costs exploding. The question has been: what will replace the traditional path to higher education? Innovative alternatives combine work and study into affordable one-year programs that bypass traditional college entirely. The student integrates into a commercial space and thereby completes the program having obtained actual, valuable skills. That's a massive change for the better.
69. Build your car from a kit. Federal regulations have made a mess of car coolness over the years, mandating higher hoods and trunks and dramatically reducing visibility thanks to safety standards (even as fuel economy mandates lighter cars). Whatever happened to the car of the future that looked sleek and amazing, like an arrowhead? Well, there is a loophole: you can build your own. This is what FactoryFive.com allows you to do. How satisfying to drive an embodiment of the rebellious spirit!
70. Become a homebrewer. It's seems incredible that the United States once banned the production and distribution of alcohol by constitutional amendment. Talk about nuts! Prohibition was repealed in 1932, but the prohibitionist mindset is still with us. That hasn't stopped the homebrewing of beer from taking off in a dramatic national trend, however. The craft-brew movement started with a guy working in his basement. It's now a large commercial industry to supply enthusiasts. Be your own bootlegger.
71. Contribute to community charity online. The rap about capitalism is that it's all about greed. That's nonsense. A major employment of capitalist tools has been the building of huge community-based networks of philanthropy. Through sites like Groupon.Grassroots.com, you can now support a large variety of meritorious projects right in your own neighborhood. Charity has never been more networked and effective as compared with tax-funded transfer payments.
72. Grow plants from open-source seeds. Since the movie Food, Inc., the public has been widely and rightly upset about patented seeds. Seed patents conflict with 6,000 years of agricultural practice in which people save and share seeds. The Open Source Seed Initiative (OSseeds.org) is fighting back against government-protected monopolists by producing excellent seeds for sharing around the world. It's the application of the most successful software model to the practice of growing food. No government agents or crony thugs involved.
73. Vote with your (tiny) house. Since at least the 1920s, the American dream has been all about home ownership — and the bigger, the better. Bankers loved it and so did government, which subsidized the trend for the rest of the century. Then the system exploded in 2008. Today, people are busy rethinking, and one result is the tiny house movement. Tiny houses are affordable, easy to keep up, and allow for flexible and light living. They're also illegal in most municipalities, but thankfully they can also be mobile.
74. Sip ayahuasca tea from abroad. Native populations of South America have used the herb ayahuasca for centuries as a natural hallucinogen. They say it makes profound spiritual revelations possible. Maybe. But whatever: the drug warriors hate it. That hasn't stopped the development of an active market for spiritual tourism and for acquiring ayahuasca teas from abroad. Nothing can stop the forces of supply and demand.
75. Attend Voice & Exit. This festival (VoiceAndExit.com) of the future is poised to give TED a run for its money. The idea — the human algorithm — is about abandoning systems that are no longer working and starting new systems (in the spirit of this article). "Exiters" flock to the event each year to celebrate human flourishing, and there will soon be events in multiple cities. The founders are proud of their post-partisan ethos and welcome people from all backgrounds. But the focus is on celebrating voluntary solutions to improving oneself, one's community, and the world. (Disclosure: Max Borders is a Voice & Exit cofounder.)
76. Drink butter coffee. How could something so simple and wonderful elude us for so long? The trend to mix butter and coffee underscores how brilliance and innovation need not involve complex technology. It only requires insight. When you embrace butter coffee, you are leaving that state-perpetuated myth that fats found in butter are unhealthy. It took a peer-to-peer network of ancestral health practitioners to bring down the anti-fat propagandists and scientific "experts" a peg or two.
77. Be a fully informed juror. It's the traditional right of juries to judge not only the defendant's guilt or innocence but also the law under which he or she is charged. But jurors are rarely told that. Sometimes, however, their conscience guides them in the right way, as with many recent marijuana cases. There are hundreds of documented cases in which juries have simply refused to convict regardless of evidence. Prosecutors have become discouraged at even finding jurors, so they shelve the cases. FIJA.org is doing heavy educational lifting here.
78. Hire a virtual assistant. Minimum wage laws and other regulations mean it's too expensive to hire assistants the way people once did. That's tragic. But technology finds a way. You can hire an assistant online without having to fork over the big bucks for benefits, health insurance, and unemployment insurance. They work through email, Google hangouts, Skype, and other conferencing systems. And you can find them at sites like BrickworkIndia.com.
79. Eat grass-fed beef. Government apparently wants all edible animals stuffed with corn — because the corn lobby remains one of the most powerful in Washington. But not all consumers are going for it. They are finding ways to import grass-fed beef and even to do ranching their own way. Food innovations such as these can't be stopped, no matter how many agents the feds send out to arrest the supposed bad guys. Rogue farming and ranching are on the rise.
80. Read or publish an e-book. Time was when only the rich could afford home libraries. They were treasures, more valuable than houses and the land they sat on. It was only in the twentieth century that home libraries became common. In the twenty-first century, anyone with a cheap e-reader can download hundreds of thousands of books at no cost. It's a breathtaking development, and yet how many of us take all this knowledge for granted? Every dystopian novel features a world of censorship. That world is impossible today.
81. Participate in Liberty.me. The ideas of liberty have always needed an action plan, something besides begging the people in power to recognize human rights and liberties. Now there is a global liberty community that provides discussions, libraries, friendship, and turnkey publishing, effectively crowdsourcing the building of liberty. It's a community for doers, not just dreamers, and it's made possible entirely through digital media. (Disclosure: Jeffrey Tucker is the founder.)
82. Benefit from drones. Two years ago, the word "drone" was synonymous with US imperialism and murders abroad. Then the private sector got involved, and drones are now used for humane purposes such as delivering groceries and other products. Amazon Prime Air is the pioneer here, but it is not difficult to imagine these glorious machines flying all over the airspace in a way that serves people, getting them what they need or want in a way they want it. That would beer, except that the FDA shut this service down. For now.
83. Use multisig. Bitcoin can brag of its peer-to-peer structure, but what if you want more than one party around to execute a transaction? For example, business partners need to all be involved in decision making. Another example is a bequest: the beneficiary needs access. Twelve months ago, multisig seemed like a dream. Now, it's a reality. All the main exchanges offer multisignature interfaces. You can have many people involved in making a transaction now, potentially hundreds. This is the ultimate in customizable payment and money systems.
84. Stream your music. Some readers might remember meandering through record stores looking for "long-playing" records. Then came eight-tracks. Then came cassettes. Then came CDs, and they were amazing. But they didn't last long. The world became fully digitized with the iPod and MP3s. But that didn't last long, either. Just within the last twelve months, we've seen miracles happen. Infinite libraries of thousands of years of music are now available for low fees, via tiny devices, at sites like Spotify, Pandora, Google Play, and hundreds of others. You can listen to anything, anytime, anywhere. It's mind-boggling, and it makes a mockery of regulatory attempts to control technology and the arts.
85. View nanoscale lithography. Copyright is pretty weird, forbidding reproduction of an "owned" image or text without specifying the medium or scale. What if you take a giant picture and reduce it to microscopic size and embed it in another piece of art? Is that infringement? One artist decided to test the notion. How absurd can copyright enforcement be? The result is "When Art Exceeds Perception," an exhibition of art at Cornell University. The reproductions can't be seen by the naked eye, but the copyright holder is still objecting, which is, as it turns out, part of the art itself.
86. Be your own quant. Ten years ago, there was an emerging hysteria about how "quants" — super-smart number crunchers with private knowledge — were ruling the financial space, edging out individual investors and even medium-sized institutions. They were rigging the game and grabbing all available profits for themselves. Today, the same and better knowledge is being democratized with such services as Kensho.com, which is bringing quant-style power to every investor and institution, essentially running a Google-style search feature for investments. So much for the monopoly. The market's tendency is to distribute valuable information.
87. Skip the student loans. A key problem with government loans is that they are not creative. Students rack up debt and find their careers hobbled for years. What if there were a different way? Lumni.net suggests this: they will pay for your education and, in return, you give a percentage of your income back after you get your paying job. It's not a loan; it's an investment — or a form of seed funding. It's flexible, and the company benefits from your later performance. Now that's creative.
88. Write a judge at a sentencing hearing. No one wants a case to go to trial anymore, not defenders and not prosecutors. It makes sense: courts are broken beyond repair. Sadly, this means that many innocent people plead guilty just to break free of the system. But there's still the sentencing, and the judge has massive discretion. Your letters on behalf of the defendant can and do make a huge difference. They should be personal and authentic. Your plea for leniency can keep one good person out of a cage.
89. Learn anything. Online learning used to be a novelty. Then it started becoming mainstream and comprehensive. Today, it is exploding beyond belief. EarthWeAreOne.com is a site that offers 100 other sites that teach just about anything you could ever want to know. And the crazy-great KhanAcademy.org isn't even listed. It boggles the mind to consider that there was a time when government imagined that it could control what we learn.
90. Transfer money ridiculously cheaply. Life was proceeding normally, then suddenly an $80,000,000 transaction floated across the Blockchain. As always, the money moved, completely and wholly and fully verified, within minutes, unlike a bank transfer or a credit card transaction. But here's the kicker: the transaction only cost $0.04! That's a savings of $2 million from what any other form of moving that sum would take. To anyone but the government, that's serious money. Can Bitcoin break the network effect of nationalized money? Absolutely.
91. Remit money cheaper. Banks and wiring companies are charging too much money for people to send money home — mainly to poor countries. But remittances are about to get a lot cheaper. Companies like TransferWise, Moni Technologies, and WorldRemit are competing, paradoxically, to keep more money in the hands of people in the developing world.
92. Start a podcast. Podcasts are old school, but in this world of nonstop surprises, that doesn't make them outmoded. They are more popular than ever before, and ever easier to start. This makes sense, given the growing length of commutes and people's desire to gather interesting information — and to know what's true. At the height of state power in the twentieth century, the state controlled all information flows. Now, anyone can start a fireside chat with the world. The monopoly of information is ruined.
93. Make a movie. Five years ago, people were still buying camcorders. They were expensive and not that effective. They were a vast improvement over the on-shoulder models from twenty years earlier. Today? Everyone with a smartphone carries a movie maker in his or her pocket. Anything and everything can be streamed, and the competition has caused movie quality to soar. Plus, there are no more secrets in public spaces, and this has to be a good thing for human freedom, given that the state has lived on hiding its deeds from public notice for, well, thousands of years.
94. Get a Fiverr. Maybe you want to send a customized Christmas song. Maybe you need a new logo for a blog. How about a custom shirt design or a new stamp for your business? All of this can be done for five bucks. That's right, Fiverr.com is a full website that is offering P2P services that used to cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. It's all voluntary and everyone wins. How can you not come away with a smile? Note that the prices of state services are forever rising while the private sector is forever driving them down.
95. Pay with dogecoin. This "alt-coin" — a spin-off cryptocurrency — started as a ridiculous joke. It was an Internet meme of a Shiba dog looking oddly smart and sweet. Nothing more. The image was slapped on a cybercurrency on its own blockchain, just to show that it could be done. And then it took off like a rocket. Everyone laughed until it became real. Today, dogecoin is the number three most-capitalized cryptomoney, after litecoin and bitcoin. It's also fun to mine and ridiculously plentiful. Sure, it could crash, like so many others. But while it lasts, it teaches us a lesson: there is value in Internet fashions. It's all subjective.
96. Partake in the Creative Commons. Not every government imposition on market institutions allows for a way out. But in the case of copyright — a regulatory intervention that has become a major source of mischief in the digital age — Creative Commons is the answer that freedom-lovers can embrace. FEE founder Leonard Read pioneered this approach in the late 1940s, long before people even questioned copyright. FEE has gone all the way by putting all its content in the commons with no restrictions. Goodbye censors. (Note that CC offers many varieties of licenses, and some are even more restrictive than government copyright.)
97. Tsu me. There are hundreds of social networks today, and one really big one. How long can that last? A site called Tsu.co opened in October 2014 and, within only a few weeks, it rocketed to the top of all site rankings. The move has been so fast that plugins haven't caught up to it yet. Yes, the new social network learns (steals) from Facebook in lots of ways. But that's the way the market works: the experience of one company becomes a collective good that everyone can try out — and then improve on. No one stays on top forever. Just ask MySpace.
98. GetGems. Instant messaging is still the thing, but what if it lived on a distributed network with no central control that also allowed instant currency exchanges at near-zero cost? That's what going on at GetGems.org. It's some pretty edgy stuff, but remember: these are the early days of such innovations. No one can prevent us from talking to each other — or exchanging with each other — in whatever way we choose.
99. Buy your own kingdom. An art teacher in Portugal had a snappy idea: buy an island off the coast of Madeira. Then he had an even better idea: turn it into his own kingdom. That's what he did, and he calls it the Principality of Pontinha. Earlier last year, there was talk of selling the Belle Isle section of Detroit. Wonderful. Even better: just sell all unowned and state-owned things and privatize the world.
The planners thought they had it all sewn up. None of these innovations were part of their plan. This is a snapshot in time, a glimpse of the dawn of something new and unexpected. We can only hope that by next year, this list will seem dated, even anachronistic.
Edward Snowden described the NSA, a well-funded government bureaucracy, building an "architecture of oppression." But the ideas presented here show something very different being constructed. Call it a latticework of liberty or maybe a fractal of freedom. Whatever it is, its fronds unfurl and spread into the spaces left by the state. And the state always leaves spaces.
As they say in The Hunger Games, every system has a flaw. It's genius to find it and exploit it and bring about something new. Dramatic social and economic change is not flowing from policy circles in Washington, DC. This is not top-down reform. It's happening despite and not because of political trends.
This list is also evidence that high theoretical arguments over the precise structure freedom should and must take are beside the point. We have to wait to see for ourselves, and, meanwhile, the real problem is power itself.
This is the mechanism by which humanity evolves away from power and toward peaceful, voluntary cooperation. How far can we take it? Who knows? But erecting utopias in our heads is not nearly as useful as contributing to this latticework. You can hate the state and its works, but doing something about it requires that we devise and use more ways to hasten its obsolescence.
Enforcement becomes impossible. Exceptions are made. Authorities get exhausted. People feel emboldened. It happened this way with anti-usury law in the Middle Ages. Eventually they became unviable in the face of modernization. This is the way bad laws and bad regimes die.
And in the days of Prohibition, the law meant every other neighbor was participating in the black market. Repeal came not because Al Capone and his competition were playing shoot-'em-up. Repeal came because Americans learned the hard way that you cannot legislate morality — not easily, anyway. And the bootleggers didn't have Snapchat, Bitcoin, and Tor.
Now, imagine not just alcohol, but 10,000 simultaneous products, services, and communities operating concurrently. And in each of these 10,000 products and services, imagine markets of millions.
How long will the state be able to keep up with the dizzying pace of innovation, as this civil disobedience hydra sprouts two heads in the place of any one severed? Unless the state gets really repressive really fast (and we're all prepared to let them), its functionaries will not be able to control the swarms and the gales of creative destruction those swarms bring with them.
Ninety-nine ways will become 99,000. This is our challenge. This is our future.