With Ross Ulbricht sentenced to life in prison to make an example of him in the new online version of our nation’s drug wars, it raises a similar question to the one in the offline world: does this kind of thing have any impact at all? The Economist has a chart suggesting that nothing at all is changing and demand creates supply, as the number of drug listings in dark markets continue to grow, even as some of the players are shut down via law enforcement (Silk Road, Silk Road 2) or scams (Evolution):
And, of course, the standard response to all of this is that law enforcement has to keep playing this game of whacking moles because they’d like to think that this at least puts some sort of limit on the activity by making it marginally more “expensive” for suppliers in terms of risk. Still, it seems like lots of other things online, this law enforcement/mole whacking approach isn’t particularly productive, and only serves to make the issue more diverse, more underground, less regulated and less safe.
Perhaps, rather than continue down that path, it’s time to look at alternative approaches.