John McAfee died in a Spanish prison today from a suspected suicide (“John McAfee, Software Pioneer Turned Fugitive, Dies in a Spanish Prison,” New York Times, June 23, 2021). He had just lost a legal battle to avoid extradition to the United States after being prosecuted for tax evasion. He was also charged with securities fraud and money laundering.

I don’t know which, if any, among the offenses he was suspected of over the years, the eccentric entrepreneur was actually guilty of.  It would not be overly surprising to discover that it is getting riskier to be eccentric in our over-regulated societies. He unsuccessfully ran for the Libertarian nomination before the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections. (Not that you should hold that against me, but he was one of my Twitter and Facebook followers! His photograph above is taken from his Facebook homepage.)

In On Liberty (1859), John Stuart Mill wrote about eccentricity:

Precisely because the tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric. Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage which it contained. …

I would hypothesize it is also proportional to the level of entrepreneurship.

In a tweet of June 16, McAfee’s wrote:

The US believes I have hidden crypto. I wish I did but it has dissolved through the many hands of Team McAfee (your belief is not required), and my remaining assets are all seized. My friends evaporated through fear of association. I have nothing. Yet, I regret nothing.

Regarding the charge of tax evasion, it is interesting to note that in Switzerland, tax evasion—“forgetting” to declare income, for example—is not a crime, but an administrative infraction. Only “tax fraud,” with involves using falsified documents, is criminally prosecutable. One would think that if the income tax is claimed to be voluntary, such a rule would be natural.