24 Jan 2011

Murphy Moving Mainstream?

Economics, Shameless Self-Promotion 20 Comments

If I were a male model, Will Ferrell would lean to his right and comment, “He’s so hot right now.”

* The Economist magazine’s blog discusses the tag-team showdown between Kling and me, versus Scott Sumner. But then David Beckworth comes in and hits me in the back of the head with a steel chair.

* Pete Boettke wants me to take the battle to the academic journals.

* Tyler Durden at ZeroHedge says my reply to Krugman is “must read.”

* In fact, I am so relevant these days–part of the conversation, at the table, you get the idea–that Tyler Cowen assumes there is an 87% probability that his readers know all about me.

I am waiting for MSNBC to offer me Olbermann’s slot.

20 Responses to “Murphy Moving Mainstream?”

  1. Daniel says:

    Dr. Murphy,

    I have a bit of an off topic question for you. I recently became an anarcho-capitalist and as far as I can tell, I am the only libertarian I know. I am still “in the closet” about being an ancap and I’m not quite sure how to go about “coming out.”

    My experiences engaging in political discussions with my non-libertarian friends have been somewhat frustrating. As a libertarian, all of my stances on political issues stem from the non-aggression principle. By contrast, the non-libertarians I talk with usually don’t think about moral principles when considering political issues. Rather, they look at each issue as being independent from the other issues and they tend to be more utilitarian in their outlooks. I’m not quite sure how to deal with this basic difference between the way my non-libertarian friends and I frame political issues.

    Should I answer every question by explaining the NAP and natural rights before going into my specific position?

    As for admitting that I’m an ancap, I have no idea where to begin. I looked into a large number of issues before finally coming to the conclusion that the state is unnecessary. The prospect of explaining every one of them to my friends and family seems daunting.

    If you have any advice that can help, I’d greatly appreciate it.

    • bobmurphy says:

      Can anyone give him some pointers? He emailed me but I asked him to repost it here.

      The short answer is, I don’t try to convert people in social settings, because I hate conflict. I was at a party the other day and someone was talking about how ObamaCare was great, and some business owner started complaining that it was raising his employees’ premiums. I did not even say a word. I don’t like conflict.

      So, any advice from people who throw down at cocktail parties?

      • Gene Callahan says:

        Bob, I just gave him really good advice on this point. If only I had followed it myself!

        • f4kingit says:

          Can you please share? I’d be interested also

      • f4kingit says:

        There’s an interesting quote from Jefferson to his grandson:

        But in stating prudential rules for our government in society, I must not omit the important one of never entering into dispute or argument with another. I never saw an instance of one of two disputants convincing the other by argument. I have seen many, on their getting warm, becoming rude, and shooting one another. Conviction is the effect of our own dispassionate reasoning, either in solitude, or weighing within ourselves, dispassionately, what we hear from others, standing uncommitted in argument ourselves. It was one of the rules which, above all others, made Doctor Franklin the most amiable of men in society, “never to contradict anybody.” If he was urged to announce an opinion, he did it rather by asking questions, as if for information, or by suggesting doubts. When I hear another express an opinion which is not mine, I say to myself, he has a right to his opinion, as I to mine; why should I question it? His error does me no injury, and shall I become a Don Quixote, to bring all men by force of argument to one opinion? If a fact be misstated, it is probable he is gratified by a belief of it, and I have no right to deprive him of the gratification. If he wants information, he will ask it, and then I will give it in measured terms; but if he still believes his own story, and shows a desire to dispute the fact with me, I hear him and say nothing. It is his affair, not mine, if he prefers error.


      • Daniel says:

        Maybe I wasn’t clear enough, I’m not setting out to win debates and generally I prefer to avoid them. However, when people ask my opinions, I think I should be honest with them. I’m just trying to be more clearly understood.

        To give you an idea, my friends and family assume I’m a standard Republican because of my comments about bailouts and ObamaCare. I’m trying to find a way to explain myself without being viewed through the standard “conservative/liberal” or “Republican/Democrat” lens.

        BTW, Dr. Murphy, this man certainly doesn’t look like he hates conflict 🙂


        Good luck on your debate with Krugman!

        • Michael J. Green says:

          Just answer their questions calmly and succinctly. If they’re curious, let them ask more questions, and answer those in the same fashion. Don’t pontificate, and stay away from moral arguments, which too easily sound like a moral approbation (imo, you should stay away from moral arguments altogether). Declaring radical opinions which the other person likely disagrees with or hasn’t considered does little good, so state your beliefs weakly: “I think we can get along without the state” or “I view taxation as theft.”

          If people are talking politics around me, I mostly just smile and nod, no matter how ridiculous the discussion can get. But in the rare occasion people ask me, I share my radical views as if they were ordinary and unimportant.

        • Dan says:

          I would say that the only way to do what you want is to understand your philosophy inside and out. Most people have very strong opinions whether they have ever looked into anything or not. They will trend to get very agitated if you point out inconsistencies in their views. For me the challenge is to not join them in their angry tirades. I find the topics that I have the most knowledge on and can explain more thoroughly are the ones that I never get into yelling contests. The more I know about my philosophy the better I am at explaining it in a calm collected manner.

          Also don’t take it personal when somebody distorts your views. Most people have never heard of ancap and the ideas seem frightening for some reason when you first hear them. An example, I had a coworker call me a communist when I told him I didn’t believe the State was necessary or even useful. I got absolutely nowhere with him but another guy listening asked me about my ideas and after reading “A Market for Liberty” and “Chaos Theory” he is also now an ancap. The lesson is stay calm because you never know who is listening in and you can win minds when you don’t go into the gutter with others. To admit, I’ve failed on this front far too many times. Sometimes my temper gets the best of me but hopefully you don’t have this flaw.

        • Dan says:

          Also I do disagree with just staying silent. I had a coworker going on and on about how great gun control was and how stupid Americans are for having too limited of gun control. If someone were saying something to counter his bs I might have stayed silent but that was not the case. So I gave the more guns less crime argument and he went into a typical angry tirade. I stayed calm and just kept making my points and let him keep flying off the handle. By the end of our back and forth the people around us had come to my side and were asking him for evidence to back his claims.

          If we avoid talking about our views we let idiots stand on their soapboxes unchallenged. We have to at least give people a chance to chose the truth and it won’t be possible if we stay silent.

    • Captain_Freedom says:

      I’m in the same boat as you Daniel.

      Here’s my advice:

      You CAN publicize your political leanings in social settings, however you just have to be REALLY careful about it. Since what makes an ancap an ancap is the logical application of no violence, I would say 99.9% of the world’s population become very uncomfortable and antagonistic if you make them realize they support violence.

      This is why you have to tread lightly. So for example, if the same topic of Obamacare came up, then I would say something along the lines of

      “Yes, it’s great that people who otherwise couldn’t get healthcare are able to get more healthcare. For me, I would just go about in a slightly [note: we both know violence vs peace is not a “slight” difference, but to the person you’re talking to, trust me, it does seem inconsequential] different way, because I feel there’s much to be desired.”

      At this point, if you say it nicely, in almost all situations, your listener would at LEAST be willing to listen, but having said that, you’re up against another challenge because at that point 99.9% of your listeners will think that you are about to tell them how you think Obamacare can be even more Obamafied, because it’s not enough. This is where the toughest part comes in, where you have to make it appear that you are FOR people getting healthcare, just not through state violence. This part is an art. Since most people will immediately sense that you are against it if you give any indication that you want to reverse it, I usually use the same method that they usually use to defend their own position for it, and that is to invoke an image of a hypothetical helpless contra-straw man VICTIM of Obamacare, and then DEFEND it.

      It’s kind of like a straw man, but the exact opposite, let’s call him “Iron Man”, no that’s already taken. Hmmm, well, make it up.

      You set this straw man evil twin up in order to DEFEND it, and hence your argument. Yes, this is a logical fallacy, but remember, you’re talking to a statist. Chances are formal logical fallacies are none of their concern. Emotional biases and prejudices from their childhood is usually how they think and frame their understanding of social problems.

      So I would say something like, “To me, it just doesn’t FEEL right [we both know you KNOW it’s not right] that an impoverished person is told “pay this preapproved private insurance company or we will fine you”. I accept the motive, and the end goal, but I just feel it would be better if he was given the choice to opt out completely if he wants. That way, everyone is HAPPY with Obamacare. After all, large scale programs such as this rarely make everyone happy. I just want everyone to be happy, that’s all. You know, smiles all around?”

      I find that emphasizing “the choice to opt out”, and “making people happy” is something most people can identify with.

      If you need more help on this, there is an excellent website run by Stefan Molneux, http://www.freedomainradio.com/. He’s perhaps the web’s most famous ancap. He’s got free books, podcasts, audio files, articles, videos, etc.

  2. Gene Callahan says:

    Callahan Causing Calamity.

    Daniel: ‘I am still “in the closet” about being an ancap and I’m not quite sure how to go about “coming out.”’

    Don’t do it: later, when you come to your senses, to have come out will cause all sorts of headaches for you.

    • RG says:

      You have a typo, there, Gene. I’m sure you meant to write sentencing instead of senses.

  3. Leo says:

    Don’t forget the little people once Princeton comes knocking.

  4. Bob Roddis says:

    Bob Murphy has an article in the American Conservative entitled:

    “Going for Gold (Again) — Could a return to hard money save the dollar?”


    He writes:

    “Ludwig von Mises went so far as to liken the gold standard to a bill of rights or constitution. In his view, it prevented the government from diluting the value of the currency to achieve its spending objectives.”

    I like that terminology.

  5. Stan Kwiatkowski says:

    You DO know, that that’s not what Cowen was saying, hmm? 😀

    Jokes aside, great work, keep it up!

  6. Daniel says:


    Thanks for your advice. I’ll be sure to tread lightly in the future to avoid making enemies, and when asked, I will speak honestly and with a humble demeanor.

    @ Dr. Murphy, thanks for letting me use your blog to get advice of this sort. That was very kind of you.

    @ f4kingit, nice Jefferson quote. It was helpful to be reminded that nobody enjoys being corrected without asking.

    @ Dan, I will be sure to study my philosophy in great detail so I can know how to explain myself (and to avoid presenting others with a butchered version of it). While I sympathize with your frustration with people who get on their soapboxes unchallenged (believe me, I’m a college student), my goal is to make friends and not enemies. Therefore, I will follow your strategy if I suspect others will be open to my views.

    @ Captain_Freedom, I liked your strategy of sympathizing with the concerns of my opponents, and then explaining the importance of increasing peoples’ happiness. I remember that Bastiat once wrote something about how if you told a socialist you didn’t want the government to do something, they would assume that you didn’t want it done at all. It seems that your approach might actually help dispel such concerns on the part of my opponents.

    @ Michael J. Green, Thanks for reminding me to be succinct and calm in my arguments. Sometimes I get long winded out of a desire to explain everything perfectly, and then I end up monopolizing discussions. Of course, nobody likes to listen to someone who never lets anyone else speak. That would be a bad way to try and gain new friends for the cause of liberty.

    @ Gene Callahan, my condolences for your headaches.

    Thanks again all, I am grateful for your prompt and earnest responses.

    • Jake Jacobsen says:

      I’m a little late to the conversation, but I’m a conservative moving towards libertarianism, so my opinion might be useful.

      I’m not afraid of ideas, but even to me, the sound of any form of anarchy feels very extremist. The natural tendency for most people is to automatically disregard anything that sounds like extremism right away. Even if you make logical points, it will probably be hard for others to take them seriously knowing you are an an-cap.

      With that in mind, you should ask yourself what you want to accomplish by telling others what you thing. If you just want others to know what you think, just come right out and say what you think. If you want others to consider your thoughts, and perhaps persuade them to think the same way, a better strategy would be to just build on common beliefs, and slowly introduce more.

      For example, if I were an an-cap talking to a conservative I would probably talk about the idea that the idea behind the US is that states had governmental authority which they delegated to a federal government. I think most conservatives would whole-heartedly agree with that. Then take it a step further. Where did they states get their governmental authority? It was delegated to them by the people of the state. So the rights are held by individuals who delegate their rights to the states, which in turn delegates them to the federal government. I’ll bet a lot of conservatives haven’t thought about things in quite that way, but it fits because it extends what they already believe.

      I’ll also bet most conservatives would agree that the government has taken too much power and you can build on that. You don’t need to say that by taking any power at all the government has taken too much. Now, I still love the idea of the United States, but I recognize that it has a fatal flaw, which is that there isn’t any natural force to keep it in check. The constitution doesn’t work when it’s simply ignored. I think that this fact is the strongest thing that anarcho-capitalism has going for it. So you could suggest that perhaps a better way to go is to have a system where there are natural forces to keep things in check like there are in the marketplace. Ideas like that are far less threatening then words like anarchy. See where things go from there.

      I’m not saying that you should hide that you are an an-cap or be deceptive about it, but I think you will find more people willing to listen if you don’t say it directly, at least not at first.

      Now as for people on the left, that’s much trickier, in my opinion, but there are still common beliefs to build on. I agree with most of what Captain_Freedom said, though I’m not sure I totally agree with him in using straw man (or iron man) arguments right back at them, even when talking to statists. It might work to persuade them that Obamacare might not be a good idea, but it doesn’t make them any smarter.

      Often, all you need to do is plant a few true ideas or even a good question. They have a way of rooting in and growing in people’s minds.

  7. John says:

    “If I were a male model”

    What?! You’re not? Then why have I been putting stock in your opinion all these years?!

  8. Matthew Murphy says:

    Interesting conversation, I’m pretty much a closet libertarian moving towards an-cap myself. Not sure what will happen when I tell others…

    • Captain_Freedom says:

      Tar and feathers financed by the state thrown at you?