22 Apr 2014

Regime Change At Free Advice

DeLong 85 Comments

OK I had an epiphany yesterday. I realized that I was only checking the comments here at the blog out of my duty to approve pending ones, but that I had no desire to actually “hang out” in the comment section because I can’t stand its tone.

Well that’s dumb. So starting today:

1) Ken B. is banned for three months.

2) You are allowed to criticize me, libertarians, Austrian economics, other posters, etc. in the comments. But don’t be completely rude about it. Imagine you were at a dinner party at my house, and someone said something you thought was nuts. How would you voice your opinion?

I don’t want to do this stuff, but the strategy of “chime in occasionally and people will get the hint” obviously doesn’t work. On the bright side, I can now at least understand why Brad DeLong runs his blog the way he does. But don’t worry, I still think DeLong is wrong about Bastiat. (HT2 DK)

85 Responses to “Regime Change At Free Advice

  1. Magus Janus says:

    Long overdue. I’ve found that a sort of Gresham’s law of commenting tends to occur, where annoying belligerent commenters take over unmoderated comment sections and the good commenters just leave.

    Razib at Gene Expression is very strict about maintaining the quality of his commnent section, and I think you should do the same. Though there is some self-selection in finding your blog, it’s still the case that most people and most comments are just not going to add value here.

    The comments section of a good blog must be refreshed from time to time with the banishment of trolls and idiots.

  2. Lord Keynes says:

    Since Ken B is a libertarian, like you, but one who just doesn’t have much time for Rothbardians, this seems a very odd move indeed.

    Ken B’s approach is nearly always a gentle (and amusing) sarcasm, and he’s usually respectful of opponents. Nor does he post ridiculously long, unnecessary and often irrelevant comments like M_F. His arguments very rarely commit any one of the vast set of logical fallacies that your other commentators do.

    Banning him will rob your blog of one of the few voices of reason.

    • Richie says:

      Ken B. is a libertarian? Rubbish.

      • Tel says:

        He is a small government conservative, in the classical liberal tradition… not an anarchist. That’s the impression I got at any rate, don’t want to put words into someone’s mouth if they can’t offer a correction.

        This episode does perhaps give us pause to think about the importance amongst any social group of having at least one person in the position to impose a type of law and order on the others. A perfect Christian would have kept turning the other cheek forever, but Bob being human got to a point where he was no longer inclined to forgive.

        I’ve pointed out that I also see a role for government in things like national defense, as evidence being that those guys have repeatedly demonstrated excellent aptitude for violence. For work reasons I’m a bit time poor and anyway banging away hard with my opinion probably won’t change the minds of many people.

        • guest says:

          We’re only a “social group” in the sense that our individual interests align.

          The blog is Bob Murphy’s private property, and he’s only in charge insofar as concerns his property.

          I am free to ignore his blog at any moment. I have no obligation to him.

          Government isn’t for imposing law and order. Government is for protecting private property rights. FROM that comes order as a byproduct.

    • Daniel Kuehn says:

      I find Ken B amusing too… but I wouldn’t put it past him to say something over the line. Not sure exactly what it was that inspired the suspension in this case.

      I’m curious about Bob Roddis, who I think is loads worse than Ken in how he treats people on here.

      • Matt M (-Dude Where's My Freedom) says:

        I agree. I usually disagree with Ken, but I’ve never thought he was a *particularly* vicious guy… Maybe it’s just because I’m younger than most of you and grew up on the Internet when it was closer to the untamed wilds and am more accustomed to people saying the most vile things possible and nobody having any recourse to stop it.

      • Lord Keynes says:

        But what did he say that was “over the line” that prompted bob to ban him?

        • Gamble says:

          Cumulative, aggregate, that my guess.

        • Daniel Kuehn says:

          I don’t know. That’s what I’m saying, nothing comes to mind but the fun thing about Ken is that he doesn’t pay much attention to boundaries, labels, or the way things should be in general.

          It might have been on the Easter post – the religion stuff is where he pisses Bob off the most.

          • Lord Keynes says:

            Well, M_F also has pretty critical remarks on bob’s religion posts! As do other libertarians commemorators here.

            On the last one, I had trenchant criticisms,

            It seems a bit weird that Ken b is singled out.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              I think it is because he was calling Bob names like “Buffoon”, and being severely intellectually dishonest (in Bob’s view)

              The comments I submit to Murphy’s Sunday posts are critical yes, but like he said, he doesn’t mind disagreements and criticisms, just don’t be a dick about it. Again, talk like you’re at the dinner table

      • Bob Roddis says:

        My interactions with DK are generally in this format:


        I don’t see where me posting his attacks on Glenn Greenwald without comment are so bad.

        I’m not backing off from my claim that no non-Austrian seems to understand the NAP, violent intervention, the pricing process and/or economic calculation especially our opponents’ failure to apply those concepts together thoughtfully and fairly in order to understand how Austrians apply them to the real world.

        That is not name-calling. It is a substantive critique that is long overdue. If it is not true, convince me and refute the allegation.

        • Daniel Kuehn says:

          Not referring to the 1921 stuff Bob.

        • Bob Murphy says:

          Bob, let’s not get into any of those side issues on this post. At this point we understand your thoughts on economic calculation etc.

        • Philippe says:

          “I’m not backing off from my claim that no non-Austrian seems to understand the NAP”

          I think the problem may be that you do not really understand the NAP.

          See this, for example:


          • Philippe says:

            there is a comment section at Bruenig’s blog. Why don’t you explain why you think he is wrong, there.

          • Philippe says:

            Bob Roddis repeatedly argues that Rothbardianism is simply “the rigorous enforcement of the non-aggression principle”.

            He just assumes that the Rothbardian theory of property rights is absolutely correct.

            In fact Rothbardianism is not simply “the rigorous enforcement of the non-aggression principle”.

            Rothbardianism is “the rigorous enforcement of Rothbardian property rights theory”.

            • skylien says:


              The problem with how you try to make the NAP meaningless is problematic because with states like they are run today it is NOT reciprocal, because it relies on the majority will in an ARBITRARILY defined area. (The majority will is different depending on the area.) The only consistent application would be to apply the same rights to every individual, which would be anarchism, which needs an unconditional unilateral right to secede down to the individual level.

              Of course I agree that to understand the NAP as purely against physical violence is wrong and meaningless, since it is based on the underlying property rights. However the NAP tries to have reciprocal property rights. That is waht the Rothbardian or any anarchistic theory of property rights is about. That is the only way it makes sense to me. If it would work is a different question.

            • Gamble says:


              Matthew 7:12
              12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

          • Philippe says:

            do you see how those two things are different?

        • Bob Murphy says:

          Just so no one is stunned/thinks I’m playing favorites, FYI I have deleted further comments on this line of thought from Roddis and his antagonists.

    • guest says:

      I agree that Ken is good for this blog, as far as I’m concerned.

      But then I personally don’t care how a person says something – especially when I have the opportunity to respond in writing, since they can’t interrupt me.

      Substance over style.

    • Enopoletus Harding says:

      Agreed, L.K. I don’t see any good reason to ban Ken B.

    • RPLong says:

      Off topic: Thank you for using the word “commentator.” For some reason, I have spent the last few years using the non-word “commenter” and silently wondering to myself why it sounds so bad.

      Your use of the correct word set me straight. Thanks. 🙂

    • Gamble says:

      I am not sure how Ken B is a libertarian? IF anything, he is nothing more than a pointless devils advocate. He comes here to argue. I have seen Ken B take every side possible, hard to follow. Guy likes to take a contrary position, always.

      To be a libertarian you have to have the NAP at your core. There is no deviation.

      Ken B has chastised me for making the above statement.

      Ken has said Rothbard invented NAP at it is all hooie.

      The NAP can be found in the Bible New Testament. and earlier. Without NAP, you are one of them. The others. The violent. The angry. The barbarians. The uncivilized. Motivation by gun point.

      I enjoyed Kens slant, only because it stimulated discussion. Ken B never directed all of his angst towards me, however Bob has the patients of a saint.

      • Lord Keynes says:

        Oh my lord, Gamble.

        And Ken B is completely right. Have you never heard of non Rothbardian libertarianism? E..g, Misesian or Hayekian classical liberalism with minimal state, or Robert Nozick’s libertarianism or David Friedman’s anarcho-capitatism? None of them require or use Rothbard’s natural theory rights or the NAP.

        And the New Testament tells you to pay your taxes and be subject to the government you live under::

        (1) St Paul, Romans 13.1–7 (written c. 56 AD):
        “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgement. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with this very thing. Pay to all what is due to them—taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honour to whom honour is due.”

        (2) Titus 3:1:
        “Remind them (viz., believing Christians) to be subject to the rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work …”

        (3) 1 Peter, 2.13–15, 17:
        “For the sake of the Lord, submit to every human institution, whether to the emperor as the supreme authority, or to the governors sent by the emperor to punish evildoers and to praise those doing good … Honour the emperor.”
        How is that consistent with the NAP?

        • Gamble says:


          The passages you site are difficult to reconcile with other passages, mainly passages from Jesus.

          Matt 20:25 But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them.”

          Per Bobs request, I will not continue here. We will have to resume this topic in the next religious thread.

      • Bob Murphy says:

        Gamble and LK, this is not the place to argue about Christianity and the NAP.

        If you guys want to say I’m a jerk, sore loser, bad Christian for not turning the other cheek, blah blah blah, fine. That is at least relevant to the topic of this post.

        But no, part of the “regime change” is I don’t want 15 different arguments going on in each blog post. Let’s stay on topic.

        • Lord Keynes says:

          Bob Murphy,

          I’ve got no problem whatsoever with demands that comments stay on topic. Nor I am saying you’re “a jerk, sore loser, or bad Christian”.

          So you want to set higher standards for arguments in the comments section??

          Fantastic!! Then why don’t you correct the outrageous nonsense Bob roddis just spouted in his comment above:

          “I’m not backing off from my claim that no non-Austrian seems to understand … the pricing process and/or economic calculation “

          For god’s sake, if you want to improve the quality of comments on his blog, then bloody well explain to Bob Roddis that every economist worth his salt understands supply and demand dynamics and the marginalist pricing theory based on it.

          Why don’t you step in ask him to say explicitly whether he thinks a market tendency towards supply and demand equilibrium by flexible prices is a fundamental part of Austrian economics? — before he mouths off about how supposedly every non-Austrian on earth in human history can’t understand Austrian price theory.

          • Gamble says:

            While we are at it, let us understand market clearing does not mean every car lot in America will simultaneously be empty.

          • Major_Freedom says:


            That comment right there is exactly what Murphy wants to avoid. Demanding that he do this and do that and invectives. Remember, it’s his blog. He said above that we should start talking like we’re all at the same dinner table.

            That makes sense.

            Look at your comment again and really ask yourself if you would say “For God’s sake Murphy, why don’t you ask Roddis at the end of the table why he’s wrong about X?” at a dinner table with friends.

            I think what he’s saying is that there needs to be an increase in emotional intelligence on this board, and that maybe disagreements are not going to be settled.

            I admit that I sometimes post long comments, but then again, somebody who talks to another right beside them at the table for lengthy periods of time is not all that rude, especially when I respond to anyone who wants to chime in.

            About Roddis, maybe you might want to practise a period of time where you ignore him? See if you can handle having him saying what he says without you “correcting” him. If he is as wrong as you say he is, then you should not at all feel obligated to say anything to him, because others will or should think the same as you.

            I think you should admit that at some level, you both challenge each other. Maybe switching gears is a good idea.

            Try to respect Bob’s wishes without questioning him so hostile like. I am not saying you have to agree with him, just respect his wants here. I respect him a lot, he gives a lot of time for you and others, and it was amazing for me to see just how patient and thicked skinned he has been.

            Look at your blog comments. Are they filled with as much contrarianism as this one? I doubt it.

            I think Bob wants this blog to be a place where he can write without having to constantly experience so much antagonism. A man has a right to be happy and to use his own means the way he sees fit. Your comment is one that disrespects that.

            At the same time I am not saying suck up or anything either. You don’t have to suck up to the dinner host in order to be a good and welcome guest. Just always have in your mind “Is this what I would say at a dinner table with people I know and also may not know all that well, which might embarrass the people I know?”

            I will try to do what Murphy wants on this, and I am confident I will be able to do it. I think you can do it too.

  3. guest says:

    Yes, sir.

    • guest says:

      And may I say that is awfully RoboCop of you?

  4. Richie says:

    Refreshing news.

  5. Daniel Kuehn says:

    re: “Imagine you were at a dinner party at my house, and someone said something you thought was nuts. How would you voice your opinion?”

    Depends on what we’re having. Is it good food good fight food or not? Something that really clumps well like mashed potatoes would facilitate that. If we were having something like tomato soup I would probably have to resort to logic and evidence I guess.

  6. Daniel Kuehn says:

    I could pretty easily just delete trolls when that got to be a problem at various points. The nice thing is they get bored. The volume here is so high though that I’m sure that’s a lot harder.

  7. RPLong says:

    Count me among the Ken B fans. He’s crossed the line a few times, but haven’t we all? You should probably ban the rest of us frequent commenters for three months as well, in the name of fairness. (I’m being serious.) It would probably be a good “reboot” for the tone of the comments section here.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      RPLong if you want to ban yourself out of solidarity, go ahead.

      • RPLong says:

        Heh. 🙂

        Maybe I feel like Ken B’s taking a rap that partially belongs to me (and several others of us). I wouldn’t be banning myself out of solidarity, but out of respect.

        All I’m trying to say is that this is a good opportunity for us all to reflect on our blog behavior and make self-improvements.

  8. Gamble says:

    Collectivist have no respect for private property nor the individual.

  9. Transformer says:

    I’m not sure where I fit on the spectrum of commentators who lower the tone of the blog, but I also would like to appeal the ban on Ken B.

    I rarely notice anything abusive from him towards you or other commentators.

    • Gamble says:

      I go out of my way to put all of this into 8th grade speak. Sorry in advance for my lack of refinement.

      No point talking over the heads of most voters…

  10. Bob Roddis says:

    I particularly liked the time Ken B called me anti-Semitic.

  11. Bob Roddis says:

    Moderation in the pursuit of trolls is no vice.

  12. K.P. says:

    Well, I mostly find myself defending or explaining Rothbardian libertarianism here, but if, by and by, you find you need a new antagonist I’m happy to fill the void. There really haven’t been enough egoists here, after all.

    • Gamble says:

      Nope, no egos here 😉

  13. Major_Freedom says:

    Murphy, you had every right in the world to do what you are doing. This blog is yours. You do whatever you want. You are the internet’s most engaging and participatory, not to mention intelligent, economics bloggers. It is not even close.

    You know what I think? I think that what you are feeling and thinking right now is in part due to how good you are. How many people take advantage of that? It’s infectious.

    So count me as someone who not only admits that his talk isn’t always dinner table quality, but who will try his darndest to respect the owner’s wishes.

  14. Kev says:

    As a long time silent lurker in your comments section and a guy who has had similar impertinent bickering on my Facebook posts, I can completely understand this move. Sometimes patience just runs out. Well done for keeping it to 3 months. I banned a buddy permanently the other day, but in the spirit of charity and your example, I should probably re-think a time limit…

    Good on ya, Bob. Long time reader of your opinions, Catholic libertarian in my own right, and I always find you to be enlightening, patient, and incredibly intelligent. Thanks for your tireless efforts.

  15. Enopoletus Harding says:

    I had no desire to actually “hang out” in the comment section because I can’t stand its tone.

    -Can you give us some examples? Or at least set up some kind of comment policy page, like mine?

    • Grane Peer says:

      Well, I find the hatred of Euclidean geometry particularly disconcerting

  16. Michael says:

    Mostly a lurker.

    Very surprised to see Ken B banned, while I know hes a bit adversarial at times I must’ve missed him really crossing the line. I used to read this blog several times daily but I stopped visiting the comments almost solely due to Lord Keynes/Bob Roddis.

    Expected to see them banned too. Don’t understand why they’ve escaped.

  17. Bob Murphy says:

    For the benefit of those who are shocked, shocked at my decision, try this for example. Ken B. is here to argue, period.

    LK and Roddis go off on tangents, and I am not going to let that stuff fester again, but I do not see LK engaging in the same kind of ridiculous moves as Ken B.

    “joe” is obviously a troll, but he doesn’t hang out here nearly as much as Ken B., so there was no point in officially banning him. Any one-off troll comments he leaves, I will zap.

    I warned Ken B. a few days ago that I was really sick of his style. This was not out of the blue.

    OK this is the last post I am going to make on this stuff.

    • Tel says:

      On Jo Nova’s blog, she used to just create a new posting with an article like “This is the thread where I’m dumping a bunch of off topic stuff” and then pick up all the threads that she decided were off topic and dump them over there.

      It keeps the main articles cleaner, and if people want to go hammer and tongs, they can do it in their own corner.

      Before you ask, no I’m not familiar with the machinery of how to shuffle comments around like that.

      • andrew' says:

        It is a known software issue. A workaround is each post can have two comment areas. Not ideal but workable.

    • Grane Peer says:

      Forgive me gracious host. Your guests ought to make their remarks with the same manner of refinement as those whom partake in your whimsical fine wine and cheese dinner parties. To be invited to your legendary soiree only to behave with boorishness of mere Yalies is, indeed, befit for swine and drolls.

    • Enopoletus Harding says:

      I am not going to ban trolls

      -Bob Murphy, this month.
      -So why the sudden change in [an unknown amount of days due to lack of dates on comments]?
      I don’t see anything showing that Ken B was dishonest or trollish in the comments you reference, but I do see how people could misinterpret his beliefs due to him occasionally being a poor communicator.

  18. tomepats says:

    Also a long-time lurker. I agree with everything Kev and M_F mentioned above.

    As a lurker I find it really intimidating to leave any kind of comment. Especially on a blog like this because I see the usuals going back and forth and the conversation devolving into ‘you’re twisting my words’ and ‘no, you said right here that…’ and it gets exhausting. Not to mention the specialized language that evolves from discussing the same points over and over with the same people. So much so that I often feel like I’m missing something.

    The same thing happens on the baseball blog I like to follow (and don’t comment on) or really any blog that exists for a number of years. It seems that the comments come from fewer and fewer people and get more and more insular with jokes or topics.

    All this is to say that I appreciate the effort to try and change the game. You might be playing the worst game of whac-a-mole ever but I appreciate it.

    • Tel says:

      It would be better if everyone put down their best possible argument, and no one was able to misunderstand. However, knocking out a one off comment is highly unlikely to deliver an excellent argument, so a short argument is probably the next best thing.

      I’ve often thought that some sort of wiki style format might be good, where articles can get polished up over time, rather than forgotten.

      • Rick Hull says:

        It’s more like SNL. We’ll all be wishing for the chummy good ol’ rowdy days soon.

  19. Major_Freedom says:

    I for one am contented that many lurkers are decidning to post their thoughts.

    For what it’s worth, I will apologize to anyone who decided not to post because of something I said.

    • Gamble says:

      You know when I am upset, I address you as MF;)

  20. Grane Peer says:

    Flimshaw, this is pure Bolshevism.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      You mean you want me out of your house?


  21. khodge says:

    On too many blogs, the visitors forget whose blog it is. I come here to see what Bob has to say, not to wade through the dregs of those who cannot/will not run their own blogs.

  22. Ivan Jankovic says:

    Bob Murphy,
    my impression about you was the same that Ralf Raico had about Hayek: that you like too many people. If YOU say that somebody should be banned because of uncivil behavior, I am inclined to believe you.

  23. Dan says:

    I’m surprised you didn’t do this sooner. I wouldn’t put up with a guy regularly insulting me and my personal friends out in the real world, much less on the Internet when I have the ability to remove them from my life with ease.

  24. Darien says:

    All I have to say is that I find it very charming that the only tag on this post is “DeLong.”

  25. andrew' says:

    Against , this is a software issue.

    But Bob, while it is your right and within your technical ability generally, you are choosing the dealing road over the Cowen road?

    OTOH, I thought reputations would matter and am surprised at how many people seem confused by this move. I guess they weren’t called the racists just for ad hominem effect.

    • andrew' says:

      Great. Now comments decide to work now that I decided to change the middle paragraph to:

      Personally I would allow everything. If I do a blog I will try to have two comments one for insight and one for argument.
      But it isn’t about me it is about the contentious tone I think Bob doesn’t enjoy, preferring a lighter tone and ken b, in addition to bad faith debate club argumentation is certainly the keystone of. I don’t personally mind it and still think the two comments might work.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      andrew’ wrote:

      But Bob, while it is your right and within your technical ability generally, you are choosing the dealing road over the Cowen road?

      Ironically, this is what made me realize what was happening andrew’.

      People rip the crap out of Tyler in his comments, but notice that Tyler almost never comments there.

      In contrast, if you look at the blogs where the host interacts a lot, it’s usually not the case that 65% of the discussion focuses on what an idiot / moral reprobate the host is. Funny how that works?

      • Andrew' says:

        BTW, I meant to delete that paragraph, not that I disagree with it. I haven’t ever considered bloggers as desiring to hang out in their own comments. I’ve always thought it just kind of doesn’t work.

        You are setting up a hypothesis test.

        I was just thinking I really like my two comments sections, one curated for Bob and one uncurated. I grant that it is also a hypothesis test, but if I don’t like my own ideas, noone will 😉

        • Bob Murphy says:

          I haven’t ever considered bloggers as desiring to hang out in their own comments.

          Nick Rowe, Scott Sumner, David Friedman, David R. Henderson, all spend a lot of time in the comments, and that’s where I usually learn what their nuanced views are (in reaction to people commenting on their original posts). Obvious exceptions are Tyler Cowen and Bryan Caplan.

  26. andrew' says:

    I hear that only 1% of talk radio listeners call in. I bet a similar equation works with blogs. Point being, if you aren’t already commenting, it is likely no change will cause you to start.

  27. Mule Rider says:

    As an occasional commenter, I find myself a little more sympathetic to the Ken B. banning than what some of the others have expressed here. Even though his sentiments are often expressed in a relatively much shorter fashion than the tangents of LK/Roddis/MF, it’s clear his motive has been to just launch unnecessary digs and barbs at Bob (and others on occasion) and not make any attempt at honest debate. That’s Trolling 101 and is very annoying. I do concur, though, that the long-winded back-and-forths from those mentioned above can also make a comment section nearly unreadable, and I appreciate efforts to rein that in, by the commenters self-policing themselves with additional restraint and a little supervision from Bob. Anyway, just my two cents. I really enjoy the blog…..carry on!

  28. Andrea says:

    This is the best post ever. As I’m reading each comment I keep picturing a stage play. The actors are all Seinfeld type characters…except for Murphy.

  29. von Pepe says:

    I would trade Bob in the comments for Ken B. any day. More Bob.

  30. Observer says:

    There is a British expression used against a someone the speaker finds aggravating:

    “He gets on my tits”.

    I think it is reasonable to conclude that Ken B gets on Bob Murphy’s tits!

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