05 Sep 2014

Government Plea Bargains Are a Horrible Practice

Big Brother, Police, Shameless Self-Promotion 88 Comments

I think you will like this one; it has a plot twist near the end. The opening:

Because it is so commonplace, most people accept the practice of State prosecutors offering a “plea bargain” without much thought. After all, it seems like a win-win situation: the State saves on court costs and other resources, while the defendant who takes the “deal” does less time than what he or she is likely to suffer if the case goes to a full trial. Yet even though they are very common in the U.S., a prosecutor offering a plea bargain is actually quite horrible and a travesty of justice, when you think about it from a certain perspective.

To warm you up to my view–which may at first seem odd–consider this quotation I found from a legal website: “Plea bargains are extraordinarily common in the American legal system, accounting for roughly 90% of all criminal cases. Many countries, however, do not allow plea bargains, considering them unethical and immoral.” Isn’t that interesting? By the end of this post, you’ll understand why this typical U.S. practice is considered a miscarriage of justice in many other parts of the world.

88 Responses to “Government Plea Bargains Are a Horrible Practice”

  1. Ken B says:

    Indeed. Too many laws and too stiff penalties are what enable this.
    At the very least these offers should be admissible in court should a defendant choose a trial. Let the prosecutor explain why he was willing to let the guy off with littering if he is really guilty of these horrendous charges.

    Of course private law would involve negotiated settlements for alleged transgressions too I imagine.

  2. W. Peden says:

    Great article.

    Less importantly, one could add that plea bargains corrupt scientific practice. Interestingly, this isn’t just true of disciplines like criminology, but also things like medicine, because legal confessions are often used as evidence when researching things like shaken baby syndrome, despite the fact that the confessions are affected by the presence of plea bargaining.

    It would be bad for physics if someone was going around the labs doing a dance with magnetic sticks and it is bad for medicine to have plea bargain systems distorting evidence from legal cases.

  3. khodge says:

    I’m not convinced. First, you cannot get away with the fact that the government has more money than you and more experienced lawyers than you can afford. That’s reality so it doesn’t really matter what is offered, you’ll probably end up with the 90% conviction rate anyway.

    Second, a different story, not involving (directly) the government at all: In the midst of a market boom, I borrowed heavily to invest in some commodity. The market crashed, I lost everything, including the ability to borrow more money for a new car. I approach the lender with the offer to pay $0.30 on the dollar with a term loan. In much, much less than 1/3 of the time it takes to pay him back all of his money I have reestablished a bit of my credit and, while still paying off the new loan, I am able to borrow enough to buy a new car.

    Assuming in both scenarios that there is culpability (yours: the criminal, mine: the debtor) and the offender wants to make good, by admitting guilt justice is, in fact, done while affording the offender the opportunity to rebuild his life.

    • Ken B says:

      A common tactic is to threaten to charge with dozens of offenses. There are too many of those. You know those daily pill dispensers? Felony to use them in Michigan for Rx drugs, subject to drug law penalties. So they threaten to charge you with that unless you plead to petting a cat the wrong way. You did put your blood pressure pills in the thing, you are guilty, you will lose.
      Care to defend this?

      • khodge says:

        I’m sorry, are you trying to convince me that you will be found not guilty of using a pill dispenser when you clearly have used a pill dispenser? Do you think the judge is going to rule in your favor because you have a stupid law? If you believe that then you don’t need to accept the plea bargain.

        Nothing I wrote above suggests that government cannot or will not abuse its power. The best you can hope for is to minimize the damage. You, on the other hand, have just presented a pretty compelling argument for accepting plea bargains.

        • Ken B says:

          I cite that pill law, which is the law in Michigan, as a tactic a prosecutor can use as leverage. They arrest you for bad cat petting, search your house or car and find the pill dispenser. They threaten to seize your car or home on that basis. I state quite clearly that if charged unde that law you will be convicted. And you decide I am saying you can beat the rap? You think I am arguing you should fight it it because you’ll win? After I said “you will lose”?

          [Edited by RPM.]

          • khodge says:

            Bob, thanks for the edit. It wasn’t much but it doesn’t take much to kill a conversation.

            Ken B: as one Ken to another, this is a topic Bob has been struggling with since Ferguson first started (and, to one extent or another probably a very long time). He opened the conversation by posing a question. I, in essence, said that a solution will not come about by reducing options.

            At this point Bob is not looking for sycophants, he is looking for cogent responses to my objection. Throwing out another example of an abuse of power fails to move the conversation forward.

            I, myself, could see problems in my response; surely you can do a better job of pointing out the weaknesses in my argument than telling me to defend something I do not agree with.

            • Ken B says:

              I am not sure what you are getting at. You completely misunderstood my comment, and now you suggest I, the one commenter who can drive Murphy crazier than any other, am a Murphy sycophant?
              The problem Murphy identifirs is really a symptom ( I sycophantically note that Murphy gets even his valid complaints wrong). The problem is the number of crazy laws and the arbitrary power they give prosecutors. But without lea bargains this would collapse.

        • Tel says:

          I think that Ken is trying to argue that if every case went through the full process of the law, we would have less stupid laws because we would all be faced with the consequence of stupid laws.

          Bargains reduce the consequence of stupid laws, while providing a general purpose hammer that the authorities have to beat people into submission. It takes a lifetime of legal study to become proficient in just one narrow aspect of the law, no one is really proficient in all of it. A person who chooses to devote their effort to some profession or trade or other productive skill, by definition cannot devote the same time toward studying law… therefore they are going to do something illegal sooner or later, even if only a stupid pill law that nobody knows about. There’s probably dozens of ways you can fill in forms wrong, or not put your rubbish bin out exactly the right distance, forget to buy that compulsory whatever thing government wants you to buy this week.

          This gets back to the question of whether stupid people getting dumped with the consequence of their own stupidity will make them any less stupid.

          • Ken B says:

            Yes. Also that the incredibly wide lattitude this allows prosecutors means they can both bludgeon the inocent and favor the guilty as their political, racial, or religious prejudices dictate.

          • Ken B says:

            Related. http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2014/09/03/how-st-louis-county-missouri-profits-from-poverty/ note the garbage monopoly.
            These are petty fundraisers. But there are more serious penalties for all sorts of equally obscure and petty things out there.

            • Tel says:

              Once the law gets sufficiently complex, police know they can get away with inventing violations, or introducing arbitrary procedural weirdness.

              No one can call them on it, because no one knows what the real law is, not even the police know.

        • Ken B says:

          I really do not get your last sentence. I cited a crazy unjust abusive law that could be used to bludgeon a confession from a many innocent of what he is charged with, and you say that is an argument for plea bargains?

  4. Major.Freedom says:

    Nice technique.

  5. Reece says:

    Not sure I agree with this. If plea bargaining was eliminated, Smith would still have to play the game. So step #4 would be:

    “We’re going to play a little game. I’m going to flip this quarter. If it comes up heads, you’re free to go. But if it comes up tails, then I throw YOU in prison for 20 years.”

    Instead of:

    “Unless you testify against Smith like I want, we’re going to play a little game. I’m going to flip this quarter. If it comes up heads, you’re free to go. But if it comes up tails, then I throw YOU in prison for 20 years.”

    I agree it gives the prosecutor a lot of power, but I don’t think it connects to an unrelated witness this clearly.

    Also, in the earlier steps, If Smith was the witness, then the game would be played in addition to the money he would get/lose from the state for plea bargaining/not plea bargaining. So while the jumps work from step 1 to 2 to 3, I don’t think the step from 3 to 4 works completely for Smith.

  6. Transformer says:

    Do you think that plea bargaining would be part of free-market justice ?

    From both the prosecution and the defendants point of view it seems like a cost/benefit based decision as to whether its worth going to trial v settling early. It’s possible to see how (measured objectively) it really is win/win. In your example the trade is between 20years jail and a $50,000 fine. If there is a non-trivial chance of a guilty verdict then the fine seems a good bet for the defendant. Its seems more complex from the prosecutors perspective (how is he being rewarded?). But if he is assumed to be representing the victims family then one can see a similar cost/benefit analysis might come into play.

    • Transformer says:

      Incidentally (and a bit off topic) I assume that prosecutions in a free-market justice system would be brought by a combination of victims (or their representatives) and agencies who just had a general interest in justice either for a profit motive or because they were funded altruistically by charity.

      Is that the view of Ancaps generally ?

  7. Dan says:

    I think one of they most awful ways plea bargains are used is in regards to the drug war. Back in my younger days I was dating a stripper that got busted selling cocaine to a cop. They offered to pay her for a private party at their place and got her to bring coke with her. Once there they got her to sell them what she had, and then arrested her for it. They threatened her with prison time unless she gave up three people higher up the food chain.

    Without plea bargains they would’ve never targeted this girl who wasn’t even a drug dealer. Instead, it is a common practice to get people like her wrapped up in their web in order to force them to risk their lives taking down often very violent criminals.

    Side note: I warned her that they sounded like cops and to not trust them, but you try reasoning with a stripper with a drug problem.

    • Transformer says:

      Dan: You should sell the film right to this comment 🙂

      • Ken B says:

        The public attitude, and the cops’ attitude, is fed by Hollywood on this. How many shows have you seen where a cop or DA takes down a “scumbag” by tricking, lying, abusing their powers, and the show’s gestalt is all’s fair, or all’s well that ends well. It seems like the staple plot for Law&Order.
        So in the movie the cops will be Brad Pitt and George Clooney, and the drug kingpin will be Ron Perlman.

      • Dan says:


      • Yancey Ward says:

        Already sold to the people who made “How I Met Your Mother”.

  8. JimS says:

    This piece by Theodore Dalrymple addresses this issue nicely:


  9. Samson Corwell says:

    They really aren’t. Some of them are necessary for getting accomplices to speak against their co-conspirators.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Samson wrote:

      They really aren’t. Some of them are necessary for getting accomplices to speak against their co-conspirators.

      Samson, but that’s most obviously when a plea bargain is UNjustified. It’s one thing for the government to bribe a person to testify against himself–because then the government’s “gift” and “unfairness” hit the same person, so it’s not obvious which is bigger.

      But if the government bribes criminal A to testify against criminal B, then that’s clearly a violation of justice and unfair to criminal B.

      Again, if you doubt that, go back to Step #1. If the prosecutor didn’t make any deals about the charges he would bring on criminal A, but instead said, “I’ll give you a check for $50,000 if you go into court on Monday and tell the jury that your partner shot the bank teller,” then would you think that was a great way to put dangerous murderers behind bars?

      • LK says:

        And in a totally privatised Rothbardian justice system, there is no criminal law at all, but only private tort law and private law suits — which means that private parties could probably bribe some criminals A to testify against their fellow criminals B.

        According to you, such a thing is clearly a violation of justice and unfair to criminals B.

        So haven’t you just proven Rothbardian justice is unfair and unjust??

        Of course, it is worse than this too: if the rich — if and when they get caught in a private law suit — can just bribe the victims not to sue, the rich have a licence to commit crime.

        • Ben B says:


          We could start blackmailing these rich criminals by making false accusations. We could bribe people to testify against these rich criminals. Of course, if these rich criminals don’t have a reputation for committing crimes and then bribing their victims, then it will be harder for us to succeed with these false accusations.

          • Ben B says:

            We’ll drive the price up for rich criminal bribes and make it more profitable for them to avoid criminal activity.

          • LK says:

            So your “justice” system will be one ridden with blackmail and false accusations? lol

            • Ben B says:

              I was accepting your assumption to be true, but not that it actually would be true. Besides, if we are assuming a free society here, then I think the burden is on you to show why your assumption must necessarily be true. Obviously, individuals within a free society would frown upon agression in all its forms, so why would rich individuals, in general, think that they could simply commit crimes and pay off victims without having this behavior affect their reputation and their longterm prospects of maintaining their wealth?

              No, the “justice” system would not be filled with blackmail and false accusations, but individuals bringing suit might be “filled with blackmail and false accusations” as a way to exploit rich individuals who perpetually commit aggressive acts.

            • Major.Freedom says:


              “So your “justice” system will be one ridden with blackmail and false accusations?”

              Ridden? No, I don’t think he was describing statism there.

        • Reece says:

          Your first part assumes that arbitrators would not care about a fair ruling. Otherwise, it is likely that they would not allow evidence that was gotten through bribery during a case. But if arbitrators weren’t fair, why would anyone bother bribing a witness when they could just bribe the arbitrator instead? Limiting the number of people involved would definitely be a plus.

          “Bribing” people not to sue doesn’t seem like much of a problem. If someone stole $50 from me, and then bribed me not to sue by paying me $55, then we both would probably be better off than if I had to go to court. How is this a license to commit crime?

          Also, this already happens in the current system; surely you’ve heard of settlements. Does this mean that rich people have the license to commit crime in the current system?

          • Tel says:

            But if arbitrators weren’t fair, why would anyone bother bribing a witness when they could just bribe the arbitrator instead?

            If the trial is public, you might find it more convincing to the general community to have a witness give testimony in your favour, rather than have the arbitrator give a surprising judgement.

            Also, the arbitrator has a long term reputation to protect, but maybe the witness does not.

            • Reece says:

              Fair point. I agree.

              My main point though was that it would be “illegal” just like it is now (any fair arbitrator would require the people in the dispute to not bribe witnesses in addition to requiring witnesses to tell the truth if they give a statement). So, yes, many witnesses may have an incentive to lie in this system if they were bribed, but they also would in the current system.

      • Samson Corwell says:

        Samson wrote:

        They really aren’t. Some of them are necessary for getting accomplices to speak against their co-conspirators.

        Samson, but that’s most obviously when a plea bargain is UNjustified. It’s one thing for the government to bribe a person to testify against himself–because then the government’s “gift” and “unfairness” hit the same person, so it’s not obvious which is bigger.

        I’m really not sure how to understand this. Wouldn’t this be giving them a chance to redeem themselves?

  10. Jan Masek says:

    If Jim Smith is innocent, why would he take the plea bargain? If guilty, the plea bargain gets him a break compared to the sentence if convinced. What am I missing? Is the problem in that he may get convicted if he insists on trial even if innocent? But that wouldn’t be caused by the existence of plea bargain, no?

    • Samson Corwell says:

      Maybe the prisoner’s dilemma is relevant here (or maybe it isn’t). Jim may know he’s innocent, but the prosecution might not believe him. The prosecution might even have what they believe is overwhelming evidence of his guilt. Rejecting a plea deal means playing dice with the jury and depending on the circumstances of the case the jury might not be particularly forgiving.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Jan Masek wrote:

      If Jim Smith is innocent, why would he take the plea bargain?

      Jan, this happens all the time. There was a whole NPR series last year about people who pled guilty to MURDER even though they didn’t do it. The cops would do stuff like take a single teen mom into the interrogation room and work on her for days, telling her all the horrible things that would happen to her kids in the state’s child protective services if she didn’t just admit what she did, etc.

      • John says:

        Bob, a couple of things: it’s actually not all that easy to convict an innocent person (although not impossible by any stretch). As far as the best estimates can tell most of the arrested are in fact guilty of the crime for which they were arrested, hence the very high conviction rate. I don’t think it’s a flip a coin situation. As prosecutors themselves like to say, “anyone can convict the guilty, it takes a real lawyer to convict the innocent.” (This is gallows humor, but is getting at the reality of trial.)

        Thus, I’m not sure that the use of plea bargains is very different from the use of settlement offers in civil litigation, except that more is at stake. Trying to extort or threaten false testimony from a witness strikes me as extremely different from asking the person who actually knows whether he committed the crime to handicap his chances of prevailing in a trial. That doesn’t strike me as per se unreasonable,or unfair.

        On the issue of the police strongarming the teen mom, that’s a problem of young uneducated people not knowing their rights (and cops taking advantage of that). People should not be (and don’t have to do any) talking to the cops after they’re arrested. I don’t see that as a plea bargain issue, although it’s certainly a problem.

        • Major.Freedom says:

          “It’s the victim’s fault.” – John

          • John says:

            No, no. It’s just not a plea bargain problem. American common law has evolved to permit the police to use a variety of tricks to try to get confessions. One if these is that beyond Miranda, police don’t have to tell arrestees much of anything, like, “for instance, we can’t keep interrogating you if you ask for a lawyer and won’t talk to us.” Other countries put less emphasis on confessions and so don’t permit some of this stuff. I’m not saying these tactics are desirable, or that they shouldn’t (maybe) be illegal. I’m just saying it’s not a plea bargain problem.

            • Major.Freedom says:

              What Murphy described is a plea bargain problem.

              What you are describing is an interrogation problem.

              Close, but not synonymous.

        • Ken B says:

          John, let’s assume it is impoosible to convict an innocent. There are still so many laws, like the pill dispenser one, that it is easy for a diligent cop searching your home or papers can find. Ever let your 19 year old have a sip of wine? So they find some other law to coerce you with. 30 days for a crime you did not commit, or asset forfeiture of your house and 6 months for the daily pill dispenser. Most people take the 30. So how did the impossibility of convicting an innocent help you?

        • Harold says:

          “As far as the best estimates can tell most of the arrested are in fact guilty of the crime for which they were arrested, hence the very high conviction rate.” You cannot use the high conviction rate to demonstrate that the innocent are rarely convicted. It works just as well for “In fact, most innocent people are convicted of the crimes they are accused of, hence the very high conviction rate.”

          For serious crimes Ken B’s scenario doesn’t work. the police or prosecutor needs to come up with a more serious crime than the one you are accused of. These exist, eg murder / manslaughter, but there is not a vast panoply of serious crimes the prosecutor can fling at you.

          Nobody would take a plea bargain for a crime they didn’t commit unless they genuinely believed that the they could be falsely convicted. Whether or not they would be is irrelevant, only they they believe they could be. Now clearly some people are falsely convicted, so the fear is to some extent genuine. If you could prevent false convictions, you would solve most of the problem. There could be a scenario where the prosecutor gets you to admit to less serious crime you did not commit instead of charging you with a more serious one you did commit, but I don’t think that is the heart of the problem.

          In the UK the sentence is reduced if you plead guilty at an early stage. I think 1/3 off if you do so at the first opportunity, and some off if any time before trial.

          For an individual in Jim Smith’s situation, the plea bargain only offers him an extra alternative. If there were no plea bargains generally, and most cases went to trial, the offering Jim a bargain would be to his advantage. Th alternative would be to go to trial, which is what would have happened anyway. The problem is how the ubiquity of plea bargains distorts the investigation and trial process. Instead of finding out who did it, the prosecutor can construct a flimsy case against anyone, and get a good chance of conviction for a lesser crime by offering a plea bargain. The investigation process may not be conducted in the same way as it would be without the presence of plea bargains, and is less likely to result in the offender being convicted.

  11. JimS says:

    Can you apply market principles to this scenario? Many of the criminals are thieves or dealers or pimps or prostitutes etc. This is their business, their way of life, their means to sustain themselves. Is it any different for them them to encounter the judicial system in a manner that legitimate businesses encounter compliance issues or even penalties for wrong doings? That is to say, is time/probation simply the cost of criminals doing business? Do prosecutors i in some way recognize this? Often you can settle tax issues for a percentage of what is due, is this wrong? If you don’t fight charges concerning zoning violations you often can get a more lenient penalty.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Good questions JimS (and others). I will do a follow-up post on this. Please keep bringing up your questions/concerns here, if you have more, and I’ll try to hit at least some of them in the next post.

  12. LK says:

    “Many countries, however, do not allow plea bargains, considering them unethical and immoral.” Isn’t that interesting?”

    Yes, but interesting in a way you don’t realise, because, if you really think such things are immoral, it suggests that most Western nations are much more fair and just than outliers like the US.

    This is exactly the point Gene Callahan has made before: a lot of the issues that US libertarians constantly point to are actually **US issues**, and the US is an outlier, unusual in the Western world.

    • Reece says:

      Imagine if there was a Robert Murphy blog that was based in Germany (to use the same country that Gene Callahan was talking about). This blog constantly talked about German issues like Sunday shopping laws, the lack of trial by jury, draconian laws against insulting people (especially the police), etc. Now, suppose a frequent reader of this blog said,

      “Yes, but this is all interesting in a way you don’t realize, because, if you really think such things are immoral, it suggests that most Western nations are much more fair and just than outliers like Germany. A lot of the issues that German libertarians constantly point to are actually **German issues**, and Germany is an outlier, unusual in the Western world.”

      I’m guessing you would find this ridiculous, yet this is exactly what you’re doing with the US.

      The point is that people tend to complain about what is particularly bad in their country. This will obviously tend to make other countries look better, but doesn’t mean that these other countries are actually better. Most US libertarians aren’t complaining about Sunday shopping laws because they aren’t too bad in the US. No US libertarian is complaining about the lack of trial by jury in the US because, obviously, the US actually does have trial by jury. Few US libertarians complain about not being able to insult a police officer, because you mainly can (interestingly, a police officer acting out on an insult would be police misconduct in the US while it would be the law in Germany).

      Also, I pointed out before that Gene Callahan’s implication was clearly wrong. Germany does have an excessive police violence problem, even though it is significantly less than the US: http://consultingbyrpm.com/blog/2014/08/the-problem-with-the-police-is-that-its-not-just-a-few-bad-apples.html#comment-826085

    • Major.Freedom says:


      We get it, as long as an “issue” is specific to one state, it means you and Callahan can go on believing in statism without having to support that “issue”, and libertarians end up as pointing to specific problems not endemic of states as such, but of certain “bad” states only.

      The problem with that approach is that it ignores what libertarian ethics is all about. What libertarians *qua libertarians* point to is in fact ubiquitous to *every* state: Some individuals initiating violence against other people, for the purposes of wealth aggrandizement and power.

  13. K-Veikko says:

    I think in most cases (90% ?) the salary of prosecutor and defendants attorney is paid from the same purse. By the state. They both have an individual interest to promote the career and essentially have one and common interest in the case.

  14. Yancey Ward says:

    Is it really the case that other countries find them immoral and unethical? In civil law countries, there really is no such thing as a “plea” to begin with. A prosecutor must still present a case even in the event of an open and unrecanted confession. It is my understanding that the common law countries differ in the rules, but they still allow pleas to be made and accepted.

    However, I mostly agree with Murphy’s critique here.

  15. Gamble says:

    US lawyers have to get a state permission slip to practice law therefore justice will never be served. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

    • Major.Freedom says:

      Imagine Wal-Mart demanding everyone get their permission before they sell any consumer goods, and threaten violence against those who sell goods without their permission.

      • John says:

        I’m not following this. Public defenders are generally, I think it’s fair to say, as tireless antagonists of state power as anyone on this blog. Yes, they do need to be members of the bar, but that’s because there is, in fact, a state, there are, in fact, laws and you can’t be an effective lawyer without knowing something about them, which is what a law license is — a piece of paper that says you know something about the laws of the state you’re practicing law in. I get that in another sort of world without laws it wouldn’t make sense to demand a law license, but we don’t currently live in that world.

        • Major.Freedom says:

          “but that’s because there is, in fact, a state, there are, in fact, laws”

          Imagine Wal-Mart using that excuse.

        • Ken B says:

          You are right but its a low bar you set. Ancaps never work to reduce state power. They do not want it reduced; they want it enhanced so that they might kvetch.
          True in all areas, free trader Ron Paul voted against fred trade deals. He wants purity not improvement. Same here.

          • Reece says:

            KenB, most ancaps I know would love to reduce state power.

            • Major.Freedom says:

              EVERY ancap supports that.

              Not joining in the “political process” which of course is itself a violation of ancap ethics, and not supporting a leftover minarchist state or a state closer to the ideal of certain trolls, this does not mean ancaps want a totalitarian nightmare hoping it will collapse with subsequent permanent statelessness thereafter.

              Ancapism is not Marxism. Marxism welcomes totalitarianism as a prophetic, penultimate stage in human development.

              As you know, “free trade deals” in government is government management of trade, not free trade. Voting for such free trade deals is not synonymous with reducing government power.

              Don’t feed the trolls.

            • Ken B says:

              I gather you have met none of the regulars here then. Take MF as an example. To him even minarchists are just statist wanting to put him in a box. Or Murphy, who wants people to not vote, not to participate in our political system at all. They want a complete replacement of the system not incremental progress. Anyone who wants that does not want the problems ameliorated or solved.
              Lenin did not want the injustices of Tsarism solved either.

              • Reece says:

                Okay, but MF does recognize that minarchists are better than other statists, I assume (based off his post above). I think the box thing is just complaining about one of the few areas where minarchists support violating ancap ethics; limited taxation. But he can still think that and support a smaller state over the current state.

                I’ve held the anti-voting position before, just because it takes a long time and is unlikely to change the result. I have since changed my mind, and now am a big supporter of voting. But even now, I think that writing articles, convincing other people of your positions, protesting, etc. is more useful than voting.

                I also don’t agree that voting violates ancap ethics.

              • Ken B says:

                Well, ultimately Reece neither of us knows these persons. We form impressions. I won’t try to convince you to ignore yours. Mine are stated above.

              • Reece says:

                Okay, but saying “[Ancaps] do not want [state power] reduced; they want it enhanced so that they might kvetch.” seems incorrect for Murphy since he has written papers against certain policies. Furthermore, I think he spoke on the congressional floor before (or maybe even more than once), so he isn’t against participating in the system.

              • Ken B says:

                Bob has written papers for which he was compensated. You might as well I care passionately about making enormous system crippling calculations run quickly and efficiently, as I can point you to code I was paid to design that did just that.
                When he’s on his own dime Murphy heads out to Porcfest. It is a mistake to argue motivation from stuff people get paid for.

              • Reece says:

                You didn’t say he didn’t want to help reduce state power. You said ancaps *never* work to reduce state power. Even if he is paid to do so, he would still be helping reduce state power.

                Furthermore, does he get paid for all of his articles (like at Mises Canada and EconLog – I don’t know, he might)? How about his blog posts here when he argues various issues? Does he get paid for all of his talks? What about instances where he gets very little money for his work (I would guess he didn’t get much out of some of his books, for example)?

                Also, one more important note – This place is called “Free Advice.”

              • Reece says:

                ^ That should be “didn’t just say,” not “didn’t say,” as you clearly said both.

              • Major.Freedom says:

                Reece, notice that when presented with obvious counterevidence, the original claim is no true scotsman’d and all of a sudden working to reduce state power does not count if one is paid for saying or writing something that if followed would reduce state power.

                This is made all the more pathetic and dishonest when it is realized that the original claim was presented with alleged supporting evidence of Ron Paul voting against various “free trade” bills. That implies if Ron Paul voted FOR those bills, then presumably it would be counter-evidence to the claim and be an example of libertarians working towards reducing state power. But Ron Paul was being paid as a politician! So of course we would be expected to include people getting paid.

                As you know, understanding that minarchism supports putting people in boxes if they do not want the minarchist’s state to provide them with minarchist “services”, just like welfare/warfare statists support putting people in boxes if they don’t want the state’s welfare/warfare “services”, does not mean that ancaps do not or cannot work towards there being fewer times peaceful homesteading and free trading has a punishment from states. Minarchism, “advocating” for it, CANNOT be an honest means to reducing state power. This is because if minarchism is ever to be had, then ancap ethics demands it also be abolished. But that would require the ancap to change from “let us have minarchism” to “let us have ancapism.”

                An ancap need not and cannot honestly support minarchism in order to work towards ancapism.

                Reece, I took Murphy’s advice and no longer feed the troll. I recemmend you do the same. Trolls want to make certain people look bad more than they want the truth.

              • Reece says:

                Nice catch on the Ron Paul point. Yes, you’re right, Ron Paul was used as an example above even though he was obviously paid (a lot). Also, note that Ron Paul is likely a minarchist (if that – his positions on borders and the original vote on the Afghanistan war might push him over to a moderate libertarian), so using him in his argument for why ancaps are not for reducing state power is strange at best.

            • Bob Murphy says:

              I’ll just leave this here.

              • Major.Freedom says:

                It doesn’t matter if the person is paid.

                You showed you agree with that when you said Ron Paul voting against free trade bills shows libertarians are not willing to work to reduce state power. Because if he did vote in favor of them, that would be an example of libertarians working to reduce state power.

                And yet Ron Paul would have been paid as a politician.

                The fact you actually want to make people believe this was your first time with “hyperbole”… THAT speaks volumes about your psychological constitution.

                Murphy has always had the moral high ground over you. It is not even close.

                One final thought to leave you with as you again leave with your tail between your legs: I disagree with some of the stuff Murphy has written. But I agree with lots of what he has written. I am just not a troll about it. You are again lying by claiming I’ll “agree with his burps and sneezes.”. That is the kind of stuff from you that degrades this blog. You know I don’t always agree with Murphy about everything, yet you don’t care, you just flame and lie as if I do.

                You are on the moral low ground, both in debates here and in the political sphere.

              • Major.Freedom says:

                For the record, my comment was in response to Ken B’s reply to Murphy, but it looks like I am replying to Murphy because Ken B’s post was (thankfully) deleted.

          • Ken B says:

            Caught me, the first known use of hyperbole on Free Advice!

            • Reece says:

              No, Ken B, you’re completely missing the point. Imagine if someone said the same thing about a mailman:

              “Mailmen never work to deliver the mail. They do not want it delivered; they want less delivered so that they might kvetch.”

              Regardless of whether the mailman is paid, the first statement is completely false. No “hyperbole” can get around that. They do work to deliver the mail, and Bob does work to reduce state power. The second statement seems unlikely, but possible. Most people delivering the mail probably also want the mail delivered, and almost certainly don’t want less delivered.

              Now, imagine further that this mailman actually delivers some mail OUTSIDE of his job. I think anyone reasonably looking at this situation would say, “Wow, he must *really* want to deliver the mail if he not only does it as a job, but also does it in his own free time!”

              Saying it is a “hyperbole” that he doesn’t want to reduce state power would imply that he wants to very little. Even that would ironically disprove your other point that ancaps want to “enhance” state power. But I think the mailman example shows that even this is very likely wrong.

              Your example above of voting further supports my point. Bob spends way more time arguing for reducing the state in his free time than it takes to vote. If voting for smaller government shows that someone wants to reduce state power, then Bob has gone above and beyond.

              You were wrong.

              • Bob Murphy says:

                Reece wrote:

                No, Ken B, you’re completely missing the point. Imagine if someone said the same thing about a mailman…

                As future historians second-guess my fateful decision to ban Ken B., let the record note that Reece is being forced to explain why describing what someone is “working to do” should also include things for which the person is paid, and not merely be restricted to leisure activities. Indeed, some native English speakers might actually have the reverse as a default assumption.

                Reece: “The ’49ers are really working for a Superbowl ring this year!”

                Ken B. “What do you mean? If you ignore their jobs, they do stuff like play golf and go to the movies. How does that help them win a football game?”

              • Bob Murphy says:

                Over at LRC Laurence Vance three days ago wrote:

                Some still just don’t get it on taxes. For libertarians to say that the goal is no taxes and that they won’t compromise on that principle doesn’t mean that we oppose any tax cut that does not reduce taxes to zero. Any tax cut of any amount is good. The problem is that most conservatives don’t have the goal of no taxes. They think the state is entitled to some portion of our money.

                This is the standard Rothbardian position; maybe somebody can dig up Rothbard’s famous essay where he spelled this out.

                But, as I’m sure our recently-banned troll would have pointed out, it helps Vance’s career to make blog posts over there, so this doesn’t count. What you need to do is listen to him when he talks in his sleep to see if he really opposes halfway measures to liberty.

              • Reece says:

                I think the real important thing here is that I’m going to be in the history books.

                This may be the Rothbard quote you are referencing by the way:

                “But since taxation is an illegitimate act of aggression, any failure to welcome a tax cut—any tax cut—with alacrity undercuts and contradicts the libertarian goal. The time to oppose government expenditures is when the budget is being considered or voted upon; then the libertarian should call for drastic slashes in expenditures as well. In short, government activity must be reduced whenever it can: any opposition to a particular cut in taxes or expenditures is impermissible, for it contradicts libertarian principles and the libertarian goal.” (http://mises.org/daily/1709)

              • Major.Freedom says:

                The troll’s hypocrisy and self-contradictions aside, the argument that being paid for working towardss reducing state power “doesn’t count” is a fallacious argument in itself as well, and shows Ken B’s core belief that there cannot be honest working towards anything if one is being paid for it.

                The claim that being paid for it doesn’t count implies that only selfless acts to reduce state power are honest and valid. Think about that. Ken B implied that the only valid way for anyone to reduce state power, is if they gain zero benefit from it.

                Let that sink in for a moment, and one can easily understand the absurdity of it.

              • Bob Murphy says:

                One last thing and I’m personally going to move on with my life: We are also routinely criticized for “supporting” the Confederacy. So the only way this makes sense, is if our actual ideal society is the U.S. Confederacy circa 1861 (since we apparently never support particular halfway measures–like a flawed State properly exercising secession, without adopting all of the other measures we want to reach 100% ancapistan). No wonder he hates us so much.

          • razer says:

            Do you know an Ancap is? I know you’re not the brightest bulb in the bunch, but do you have even the foggiest idea what Ancap believe? If so, please prove it.

            So Ron Paul must not be patriotic either, sine he voted against the Patriot Act. And we all know these laws/acts are never given propagandist names so politicians can ram them through, right?

            Bob, can you remove the razor from this guys avatar and replace it with a dunce cap until he demonstrates some intelligence?

        • Ben B says:

          A law license may claim that holder knows something about the law, but it isn’t actually necessary to have in order to know something about the law.

          It should be up to the buyers of legal services to demand whether or not their lawyer has some sort of “license’ before he represents them.

          • Ben B says:

            Although private arbiters could require parties to be represented by privately “licensed” lawyers.

  16. Ken B says:

    Well Bob Murphy, except for MF, who agrees with your burps and sneezes, it looks like I am the one who agrees with you most here. Welcome to hell.

    • Major.Freedom says:

      And one more lie to refute…

      For the record, to show the troll really is a troll, I disagree with Murphy on the following:

      1. Religion. A pretty big one, because of how differences in views on the universe can affect one’s conclusions about particular human affairs. Rothbard respected how powerful of an effect religion can have in economic thinking, and wrote extensively on this (e.g. History of Economic Thought, 2 volumes).

      2. Determinants of interest rates. Another big one. I think the best explanation is Reisman’s theory of profit and interest. Murphy has integrated liquidity preference as part of his PhD thesis, supervised by very a well respected economist, and explains his ideas on it.

      3. Determinants of prices. Yet another big one. I think costs of production play a larger role in directly determining prices of many goods (not all goods) than Murphy, for example manufactured goods. Murphy is not closed to the idea of costs playing a role, but he thinks it plays a role only as a tendency in the long run, and can serve as a useful theory but in a more limited way. Day to day, he considers supply and demand as sufficient to explaining all prices at any one time.

      4. I don’t think Murphy agrees with me on Kantian a priorism. I think he thinks Rothbard’s Aristotelian-Thomist empiricism is better than Mises’ Kantian a priorism. He utilizes historical data far more often than Mises would have.

      Those are just off the top of my head. I think any honest reader would know that these are not insignificant “window dressing” type disagreements, those types of disagreements that allies might say so as to appear as an independent thinker but who will not criticize the core of what their friends believe. I think these disagreements go into the core fundamentals of knowledge of reality.

      But it just so happens that we both agree not to shoot at each other, or support others shooting at the other, if one of us wants to hire a protector the other does not want to hire for themselves. We can disagree on many things, but we agree that peaceful cooperation, of respect for each other’s property, is necessary and beneficial to both sides.

      You, Callahan, LK, and others, WANT to have violence initiated against us if we merely disagree with you on who we want to have protect us. You support violence against us even though we do not seek violence on you. You try to feel better about that by painting Murphy as flawed in a way that you feel obligated to talk to him differently than you talk to others you think believe in flawed convictions. You like, deceive, all so as to make it appear that you want something other than violence against him for merely wanting a different protector than Obama and his cronies.

      I agree with him on what matters most: Mutual respect in a PRAXEOLOGICAL manner. Of course, since statists believe the state is like a second God, you think that me agreeing with him on that, means I agree with his burps and sneezes. This only shows your superficial and hollow ideology. To you it’s “You’re either with me and accept to hire my desired protector, or you’re my enemy.”

      You said before that dissenting is trolling on this blog. That is so inaccurate that it is not even funny. You were not dissenting. You were trolling. Dissenting is doing what I do. Disagree, but don’t insult or call for violence against him, because what you disagree with him about is not him calling for initiating violence against you, the way you do to him, but rather, he says stuff that scares you, and your mind goes in troll mode trying to deal with it.

      Well, no longer will your psychological and emotional hang ups be used as blackmail. No longer will your self-loathing be manifested in vitriolic hostility and insults.

      Hopefully one day you’ll do some real self-reflection and become a better person.

  17. Bob Murphy says:

    OK Ken B, congrats, you’re banned, permanently. When you lied about the views of the people who associate with this blog, and then I posted an example showing you were totally wrong, I said to myself, “If Ken doesn’t retract his lie–ha ha–but actually spins it as yet further evidence of my bad character, then he’s done.”

    Well that’s what you did, so yeah, I’m sick of your game. Go hang out with Gene and LK and commiserate on how awful we are.

    • Major.Freedom says:

      In good faith you gave him a second chance. Let me make that clear for everyone else on your behalf. This is not unfair targeting or merely disgreeing with dissenters. This is dealing with lying and trolling.

    • Dan says:

      Good riddance

    • Grane Peer says:

      Congratulations on the 33% improvement to your blog.

    • razer says:

      I should have read further before posting. The guy was a buffoon anyway.

  18. J Mann says:

    Bob, and others:

    If you haven’t read it, I strongly recommend John Langbein’s “Torture and Plea Bargaining.”

    It sounds inflammatory or crankish, but it’s an old classic that most people read in law school, and IMHO very insightful.


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