25 Dec 2020

BMS ep 170: Bob Dissects the Shopping Cart Critique of Self-Governance

Bob Murphy Show 25 Comments

Not as high-brow as my work on reswitching…

25 Responses to “BMS ep 170: Bob Dissects the Shopping Cart Critique of Self-Governance”

  1. Transformer says:

    I think it represents a fundamental misunderstanding of most forms of anarchism to think it has any particular reliance on altruism (unless you count having respect for other people’s property as altruism).

    • random person says:

      I mean, considering the course of human history….

      “Captives: How Stolen People Changed the World”

      You could say that the fact that, as a general rule, those members of humankind who have obtained power have generally sucked, is not a justification for them to continue sucking, but unfortunately, they might not listen.

      Ultimately, trying to envision the ideal society may be less productive than brainstorming strategies to make this one less awful. But, you know, if you enjoy daydreaming, then go for it.

      • Tel says:

        Ayn Rand said that altruism is a scam, and it’s one of the things I agree with her about.

        Where do the shopping carts come from in the first place? The store provides them … out of altruism? No, heck no, the store wants to make it as convenient as possible so you shop there more often and they offer a nice big cart so you buy a bit more. The carts are paid for out of slightly increased prices, and guess what? The wages of the trolly boy who collects the loose carts and brings them back also get paid out of slightly increased prices.

        Shoppers presumably can see the prices, and with the Internet they can search for alternative suppliers if they want to. There’s independent supermarkets in Australia that don’t choose not to provide any trolleys and some people shop at those. Many other shops like butchers and bakeries don’t provide trolleys.

        People who fall for this “Shopping Cart Theory” tend to be people who do not understand the idea of payment in return for a service … which can be a challenging concept at times.

        • random person says:

          Maybe the reasons Ayn Rand thought that altruism was a scam was because she never experienced the feeling herself. She appears to have been a thoroughly awful person.


          Paying a trolley person to bring back the carts is fair enough.

          What’s really sad is all the times throughout history when people have been forced to do stuff, by often brutal means, rather than paid. Or just killed and/or tortured for other despicable reasons, e.g. at the Wounded Knee massacre.

        • random person says:

          The existence of altruism can be demonstrated by the historical example of Edmund Dene Morel refusing a bribe from a representative of King Leopold II, a man who perpetrated forced labor of genocidal proportions. This is not to say, of course, that Edmund Dene Morel practiced altruism 24/7 for his whole life. I don’t think anyone does. But, in the moment he chose to continue his anti forced labor campaign rather than accepting a bribe to end it, he was practicing altruism.

          Adam Hochschild tells the story in his book “King Leopold’s Ghost”:

          Morel’s attacks soon drew a response from the Royal Palace. One evening in London, Sir Alfred Jones, Morel’s former boss, invited Morel to a dinner party. The two men’s relations were, to say the least, strained, but at the meal all was smiles, and, Morel writes, “the wines were choice and copious.” After dinner, Jones and the other guests retired, leaving Morel alone with a visiting Antwerp shipping executive named Aerts, who made it clear that he was acting as Leopold’s representative.

          After one last attempt to convince Morel that the king meant well and that reforms were in the offing, the visitor took, as Morel describes it, a different tack (the ellipsis is in the original):

          “What were the Congo natives to me? Of what use this pursuit of an unrealisable ideal? I was a young man. I had a family—yes? I was running serious risks. And then, a delicately, very delicately veiled suggestion that my permanent interests would be better served if…. “A bribe?” Oh! dear, no, nothing so vulgar, so demeaning. But there were always means of arranging these things. Everything could be arranged with honour to all sides. It was a most entertaining interview, and lasted until a very late hour. “So nothing will shake your determination?” “I fear not.” We parted with mutual smiles. But my companion, I thought, was a little ruffled. For my part I enjoyed myself most thoroughly.”

          • Tel says:

            The Comanche used torture … they were a warrior people, they raided and stole, conquered other tribes, made use of the horses (brought by the Spanish) with great ease and happily adopted rifles once they understood what those weapons would do. Torture was their way of intimidating their opponents … leave the mangled body out there and fill hearts with fear. Not a unique idea by any means … Vlad the Impaler (aka “Dracula”) used slow death of his enemies for much the same reason … he didn’t invent the idea, he was brought up by Ottoman Turks who perfected the technique some time previously and little Vlad copied them. Most likely the same concept has been reinvented many times in many places.


            Does torture make the Comanche bad people? Difficult to say isn’t it? What about the Turks, should we declare them bad people?

            The Comanche were not defeated in battle … they were hard men living in hard country and at that time the USA could not afford to sustain the logistics of an army large enough to defeat these warriors. When I say “hard men” it’s fair to point out that women were property … chattels … this was not a society willing to give a friendly nod to protesting feminists. However, they were defeated when the buffalo were killed in huge numbers; depriving them of their food source. It would never have made sense to people with such a warrior code that anyone might destroy a natural resource in order to win a battle.

            Dirty dishonorable warfare … but highly effective huh? Is that morally wrong, to win by alternative means? No one loves a loser.

            Chivalry is dead … who put the knife in? Well Democracy was the winner, not by one big knife but a million small knives. Don’t you cry for old King Feudalism now, he might yet make a comeback … Klaus Schwab would prefer to convert us back into peasants, and you can’t have Chivalry without serfs … am I right?

            Is Schwab an evil guy, wanting to Great Reset the world? He is offering to free us from the shackles of a democratic system … no more majority ruling over the minority after the Great Reset! No sir, it will be quite the other way around.

            Drop in a personal chapter: my grandad was Irish … guess he falls into the category that you Americans know as “fighting Irish” although he left Ireland because the followers of Christ (both Catholic and Protestant) decided not to follow Christ’s instructions. Left the old country … left God behind … grandpa declared himself uninterested in religion and lived the remainder of his life as an atheist in Australia. I suppose religion never quite delivered what he expected it ought to deliver.

            He worked as a professional street fighter, doing door security outside a bar in the rough part of town … of course he did other “civilized” jobs as well. At least he never cracked anyone’s jaw in the name of the LORD … he did it for money in his pocket, to provide for family. That makes it OK I think … I heard that free trade is good.

            Tricky stuff this business of being judgmental and deciding who is savage. It just occurred to me that perhaps Salon might have not been entirely fair on Ayn Rand, almost as if they had some preconceived notions … what do you think?

  2. Mark says:

    Hey, Bob –

    I haven’t seen anything from you since Christmas. Wo bist du?

  3. Craw says:

    We are finally living in Bob Murphy’s dream world, where billionaires can stifle Parler and hundreds of thousands of Americans, and what happens the first week? Ron Paul bitches about being censored.

    • Tel says:

      If you care about accuracy, then Ron Paul complained about being punished for “violating community standards” when these supposed standards are applied in an inconsistent and arbitrary manner … meaning they are no standards at all.

      • Craw says:

        He complained about the nature of the punishment. What was that? An inability to speak.

        • Tel says:

          If the “Terms & Conditions” had clearly stated that libertarians are not accepted on Facebook, especially should they question any official narrative … in that case Ron Paul would have every expectation of getting kicked off because he is a libertarian and he does go around questioning.

          Let’s suppose he went ahead anyway … knowing he was not welcome and predictably got booted. He would have had nothing to complain about, and no sympathy from me … but that’s not what actually happened here is it?

          The point about legal contracts is they require an exchange of value and a meeting of the minds. Thus Facebook / YouTube / etc provides the platform (including a share of revenue in some cases, or for Ron Paul a promotion of his brand) and the content provider delivers interesting content to attract eyeballs to the platform and make their service more valuable. That’s a business deal in any legal framework you care to name.

          Then the deal changes … not with agreement of both parties but because one party unilaterally decides that what was perfectly reasonable content a year ago has become unacceptable, for mystical reasons. See … normal business cannot get away with that, and that’s about the time government should step in (or private arbitration if you are a purist, but I’m not) … you have what amounts to fraud right there.

          Best example I can thing of … you have a mail order business and you contract a delivery company to ship the packages as you get orders from your customers. The delivery company ships for years and you have a long standing agreement with them.

          One day they simply decide they won’t ship your parcels anymore, but they do ship for your competitor. They say there’s something wrong with your parcels … but they cannot tell you exactly what. Your parcels are essentially the same as your competitors as far as you can tell. Is that breach of contract? I would think so. That’s not exactly the same as what happened to Ron Paul, but it’s in the general ballpark.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Just so I understand, Craw, it’s my dream world why? Because I don’t think people have a government-guaranteed right to social media accounts on particular platforms?

      • random person says:

        Ignoring the government for a moment, do you think what Google did in that case was moral?

        • Harold says:

          They created the problem to some extent. The recommendation algorithms keep people watching by feeding them more of the stuff they watched and suggesting a bit more “exciting” versions. This tends to funnel people in more extreme versions and into echo chambers. Once in it is hard to get out.

          The defense against bad speech is more good speech. However people on youtube do not get to see the more speech. Their echo chamber just gives them more and more bad speech. When that bad speech is having real world serious negative consequences the only immediate counter to that is to shut off the bad speech.

          It is a non sustainable solution. At best a short term patch that if extended will take us down a dark road. But carrying on with the current practices also takes us down a dark road, so maybe it is a case of choose your hell.

          Longer term, the algorithms must somehow deliver a more balanced feed. The trouble is, people don’t really like that. Platforms offering the echo chamber approach may be able to out-compete platforms attempting to offer good speech with the bad. Good means balanced.

          This is an over simplification and there are nuances, but I think it captures some of the essence of the problem.

          • random person says:

            Sorry for slow reply. Was swamped in business matters. (Which is actually much more pleasant than being swamped by certain other types of matters, but still.)

            Anyway, yes, I can see the problem with that.

            When that bad speech is having real world serious negative consequences the only immediate counter to that is to shut off the bad speech.

            See, when you bring this up, I immediately think “Rwandan genocide”. I realize that “bad speech” played a significant role in a number of other genocides as well, but I remember, when reading about the Rwandan genocide, that the radio played a big role.

            From “Worse than War” by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen,

            Language demeaning, expressing hate, or inspiring fear about others often coalesces into a stable, patterned set of beliefs, tropes, symbols, and charges often called a discourse but more properly called—because it conveys its social reality—a conversation. Different societies, ethnic groups, political parties, and political leaders and their followers have explicit, symbol-laden, and encoded conversations about other people or groups they deem noxious or perceive as threatening. These conversations can resemble acquaintances’ ongoing, years-long, multistranded discussions, sometimes impassioned and sometimes casual, that pick up where they left off and take off in new directions, repeating and returning to well-known themes even as they incorporate new notions and develop new arguments with unfolding events, resonating powerfully to those familiar with them as they listen attentively or as background music to the familiar tropes, while perhaps sounding striking to newcomers seeking to understand and assimilate their terms. In Rwanda, a powerful Hutu eliminationist discussion of the Tutsi was already long established when the quasi-governmental radio station Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) became its new focal point in August 1993. Vianney Higiro, the director of the government’s official station, Radio Rwanda, explains in these notable terms: “These broadcasts were like a conversation among Rwandans who knew each other well and were relaxing over some banana beer or a bottle of Primus [the local beer] in a bar. It was a conversation without a moderator and without any requirements as to the truth of what was said. The people who were there recounted what they had seen or heard during the day. The exchanges covered everything: rumors circulating on the hills, news from the national radio, conflicts among local political bosses. . . . It was all in fun. Some people left the bar, others came in, the conversation went on or stopped if it got too late, and the next day it took up again after work.”3 Leading up to the government’s initiation of the mass murder, radio stations and other media reinforced Hutu’s prejudicial views and deep suspicions of Tutsi, and further prepared them for the coming assault. During the exterminationist assault, radio became the principal source of Hutu’s understanding of unfolding events, forcefully exhorting ordinary Hutu to annihilate the Tutsi enemy. Augustin Bazimaziki, one of the Hutu killers, explains that the killing began with the “radio broadcast[ing] some news such as, ‘We need to kill all the Tutsi,’” and then, as they were mercilessly hunting them down, “the radio broadcasted the information such that we need to kill Tutsi seven days a week.”

            I think about this and things like this, and I wonder:
            * Was shutting down or jamming the radio even a viable option? Was there anyone who was both sane enough to realize the problem and powerful enough to actually enact such a shutdown or jamming?
            * Is there any way to reconcile the disgust I feel with speech that rises to the level of “incitement to genocide” with my belief in free speech? Clearly, the two feelings/beliefs are contradict each other. Can this contradiction in my psyche be resolved?
            * Would shutting down or jamming the radios have even helped? Or would the genocidal propagandists have simply found other ways to incite the populace to genocide?
            * Assuming that someone who wanted to prevent the genocide actually had the power to do something about this, which would work better, pragmatically speaking: shutting down or jamming the radio stations, or setting up a competing radio station?
            * Does the concept of free speech even apply to radio waves? I mean, when we talk about free speech, in it’s most literal sense, it means the right to vocalize with our vocal cords / lips / etc. Stretch it a little and it also includes the right to sign language, which is basically speech without vocal cords but still with parts of our bodies. Radio waves aren’t a body part. Maybe sending out radio waves of the type that can only be produced by machines is a crime against God/nature to begin with and we should shut down all the radio stations. Or maybe it’s not. I don’t think I’d be comfortable applying that logic to, say, a paper newspaper.
            * Trying to comprehend why people do such horrible things like genocide is really hard, even though history demonstrates that there are a lot of people who would generally be classified as “perfectly normal” who would engage in genocide given certain conditions (such as the radio telling them to).

            Of course, Youtube is on the internet, not the radio, but I should think that if Youtube sometimes incites genocide, or even lesser forms of eliminationism such as smaller mass murders, that many of the same questions/concepts would apply.

      • Craw says:

        Is that how you describe what happened to Parler?

        In general you have spent years wishing for unlimited private police power and unlimited assertions of “property” rights. That’s what we saw all summer, and now in Washington and on social media. As Gene Callahan repeatedly said, your preferences lead to the war of all against all. We are approaching that. Rejoice!

        • Bob Murphy says:

          Craw, can you elaborate just once more? Are you saying something like, “The government has to exist–contrary to dolts like Rothbard–and one of the chief things it should do is check private mobs and billionaire super villains. Yet the feds listened to Murphy over here and look where we are!”


        • guest says:

          It’s not private when the government repeatedly denies people the option to secede. What we saw all summer is the result of *your* preferences, not ours.

          Washington has to obey the constutition, which it’s not doing. The Electoral College was deliberately intended to deny democracy (mob rule, with those closest to where the decisions are made do the actual decision-making while the rest of us do normal people stuff like go to work and try to live our own lives), and we are threatened with the unconstitutional abolition of it.

          So, we don’t want to be part of the latest socialist experiment, but we’re threatened if we try to withdraw our delegated authority. So, we’re being forced at gunpoint to remain in a political association we don’t want to be a part of.

          THAT’S why you have people quite reasonably, and quite constitutionally, surrounding capitols while armed. (except for Lefties, who think their entitled to other people’s stuff, and they’re going to threaten state governments if they doin’t point a gun at their neighbors and take their stuff to redistribute).

          Federalist #28:

          “In a single state, if the persons intrusted with supreme power become usurpers, the different parcels, subdivisions, or districts of which it consists, having no distinct government in each, can take no regular measures for defense. The citizens must rush tumultuously to arms, without concert, without system, without resource; except in their courage and despair.”

          This is the fault of socialist / central planning ideas, not of free market ideas.

          • Harold says:

            Surrounding capitols?

            • guest says:

              Armed Protesters Begin To Arrive At State Capitols Around The Nation

        • guest says:

          Also, when some Native Americans point out that you can look at Google Maps of different tribes and immediately determine which tribes are “taken care of” by the federal government (with welfare programs and their land held in trust as recompense for whites taking their land) and which tribes are ignored, and that it’s precisely the tribes which are ignored and do not receive welfare that have nice homes and even mansions on their land – you have to start rethinking your preferences for collectiviwsm.

          Rethink *something* because your socialism / central planning preferences are destroying lives.

          You have to laugh when Van Jones, speaking of Native Americans, says “Give them the wealth! Give them the wealth!”, because it is precisely his way of thinking that prevents Native Americans from acquiring the wealth:

          John Stossel – Why Are Indians Poor?

          How the Government Turns American Indians into Freeloaders

          • random person says:

            It’s not quite that simple.

            Imagine there was a prisoner being held in a prison cell. Is the prisoner’s chances of survival higher if they are brought food or if they are completely ignored and not brought any food?

            I would say that their chances of survival are higher if they are brought food than if they are completely ignored and not brought any food. It is true that not being brought food might motivate them to try harder to escape. However, if the prisons is well designed, their chances of success at escaping are pretty low, regardless of their motivation level.

            This has nothing to do with collectivism. A person locked in a prison cell simply has almost no capability to support themselves under those circumstances. Nor does it make the prisoner a “freeloader” — if the prisoner is imprisoned for obviously unjust reasons, the prisoner has clearly been robbed, of their bodily freedom and quite possibly of other things as well. Think of it, like, if someone steals ten thousand dollars from you, and then offers you one dollar back, taking the one dollar doesn’t make you a freeloader.

            However, the equation is obviously completely different if we are talking about someone who has a complete freedom to earn a living in a matter of their choosing.

            And there’s a large scale in between: people who have less than complete freedom to earn a living as they choose, but more than a prisoner locked in a cell.

            Native Americans fall on various parts of that scale, but often towards the end of very little freedom.

            Also, I read that if a Native American receives a monthly check, it’s actually much more likely to be from a Native American casino than from the US government. Again, that’s not freeloading, that’s casino profits.

            • random person says:

              See also, “John Stossel’s Racist Attack On Tribes As ‘Freeloaders’: A Farrago Of Ignorance And Lies”
              by David Neiwert

            • guest says:

              I don’t think you watched the videos because if your prisoner analogy holds at all it’s because the government is “taking care of them”, which means they are not allowed to do what they want with their own land.

              With the casinos, you still have the government holding their land in trust.

              So, what’s actually happening is that indians *would* improve their own land except that they are not guaranteed, through ownership, to enjoy the fruits of their labor – their property can be given away by the tribal leaders. What’s the point of improving your own land if someone else is going to take it over.

              Past injustices to indians on the part of whites does not explain their current poverty – especially when you have examples of tribes that are *not* taken care of by the government, and so no one tells them what they may or may not do with their property.

              It is entirely socialism / central planning that makes indians poor, while free(er) markets is what allows indians to take advantage of arbitrage opportunities that are *constantly* staring them in the face.

              This goes for past injustices for any group. The moment you are left alone to take advantage of opportunities that are staring you right in the face, the “past injustices” argument becomes moot.

              I haven’t read your David Neiwert article, yet, but I’m going to right now.

          • random person says:

            Ah, here’s a good example:

            A 1980 Supreme Court decision describes what happened next. When gold was discovered in the area, the U.S. military was obligated to defend the border of the reservation from prospectors. But in 1875, President Ulysses S. Grant quietly ordered the military to let the miners invade. Amid negotiations with the tribe to make the invasion legal, the U.S. military attacked tribal members hunting in an area approved for such purposes under the treaty. A military conflict ensued, and, after notable wins but ultimately defeat, the Oceti Sakowin people were confined to the reservation, where they could no longer access important hunting grounds. Faced with starvation when the U.S. government threatened to cut off all rations, 10 percent of adult male tribal members — not 75 percent — signed a new treaty relinquishing the Black Hills.


            When people are confined on a reservation, deprived of the ability to hunt in their traditional hunting grounds or seek to earn their living by other means, in other words held in a sort of open air group prison, it is not “freeloading” to accept rations from one’s captors.

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