25 Dec 2020

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

Bob Murphy Show 14 Comments

Not as high-brow as my work on reswitching…

14 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.

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