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Ep. 170 Bob Murphy Dissects the “Shopping Cart Theory” Allegedly Blowing Up the Case for Self-Governance

Recently Tim Poole alluded to the so-called “shopping cart theory” of why self-governance is impossible. Specifically, because people can’t even bother to take back the shopping cart when this is clearly the socially right thing to do, we can’t hope to have a system relying on everyone’s good nature. Bob explains what’s wrong with this argument.

Mentioned in the Episode and Other Links of Interest:

The audio production for this episode was provided by Podsworth Media.

About the author, Robert

Christian and economist, Chief Economist at infineo, and Senior Fellow with the Mises Institute.


  1. Josh Hodges on 12/28/2020 at 7:41 PM

    First comment?? Awesome. Good podcast; I got to the ALDI analogy a few minutes before you got there, because I think it’s the pristine example of self-regulation.

    I think the ancillary point here for those who support UBI is that they should hate the SC theory. If anything, this theory cuts against the idea that things should be free. I think it’s kryptonite for any form of welfare program or any free-rider program.

  2. Jan Masek on 01/05/2021 at 8:42 PM

    The Aldi quarter thing surprised me in that it’s apparently unique to Aldi in the US. In my little European country it’s literally the case in 100% supermarkets. Which is becoming an issue partly because of inflation (coins will buy you nothing) but mainly because of shift to cashless. Many people don’t even carry cash.
    But the whole argument is funny because it is an argument FOR anarchy. It might work if the government regulated shopping cart management but they don’t.

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