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Ep. 19 Why Rothbardian Institutions Would Become Nonviolent

In order to motivate his upcoming debate on the Contra Cruise against Tom Woods, Bob goes solo in describing his vision of a Rothbardian society. Without taking a stand on the morality involved, Bob simply explains as an economist why he predicts that the major companies and property owners in an anarcho-capitalist framework would quickly adopt policies that minimized violence, even against criminals.
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. Kevin L on 02/27/2019 at 8:59 PM

    Around 1h25m, you theorize that politicians would be less likely to hypocritically criticize their opponents for bad behavior if they were themselves paying hush money for that behavior.

    I would think they’d be more brash because they would have some reasonable assurance that their secret is safer than if they didn’t have secrecy contracts in place.

  2. Tel on 02/28/2019 at 5:44 AM

    A lot of interesting material, so all round a worthwhile discussion, however I can see a bunch of problems.

    Using less lethal tools (e.g. rubber bullets, water hose, tear gas, nets, subdue and capture) is still violation of personal integrity. Better than what police do now, which is shoot early and shoot often, but it’s kind of sneaking around the “pacifism” idea. If you set a non-lethal pit trap on your land to capture trespassers, even if the person is largely unharmed, you are not “turning the other cheek” in the Christian sense. I can see that social pressure will probably discourage stupidly overkill forms of self-defense like covering your lawn with land mines, so that’s a general trend towards harm reduction, but still no “pacifism”.

    Some forms of offensive weapons (e.g. mortars, roadside bombs, heavy caliber sniper rifles) are small, portable, highly destructive and easy to use. If you look at conflict areas in the Middle East, etc. these weapons get used a lot, and there aren’t any low lethality defensive options. This technological balance attack vs defense has swung back and forth at various times during history, personally I think it’s drifting over to the position where attack weapons are getting more efficient. Look at what a Predator drone can do with some Hellfire metal-enhanced missiles … makes a big mess. Every other country is now escalating (e.g. Russia Okhotnik) into the same space so right at the moment … defensive technology is horribly unprepared for this.

    How well do reputation systems work in practice? It ends up a lot like voting, but every time people try to formalize these (e.g. online store reviews) we see examples of the system getting gamed. Not to say abandon reputation completely, but also don’t expect the entire society to operate on a reputation system alone. What’s more, the response of companies to reputation that we can observe in current society isn’t all that great. You find that insurance companies almost all have a reputation for finding ways to get out of paying … yet the customers tend to suck it up and buy insurance anyway (because what are you going to do?) If reputation was such a driving force then we would expect insurance companies to be highly embarrassed about the stories you hear where people get ripped off (not saying what the insurance companies do is illegal, but they have heaps of lawyers on staff and the legal system isn’t cheap).

    Instead, I often see corporations trying to boost their reputation by getting onboard with tacky causes like Global Warming or stupid stuff like that … has nothing to do with improving their product, but buys cheap brownie points without requiring any change to the business model. This sort of stuff makes me quite skeptical about how effective a reputation system would be in a practical large-scale implementation.

    Agree that the prisons as they stand are ineffective. There’s an aspect of deterrence involved (intimidating everyone to keep them law abiding), but if there are genuinely effective strategies for rehabilitation, why aren’t we using them already? The USA already has private prisons, and getting a good rehabilitation rate would be impressive right now in terms of corporate reputation, so at least some basic incentives are already in place. It’s not like some other country has a brilliantly working prison system … you can’t entirely overlook the possibility that no one has any better ideas. Happy for Bob to come up with suggestions for improvement, don’t understand why this requires a fully Libertarian society in order to implement.

  3. […] aside 90 minutes and listen to this one, […]

  4. […] Bob Murphy Show, Ep 19: Why Rothbardian Institutions Would Become Nonviolent […]

  5. J.D. Bertron on 03/06/2019 at 12:37 AM

    Loved it. It the last 5 mins, you almost touch the issue of motive. The only reason to invade is to become ‘in charge’. It would be impossible to rule an ancap society of people who don’t hold the belief that others have authority over them.

  6. Rob on 03/11/2019 at 1:26 PM

    Does it hurt the show if it’s watched by people who don’t “contribute”? Because I don’t watch people who tell me it’s my “duty” to give them free money I don’t have, and being treated like a freeloader certainly doesn’t make me want to scrounge the money together for them next time I can

    • Robert Murphy on 03/11/2019 at 3:42 PM

      No it doesn’t hurt the show, I’m just trying to make a joke. You are more than welcome to listen.

  7. Dan on 03/25/2019 at 2:41 PM

    I think I have found a chink in the armor of one of Bob’s arguments.

    But I don’t want to tell it to Bob or Tom before the debate.

    Is there somewhere i can encrypt my point that will make it available after the debate?

  8. […] episode 19, making the case that Rothbardian institutions would quickly become […]

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