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Ep. 78 Bob Murphy’s “Lessons for Libertarians”

Bob evaluates four different campaigns where people pushed back against the State: The National Opt Out Day in 2010, Free Keene’s “Robin Hood” parking meter approach, the “Taxation Is Theft” approach to tipping, and the “Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself” meme campaign. He then crystallizes his remarks into 7 Lessons for Libertarians.
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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, Research Assistant Professor with the Free Market Institute at Texas Tech, Senior Fellow with the Mises Institute, and co-host with Tom Woods of the podcast "Contra Krugman."

12 Comments

  1. Mako on 11/19/2019 at 11:36 AM

    Could you clarify, better, the goal of this new set of rules? If you are talking about gently pushing an average person towards libertarianism, ok, but I think there needs to be some other set for those already converted, one based or serious actions and commitment.
    The goal of my comment is not to let everybody relax too much, because, fun is not enough for the real changes. To reach the numbers, great, once the numbers are there, a much more serious actions are required. I think there’s a big misconception that the systems fall simply because enough people disagree with it. The rulers often tend to keep the status quo with the brute force for some time. Eventually they fall, but real courage is needed in this intermediate stage. My impression of the libertarians in the world is that they are neither aware of this necessity, nor willing to act. High principles and low blood.

    It is true, that in this stage, it is more important to reach the numbers, but we should all look in the mirror and ask ourselves if we are willing to do more once those numbers are achieved. The average libertarian I know is lot about talking and little about acting.

  2. Marko on 11/21/2019 at 9:16 AM

    While I am waiting for your answer either here in the comment section or in some of the next episodes, I continue looking for the answer by myself. So, I stumbled upon your YouTube video called “Man with the plan”, where you definitively state your pacifist position. At the end of the message, you say “The education is not something to prepare us for whatever happens after it, but the education is the whole method for achieving the liberty”. Couple of sentences before you say “No matter how many new converted people we achieve, it is never a good moment to act violently against the government, but to continue with the pacific method, because if we profess there should be no society at the point of a gun, how can we achieve our goal against our own principles?”. The words are not exact, but I think, I reported correctly the essence of what you wanted to say.

    Well, let us analyze that. Is the total pacifism even theoretically possible? I do not think so. It is not safe to assume there will be a day ever when 100% of the persons will both understand and, more importantly, accept the ancap. a.) there is always an IQ barrier, so there will always exist a significant amount of persons without the objective possibility to understand any system in its completeness and b.) there will always be a small, but powerful group of persons that would understand it so well, that they will fight until their last drop of blood against it, because if they lose, they will not be able any more to exploit the others. For two different reasons, the establishment of the ancap is not possible without the force against everybody from these groups. May be the persons from the first group will eventually appreciate the new system, but technically, before they do, they will clearly sense that the new system came by force, while the majority of the people from the second group will remain unconvinced. For one reason or another, total pacifism is impossible and therefore education alone will never be enough. That’s what I mean when I said in my previous comment that already converted people should have other rules how to behave to achieve the liberty.

    Today, we libertarians are less than a statistical error, so we are more than tolerated by the state. We are not even the beginning of the danger to them. That will change one day, and in that moment we will become persecuted openly. We will be bribed, blackmailed, humiliated, fired, imprisoned, tortured and killed. When those times will come, it will be very important to have people with both the strong principles and strong blood, because otherwise, we will return to the negligible numbers. At that point, like with the early Christians, we can decide to remain faithful to our principles no matter the consequence and prevail, or we will disappear. And there is no fun at all in being thrown to the lions, before the victory comes.

    I completely understand and share your vision that once the ancap will be achieved, openly violent methods for the every day justice will be rare and that is why you won a debate against Tom Woods, but this is good for after. Instead, before the victory is achieved, a lot of dirty tactics will be needed. Like Stefan Molyneux and Walter Block openly supporting Trump, counter-bribing state intellectuals to tell our instead of their story, and many, many other things I better not mention here.

    I am sorry for my bad English, but it is only my third language. I know what I write is understandable, but also full of errors.

  3. Mark on 11/21/2019 at 12:01 PM

    Bob –

    Why do you have a problem with harassing the meter maid? No matter what the meter maid thinks of his/her job, whether they know it or not, they are doing something wrong, as are all employees of the state. The meter maid may not be evil, like many politicians are, but they deserve some contempt/ridicule/whatever for their participation in the state. Sure, if you can sit down with a meter maid, a cop, a soldier, a dog catcher, a congressman and talk them into quitting their job (not real likely, but possible), that’s ideal. But educate, motivate or irritate – it doesn’t matter which.

    • mark on 11/23/2019 at 10:40 AM

      i agree with this completely

    • LP on 11/24/2019 at 8:14 PM

      Because he is primarily talking political strategy. Sure, those who participate in systematic violence as employees of the state are *expendable*; but, that doesn’t mean you can target them in a way that causes collateral damage. In fact, you should not *target* them at all, not because they have some right to be left alone when they don’t leave others alone, but because you lack the power to change anything by targeting them; were that not the case, you would simply replace one evil with another.

      Put more simply, because harassing the ‘meter maid’ makes you look bad and her look victimized, which is counter productive.

      • Mark on 12/03/2019 at 7:14 AM

        “Put more simply, because harassing the ‘meter maid’ makes you look bad and her look victimized, which is counter productive.”

        Meter maids are fungible. As are Senators. They all are lever pullers as Gerard Casey calls them. Would you have given the Founding Fathers the same advice? As Claire Wolf said, “America is at that awkward stage. It’s too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards.” A little harassment is nothing to be worried about at this point. Most of the people that would be offended are the same people that went back to sleep after Paul Revere rode through town. Who cares what they think?

        • LP on 12/07/2019 at 8:10 AM

          That’s a valid question. No, I wouldn’t have given the same advice 250 years ago. The difference is the press, while still by no means honest, was run by people sympathetic to the colonial plight. Also, they had an ocean between them and parliament.

          As for Claire Wolf:
          I’ve said elsewhere before, on the margin, you will always say that, and so the frog is boiled. The time for armed insurrection was about 100 years ago; but, like Herod Agrippa II (as told by Josephus) warned the Jews, I fear it is too late for that.

  4. Tel on 11/22/2019 at 12:28 PM

    In Australia there was a grass roots and rather disorganized campaign against parking meters, where some kind of industrial glue would, without any outside help, jump into the coin slot and afterwards, no one would be putting any more coins into that slot. That’s not called “Robin Hooding” that’s called “Vandalism”. It worked for a while … but you don’t see that anymore … perhaps the people doing it got caught, or perhaps the weight of persistence eventually wore everyone down, until we got used to the idea of reaching into the pocket one more time.

    Personally I’m not opposed to parking meters, it’s a price signal and it’s self limiting. If the price is set too high then revenue will go down (Laffer curve) so there’s incentive to set the price around the right level. I don’t drive all that often, but when I do drive, I don’t enjoy wasting my time. I want to get in there, do my business and drive home again, so having parking available is great, even if it costs a few bucks. We can argue about the Libertarian morality of parking meters … but the economic efficiency works just fine. From my perspective the little bit extra cost is worth it for the time you save. If you have plenty of time on your hands and money is your primary concern then you can walk a bit further, or catch a bus, train, etc.

    Agree about the TSA, the main reason I never go visit the USA is because of what I hear about people getting the “rubber glove” treatment at airports. Doesn’t sound attractive.

    Tourists should come to Australia, there’s no opt-out on the nudie scanner they just push everyone through (it’s safe, we fixed the machines ages ago, besides it turns out that low level radiation is quite good for you) and they also check your bags now and then, mostly because we have people flying in from Asia carrying lumps of raw pork contaminated with the horrible pig-ebola virus. I’m serious, people really do that around here.

    A Libertarian analysis of quarantine would be fascinating … but I eat a lot of bacon and the last thing I want is some dingbat tourist bringing that crap to my country, and killing all the pigs. The tiny percentage that government pays of tax money going to protect our border is ok with me. If you want to carry around a suitcase full of virus infested raw meat … do it in your own country, that ain’t our thing. Sorry but I’m not an Open Borders guy, I know this is a good country slowly getting worse so in the short term tightening up the borders is helpful … it delays the inevitable.

    • Mark on 12/03/2019 at 7:14 AM

      “Personally I’m not opposed to parking meters, it’s a price signal and it’s self limiting.”

      It depends on who owns the parking meters.

  5. Iowancap on 11/23/2019 at 5:27 AM

    If you wrote the seven lessons up and made a blog/Mises article it might be a really great bookmark to save and reference. Almost thinking along the lines of Rothbard’s “Six Myths About Libertarianism” (https://mises.org/library/myth-and-truth-about-libertarianism).

    Or maybe even you can go all Tom Woods on us and make it a short e-book.

  6. Khodge on 11/30/2019 at 8:33 AM

    An economist is supposed to look for all causes, not just the favored (the government is just trying to take your money) causes.

    Parking meters’ main function is allocating a scarce resource (downtown parking) among the optimal number of users. If employees get the first pick and hold onto those spaces through the day, downtown ceases to be a destination for shopping.

    That is the question that needs to be addressed. Sure the government is getting money but they are doing the bidding of the shop owners versus bankers whose employees spend little money downtown relative to the time occupying parking spaces.

    • Robert Murphy on 11/30/2019 at 7:05 PM

      Khodge they weren’t knocking down the parking meters, they were putting their own money into them. By your own reasoning, why isn’t this an efficient use of scarce resources? What if a driver paid a kid to run out to the car and put more money in the meter? Wouldn’t that be OK?

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