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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/15200/the-virtue-of-being-a-pest/

The Virtue of Being a Pest

January 2, 2011 by

The holiday season has just passed; so, many readers of Mises.org may have recently butted heads with statist family members.  One might think that, in our endeavors to change minds, our own family members and friends should be the easiest conquests.  Do we not have frequent opportunities for lengthy conversations with them?  Does not their respect and affection for us garner us any points?  Yet, even the most eloquent and informed among us may find ourselves completely stymied with our loved ones.  Even Menger’s son and Mises’ brother were members of the positivist “Vienna Circle”!

It might be tempting to just give up, figuring that we’re never really going to convince those close to us, so we might as well avoid annoying them.  But I contend that we can do a lot of good, even if our arguments do not bear immediate fruits.

Take the case for sound money, for example.  Let us say that in the not-so-distant future, a monetary disaster occurs(a very likely possibility).  That is the kind of event that really grabs people by the collar and gives them a hard shake, causing even the most weighty dogmas to slip from their pedestals.  Such a disaster will confirm the suspicion that has been haunting many minds since the housing bubble burst: that the Krugmans of the world really don’t know what they’re talking about, and the Bernankes of the world really don’t know what they’re doing.  Even those who have never heard the case for sound money spelled out will know the intellectual emperors have no clothes.  But they won’t have any fleshed-out alternatives to support either.  But others, at such a turning point, will think back to that conversation with their “goldbug” cousin or that niece who’s always going on about Ron Paul, and their attitude toward commodity money will undergo a sudden reversal.

Simply spelling out the Austrian take on things (in a civil, thoughtful manner, of course), even to those we never expect to concede to us personally, is supremely important.  Plant the intellectual seeds now, so they can germinate when the soil is ready.


newson January 2, 2011 at 5:05 am

the scary thought is that bernanke may perfectly well know what he’s doing.

Bruce Koerber January 2, 2011 at 11:51 am

Here’s an example of what Danny Sanchez is talking about. My daughter’s boyfriend bought me a game for Christmas (he is moderately supportive of Ron Paul). The game is called “Consensus.” To make a long story short, there are many opportunities to express oneself about contemporary issues in this game. For example, I matched (voted) Abraham Lincoln (noun) and ‘evil’ (adjective) and in the pause that followed the surprise I was able to mention that he was a tyrant that caused the death of hundreds of thousands of American lives! It sunk in to some extent despite a lifelong exposure to the traditional propaganda!

Workshy Joe January 2, 2011 at 1:17 pm


Exactly. You beat me to it. The idea that statists are just wrong on principal misses the whole point. Politics is all about motive.

“A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles” -Ambrose Bierce.

Mike Sproul January 2, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Too bad you mention “sound money” as if it is one of libertarianism’s stronger points. If by “sound money” you mean “free banking”, then fine. But majority opinion at mises.org seems to favor the statist view that the government should prohibit fractional reserve banking. That position gives libertarianism a bad name.

Tyrone Dell January 2, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Many also favor a gold “standard”.

I’m pretty sure everyone here agrees that using the government (read: institutionalized and monopolized violence) to force and coerce its citizens and businesses to adhere to the gold standard and to only deal with banks who do not partake in fractional reserve banking sucks a lot. It just sucks less than what we have now, which is probably why they “favor” it.

Its this sort of methodology that really splits Libertarians. Personally, I favor the Rothbardian approach of unwavering idealism: http://mises.org/daily/1709

Matthew Swaringen January 2, 2011 at 2:27 pm

I think most here do favor Rothbard’s approach. I’m kind of curious who he is referring to as I’ve never seen anyone utter the words. I suppose he’s talking about the positive sentiment regarding proposed changes to banking in Britain, but from my understanding of that they are just looking to create choice and clearly outline for consumers what the options are.

Mike Sproul January 2, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Tyrone and Matthew:

Here’s a quote from Rothbard on the subject (From wikipedia):

“(d) either to enforce 100 percent reserve banking on the commercial banks, or at least to arrive at a system where any bank, at the slightest hint of nonpayment of its demand liabilities, is forced quickly into bankruptcy and liquidation. While the outlawing of fractional reserve as fraud would be preferable if it could be enforced, the problems of enforcement, especially where banks can continually innovate in forms of credit, make free banking an attractive alternative.”

Note the line “preferable if it could be enforced”. Rothbard of all people should have balked at the mere mention of using state power to prohibit fractional reserve banking, but his main reservation against the use of state power was that it would be hard to enforce, and not that it would be a violation of natural liberty.

Bala January 2, 2011 at 7:24 pm

Yeah!! The natural liberty to engage in fraud is paramount, I guess.

Peter January 3, 2011 at 1:30 am

Where did he mention using state power to do anything? Enforcement doesn’t require a state—else we couldn’t prevent murder in anarchy!

Matthew Swaringen January 3, 2011 at 1:07 pm

“enforced” doesn’t necessarily mean state, and in his case I’d say that’s not the best interpretation. It’s likely he expected that free market arbitration should see such things as fraudulent activity and would hold banks liable for the losses of depositors money.

Mike Sproul January 4, 2011 at 10:29 am

Matthew and Peter:

Yes, technically, he never said “state”. He just said that an unspecified group of people should outlaw fractional reserve banking and enforce that prohibition, presumably using force. Of course, fractional reserve banks normally hold 100% assets (not reserves) against the money they issue, so they are naturally “liable for the losses of depositors money”.

Sione January 2, 2011 at 4:22 pm


In the present system the banks receive monoply permissions and protections from the government. Indeed people are forced into specific behaviours specifically because of this. In a libertarian system no such protections and permissions would be present. Hence when the fraud of fractional reserve banking is revealed, then the consequences are unlikely to be favourable towards those who commited it, nor those who would seek to continue with it.

There is no need for the government in a minarchist libertarian system to “force” people to support a gold standard with 100% reserve. On the other hand it is most likely that a 100% reserve standard (probably based on gold in large part) is what would quickly develop. For example, given a free choice an intelligent person is always going to accept gold coins in preference to the endorsed promissory note of a person he does not know and has never met.


Sione January 2, 2011 at 4:11 pm


How long are you going to persist in playing the liar? Your line of “reasoning” (if it can be called that) has been long since rebutted (some years ago you posted and were roundly demolished at that time, nothing has altered since then).


Within the general libertarian movement there are several sub-groups including,

1/. Minarchists

These guys believe in a minimal specialist government. Such a government would only exercise tightly specified responsiblilities and its activities would be directed solely for the protection of Individual Rights. The government in this scenario is for the purpose of seeing to it that anyone who initiated force, fraud or coercion would be forced to pay restitution (if possible) and the danger they represent or enable be safely removed from society. A well known example of this approach are the Objectivists, but they are not the only ones who subscribe to the view that a government, albeit small, is necessary.

In such as system it is more than likely that a fractional reserve bank would be demonstrated to be engaged in fraud (since passing the equivalent of bad cheques is what it is doing). Consequently the officers of the bank as well as any staff and equity holders who were complicit in the fraud would be called to make restitution and depending on the circumstances would be excluded from society for a term (possibly permanent).

The minarchist view isn’t a “statist” view in the sense that you mindlessly smear (yes, you are smearing in that you are attempting to conflate a minarchist government with a totalitarian or collectivist state). This is a straight-forward case of retributive force being applied to eliminate a crime and seek restitution for the victims.

2/. Anarchists

The anarchists want no government whatsoever or perhaps it is more accurate to say they want no public sector government whatsoever. They prefer all services to be provided privately. In this case there is no “state”.

In such a system it is also more than likely that a fractional reserve bank would be detected as fraudulent. In this case there would be private means employed to halt the fraudulent operation and call the complicit to task for their activities. Again retributive force would be applied in order to seek restitution for victims and to exclude those responsible for the crime from the rest of the people.

Again, this is hardly statist. No such entity exists within the anarchist fold.

As far as giving libertarianism a good or bad name is concerned, you (a non-libertarian nobody) are hardly in the position to comment. How many people attend your lectures? How many people download your text books? How many people attend your website?


Beefcake the Mighty January 2, 2011 at 4:26 pm

LOL, Mike Sproul lecturing others on how to avoid giving oneself a bad name. Pot, meet kettle.

Slim934 January 3, 2011 at 8:33 am

So the problem with free banking in libertarianism is that while both the 100% and fractional reserve contingents are both adamantly against a state based central bank (rightfully), there is a disagreement over the nature of fractional reserve banking in a genuine free enterprise money regime.

The Fractional Reservers (George Selgin, White, etc.) hold that provided that the fractional reserve nature is known at the time of the issuing of the currency and it is still freely chosen there is no problem.

The 100%-ers hold that this does not make sense. They (Rothbard, de Soto, Hoppe, most of the Austrian school IMO) hold that this form of banking (in the form of demand deposits) is really an invalid contract. Their position is that the same money cannot be used by 2 different parties at once, it cannot be loaned out and simultaneously held in the banks vaults at the same time. Therefore fractional reserve banking is essentially fraudulent.

This is my understanding of the debate. If one assume contracts can be reasonably enforced in a private property anarchy, then it makes sense for Rothbard to talk about enforcing a 100% reserve because a non-100% reserve is a nonsensical contract between the bank and deposit holder. His view is that the whole process is fraudulent, and ergo would not survive in a free market money scenario.

Greg Huff January 2, 2011 at 1:32 pm

It is better to communicate than not. Many of the statist ideas are so ingrained and their world view so entrenched in these ideas; the possibility of them being wrong is rejected out of hand. They will not even look at the possibility these ideas are not just wrong but anti-survival. They will dub-in the wildest explanations for the universe not conforming to their view of it. There is almost no way to dislodge these without their sanity going. Very few have overcome this deprivation…David Horowitz is one that did but the intellectual fortitude and honesty to see reality despite the prism of these false and fixed ideas is rare indeed.

nate-m January 2, 2011 at 1:56 pm

Plus it is nice to have dates on things. :)

If your able to predict what happens with politics and economics then it will lend quite a bit to your creditability.

Bing Cherry January 2, 2011 at 2:05 pm

I have a question for those of you who may face a similar family situation.

One of my brothers is in graduate school at a prestigious university completing a doctorate in “environmental economics.” He’s a great brother, and a bright guy, but when it comes to economics, his thinking is so unreasonable and illogical that even the simplest arguments seem to have no effect on him.

I have been trying to persuade him to read Mises, Rothbard, Hayek, Hoppe, etc… for several years, but he will not look at them. I have tried to pick small, specific, examples that illustrate the fallacies of mainstream economics, for example:

1) Explaining the conflict between the Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility and the concept of measurable Consumer’s Surplus.

2) Showing how the idea of monopoly arising on the free market is untenable because of the impossibility of distinguishing between a competitive and a monopoly price. (And many other related arguments…)

3) Contrasting historical examples with modern practice in economic policy, for example the parallels between John Law with his Mississippi bubble and Greenspan/Bernanke with our current situation.

4) Appealing to conventional morality by attempting to show the futility of trying to force people to be happy.

Nothing seems to work. He doesn’t read history, or any economics except for the most recent journals in his own field. He isn’t willing to consider where the money to carry out the kinds of plans he and his colleagues make comes from. He insists that his field is separate and hermetic, and that demonstrations of the repeated failure of central planning are inapplicable.

It is sad, but he seems destined to waste his life away. He might as well be attempting to square the circle, invent a perpetual motion machine, or transform lead into gold.

That said, does anyone have a true clincher of an argument, one that really seems to work. What are, in the opinion of others, absolutely the best ways of showing the barrenness of the mainstream methods of economics?

Tyrone Dell January 2, 2011 at 2:16 pm
Bing Cherry January 2, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Good stuff, thanks. It is a shame that so little of this sort of material makes its way into the “Journal of Environmental Economics and Management” or the “Review of Environmental Economics and Policy.” I had read a lot of these posts already, and even tried some of these lines of reasoning.

I am sure that some fellow readers can sympathize with the response (surprise, total lack of comprehension) that accompanies the proposition that the ocean or atmosphere could be privatized, or the wasteful and inefficient use of resources is mainly due to to government ownership.

Matthew Swaringen January 2, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Well, the best way is probably most apparent to someone who was in his specific camp but changed, and since you probably don’t have that I’d say to first try listening to his side of things.

Your goal is to find out the reasoning behind his position, what leads him to his conclusions, and also to find out what motivates him.

If he’s motivated by a desire to control and doesn’t seem interested in liberty at all then you’ll be hard pressed to ever convince him. If he has a libertarian streak in any area you’ll be able to find where this conflicts with his other views. When you see this I’d casually point it out, but not harp on it. He probably has some poorly-reasoned justification for why he still holds his position, and that weak reasoning is what to concentrate on.

I speak as a former neo-conservative. The challenge for me was how to work out that the state was bad in terms of stealing from people to finance redistributionary policies that make people worse off in the long run, and economic policies that destroy opportunities, yet was good in terms of defending our freedoms, etc.

A distrust of the state on one side and trust on the other didn’t make sense, so I chose to take another look at revisionist history and took more seriously the comments of Ron Paul and others. Everything made more sense and I was able to see the deaths in Iraq and hate what we were doing whereas before I always had to justify how this was somehow better than what went on before.

In any case, I found libertarianism led me to a more consistent viewpoint.

Jim January 2, 2011 at 7:05 pm

I have several friends who I have known since college or shortly afterwards, who are very much in the enviro-socialist camp. Two are lobbyists in DC. One works for the department of energy. Others are sporadically employed by the citizens in other random scams. One thing I have noticed happening is that they are rapidly dropping the idealism after 5 or so years in DC bureaucracy. It’s kind of interesting. They all seem to be looking for the exit in their own ways – finding private sector jobs or changing careers entirely. There is a lot of disillusion. Low level political employees either see politics first-hand and become disgusted by it, or submit and become part of it.

If it were my brother, I’d get him a copy of Louis Carabini’s “Inclined to Liberty” – extremely easy to read and very friendly in tone, and only 100 pages long. The best you can do with some hardheads who are not interested in debate is to just plant the seed of an idea. When something comes up in that person’s life that causes them to re-think prior positions, they’ll have to measure their new thoughts against “that thing you said one time” or “this book I read once.” I’ve often mentioned a small idea in conversation to people who were not receptive to it, only to find that 6 months later, they are repeating it back to me – as their own thoughts. No mind worth it’s salt can be changed overnight. It takes a long time to measure new ideas against the old.

Marco Polo January 2, 2011 at 9:52 pm

One of my brothers is in graduate school at a prestigious university completing a doctorate in “environmental economics.” He’s a great brother, and a bright guy, but when it comes to economics, his thinking is so unreasonable and illogical that even the simplest arguments seem to have no effect on him.

Education merely supplies the words and ideas that fit in with the primordial inclination of the socialist. He will accept at face value all the theories, all the figures and charts supporting his preconceived notions, and will reject offhand any arguments or data that support the idea of individual freedom. You cannot teach anybody anything that he does not in a real sense already know. A class of freshmen can be subjected to all the litanies of the socialistic creed; the majority will take in what they are taught for the purpose of getting a passing grade, but a minority will thrill to the instruction, while a still smaller minority will in their hearts reject it. Those who respond favorably to the instruction came intuitively prepared to do so, while those who find it repulsive were likewise instinctively opposed to it. On the other hand, give a course in classical economics, or teach a group the meaning of natural rights, and some, though they have absorbed all the words of freedom, will come away entirely unconvinced. Some emotional blocking prevents the ideas from taking root. And this is also true of all the collectivistic professors; they read all the books which the individualist holds most dear, but the reading leaves them cold to the ideas; they are collectivist because nature inclined them toward collectivism…

why put so much stress on education? … On the face of it, this concern seems unwarranted, for an innate tendency toward freedom will not be changed by words into an acceptance of slavery.

Basically, this is true. But a character trait, like a seed, germinates best under proper cultivation, and the inclination toward freedom is strengthened by intellectual conviction. … There are many who … are instinctively repelled by government intervention but who crave intellectual support for their inclination. It is to them that the proponent of libertarianism must address himself; the socialist is beyond redemption. That is to say, the libertarian teaches not to “make” libertarians, but to find them.


Socialists are born, not made. (And so are individualists.) In a way, the basic urge toward socialism is in all of us, since every one of us is inclined to impose our set of values on others; we seek to “improve” the other fellow up to our own particular standards. But most of us will try to “elevate” the other fellow and, meeting resistance, will give it up as a hopeless job. The socialist, however, has an intuitive urgency for power, power over other people, and proceeds to bolster this urgency with an ethic: he seeks power for a humanitarian purpose. He would “elevate” all mankind to his ideal. Since the individual does not wish to be “elevated,” and lays claim to something called rights, the socialist undertakes to prove that the individual does not exist, that an amorphous thing called “society” is the only fact of reality, and proceeds to impose his set of values on this thing. Having made this discovery — that society is something greater than the sum of its parts, with an intelligence and a spirit of its own — the socialist dons his shining armor and sets forth on a glorious adventure for its improvement. He works for the “social good” — which is what he wanted to do since first he became aware of his instinct.

Bryan January 2, 2011 at 11:55 pm

Get him Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution by Ayn Rand.A lot of environmentalists don’t care about production, wealth, human well-being, or industrial civilization. They see production as such, as evil. Production transforms untouched nature into something more suitable for human needs, but they wish to preserve untouched nature.In that case there is a fundamental moral and philosophical disagreement that is in the way.

I recommend George Reisman’s lecture “Environmental and Resource Economics” found on the audio section of this site.

RTB January 3, 2011 at 10:29 pm

I always start with the fact that something must be produced before it can be consumed. To me, this is so profound as to encompass every and all economic arguments. What we have now is completely opposite. We manufacture laws, regulations and “money” in the hopes that someone will produce to cover it.

Dave M January 2, 2011 at 2:37 pm

You have to take baby steps when trying to convert the statist mentality I have found.Allmost everyone is against slavery so I ask the statist how he would define slavery. Of course you get all sorts of various definitions but the one I put forward is the slave is compelled to give the fruits of his labour to his owner, otherwise slavery would cease to be of any economic benifit to the slave owner. Then I ask if the slave is still free if he is allowed to keep 70% of his labour but must remit 30% to his owner. Amost everytime they say that it is preposterous that they should be forced to give any of their earnings to their master.Then of course I say we have just debated the moral problem of state taxation.

Libertarian jerry January 2, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Bing Cherry, I have been a liberty lover most of my life.I have joined organizations,led organizations and been politically active for the 1st 2/3 of my adult life. I find that when it come to the ideas of Liberty,only about 10% of people are truly interested in true Liberty, while the other 90% are interested primarily in security. The question arises as to the fact that being a true believer in Liberty you have to look at the person in the mirror. People generally, want to live their lives by following careers,building families,gaining material security. To be truly free, I followed the philosophy of a fictional hero that I discovered at the age of 15. That hero being Howard Roark from the novel by Ayn Rand,The Fountainhead. To try and make government irrelevant to what you want to do with your life is a very difficult thing. Years ago I gave up trying to save the world and decided to live my life my way. If your friends and kin want to live in Liberty,cautiously find out and try to guide them. If not,for the sake of peace in your family, the next time controversial items come up in conversation,just change the subject.

Bing Cherry January 2, 2011 at 3:28 pm

My gratitude to Matthew Swaringen, Dave M, and Libertarian jerry. Each of your comments is welcome, and wise. In the interest of brevity, I will post once here, rather than making three separate posts.

The universal plea to “try listening to his side of things,” “to take baby steps,” and to “cautiously find out and try to guide (him)” is well taken. It is difficult to respect thoughts and ideas which I am opposed to, but without doing so I will never succeed. So, perhaps as a New Years resolution, I will try harder to be polite and pleasant, and not to lecture.

As Mr. Swaringen suggests, my brother does indeed have a small, “libertarian streak.” I very much hope to “find where this conflicts with his other views.” I suspect that small success may be achieved along the lines that Dave M. suggests, by basing my reasoning on the common moral ground which we already share. Unfortunately, it is quite possible that, in the end, “for the sake of peace in (my) family” when “controversial items come up in conversation” I will have to “just change the subject.” But I don’t give up easily, so I will give it one more try first.

Dave M.’s line of reasoning, (equating slavery with taxation) is very good, and not one I have tried yet. I will give it a whirl, but perhaps in a more moderate fashion than previously.

Tyrone Dell January 2, 2011 at 3:57 pm

You could always try and sneak in some Libertarian thought covertly by handing him a few Ayn Rand novels. Thats always how I introduce my friends to Libertarianism, regardless of how intelligent and educated they are. A good solid reading of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged can really do a lot.

My experience is that the Statist -> Objectivist -> Anarcho-Capitalist route is the most effective path to enlightenment.

Lee January 2, 2011 at 4:27 pm


I think your first comment about Bernanke struck an extremely important point about most of these politicians. For about the first 3 decades of my adult life I watched them pull this country down while I muttered a mantra of “how can they be so stupid?” After trying out positions all over the political map I got serious about studying the history of Communism not mainly from the theoretical viewpoint but as to how it’s actually been practiced in Communist countries. At some point, at least for me, all the confusion I had vanished.

I have come to believe that a great many, perhaps most of us, at all levels, have absorbed so many Communist ideas from the ceaseless flood of propaganda, we may hold many Communist beliefs even when we are repelled by the very idea of “COMMUNISM”.

Sione January 2, 2011 at 4:31 pm


That’s an interesting path that many of my palangi friends have taken. Some get stuck on Objectivism and become quite dogmatic for a time. That’s about the only objectional bit about the journey though.



Sione January 2, 2011 at 4:57 pm


Some people are unreachable. That may be due to pig-ignorance, either willful or not. It is often due to a fondness of the conceit of knowing better than other pople how they ought to be allowed to live THEIR lives. It can even be a matter of the magnitude of the intellectual investment they have made in a set of ideas (I know many religious folk in that category).

In dealing with your brother, don’t expect much. About the best you can do is to ask questions of him. When he makes some silly collectivist statement or if he is engaged on some horrible socialist project where someone is going to be transgressed against, ask him questions. Put him in the position of defending his ideas or actions on the basis of his ideology, morals and reasoning. Dig deep. Make him think. If he grants an answer, especially an illogical one, investigate further. Dig deeper. Ask things like: How do you know that? Why? Why is that so? Is that good? Why didn’t you do that last time? How do you feel about doing that to someone else? How would you like that done to you? Isn’t that hypocritical? And so on. Take him all the way back to basics. Let him discover his thinking is invalid and unjustifiable- based on nothing.

Find out what his assumptions and premise are. Remember those, as you are going to employ them again in the future, especially when he contradicts himself (which he is going to do). Ask why his standards are inconsistent and pursue those answers. You’ll soon find he has arbitrary, disjoint and random approaches to dealing with ideas. All you need do is expose them. Say little more after that. No lectures or badgering, just this- “That makes no sense. You are making serious mistakes. You need to reconsider.” This process may take months and months. Then by all means give him some of your books to read. Let him do all the work IF HE WANTS TO. If he doesn’t, well, that’s his problem. All you need do is point out that his position is untenable.


Bing Cherry January 2, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Thanks again to Tyrone Dell, Lee, and Sione.

I will try giving him some Ayn Rand. The idea is different, but then again, it might work. It wasn’t what brought me around (I was interested in the history of the depression, and stumbled across Rothbard), but I am certain, as Tyrone Dell and Sione point out, that many people have come to see things differently after reading Rand. It’s worth a try.

I sympathize with the pessimism that I read in libertarian Jerry and Sione’s posts. There is a lot involved in persuading one’s family and friends of the morality of the libertarian position, and it isn’t all logic.

J Cortez January 2, 2011 at 6:35 pm

I suspect I’ll be lynched by Randians for this– I like a lot what she had to say, but Rand is the last person I’d go to in trying to convince an interventionist of anything. If the guy’s on the fence, Rand might work, but for somebody that devoutly believes planning is the way, Rand is no good. She’s too demagogic.

For interventionists, I think Hayek is better in terms of general theory and structure of social science. Use of Knowledge in Society and the Fatal Conceit, are great in this regard. That’s if you’re being very general, though.

The bottom line is that you might not want to bother in convincing family. Playful arguing and debate is one thing, but a full court press is just annoying to most people, especially family and friends. I’ve won extended debates with various family only to have them tell me that I’m still wrong, and they only conceded because they lack the ability to prove it to me.

Consider other things unrelated to economics or ethics. How stubborn are family in those areas? For example, maybe you have family that are overweight. Common sense says they should exercise more and eat healthy, yet they do neither and complain about being in poor health. In the same way some people don’t care enough to improve their health, others just aren’t interested in economic law and desire to hold onto logical fallacies.

Dagnytg January 2, 2011 at 9:22 pm

Bing Cherry,

I agree with J Cortez.

I wouldn’t give him Rand. It is my opinion that the only people who can truly understand her works of fiction are artists and entrepreneurs. Your brother is completing his doctorate so his thinking and experience is probably limited to books and research. His psychology revolves around his studies and anything outside that domain is not going to appeal to his ego.

Remember most people object to libertarianism for two reasons. One, its conclusions are emotionally difficult to accept. Two, its construct is simple and therefore rejected due to its lack of complexity.

Your brother will never consider libertarian ethics as such because it’s too simple. The fact that he is a doctorate student implies that he embraces complexity. His ego is strengthened by the fact that he believes he understands something others cannot.

If I were you, I wouldn’t approach him as a libertarian. I would approach him as a psychologist and ethicist.

Get him to talk about himself and his work. (He’ll love to talk about his work.) Ask intelligent questions to show you are interested and wanting to learn. After you have won over his confidence and his belief in your admiration, subtly, ask him questions with a libertarian theme (within the context of his field of study and being careful not to use libertarian words like property rights, freedom, etc.) Note: You’re using the Socratic method of questioning…again be subtle.

Eventually his answers to your questions will run into walls. At that point, you will have won. No…he still won’t accept the apparent conclusions but it will constantly nag him that there is an inconsistency in his thinking.

Remember, you can’t change people’s minds, you can only lead them to change their own mind. Once they realize there is an inconsistency in their thinking, the journey has begun.

Libertarianism not a destination…it’s a journey in the evolution of thought and for most, that is a time intensive process…so be patient and supportive.

Good luck…

Bing Cherry January 3, 2011 at 11:54 pm

Dagnytg, you’re pretty much right on, in the psychology department. I would only add, as a general note, that peer pressure from fellow grad students and professors makes it especially difficult for him to change his mind.

Thanks, everybody.

The Kid Salami January 2, 2011 at 8:03 pm

The “Peter Schiff was right” video is the best tool I think. Seeing him so clearly and publicly know something seemingly no’one else did makes people who genuinely want to know what’s going on go straight to google and investigate what tools Schiff was using. Those who are happy with their worldview will just ignore it – and so you can save yourself some time and blood vessels, as no amount of argument or explanations or facts will combat this attitude.

My own brother watched it and now, 2 years later, knows about Austrian Economics and has his money mainly in gold and silver. In constrast, a guy in work (a Guardian reading communist economic ignoramus) watched it and was impressed but then watched another Schiff interview where he explained about how the government was the problem – he reacted to this as if he was blaming the tooth fairy and just told me it must have been a fluke and never mentioned it again. He doesn’t own any gold.

emily rose January 3, 2011 at 7:47 am

My sexily-brainy, alluringly individualist bf has been slowly building over the last year the quintessential home library of economic/philosophic/political works &, as he prefers to buy exuberantly (at first) & pare-down (later, upon reflection/adequate-reading), he had a overgrown pile of such books that, though edifying, were not really “essentials” for the “quintessential library”. Rather than trade them in for a nickel at the local used bookstore, we thought it might be nice to bring them to the annual x-mas shindig with his family and set them out as free for the browsing/taking. We figured, Hey, maybe this or that title might pique someone’s interest, and if not, they could still serve as a good discussion starter.

However, shortly upon arriving & setting the books out on an unused table, and in the minute or so that my bf was in another room, some unconfirmed (if not un-speculated upon) family member took it upon themselves to clear the “subversive materials” from then table, place them in an unmarked bag, set the bag on the floor, in a corner, under a counter, and to then pile a bunch of stuff up in front so that anyone who might have taken an interest in such “free reading materials” would not, in fact, have a chance to freely browse.:(

(My family, or at least my dad, is much more open & inclined toward intellectual/philosophic discourse, and I swear if I can just break my dad of the habit of liberal intellectual junk-food he gets via huffpo/msnbc/etc., he’ll become the radical anarcho-capitalist his intellect/temperament otherwise predispose him to be!:)

EconAndre January 3, 2011 at 1:06 pm

“If Truth Be Not Defused, Error Will Be”

We must be courageous to spread the message of Austrian economics at different levels of engagement–the process sharpens our arguments and improves us as communicators
Here’s an interting link about the effectiveness of books in a different field:


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