Wednesday, August 1, 2012

On Tough Interviews and Putting Peoples Feet to the Fire

A friend writes:

Reading Rothbard's "For A New Liberty" again.

Came across a the following passage where he talks about classical liberals losing their radicalism.

"But after achieving impressive partial victories against statism, the classical liberals began to lose their radicalism, their dogged insistence on carrying the battle against conservative statism to the point of final victory. Instead of using partial victories as a stepping-stone for evermore pressure, the classical liberals began to lose their fervor for change and for purity of principle. They began to rest content with trying to safeguard their existing victories, and thus turned themselves from a radical into a conservative movement—'conservative' in the sense of being content to preserve the status quo."

This immediately caused me to think about modern times:

There is no questioning that the Ron Paul movement has achieved more than partial victories against statism (at least in the hearts & minds of millions).

However, as Rothbard's example of the classical liberals shows, such a situation can become stale. And there are plenty of 'conservatives' out there (Rand Paul, Cato, Reason, FreedomWorks, etc, etc) who will undoubtedly pick-up many of the new Paulians out there. And sadly, many can, as Rothbard pointed out "lose their ferver for change and for purity of principle."

I bring this up remind you how important a site like EPJ and The Robert Wenzel Show are. There's a dire need for 'radical' outlets.

There needs to be an interviewer (like you) that grills guests (even other libertarians)...and uproots anything that can cause the movement to go stale. You've caught a bunch of flak about nit-picking...I say keep it up! If people want to hear Molyneux go unchallenged, there are probably hundreds of his interviews out there that will satisfy that.

What happened to the classical liberals can't happen this time around.


  1. Stay Hungry, Chillun.

  2. My issue with the Molyneux interview isn't the nit's simply what I perceived as a tone of condescension on your part-which I think detracts from the points you make.

    You come off a bit offensive whether you intend to or not.

    I have no problem with you making points, I just think you can do so and be "radical" while having some decorum so as to not detract from the points you have to make.

    That's my beef with Gordon's stuff too on Molyneux too. It seems personal at times.

    In fairness, maybe the problem is with my perception though...

    I can understand if you find his "defoo"ing business repulsive(and obviously based on Gordon's brief "comment" in the comment section a few weeks ago he has a problem with it)...but then it should be addressed in a civil manner to make your point well as all your other points.

    I think your technique needs refinement, pure and simple. If you think it's already "perfect", so be it. But it certainly turns me off. I was about to sign up for Gordon's course a couple of weeks ago until I saw his write up. I just couldn't get by how unprofessional he seemed.

    1. And Stephen came off as a rambling boob at times.

      But yes, refinement is fine, as long as makes the blade sharper vs. obtuse.

    2. If Molyneux wasn't offended and had fun, I don't see why you should feel offended.

    3. This might strike you as odd, but I don't have an emotional link to Molyneux that makes me feel what he feels. lol

      All that being said, it's simply a matter of opinion. Obviously based on the commentary below though I'm not the only one that thinks there was some potentially offensive(and unnecessary) bits(of a condescending nature) in between the banter.

      Unless the plan is for Wenzel to be a libertarian version of Howard Stern(which might be fine!), I think he'll catch more flys with honey than vinegar.


  3. I agree with that completely.

  4. When we are dealing with ideas that will change the world, we should not be expected to be polite. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, our enemies, the socialists, did not take over governments and change people's minds by respecting their opponents. When one of our own is in error, we should point it out!

    1. So just how is it determined who is considered "one of our own", and just who is this "we" that has the final say on what is in error? Unlike the vagaries of Socialism, these notions are antithetical to the basic principles of individual liberty. There is no "we" in a truly free libertarian/agorist society, only voluntary individual interaction.

      It's this somewhat paradoxical nature of true individual liberty that makes any sustainable political group action impossible.

    2. Certainly no one is obligated to be polite. I also can understand being a little rude to guys like shapiro who are intentionally avoiding questioning. But clearly RW and molyneux agree on 70-90% of issues, and RW didnt come off as if he was even trying to listen to molyneux. I think Jan helfeld gives a good example of how to ask tough questions without ever being rude, and the more we try to emulate that kind of professional hardball the better the impact.

  5. It may go stale only in respect to the man himself, the epicenter of the earthquake, but the wave still rides on; the tsunami can't be stopped, its momentum continues to place people on the libertarian track, a track that logically concludes with statelessness.

  6. In the mainstream, you're very radical, but in the libertarian blogosphere, not so much.

  7. I agree with friend. Some would-be-guest will be turned off no doubt but others will be just as likely to want to take on Bob "Lightening Fingers" Wenzel.

  8. I also completely agree with this.

  9. Yeah yeah, except that a lack of radicalism is the last thing you can accuse a guy like Molyneux of, so the connection between one and the other is completely unwarranted.
    Quite the opposite, if anything, Molyneux is MUCH MORE radical than some of those that attack him. He refuses to make an exception for Ron Paul, and he goes so far as to say that if you're in an unhappy or abusive household you have the right to get out on the basis of freedom of association.

    Ironically, it seems to be mostly those who hang on to "traditional institutions" who have the most problem with Molyneux.
    You are supposed to question the state, but don't dare question the sanctity of the traditional family. The state is not supposed to ignore that you have the right to dissociate from people that won't treat you right, but when applied to the family, things suddenly become different.

    So who is really the radical, and who are really the conservatives?
    Who is really promoting individualism, and who is really promoting 'traditional' collectivism?

    So i find it ironic that the article first expertly uses Rothbard to explain how certain libertarians lose their radicalism and become set in their ways, only to mention Molyneux as if the Rothbard section in any way applies to him, when if anything it is the opposite. It is the "traditionalists" who seek refuge in the arms of a politician that is a 'constitutionalist Republican', and who stop their radicalism the moment their own cherished holy cows are about to be slaughtered, that Rothbard's words apply to the most.

    And that is why i reject Hoppe's notion that a libertarian must be conservative. It reeks of conservative protectionism.

    1. "And that is why i reject Hoppe's notion that a libertarian must be conservative. It reeks of conservative protectionism."

      He is trying to reach out to conservative audiences. Moreover, in many respects, Molyneux agrees with socially conservative ideas. Do you extend your disagreement to Molyneux as well, who as confessed as much as some of his podcasts? I don't see Hoppe and Molyneux disagreeing over the importance of community or two parent families. So it is funny that you refer to him as "radical" in this regard. He is in some ways in that he is against spanking children etc. but he is probably one of the most conservative thinkers out there. He just doesn't support the state. The same is true of Hoppe.

  10. If we're going to find fault and put feet to fire, i would have some views of my own.

    "It's curious that during an interview with Jeffrey Tucker that Molyneux condemns Bill Clinton for taking advantage of Monica Lewinsky. He specifically notes the age gap between Clinton and Lewinsky and the power position the president was in relative to Lewinsky. How is this different from the age gap between Molyneux and those Molyneux is advising on his radio show to defoo?"

    It's stunning anyone would have to point this out. The age gap is one is based on ego-maniacal sexual lust. The other age gap has no bearing on what Molyneux gets out of it. However you may feel about it, Clinton is not trying to "help" Lewinsky while Molyneux is trying to help someone. Equating having a young woman perform fellatio on you is so far removed from advising a young man to dissociate from people the young man finds no happiness with, that any comparison is ridiculous.

    "Further, Molyneux is also coming from a position of power, as a philosopher, author and radio show host."

    This is both ridiculous and dangerous. By this logic, ANY advise given by ANYBODY that is a philosopher, author or media host can be considered an abuse of a position of "power". By this logic, even people like Rothbard are abusing their position of power by advising people to leave their statist thinking and join his ranks.
    It is absolutely stunning Wenzel here actually tries to equate the power and influence of a president and leader of a monopoly on violence, with someone merely using his communication skills to convince people of his position. Bill Clinton has the power to crush his enemies with the state. The threat of this is always in the background. Molyneux can do NOTHING.
    Wenzel merely seems to do this nonsensical equation here on the basis of his own subjective disagreement with Molyneux's views.

    "There is nothing wrong with encouraging youth to explore and consider various alternative views of the world, but to advise youth to cut off some views (such as that of their parents) is worse than asking for a blow job."

    Why would any libertarian want people to be open to views of their parents that explicitly state that YES, state violence against them (their own kids) is justified? Because that is what Molyneux's "against me" argument is based on. The point that, if in the end someone condones violence over arguments to get his way, there is no more point in debate with these people, and discussion is over.
    Why should anyone be open to their parents' views, when they openly admit to choosing the state's interests over their own children's?
    Telling these kids that such parents mean well and should be respected is worse than asking for a blow job.

  11. The point of tough questioning isn't to trip up the interviewee. It is to force him to clarify his position. The appropriate response to a tough question isn't to tell the guest that he is politically incorrect and to explain to him where he is wrong. The point is to ask yet another tough question that requires even more clarification.
    The interviewer isn't the star of the show, the guest is.

    All "revolutions" become compromised. Most often, they lead to authoritarian regimes. The most famous examples are Russia and France. You cannot tear down social structure without simultaneously tearing down institutions within that structure that preserve liberty even if only in a limited form.

    Societies are not the product of ideology. There are specific measures that promote liberty and others that destroy it. The partial victories of liberty movements are all that are ever attainable. We're never going to get an anarchist society. We're going to get a society that has more or less liberty. We are always faced with dilemmas like the Cold War. If you arm yourselves to the teeth to preserve your liberty from the Communists, you risk losing your liberty to the people you have armed.

    1. And why is it that there has to be only one interview method? Since Wenzel knows economics I think it is important that he explain where a guest my be off track.

      You have been brainwashed by softball mainstream interviews.

      There has been more focus on Wenzel's interviews of Gary Johnson and Molyneux than most other JOhnson and Molyneux interviews. If Wenzel is in error on a point he makes during the interviews, call him out. But for heavens sake don't get your panties in a knot because he is the only one who does not fear speaking truth to his guests.

    2. The problem with the Wenzel approach is that I come off knowing a lot more about Wenzel's position than I do Molyneaux's. In fact, I know very little of Molyneaux's philosophy after hearing that interview and little about Wenzel's position that I didn't already know.

      Wenzel is not speaking "truth" to his guests, he is speaking opinion. The only truth Wenzel offers is what the politically correct Rothbardian-worshipping position is. Molyneaux may, I suspect is, in substantial agreement with that position even though he may be unfamiliar with the details. But I really don't know because Wenzel never permitted his guest to sustain a position. It's almost absurd. Wenzel didn't attack Molyneaux for being an anarchist, he attacked him for not having the exact, scriptually-precise take on anarchism.

  12. We should hash it out.

    I am a libertarian, and consider myself an Austrian one at that, but I prefer fiat money to physical gold, or a gold standard (two different things). I don't think gold is essential, or even advisable, in a country following Austrian economics.

    In the same vein Molyneux might have a few different ideas, but I would be willing to bet that he would be absolutely solid in the policy realm.

    1. Good luck finding a market that absent gov't intervention will accept paper as exchangeable for valued goods. Money-substitutes exist under a 100% reserve system btw.