Friday, November 13, 2020

I Feel Like Murray Rothbard Today

Murray Rothbard

In his reply to David Stockman (Stockman vs. Block: Walter Block Responds on the Value of Trump to Libertarians), Dr. Walter Block brought me into the fray.

He wrote:

This debate Stockman and I are now having reminds me of the one I had with Bob Wenzel in 2015. He favored Hillary over Donald for similar reasons Stockman put forth for Biden over Trump. Yes, Hillary would be worse, far worse, than Donald, Bob argued, but it would be worth it, due to the fact that out of the ashes something better would arise with a strengthened libertarian movement. I was not then convinced of his case, nor am I of Davids, along similar lines.

He then introduced a quote from the great economist and political theorist Murray Rothbard

I find it humorous that Dr. Block used a Rothbard quote against me because it is this exact quote that is my word-for-word defense. The Rothbard quote via Dr. Block:

This is from p.65 of The Irrepressible  Rothbard: "Clinton will be so bad he will discredit the Democrats and lead to our triumph in four years… This is an example of ‘the worse the better’ argument allegedly advanced by Lenin. But again I've got news for you: Lenin was too smart to make such an argument. I find it particularly irritating that my own name has been invoked as a theorist of ‘the worse the better’ and that therefore this is supposed to be a long-standing ‘Rothbardian’ strategy. Please guys: allow me the courtesy of knowing my own views better than you do. In the first place, this doctrine is almost always untrue. In most cases, the worse the worse. The government gets worse, things are bad, but the public gets inured to these measures, they can't identify the cause-and-effect relations anyway~ and so things steadily get worse. How come that the terrible deeds of the Progressive Era, the Wilson administration, the New Deal, etc. have not already provoked any backlash reaction? How come things just keep getting worse? What makes you boys think that four years of Clinton will be any different? Most likely people will be inured to more statism under Clinton."

Dr. Block then added: 

As with most words penned by Rothbard, I think these are definitive. I fear that both Wenzel and Stockman have adopted "the worse the better" argument.

Every Rothbrad word of the above holds for me save for the word "irritation," as I mention above I am having a bit of a chuckle.

As with Rothbard, it is simply untrue that I used the  "worse the better" argument.

At no point did I ever make the claim that Hillary was worse and therefore this made her a better choice. I have consistently made the argument that both Hillary and Trump were bad and that therefore Hillary was a better alternative because she would raise loud objections from the pro-Trump crowd that libertarians could attempt to redirect. I further argued that a Trump victory would do nothing but mobilize the socialists (which it has).


On November 21, 2015,  I wrote (new emphasis):

I believe they are all terrible, but Clinton will be least effective, given strong opposition from those who oppose her, including Republicans in Congress who will attempt to delay any programs she wants implemented.

So, to the tiny degree it matters, I support her on the grounds she will be least effective.

I think Trump is most unpredictable and dangerous...I simply see no significant difference between any of the candidates. 

On August 4, 2016, I wrote (new emphasis):

I want to emphasize that I am not a Hillary supporter. I think Trump and Hillary are both psychopaths, but I don't see where libertarians should be supporting either,

The potential for madness occurring under either one of these characters is great.

Why can't we as libertarians spend our time saying. "Both Trump and Hillary are terrible and the policies they advocate are going to just cause more problems for us."

If they were both bad but one clearly less bad, I could understand supporting one over the other, but I do not see that as the case here.

On August 12, 2016, I wrote in response to Dr. Block:

 Hillary is horrific, but I just don't understand how you don't see that Trump could be as bad or worse!

I occasionally see the "worse is better" argument used in the comments at Target Liberty and EPJ, but I myself have never used it.

My view is completely in line with Rothbard's:

 In most cases, the worse the worse. The government gets worse, things are bad, but the public gets inured to these measures, they can't identify the cause-and-effect relations anyway~ and so things steadily get worse.

I challenge Dr. Block to find anywhere in my writing that my support for Hillary over Trump was based on the "the worse the better" argument. Never happened. I feel like Murray Rothbard today.



  1. One need not be a "revolutionary defeatist" to observe that Washington Republicans do their best work when they constitute the opposition party. When they are in power, they are immediately corrupted and become just another Big Government party. This is nothing new. This is not "worse is better" but "better is better."

    1. Au contraire, Washington Republicans like Washington Democrats do their best work when they constitute the out of office party.