Wednesday, October 09, 2013

When I Was Much Younger has put up videos of two performances of mine from 1981. One is a talk on Problems With Libertarianism, the other a debate with George Smith on whether the foundation for libertarianism should be ethics or economics. Jeff Hummel appears in both, including his explanation of the morally dubious tactic by which he made sure that this time I would remember who Jeff Hummel was.

All of us look very young.

A much larger collection of my performances is available on a page of my web site.


At 12:43 AM, October 10, 2013, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you make some good points in the lectures on!!!

btw i've noticed that you often give the same lecture, like right now the last few lectures you gave have all been on this legal regimes very different from ours topic. and a few years ago it was about future imperfect.

this upsets me. why give the same lecture more than once apart from collecting the speaking fee (the original lecture can just be found on the internet). some how doesnt seem legit for an intellectual to engage in this behaviour because an intellectual should only care about his ideas otherwise how can i be sure that the intellectual is being honest and is not simply trying to sell more books by appealing to my prejudices/speaking to the converted (like Thomas Woods for example)?

At 4:31 AM, October 10, 2013, Anonymous Dennis New said...

How can you be sure that the intellectual is being honest? There's only one way, really. Understand the arguments yourself and try to refute them.

That debate with George Smith was great. Although it was sorely lacking Hoppe's ideas of "argumentation ethics" and Molyneux's "universally preferrable behavior". I think these logical arguments outpower utilitarian ones.

At 5:24 AM, October 10, 2013, Blogger Tibor said...

I just love the "problems with libertarianism". And it could not have come online at a better time for me. I, or better yet a friend of mine who is not quite a libertarian, but is quite close, has noticed that I've slipped into this black and white libertarian all-is-simple mindset on occassions recently. That may be due to me spending to much time arguing people at and incidentally acquiring their simplified world-view. But I can of course only blame myself for that...Acquiring it to a point at which I was advocating a man who recently was sentenced here to 18 years in prison for shooting (and leaving to die which, much to my embarrasment, I did not notice the first time I was reading it, since I was focusing on other things) two construction workers who were sent to his property by a new owner...who bought it from the state which consifcated it as the man living in that place refused to pay the mandatory social "insurance" (although he could simply go to the office and register himself as needy or something, since he was not working and spent all his time in that house of his near the forest, so the state would "pay it for him"). My knee-jerk reaction was - the state stole it form him, he should be able to defend himself. Yeah, but the workers had nothing to do with that and the new owner neither and even if they were the police it is at least questionable whether this is ok. I don't think the state should do it, but since we live in a society where almost everyone around sees the state as a good thing, the proper or moral reaction is not to start shooting people who even have no idea that you see it differently.

So I had to thank my friend and now I have to thank you, David, for nailing some sense back into me :)


Well, thinkers have to eat too :) Also, if people are interested in more talks, it is an evidence that they actually want David (or someone else) to come and give a speech which may have even have the same topic as the ones that are online. If that is the case, then it brings other people a benefit they would not get otherwise and it gives David both money and an opportunity to talk to people more directly (and visit some nice places perhaps, and...). And there are a couple of reasons why that might be true. Some people are interested in direct discussion (or debate) with the speaker. They cannot do that by watching a video or even by reading a book. They could send an e-mail with a question, sure, but that costs the author time and energy to respond to. And still it is not that much personal. Some people simply want to see the speaker live...even if he says the same things, they have already watched elsewhere. Finally, there are people who come to the speech because it is a part of some larger event, it may get them interested, but they would have never watched the videos or read a book otherwise. So it is simply not true, than more than one speech on a given topic is simply useless.

After all, you probably would not say that there is no reason for a band to play its songs more than once (when they make a record album). There is simply a difference between live and recorded, whether it is music or something else, such as a speech.

At 7:45 AM, October 10, 2013, Anonymous Anonymous said...

maybe apart from hayek and nozick and coase, Friedman is my favourite thinker because often what he says reveals an unknown unknown to me, not simply confirms what i believe already but points out something i was totally unaware of.

At 7:54 AM, October 10, 2013, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am the original Anonymous.

@Anonymous who responded at 5:24 AM, October 10, 2013. you made some really good points. thanks for pointing these things out. i am now less concerned about D Friedman being interested in only peddling his books for a fee without a concern for the books's veracity or consistency.

my concern arose originally from observing the people around the ron paul movement like Thomas Woods and few others who seem to have merely taken advantage of some of the ron paul supporters who seem to be cult-ish and a bit intellectually "vulnerable". the people taking advantage seem to have very quickly built up radio shows, blogs and "alternative" education programs which all cost quite a bit considering their contents is a bit iffy.

At 10:24 AM, October 10, 2013, Blogger David Friedman said...


A couple of different points:

In a given year, I probably give public talks on three or four different topics, some of them more than once. I haven't tried counting up all of my speech topics, but it would probably come to ten or twenty--subjects I have something interesting to say about that can be said in forty-five minutes or so and that my audience will find both interesting and novel.

Your comment seems to take it for granted that talks are given mainly to be recorded and put on the web. If that were the case, then once I had done a good job of giving a talk once, there would be no reason to give it again.

But although distribution via the internet is much more important now than it was a decade or two back, I am still giving my talks primarily for the audience, not the video recorder. I'm not sure why recordings are not a full substitute for a live talk, but it's clear they are not. It's the same puzzle as why large lectures continued to be given after the invention of the printing press.

At 12:03 PM, October 10, 2013, Blogger Power Child said...

One of the reasons I still read this blog even though I'm no longer what I'd consider an anarchist--or even, perhaps, a libertarian--is David Friedman's level of intellectual honesty and genuine interest in the problems with his own ideas. This is exemplified in the first linked video (as well as, of course, his endless patience with my contrarian blog comments!). Kudos, David.

At 12:57 PM, October 10, 2013, Blogger Power Child said...

PS. David, the "Problems with libertarianism" video ends with you inviting the remaining audience members to come closer to continue the discussion off-mic.

It was over 30 years ago, but do you remember if any interesting arguments got made that caused you to either rethink some of the points you'd raised during your talk, or supplement them with further reasons to be less confident in your libertarianism?

At 3:00 PM, October 10, 2013, Blogger Tibor said...

David: I'd say it is like with the concerts. There are simply some parts of the performance that cannot be recorded. The atmosphere, the mistakes and changes that make the one single show different. I once saw a concert of Jaga Jazzist, which is a band I am very fond of, at a festival and it started raining and there was a storm. You could see the storm through the stage and their music, atmospheric as it is, was suddenly even on a different level. Even if someone filmed it and recorded it on audio, it could never be the same.

I guess that this is a bit weaker with speeches, although a good lecturer or speaker can make a good show (in addition to passing the information in a clear way). You can write a book in a both informative and interesting manner but again - as with the music - some is lost in the recording...that is if the author is of any good, after all some bands actually sound worse live than on a record...not the good ones though. And you get the additional element of asking the speaker questions. Same goes for public lectures...although it is less useful with mass lectures and speeches.

Personally, back in my bachelor studies when I had lectures that other 100 or so people attended, I did not come to most of them and rather studied the books at home. I did come to the more personal lectures (less than 20 people), because there was considerably more actual interaction between me and the teacher. And to one mass lecture for two reasons - the teacher was one of the best in terms of explaining things and making the lecture generally entertaining - and also, the lecture notes were webbed with theorems but without proofs :) But I have a theory that the number of actual participants of the other lectures (those that did not provide an entertainment value so that a lot of people would come despite less chance to talk directly to the teacher) simply always eventually reached the point where the lesson became personal if not on paper (with 100 or so enlisted) then de facto - with 10 people actually there.

Still I guess I would do just fine (and if motivated by different pricing I would choose that) if I simply received most of the stuff as lecture notes and only visited the teacher if I did not understand something correctly. At least with the lower level (and mass attendance) lectures.

At 3:42 PM, October 10, 2013, Blogger Power Child said...

@Tibor Mach:

This is getting into a bit of a tangent (nothing new for the two of us, it seems), but I think the main advantage of being at a speech in person, rather than watching a recording of it, isn't typically the extra atmospheric feeling like the one you got at the concert. Instead, it's the ability to participate in the Q&A at the end.

I suppose I could watch those videos from 30 years ago and ask my questions in the blog comments today (as I have done), but there is less likelihood that David will answer them, at least in a timely fashion, and without the inconvenience of having to go back and watch his own performance first if he needs to see what I'm referring to.

Along those lines, it's impressive to see the speed and articulateness with which David responded to questioners at the talk--and especially to their objections--in real-time. From watching, it becomes clear that there is almost no question or objection he hasn't already thought a lot about and then constructed and filed away the framework of a response to, ready to be pulled out and used whenever relevant.

This would not be as clear if he took a few hours, or a few days, to respond to my comment on his blog. So, that is another thing which is easier to appreciate when you're there in the room.

On the other hand, I was apparently able to appreciate this aspect just by watching the video anyway.

In sum, I think watching a recording of his talk was generally a more "user-friendly" experience for all parties involved. For instance, at one point my mind wandered off and by the time I came back I didn't know what he was talking about. So I simply rewound the timeline a few minutes and was back on track in no time. If I were there in the room there's no way I could have raised my hand and said "Excuse me, I zoned out there for a minute, can you repeat the last few paragraphs of what you were saying for me?"

At 4:06 PM, October 10, 2013, Blogger chriscal12 said...

I've watched the debate, and plan on watching the talk soon, but in the meantime, could you clarify the "morally dubios tactic" you referred to?

At 4:29 PM, October 10, 2013, Anonymous RJ Miller said...

I hardly ever log into my YouTube account anymore, but coming across your video yesterday was an awesome refresher on points you brought up in chapter 41 of TMoF.

By any chance, do you have a rough guess of when you might have the third edition complete?

At 4:31 PM, October 10, 2013, Anonymous gotlucky said...


Regarding your debate with your friend, I think the most important point to take away from the story is not whether the man was right or wrong to do what he did, but that the state itself corrupts the morality of citizens.

Consider the apathy and exploitation of the people involved. From the state bureaucrats to the new owner to the construction workers to the home owner, each of them thought they they were behaving rightly. But if it weren't for the "rules and regulations" of the state, how many of them would have thought it is right to seize a man's home because he didn't buy insurance?

The new owner would not have been able to exploit rules in order to buy the rightful owner's home. Would the construction workers have been apathetic about the situation? They think they are just doing their job, but if it weren't for the state corrupting their morality through the idea of "following the law" (which in the case of the state is just a bunch of orders from the most powerful group around), would the workers have thought their actions to be right? Would they have tried to violate a man's home if they thought he was the rightful owner?

And then there is the man who shot the construction workers. He too was corrupted. In his anger over losing his home, he shot two people and probably unreasonably. After all, never mind construction workers, how many people do you know who would intentionally antagonize a man pointing a gun at them? I don't know the details of the case, but I find it hard to believe that the home owner gave the construction workers a warning before he shot them. Were these workers so dedicated to their craft that they would work against the wishes of the man pointing a gun at them?

Like you and your friend, I do enjoy trying to figure out who acted rightfully and wrongfully in certain real life and hypothetical scenarios. But I think it's also important to not lose sight of the fact that the state corrupts the morality of people in general, and that as a result many people don't act rightfully in any given scenario. The state encourages not cooperation but conflict.

At 6:22 PM, October 10, 2013, Blogger David Friedman said...

So far as the third edition, I got an enquiry from publisher about page length, which I think means they hope to bring it out in a year or so. I've got drafts of most but not all of the new material, which I plan to web at some point for comments.

At 10:31 PM, October 10, 2013, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A couple of questions on your debate with George Smith:

1. You said that economists are overwhelmingly pro free-market. Is that as true today as it was back then? (If not, I think that has some very bad implications for libertarians.)
2. Smith made a provocative point when he said that classical liberalism died out because utilitarianism won out within it. Do you think that's true?

At 10:38 PM, October 10, 2013, Blogger David Friedman said...

1. I think economists are overwhelmingly more free-market than other academics, in particular other social scientists. Even Krugman, for instance, before he took up the profession of public intellectual for the left, said reasonable things about minimum wage laws, and he is still pro free trade as far as I know.

2. I don't know.

At 10:50 PM, October 10, 2013, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that's true, but I was asking about whether economists today are less pro free-market than they were then. It seems to me like they've been moving toward the rest of academia.

Looking at the wiki page on the minimum wage, it says that fewer and fewer economists agree on its bad consequences.

At 7:28 AM, October 11, 2013, Blogger Tibor said...

gotlucky: I agree that what started the whole thing was the state intervention. The fact that the state employees came to the man and told him he owes money to the state for not buying the insurance and not registering himself as a "social cause" (or what is the proper term they use for the people who are unable to pay for it). But two wrongs still don't make a right. I am also very skeptical about him giving a warning and I too cannot imagine them continuing work if he pointed a gun at them. But that actually adds another wrong to his actions.

I'm also not saying that I have no problem with the state essentially extorting people like this (I think taxes should not be viewed as a theft - it is done openly - or even a robbery - it is not a sudden unexpected attack - but rather as extortion - the state says pay this, we will provide "protection" or whatever and if you don't you will have to protect yourself against us). But since we live in a reality where 98% or so of people don't see it that way, you can't just start killing the tax officers since they try to extort (and then arrest) you. Pragmatically, it only leads to other people being afraid and wanting more state and morally I am also not very sure about it. The problem is that those people see it as a right thing to do. And they are not trying to kill you. There just seems to be a difference between robbers who knowingly try to rob you and two tax collectors who basically do the same thing but only because them and 98% of others see it as a proper thing to do. That said, I don't think you should not do drugs because a majority of people are against that, but only because that does not really affect them at all. Here, it is a bit more complicated than that. In a way, by acting in such manner, you simply entirely dismiss the option that they might be right in something...and still, then they just make a mistake. I don't think it is appropriate to shoot someone who robbed you by accident (his hut looks just like yours and he was really drunk). It is appropriate to prevent him from doing that to a point and to demand compensation if he does, but to put it bluntly I don't want to get shot one day for making a mistake, getting lost and trespassing on someone else's property. On the other hand, if the police storm your house with guns and start shooting, it is most appropriate to shoot back. But in the particular situation it could have been simply solved in a much more peaceful manner...with lower costs on both sides. It is complicated to judge where exactly is the line where it is appropriate to defend yourself and your property by shooting at people and it depends on a lot of things. But it just is not an absolute right in any circumstance and I think that this time it was definitely not the case. I got carried away by emotions where I heard about it. I thought "those bastards took away his home and now they send him to prison" and stopped thinking about the whole picture.

At 3:54 PM, October 13, 2013, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, David. As Tibor has raised; falling down into defining the libertarian bible, happens to a lot us, me included. And this was, despite it having some 30 years on its neck, very refreshing! Made me question a whole lot of what I've been taking for granted lately.


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