Sunday, December 09, 2012

Coward? Liar? A Challenge to Post-Libertarian

“What’s this guy’s deal?”  A little while back a friend of mine who works for FEE, Chuck Grimmett, asked me this question about PL of the Post-Libertarian blog. “I don't believe in 1-5, and 6 doesn't apply in the way it is worded. I share many libertarian and Austrian ideas, but by no means all. How could I? I haven't evaluated them all, and I disagree with some I have evaluated.”  I didn't know what Chuck was talking about, but he pointed me to one of PL’s blog posts.  It seems that in the midst of a strange rant against all libertarian think tanks (they are “enemies of free thought, you see) PL had publicly denounced every single person on the staff at FEE (Foundation for Economic Education) as subscribing to a list of six beliefs.  I've known Chuck for five or so years and personally know that PL’s characterization is ridiculous on all six points.  And so far as anyone can tell, the anonymous PL actually knows exactly none of these people (at least, that’s what he claims, but as we’ll see, he’s fond of making unverifiable claims).  In his frenzy he seems to have made up some wild claims.  (If you read the list, you’ll see it’s idiotic.  I know many libertarians, his list describes none of them.  This is his “sane and scholarly approach to libertarianism?”)

Well, in his rant PL boasted he was willing to bet “good money” that his claims were true.  He even asked to be corrected, if wrong.  I took him up on his bet, and he agreed.  So, for each FEE staffer he’d made six claims.  I need to refute just one claim to win (as he later agreed).  But how might one adequately falsify PL’s claims?  Made the following suggestion (see the comments on his post): “One obvious problem is that the people in question know about the bet they can rig the results. Would you then accept answers that were written prior to our bet? Or what if there were a way to query them interactively, or maybe to find earlier things they’d stated that confirm or refute the assertions on your list?”  He responded: “Sure, I’d go along with that, if you can arrange it.”

So I did.  I wouldn't expect PL to take my word for anything, so I arranged with Chuck that PL could telephone each person at FEE he’d slandered, so he could ask them himself on each point and ask followup questions if he wished, just to make sure he understood their positions.  Had he done so he would have been received politely and given serious responses to his questions.  Uh-oh – all of a sudden his standards changed, interactive querying is definitely not OK.  Only things they've written previously to the bet are acceptable.  OK, I suppose I don’t blame him for being scared to actually meet, even by phone, people he’d been anonymously slandering.

But I wanted to win my bet.  So next I emailed him seven clear instances of things the people in question had written prior to our bet, all of which falsified his points.  Our ensuing email exchange was instructive.  I repeatedly sent him patient, to-the-point examples that refute his claims and asked for a response.  In the course of seven email responses PL managed to use at least 12 different insults to describe the people at FEE, called me lazy, offered to make an entirely different bet, ranted several times against the paleo diet (?) made reference to a Cato-FEE-FFF-Hillsdale cabal (??), and finally said he was only willing to discuss snooker and Emerson(???).  He never responded to a single one of my refutations, carefully dodging them.

So what are we to conclude from this odd episode?

First, I won the bet.  I have a pre-bet statement from Grimmett confirming he doesn't believe points 1-5 to be true, and making clear that 6 is false as well.  That’s six falsifications, and I have more.

Second, PL is a coward.  He certainly didn't have the guts to face the people he slandered to find out how wrong he was.  And he doesn't have the courage to admit he was wrong, now that I've given him evidence.

Third, he’s a liar.  I made a bet with him in good faith, he lost and now refuses to pay.

Fourth, he’s extremely nasty.  If he disagrees with someone over ideas, he’s quick to demonize them and then to personalize it.  Put this all together, and we're left wondering if the madness and barbarism he's trying to transcend isn't simply his own.  

But wait, let’s not go too far.  “Coward, liar, nasty,” I’m making some pretty strong statements here.  And we here at Unforeseen Contingencies are always willing to consider that we might be wrong and to retract our statements when we are.  So here’s my offer to PL:

I will publicly retract my statement that you are a coward and liar.  All you have to do is:

1. Publicly admit, on my blog and yours, that you lost the bet. 

2. Pay off the bet as you agreed. 

3. Send an apology to each of the members of FEE you slandered.

Do this, and I'll retract my statement that you're a coward and a liar.

You should try this, PL.  It would do you good, and you’d be better for having done it.  The 2.0 version of your blog is about transcending barbarism.  Yet there’s no civility at all in the way you treat people.  You’re more likely to go berserk than to politely, rationally address those with whom you disagree.  You make claims that are simply crazy (what the heck is this Cato-FEE-FFL-Hillsdale cabal again?)  But you probably have it in you to transcend the madness and barbarism,  and be civilized… at least, it would be nice if you did.

Well, Hoji, I am honored to have a full post dedicated to me. I'll answer that piecemeal, starting with the most outrageous and groundless accusations.

"In the course of seven email responses PL managed to use at least 12 different insults to describe the people at FEE [...],"

I used about 600 to describe Szasz and Richman. Where was your righteous indignation then? But more of that anon.

"[...] called me lazy, offered to make an entirely different bet, [...]"

You mean, about Borders? That was in addition, not in lieu, of the previous bet. My words, verbatim: "Want another bet? Within three months Borders writes a piece saying we need a 'rational' immigration system". It seems clear that it was not meant to replace our previous bet.

You continue:
"[...]ranted several times against the paleo diet (?)[...]"

Context, please? My words, verbatim: "And isn't the man [Grimmett] a 'paleo-dieter'? That's a sister cult of the 'organic' food cult, only crazier. I submit that as Exhibit A that the man has no basic knowledge of science, or he wouldn't be chewing on broiled grasshoppers or whatever it is these people are eating and thinking it's good for them."

That statement was meant as evidence for Grimmett's ignorance of science, and is thus pertinent to the discussion. You may disagree as to whether this constitutes good evidence, but to omit the context altogether is just nefarious.

You continue:
"[...] made reference to a Cato-FEE-FFF-Hillsdale cabal (??),[...]"

Is that what I said? My words, verbatim: "It's that Cato-FEE-FFF-GMU-HIllsdale web, where we're all buddies and we have to stick together." Web, not cabal. Now, either as a result of dishonesty or sloppiness, you are putting words in my mouth and changing what I said. A web is not a cabal, although it's along the same line of progression.

"[...] and finally said he was only willing to discuss snooker and Emerson(???)."

The snooker remark was humorous and you know it, for the simple reason that you know nothing about snooker and I know it, but Emerson? If you haven't noticed, Emerson plays an important role in PL 2.0. My words, verbatim: "I'm intentioanlly ignoring what you write becasue I am tired of discussing Grimmeetts and Borders and paleocreeps and other forms of trash. If you wish to discuss Emerson or snooker, let me know." [typos in the original].

Exactly. I am tired of discussing morons, and I'd much rather be discussing Emerson (or snooker, if you insist). Put all the questions marks you want, but it makes sense when you provide context.

"[…] He never responded to a single one of my refutations, carefully dodging them."

I have responded to your nonsense "evidence" repeatedly until I got tired of it. Your proposed research methods are almost too idiotic to merit consideration, and they are certainly not worth the dignified responses I gave them.

Considering the gross misrepresentation of our communication, I see no recourse but to insist that you publish these emails, verbatim, for otherwise there is no use continuing this discussion. The facts must be on the table or you'd continue this disinformation-based slanderous attack. Whether or not you agree to publish these communications is of no importance, as I will do so on my blog within a day or two, anyway. By misrepresenting my statements, you have left me no choice and so I see no reason to ask for your permission.

Apparently, comments are limited to 4,096 characters, so here is the rest of that comment:

Let me sign off for today by noting your disingenuousness and hypocrisy. You've been reading my blog almost from the very start and you've seen me make far more brutal and personal attacks, starting with Walter Block and continuing with Richman, Szasz, and others. My style never seemed to bother you until now when your friend is being attacked. In fact, you use a quote from an email Walter Block sent me in your byline, knowing full well that I did not have Block's permission to publish that communication. But now, all of a sudden, my style of personal attacks bothers you. That's the web to which I was referring, and thank you for exposing it so well.

PL, you may comment on this blog, but you may not use insults or invective, and you will be civil. If you do, your comments will be deleted. If you are unable to express yourself in a civil fashion, why not just go away?

I will publish the full set of emails when I have a chance, if you wish.

Now to business. Pay up on the bet you lost.
The entire correspondence is now on my blog at

This should expose your misrepresentations, lies, and hysteria without much effort on my part.

Further comments on your miserable attempt to shill for your buddy will be on my blog. By the exiguous number of hits my blog received as a result of that post, I can only assume that I have more readers than you do, anyway.

Now pay off your bet.
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