How do you guys keep going?

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    I feel totally mentally drained. Having spent the last 3 days arguing with friends over the internet about economics and capitalism…they just don’t get it. nor do they back much up with anything apart from:

    Which comes straight from a Keynes enthusiast. Often they refuse to acknowledge points I make and choose a different tact, I always try and back up my thinking with reason and sources, but apparently they don’t have to because its the status quot, or common sense.

    I think what makes it harder is that these are my friends and also people who consider themselves quite intelligent, hell I would have considered them intelligent people until you hear some of the stuff they come out with. I guess one of the hardest things is they don’t really debate an issue as such, providing sources that you can dispute. Or when they say they disagree, they don’t say to what exactly or why? Currently I am round the other side of the world to them so a face to face discussion is not really possible, I mean what can you say when you have had a long argument and at the end Capitalism and libertarianism are called Orwellian and Tyrannical?

    Does anyone else on here get the same kind of thing? PS If anyone wants to help me refute that article, feel free to give your 2 sound money cents 😛 I feel totally drained.


    I don’t feel drained because I’m not in arguments with people, but I feel very discouraged about the cause of liberty. Just consider the mainstream conversation concerning recent events like the movie Lincoln and the gun control debate surrounding the murder/suicide of Jovan Belcher. People just won’t listen to you if you argue Lincoln was a tyrant/racist or more guns don’t lead to more crime.


    I’m very encouraged because not only am I convinced of the technical processes that make capitalism and freedom work, but I’m convinced because I believe it to be rooted in correct moral principles that don’t change. I’m also encouraged because the current system that is based on immorality is breaking down, so I’m happy that justice is consistent, even if I’m financially hurt by being so close to an immoral society that breaks down. I’m encouraged that the freedom message is growing faster than the nonfreedom message, but even if the non-freedom message gets a temporary win and then next couple decades, or even remained of my life is spent under tyrannical regimes that leave me in poverty, I’m confident that history will not cover up the efforts of those who knew what was right and successful and people sometime in the future will recognize our efforts for good.


    You’re probably wasting time debating. If you have to get involved verbally just ask questions they can’t answer. Do it like Jan Helfeld if you must:

    A thing to do if you must debate is to get people to commit themselves to some principle or some position and once you have them on paper(not literally) commiting you can to work with that. A related technique is to call them out on their lack of intellectual honesty. Daring people to a challenge can work to. “You don’t really care about debating you just want to spout partisan nonesense, If you really cared you would read this article by Peter Schiff on taxes in the 50’s and give me a valid response”. This is another way to force people to commit.

    The best thing to do when you get articles from friends or perhaps certain facts thrown at you is to write a blog refuting it. And instead of going through the verbal argument you can simply point them your blog post. This way you save time instead of individually lecturing each friend you have.

    You have put things into perspective. Consider this website. This is a website that, according to Tom Woods, is making money teaching liberty and is growing in popularity. Would this have been possible 10 years ago? Consider the entire Ron Paul movement. He has supporters everywhere(I’m Danish and every libertarian here knows him and admires him). Consider that 50 years ago the intellectual debate was exclusively a non-free market debate at the highest level. Today nobody trusts economic planning the way they did back then. Take a look at Sweden. It used to be a socialist paradise(as if) but since the 90’s they were forced to abandon the heavy socialism and now they are moving in the right direction economicallt(although culturally they are a lost cause)

    For me the promoters(or court intellectuals) are losing their outlets and quite fast. Consider the cornerstone of the American establishment, the New York Times. It is going down fast. As it goes down it loses influence. Newsweek is a symbol of this decline. Cabel tv is killing network tv. Universities are going the same way although sadly not the top class universities like Harvard but nonetheless it is important a lot is getting destroyed. And it isn’t just higher education that is losing out. As the internet will replace much of the newsmedia, as cabel tv replaces network tv, so private and internet education will replace government education. On top of that the economy in much of the West is headed for a situation where for the first time they will be forced to make big big cuts in welfare to save other welfare. You live the most exciting time for liberty. So CSA1861 has it completely right. You should be very encouraged.

    EDIT: Found this article via the


    A lot of times particular participants in a discussion, especially an internet discussion, aren’t going to be willing to change their mind, be convinced by evidence/argument, or debate. Possibly because once they get into such a discussion, it becomes a matter of not wanting to be seen as “wrong.”

    It’s often a matter of finding the right approach, to illustrate the point you’re trying to make with an example that appeals to them or that, given their own goals, they cannot refuse to accept. But I wonder if you’ve ever experienced this: sometimes in a discussion, especially a discussion with friends, you can get them to finally agree that you have a point, understand, and the discussion seems to end with them accepting that your position is correct. But then the next day, it’s as if it never happened. They’re right back to parroting the same, canned, statist arguments they picked up in a column somewhere.

    So wat you’ve got to keep in mind is some wise words from Strother Martin. Wise words indeed.

    I think a big part of it ends up being 1) even (especially!) the “brave” “dissenters” who see themselves as “speaking truth to power” really don’t want to go against fashionable opinion. And despite wanting to see themselves as, and be seen as, transgressive rebel outsiders, there’s no disguising what views are fashionable. . .
    2) a desire, however hidden, to be part of the movement with power over others. Now, what power over others does Austrian Economics or Libertarianism offer? Virtually none. Note that this #2 is usually not overtly admitted to be a quest for power over others. Because its adherents – sincerely – believe they good motives. The best of motives. They want to “change the world,” “transform society,” “make the world a better place,” “make a difference,” and the like. They see as the “optimistic view of human nature,” for example, is that it is socially determined and can be changed. Now, reframed, this “optimistic” view means “manipulated by those in power” who nudge and goad us along. This “optimistic” view they think means that “we” can, through using political institutions the right way, fix things – push the right buttons to fix the economy, say. They don’t want to believe that the best course is to let people make their own choices (and their own mistakes); they want to believe they can “help others” (which means “take some decisions from them and make them ‘democratically,’ which just means through civil service institutions managed by technical experts who know better, and thus will organize communities for the community members, because the community can’t organize itself!)

    Belief in, say, spontaneous order, means giving up on all that as an illusion; as the dog in aesop’s fable who goes after the bone in the lake. This they tend to see as “giving up.”

    Now, in the larger sense, it is true that Austrian Economics, and Libertarianism, is the real radicalism; and will really produce benevolent social transformations. Will really liberate people. All the goals they claim to have. And it will take the kind of mobilization and participation/activism they want to be a part of. But it’s very difficult to get people to see that. So they end up *wanting* to believe that, at minimum, Keynsianism is true, for example (of not Marxism or other forms of interventionism).

    People can be persuaded. But it takes not just the right approach, but it takes a willingness on their part, an openness to persuasion. Sometimes the best approach isn’t direct, but rather to ask them questions, why they believe this or that, pursuing a line of questioning. Sometimes also it means planting little seeds of doubt in their mind, or illustrating how what they advocate actually hurts real people, seeds that may take years to grow. It also may take disprooving the canards they’re often fed; – showing them that while Krugman (or whomever) claims that “libertarians only care about themselves, while good people care about others as well,” it is not true: libertarians believe in human wellbeing, but just believe a gun in the ribs is not the best way to achieve that.

    In any case, no easy task much of the time, and persuasion has to be on all levels.


    I tend to keep one thing in mind. (this is really only true in open discussions not some type of private messaging) Those you are having the discussion with are, 95% of the time, not discussing with intent to learn but discussing with intent to argue. The people you are really trying to convince is not the person to whom you are talking but other people who are reading the discussion with an honest interest and intent to learn. These type of people, however, rarely jump into the discussion because they fear they are not versed well enough in the topic.

    Treat the argumentative person as if he is honestly asking a question (unless it is fully obvious he is just leading you off on tangents etc) because it is quite likely those that actually want to learn more have similar questions. Decent respect and avoidance of such things as ad hominims, strawmen, and the like will bring your argument more credibility as opposed to the person, such as you find in progressive circles, that will consistently respond with “Youre racist” or “That’s only what ignorant people think”, or (and I actually heard this one after I said that the individual could run their life better than the state) “Youre such an elitist.”

    Secondly, on a more personal note, I tend to continue to engage in those kinds of discussions because it forces me to exercise my knowledge of a topic, to further develop debate skills and to think deeper into certain aspects of a given topic. If nothing else, those kinds of discussions prepare you for when you are actually engaged with someone who has an honest intellectual curiosity. I know this from personal experience. I was one that first was recommended Bastiat, so I read “The Law.” I realized that I wasnt the only nutjob out there that couldnt reconcile natural rights with the current state of politics in America from the “Conservative” or “Modern] Liberal” side of things. I read discussions likely like the one you are involved in without making my presence known


    I agree with much that was previously posted, and I will add what I think was not already mentioned:

    You keep going by not always arguing. This can be done 2 ways: flat out taking a break, or move the argument to something more along a conversation or discussion. No more point-counter-point dynamic, but friendlier conversation.

    With random internet people, I find that a break to “get to know them” is helpful because you both become more humanized. They might learn that you are not what they thought, and you have more of an “in” with their brain, than other random people.

    With friends, always be respectful, and always try to steer the debate away from a win-lose proposition, to more of an information or inquisitive discussion about your respective beliefs. They might be stimulated into learning more that way because they are not building a wall against what you say but trying to understand your expression of your own beliefs.


    Wow, really great responses. Thank you so much. You have helped me get a bit of perspective (pretty easy to lose it when you are in the middle of such a debate/argument). It was an open discussion with lots of friends able to silently read. So I totally agree it is better to try and lure a question out of them and get some kind of committed answer rather than bite at some of the comments they may come out with.

    I do have a blog and I (so far only written 2 entries 😛 ), but I do intend to try and answer some of the issues brought up the article I posted and other issues in it. I really appreciate the time you have given to help and give your opinions, thanks so much again.



    @Pete: “Or when they say they disagree, they don’t say to what exactly or why?”

    One of my favorite things to say when someone makes an assertion without any reasons for it is, “How did you draw that conclusion?” Or “Based on what?” If they don’t answer that after prodding, you can tell them that you don’t believe they are debating in good faith. And if they are not debating in good faith, what is their point in debating?

    If anything they say pisses you off, write out your angry response immediately. Then delete it and write out your calm and reasoned response. That helps me get any anger out of my system and continue to talk rationally.

    Realize that the victory occurs when they go from telling you things, to asking you questions. They won’t concede that you won them over outright. When they are in the mode of telling me things, so that I don’t get mad I like to reframe their argument in my mind as them saying, “I agree with everything you are saying, but I need help. What if I take what you are saying into a debate and someone says (insert their argument here). How would you respond to that argument?”

    If they ever try to pull the “well that’s your opinion” card, explain to them what the difference is between an opinion and an argument. This is from “A Rulebook for Arguments” by Anthony Weston:

    “In this book, ‘to give an argument’ means to offer a set of reasons or evidence in support of a conclusion. Here an argument is not simply a statement of certain views, and it is not simply a dispute. Arguments are efforts to support certain views WITH REASONS. Arguments in this sense are not pointless; in fact, they are essential.

    Argument is essential, in the first place, because it is a way of finding out which views are better than others. Not all views are equal. Some conclusions can be supported by good reasons. Others have much weaker support. But often we don’t know which are which. We need to give arguments for different conclusions and then assess those arguments to see how strong they really are.

    A good argument doesn’t merely repeat conclusions. Instead it offers reasons and evidence so that other people can make up their minds for themselves. If you become convinced that we should indeed change the way we raise and use animals, for example, you must use arguments to explain how you arrived at your conclusion. That is how you will convince others: by offering the reasons and evidence that convinced you. It is not a mistake to have strong views. The mistake is to have nothing else.

    Typically we learn to ‘argue’ by assertion. That is, we tend to start with our conclusions—our desires or opinions—without a whole lot to back them up. And it works, sometimes, at least when we’re very young. What could be better?

    Real argument, by contrast, takes time and practice. Marshaling our reasons, proportioning our conclusions to the actual evidence, considering objections, and all the rest—these are acquired skills. We have to grow up a little. We have to put aside our desires and our opinions for a while and actually THINK.”


    I just posted about this thread over at I love the idea of blogging your responses to your friends. Let others benefit, even if your friends don’t seem to.


    This is from “A Rulebook for Arguments” by Anthony Weston

    Oh ho ho! I’m reminded of this great bit. :p


    Following Woods’ line of using blogs which I supported as well in my earlier post, you could actively enlist your friends for your blog posts if you really want them to get involved. For example you could ask questions on facebook “what don’t liberals support gun rights” and let them rip. Then you use their arguments for your blog and post a link to your article debunking them.


    Some good responses in this thread. Avoiding a win/lose proposition when arguing is certainly sound advice.


    You’ve got to love a bit of Python. Thanks everyone, and Tom for making me feel a little special 😛

    I got the last say on our FB discussion, maybe he got tired and gave up ha! I think I would have come across to other readers with the winning argument, if for no other reason, I actually gave links to back up my thinking and he supplied non. I called him out on that 2-3 times. I never did debate at school or anything and was usually pretty passive. If someone had a strong opinion about something I would normally jut let it slide (especially if I had no real knowledge about the subject). So this is my trial by fire! 😀


    The progress you make isn’t always obvious. Few of us came to the cause of liberty on first hearing it. Some plant, some water, but God gives the increase.

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