Judge Napolitano on ‘The Daily Show’ Tonight

He’ll be there to discuss Abe Lincoln after The Daily Show savagely attacked Napolitano recently for this sort of thing:


    • How are my comments or Glenn’s “ad hominem”? The charge is that Andrew Napolitano (and Ron Paul, though minus charges of emotionalism) is a poor representative of libertarian philosophy to the general public and thus comments about his shallow grasp of the philosophy, his inability to argue well on his feet, and his embarrassing emotional antics are directly relevant to that accusation. If the charge was “Napolitano’s philosophy is wrong”, then calling attention to those elements of his person/presentation style would be ad hominem (at least some of them). But this is not the case here.

      Using the term “lightweight” is directly related to the metaphor of a fighting contest. Better we identify Napolitano’s diminutive intellectual “weight-class” lest our opponents take credit for downing one of “our” heavyweights and thus seem to have credible evidence for a genuine defeat of our philosophy. Of course they’ll always claim such victory, but if we embrace Napolitano as anything other than an uneducated enthusiast, we provide credence to support that claim.

      Denouncing an intentionally-public person as an unqualified ambassador for our philosophy isn’t idle muck-raking. “The Judge” provides a negative and inaccurate image of libertarianism to the public. This is detrimental to the spread of the philosophy since, as I pointed out, such misrepresentation serves to inoculate potential converts by confirming their negative prejudices about the facile nature of the philosophy, and the intellectual weakness of those advocating it. Though guilt by association is perhaps not a fair result, it is nonetheless a common result and I think it benefits those trying to spread the message of liberty to distance ourselves from incapable people like Napolitano who clearly do not have the humility to recognize their own lack of qualification for being a public advocate for a philosophy they don’t understand nor are able to adequately defend.

  1. Good to hear from a former liberal.

    With Ron Paul, Jon Stewart figured out how to diffuse him right away… (the following paraphrased).

    “Well, surely you think there’s some role for government?”

    “Sure, protecting us from bad guys. Stopping murder and fraud and other crimes.”

    Stewart (nullifying Paul’s entire philosophy as a legitimate paradigm challenge):
    “Ok, so we agree on government. We just have differences of opinion on how government should be used. I guess that’s what’s so great about democracy: we get to vote to decide whose opinion should prevail.”

    With one simple question, Stewart accurately reframes any attempt to argue principle into simply a disagreement over preference.

    And Ron Paul has no defense to this. Because by rejecting the logical conclusion of the principle of liberty (the abolishment of the state), he really is just asserting one preference (“small” government) among many that are fundamentally no different. The welfare/warfare-state isn’t immoral, it’s just a different flavor and oh well, the majority chose this flavor, better luck next election.

    Statist lapdogs (I consider Stewart the court-jester; he’s allowed to mock the powerful because he amuses them and desperately loves them back) love people like Paul/Napolitano because they’re so easy to dismiss.

    Imagine instead if someone like Stefan Molyneux (not promoting him, as he’s a fairly sloppy thinker in general, but good on the core stuff) was on TDS and just answered “it’s wrong to use violence against innocent people” to everything. “…bu..buu….but what about feeding the poor?!” “Jon, feeding the poor is great. That’s not what you’re advocating though. You’re advocating violence against innocent people and IT’S ALWAYS WRONG TO USE VIOLENCE AGAINST INNOCENT PEOPLE.” Stewart wouldn’t know what to do, being exposed as the morally repellant thug he is. So instead, he has lightweights like Napolitano and Paul on who he and his audience can feel safe with since they present no challenge to the statist worldview (since they’re promoting simply a different variant of statism).

    • Brian,
      Why do you say that Molyneux is a ‘fairly sloppy thinker?’ I’ve ‘passed through minarchism’ a while back, and I’m with you on what I’ve read from you, but this comment is curious.

      • Hi VJ,

        Most of us “passed through” minarchism, which is why I don’t condemn anyone currently at that point in their intellectual journey. It’s only those that “dig in” and stay there that need to be exposed as fundamentally no different than any other statist.

        A related point, people often say Ron Paul has done good because through him, people found Rothbard (et al) and became anarchists/libertarians. But what about Ron Paul himself? He was Rothbard’s personal friend and he’s still not become a libertarian (I don’t consider those who advocate a state as proponents of liberty). So Ron Paul is a perfect example of the result of promoting a faulty-philosophy in hopes it will lead to people finding the truth eventually. Some people just stay there and don’t move on. People like Ron Paul.

        I don’t watch Molyneux regularly anymore, so I don’t have a ton of fresh examples off the top of my head. I just became increasingly more and more dissatisfied with his logical consistency which eventually led to my dropping him from regular rotation. Again, he’s still good on the core things. He’s not a statist in disguise and would be an upstanding member of any libertarian society. But as a public proponent of libertarianism, I think he’s getting sloppier and I’ve lost confidence in referring people to his videos without disclaimer.

        I’m not alone in this assessment of Molyneux either. A very high-profile austro-libertarian has agreed with me privately but resigned himself to the conclusion Stef isn’t very open to outside correction.

        Within the past year or so, I’ve not been able to watch a Molyneux video without at least a few “cringe” moments (I stopped watching regularly about 6 months ago, but still catch the occasional “The Truth About…” just out of curiosity). To be fair to him, he’s so amazingly prolific, the frequency of his content does mean even a low error rate still produces a noteworthy number of errors. But hi-exposure also means hi-scrutiny. So I would prefer those leading the charge have the most bullet-proof presentation (since they get the most bullets). And some of his errors I think

        A few off the top of my head:

        -Because science has determined the brain processes social rejection “the same as” physical pain, libel/slander are “acts of harm” just like physical assault. (this was around Sept, 2012; I remember because I was loading my moving truck while listening and that spatial memory links to the audio for some reason).

        -Ghandi was a friend of Hitler. Proof? Ghandi’s letter to Hitler (asking him to avert war) starts with “My friend,”. A few seconds on Google to look up the letter brings the reader to a completely different conclusion than what Stef painted (and of course then calls into question his other disparaging comments about Ghandi).

        -”Libertarianism is you own yourself/your body and you own the effects of your actions.” I think this is very clearly equivocating with the term “own” within the same sentence. Disputes over the exclusive right to control property (including your body) are not the same as determining moral responsibility. The second part of this phrasing is precisely the foundation for a common pro-IP argument and though Stef is anti-IP, it’s sloppiness like this that creates an unnecessary opening for error.

        -Education is not the way to a free society, peaceful parenting is…says the man educating people about peaceful parenting.

        -Also, though I’m generally convinced that peaceful parenting is a good thing, I think the case that raising your children without personal experience with violence will lead to a stateless society is a non-sequitur. One of Stef’s main points has always been that we need to constantly point out “the gun in the room” in regards to the state. I.e., the violence of the state is intentionally hidden. So even if you had 95% population raised peacefully, and thus supposedly strangers to violence, it does not follow that would end the state since those 95% can still be fooled into thinking the state is not an agency of violence and 5% is still plenty enough to actually inflict the violence (and lie to the rest that it’s not violence). Anecdotally, I know people who were never disciplined by their parents who enthusiastically voted for Barack Obama.

        -Anytime he goes on a rant about insufficient donations, he basically throws any economic coherency out the window. Though he’ll acknowledge subjective value in other contexts, somehow he knows what his episodes are “worth” (to the viewer, not himself, since he presumably doesn’t donate to himself). He brow-beats the viewers to “do the right thing” as though customers have a moral obligation to comply with whatever business model he prefers. Rather than concluding that “the market has spoken” in rejecting his “nag-ware” model, he just continues to nag. Could he put his content behind a paywall? Of course, but he knows his viewership would drop significantly. What about ads? “He who pays the piper, selects the tune” says the manx espousing virtue and integrity. Nope, the donation-model is the only one Stef wants (which is fine), now the damn viewers (most of whom are on YouTube, a content delivery platform Stef doesn’t have to pay a single cent to access) better get with the program!

        -Just recently: If you have empathy, you can’t spank your child. And yet the numbers he trots out of those who spank their children do not match the numbers he trots out of sociopaths in society. And of course, empathizing with momentary pain can clearly be overridden when convinced of the long-term benefit to the child (not advocating that, just pointing out that you can obviously have empathy and still spank your child if you think it’s good for them in the long-run).

        This was all off the top of my head, so it’s bound to not be airtight; the result of no longer watching Stef regularly, so I can understand if it’s not convincing.



        • I was going to finish the 5th paragraph with “and some of his errors I think expose some fundamental problems with his approach to and clarity on these topics.” but hit submit too early. Oops.

        • I’d agree with you on all those counts. Molyneux isn’t a specialist, however, he tries to integrate an awful lot of information on a broad variety of topics. He is interesting to listen to, and I think he has become better over time, though I certainly agree he is inconsistent and intellectually sloppy, e.g. the whole “ostracism is equivalent to physical pain” thing. Hoppe and Kinsella and others are better on the ethics behind libertarianism. What Molyneux is is a very good communicator, and I do think he’d demoiish Stewart.

          As for Ron Paul, I think he’s possibly an anarchist who can’t say as much given his position.

          And although I am no minarchist, I don’t think Stewart would win so easily, as even the most ardent democrat, besides the real loonies, realises that it has limits, and in the US’ case that is the constitution. So he could still be cornered on this, no matter how “witty” he thinks he is.

          • Inquisitor,

            “[Molyneux] is interesting to listen to”

            No argument there. He’s witty, charming, and his accent tends to lend an air of credibility to whatever he’s saying. I just don’t have confidence he’s always reasoning clearly and thus can’t refer people to him without at least some disclaimer that they’ll get a mixed bag (and thus also causing me to personally lose interest since the regular flaws become more an more irritating). I also think there’s strong evidence of a negative effect on Stef from a growing cult of personality. In my opinion, Molyneux is actually getting worse over time in regards to his intellectual rigor, and I suspect that’s due to a growing ego.

            “e.g. the whole “ostracism is equivalent to physical pain” thing”

            Agreement there. My main criticism of this is also that even if that was actually true (and by some miracle, “science” had cracked the code to subjective human experience and thus had found a way to quantify and compare it; shifting value from a subjective phenomenon to an objective one), “causing pain” is not the standard for defining aggression. “Breaking” someone’s heart can also cause physical pain (did we really need science to tell us that?), but plenty of consensual activities can result in this outcome. The result of emotional and/or physical pain is pretty much irrelevant in determining the criminality of anything (which is the context when discussing libel/slander).

            “What Molyneux is is a very good communicator, and I do think he’d demoiish Stewart.”

            I do agree, which is why I used him as an example of an effective libertarian guest for The Daily Show (and why he’ll never be one; Stewart knows better than to set up a match where he’s outclassed). Stewart is himself a lightweight (and hides behind the “I’m just a comedian” excuse); that’s why he only has on people who are even less capable than himself (when he has on those who disagree at all). Though Molynuex is unfortunately sloppy often, when he’s focused, he’s not (a lightweight). If Molyneux could stay focused, he’s very effective at hammering in the moral case against the state. If he brought his A game, Stewart would be destroyed and I think the eyes of a lot of TDS viewers would at least show the beginning signs of opening.

            “As for Ron Paul, I think he’s possibly an anarchist who can’t say as much given his position.”

            I hear variants of this claim made all the time. What position and how does that prevent him from revealing his “true” views? He’s no longer seeking Republican votes to keep his Congressional seat; which is at least a plausible excuse for him hiding his true radicalism. His public views are still far enough outside the status quo that they’re certainly not helpful to his son’s current political prospects (Paul Sr is much more consistent a non-interventionist, which does not win support in the Tea Party where Rand has his strongest base). I also find this viewpoint rather slanderous of the good doctor. Isn’t one of Paul’s main appeals his willingness to put his principles and integrity before his political ambitions and his consistency in doing so for years and years even though it mainly lead to political obscurity? It’s not as though his publicly admitted-to views were getting him mega support and political influence either (the kind needed to pass any sort of effective rollback of the state, or impediment to its growth). There’s a reason he was a “gadfly” for all those years with absolutely no legislative accomplishments. As I see it, the guy is wrong, he’s not crafty. I admire him for commitment to his principles, even if those principles are wrong. If this has all been some sort of ruse, then I don’t admire him at all (since without his integrity, what’s left?). Besides, he recently told Tom Woods a direct “no” when asked outright if he was an anarchist.

            “And although I am no minarchist, I don’t think Stewart would win so easily”

            Well with the case of Paul and Napolitano, Stewart did win…easily. At least in the several appearances on TDS of each I’ve seen (at least 2 for each that I remember). My takeaway from those encounters was that there was no reason for any Stewart fan to even begin to question their worldview since Jon had so effectively diffused Paul/Napolitano.

            “even the most ardent democrat, besides the real loonies, realises that it has limits, and in the US’ case that is the constitution.”

            I don’t agree here. Lysander Spooner got it right a long time ago (and the anti-Federalist’s had their correct suspicious before that); the Constitution is either to blame for the state as we know it, or else has been demonstrably impotent in preventing the state as we know it. In either case, it’s not fit to exist. My cynical take is that the Constitution has been an extremely successful instrument for its true purpose (its own creation being an act of expanding central power, not limiting it).

            As an incoherent ideology, Constitutionalism is easy to demolish. Any Democrat with even passable skills can do this and also has a home court advantage, needing only point out the flaws in a competing ideology to diffuse it and thus avoiding the burden of defending the status quo. Like I said, I’ve seen someone as non-formidable as Stewart do this handily multiple times.

          • Molyneux’s latest foible is to bring up that the rich are more likely to engage in psychopathic behaviour..when in previous videos he has stated he prefers their ethic and interacting with them due to typically being “nicer” people. I agree that he is utterly lacking in consistency. He needs to slow down and begin refining his core arguments, rather than leaping on any fad science that comes out. A lot of these “psychological” experiments are nonsense upon stilts.

            The worst one is definitely the whole equivalence of pain caused by slander. No consistent social ethic could come out of conflating initiation of aggression through physical force with the ‘pain’ caused by dissociation.

          • People who would be actually effective as libertarians on The Daily Show (or any other major media outlet)?

            Off the top of my head: Stephan Kinsella, Hans Herman Hoppe, Robert Murphy, Doug Casey, Tom Woods, Lew Rockwell, Robert Higgs, Joe Salerno, Larken Rose, Adam Kokesh, Anthony Gregory, Scott Horton, Stefan Molyneux (despite my reservations), Wendy McElroy or Jacob Huemer. Take your pick (I’m sure I’m missing a few as well).

            Instead, we get people like Jon Stossel, Andrew Napolitano and Ron Paul to represent libertarianism to the public, even though they aren’t actual libertarians.

          • A few more come to mind:

            Jacob Hubert, Sheldon Richman (how could I forget Sheldon?!), Jeffrey Tucker. Maybe Gary Chartier as well (though I don’t agree with “left-”libertarianism, I do think he’s solid on the issue of liberty and his leftist sympathies might find additional resonance with Stewart’s audience).

          • Evidence of my own intellectual lapses (takes one to know one I guess; I don’t criticize Molyneux from a pretense of personal perfection): Forgetting to list THE ideal pro-liberty spokesman for a show like Stewart’s (or any show really): William Norman Grigg. That guy is a poet of rare caliber in his biting use of language to convey his contempt for those who presume the right to rule and subjugate others. His skin color would also seriously mess with the racist minds of Stewart’s audience. That would be my dream show.

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