Monday, July 13, 2015

Parsing Blame, Part II

Regarding the ongoing Greek tragedy, I commented recently about the amount of blame that should be allocated to the politicians and technocrats as compared to the blame allocated to the people of Greece.  I concluded that the majority of the blame belongs to the politicians and technocrats.

Joy of joys, I find that Rothbard agrees with me (rest assured, I find more joy when he disagrees – only because this has happened so rarely, only two or three times to my recollection and knowledge).

Why do I write that Rothbard agrees with me, instead of the other way around?  This is because I choose to work out problems of economics, libertarian theory, etc., on my own before digging too deeply into the thoughts of the titans.  I feel more settled in my conclusions (but is anything ever really concluded?) if I come to them through my own reasoning.

So, this is what I found today from Rothbard:

Should it be illegal, we may next inquire, to "incite to riot"? Suppose that Green exhorts a crowd: "Go! Burn! Loot! Kill!" and the mob proceeds to do just that, with Green having nothing further to do with these criminal activities. Since every man is free to adopt or not adopt any course of action he wishes, we cannot say that in some way Green determined the members of the mob to their criminal activities; we cannot make him, because of his exhortation, at all responsible for their crimes. "Inciting to riot," therefore, is a pure exercise of a man's right to speak without being thereby implicated in crime.

On the other hand, it is obvious that if Green happened to be involved in a plan or conspiracy with others to commit various crimes, and that then Green told them to proceed, he would then be just as implicated in the crimes as are the others — more so, if he were the mastermind who headed the criminal gang. This is a seemingly subtle distinction which in practice is clearcut — there is a world of difference between the head of a criminal gang and a soap-box orator during a riot; the former is not, properly to be charged simply with "incitement."

Change the “n” in “Green” to a “k” and Rothbard has nailed it!

While not completely innocent (neither by Rothbard’s argument above nor mine in my previous post), that the Greek people are asking for more benefits is secondary.  Who is taking action?  It is the political class.

“Go steal for me” is meaningless in this regard.  Who is doing the stealing?

I will conclude as I concluded before, now with Rothbard by my side:

Whatever opinion one has of the Greek people, the truth is that the overwhelming preponderance of this mess was caused by their politicians and by the bailing-out of European banks. 


  1. I see a difference between "go steal for me" and "here is the largess from my stealing". Democracies have run from the beginning on "here is the largess...". As to those who participate in the "go steal for me" aspect, much of our race does have a pack, tribal,or whatever term you care to employ, mentality. This, I see, is the heart of the problem. We have more in common with the chimpanzee than with the bonobo, though we do exhibit traits of both. Whatever I can get for me and mine and however I can get it and the hell with the rest of them is the order of the day. Nowhere is there room for NAP. I happen to fall into the NAP camp, but the other camp has all the nukes and most of soldiers and they want whatever it is that we have.
    James Richard

  2. I think the Greeks are involved with the plan though, they are not simply saying "go steal for me", they are voting to give the power to steal to others so they can steal for them, implicating themselves through their action of voting.
    Political voting is not a victimless crime.

    1. Hence I apportion some blame to the people.

    2. Well, let's not all collectivist here. Putting the blame "on the people" is completely collectivist.
      But I'll grant you that each individual Greek voter (those who voted for the ill-gotten largess) are deserving of an apportioned share of the blame. How many Greek voters? 6.3 million or so. So, placing the blame on the "victors" of the election, say, 51%, we get 3.15 million guilty voters. So each INDIVIDUAL Greek voter (on the winning side) must shoulder 1 / 3,150,000th of the blame. For SHAME!!

    3. No snowflake ever feels responsible for an avalanche.