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Libertarian Rhetoricians

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Fephisto Posted: Sat, May 21 2011 3:28 AM

Hey all, I was wondering who you think are the best libertarian rhetoricians?  I don't mean the libertarians with necessarily the best content or speeches.  In other words, not the ones who are the best at saying what they're selling, but rather the ones who are in essence the best at selling what they're saying.

Who do you think are the worst?

What do you think libertarians can do in speaking to better sell their message?


Personally, I got to give credit to Mr.Molyneaux and Mr.Tucker for being incredible salesmen.  They're probably really good because of just this incredible amount of passion in their speeches.

I also really like Robert Murphy, if only because he always warms up the audience with a small comedy skit.

On the other hand of the spectrum, I would unfortunately place Mr. Riggenbach, Hoppe, and actually Tom Woods.  I can see how Riggenbach tries to make what he reads sound exciting (and I love his "Libertarian Tradition" columns), and I appreciate the work he's done to provide audio to so much of the literature, but honestly he sounds like the voice of the guy reading the encyclopedia.  Don't get me wrong on Hoppe, he is fantastic in terms of content, but holy cow his speeches are so dry it's no wonder he teaches in Nevada (yes, there are good jokes he drops from time to time, but 90% of the time he doesn't mean them as jokes.  And when he does, the delivery is just as dry)!  And Tom is good initially, and I think I understand his approach is to appeal to the rebellious instincts of youth; but I feel like I could start a drinking game predicated on whenever he says the word "overlords".

As for Dr. Block, I'm not sure exactly where to place him.  I was initially going to characterize him as a bad rhetorician to be honest, but there are two things that make me cut him some slack:

-He does have a lot of quantity, willingess to do debates, and compared to his earlier debates I think he's starting to get the hang of it.

-I was going to criticize his repeated use of 'shock value' (in line with "Defending the Undefendable"), but I am o.k. with characterizing this as Dr. Block trying to fill a niche in terms of rhetoric style.

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This is an interesting topic.  I wouldn't have really thought to talk about it, but since you bring it up...I actually more or less agree with your assessments.  I'm not familiar with Molyneaux, but Tucker I could somewhat agree.  I definitely concede he has a true passion for what he preaches, but I'm not so sure that makes him a good salesman.  There have been many times where I found the way he presents things to be kind of off-putting.

I also don't care for the way his positions sometimes seem to be so biased to a point of being contrived...Like I think he has such a predisposition to anti-statism that it seems like he just jumps to conclusions that aren't very well thought out.  Like his "Friday" allegory.  It was so corny and seemed to be reaching so hard to get to the conclusions Tucker preferred, a number of us readers originally thought the whole thing to be satire.  Or his assessment of the iPhone storage of GPS data.  He very unapologetically seems to attack users as holding a double standard of wanting their phones to track their whereabouts, while at the same time not wanting to be tracked.  (He also of course throws in a few comments implying how idiotic or childish and paranoid it is to be a even a little wary of a company collecting such info.)  He makes no concession for the possibiltiy of the information being used inappropriately, and to be perfectly honest, he skips over the actual issue and spends the whole post beating a strawman.  Of course everyone wants a GPS locator on their phone to help them navigate.  But that information is ad is not necessary nor is it expected that it is recorded and stored.  There is certainly no purpose for that as far as the user is concerned.  Tucker claims he doesn't get it, but it's what the people want so that they can update their facebook statuses with a "check in".  (Idiots and their it's-all-about-me fads, right?  Of course Tucker is so much more mature than that.)

His conclusion is that it's "not a flaw but a feature, and generally a response to customer demand".  I find it a quite interesting that a "feature" born out of "customer demand" would be completely unknown to virtually all customers.  Then of course he quickly switches gears and completely changes the subject to attack people for basically being ungrateful selfish babies who apparently have no appreciation for the fact that they are able to be constantly tracked 24 hours a day.  Yes, instead of voicing their disapproval for the actions of the company they purchased a product from, they should actually be showing complete gratitude that they had a product to buy at all.

For me, it just hurts overall salesmanship if the seller seems not to be arriving at the conclusions he's peddling from serious thought and consideration, but rather from simple dogmatic ideology.

I agree Murphy is quite effective.  You're right about his warming ability.  I don't think I've ever seen or even heard of anyone put off by him, whereas Tucker seems to piss off a number of folks.  And of course Murphy himself would be the first guy to tell you he's a nerd, but nonetheless he is able to create a connection with an audience (even over the technological airwaves), and he has a way of breaking things down and explaining them in a very understandable way that the vast majority of people can comprehend.  I think he's a good salesman because he understands how people think and knows how to speak the layman's language and can put concepts in those terms.  He's very much a regular guy, but at the same time possesses a lot of expertise that he is able to a regular guy.  You don't find that very often.

I'm not sure I would put Woods "on the other hand of the spectrum", as I think him and Murphy have very similar styles and attributes.  Much of what I described for Murphy goes for Woods, although he does seem to take himself a little more seriously at times than Murphy does, and I think he might have a slightly easier time putting people off.  But aside from that he also has a very down-to-Earth presentation style and is probably one of the best I've ever seen at putting concepts in real-world terms and offering a framing that not only people can understand right away, but that is extremely effective in getting his point across.  Yes he does get somewhat of a belligerent tone sometimes, but I think that's more useful than not, and on net does more good than harm.  Of course Murphy virtually never comes off that way and I think it's good to have variety like that.  And I did laugh out loud at the "overlords" comment.  However, I don't find it to be a problem.  It's makes his point effectively.

Of course Riggenbach can be considered to have an "encyclopedic voice", but whattdya want from the guy?  It's his voice.  I think it works well as a reader of the content that he narrates.  Given, I'm not overly familiar with the audiobook narration community, but he does strike me as one of the more enjoyable voices I've heard.  (Although I think Lloyd James (aka Sean Pratt) may be my favorite).

Of course, what can you say about Hoppe.  That's just how he is.  Everyone has their strong suits.  He's just not a salesman.

I actually haven't heard Block speak much, but I tend to like his written tone and he comes across as a good guy.  (I really enjoy reading his letters).  I'm sure he's just as staunch and uncompromising as Tucker, but he comes off much less dogmatic and much more reasoned.  And his spoken tone is certainly kind and friendly sounding.  He strikes me as one of the more effective spokesmen for anarchist ideas.

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aervew replied on Sat, May 21 2011 9:10 AM
Reagan was the best. Of course, the better the rhetoricism, the more there is incentive to sell it out in exchange of political or economic power, hence why actions the acrtions of the best rhetoricians cannot match the words of them.
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