“Against me” is for dopes.



I think that Molyneux’s insights about contemporary politics and the economy, etc., can be so clarifyingly brilliant.

But there’s a very popular one that I’m going to be contrarian about, which surprised even me.

It’s all about Molyneux’s “Against me” argument. I don’t get it.

As far as I know, this is a rough example of how “Against me” is supposed to work:

Dope: Abortion should be illegal.

Molyneuvian: OK. Am I free to disagree with you?

Dope: Sure.

Molyneuvian: Then you won’t mind if I (and any one else who feels the way I do) refuse to pay taxes to support babies that people are being forced to have?

Dope: I sure would mind! We have to support the gov’ment.

Molyneuvian: If I don’t pay taxes, are you OK if they arrest me using any means necessary?

Dope: Of course. We have to support the gov’ment.

Molyneuvian: Well, then. Doesn’t that mean you advocate violence against me if I disagree with you about abortion? And doesn’t it follow from that I am not free to disagree with you?

Dope: Your impeccable logic has caught me out, sir! I shall now vote for anarchocapitalism in all future elections!



As I understand it, the alleged beauty of the “Against me” argument is that you can stun statists into hopeless submission by taking their abstract positions on state issues and make them very personal.

In virtually every case, that means “do you support having policemen shoot me if I don’t pay taxes to support whatever it is you’re arguing for?” This argument works wonderfully well in the world inside Molyneux’s head, where all statists and religious-types are dopes.

But does this argument get people any closer to the truth? Or is it simply one more Molyneux rhetorical trick—like so many others already identified here—that simply helps him win a debate in the moment, truth be damned?

How many of those so stunned by this sudden, personalized rhetorical trick realize (on their way home, after losing the debate) that nearly any argument—statist or not—can be reduced to an “against me” argument?

Dope: I have learned that Senator Porkbottom has inserted a $1,000,000 line item into a highway bill for the study of the fuchsia-breasted titwillow. We should call our representatives at once to support the increased taxes this bill will require!

Molyneuvian: Am I free to disagree with you?

Dope: Only in principle.

Molyneuvian: So I take it you would mind if I (and any one else who feels the way I do) refuse to pay taxes to support the study of the fuchsia-breasted titwillow?

Dope: I sure would!

Molyneuvian: If I don’t pay taxes, are you OK if they arrest me using any means necessary?

Dope: Of course.

Molyneuvian: Well, then. Doesn’t that mean you advocate violence against me if I disagree with you about taxation for the fuchsia-breasted titwillow study?

Dope: Isn’t that obvious?

Molyneuvian: Then I will refuse to continue this conversation with you. You are violent and therefore beyond reason.

Dope: Really? Did you not know the fuchsia-breasted titwillow is an irreplaceable and indispensable link in the food chain in my state? That without it our state’s agriculture would collapse?

Molyneuvian: No, but that doesn’t matter. We’re talking about violence against me.

Dope: My family eats. I eat. Without agriculture, we will starve. Since you are against this legislation, you are advocating starvation, and therefore violence, against my family. Against me.

Molyneuvian: That’s the most ridiculous thing I ever hea–

Dope: Release the hounds!



Now, the fact that the dope’s argument fails from a libertarian perspective isn’t the point. The point is that even the average dopey statist can logically blow up the first silly “against me” argument with one of us his own. You see, the flaw is that the so-called abstract positions are never really abstract. You beat the “against me” argument by revealing the “against me” on the opposite side. There almost always is one.

For a serious example, there’s no way to stop US misadventures in Afghanistan by straw-manning the war’s supporters as people who love violence and killing. They support the war because they believe it will prevent future murders by terrorists. And they firmly believe that if you withhold support then you are ultimately advocating violence. Against them.

And believe me—they will release the hounds.

So, good intentions, Stefan, but not the greatest argument. Let’s move away from rhetorical tricks and back to logic, shall we?