[Ed. note: I wrote the following little snippet a couple of years ago. Since then, there have been numerous examples—some of which I’ve documented on this site—of people being banned or dismissed from FDR simply for challenging Molyneux’s logic. Could the following question be the reason why?]
What happens when you stop pursuing the truth for its own sake and start selling it? I don’t know. I’m just asking.
To be sure, there aren’t a lot of philosophers out there who are rolling around in money. The vast majority earn their income from teaching and some subsidize their earnings by publishing works of philosophical inquiry.
But there is a vast difference between the way they earn their living and the way Stefan Molyneux earns his. You see—as he has claimed—he knows the truth, he has the truth. He’s happy to share it with you. And, of course, donations (though not required) are cheerfully accepted.
In his 2006 podcasts, Molyneux was just a guy with a job he didn’t like. He also had an interest in a wide range of areas related to governance, economics, psychology, truth, and philosophy. A lot of people connected with Molyneux at that time and, from what I gather, had their healthiest relationships with him at or before that time. In my view, his very best essays and podcasts were during that era.
Then, in 2007, he made the decision that his sole source of income would be FreeDomain Radio and all activities related to it.
So what happens when your focus changes from pursuing the truth for its own sake to packaging and selling the truth for your own livelihood? Well, for starters, the most important thing in the former is “the truth” and the most important thing in the latter is “your livelihood.”
…wouldn’t it make the forum look more attractive to new customers if everyone on the site appeared to be happy and fully on-board with Molyneux’s teaching?
In the former, it is a personal pursuit of something far greater than money—some philosophers financially suffer in that pursuit.
In the latter, it is a two-way transactional relationship. To maximize his earnings, Molyneux must pay attention to how his truth is served up—packaged, polished, made more palatable, more enticing, whatever—so his “customers” will want to pay for it. And above all, the “truth” itself must be unassailable (at least in the eyes of the customers).
So when FDR changed direction in 2007, Molyneux was no longer asking people simply to share the financial burden of operating the site. It was no longer an egalitarian community of personal quests for the truth. Now he was asking them to support him. FDR became a profit-based enterprise to provide he and his wife Christina with financial freedom.
And it made me wonder. In the “new” FDR, what does it mean if people openly challenge the “truth” as Molyneux sees it? Doesn’t that mean they might also be interfering with sales? (Imagine a crowd of people in McDonald’s shouting, “This food sucks!”) Doesn’t it necessarily mean that challengers could hurt the earning potential of his product?
Instead, wouldn’t it make the forum look more attractive and with more apparent value to new customers/members if everyone on the site appeared to be happy and fully on-board with Molyneux’s teaching?
And…so…wouldn’t it make sense for the “greater good” if those dissenting people and their comments just, kind of…went away? Even if some of the things they were saying were just a little bit true, too?
More than that, what if you’re doing something potentially risky, such as telling confused teens and 20-year-olds that they’re sad not because they’re growing up and going through something everyone goes through but because their families are corrupt and they should abandon them permanently? (Even though when they’re 30, they’ll likely to realize it really was that first thing?)
Does it make a moral difference if it’s coming from a guy on a personal journey sharing truth as he’s found it versus a guy who stands to make a profit by how he influences them?
And so there it is—does selling truth for money corrupt? Just asking questions…