The Silas Problem

Regular readers know that a certain poster often departs from what many would consider to be the conventions of civility. (I am making no judgments in this post.) Recently Gene succumbed to the pleasures of his power as Administrator and began deleting comments from the person in question. This raises the question of what the final solution should be to our Silas Problem. I offer some possibilities, with commentary, below.

(1) Ban him. The problem here is that he can come back in alternate guises. Once we "out" him, is that new persona immediately banned too? Or does the new and improved Silas have to earn a fresh banning at that point? Also, we then run into problems of consistency. We have to start banning others if they cross "the line," meaning we have to define the line. There is also the efforts of enforcement. I for one don't feel like judging whom to ban, and going to the trouble of deleting posts. If we have a "hey we never ban" policy, then we can't be held liable for the ridiculous and offensive things you may see here. But if we ban one person, then the next time Robert W. puts up anti-Islamic screeds, we are implicitly giving him a nod and wink if we don't ban him too. You see the problem.

(2) Ignore him completely. This is neat because it dovetails with pacifist ostracism strategies. But it too is subject to some of the above problems.

(3) Ignore him when he is being particularly rude and/or incomprehensible. This is my preference.

(4) Have Gene assign Silas' death and dying as a class project. This is surely illegal, an obvious strike against it.

(5) Something we are overlooking?

We invite reader feedback, inasmuch as we need to know how many lurkers are entertained by these shenanigans, versus how many decide to spend their time at other "serious" blogs.


  1. Anonymous11:52 PM

    For the record I have nothing against the Islamic people, don't really know that much about them (Other then some of their women seem to be hot).

    I don't remember the details of the post, but I seemed to recall that in general it was a tongue in cheek recommendation to you of opening remarks you should make to Congress when you were testifying. I recall that there was something about a congressman getting a bj in my recommendation etc., which should have been a clue to the tone of my comment.

    I really don't need a fatwā issued against me at the current time--maybe later, when I have a book out and I can turn the name recognition into $$$.

  2. I mentioned the example of your post because I truly got an email from some anti-Muslim defamation league person; it may have been automatically generated but I don't think so. Anyway, it quoted your post and wanted to know why I was such as a-hole.

    So I truthfully responded, "Hey I didn't write it, and we don't censor people there. And bring the troops home!"

  3. Andy Stedman12:19 AM


    Start a separate blog just to occupy him. "Setting 'Setting Things Straight' Straight."

    Oh, hey, Silas, how's it going?

  4. Anonymous12:31 AM

    Actually, as you have probably guessed, although I don't think I have ever mentioned it at this site, I am also anti-war.

    Indeed, I fear an attack on Iran could happen at anytime. The more debate and focus that can be brought on this danger the better.

    In all seriousness, given the sizeable Iranian population in Los Angeles, I have come to know both Iranian Jews and Iranian Muslims. Indeed, I consider one of my Iranian Muslim friends as my best friend. I find them all civilized, smart, shrewd businessman and enjoyable people to be with.I have learned much from them. To attack any country is beyond me, but Iranians, judging by the ones I know, are good people who add in a very postive way, to the advance of civilization .

  5. Indeed, I consider one of my Iranian Muslim friends as my best friend.

    Lines like that supposedly don't count if you are a racist, though. And Bill Kristol et al. just want to free the Iranians with US bombs; they love those people.

  6. There needs to be a simple boolean flag added to the system so that administrators can flag crap, and users can toggle whether or not crap is visible.
    You get the benefit of filtering without the ugliness of censorship.

  7. Anonymous8:24 AM

    Maybe its because I am of Polish ancestry that I don't get the problem with ethnic jokes, since, if I had to label every person a racist who has told me to my face a "Polish joke",it would be a very, very long list.

    Sometimes the Polish jokes are funny, other times I think the people telling them are idiots--but there is a great difference between being an idiot jokester and a racist.

    As a matter of fact, of all the Polish jokes I have heard, I can think of only one case where I thought the person was a racist anti-Pole. It was in Berlin and it was a German woman who told some kind of "joke" about the Polish only being good for maid work and I think she meant it.

    Real racists don't generally tell ethnic jokes in public. I think Michelle Obama is a racist, but I don't hear her telling racists jokes in public.

  8. smitty1e:

    Interesting suggestion. Still have the problems of our time enforcing it, and deciding the definition of crap, though.

  9. 1) Hey Andy, it's going great! Blood pressure lower after taking a breather from Setting Bob and Gene Straight.

    2) Yeah, you could move to blog software that has a "ignore further posts from this person" option, and since I'm principled enough to put my name on stuff I adovcate (not that neither of you aren't) it's easy to ignore me.

    3) Another option would be for Bob and Gene to simply change their priorities. Maybe if they started ranking "cheap oil" under "assignment of libertarian-based property rights in scarce resources", I wouldn't feel indignified enough to flame. Or heck, maybe even just claiming that they have that preference order, even if it's not actually true, would be a great step forward.

    4) Alternatively, Gene could make more posts where he advocates "public boycotts" as a solution to the economic calculation problem, as he did for the problem in atmospheric resources. Okay, okay, now I'm too far on a tangent.

    5) Maybe Bob and Gene could apologize for the way they have treated me and their readers? I mean, is it that hard to apologize for lying about what they believe in order to demean them? You know what I'm talking about here.

  10. I occasionally like Silas' comments.

    Usually, though, I find them so laden with snark, sarcasm, and inside references that I do not understand them.

    I think Silas presented the best option with his number 2.

  11. Dr. Murray Tyson5:19 PM

    I think Silas should not only have comment rights, but also posting rights.

    Perhaps he could ghost write Ron Paul's next book, since Bob doesn't seem to have any problem with ghost writers.

  12. I think Silas presented the best option with his number 2.

    *double meaning overload*

    Jacob: I do remember that on the geo-engineering thread, you made a point about political arrangements which was inconsitent with your beliefs, and which I felt was a result of you "not really trying". Hence the heavy sarcasm.

    So here's a few more:

    6) Have Silas's posts hidden by default, and you must reload the page for each one you want to view.

    7) Silas abandons approach of trying to make people feel bad about their mistakes.

    8) Silas becomes unpaid consultant on Bob's future publications and gets a credited as such, and also cedes the right to respond to Bob anywhere on the internet.

  13. I don't know what everyone's problem with Silas is (Stephan Kinsella also has issues with him); I it's pretty rare when Bob Murphy and Stephan Kinsella agree on something. And I really don't care enough to do the research (not even to skimsella it).

    All I know is he wrote a good paper on intellectual property and derivatives, which many would find interesting if they read it.

  14. Thanks, dh! You're right, I do need to make that more widely available. However, at this point it's more of a mental sketch than a paper. I need to add the citations for the claims from which I base the ideas, but even there I don't really start from anything controversial.

    If you ever want to get a good summary of how this dispute started, I'd recommend this.

  15. silas,

    Honestly, I don't care about how the dispute started; since I didn't see from the beginning, it'd be a headache to figure it out, and for what benefit? Likewise with Kinsella's complaints.

    In any event, I am, however, puzzled that someone who proposed a coherent alternative to IP protections, seems to have a pro-IP position? Huh?

    PS: I did click on the link you mentioned. Are you guys serious? A big personal dispute started because of a disagreement over the meaning of economic scarcity? Err, don't bother explaining it anyone, b/c I'm not even interested enough to skimsella it (sorry, inside joke among those on the Libertarian Forum, nick-named after NS Kinsella).

  16. dh: I'm sorry, but I don't have a position on IP. I think it's a complex issue with many ramifications, whatever you're position. That's why I can't stand behind one or the other at this time.

    The issue with me and Bob is about more than just scarcity. He has basically said it's no big deal if oil use causes people to get flooded out of their validly-homesteaded land, all while trying to maintain a pretense that he hates eminent domain. Sorry, but that just doesn't work.

    Libertarians should support well-defined atmospheric property rights, as it is rapidly becoming scarce, but Bob has fought this development tooth and nail; he ignores the tragedy of the commons that result, while focusing on the growth of government in -- gasp -- enforcing property rights! And of course we cover some more issues which I can't remember at the moment.

  17. Actually, dh, I think this post capture the essence of my outrage more completely. You can decide who you hate or love more accurately based on that.

  18. I can`t say I really know what this is about, but since I`m an American, I`m entitled not only to have an opinion but to tell you what it is (that`s a line I use alot over here).

    I think that every time Gene and Bob allow Silas to post, their guardian angels get to remove a small black spot from the milk bottles of their souls. And if they actually respond to him on the substance, they get an order of magnitude effect.

    And someday Bob will earn sainthood when he finally takes back the ridiculous rhetorical positions he took in the post that set Silas off.

    Meanwhile, here`s rooting for spot removal.

    (Silas, you`re not a guardian angel testing and helping Bob, are you?)

  19. Anonymous6:46 AM

    I think this entire "To delete or not to delete" debate is a girlish thing. See:
    Meegan McArdle I


    Megan McArdle II

    Just Clint Eastwood a comment when it is out of line.

    Frankly, the Harlem Globetrotters need the Washington Capitals and Crash Landing probably needs Silas.

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