One would think that a bullshitter is one who throws out bullshit.  Well, this may be true of a crude or unsophisticated bullshitter, but it is not true of a master bullshitter.

Before we get to that, let us think of what kinds of people we tend to classify as bullshitters.  A few types immediately come to mind: salesmen, politicians, and lawyers.   What do they have in common?  Well, they are all trying to sell or convince us of something.  This is obvious with the salesperson.  His goal is to have us buy whatever he is selling.  The politician wants us to give him our vote, and the lawyer wants us to bring in the verdict he is fighting for. Harry Frankfurt says that the bullshitter is slovenly with truth.  Yes and no.   Personally, he may have a high regard for truth; but in the context of his sales pitch, he may think it irrelevant what the truth is as long as he can persuade us.

The case which fits Frankfurt’s idea of a bullshitter as slovenly and careless with the truth is a student who has been assigned to write a 10 page paper, and has exhausted his idea at the end of the second page.  His goal is not to write about the truth; his goal is to get a good grade, at least a passing grade; not to fail.  So, he uses whatever filler material seems appropriate, including plagarism.  This, to me, is a paradigm of Frankfurt’s bullshitter as indifferent to truth.  There are also the cases where an ignorant person is asked for his opinion, and he offers it as if it were based of some source of information or some critical reflection, but, in reality, is just something that popped into his head.  Such a person is acting for the sake of making an impression, without really a concern for the truth.  And such a person too fits Frankfurt’s definition of a bullshitter as someone who is indifferent to the truth.

However, a person who really does not care about truth (or the making of appraisals) is not a bullshitter, but a fool.   Frankfurt’s description of a bullshitter as indifferent to truth is better labeled as a description of a fool. A fool is someone who is indifferent to appraisals (including the truth) or as someone who is incapable of making good appraisals.

The sophisticated bullshitter, in contradistinction to Frankfurter’s indifferent bullshitter, is very much interested in the truth.  He knows that truth is power.  The sophisticated bullshitter — qua salesman, politician, and lawyer — convinces us not by resorting to bullshit, but by selective omissions.  The car salesman points out all the good features of the car, but fails to mention the bad features.

The best bullshitters are newspeople and journalists who select the news and slant it as they wish.  They convince us by omission. Parodying the law, they tell us the truth and nothing but the truth, but they omit to tell us the whole truth.  And it is in this ability to omit and slant that we have the makings of a sophisticated bullshitter.

Let me illustrate. I have said that a sophisticated bullshitter will manipulate his rhetoric through omissions of relevant information, which is, in fact, how much of the news media manipulate information. For example, in the present presidential campaign, Bernie Sanders was hardly mentioned, until in the later stages of campaigning when it became awkward not to mention him. Now that the Republican and Democratic Parties have picked their nominees for president, note that Jill Stein, the Green Party nominee, is hardly ever mentioned. Talking about Stein would be a form of advertisement for her, and since the corporate world does not want Stein to be president, the strategy is to act as if she did not exist. By not mentioning Stein, the media is making it appear that the only (viable candidates are Clinton and Trump. [As it turned out, Trump won despite the media’s attempt to ridicule him. Why?  Because instead of ignoring him as they did with Sanders and Stein, they gave him an enormous amount of free publicity.  But it doesn’t really matter who won for those in power or for us, both Trump and Clinton are agents of the oligarchs.]

Bullshitter as a deceiver

I was searching for a word for broadcasting information, and  I thought that perhaps the word “propaganda” was used in this neutral way.  But if it did have that meaning, it no longer has it.  It now means broadcasting deceptive and slanted information.  I then looked up the wikipedia entry for  “deception.”  It listed the following forms of deception:

  1. Lies: making up information or giving information that is the opposite or very different from the truth.[2]
  2. Equivocations: making an indirect, ambiguous, or contradictory statement.
  3. Concealments: omitting information that is important or relevant to the given context, or engaging in behavior that helps hide relevant information.
  4. Exaggerations: overstatement or stretching the truth to a degree.
  5. Understatements: minimization or downplaying aspects of the truth.[1]

Yes, a sophisticated bullshitter would use all these except for lies.  Lies are for unsophisticated bullshitters — unless you are a leader of a country and keep repeating big lies.

Another technique for manipulation is to distract attention from the importan and relevant material to the unimportant and irrelevant.  See: Distraction principle.


See Vance Packard, The Hidden Persuaders, 1957.

Economic Bullshit

Government and Land Rights

Centralized Government

Decentralized Government

Free Land



No Free Land





In the past, the subject of economics was called “political economy”; nowadays it is called simply “economics.”  Why the change?  Let me explain.  There are alternative economic arrangements possible as to who owns what. Specifically, we can have alternative laws about land rights.  Compare, for example, how indigenous native Americans dealt with land with the British colonial policy in America.  American natives did not have a concept of land ownership; whereas the British did.  Which system prevails is a political matter; hence “political economy.”

Since the 19th century,  the economic system which has predominated is that of capitalism.  And books with the title “Economics” are really about the workings of capitalism.  Now, what is capitalism?

Max Weber, in the 22nd chapter: “The Meaning and Presuppositions of Modern Capitalism” of General Economic History (Wirtschaftsgeschichte, 1923), translated by Frank H. Knight, 1927, lists six necessary conditions for modern or “rational” capitalism. What interests me, and on which I want to focus attention, is the 5th necessary condition, which is:

“The fifth feature is free labor. Persons must be present who are not only legally in the position, but are also economically compelled, to sell their labor on the market without restriction. It is in contradiction to the essence of capitalism, and the development of capitalism is impossible, if such a propertyless stratum is absent, a class compelled to sell its labor services to live; and it is likewise impossible if only unfree labor is at hand. Rational capitalistic calculation is possible only on the basis of free labor; only where in consequence of the existence of workers who in the formal sense voluntarily, but actually under the compulsion of the whip of hunger, offer themselves, the costs of products may be unambiguously determined by agreement in advance.”

What people is he talking about? He is talking about people who do not possess property, which really means the people who have no free access to land on which they can have a home, have a garden, have some animals: in short, on which they can subsist. They are people who have no access to free subsistence land. Since such people tend to aggregate in cities, they are called proletarians; George Orwell in 1984 calls them “proles.”

It is ironic or euphemistic to call them “free laborers.” They are free relative to the law in not being slaves or serfs. But, as Weber notes, they are compelled to work to avoid starvation. Marx, I think, is more accurate in calling them “wage-slaves.”

See my articles: “Land and Liberty”

Milton Friedman’s Hidden Anarchism in Capitalism and Freedom

Greatest Problem in the World

David Pimentel, “FOOD, LAND, POPULATION and the U.S. ECONOMY,” 1994.

Andrew Chrucky, The Greatest Problem in the World, 1985.

Paul R. Ehrlich & Anne H. Ehrlich, The Population Explosion, 1990.

Thomas Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population, 1798.

Antony Flew, Introduction to Thomas Malthus’ An Essay on the Principle of Population (1970)