This libertarian movement of ours has its fair share of drama, crazy stories, eccentric personalities, losers, weirdos, and so on. I’ve been involved since the late 80s,1 so have seen my fair share of this bullshit.
I just heard Murray Sabrin, on a fairly recent episode of the Tom Woods podcast (ep. 1988), speak positively about the late Bob Wenzel of “Economic Policy Journal” (sic, as it wasn’t a “journal”; it was just a clickbaity blog) as being the rare person who could give financial and investment advice from an Austrian perspective.
(You’ll note I said “late.” Bob, or whatever his real name was, allegedly died last year. See David Gordon, “Robert Wenzel, RIP” (May 27, 2021); Robert Wenzel – 1957 to 2021; Taylor Lewis, “Rest in Peace, Robert Wenzel” (June 12, 2021); Walter Block, “Bob Wenzel, RIP” (June 1, 2021); Daniel McAdams, “Robert Wenzel, RIP” (May 26, 2021). I say “allegedly” and express skepticism that Bob Wenzel was his real name for reasons that will become apparent below.)
This reminded me a bizarre encounter I had with Bob, something I’ve mentioned privately a few times to some friends over the years but never very publicly. The story is kind of crazy but part of it arose from a conversation with Bob and since it makes him look like a lunatic, I figured I would not broadcast it while he was alive, even though he maligned and shit on me in the years since this event happened. But since he’s allegedly died now, I see no reason not to mention this incident and experience here. Some libertarians may find it of interest or amusing.
It’s about Bob being a werewolf.
Bear with me.
Every now and then, some newcomer appears out of the blue on the scene in the libertarian or Austrian world, some older, more established academic or professional that no one in our circles had really heard of before. Jordan Peterson is an example of this, sort of, though he’s not exactly a libertarian. A better example would be the excellent anarcho-libertarian philosopher Gerard Casey, author of the superb Libertarian Anarchy. Another might be Michael Huemer, who has gained a following in some circles. All these are older gentlemen already established in their careers who find their way to our circles later in life, as opposed to those of us who started young and grew into the movement and established our names gradually.
And now we come to Wenzel. In July 2008 someone calling himself “Bob Wenzel” started a gossipy/investment commentary blog, the deceptively titled “Economic Policy Journal,” and he started cozying up to our circles—Mises.org, LewRockwell.com, etc.
Bob was not really that deep of an intellectual or scholar but his libertarian and Austrian instincts and knowledge seemed pretty good. He probably had some influence from various pro-intellectual property (IP) libertarians, like Ayn Rand. Who knows. But he was pro-IP. He pretended to have a sure-fire formula or method for posting something in a way to get the Drudge Report to carry it, and make him tons of money from the hits or traffic. I’ve never believed this bullshit, as he seemed like a typical con-man and scam artist. The signs were all there. For instance, he claimed to charge $750 per 10 minutes for a phone consultation (that amounts to $4500 per hour. yeahhhh…. right); later he changed that page to display a bunch of endorsements from prominent Austrians, like Lew Rockwell, Bob Murphy, Ralph Raico, Richard Ebeling, and so on.2
And he also claimed to have delivered “a speech at the Federal Reserve”—see “The 30 Day Reading List that will Lead You to Becoming a Knowledgeable Libertarian” (June 11, 2012), which, as I heard it, was basically him simply sitting in the Fed’s lunchroom with a friend while Bob read him his scribblings, so that he could later say he had given “a speech at the New York Federal Reserve.” (He fooled “Tyler Durden” at Zero Hedge: see “Robert Wenzel’s ‘David’ Speech Crushes Federal Reserve’s ‘Goliath’ Dream” (April 27, 2012) (archived, non-paywalled copy).)
In any event, he claimed to have “The Drudge Formula” which was some proprietary knowledge or information that allowed him to make money, so… this somehow proved IP law is justified. This is why in our debates on IP he would bark at me WHAT’S THE DRUDGE FORMULA, STEFAWN?? — implying that if I don’t know it, that proves it’s confidential information he has that he can use to make money, proving that information is “property” or something. Who knows. These people are never coherent.
I half-suspect he did a lot of this as a ruse to “sell” his “Drudge Formula,” which is odd in itself that he would want to hawk $100 or $500 sales of a formula that he can only sell a small amount of, all the while claiming to be rich (offering to pay $500k if people can prove he is a LaRouchie).3
But I’m jumping ahead.
So right around the time Wenzel appeared on the scene, Jeff Tucker and I were writing a lot of anti-IP stuff on the Mises blog and elsewhere. My Against Intellectual Property had come out years before but by the mid 2000s Jeff was on board with my criticisms and we were both doing a lot of articles, programs, talks, blog posts criticizing IP. This lasted from about 2006 to about 2011, when Tucker left the Institute. So Wenzel, in 2008, cozying up to the Austro-libertarians, likes most of our stuff but sees a fly in the ointment: Jeff’s and my outspoken opposition to IP law and IP rights (patent and copyright, etc.).
So he started sniping at us, maybe to “make his bones” to attract attention or web traffic. Or maybe he was sincere. Who knows. At first he was cautious, probably because he was an outsider trying to “break in” and didn’t want to piss off the wrong people. Who knows. But he started sniping at us, and it escalated. It ended up with me debating him in one of my classic trainwreck debates.4 These initial attacks included:
- “Wenzel” [sic], “Stephan Kinsella versus Barack Obama On Copyright Protection” (Dec. 2, 2008), where he tried to accuse me of hypocrisy for having copyright in my published work even though I oppose copyright;
- Wenzel [sic], “Mises Institute: Do As They Say, Not As They Do?” (Jan. 22, 2009), where he tries to say Tucker is hypocritical for publishing books even though he opposes copyright;
- “Wenzel” [sic], “A ‘Bullshit’ Response from Jeffrey Tucker” (Jan. 24, 2009)
- “Wenzel” [sic], “Paul Allen: I Patented Silicon Valley Years Ago” (Aug. 28, 2010), where we had a vigorous interchange in the comments;
- See also my post Wenzel on Copyright and Patent (Aug. 30, 2010);
- Also see additional links in Kinsella, “Kinsella vs. Wenzel on IP” (Jan. 31, 2013)
And there were many others not linked here.
The “Bullshit” post by Wenzel concerns him trying to do a smartass “gotcha” with Tucker, something like “well Jeff if you don’t believe in copyright I guess you don’t mind if I publish my own version of Hülsmann’s Last Knight of Liberalism, right?” Which was not serious; it was just an inane gotcha attempt (I’ve responded to similar bullshit myself, e.g. “Oh yeah? How would like it if I copy and publish your book under my name?!”: On IP Hypocrisy and Calling the Smartasses’ Bluffs”). So Jeff says “you want to publish Last Knight? Seriously?” And Wenzel says “Yes.” Tucker says “bullshit.” Because it was bullshit. And Wenzel then crows:
Ah, so much for free use of intellectual property by everyone.
I hereby publicly request Jeffrey Tucker apologize for his rude, crude response to my attempt to further intellectual debate.
And, I further request that Tucker and the Mises Institute immediately either:
A. grant me publishing rights to Mises: The Last Knight of Liberalism or
B. stop promoting the idiotic nonsense that there is no such thing as intellectual property rights.
Such an anti-intellectual moron. A clown, one might say.
In any case then it escalated and we ended up doing the aforementioned debate. He was so upset that in an interview before the debate I had called him a “clown” and this incensed him—WHY ARE YOU CALLING ME A CLOWN STEFAWN???!!5
But before all this happened, I had an encounter with our werewolf, which is the primary topic of this post.
Shortly after all his sniping against me and Tucker started, I was at the Mises Institute for a conference. This was perhaps 2009 or 2010. I was alone in the lounge downstairs checking the email on my iPad. Wenzel, whom I had never met, sauntered into the lounge, espied me, and approached, trying to provoke me with some sarcastic line about how interesting it was that I was against IP “yet” I was using an Apple product (I think the implication was that Apple protects their IP, “yet” here I was, Mr. Anti-IP, using an Apple product). I smiled, refused to take the bait, tried to be polite, shook his hand, and offered to buy him a drink. So we sat down and talked, over drinks, for over an hour. Like humans. Sort of. Or lycanthropes. I dunno.
I didn’t know at the time that he was such a charlatan and huxter, only that he was a newcomer and full of bluster and bullshit and confused or dishonest about IP and that he was always trying to pick a fight, for no apparent reason other than perhaps his pride, or to get attention, or to “make his bones” by taking down two people prominent in the group he was trying to ingratiate himself into.
I was bemused by him. I didn’t take him seriously, really. As the conversation progressed, he started talking about more personal things. For example there were a couple women across the room and he boasted that he could easily seduce any of them in 15 minutes and get them into bed. He claimed he had an uncanny, almost supernatural, ability, to “read” people and to empathize with women … it was obviously some silly pick-up artist bullshit.
He then claimed that the reason he had this ability was because of a weird thing that happened between him and his mother when he was a child. He claimed that when he was very young, maybe 3 or 4, he developed an odd condition where his entire body came to be covered by hair. Like, head to toe. Like a werewolf (my words, not his). And because of this, it freaked his mom out and she was afraid of him or didn’t love him anymore, and kept him at a distance, for years—causing him to work hard to figure out the female psyche to win his mom’s love back, or some bullshit like this, which also gave him insights into how women in general think so he could seduce any of them instantly and with ease.
I sat there sipping a wine and listening to this insane crap, wondering if he was pulling my leg and trying to set me up, or whether he was delusional and really believed it. Or, hell, maybe it was true—the hair part, anyway, not the seducing women part. (Update: Jacob Huebert tells me it may have been real—prepubertal hypertrichosis.)
Anyway I finally interrupted and said “Hey, Bob, you don’t seem to be covered in hair now. Where the fuck is it?” He just shrugged and muttered something like, “Oh, a few years later, it all just fell out.”
From that day forward I always thought of him as Bob the Werewolf.
A few years later, in April 2013, we ended up doing the aforementioned debate on IP: KOL 038 | Debate with Robert Wenzel on Intellectual Property. I go into detail about what transpired in the shownotes there. Let’s just say it was an entertaining trainwreck of a “debate.” But as a quick overview. As noted above, Wenzel appeared out of nowhere in 2008–2009. He starts attacking Jeff Tucker and my IP comments—implying we are “communists” etc. Implying he has a “book” on IP coming out (and even a book on libertarian theory). (He never published either.) He does this while cozying up to Mises Institute people and people interested in Austrian economics. He sets himself up as a big economic prognosticator, though no one had ever heard of the guy before. Is this even his original name? Where did he come from? No one knows.
So this no-name non-scholar, a kind of loud-mouth crude braggart self-promoting showboat type, more akin to Bill O’Reilly or Morton Downey Jr., starts loudly braying and attacking me and Tucker. It was obvious to me then, and became even more obvious after our “debate”—that he had no coherent theory of libertarianism or of IP. He could not even present one in our debate, for which he needed 2–3 months to “prepare.”6 As alluded to previously, I half-suspect he did it all as a ruse to sell his ridiculous Drudge Formula.
Then his attacks continue on me and Tucker. He invited Tucker to debate him and Jeff (probably wisely) declined.7 Wenzel then makes some rude, smartass comment that Tucker was a dumbass follower of mine but that at least I had a real theory to be contended with. This is a bizarre slight on Tucker, from whom I have learned a lot, but in any case I offered to “discuss” this issue with him. Within an hour he was trumpeting and promoting it though we had not worked out ground rules yet, and he was asking for a month or two. I guess, to prepare.
So the guy is some outsider, a nobody, spoiling for a fight, looking for traffic. A blustering clown, really. In response to some queries about this on FB I said what I think (I rarely mince words): that he would weasel out of the debate like a worm, and that he was a clown. If you listen to his interviews you’ll see what I mean. He is untalented, rude, and a hack. He is (was) a clown. And as for the weasel comment—partly I did that so he could not back down. In any case, in the end he did as I predicted—he weaseled out of presenting a real case for IP or having a real debate about it by wasting time asking why he is a clown; in our “debate” he never did present a coherent view of IP and was probably still grasping for some coherent theory until he died.
Honestly it’s curious why he would even want a “debate.” Why would he debate me if he had no theory? Why would he even care? Why would he be certain that I am wrong? To get attention, obviously. Which he almost admits in subsequent posts bragging about how the debate increased his traffic. The guy was an unscholarly, crude oaf. He had the temerity to cozy up to the Mises Institute and then start attacking me and Jeff Tucker (and implicitly all the senior scholars and other Austro-libertarians who have learned what a horrible thing IP is—e.g., Hoppe).
So we did the debate. It was a trainwreck, but kind of amusing, or so people have told me. I discussed it a bit in my podcast post and also in this Facebook post.
Not only was he bad on IP but he seemed to also hate Bitcoin.
Shortly after this, one of my friends, Tim Swanson, did some Internet digging and discovered that Robert Wenzel was not his real name; it was apparently just the latest in a string of aliases. He had tried to escape some scandals or lawsuits or business failures in the past, or something. Who knows. There was something shady about this guy. See Tim Swanson, “I may have found the Drudge formula and Raymond Nize” (April 15, 2013), listing Wenzel’s various aliases:
- Raymond Nize
- Raymond Sabat
- Robert Menrohm
- Raymond Fuller
- Raymond Keller
- Peter Stojan
- Raymond Salter
- Robert Wenzel
- Robert Wallach (see update 1)
- Raymond Walkosz (see update 3)
- Paul Trombley8
And so this is why I say he’s “allegedly” dead. I mean this video was released just a few days before his supposed death. Does he look like he’s on his death bed? I suspect he actually is. Maybe. Or … maybe … he’s simply retired the “Bob Wenzel” persona and is now living under some other name.
You never know with people like this.
Afterwards, some of us mused he might be a LaRouchie. He really freaked out about that. I guess that’s one of the perils of running around changing your name all the time; one of your nyms might already be taken by a LaRouchie.9 Interestingly, though he went crazy about the LaRouchie allegation he never responded to the allegations about his multiple pseudonyms. Curious, that. The Dog that didn’t bark, eh?
For those thinking I am violating the rule of De mortuis nihil nisi bonum, I think I was being kind to poor, hapless Wenzel by not publicizing this widely in his lifetime, and waiting until he is gone. I didn’t even bring it up in our debate, as I thought it irrelevant. But it is interesting.
If he’s really dead, I’m sad he died early. I actually never took him seriously enough to dislike him, and even if I did, I would not wish ill on him. Something tragic obviously happened to him in his past to mess him up. But it’s not my fault.
- See How I Became A Libertarian, December 18, 2002, LewRockwell.com [in I Chose Liberty: Autobiographies of Contemporary Libertarians (compiled by Walter Block; Mises Institute 2010)]. Supplementary material: “Faculty Spotlight Interview: Stephan Kinsella,” Mises Economics Blog (Feb. 11, 2011) [archived]. [↩]
- See Wenzel on Copyright and Patent. [↩]
- See “Wenzel” [sic], “A Blanket Warning About Stephan Kinsella” (April 11, 2013); also “More Crazed Confusion By the Kinsella Crowd” (April 4, 2013). [↩]
- See KOL 038 | Debate with Robert Wenzel on Intellectual Property; others being KOL123 | Debate with Jan Helfeld on Anarchy vs. Limited Government, KOL076 | IP Debate with Chris LeRoux, and KOL234 | Vin Armani Show: Live from London: Kinsella vs. Craig Wright Debate on Intellectual Property. [↩]
- Re the “clown” insult—which I stand by—see KOL 038 | Debate with Robert Wenzel on Intellectual Property. [↩]
- See Kinsella, “Kinsella vs. Wenzel on IP” (Jan. 31, 2013). [↩]
- “Wenzel” [sic], “Jeff Tucker Declines to be Interviewed on the Robert Wenzel Show” (Jan. 17, 2013) . [↩]
- See also Chris Becker, “Who The Hell Is Robert Wenzel From EconomicPolicyJournal.com Really?” (April 15, 2013); and Swanson’s later post “Can Robert Wenzel Defeat the Encryption Used by Cryptocurrencies?” (Jan. 24, 2014). [↩]
- See “Wenzel” [sic], “A Blanket Warning About Stephan Kinsella” (April 11, 2013); also also “More Crazed Confusion By the Kinsella Crowd” (April 4, 2013). For more on the aftermath of the debate, see Ed Ucation, “Intellectual Property: As usual, Rothbard gets it right,” Daily Paul Liberty Forum (April 4, 2013) and Andy, “Kinsella Finds Another Opponent And This One Is A Real Person” (April 16, 2013) (re KOL 040 | INTERVIEW: Alexander Baker: Discussion with a Pro-Intellectual Property Libertarian). [↩]