Walter Block teaching
21 August 1941 |
Brooklyn, New York
|Field||Political economy, environmental economics, transport economics, political philosophy|
|Influences||Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, Ayn Rand|
Walter Edward Block (born 21 August 1941) is an Austrian School economist and prominent anarcho-capitalist. He is currently Professor of Economics at Loyola University New Orleans and Senior Fellow with the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
Block was born in Brooklyn, New York to Jewish parents Abraham Block, a certified public accountant, and Ruth Block, a paralegal, both of whom Block has said were liberals. He earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy summa cum laude from Brooklyn College, where he was a member of the varsity swimming team. Block earned his Ph.D. degree in economics from Columbia University and wrote his dissertation on rent control. Block identifies himself as a "devout atheist".
Block's early thinking life was characterized by egalitarian thought. In an interview by the Austrian Economics Newsletter, Block stated, "In the fifties and sixties, I was just another commie living in Brooklyn." Block credits his "conversion" to libertarianism to personal meetings with Ayn Rand while he was an undergraduate student. Alan Greenspan was in attendance at some of these meetings. As Block describes it, "In 1963, when I was a senior at Brooklyn College, Ayn Rand came there to give a lecture. I attended, along with about 3,000 of my fellow mainly leftish students, in order to boo and hiss her, since she was evil incarnate. Afterward, the president of the group that had invited her to campus announced there was to be a luncheon in her honor, and anyone was welcome to take part, whether or not they agreed with her ideas. Not having had enough booing and hissing at Ayn in her formal lecture, I decided to avail myself of this opportunity to further express my displeasure with her and her views."
Block thereafter attended a luncheon with Rand, Nathaniel Branden, and Leonard Peikoff. After Block's challenging of several luncheon attendees, Branden forged an agreement with Block: "Nathan very graciously offered to come to the other end of the table with me for this purpose, but he imposed two preconditions: first, I would be honor bound not to allow this conversation to lapse with this one meeting, but would continue with it until we had achieved a resolution: either he would convince me of the error of my ways, or I would convince him of his. Second, I would read two books he would later recommend to me (Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt).
After I met Murray, it took him probably all of 15 minutes to convert me to the same anarcho-capitalist position I have held ever since.... In retrospect, before I had met Murray, I was nine tenths of the way toward embracing laissez faire capitalist anarchism; all I needed was a little push in the same direction I had already been going for some time.
Block holds the Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair in Economics at the Butt College of Business, Loyola University, in New Orleans. From 1979 to 1991, he was the Senior Economist with the Fraser Institute. In addition to his faculty position at Loyola, Block is teaches at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. His most famous work is Defending the Undefendable, of which John Stossel said, "Defending the Undefendable... opened my eyes to the beauties of libertarianism. It explains that so much of what is assumed to be evil – is not." Lew Rockwell, Block's employer at the Mises Institute, evaluated Block's role in modern libertarianism: Murray Rothbard, in his life, was known as Mr. Libertarian. We can make a solid case that the title now belongs to Walter Block.
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Block, along with Robert Nozick, is one of the leading libertarian defenders of voluntary slave contracts, arguing that a slave contract is "a bona fide contract where consideration crosses hands; when it is abrogated, theft occurs". He critiques other libertarians who oppose voluntary slavery as being inconsistent with their shared principles. Block seeks to make "a tiny adjustment" which "strengthens libertarianism by making it more internally consistent." He argues that his position shows "that contract, predicated on private property [can] reach to the furthest realms of human interaction, even to voluntary slave contracts."
On February 17, 2006, Block publicly expressed his support for the Free State Project (FSP). He said:
You people are doing the Lord's work. The FSP is one of the freshest practical ideas for promoting liberty that has come out of the libertarian movement in the past few decades. May you succeed beyond your wildest dreams, and thus demonstrate in yet another empirical way the benefits and blessings of liberty.
Defending the Undefendable
In Block's book Defending the Undefendable, he defends pimps, drug dealers, blackmailers, corrupt policemen, and loan sharks as "economic heroes".
Among other things, Block commented on the following topics:
Evictionism (in contrast to abortion)
According to Block's moral theory, the act of abortion must be conceptually separated into the acts of:
Block believes the woman may legally abort if the fetus is not viable outside the womb, or
- the woman has announced to the world her abandonment of the right to custody of the fetus, and
- no one else has "homesteaded" that right by offering to care for the fetus.
Likewise, medical experimenters can treat the fetuses they have in their possession as laboratory "animals", as is their desire, contingent on one and only one stipulation: that no one else in the world wishes to raise these very young infants on their own. Thus Block claims to offer an alternative to the standard pro-life and pro-choice positions.
According to Block's negative homesteading theory, one can come to own misery – a state of being, or about to be, attacked – which one cannot legitimately pass on to someone else, without his permission. Should one however try to forward this misery onto someone else, this person has the right to defend himself from the "forwarding of misery". One has, however, not the right to initiate force against someone who only "holds" misery or has just been relieved of one's misery.
In Block's view, it is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for guilt (e.g., a violation of libertarian principles) and thus justification for punishment by the libertarian Nuremberg trials, that a person be a state official. For instance, people, who have used eminent domain to help enrich themselves, ought not to be allowed to keep their ill-gotten gains.
Serious attempts to trace property back to original owners would not normally be made. However, in cases where proof could be provided and this could be done, claimants would come forth to state their cases. Most likely, these trials would work via the homesteading of claims by first-comers, perhaps by insurance companies providing private dispute resolution services.
These trials would not be arbitrary, but would be brought by specific claimants, either specific victims, or defense insurance companies trying to improve market standing, and indirectly acting on behalf of many victims. The benefits might be seen in terms of lower premiums, which insurance companies homesteading claims against statists could afford to offer to gain more customers. Another way that this might work is through outlawry trials. Offering insurance for private protection is a business, and companies cannot afford to insure individuals who are incredibly high risks. Individuals who might be the recipients of much hostility and attempted repossession in a free market – i.e., prominent statists – would likely have difficulty finding protection agencies willing to protect them. Evidence-based trials could be held at the request of these individuals, in which case their guilt may or may not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Block believes that government management of roads and highways is not only inefficient but also deadly. "Road socialism" causes the deaths of more than 35,000 people in the United States each year. And although many people blame highway deaths on alcohol, unsafe vehicles, or speeding, Block lays the blame on the government officials who manage the highway system. "It may well be that speed and alcohol are deleterious to safe driving; but it is the road manager’s task to ascertain that the proper standards are maintained with regard to these aspects of safety. If unsafe conditions prevail in a private, multistory parking lot, or in a shopping mall, or in the aisles of a department store, the entrepreneur in question is held accountable."
- Defending the Undefendable (1976; translated into Chinese, Dutch, French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian and Russian languages) ISBN 0-930073-05-3
- A Response to the Framework Document for Amending the Combines Investigation Act (1982)
- Focus on Economics and the Canadian Bishops (1983)
- Focus on Employment Equity: A Critique of the Abella Royal Commission on Equality in Employment (with Michael A. Walker; 1985)
- The U.S. Bishops and Their Critics: An Economic and Ethical Perspective (1986)
- Lexicon of Economic Thought (with Michael A. Walker; 1988)
- Economic Freedom of the World, 1975–1995 (with James Gwartney, Robert Lawson; 1996)
- Labor Economics from a Free Market Perspective: Employing the Unemployable. (2008)
- The Privatization of Roads and Highways: Human and Economic Factors (2009)
- The Case for Discrimination (2010)
- Differing Worldviews in Higher Education: Two Scholars Argue Cooperatively about Justice Education (2010)
- Building Blocks for Liberty (2010)
- Yes to Ron Paul and Liberty (2012)
- Zoning: Its Costs and Relevance for the 1980s (Ed.; 1980)
- Rent Control: Myths & Realities (Ed. with Edgar Olsen; 1981)
- Discrimination, Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity (Ed. with Michael A. Walker; 1982)
- Taxation: An International Perspective (Ed. with Michael A. Walker; 1984)
- Economics and the Environment: A Reconciliation (Ed.; 1985; translated into Portuguese 1992) ISBN 0-88975-067-X
- Morality of the Market: Religious and Economic Perspectives (Ed. with Geoffrey Brennan, Kenneth Elzinga; 1985)
- Theology, Third World Development and Economic Justice (Ed. with Donald Shaw; 1985)
- Reaction: The New Combines Investigation Act (Ed.; 1986)
- Religion, Economics & Social Thought (Ed. with Irving Hexham; 1986)
- Man, Economy and Liberty: Essays in Honor of Murray N. Rothbard (Ed. with Lew Rockwell; 1988)
- Breaking the Shackles; the Economics of Deregulation: A Comparison of U.S. and Canadian Experience (Ed. with George Lermer; 1991)
- Economic Freedom: Toward a Theory of Measurement (Ed.; 1991)
- Libertarian Autobiographies (Ed.; forthcoming)
- "Katrina and the Future of New Orleans" Telos 139, Summer 2007.
- "Hayek's Road to Serfdom". Journal of Libertarian Studies (Center for Libertarian Studies) 12 (2): 339–365 (1996).
- "WalterBlock.com – Austrian Economist and Libertarian Theorist:". Retrieved 2012-05-31. "Walter Block, an Austrian school economist and anarcho-libertarian philosopher, is Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Chair in Economics and Professor of Economics at Loyola University New Orleans and Senior Fellow with the Ludwig von Mises Institute."
-  Walter Block. "On Autobiography." LewRockwell.com. 4 December 2002.
- Block, Walter. "Open Letter to Ron Paul by Walter Block." LewRockwell.com. 28 December 2007. 
-  "Radical Economics: An Interview with Walter Block." Austrian Economics Newsletter. Summer 1999.
- "Butt College Website".
- "Mises Institute Faculty List". Retrieved 13 June 2013.
- "Personal Reason." Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. 24 June 2007
-  Lew Rockwell. "Putting Opponents on the Hot Seat." LewRockwell.com. 3 May 2006.
- "Towards a Libertarian Theory of Inalienability: A Critique of Rothbard, Barnett, Smith, Kinsella, Gordon, and Epstein." pp. 39–85, Journal of Libertarian Studies, vol. 17, no. 2, p. 44, p. 48, p. 82 and p. 46
-  Block's endorsement of the Free State Project. FreeStateProject.org. 17 February 2006.
- Defending the Truly Undefendable
- Walter Block, Compromising the Uncompromisable: A Private Property Approach to Resolving the Abortion Controversy, Walter Block personal web site, originally published in Appalachian Journal of Law, Vol 4:1.
- Jakub Bozydar Wisniewski, "A Critique of Block on Abortion and Child Abandonment", LibertariansPapers.org, project of Ludwig Von Mises Institute, VOL. 2, ART. NO. 16 (2010)
- Block, Walter. 2010. A Libertarian Perspective on the Stem Cell Debate: Compromising the Uncompromisible, Journal of Medicine and Philosophy. Vol. 35: 429–448
- Misery, proper, is a feeling of great unhappiness, suffering and/or pain.
- Jakobsson, Carl. 2010. The Negative Homesteading Theory: Rejoinder to Walter Block on Human Body Shields, Journal of Libertarian Studies. Vol. 22 Num. 1
- Walter Block, "Toward a Libertarian Theory of Guilt and Punishment for the Crime of Statism", in Property, Freedom, & Society: Essays in Honor of Hans-Hermann Hoppe, ed. Jörg Guido Hülsmann and N. Stephan Kinsella (Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2009), 137–148
- Walter Block, "Libertarian Punishment Theory: Working for, and Donating to, the State", Libertarian Papers 1, no. 17 (2009): 1–31.
- Block, Walter. 2009. Libertarian Punishment Theory: Working for, and Donating to, the State, Libertarian Papers. Vol 1, Num. 17
- Block, Walter. The Privatization of Roads and Highways: Human and Economic Factors; Auburn, AL: The Mises Institute, 2009
- Commentary by Walter Block for CNBC
- Biography and Article Archive at Mises.org.
- Media Archive at Mises.org.
- Defending the Undefendable