Author Archive for Walter Block

My Upcoming Speech at Columbia University

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Adam Smith, F.A. Hayek, Ludwig von Mises.

Smith, Hayek and Mises are not only important figures in economics, but in ethics and political philosophy too. The former would have won the Nobel Prize in economics, if this award were given during his lifetime. The middle mentioned one actually did have this honor bestowed upon him, in 1974. The latter should have won this too, but, scandalously, did not. These three are very important for students in that modern economics courses, and economists, tend to ignore all of them, particularly the latter two, who were members of the Austrian School of economics. Block’s lecture will attempt to right this imbalance.

Speaker:

Dr. Walter Block
Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics
Joseph A. Butt, S.J. College of Business, Loyola University New Orleans

Time and Location:

Monday, November 10, 2014, 7:30pm.
702 Hamilton Hall, Columbia University (entrance at 116th and Broadway or Amsterdam)
Free and open to the public

Hosted by the Columbia College Libertarians (libertarians@columbia.edu)

Anarchic Courts and More

Summary by Luis Rivera III:

Here Dr. Walter Block, host Daniel Rothchild and other guests go over a number of topics including:

-Courts in an anarchic society and how applied moral philosophies such as deontology and utilitarianism can help with libertarian hypothetical constructs.

-Punitive settlements which are non-monetary such a installing fear to your perpetrator.

-The differences in battles that legitimate courts would face

-The intrinsic free market hindrances against bandit courts and the intrinsic incentives for legitimate courts.

Youtube link. 

Walter Block Interviewed about His Book ‘Toward a Libertarian Society’

Summary by Luis Rivera III:

In this video, Walter Block briefly goes over where rights might come from. He mentions Murray Rothbard’s natural rights theory, the utilitarian argument for rights and Hans Hoppe’s argumentation of ethics. Block, goes over what libertarianism consists of, namely, abiding by the non-aggression principle which he defines.

 

For more, read Toward a Libertarian Society:
http://mises.org/document/7448/Toward-a-Libertarian-Society

Free Markets and Fighting Fires

Wildfire_in_the_Pacific_Northwest_(8776249150)According to Terry L. Anderson and Daniel Botkin, “Fighting Western Fires with Economics” is a good idea.

Were I writing an essay with this title, I would emphasize the role of private property rights. If all forests were owned by individuals and private corporations, those that did well in protecting their trees from conflagrations would prosper, those who failed to do so would lose money and eventually be forced into bankruptcy. Whereupon the ones who were more efficient protectors of the woodlands would  take over the holdings of the failures, and more and more acreage would fall under the control of  those who were effective not only at fighting fires, but at all aspects of protecting and promoting this valuable resource.

Would this be a perfect system? No, of course not. Nothing in this vale of tears rises to that level. Entrepreneurs in charge of making these decisions are imperfect human beings, who always make mistakes. But this “weeding out of the unfit” process tends to ensure that more effective fire fighters would tend to control more and more stands of wood, and the particularly inept less and less. Does anyone else have a better idea? No? I thought not.

Is this the tack that was taken by Anderson and Botkin? No. Of course not. Had they done so, there would have been no reason for me to have written this sharpish critique of their essay. Instead, I might have just blogged this on LewRockwell.com, alerting readers to a good, modern, application of the Bastiat – Hazlitt insights.

Which analytic technique did these authors offer to combat forest fires? What advice did they offer to this end? Property rights, profit and loss? No. Perhaps a different version of these insights? No, again. We search in vain for even any mention of these concepts. And this is more than passing curious, in that these authors are well known as being advocates of free market environmentalism.

Instead, horrors, they took on the role of efficiency experts for the state. Murray N. Rothbard had this to say about Milton Friedman in this regard: “Milton Friedman has once again been guided by his overwhelming desire not to remove the State from our lives, but to make the State more efficient.” Why do I mention this? I am not sure of Botkin, but Anderson is certainly a disciple of Friedman (full disclosure, as if any were needed: as I am of Rothbard). The point is, both Anderson and I are heavily guided by our respective mentors: Anderson (and Botkin) try to promote more efficient state control of forests, and I now upbraid him (them) for so doing, from the free enterprise perspective.  Neither the word “privatization” nor the phrase “private property” appears even once in this essay, and this is incomprehensible for an analyst who claims any adherence at all to the philosophy of laissez faire capitalism.

Read More→

Walter Block On Controversies Throughout His Career

(Summary by Luis Rivera III)

Here, Dr. Walter Block reveals what he believes is his most controversial view as well as what has been the harshest response he has ever received. Dr. Block talks about his books Defending The Undefendable I and Defending The Undefendable II. He touches on some of the chapter including prostitution, drug legalization, blackmail, WalMart, child labor and private roads. This and more in this great interview!

For more on why blackmail should be legal and how it distinguishes itself from extortion read Legalize Blackmail (ebook.)

Austrian Economics, Anarchy, Liberty Leaders & Socio Biology

Summary by Luis Rivera III:

What constitutes theft? Do governments steal? If someone takes something from someone is it necessarily theft? How free market were Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand, F.A. Hayek and Ron Paul? The Austrian School of economics and socio biology is talked about in this lecture. The Austrian’s view on minimum wage. Empirical research illustrates not tests what Austrian’s have been saying: The higher the minimum wage ceteris paribus the higher the unemployment. Albeit not exact, good correlation exists among different states. This lecture from Block is complimented with questions from the inquisitive attendees. In one of these questions Block answers how would he donate his money within the school system to expose the youth to libertarian ideas! Below are all parts of this lecture. Listen in it will be worth it:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLbrMmwJ-XAt_kIYFQd6M4g3mFM5S9AwV0

Walter Block: Regulations Contributed To And Worsened The BP Oil Spill

downloadSummary By Luis Rivera III:

Many people are under the false impression that the oil spill that occurred in April of 2010 was due to a lack of regulations. One of these individuals is Thomas Frank, a journalist from The Wall Street Journal. In this lecture Walter Block offers a rebuttal to this absurd claim. He sheds light on the fact that the regulations in place at the time prevented drilling or mining at the Alaska Artic National Wildlife Reserve, Oil Sands in Alberta (mining), National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska and Shallow Offshore off The Gulf of Mexico. The drilling could have been done in much more shallow water, instead of the 6,000 feet the government forced BP to drill. Common sense dictates that in 20 something feet stopping a leaking would have been much easier. However, the state has no such common sense and the leakage persisted for months causing significant damage to so many.

An example of a law that increased the negative impact of the oil spill is the Jone’s Act. The Jones’ Act as Dr. Block talks about in this lecture actually prevented the experts in the field of cleaning up oil, from helping and thus lessening the devastion. Block, offers a solution, he says allow oceans to be managed with proper incentives and repercussions – allow for oceans to be (“privately”) owned. This erases the problem that comes with the tragedy of the commons which is a direct result of un owned mass (which is not abundant).
Click the link below to see Block’s entire speech on the matter:
Walter Block On The Deep Horizon Oil Spill

Note: Dr. Walter Block is currently working on a book about privatizing the oceans.

Walter Block: Many Different Topics Are Discussed on FreedomizerRadio

Summary by Luis Rivera III:

Here Walter Block talks about how some private roads were managed before. Block mentions that carriages were charged for being on these roads based on the amount of horses that were pulling the carriage as well as the width of the wheels on these carriages. This was done in order to cover the expenses accumulated by the wear and tear caused by the different combinations of horse and carriages. Block goes into evictionism. He tells the audience what he thinks The US National Defense actually does, I’ll give you a clue it’s not defend. Block talks more about government roads and how so many people blamed what in reality are proximate causes rather than look at the government itself. Block: traffic jams and car accidents are increased due to government’s intrinsic inefficiency. He says they, the government are the ones that manage the roads, so why not lay fault on them!? Other topics discussed are private courts and a very interesting question “When should force be used in a libertarian world?” This last question deals with imprisonment as well. Check out this link below to listen to the full interview:

Note: Walter Block offers an alternative to Anarcho-Capitalist Dr. Robert Murphy’s ostracizing solution for jails. Listen in:

Walter Block on FreedomizerRadio

Walter Block Interviewed on Libertas Media Project Podcast

Summary by Luis Rivera:

Podcast host and libertarian, Brian Wilson talks to Walter Block about Defending The Undefendable II, “thick libertarians,” and recent articles written by Dr. Block on LewRockwell.com. Block talks about his favorite character from Atlas Shrugged. Does leering violate the non-aggression principle? Walter Block answers this in this podcast. Being an anarchist and defending Ron Paul for running for president. Block suggests what the best way to promote liberty is. He goes on to talk about government war propaganda. This and much more in this great interview that covers many subtopics within libertarianism.

Walter Block Podcast Interview

Walter Block: Against Taxation (Radio Interview CKNW AM 980)

Summary By Luis Rivera III:

As Lysander Spooner said before him, Walter Block calls “taxes” what it is…highway robbery. Host Mike Smyth asks Dr. Block how would services such as fire fighting, roads, police, courts etc. be funded. He uses a reductio ad absurdum to elucidate his point. Dr. Block holds no punches and tells listeners of this Canadian radio station that North America practices a lot of fascism. Smyth commits a common mistake when debatin an Anarcho Capitalist, the appeal to tradition fallacy, listen in to learn how to respond with an effective rebuttal to this. This and much more below!

Walter Block is interviewed on CKNW AM 980

Advice for Grad Students

1280px-BibliotecaestantesAt Loyola University, my colleagues and I have been very successful in sending off numerous of our graduating economics majors to graduate school, to get a phd in economics. Here is some advice I offer them, which might be helpful to others as well:

Advice for grad students (some of this advice is personal to me; take what makes sense to you and ignore the rest):

1.Your goal is to get that phd, asap. Don’t let anything interfere with that, if at all possible. If you need money, take out loans, don’t work and let that interfere with your studies.

2.Don’t take any part time jobs; don’t be anyone’s research assistant. Don’t be a teaching assistant. Don’t teach any courses. Just study to pass your courses with the best marks possible, and pass your oral or comprehensive exams.

3.Don’t argue with your professors, certainly not on basic issues. Your job is not to convert them to laissez faire capitalism, to Austrianism, to libertarianism or anything else. It is only to get that phd, asap. Read More→

Exploring Libertarian Class Theory

8332829134_9686d1f1dc_zI run an Austro-libertarian seminar at Loyola University. We meet on Friday afternoons usually twice a month during the academic year (if you want to be notified of these events, e mail me at wblock@loyno.edu, and I’ll put you on my list). At a past meeting I happened to mention libertarian ruling class theory. Many of my students were appalled at me, some of the more brazen ones even accused me of going over to Marxism. Yes, of course, we libertarians reject Marxian ruling class theory, based on the exploitation of labor in the free enterprise system. Silly. Read Mises, Rothbard and Bohm-Bawerk on this. But let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater. There is also such a thing as libertarian class theory. In sharp contrast, it is based on the exploitation of innocent people by those who violate the libertarian non aggression principle (NAP). I think most readers of this blog are a bit more sophisticated about this issue. However, even those might appreciate this bibliography I have put together on this subject:

Read More→

Walter Block Explains the Minimum Wage

In this video, Dr. Boyd Blundell takes me on in a debate on minimum wage.


Read More→

Free Market Environmentalism Is Not An Oxymoron

What are environmental forensics and why did the market develop this sector to uphold property rights? How did the government directly legalize acts of trespassing? During the 19th century the State trumped property rights in favor of State growth, Block elaborates on this and answers the questions above. Dr. Block covers much more in this fascinating video to all those to aspire to know more about libertarianism and to those who want to help the environment effectively.

Walter Block vs. Nobel Prize Winning Economists Friedman & Coase

Walter Block – The Errors of Friedman, Coase & Buchanan [Australian Mises Seminar 2012].

Here I speak at Mises University 2012. My lecture is about Friedman’s positive externalities’ argument of public schools, his broken window fallacy concerning WWII, the tradable emission rights, Friedman’s road socialism. I talk about the flexible exchange rates. I go on with Friedman on eminent domain, democracy and anti-trust. I also viciously attack Coase’s Lighthouse article and his anti-property rights beliefs and more!

Audio: Walter Block on the Welfare State, Unemployment and Libertarianism

Here I go over the moderate view of libertarianism with Henrik Palmgren from Red Ice Creations. I explain why the welfare state creates poverty by creating non-intact families and I go over how the government subsidizing unemployment gives incentives for unemployment that would otherwise not be there in a libertarian world.

Walter Block on the ‘We Are Libertarians’ Show

Here I speak to Chris Spangle and Dan Peffers from the We Are Libertarians Show. I go over Nevada and its’ current laws on prostitution. I speak about free market environmentalism and the history of government laws actually permitting trespassing by way of pollution. I also make a clear distinction between the free market and contracting out. Then I go over how the US has proportionately the highest prison population in the world and how so many of them are there due to victimless crimes and much more!

The Minimum Wage Law

434px-Wage_labour.svgThe minimum wage on its face is an unemployment law, not an employment law. It does not compel anyone to hire anyone else. It only stipulates who CANNOT legally be employed: no one may be hired for less than the amount stipulated by law. If the minimum wage law is set at $10 per hour, the law does not require any employer to hire any employee at that wage level. It only FORBIDS employment contracts set at $9.99 or below. This is not a matter of empirical evidence, not that there can be any such thing in proper, e.g., Austrian economics; this conclusion is a matter of pure logic. We repeat: the minimum wage on its face is an unemployment law, not an employment law.

What about empirical studies (economic history, for praxeological economists)? Here, economists disagree. Some say there will be no unemployment effects whatsoever. That is, a person with a productivity level of $6 per hour will still be hired and paid $10 per hour, even though any such firm that does so will lose $4 per hour. Such “economists” are in a distinct minority. Other dismal scientists opine there will be very slight unemployment effect; some few unskilled workers will lose their jobs or not attain them in the first place; but a large number will retain their jobs and be paid more. Then there is a third or majority view: most economists conclude that this law will boost unemployment for those with low productivity, and will only raise wages for them temporarily, until employers can substitute away from the factor of production (unskilled labor) now priced out of the market. Read More→

Regression Theorem and Bitcoin

Here is a letter I received about the Regression theorem:

I’ve been thinking through this for a few days and wondered if you had any insight — is the Regression Theorem a praxeological statement, or is it a heuristic device?

If it is a praxeological statement, then it must be true, and we can deduce *a priori* truths from it on that basis (e.g., IF something arises on the market as a medium of exchange, THEN it had value on the market prior to becoming a medium of exchange). This seems to be how many Austrians have treated regression, but it doesn’t seem clear that this is the intent of the discussion in *Theory of Money and Credit*.

If, on the other hand, it is a heuristic device for description and analysis, it can still be useful as an insight into the origins of money, but *a priori* truths cannot be deduced out of it. I’ve looked, but have found very little discussion of this in the Austrian literature. Do you have any thoughts on this? Have I missed something major?

Here was my response:

In my view, the regression theorem is apodictic, praxeological. This brings up the question of the bitcoin. It is not yet money. It is not now a generally accepted means of final payment. But it is now at least a quasi money. More than just a few people treat it as a money.  Probably, the govt will soon blow this out of the water with regulations, taxes. But, if not, it might become a money. If so, would this be a violation of the regression postulate? Yes, if we interpret it as saying that nothing cannot become a money unless it was at one time a valuable COMMODITY. Of course, bitcoins were never a valuable commodity. But, if we more sympathetically interpret the regression theorem not in terms of a commodity, but in terms of SOMETHING of value, then when and if bitcoin becomes a money, it will not contradict the regression theorem for, surely, before it became a money (if it does) it was SOMETHING of value, albeit not a commodity, because it cannot be denied that some people valued it.

I’m not aware of any formal discussion of this in the literature. But, I went to the Mises web, and found this:

http://archive.mises.org/18767/bitcoin-implodes/
http://archive.mises.org/17356/another-bitcoin-crash/
https://mises.org/daily/6401/Bitcoin-Money-of-the-Future-or-OldFashioned-Bubble
http://archive.mises.org/17294/a-clear-concise-look-at-bitcoin/
http://archive.freecapitalists.org//forums/t/25162.aspx
http://archive.mises.org/17249/ideological-and-irrational-exuberance/
http://archive.freecapitalists.org//forums/t/23845.aspx

Walter Block: Free Market Environmentalism

Walter Block: Free Market Environmentalism

Here I discuss how Free Market Environmentalism is not a contradiction. I argue that adhering to strict Property Rights is best for the environment. I explain The Tragedy of The Commons which is essential within this topic of Free Market Environmentalism. I provide historical examples to buttress the market fighting pollution and species endangerment. I also refute The Malthusian Theory on Slavery which ties in with The Tragedy of Commons and elucidates relevant incentives in this discussion.