Archive for Walter Block

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.

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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.)

New online interviews with Mark Thornton and Walter Block

On the “Wake Up Call Podcast”:

Mark Thornton.

Walter Block.

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: Libertarianism from A to Z

6792Walter Block’s new book Toward a Libertarian Society covers a wide variety of topics from the death penalty to secession, and from war to macroeconomics. Dr. Block recently spoke with the Mises Institute about just a few of these.

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

You Didn’t Consent to be the State’s Victim

6780Mises Daily Weekend by Walter Block

A selection from Toward a Libertarian Society.

Defenders of government coercion often claim that residence within a state’s boundaries imply consent to be taxed and regulated by the state in question. While one can expect to be robbed by the state regardless of where one lives, this is not the same as consenting to be robbed.

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:

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Gary Becker, RIP

6745Walter Block writes in today’s Mises Daily:

Gary Becker passed away on May 4, 2014 at age 83. There will be many obituaries written about this Nobel Prize winning economist, focusing on his numerous and important contributions to the dismal science. Here, instead, I will tell a more personal story, my own private interactions with my first mentor, Gary Becker.

I entered the Columbia University graduate program in economics in 1965. There were about 100 of us, so they assigned the new entrants to three different sections. The top one was taught by Becker, the middle one by William Vickery who also later won the Nobel Prize in economics, and the section for the least prepared of the students was taught by Roger Alcaly. I lucked out and landed in Becker’s microeconomics course. Those were heady days for me. This was the time before I met Murray Rothbard, and became an Austrian economist; I was a staunch follower of Gary’s: a logical positivist, an empiricist, a follower of the Chicago School of thought, as was this teacher of mine.

Walter Block Explains the Minimum Wage

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


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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!

Labor Unions and Freedom of Association

Collective Bargaining IssueGary Galles writes in today’s Mises Daily:

As Walter Block put it in “Labor Relations, Unions, and Collective Bargaining: A Political Economic Analysis,” “unionism … admits of a voluntary and a coercive aspect. The philosophy of free enterprise is fully consistent with voluntary unionism, but is diametrically opposed to coercive unionism.” Voluntary unions are consistent with liberty because “if it is proper for one worker to quit his job, then all workers, together, have every right to do so, en masse.” And in his “The Yellow Dog Contract: Bring It Back!” he addressed this issue directly:

Are unions per se illegitimate? No. If all they do is threaten mass quits unless their demands are met, they should not be banned by law. But as a matter of fact, not a one of them limits itself in this manner. Instead, in addition, they threaten the person and property not only of the owner, but also of any workers who attempt to take up the wages and working conditions spurned by the union. They also favor labor legislation that compels the owner to deal with the union, when he wishes to ignore these workers and hire the “scabs” instead.

Walter Block to Speak at Columbia University

Thursday, March 27, 8:30pm
312 Mathematics Building, Columbia University (entrance at 116th and Broadway)
Professor Walter Block will be coming to Columbia University on March 27th and 28th. He will give two very different speeches: One about historical heavyweights of economics, and one about a current controversy which Dr. Block still finds himself in, thanks to the NY Times.
The first talk: ”Adam Smith, F.A. Hayek, Ludwig von Mises”
Thursday, March 27, 8:30pm
The second talk: ”Me and the NY Times”
Friday, March 28, 7:30pm

Walter Block On The Privatization of Roads

christie[The Chris Christie bridge scandal has highlighted some of the pitfalls of political control of the highway system. In this selection from Chapter 21 of The Privatization of Roads and Highways, Walter Block discusses some issues related to the privatization of roads. Block address the issue of traffic congestion throughout the book.]

Question: How would the private ownership of roads affect metropolitan commuters? Would the costs to use streets go up? Would congestion problems decrease, remain the same, or diminish?

Walter Block: Road privatization would help everyone, except for bureaucrats, politicians, “civil servants” employed by present statist road managers, etc. I claim that the cost of street use would decrease. See the “rule of two” mentioned above. Congestion problems would decrease, as peak-load pricing (charging more during rush hours than at 3 a.m., which irons out the variations in demand during the day) would become the order of the day. Right now, the government engages in anti-peak-load pricing, which exacerbates the problem. They commonly sell monthly tickets to bridges, tunnels, etc., at a cheaper price per trip than otherwise. But who uses such tickets? Employees, not casual shoppers, visitors. And when do they use these tickets? Precisely during rush hours.

Nor is this any accident. The principle holds true (congestion is a government failure) in many other cases too. Compare congestion during Christmas with the post office and private firms. The former tells you not to mail during the peak-load times; the latter roll up their sleeves, put on extra workers, and satisfy consumers.

Question: How can you reconcile burrowing under someone’s property with such issues as mineral rights? At what point above and below do property rights stop?

Walter Block: There are two theories on this. The first, the erroneous one, is called the ad coelum doctrine. Here, if you own an acre of land on the surface of the planet, you own territory right down to the center of the earth, in narrowing circles; e.g., your property comes to a point there (along with everyone else’s). In effect, you own a cone (think ice cream cone) of land, with the top, the acre on the surface of the earth, and the bottom point at its center. Also, your property extends into the heavens, in ever widening circles, again in a cone like formation. The problem with this, for the libertarian who bases property rights on the Locke-Rothbard-Hoppe theory of homesteading, is that you did nothing at all to mix your labor with the land 1,000 miles below the surface. As a practical matter, moreover, you would have the right to forbid airplanes from traveling over your acreage, even 30,000 feet above. Remember, according to this mischievous doctrine, your ownership extends from the core of the earth upward, to an indefinitely far distance. What this implies for ownership of other planets is just another reductio ad absurdum of this view.

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Block, the Austrians, and the Catholics

Concilio_Trento_Museo_BuonconsiglioNormally, I wouldn’t bother examining an article like this, but the author of the piece tries to score some points using Walter Block and the Austrian School as examples, so I’ve commented. My remarks in brackets:

ANALYSIS: Are free-market Catholics ignoring Pope Francis?

(RNS) On one level, the recent clash over Catholic University of America’s decision to accept $1 million from billionaire industrialist Charles Koch underscored the stark divide many see between Catholic social teaching and the libertarian-tinged economics championed by Koch and other conservatives. [Basically, this article is founded on the proposition that capitalism is the philosophy of modern Robber Barons as the repeated references to Koch make clear.]

But the controversy also pointed to another, counterintuitive reality: vocal free-market advocates are gaining traction in the Catholic Church, [that's debatable] even as Pope Francis repeatedly condemns a capitalist system [unfortunately, Pope Francis is greatly confused about what capitalism even is, as explained here, and here.] that he says is hurting the poor and increasing the gap between the haves and have-nots.

In the political world, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is both a practicing Catholic and a devotee of the libertarian icon Ayn Rand [First of all, Paul Ryan, advocate of multiple tax increases, bailouts, and other huge-government programs is hardly a "devotee" of Ayn Rand. Ryan may say so to score points with gullible libertarians, but that hardly proves Ryan's bona fides. Secondly, given the nature of Rand's philosophy, it's impossible to be both a practicing Catholic and a Randian, and one wonders if the author of this piece even understands that. Thirdly, Rand condemned libertarians and libertarianism.] — as well as the face of GOP proposals for cutting welfare programs and taxes that have drawn fire from U.S. bishops and other church leaders.

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Audio: Walter Block Explains Austrian Economics

This interview with Walter Block is a little old (May 2013), but we haven’t linked to it before.

Some highlights of the interview include:

  • Block contrasts Austrian economists as philosophers compared to “normative” economists which he characterizes as ethicists and empiricists.
  • He highlights praxeology, the study of human interactions, as a central tenet of the Austrian school.
  • He emphasizes that there are areas where libertarians and Austrian economists do not have overlapping thinking.
  • Block says there is inflation at present, just not in what the official statistics are measuring.  He mentions several classes of assets that have experienced (are experiencing) inflation.
  • In an extended discussion about unions, Block said there are justifiable activities for unions.  But he feels many unions (and specifically public sector unions) are “legal and ethical monstrosities“.  He suggests they are “vicious, depraved and immoral” and “deny the right of free association“.

(Radio Interview, approx. 35 minutes)