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From: R
Sent: Friday, June 15, 2018 3:05 PM
To: walter block
Subject:

Walter: I have one question: the following is, I think, a fair summary of Hoppe’s argument (one accepted by both you and Murray).

Argumentation ethics argues the non-aggression principle is a presupposition of argumentation and so cannot be rationally denied in discourse.

while it is certainly better than evoking natural rights, which are a total myth that cannot be demonstrated to exist, why do you think it provides a foundation for libertarianism? it seems to me that at best, it says that NAP can’t be rejected in discourse. but can’t one be a libertarian without engaging in discourse about it. e.g. you could just live your life as a libertarian (which is what i do, as best i can) and simply not discuss it at all (personally, i prefer to discuss theoretical physics) in which case it’s necessary to provide another justification for libertarians (i justify it – to myself of course, since i don’t discuss it – as being most compatible with my psychological disposition). that has been perfectly adequate to me. R

Dear R: I regard my friend Hans Hoppe as one of the most gifted libertarian theoreticians not only now actively writing, but in all of recorded history. In my view, his argumentation ethics is one of the many jewels in his crown. I not only think it provides a foundation for libertarianism, I think it provides the very best foundation for libertarianism now available to us, thanks to him.

You are quite right that one can be “a libertarian without engaging in discourse about it…” All one need do is live according to the non aggression principle. However, Hans demonstrates that the only way to JUSTIFY a philosophical principle is through discourse. And that therefore those who argue against libertarianism engage in a performative contradiction, since arguing implies adherence to the NAP.

Here is a bibliography on this issue:

Hoppe’s “argumentation ethic” defense of libertarian rights was first published, to my knowledge, in three articles in 1988: “On the Ultimate Justification of the Ethics of Private Property,” Liberty (September 1988); “The Justice of Economic Efficiency,” Austrian Economics Newsletter (Winter 1988); and a longer piece, “From the Economics of Laissez Faire to the Ethics of Libertarianism,” in: Walter E. Block & Llewellyn H. Rockwell, eds., Man, Economy, and Liberty: Essays in Honor of Murray N. Rothbard (Mises Institute, 1988). These were included as chapters 10, 9, and 8, respectively, of Hoppe’s book The Economics and Ethics of Private Property (Kluwer, 1993). The most definitive elaboration of Hoppe’s theory is found in “The Ethical Justification of Capitalism and Why Socialism Is Morally Indefensible,” chapter 7 of his monumental A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism (Kluwer 1989; more info; hereinafter referred to as TSC ). This chapter is similar to the 1988 chapter in Man, Economy, and Liberty. These and other materials are available at Hoppe’s website.
Hoppe, 1988A, 1988B, 1988C, 1988D, 1993, 1995

Hoppe, Hans Hermann. 1988A. “On the Ultimate Justification of the Ethics of Private Property,” Liberty, September

Hoppe, Hans Hermann. 1988B. “The Justice of Economic Efficiency,” Austrian Economics Newsletter. Winter

Hoppe, Hans Hermann. 1988C. “From the Economics of Laissez Faire to the Ethics of Libertarianism,” in: Walter E. Block & Llewellyn H. Rockwell, eds., Man, Economy, and Liberty: Essays in Honor of Murray N. Rothbard. Auburn, AL: The Mises Institute.

Hoppe, Hans-Hermann. 1988D. “Utilitarians and Randians vs Reason.” Liberty (November): 53–54; http://www.libertyunbound.com/sites/files/printarchive/Liberty_Magazine_November_1988.pdf

Hoppe, Hans-Hermann. 1993. The Economics and Ethics of Private Property. Studies in Political Economy and Philosophy, Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers, pp. 204-207

Hoppe, Hans-Hermann. 1995. Economic Science and the Austrian Method. Auburn, AL: The Ludwig von Mises Institute; http://www.mises.org/esandtam/pes1.asp;
http://www.mises.org/esandtam/pfe3.asp; http://mises.org/pdf/esam.pdf

These were included as chapters 10, 9, and 8, respectively, of Hoppe’s book The Economics and Ethics of Private Property (Kluwer, 1993). The most definitive elaboration of Hoppe’s theory is found in “The Ethical Justification of Capitalism and Why Socialism Is Morally Indefensible,” chapter 7 of his monumental A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism (Kluwer 1989; more info; hereinafter referred to as TSC ). This chapter is similar to the 1988 chapter in Man, Economy, and Liberty. These and other materials are available at Hoppe’s website.

supporters of Hoppe’s argumentation ethics::

Block, 2004, 2011; Gordon, 1988; Kinsella, 1996, 2002, 2009, 2015; Meng, 2002; Rothbard, 1988, Van Dun, 2009.

Block, Walter E. 2004. “Are Alienability and the Apriori of Argument Logically Incompatible?” Dialogue, Vol. 1, No. 1; http://www.uni-svishtov.bg/dialog/2004/256gord6.pdf

Block, Walter E. 2011. “Rejoinder to Murphy and Callahan on Hoppe’s Argumentation Ethics” Journal of Libertarian Studies; Vol. 22, pp. 631–639;
http://mises.org/journals/jls/22_1/22_1_31.pdf

Eabrasu, Marian. 2009. “A Reply to the Current Critiques Formulated Against Hoppe’s Argumentation Ethics,” Libertarian Papers. Vol. I, No. 1;
http://libertarianpapers.org/2009/20-eabrasu-critiques-argumentation-ethics/

Gordon, David. 1988. “Radical & Quasi-Kantian.” Liberty (November): 46–47; http://www.libertyunbound.com/sites/files/printarchive/Liberty_Magazine_November_1988.pdf

Kinsella, N. Stephan. 1996. “New Rationalist Directions in Libertarian Rights Theory.” Journal of Libertarian Studies 12 (12): 323–38.

Kinsella, N. Stephan N. 2009. “Revisiting Argumentation Ethics.” March 13;
https://mises.org/wire/revisiting-argumentation-ethics

Kinsella, N. Stephan. 2002 [2011]. “Defending Argumentation Ethics: Reply to Murphy & Callahan,” Anti-state.com, Sept. 19 [July 2]; http://www.anti-state.com/article.php?article_id=312

Kinsella, N. Stephan N. 2011. “Argumentation Ethics and Liberty: A Concise Guide.” May 27;
http://mises.org/daily/5322/

Kinsella, N. Stephan N. 2015. “Hoppe’s Argumentation Ethics and Its Critics.” August 11;

Hoppe’s Argumentation Ethics and Its Critics

(If you read only one of these entries, read this one.)

Meng, Jude Chua Soo. 2002. “Hopp(e)ing Onto New Ground: A Rothbardian Proposal for Thomistic Natural Law as the Basis for Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s Praxeological Defense of Private Property.” Working paper, http://www.mises.org/journals/scholar/meng.pdf

Rothbard, Murray. 1988. “Beyond Is and Ought.” Liberty (November): 44–45; http://mises.org/daily/4629/Beyond-Is-and-Ought; http://www.libertyunbound.com/sites/files/printarchive/Liberty_Magazine_November_1988.pdf

Van Dun, Frank. 2009. “Argumentation Ethics and The Philosophy of Freedom.” Libertarian Papers, No. 19; http://libertarianpapers.org/2009/19-van-dun-argumentation-ethics/

critics of Hoppe’s argumentation ethics::

Friedman, 1988; Long, 2004; Murphy and Callahan, 2006; Steele, 1988; Yeager, 1988.

Friedman, David. 1988. “The Trouble with Hoppe: Some Brief Comments on Hoppe’s Justification of the Private Property Ethic.” Liberty, 2.2, November, 53–54.; http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Libertarian/On_Hoppe.html; http://www.libertyunbound.com/sites/files/printarchive/Liberty_Magazine_November_1988.pdf

Long, Roderick. 2004. “The Hoppriori Argument.” May 17;
http://praxeology.net/unblog05-04.htm#10

Murphy, Robert P. and Gene Callahan. 2006. “Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s Argumentation Ethics: A Critique.” The Journal of Libertarian Studies. Vol. 20, No. 2, Spring, pp. 53-64; http://www.mises.org/journals/jls/20_2/20_2_3.pdf

Steele, David Ramsay. 1988. “One Muddle After Another.” Liberty (November): 45–46; http://www.libertyunbound.com/sites/files/printarchive/Liberty_Magazine_November_1988.pdf

Yeager, Leland. 1988. “Raw Assertions.” Liberty (November): 45–46; http://www.libertyunbound.com/sites/files/printarchive/Liberty_Magazine_November_1988.pdf

Also see this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argumentation_ethics

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12:18 pm on June 16, 2018

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What’s the Best Way to Promote Liberty?

What’s the Best Way to Promote Liberty?
From: J
Sent: Friday, May 18, 2018 12:31 PM
To: Walter Block
Subject: Article for your critique

Good morning, I am passing on an article a friend of mine, and cohost of my radio show Patriots Lament, posted today, if you care to or have time, I would appreciate your comments/critique of it. Thanks.
http://patriotslament.blogspot.com/2018/05/a-message-to-libertarians-past-and.html?m=1

J

Dear J: I disagree with this view, one that Leonard Read offered too. I think we need do more than live good personal lives in order to promote liberty. Who are the two people who converted more people to libertarianism than anyone else? Which two stood head and shoulders over all others in promoting liberty – at least in terms of mass conversions? They are of course Ron Paul and Ayn Rand. The former has lead an exemplary personal life. The latter, not so much, at least not in traditional terms. If the best way to promote liberty were by living a good personal life, then Ayn Rand could never be mentioned in this regard. (Of course, Murray Rothbard and Ludwig von Mises promoted liberty quite a bit too, but not, mainly, through mass conversions. Their contribution was in other directions).

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6:57 pm on June 14, 2018

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Cesar Chavez saves workers from being poisoned. He’s a hero? Part II

From: S
Sent: Wednesday, June 13, 2018 4:22 AM
To: wblock@loyno.edu
Subject: Caesar Chavez

Though your analysis of B’s question is consistent with principle and logical, it seems to me there is another possibility—the spraying of the field while workers are present could indeed be a tort, but one that the farmer can get away with because he knows the workers will not or cannot take him to court over it. In other words, the workers do not consent contractually to the spraying, but they acquiesce in it for reasons of their own, just as subjects in a State acquiesce in its various oppressions, because they believe themselves unable to prevent them, and likely to be more greviously harmed if they try.

I don’t think one can know in a specific case which alternative applies without careful investigation, and every case could be different. But that is what juries are for. In a free society it would be much easier for the farm workers to take the employer to court, and the jury would be well instructed in its rights and responsibilities (and even more so if the jury is itself professional).. S

Dear S: If this were a one shot deal, and/or if the workers were not notified beforehand that poison would be dropped on them, then, I think you have a good point. However, it was my understanding from B (see below) that this was an ongoing process. That being the case, I find it difficult to see how any lawsuit on the part of the employees against the employer would not be frivolous, at least so considered in a libertarian court. For part I of this exchange, go here: Block, Walter E. 2018. “Cesar Chavez saves workers from being poisoned. He’s a hero?” June 12; https://www.lewrockwell.com/lrc-blog/cesar-chavez-saves-workers-from-being-poisoned-hes-a-hero/; Reprinted: https://sangabrieltutor.wordpress.com/2018/06/13/did-cesar-chavez-save-workers-from-being-poisoned/

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6:08 pm on June 13, 2018

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Cesar Chavez Saves Workers From Being Poisoned. He’s a Hero?

Cesar Chavez saves workers from being poisoned. He’s a hero?

From: B
Sent: Monday, April 23, 2018 12:37 PM
To: wblock@loyno.edu
Subject: Migrant farm workers

Dear Prof. Block,

Recently, I had an interesting encounter which I would like you to help me assess in light of our common views on libertarianism.

Last week I attended an accepted college student day with my daughter at the University of Wyoming. (I note as an aside that my daughter made it clear to me that she was not interested in studying economics in college, and therefore she did not follow up on your generous invitation from last year to apply to study with you at Loyola.)

At the college event, we met the parents of an accepted student from California. Both the parents (and their parents as well) had been migrant farm workers from Mexico who eventually became naturalized citizens to the United States. The parents that I met said that they had started at a young age working in California vineyards picking grapes for both domestic consumption and export. They indicated that while picking grapes, the fields were often sprayed with pesticides from the air, even as the farm workers were working in the fields. They said that many of the workers would emerge with blisters and rashes on their arms from the poisonous chemicals. They credited Cesar Chavez and California legislators with eliminating the practice of spraying fields that would expose farm workers to this hazard (and also outlawing younger children from working in the fields).

My thoughts about the child-labor aspects are probably similar to yours: it beats the alternative, starvation. And the parents that I met readily admitted that they willingly worked in the vineyards in order to earn extra cash, even as their parents disapproved of their choice. (Honestly, it sounds like a horrible job.)

However, with respect to the pesticide-spraying issue, I am having a hard time understanding how to reconcile this in light of our beliefs. I do not doubt the veracity of the story told to me by the parents.

1. From a strictly humanitarian perspective, I have a hard time understanding how a human being could consciously choose to drop poison on fields in which other humans are toiling and which would clearly cause them harm. However, you and I both know that capitalism does not ensure that there will be no bad actors in the market, but the market is the best way of weeding them out (in a manner of speaking).

2. From a legal point of view (yes, I am a lawyer), this seems to be a tort which is (was) actionable by the workers. I find it incredible that companies would expose themselves to liability by directly causing harm to their employees. (I did ask whether they were 1099 workers or W-2 employees, and they replied that they were seasonal employees of Dole.) The spraying might have been done by the farmers and not Dole, but still it seems as though there would have been a lot of legal exposure as well as bad PR for the companies.

3. The parents were clearly grateful that Chavez and California legislation intervened to change these practices, which I understand. But this is not a satisfactory result from my perspective. While I do not necessarily view this as an example of market failure, I am having a hard time thinking through how the free market could have worked to stop these objectively bad practices that caused harm to others.

Your thoughts on this would be most welcome.

B

Dear B: There are externalities, and internalities. In the former case, A impinges upon B’s rights, and they are not contractually related (pollution is an example of trespassing smoke particles). In the latter case, A seemingly impinges upon B’s rights, and they are indeed contractually related, and, therefore, there really is no impingement. Consider the following case. A hires B to test his new jet plane. Testing new jet planes is a perilous business. B does so, and crashes. Is A a murderer? Of course not. A and B made this contract, knowingly. B was fully aware of the dangers, and, presumably, was paid additionally to bear this extra risk. You even mention this very point: “(they) readily admitted that they willingly worked in the vineyards in order to earn extra cash.”

I infer that there must have been some reason for spreading these pesticides while the workers were present. They were paid additionally to bear the risk of disease, blisters and rashes.

So, the evil Cesar Chavez took away from these workers an option they preferred: bearing the risk of disease, blisters and rashes for a higher salary, and left them with one they did not prefer: not bearing the risk of disease, blisters and rashes and earning a lower salary.

Boxing, picking up garbage, wallowing in sewers, washing dishes are all jobs that have negative repercussions. People who engage in them earn more money than would otherwise be the case, given their skills. Labor economists sometimes call this phenomenon compensating differentials. Your pesticide example is only an extreme case of this. I hope and trust my comment is of help to you.

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9:43 pm on June 12, 2018

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Dear Friends:

See below for a list of my upcoming public speeches. If you live in these cities (Las Vegas, New Orleans, Auburn Al, NYC) or are visiting them while I’m there, please consider joining me at these events.

I never thought there could be an actual debate as a libertarian gathering concerning Murray Rothbard’s overwhelmingly excellent and magnificent contribution to our philosophy (it is not for nothing that he is properly known as “Mr. Libertarian), but, evidently, I thought wrong.

Another note: my friend Tim Moen, leader of the LP of Canada, has threatened to “spank” me in our debate.

1. Libertarian Party Annual Convention: June 30-July 3; New Orleans

Several talks. One introducing this new book of mine:

Nelson, Peter Lothian and Walter E. Block. Forthcoming, 2018. Space capitalism: the case for privatizing space travel and colonization. Palgrave Macmillan

Debate with my friend Tim Moen, leader of the Canadian LP: Would spanking children be illegal in the libertarian society?

For more information:

2. Freedom Fest: July 11-14; Las Vegas

Several presentations including: “Tough libertarian challenges: anarchism, immigration, abortion.”

Book signing for my Defending the Undefendable series: I, II and III, forthcoming

I’ll be on these two panels:

FREEDOMFESTSCHRIFT Murray Rothbard, Pro and Con
Hunter Hastings • Walter Block • Mark Skousen • Jeffrey Tucker

How High Is High? Does Marijuana Legalization Go Far Enough?
Jason Stapleton • Walter Block • Craig Bowden • Rebecca Gasca • Zoltan Istvan • Jeffrey Tucker

For more information: www.freedomfest.com; www.freedomfest.com/speakers/

3. Mises University: July 15-21, Auburn, Alabama

Fake Economic News.
The Case for Privatization – of Everything.
Ask Me Anything!

For more information: https://mises.org/events/mises-university-2018

4. Libertarian Scholars’ Conference, October 20, New York City

My topics:
Why the anti market bias of literature, novels, movies, plays?
The evil of political correctness

For more information:
October 20, 2018. Libertarian Scholars’ Conference. King’s College, 56 Broadway, NYC; https://mises.org/events/libertarian-scholars-conference; https://linkprotect.cudasvc.com/url?a=https://www.mises.org/events/libertarian-scholars-conference&c=E,1,ZeVviP3X0lf5_B7R980TunurGGK5AVm7lDtaSlvUQieTNZDBHbulLSw_KMZ6elHQPmX3xkmnOfL4Wa1I5hqOqci7cH-hxwmgCVuNc1sNYLr8ssZtFg,,&typo=1

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6:14 pm on June 11, 2018

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Property Abandonment
From: E
Sent: Monday, May 28, 2018 11:53 PM
To: Walter Block
Subject: homesteading question

Hi Walter,

Someone asked me a question, claiming it seems silly that someone would have the right to claim a parcel of land, work it, and then abandon it – and yet it would remain theirs for eternity – presumably this would be potential wealth taken out of the stock available means for future generations or others to develop for their best use value.

I know you have dealt with this in the past I’m just having trouble finding the best source. If it isn’t too terribly inconvenient would you point me in the right direction… to the right essay(s) or books on this. Best, E

Dear E: I hope this will be helpful:

Block, 2004, 2015; Block and Nelson, 2015; Kinsella, 2003, 2009A, 2009B, 2009C, 2011; Long, 1993

Block, Walter E. 2004. “Libertarianism, Positive Obligations and Property Abandonment: Children’s Rights,” International Journal of Social Economics; Vol. 31, No. 3, pp 275-286; http://www.emeraldinsight.com/Insight/viewContainer.do?containerType=Issue&containerId=18709; http://www.walterblock.com/wp-content/uploads/publications/block-children.pdf

Block, Walter E. 2015. “Expiration of private property rights.” The Journal of Philosophical Economics. Vol. VIII, Issue 2, Spring; http://www.jpe.ro/?id=revista&p=410;
http://www.jpe.ro/pdf.php?id=7114

Block, Walter E. and Peter Lothian Nelson. 2015. Water Capitalism: The Case for Privatizing Oceans, Rivers, Lakes, and Aquifers. New York City, N.Y.: Lexington Books; Rowman and Littlefield; https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781498518802/Water-Capitalism-The-Case-for-Privatizing-Oceans-Rivers-Lakes-and-Aquifers. https://mises.org/library/case-privatizing-oceans-and-rivers

Kinsella, Stephan N. 2003. “A libertarian theory of contract: title transfer, binding promises, and inalienability” Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 17, No. 2, Spring, pp. 11–37; http://www.mises.org/journals/jls/17_2/17_2_2.pdf; http://mises.org/journals/jls/17_2/17_2_2.pdf

Kinsella, Stephan. 2009A. “A Critique of Mutualist Occupancy.” August 2;
http://www.stephankinsella.com/2009/08/a-critique-of-mutualist-occupancy/; http://blog.mises.org/10386/a-critique-of-mutualist-occupancy/

Kinsella, Stephan. 2009B. “Left-Libertarians on Rothbardian Abandonment.” August 22;

Left-Libertarians on Rothbardian Abandonment

Kinsella, Stephan N. 2009C. “Homesteading, Abandonment, and Unowned Land in the Civil Law.” May 22; http://blog.mises.org/10004/homesteading-abandonment-and-unowned-land-in-the-civil-law/

Kinsella, Stephan N. 2011. “The relation between the non-aggression principle and property rights: a response to Division by Zer0.” October 4;
http://blog.mises.org/18608/the-relation-between-the-non-aggression-principle-and-property-rights-a-response-to-division-by-zer0/

Long, Roderick T. 1993. “Abortion, Abandonment, and Positive Rights: The Limits of Compulsory Altruism,” Social Philosophy and Policy vol. 10 no.1, Winter, pp. 166-191; http://praxeology.net/RTL-Abortion.htm

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8:55 pm on June 10, 2018

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Here is a series of back and for letters between me and a correspondent who questions the case for unilateral free trade.

Letter 1

From: J
Sent: Monday, April 30, 2018 9:41 AM
To: Walter Block
Cc:
Subject: Re: Tariffs

Walter: Excuse me for my ignorance, but how does our ending all tariffs, fix the inequities imposed by foreign companies on our products? regards, J
physicist

Letter 2

Dear J:

There are two guys sitting in a row boat. One of them shoots a hole in the floor of it. That’s the Chinese tariff. Should the other guy, the US, shoot a second hole in the boat? Will that help? No. See below for the case for a unilateral declaration of free trade with all nations, regardless of their own protectionist policies.

Block, Walter E. 2018. “Open Letter to Ph.D. Economists on Tariffs,” April 29; https://www.lewrockwell.com/lrc-blog/open-letter-to-ph-d-economists-on-tariffs/

Block, Walter E. 2018. “Open Letter to Ph.D. Economists on Tariffs, Part II.” April 29; https://www.lewrockwell.com/lrc-blog/open-letter-to-ph-d-economists-on-tariffs-part-ii/

Please read the first of these essays of mine. What to do? End all tariffs, period; the Friedman position. In my view, they are a rights violation, and, also, uneconomical.

Best regards,

Walter

Letter 3

From: J
Sent: Monday, April 30, 2018 6:32 AM
To: wblock@loyno.edu
Cc:
Subject: Tariffs

Walter: I applaud your interest in our country’ policies (e.g. here). My humble suggestion (as a scientist and citizen) is that you phrase your letter in a constructive manner. In other words, spell out what to do, not what you are against. The fact is that certain US industries are being disadvantaged by some foreign countries (e.g. China) giving politically favored treatment to their foreign counterparts. The tariff idea is an attempt (imperfect as it is) to put some balance into the situation. Indeed, there are some adverse consequences to a tariff — but there are also adverse consequences to doing nothing. My suggestion is that your letter focus on suggesting acceptable alternative ways of addressing the current inequities. regards, j, physicist

Letter 4:

From: J
Sent: Monday, April 30, 2018 10:05 AM
To: Walter Block
Cc:
Subject: Re: Tariffs
Walter:
I perfectly well understand that the second person shooting a hole in the boat, will not help. I also understand that not doing anything about the first hole in the boat will lead to a disaster too. That is my point. You are saying what is a wrong response to an existing hole.
However, I don’t see a focus on a solution that will assure us that the first hole will be immediately fixed. Again, maybe I’m simply clueless.
regards, j physicist

Letter 5:

Dear J:
The only way to fix the first (Chinese) hole in the boat is to declare war on it and all other protectionist countries; conquer them, and then remove their tariffs. In that way, they can’t shoot any holes in any boats. I don’t recommend this. Of course, the US is a protectionist country too. So, I return to my initial stance: let the US, and indeed all other countries, unilaterally declare full free trade with every other nation.
Best regards,
Walter

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9:15 pm on May 8, 2018

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From: J
Sent: Friday, April 06, 2018 10:22 PM
To: wblock@loyno.edu
Subject: Austro-libertarian perspective on disclosure

Good Evening Dr. Block, My name is J and I am a new Austro-libertarian attempting to flesh out the consequences of Austro-libertarian principles. The non-aggression principle, respect for and enforcement of property rights, and voluntary engagement in contracts form the basis for a more peaceful society. I’ve recently seen videos in which you lay out logical consequences of these principles, and these arguments have added a lot to my understanding of Austro-libertarian theory. Specifically, your explanations that the strict definition of property rights trumps voluntary contractual agreements to result in the moral invalidation of fractional reserve banking, the no-win situation that companies are put in with the existence of anti-trust law, and your pushing the limits of possibilities of privatization of any and all sectors of society have opened my eyes to the breadth of Austro-libertarian thought. So before proceeding any further, I’d like to thank you for helping me in my own journey to see just how profound and sweeping these ideas and their logical consequences are. In that vein, I’ve been trying to explore how Austro-libertarian thought would apply to some of the particulars of voluntary contracts. Specifically, I’ve been hung up on what burden, if any, is on the seller of a good/service in a voluntary transaction to disclose information about the good/service to the seller. Would a used car salesman be obligated in any way to inform a potential buyer that the he/she suspects/knows a specific car part will catastrophically fail shortly after the purchase? Is it the fully the responsibility of the buyer to inform himself or herself of the condition of the good/service, and is there a reciprocal responsibility of the seller to grant access for the buyer to inspect the good/service in order to absolve the seller of responsibility? Does a ‘buyer agrees to buy the good/service as is’ clause in the contract fully absolve the seller of liability in all cases? All of this assumes that the seller does not outright lie to the buyer, as this could be construed as breach of any agreed upon contract. Again, I’m appreciative of your contributions to Austro-libertarian thought, and I feel lucky to have stumbled upon videos of you illuminating these topics. Any response to my questions of disclosure and contract particulars would be greatly appreciated as well. I wish you well in your continued spreading and strengthening understanding of Austro-libertarian ideas. Sincerely, J

Dear J: This is a difficult challenge you present. But, it is a normative not a positive one; therefore, it pertains solely to libertarian, not Austrian, theory.

In my view, the doctrine of caveat emptor, buyer beware, is the best response. Yes, an outright lie would indeed be fraud. But, if the seller says to all customer queries: “No comment. This is an ‘as is’ sale. I make no claims about the product.” Then, I don’t think he should be held responsible for any flaws in the product. On the other hand, if he purposefully places a time bomb in the product, ready to go off 24 hours later, then, he is in effect not only to be held liable, but, also, to be considered a murderer. I think there is an implicit contract in all sales that would preclude that sort of behavior. So, I’m a “moderate” on this question. I’m not a total supporter of caveat emptor. I make an exception for that sort of thing. It’s not for nothing that I am known far and wide, at least in my own mind, as Walter Moderate Block.

See on this:

https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C19&q=caveat+emptor&btnG=

And also this:

Block, Walter E. 1988. “Caveat Emptor,” The Freeman Ideas on Liberty, May, pp. 180-181, https://fee.org/media/16328/1988-05.pdf

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8:12 pm on May 6, 2018

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My libel lawsuit against the NYTimes will soon be heard in court. They wrote that I thought “slavery was not so bad.” What I said to them was, roughly, “slavery was not so bad, if it was voluntary, if no one was forced to be a slave.” They didn’t entirely leave out the latter part, but stuck it several paragraphs away from this accusation of theirs against me, such that many people concluded that yes, indeed, I did not think slavery was all that bad.

But the reality was that I was just trying to explain to the NYTimes interviewer WHY slavery is an abomination: it wasn’t due to picking cotton or eating gruel or living in a shack. Rather, it was because of the compulsory nature of this institution. In my view, actual slavery was so horrendous that actual reparations to the grandchildren of slaves is justified. For evidence of these claims, see below.

The lower court dismissed my case with prejudice, which meant that I would have to pay the legal bills of the NYTimes for in effect bringing a frivolous lawsuit. Happily, the higher court overturned this decision. One of those judges opined that the NYTimes did to me what a journalist would do if he quoted Churchill as saying “Democracy is the worst system of them all” and left out his qualifier: “except for all the other systems.” Yes, this hypothetical “journalist” would have used Churchill’s exact words, as did the NYTimes use mine, but when you leave out the qualifier, you change the meaning of the statement by 180 degrees.

How can you people help me?

For my lawsuit, I need to establish damages, personal, financial or of any other type or variety. It is difficult to establish such a negative. Can you please help me? If you are a Loyola student who will not take my courses, or even talk to me because you think, due directly or indirectly to this NYTimes story, that I favor slavery, please get in touch with me and say so, in your own words. If you are a faculty colleague of mine who for this reason will have nothing to do with me, will not have lunch with me, will not engage in a public dialogue with me, will not talk to me, please let me know. If you would have invited me to your campus or think tank or institution to give a speech (paid or unpaid), or hired me as an expert witness, or in any other way associated with me, but did not do so due directly or indirectly to this NYTimes story, please notify me of this fact. If you know of anyone else who fits any of these categories, if you feel comfortable about it, give me their names, phone numbers and e mail addresses. If you do not feel comfortable about doing that, just tell me how many such people you know of, and categorize them: are they students at Loyola? Students elsewhere who will not enroll at Loyola because I am on the faculty? Are they faculty members at Loyola? Located elsewhere? Are they people who would have invited me to give a public speech, serve as an expert witness, etc?

1. The NYTimes article; I link to it here:

Block, Walter E. 2014. “Reply to the Scurrilous, Libelous, Venomous, Scandalous New York Times Smear Campaign.” January 30; https://www.lewrockwell.com/2014/01/walter-e-block/scurrilous-libelous-venomous/;

2. My support for reparations:

Block, Walter E. 2002. “On Reparations to Blacks for Slavery,” Human Rights Review, Vol. 3, No. 4, July-September, pp. 53-73;
http://www.walterblock.com/wp-content/uploads/publications/reparations_slavery.pdf; https://link.springer.com/journal/12142/3/4/page/1; https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12142-002-1003-4

3. Fr. Wildes’ SJ view of this matter (he is the president of Loyola University)

Wildes, Kevin. 2014. “Letter: Walter Block has made too many assumptions and contradictions.” February 6; http://www.loyolamaroon.com/108039/opinions/letter-walter-block-has-made-too-many-assumptions-and-contradictions/

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8:49 pm on May 5, 2018

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Open Letter to Ph.D. Economists on Tariffs, Part II

I fear I mislead everyone with this blog posting of mine, calling for economists to sign on to my open letter in opposition to protectionism: https://www.lewrockwell.com/lrc-blog/open-letter-to-ph-d-economists-on-tariffs/. I apologize for this error of mine.

I thank Steve Horwitz for alerting me to the fact that Bryan Riley, Director of the NTU Free Trade Initiative, has already done magnificent work in this regard. I am hence ceasing all of my efforts to in effect replicate what he has done, and ask that everyone sign up for his initiative. I have already done so. Here is more information on that:

Next week we are delivering a letter on trade policy from more than 1,000 economists, including 15 Nobel laureates, to President Trump and Congress. This effort was inspired by a letter in opposition to the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act that was signed by 1,028 economists.

Economists may use this link to review the letter and submit your signature. I can also be emailed if the link does not work.

https://www.ntu.org/takeaction/page/ntu-tariffs-letter-signature-form
A detailed history of the 1930 letter that inspired this effort is available at Smoot-Hawley letter

If you have any questions, please contact briley@ntu.org. Cell 316-269-5027

Thank you for your time.

Bryan Riley
Director, NTU Free Trade Initiative

Excerpt:

In 1930, 1,028 economists urged Congress to reject the protectionist Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act. Today, Americans face a host of new protectionist activity, including threats to withdraw from trade agreements, misguided calls for new tariffs in response to trade imbalances, and the imposition of tariffs on washing machines, solar components, and even steel and aluminum used by U.S. manufacturers.
Congress did not take economists’ advice in 1930. The undersigned American economists and teachers of economics strongly urge you not to repeat that mistake. Much has changed since 1930 — for example, trade is now much more important to our economy — but the fundamental economic principles as explained at the time have not …
First Signers:
Alvin Roth, Stanford University
Richard H. Thaler, University of Chicago
Oliver D. Hart, Harvard University
Daron Acemoglu, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Roger Myerson, University of Chicago
N. Gregory Mankiw, Harvard University
Avinash K. Dixit, Princeton University
James Heckman, University of Chicago
Gene Grossman, Princeton University
Robert C. Merton, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Raymond Riezman, University of Iowa
James E. Anderson, Boston College
Donald J. Boudreaux, George Mason University
Robert Shiller, Yale University
Vernon Smith, Chapman University
J. Bradford Jensen, Georgetown University
Gary Hufbauer, Peterson Institute for International Economics
Robert E. Lucas, Jr., University of Chicago
Robert Engle, New York University
Eric Maskin, Harvard University
Gordon Hanson, UC San Diego
Eugene F. Fama, University of Chicago


Bryan Riley
Director
NTU Free Trade Initiative
“America must be an unrelenting advocate of free trade.” Ronald Reagan
“I cannot picture Uncle Sam as a supine, white-livered, flabby-muscled old man, cooling his heels in the shade of our tariff walls.” Franklin Roosevelt

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6:19 pm on April 29, 2018

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