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Letter 1

From: Spencer S

Sent: Tuesday, September 01, 2020 6:28 PM

To: Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu>

Subject: Action axiom

Dr Block,

When you start from the action axiom and then start deducing propositions, where do you think the point is where the original axiom ends and the first deduction begins? Because I’ve heard the process described in slightly different ways by different Austrians. Does it depend on how you define “purposeful”? Because if we define action as purposeful behavior, and the action axiom is “humans act” (“humans behave purposefully”), if we take “purposeful” to mean “intentional”, then the fact that people have ends has to be deduced from the axiom, right? But if we take “purposeful” to mean “done with a purpose in mind”, then the fact that people have ends is actually a part of the axiom, right?

In other words, what would you say is the full extent of the presuppositions that are a a part of the action axiom, before any propositions are deduced from it?

-Spencer Schiff

Letter 2

On Tue, Sep 1, 2020 at 9:27 PM Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu> wrote:

Dear Spenser:

I’m not sure I’m following you. Maybe, you could give me at least two examples of this: Because I’ve heard the process described in slightly different ways by different Austrians.

Best regards,

Walter

Letter 3

From: Spencer S

Sent: Saturday, September 05, 2020 5:40 PM

To: Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu>

Subject: Re: Action axiom

It’s hard to explain. How do you define the action axiom, and what do you think are its immediate derivations?

Letter 4

Dear Spencer:

The axiom is that human beings act. All else in Austrianism, I think, is a derivation.

The first ones start right after that. For example, people prefer present to future satisfaction, other things equal, or they would never act. Or, in acting, people attempt to render the future course of events more to their satisfaction that what would otherwise occur had they not acted. Or, action is purposeful. Or, economics is a branch of logic, not, essentially, an empirical science.

Here are a few more, as supplied by Hans Hoppe, my brilliant friend:

Whenever two people A and B engage in a voluntary exchange, they must both expect to profit from it. And they must have reverse preference orders for the goods and services exchanged so that A values what he receives from B more highly than what he gives to him, and B must evaluate the same things the other way around.

“Or consider this: Whenever an exchange is not voluntary but coerced, one party profits at the expense of the other.

“Or the law of marginal utility: Whenever the supply of a good increases by one additional unit, provided each unit is regarded as of equal serviceability by a person, the value attached to this unit must decrease. For this additional unit can only be employed as a means for the attainment of a goal that is considered less valuable than the least valued goal satisfied by a unit of such good if the supply were one unit shorter.

“Or take the Ricardian law of association: Of two producers, if A is more productive in the production of two types of goods than is B, they can still engage in a mutually beneficial division of labor. This is because overall physical productivity is higher if A specializes in producing one good which he can produce most efficiently, rather than both A and B producing both goods separately and autonomously.

“Or as another example: Whenever minimum wage laws are enforced that require wages to be higher than existing market wages, involuntary unemployment will result.

“Or as a final example: Whenever the quantity of money is increased while the demand for money to be held as cash reserve on hand is unchanged, the purchasing power of money will fall.

As to which of these takes preference, I don’t know how to answer that.

Best regards,

Walter

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3:26 am on October 28, 2020

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From: The NAPster

Sent: Sunday, August 30, 2020 9:01 AM

To: Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu>

Cc: Kenn Williamson

Subject: Re: Typhoid Mary

Walter:

Yes, and I said so at the end of my second paragraph.

For Typhoid Mary, I see three cases.

Case 1: she is on her own property.  In that case, only in the instance that I mentioned above — where she is spewing forth her infection onto another property — could the impacted person or his agent come onto her property and use force against her.  I don’t think that it would be legitimate to just assume that because she has typhoid, she is necessarily going to spew forth the infection onto neighboring properties.  That would be like disarming someone who owns a firearm because he might use the gun violently.  Now, if she stood at the property fence and was about to cough, then I think this could be regarded as an imminent threat (there might be instances where it is not, but let’s not deal with those), worthy of action.  If this is what you mean, then yes, I agree with you.

Case 2: she is on A’s property with A’s consent and is not threatening to impart her infection to anyone not on A’s property.  A could of course revoke that consent and throw her off his property, but he could do so for any reason, not just because she has typhoid or is acting in a threatening manner.  If X is also on A’s property and is worried about Mary, then what X could do depends on the terms on which he is on A’s property.  X’s best, peaceful course of action is simply to leave A’s property.

Case 3: she is on A’s property with A’s consent, and is standing at A’s fence with B, spewing forth her infection onto B’s property.  In that instance, unless A and B have an agreement to the contrary, B could legitimately use force against Mary and, if necessary, A and his property, to prevent this.  And if Mary were standing there about to cough, then similarly.

Are there any areas in which we disagree?

Zack Rofer

Check out my book: Busting Myths About the State and the Libertarian Alternative

Dear Zach:

We agree.

You might find this to be of interest:

Block, Walter E. and Matthew A. Block. 2000. “Toward a Universal Libertarian Theory of Gun (Weapon) Control,” Ethics, Place and Environment, Vol. 3, No. 3, pp. 289-298;

http://www.walterblock.com/wp-content/uploads/publications/theory_gun_control.pdfhttps://www.researchgate.net/publication/228127780_Toward_a_Universal_Libertarian_Theory_of_Gun_(Weapon)_Control_A_Spatial_and_Georgraphical_Analysis?ev=prf_pubhttps://www.researchgate.net/publication/228127780_Toward_a_Universal_Libertarian_Theory_of_Gun_Weapon_Control_A_Spatial_and_Georgraphical_Analysishttp://www.walterblock.com/publications/toward-a-universal-libertarian-theory-of-gun-weapon-control-a-spatial-and-geographical-analysis/https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/713665896

Best regards,

Walter

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3:23 am on October 28, 2020

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From: The NAPster

Sent: Sunday, August 30, 2020 7:59 AM

To: Kenn Williamson

Subject: Typhoid Mary

Walter and Kenn:

Interesting discussion that you two are having.

I agree with Kenn in principle: libertarianism does not allow for punishing pre-crime (to use the term made popular in the movie, The Minority Report).  Pre-crime is how most state regulation works: the state posits that action A might lead to damage, and thus prohibits action A, but that unnecessarily and immorally constrains all of those using their own property engaging in action A who don’t cause the theoretical damage.  Only when damage is actually caused, or is imminent, is responsive force justified.

However, I would raise a slight issue with one thing Kenn said, namely, “Any person has the right to regulate who is coming into their property but they do not have the right to regulate the activity of others on their own property.” I think that it would be compatible with libertarianism to “regulate” (by which I assume Kenn means “use force against”) the activity of others on their own property if that activity were itself causing an invasion of one’s own property.  So, to use Kenn’s example, if A had a fan that was blowing VINE-19 seeds onto B’s property, then B could use reasonable force to try to stop this.  It would be no different than if A were firing bullets at B from A’s property.

Applied to Typhoid Mary, private-property owners could always exclude her from coming onto their property, but could only enter her property if she were somehow spewing forth her infectious disease from there.

Zack Rofer

Check out my book: Busting Myths About the State and the Libertarian Alternative

Dear Zach:

Of course you are correct in saying that “libertarianism does not allow for punishing pre-crime.” I never ever said that it did.

Where you and I part company is that in my view, violence is justified not only in punishment for crime, but, also, in stopping THREATS to engage in criminal behavior.

If you come running at me with a knife held aloft, with blood in your eye, screaming, I have a right to shoot you even though you have not YET committed any crime. But you’re a THREAT.

Similarly, if you go out in public with a contagious disease, you are also a THREAT, and violence may properly be used against you, at least according libertarian theory as I understand it.

Don’t you agree with me that libertarianism not only is compatible with using violence against criminals as punishment, but, also using violence in self defense against THREATS?

Best regards,

Walter

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3:22 am on October 28, 2020

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The Libertarian Case for Joe Biden

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Dear Dude:

Thanks for calling me Mr. Libertarian. But, I think, there’s only one person who deserves that honorific. I won’t tell you who that is, but his initials are MNR.

As a libertarian, I’m concerned, only, with what the law should be, a small branch of morality, not with morality itself in its entirety, your focus. So, I don’t have too much to say about your interesting thoughts on this subject. However, I think, but I’m not sure, that to ignore a drowning person is immoral, not amoral. Sitting on a chair is amoral. Murder is immoral. But, as I say, my area of interest is not all of morality, as is yours.

Best regards,

Walter

From: coolmoneydude@aol.com <coolmoneydude@aol.com>

Sent: Saturday, August 29, 2020 12:37 AM

To: wblock@loyno.edu

Subject: Quarantining Typhoid Mary and Vices are Not Crimes

Dear Walter Block,

Good to see you answering questions.

Quarantine

I am unsure what Mr. Napolitano said about quarantine, but I found this 2014 article from Reason persuasive:

Forcibly injecting substances-attenuated microbes or otherwise-into someone else’s body cannot be justified as an act of self-defense, because there is no way to determine with certainty that the person will ever be responsible for disease transmission. . . . A strong argument can be made that it is self-defense to quarantine people who are infected with a disease-producing organism and are objectively threatening the contamination of others. But in such a case, the use of force against the disease carrier is based upon evidence that the carrier is contagious and may infect others.

Vices

I partly object to your response: “morality also opposes drunkenness, laziness, disrespect for parents, which, at least according to libertarianism, are not to be punished by the use of violence.” [Emphasis added.] My objection is limited to the underline portion.

I thank you again for your past feedback on the long essay I sent you. I revised it. This excerpt (with footnotes omitted) addresses the relationship between morality and libertarianism:

Libertarian morality has three categories (moral, amoral, and immoral), each involving the absence or presence of consent. The absence or presence of consent shows the consistency of libertarianism. An impolite word for consistency is stubbornness: “[r]efusing to change . . . despite pressure to do so[.]” This definition is “despite pressure to do so” rather than a reason to do so. A nicer word for consistency is loyalty, as in loyalty to a principle: consent.

Consistency to a moral code is integrity:  “Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code[.]”

To not be consistent is to be inconsistent. A harsher word for inconsistent is disloyal. A harsher word for disloyal is traitor: “One who betrays[.]”

If an outsider criticizes a libertarian, the criticism might be ignored as coming from a different moral code. But when an insider criticizes a libertarian, the criticism might be (a) polite feedback or (b) an accusation of treachery.

I have yet to see anyone who, when accused of treachery, admits it. Instead, the treachery accusation leads to a denial, maybe an angry denial, sometimes follow by a counter-accusation. More likely, the anger among accuser and accused will prevent any calm discussion.

Libertarianism does not promise a powerful position in a government, a job opening for savior of humanity, or even a free chocolate chip cookie. So, I tend to suspect another libertarian of being mistaken rather than ill-intentioned.

The three consent categories (moral, amoral, and immoral) cover what is required, allowed, or banned.

Libertarian Morality

Category     Definition   Example

Moral:         Must If you consent to create a needy person, you must care for the person unless (a) another assumes the duty to care, or (b) the person reaches adulthood      Parents caring for their baby

Contractual duty   A lifeguard, under contract, helping a drowning man

Should        Consensual help    Helping a drowning man

Amoral:      May  Not moral or immoral, so neutral        Ignoring a drowning man

Immoral:     Should not: Anything you dislike outside of the other definitions in this chart, so for me: sadism toward innocents        Laughing at the drowning man, betting how fast the drowning man will die, or recording the drowning to give a copy to the man’s family to traumatize them

May not      Nonconsensual initiatory aggression   Drowning a man by holding him underwater

Consent (to agree to let something occur) differs from informed consent (to agree to let something occur, knowing the risks and alternatives): You agreeing to buy a bicycle from me is consent while you agreeing to buy it after I explain the risks (it has chipped paint and bad steering) and alternatives (you could buy a scooter) is informed consent. Under libertarian morality, consent is defined as an agreement made to let something occur, knowing the risks. So, I must tell you of risks with your bicycle purchase, not alternatives. I must be an honest seller, not an advocate for my economic competitors.

In the drowning examples, one never need help a drowning man unless under contract. There is no duty to help/sacrifice. Moralities differ in degree and kind. If I usually donate $1 to charity, but then donate $10, the change is a matter of degree because I do more of what I have done: donate money. If I never donate money to charity, but then donate $1, the change is a matter of kind for I have done something that I have never done. Libertarian morality differs in kind, not degree, from other moralities. It does not require you to sacrifice your blood, time, and money, while other moralities differ to the degree of how much you must sacrifice. “‘Need’ now means wanting someone else’s money. ‘Greed’ means wanting to keep your own. ‘Compassion’ is when a politician arranges the transfer.”

An effect of a duty to sacrifice for everyone everywhere eternally is to popularize cost-control rules: rules meant to save money.

Consider a law requiring a cyclist to wear a helmet. “[A] primary aim of the helmet law is prevention of unnecessary injury to the cyclist himself. But the costs of this injury may be borne by the public. A motorcyclist without a helmet is more likely to suffer serious head injury than one wearing the prescribed headgear. . . . the injured cyclist may be hospitalized at public expense. If permanently disabled, the cyclist could require public assistance for many years.”

Yet the logic of requiring an act (wear a helmet) to save money allows for more requirements: ban motorcycles to prevent motorcycle-related injuries. Why not go further? The motorcyclist might smoke cigarettes (risking cancer), drink alcohol (risking liver damage), and have unprotected sex (risking STDs). Why not go as far as possible? Doctors become dictators, their patients become subjects, and their recommendations for diet and exercise become orders carrying penalties for defiance. Under this system, physical health could be maximized and costs minimized. The price is liberty. No one should pay that price.

The top and bottom of the chart have commands: always do something (must) and never do something (may not). The flexibility of whether to do something is in the middle of the chart with the subcategories of encouraged (should) and discouraged (should not). To allow (may) includes should and should not, so maybe should and should not are better categorized as amoral. But I see a difference between neutrality toward an event (like drowning) and seeking to stop it or enjoy it.

Should can mean:

1. Instruction: Use the lever to raise the sails. This is factual.

2. Prediction: Tomorrow should be rainy. This is speculation on potential fact.

3. Want: Ships should be free. This is desire.

4. Moral suggestion: Invite a friend onto the ship. This is moralized want. This is the meaning I use in the chart.

The may not definition (nonconsensual initiatory aggression) is complex. Other libertarians call this the non-aggression principle/axiom. Consensual combat (like boxing) is consensual initiatory aggression. Punching a mugger is nonconsensual retaliatory aggression. Insulting a person is nonconsensual initiatory rudeness, not aggression.

Aggression is physical harm against a person (beating him) or his possessions (destroying his flowers). So, you may non-physically harm others. For example, I sell bicycles next to a storeowner, reducing his income, harming him. Liberty is the absence of nonconsensual initiatory aggression.

“The nonaggression axiom does not rule out such an action’s possible moral wrongness on other grounds or the possible appropriateness of attempting to combat it by peaceful means. The nonaggression axiom is intended as a rule specifically for actions involving force, not as a guide to the whole of moral conduct.”

To a libertarian, violating the nonaggression axiom is necessarily immoral. A libertarian is willing to approve up to deadly force to uphold the nonaggression axiom. To justify killing yet refuse to label that justification with the terms moral or immoral is, I suspect, caution by other libertarians. Defending the nonaggression axiom alone is easier than endlessly debate what is moral. Laughing at, betting about, and recording a drowning man might not be immoral to others. I specify every possible choice of morality (must, should, may, should not, and may not), and then define all those choices. These choices can reflect conformity or contrarianism, courage or cowardice, compassion or cruelty, and selfishness or selflessness. For the libertarian, the important matter is one choose, not be forced.

This chart reaches perfection:

1. Lacking nothing essential to the whole; complete of its nature or kind.

2. Being without defect or blemish

I could have made an arbitrary and complete morality by random. Murder Mondays and torture Tuesdays are approved, but not for any other day except maybe Wacky Wednesdays where random behaviors are approved, permitted, or rejected depending on the outcome of the spin of a roulette wheel.

I would not call the morality of murder Mondays, torture Tuesdays, and whacky Wednesdays perfect because it is defective with arbitrariness.

Libertarian morality completely and consistently applies consent across all categories of behavior. Completeness and consistency yield perfection. When anyone wants to alter the chart yet still call it libertarian, perfection is blemished. Worst, clear categories become at risk for chaos.

I could be wrong. If so, I again welcome your input, Mr. Libertarian.

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7:42 am on October 24, 2020

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Sat, Oct 24 at 6:12 AM

Voluntary Slavery, “Civil War”

From: Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu>

Sent: Thursday, August 27, 2020 9:07 PM

To: ‘Bobreagan13@gmail.com‘ <Bobreagan13@gmail.com>

Subject: letter

Dear Bob:

Thanks for your lovely letter. I apologize for the long delay in responding. I’m not used to getting letters on paper, and misplaced yours. In future, please let’s communicate by e mail. Please, do me a favor? If you have that letter electronically, please send it to me. I’d like to blog it plus my response. I can keep you anonymous if you wish.

Yes, things were better, intellectually on campus a few decades ago than they are now; way better.

Voluntary slavery, in my view, is very different than indentured servitude. In the former case, killing the slave would not be considered murder; in the latter case, killing the servant certainly would be.

There was no “Civil War” in 1861. A civil war occurs when each of two sides wants to control the entire country. The civil wars in Russia in 1917 and in Spain, in 1936 were true civil wars. But in the US, while the north wanted to control the south, the south only wanted to secede. So this war was a war over secession.

Voluntary socialism can be as widespread as people are willing to join in. I don’t say it will be very efficient; it won’t. But it should be legal in the free society.

Yay, JSMill.

I’ve just been honored by FIRE and I’ve been a long time supporter of theirs:

https://www.thefire.org/research/disinvitation-database/#home/?view_2_search=walter&view_2_page=1;

entire list:

https://www.thefire.org/research/disinvitation-database/#home/?view_2_page=2

Best regards,

Walter

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7:39 am on October 24, 2020

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Here is another conversation of mine with a very bright high school student, this time from the US. What’s with these kids? When I was in high school, I was interested in two things: sports and girls, and I’m not sure in what order. I never so much as even HEARD of libertarianism until I was a junior in college! The future looks pretty good for our precious libertarian movement with young people like this.

Letter 1

From: Craig Duddy <craigduddy2020@gmail.com>

Sent: Monday, August 24, 2020 9:27 PM

To: wblock@loyno.edu

Subject: Sign-Value application in subjective value theory

Dear Dr. Walter Block,

I am a 15 year old student at Calderglen High School currently residing within East Kilbride, Scotland. Over the past few months I have had a fantastic opportunity in the form of the ‘quarantine’ to read an immense amount of literature generally surrounding the areas of economics and philosophy, I have recently been reading works of more generally regarded in the area of ‘post-modern’ philosophers such as Deleuze and Baudrillard.

I have specifically been reading into Baudrillard’s conception of ‘sign-value’ and it has caused me a great deal of thought specifically on it’s implications upon the ‘Austrian’ conception of value, I had thought for a while that while Baudrillard presented this concept of sign-value more as an aspect of our current society and its tendencies to consumerism to critique the use and validity of the law of value, it also could be used as a critique of the ‘Austrian’ conception of value.

This led me to believe that in our current formulation of the political and economic system, the law of value in the way presented by Marx almost definitely could not be correct, but that also a full out explanation of value from a position of purely subjective evaluation, as is generally presented by ‘Austrians’ such as myself, could also not be correct.

I have been led to believe however that my conception of Baudrillard solidifying a solid justification of what I described to be a ‘quasi-subjective’ theory of value was actually wrong, and rather these ‘signs and symbols’ that establish further value when attached to a commodity can actually just be represented in the formulation of what I believe was tilted by Rothbard as ‘psychic-value.’

I believe the thing that is causing trouble in my understanding of this formulation of value rests within the influence that society places upon an individual to solidify the value within these signs, almost like society does with the value of money.

I am not entirely sure how close to your general field of work this comes but I am very curious to hear your thoughts on this as you are one of my biggest inspirations and helped guide me further into a more logically sound understanding of libertarianism.

My main question here is if we can consider Baudrillard’s conception of sign-value within our society to be just another form of subjective evaluation, or if we can consider it strong enough evidence that the influence of the external environment affects the evaluation of the individual so much so that it can no longer rationally be considered a product of the individuals judgment itself.

Thank you very much for your time if you do read this,

Craig Duddy.

Letter 2

From: Walter Block

Sent: 26 August 2020 01:05

To: Craig Duddy

Subject: RE: Sign-Value application in subjective value theory

Dear Craig:

I’ll substantively respond to your fascinating letter on one condition: you have to promise to fully consider enrolling at Loyola U when the time comes. Deal? See below for the case in favor of Loyola.

Best regards,

Walter

Letter 3

From: Craig Duddy <craigduddy2020@gmail.com>

Sent: Wednesday, August 26, 2020 12:31 PM

To: Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu>

Subject: RE: Sign-Value application in subjective value theory

Dear Dr. Walter Block,

Thank you for taking time out of your day to respond to me, it is very highly appreciated.

I will absolutely fully consider enrolling to Loyola U, I had great hope it would be possible to study somewhere overseas previously and it would be an honour to work under someone such as yourself, you have my full guarantee I will fully consider it.

Letter 4

From: Walter Block

Sent: 26 August 2020 22:17

To: Craig Duddy

Subject: RE: Sign-Value application in subjective value theory

Dear Craig:

Here’s my substantive response.

Sorry, I know nothing of “Baudrillard’s conception of ‘sign-value’” So, I looked it up here: https://www.google.com/search?q=Baudrillard%E2%80%99s+conception+of+%E2%80%98sign-value%E2%80%99&rlz=1C1CHBD_enUS790US790&oq=Baudrillard%E2%80%99s+conception+of+%E2%80%98sign-value%E2%80%99+&aqs=chrome..69i57j33l4.1977j0j15&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

What I get out of this from a very brief reading is that for some people prestige is a motivation of theirs in their choice of purchases. That seems correct to me, but, hardly earth-shattering.

Yes, “we can consider Baudrillard’s conception of sign-value within our society to be just another form of subjective evaluation”

No “we can’t consider it strong enough evidence that the influence of the external environment affects the evaluation of the individual so much so that it can no longer rationally be considered a product of the individuals judgment itself.” I think this second claim is nonesense

Best regards,

Walter

Letter 5

From: Craig Duddy <craigduddy2020@gmail.com>

Sent: Thursday, August 27, 2020 2:42 PM

To: Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu>

Subject: RE: Sign-Value application in subjective value theory

Dear Dr. Walter Block,

Thank you for your response, it is highly appreciated.

Generally, I would agree with your position on this, it seemed to just be a further implementation of Rothbard’s conception of ‘psychic value’ which would be classed under the framework of subjective.

However, Baudrillard also introduces this conception in which he calls ‘the code’ which posits a sort of ‘programming of subjects’ type of idea within the current political and economic climate.

He infers a sort of modelling, reproduction and influencing within social relations across different spheres of reality itself, creating this sort of appearance to the subject that we are in a matrix as such.

All our moves are predetermined by ‘the code’ itself, in which we have zero control over, it is subject to the system and only the system, and as we are reproduced to be subjects with identity intrinsically ingrained within the system we may have no control over this.

He later goes on to explain how this places a shroud on the ‘real’ itself and rather places upon the individual a state of ‘hyper-reality’ which is an abstraction upon reality itself, allowing for the complete and total control in social spheres by this system.

It can be represented through an analogy of the subjects reproduced into this system almost being like pawns on a chessboard, only to be subject to control by the overarching system that transcends the frameworks imposed by the ‘matrix.’

It’s certainly an interesting conceptualization and it would be great to hear any thoughts you may have.

Letter 6

Dear Craig:

This guy sounds like a determinist. I favor the free will position:

Van Schoedlandt, et al, 2016; Block, 2015.

Van Schoelandt, Chad, Ivan Jankovic and Walter E. Block. 2016. “Rejoinder on Free Will, Determinism, Libertarianism and Austrian Economics.” Dialogue, Issue 2; http://www.uni-svishtov.bg/dialog/title.asp?lang=en&title=565http://141.164.71.80/exchange/walterblock/Inbox/RE:%20Rejoinder%20on%20Free%20Will,%20Determinism,%20Libertarianism%20and%20Austrian%20Economics.EML/1_multipart_xF8FF_2_p565__DialogueBook2eng2016_81_95.pdf/C58EA28C-18C0-4a97-9AF2-036E93DDAFB3/p565__DialogueBook2eng2016_81_95.pdf?attach=1;

http://www.uni-svishtov.bg/dialog/title.asp?title=565http://www.academia.edu/27719232/Rejoinder_on_Free_Will_Determinism_Libertarianism_and_Austrian_Economics

Block, Walter E. 2015. “Free will, determinism, libertarianism and Austrian economics” Dialogue, Issue 3, p.1; http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/110798998/free-will-determinism-libertarianism-austrian-economics;

Best regards,

Walter

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7:37 am on October 24, 2020

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Libertarianism and the Non Aggression Principle (NAP)

This is a fascinating, if I say so myself, ten part correspondence between me and a European high school student. A very bright one.

Letter 1

From: Diego de Lagarde

Sent: Monday, August 24, 2020 12:27 PM

To: wblock@loyno.edu

Subject: Ethics of imposed quarantine

Dear Professor Block,

First of all, I truly hope that during these tough times you and your loved ones are doing well. This pandemic is certainly an unprecedented event and I would not want to bother you with a useless personal reflection. Nonetheless, if you were able to provide any kind of a response, I would be deeply grateful.

I am a sixteen-year-old French high school student currently living in Spain. This year, I have progressively found myself in agreement with the perspective the Austrian School offers on economics as well as the principals of libertarian political philosophy. I am finishing Hayek’s book The Road to Serfdom (of which I believe you are not a big fan) and have planned on reading your critic once I have finished the book.

In these past few weeks, I have been trying to prepare my college essays in order to apply for university in France, the UK or Canada, but it has been quite challenging as I get distracted with your online lectures organized by the Mises Institute. In other words: thank you for your entertaining and astute way of presenting and defending Austrian economics.

Nevertheless, I came across a video where you deliberate with Professor Bagus on the ethics of quarantine and had a couple of questions. I understand that your opinions on this topic might have changed, so I would appreciate it if you could update me on any change of opinions you have had.

In the video, you make a reference to the Nuremberg trial and Professor Bagus says he would put you in jail up for locking up (or kidnapping) infected people so that they cannot spread the virus. I think having a trial is fair, as long as it takes into account (as you mentioned) that the authority who forced confinement had good intentions. But what if it had not imposed quarantine? It could then be prosecuted for endangering the population through negligence. Who would be held accountable? The authority (may it be a politician or a private defense company) or each individual who contaminates? By analogy with a private highway that contaminates too much where you would sue the highway company, I would deduce that the authority would be sued. All in all, if the authority forces quarantine on people it can be sued for kidnapping and if it does not it can be sued for murder (although involuntary). It is similar to your antitrust joke where no matter the action that is taken, the concerned party is in deep legal trouble. So what should the authority do?

Anyway, if you have read up until here, I hope that I have not wasted your time with these few interrogations. Enjoy your week.

Sincerely,

Diego de Lagarde

Letter 2

Le lun. 24 août 2020 à 23:31, Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu> a écrit :

Dear Diego:

Ok. Here are your questions, comments:

In the video, you make a reference to the Nuremberg trial and Professor Bagus says he would put you in jail up for locking up (or kidnapping) infected people so that they cannot spread the virus. I think having a trial is fair, as long as it takes into account (as you mentioned) that the authority who forced confinement had good intentions. But what if it had not imposed quarantine? It could then be prosecuted for endangering the population through negligence. Who would be held accountable? The authority (may it be a politician or a private defense company) or each individual who contaminates? By analogy with a private highway that contaminates too much where you would sue the highway company, I would deduce that the authority would be sued. All in all, if the authority forces quarantine on people it can be sued for kidnapping and if it does not it can be sued for murder (although involuntary). It is similar to your antitrust joke where no matter the action that is taken, the concerned party is in deep legal trouble. So what should the authority do?

In my view, Philipp is wrong when he says that a quarantine is NEVER justified. Surely, it was justified in the case of typhoid Mary. But, whether it is justified in any other particular case, such as covid 19, is an empirical question. Does the person to be quarantined pose a threat or not. This is a very difficult question to answer.

I wrestle with it here:

Block, Walter E. and William Barnett II. 2008. “Continuums” Journal Etica e Politica / Ethics & Politics, Vol. 1, pp. 151-166, June; http://www2.units.it/~etica/http://www2.units.it/~etica/2008_1/BLOCKBARNETT.pdf

Forget about covid for a moment. I go out onto the street a start flailing my arms in all directions. Or, I drive at 100 miles per hour on the highway. Am I a threat? I think the best way to resolve that question is to privatize all roads and streets, and allow each owner to make that determination. Then, allow competition to determine which street, road owner made the best decision. No one need sue anyone, since if you go out onto the road or street, you are tied by a contract to do what the owner wants.

On street privatization:

Block, Walter E. 2009. The Privatization of Roads and Highways: Human and Economic Factors; Auburn, AL: The Mises Institute; https://store.mises.org/Privatization-of-Roads-and-Highways-Human-and-Economic-Factors-The-P581.aspxhttp://www.amazon.com/Privatization-Roads-And-Highways-Factors/dp/1279887303/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1336605800&sr=1-1; available for free here: http://mises.org/books/roads_web.pdfhttp://mises.org/daily/3416http://www.walterblock.com/wp-content/uploads/publications/radical_privatization.pdf; audio: http://store.mises.org/Privatization-of-Roads-and-Highways-Audiobook-P11005.aspxhttp://www.audible.com/pd/Business/The-Privatization-of-Roads-and-Highways-Audiobook/B0167IT18K?tag=misesinsti-20http://us1.campaign-archive1.com/?u=bf16b152ccc444bdbbcc229e4&id=6cbc90577b&e=54244ea97d;

http://www.sanfranciscoreviewofbooks.com/2017/09/book-review-privatization-of-roads-and.html

Now, return to covid. I offer the same analysis. Let the owner of the property in question make this determination. In the free society, all property would be privately owned.

No, that really doesn’t solve the problem, but it’s my initial try. Why not? Because the covid germ can hop from one property to another. I guess what I’m saying is that this depends upon the facts of the case, and we libertarians have no comparative advantage in uncovering these facts. Therefore, we ought not to take strong stances on it.

Best regards,

Walter

Letter 3

From: Diego de Lagarde <diegodelagarde@gmail.com>

Sent: Tuesday, August 25, 2020 6:38 AM

To: Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu>

Subject: Re: Ethics of imposed quarantine

Professor Block,

The issue, I think, Austrian economics has with the COVID-19 epidemic is that it is transmitted through involuntary actions. From what I know, the Austrian School is fundamentally praxeological whereas the virus is mostly spread through reflexive behaviour (i.e. sneezing). So the way I see it, in this case, we should try to bring the behaviour to an action we can control: self-confinement.

The problem I have with letting the owners of the streets make a decision is that no one will feel a personal responsibility, they will just do what the owner of their street decides. The only difference between a State-run country and an anarchist one would then be that the authority wouldn’t be a government but a company. At least in an anarchist country/community, individuals would sign a real contract with the company (not an “implicit” one with the government). But is this delegation of responsibility to a company truly libertarian? Wouldn’t it be better if each individual were to assume their own personal responsibility?

Let’s assume for a moment that we know exactly who is contaminating who (I’ll come back to this assumption in the next paragraph). In that case, the choice could go to each individual and he/she would have to choose between self-confining or a number of other sanitary measures. But if he/she contaminates anyone, he/she would have to pay compensation to the person he/she infected. I think the compensation should be a standard monetary one, it would be too complex and time-consuming to determine a specific amount for each individual. In this case, if you get infected, you would get paid and could then use that money in case you infect one person, kind of as a “joker card”. Obviously this compensation could be waived for family or doctors (since it is their job). Moreover, patient 0 would also receive compensation from the company (scientific laboratory, the person who owns the bat that carried the disease…) responsible for the outbreak.

Coming back to my initial assumption: we know who contaminates who. Maybe if this system were to be set in place since the very beginning, it would be easier to clarify who infects who with a tree diagram. Also, I think infected people would probably think twice before going out on the street. In any case, if governments have been able to track down in numerous cases who the infected individuals have gotten in contact with, private agencies could do that instead.

I don’t know, these are just some spontaneous thoughts… maybe my assumption is too big of an “if”. Please do correct me if you feel like I have misunderstood or misinterpreted anything.

Sincerely,

Diego de Lagarde

Letter 4

Le mar. 25 août 2020 à 16:37, Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu> a écrit :

Dear Diego:

Austrian economics is a value free science, devoted to positive economics. Libertarianism is not value free, and is prescriptive, not descriptive. It is a normative discipline. The covid challenge lies entirely with the latter, not the former.

In my view as a libertarian, not an Austrian economist, the typhoid Mary case is definitive. It establishes that sometimes, it is justified to use violence (compel a quarantine) against an innocent contagious person. Whether or not this applies in the present case is an empirical issue, and, I contend, we libertarians have no comparative advantage in answering it.

Best regards,

Walter

Letter 5

From: Diego de Lagarde <diegodelagarde@gmail.com>

Sent: Wednesday, August 26, 2020 9:05 AM

To: Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu>

Subject: Re: Ethics of imposed quarantine

Dear Professor Block,

Thank you for making clear the misconceptions and confusion I had between Austrian economics and libertarianism. I still have a lot to read and many things to learn.

I am sorry if I am missing your point, I guess I would tend to think that every person has to assume their actions and therefore it is Mary’s responsibility to self-confine. This is why I do not believe any company or authority has the right to confine her “for the common good”. However, that is what happens in a minarchist state, I would assume. What if we waited for her the contaminate someone and then confine her for that reason? This would justify violence against her and would avoid using violence against people who have a virus but do not spread it.

I guess that would be the only case in which I think the use of violence against a contagious person is justified. Forgetting about COVID for a moment, what if we imagine we had a test that could determine potential killers. Would it be justified to lock up all of these people up because they might kill someone?

Anyway, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate you taking the time to answer my e-mails. I am sure I must be making many mistakes and unreasonable assumptions, so thank you again for all your patience.

Sincerely,

Diego de Lagarde

Letter 6

On 26 Aug 2020, at 22:40, Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu> wrote:

Dear Diego:

Yes, it is Mary’s responsibility to self-confine and not spread the typhoid disease. But suppose she does not? Then, she constitutes a threat of physical violence against others.

It is the responsibility of all of us to refrain from rape, murder, theft, etc. But suppose that some of us do not. That is some of us engage in these evil crimes. Are not the rest of us entitled to use violence against them, to stop them.

Same for typhoid Mary

Best regards,

Walter

Letter 7

From: Diego de Lagarde <diegodelagarde@gmail.com>

Sent: Wednesday, August 26, 2020 6:14 PM

To: Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu>

Subject: Re: Ethics of imposed quarantine

Dear Professor Block,

So I guess I do agree we can use violence, only in the context of self-defense. Nonetheless, I still think that we should only use it once typhoid Mary has proved she is a threat, id est by contaminating someone. Wouldn’t you agree?

We should not imprison people because a test dictates they are likely to rape, murder or commit theft (assuming such test would exist). We should only put them in prison once they have committed the harmful act. By analogy, we should only confine people once they have actually infected another individual.

Sincerely,

Diego de Lagarde

Letter 8

Le jeu. 27 août 2020 à 01:36, Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu> a écrit :

Dear Diego:

I disagree with this: “We should only put them in prison once they have committed the harmful act.”

Suppose someone is running at me with a knife yelling he’s going to kill me. Do I really have to wait until the knife pierces my body to take violent defensive action against him? Surely not.

How close to me does he have to get before I may properly shoot him in self defense?

Read this article on that:

Block, Walter E. and William Barnett II. 2008. “Continuums” Journal Etica e Politica / Ethics & Politics, Vol. 1, pp. 151-166, June; http://www2.units.it/~etica/http://www2.units.it/~etica/2008_1/BLOCKBARNETT.pdf

I hope and trust you don’t mind that I copy on this conversation my co author on that paper.

Best regards,

Walter

Letter 9

From: Diego de Lagarde <diegodelagarde@gmail.com>

Sent: Thursday, August 27, 2020 5:22 AM

To: Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu>

Cc: William Barnett <wbarnett@loyno.edu>

Subject: Re: Ethics of imposed quarantine

Dear Professor Block,

I have read your article Continuums, co-authored by Professor Barnett, whom I also thank for these reflections. I find two relevant sections to the COVID situation in your article: Part II Physical invasions as well as Part III International Relations.

In Physical invasions you describe the impossibility of determining a geographical limit to determine if self-defense is justified. You arrive at the conclusion that aggression can only be determined by the context and that no single factor (such as proximity) can be used to establish a “standard” juridical response to these cases. I do agree with you.

In International Relations you use the Viet Nam war to debate whether or not the US has the right to act as a “policeman of the world”. I would conclude, as you did, that since it is not mentioned in the Constitution (and for other reasons, but that is another debate), they do not have any right to do so.

Going back to the pandemic situation, I would not illustrate it as someone chasing you down a dark alley with a knife. I believe it is much more comparable to a person walking next to you and you are not sure if what that person has in their pocket is a knife or any other object. I think this is comparable to someone coughing (during the COVID situation) next to you: in both cases, you will try to walk away, but I trust you will not shoot that person. Consequently, I think you cannot determine at the moment when or if that person is going to infect you, and, therefore have no justification to confine a contaminated person before they might infect someone.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Diego de Lagarde

Letter 10

Dear Diego:

You make very good points. Perhaps the situation is somewhere between these two:

1.            someone chasing you down a dark alley with a knife

2.            a person walking next to you and you are not sure if what that person has in their pocket is a knife or any other object

Best regards,

Walter

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7:30 am on October 24, 2020

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Letter 1

From: Jim Lloyd

Sent: Thursday, August 27, 2020 6:31 AM

To: wblock@loyno.edu

Subject: The disinvited

Hi Walter,

Congratulations on being uninvited from speaking to still-developing

minds, which all of us could probably benefit from having.

The list inspired a question for me, as “commencement” and “campus

speaker/debate” are treated the same.

I have been to a few university graduations, never my own which is an

indicator, and actually had a restraining order that prevented me from

attending my high school coronation [obviously a story there, but who

doesn’t have one?], and it seems to me that unless those students who

would disagree with the speaker at a once-in-a-lifetime-experience can

express themselves peacefully but fully or obviously to those around

them, they are being misrepresented.?? If that’s true, ther than the

cap & gown I have seen in movies & on TV, what would a university

allow that satisfies the student’s desire to oppose the commencement

speaker on whatever grounds without disrupting the ceremony for

everyone else, ie a different color cap & gown?

Sincerely,

Jim Lloyd

Letter 2

On 8/27/2020 8:11 AM, Walter Block wrote:

Dear Jim:

What’s your HS story?

Best regards,

Walter

Letter 3

From: Jim Lloyd <detaoist@yahoo.com

Sent: Thursday, August 27, 2020 8:48 AM

To: Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu

Subject: Re: The disinvited

A brief preface before I outline what I will call “TheDay”.

My father, a convicted felon with a penchant for armed robbery, met my mother when she was nurse’s aide at UoIA hospital and he was avoiding Anamosa.?? After a correspondence courtship, they were married and honeymooned around the midwest for a time, until she had to ask where the money was coming from, found a gun under the seat of the car and learned she was pregnant, returning to live with her parents.

Adolescence with a single mom eventually resulted with me being declared CHiNA, or ChildInNeedofAssitance by the state of IA, removed from the home and placed in different facilities in IA that included juvenile offenders.?? After completing various program over the course of roughly five years, almost always with staff asking why I was there, I arrived at my senior year needing three credits to graduate, essentially three classes and two full semesters to get them.

Sometime before “TheDay” I didn’t like the structure of instruction, my peers & teachers were convinced I was a criminal, and I didn’t want to associate with anyone.?? I was enrolled in AP Calculus, Physics, Chemsistry and some other AP class I don’t recall, and a few electives-Rhetoric & Mythology [1st term], then Speech & MinorityCultures [2nd]-my senior year and by October I had all been abandoned the effort, saved by the Mythology instructor the first term and the MinorityCultures instructor (and football coach) who didn’t like me until he heard I corrected the Economics instructor who stated the MontgomeryAlabamaBusBoycott only lasted a few months.?? After that, I was “the smart kid” in his class.

On “TheDay”, there were no classes scheduled for seniors, graduation was about ten days out and I had detention for having skipped a few days.??

That morning, a local church was having an annual “SeniorBreakfast”

which included parents and my mother was dressed very nicely.?? I, on the other hand, while wearing a shirt & tie, also had on the most tattered, raggedy jeans I owned. She told me I wasn’t going with her like that; I responded that it was the SeniorBreakfast, and maybe she wasn’t going with me dressed as she was. Confiscation of car keys, drive to the school, she’s off to breakfast after I get walked to the detention area.

After she left, the teacher holding the space that morning, told me I couldn’t be there.?? For the detention to “count” I had to be seated by 0800 and it was 0802.?? I asked what difference it would make, said I would stay late, but despite another student coming in-one of his volleyball players and the daughter of a local attorney who often did civil cases for the county-I was told to leave.?? I said to the person sitting next to me “I’ll see you later” which the teacher understood to be a threat against him.

The person who was sitting next to me, ShaneFortner, had previouly offered to detail a small knife I sometime I had on me. I had never shown it in school, never threatened anyone, etc. Shane stopped me in the hall after detention, saying he had my knife with him if I wanted it and I retrieved it, planning to bounce for the day after cleaning out my locker and returning books.

Bell rings, classes start I am called to the office to face the principal and two local LEOs.?? They shake me out, hook me up (in view of the school as they waited with the principal until the bell rang again) and walk me to the cruiser.?? At the shop, both take turns measuring the knife and have to admit that it’s under the legal limit allowed and there was no law at the time that precluded me from having a knife on school property [IA 1991]. Released OR half hour later, returned “home” to some of my stuff outside and a note saying to leave and don’t come back, which I did.

Ultimately, the criminal charge was “criminal mischief”, my public defender was the father of the volleyball player and I got a hefty fine and four days in jail, where I read “Shogun” & “NobleHouse” by JamesClavell.

The school filed a restraining order preventing my attendance at coronation, although I had received enough credits to graduate and my mom had a graduation party that I was not allowed to attend.

If you read this, thank you and I’m sorry if it was verbose, but context is necessary in everything.

Do you have an opinion on my question?

Jim Lloyd

Letter 4

Dear Jim:

Wow. What a story!

Is this your question? what would a university allow that satisfies the student’s desire to oppose the commencement speaker on whatever grounds without disrupting the ceremony for everyone else, ie a different color cap & gown?

My answer: it’s up to the univeristy, as a matter of law. As a matter of libertarianism, all universities should be private, ditto.

Best regards,

Walter

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6:21 am on October 19, 2020

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From: Ronald Ayers

Sent: Monday, August 24, 2020 3:23 AM

To: wblock@loyno.edu

Subject: opinion on ethical dilemma needed

Dear Dr. Block,

A lively discussion has recently taken place on Wonderhussy’s youtube channel regarding an ethical dilemma she is facing.

I would be grateful if you could give a libertarian perspective.

Her 30 minute video offers a full explanation. The youtube info box describes it briefly.

In a nutshell, she filmed a video of a natural feature on “public lands” (administered by BLM, I believe). However, a group went in and made changes to the feature, improving it with their labor and possibly materials. They had no government permission to do this. They asked her to kill the video so that it’s never seen by the public. They fear vandalism.

She considered their request, which means the hours of work she put into making her video of the spot will be wasted, and decided to honor it.

Her followers have their opinions, but offer no theoretical justifications for them. Some say she’s too “nice” for not showing the video. Others believe she did the right thing by keeping the location a secret by not posting the video. Vandalism on public lands of ghost towns and geological features is a problem.

Is there a libertarian principle that would apply in this situation?

Thanks for any light you can shed on this issue? In general, she keeps the locations of ghost towns, etc. a secret in her videos anyway since she’s worried about vandalism.

Ronald M. Ayers, Ph.D.

Dear Ronald:

Libertarianism is a theory of just law. It says that violence is justified, only, to protect against, or punish, a prior use of violence or a threat thereof.

It has absolutely nothing to say about whether chess is better than checkers, or football versus basketball, or Mozart vis a vis Elvis Presley. Nor, in my humble opinion, does it have any views as to whether people should be “nice,” your question to me.

It has views on public property: everything should be privatized.

I assume BLM stands for the US government’s Bureau of Land Management and not the other BLM now in the news!

Best regards,

Walter

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6:19 am on October 19, 2020

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