This correspondence refers to something that appeared in this book:
DiLorenzo, Thomas J. and Walter E. Block. 2017. An Austro-Libertarian Critique of Public Choice; Addleton Academic Publishers; www.addletonacademicpublishers.com
Sent: Friday, March 11, 2022 6:17 AM
To: Walter Block <email@example.com>
Subject: Buchanan vs Rothbard vs Lingenfelter on Professional Thieves
I was reading the Introduction to your An Austro-Libertarian Critique of Public Choice, and I saw that you included a short paper by Rothbard responding to The Calculus of Consent. The Rothbard paper included the following quote on professional thieves:
“Why all of us are supposed to be behind the constitutional decisions, Buchanan and Tullock do not really support. They say (as Buchanan did in his journal article last year) that a thief is really for a law against stealing so as to keep his own property, so that it can be said that even a thief in a way approves of his own punishment. I think this is absurd; a professional thief is clearly opposed to laws against stealing (it is a rule of honor among professional criminals not to run to the police for help — and also a wise precaution for them). How did Buchanan and Tullock manage to get into this trap? By blithely assuming that when the “constitution” is being considered, no one knows whether or not he will be able to benefit by the various rules in specific situations, so it is to everyone’s self-interest to have rules, as it were, in the general interest. Now this appears to me to be completely insupportable; people do have certain interests, and they will be able to gauge to what extent a rule will benefit or not benefit them. (This is especially true because Buchanan and Tullock think of the “constitution” as continuing, rather than as the original writing.) The professional thief knows he is a professional thief, and therefore that the weakening of laws against stealing, or constitutional provisions against stealing, will benefit him, and so on.”
Buchanan says that professional thieves really support laws against theft because thieves value their own property. Rothbard says that professional thieves do not support laws against theft because those laws might imprison thieves. I say both are wrong; professional thieves support laws against theft because those laws might imprison thieves.
Professional thieves are the ones who effectively compete in the pseudo-market of theft. If anti-theft laws were to weaken, currently submarginal thieves would enter the field. This would reduce the returns to current entrants. This analysis is similar to that of rum runners supporting Prohibition. They could not compete as well against legal producers.
I just accused Rothbard of error. That is heresy in a cult like ours! What say you?
Your grateful student, Jonathan
From: Walter Block <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Friday, March 11, 2022 10:24 AM
Subject: RE: Buchanan vs Rothbard vs Lingenfelter on Professional Thieves
You make a reasonable point. If laws against stealing, marginal thieves would enter the “market,” reducing the returns for expert robbers. But expert crooks would also benefit, since they would be caught less often. I think then that this is an empirical issue, and I’m not sure which effect is stronger.
Why do you call the followers of Rothbard cultish? In a cult, no one may criticize the cult leader. Yet, I’m a long time member of this non cult, and I’ve often criticized my friend and mentor, Murray Rothbard:
Critiques of Rothbard by Walter E. Block
Block, Walter E. and Alan Futerman. 2021. The Classical Liberal Case for Israel. With commentary by Benjamin Netanyahu. Springer Publishing Company;
ISBN_978-981-16-3952-4 [Print]; 978-981-16-3953-1 [ebook]
for book reviewers: https://www.springer.com/gp/reviewers
Offers a unique perspective on the State of Israel based on classical liberalism and libertarianism. Provides a thorough understanding of Israel’s origin and development. Explores different topics on Israel, including Anti-Zionism and Israel’s economic development.
Barnett II, William and Walter E. Block. 2012. “The Optimum Quantity of Money, Once Again.” Economics, Management, and Financial Markets; Vol. 7, No. 1, March, pp. 9-24; http://www.addletonacademicpublishers.com/component/option,com_sectionex/Itemid,103/id,23/view,category/#catid145; Password: AddletonAP2009. https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/The-Optimum-Quantity-of-Money%2C-Once-Again-Barnett-Block/2d43f6dbc3bebfcd9790ed67a35b2fd211374779
Block, Walter E. 2011A. “Hoppe, Kinsella and Rothbard II on Immigration: A Critique.” Journal of Libertarian Studies; Vol. 22, No. 1, pp. 593–623; http://mises.org/journals/jls/22_1/22_1_29.pdf
Block, Walter E. 2011B. “Rejoinder to Hoppe on Immigration,” Journal of Libertarian Studies Vol. 22, No. 1, pp. 771–792; http://mises.org/journals/jls/22_1/22_1_38.pdf
Barnett, William II, and Walter E. Block. 2009. “Investment and Consumption: A critique of Rothbard’s claim that there can be no such thing as governmental ‘investment’” Journal of Public Finance and Public Choice. 27 (2-3): 183-188; http://www.walterblock.com/wp-content/uploads/InvestmentConsumption.pdf
Barnett, William II and Walter E. Block. 2007. “Saving and Investment: A Praxeological Approach.” New Perspectives on Political Economy, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp. 129 – 138;
http://pcpe.libinst.cz/nppe/3_2/nppe3_2_1.pdf; http://220.127.116.11/exchange/walterblock/Inbox/Re%20query.EML/nppe3_2_block.pdf/C58EA28C-18C0-4a97-9AF2-036E93DDAFB3/nppe3_2_block.pdf?attach=1; http://www.academia.edu/1359832/Saving_and_Investment_A_Praxeological_Approach
Block, Walter E., Peter Klein and Per Henrik Hansen. 2007. “The Division of Labor under Homogeneity: A Critique of Mises and Rothbard” The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, April Vol. 66 Issue 2, pp. 457-464; http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/toc/ajes/66/2; http://18.104.22.168/exchange/walterblock/Inbox/Re:%20link_x003F_-2.EML/1_multipart_xF8FF_2_j.1536-7150.2007.00520.pdf/C58EA28C-18C0-4a97-9AF2-036E93DDAFB3/j.1536-7150.2007.00520.pdf?attach=1
Block, Walter E., William Barnett II and Joseph Salerno. 2006. “Relationship between wealth or income and time preference is empirical, not apodictic: critique of Rothbard and Hoppe,” Review of Austrian Economics, Vol. 19, No. 2, pp. 69-80; http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11138-006-6094-8
Barnett, William II, and Walter E. Block. 2005-2006. “Mises, Rothbard and Salerno on Costs.” Corporate Ownership & Control, Winter, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp. 204-206
Barnett, William II, and Walter E. Block. 2005. “Money: Capital Good, Consumers’ Good, or (Media of) Exchange Good?” Review of Austrian Economics. 18 (2): 179-194; http://www.gmu.edu/rae/archives/VOL18_2_2005/4_Barnett.pdf
Barnett, William II and Walter E. Block. 2004. “On the Optimum Quantity of Money,” Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 39-52; http://www.mises.org/journals/qjae/pdf/qjae7_1_4.pdf; https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/The-Optimum-Quantity-of-Money%2C-Once-Again-Barnett-Block/2d43f6dbc3bebfcd9790ed67a35b2fd211374779
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. 2003. “Toward a Libertarian Theory of Inalienability: A Critique of Rothbard, Barnett, Gordon, Smith, Kinsella and Epstein,” Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol.17, No. 2, Spring, pp. 39-85; http://www.mises.org/journals/jls/17_2/17_2_3.pdf
Block, Walter E. 1998. “A Libertarian Case for Free Immigration,” Journal of Libertarian Studies: An Interdisciplinary Review, Vol. 13, No. 2, summer, pp. 167-186; http://www.mises.org/journals/jls/13_2/13_2_4.pdf