Please run this response to your criticism of me today.
Bob, you are correct. I have indeed given up on anarcho capitalism. I am now a minarchist. I see two legitimate roles for government. First, to force, compel, require, that everyone read Human Action and Man, Economy and State. Second, pass a law requiring all publishers, when they reprint a book, to maintain the same pagination as the older verions. I’m sick and tired of running seminars for these two books, and others too, and there are 3-4 versions of the book, each with a given statement on a different page. I favor HEAVY taxes in order to finance these two initiatives. Sorry, Murray Rothbard. I tried to be true to anarcho-capitalism, but these are seious two market failures that I can no longer abide.
On a more serious note, I don’t think that my views about warning signs are incompatible with AnCap. Surely, private defense agencies, courts, can make these rulings. Let’s consider a different example, very far removed from this case. I oppose the doctrine of ad coelum. This is the view that if you own an acre of land on the surface of the earth, you also own terrain, downward, to the center of the planet, in a decreasing cone shaped format (you also own the space in an increasing cone shaped format up to the heavens; this would play havoc with air travel, of course, but is irrelevant to my present point). I oppose this because I favor, instead, the doctrine of homesteading, and the person who owns an acre of land never homesteaded any territory miles, or tens of miles, or hundreds of miles beneath the surface. Now, consider slant drilling. This is the practice of drilling below your own land, and then making a detour under the land of your neighbor; that is, accessing what would be his property under the ad coelum doctrine. But, this is licit under homesteading since you were the first to drill below his property. But, how low do you have to go for this to be legitimate? In my understanding of libertarianism, the slant driller must go so low so as to not interfere with his neighbor’s property rights; he may not collapse his buildings, may not interfere with his crops, etc. So, how far down does the drilling have to be? This depends, to a great degree if not entirely, on the type terrain were are considering. If in Manhattan, which is perched on a solid rock, then the slant driller can come under his neighbor’s property pretty closely, since there is little danger of interference. However, if in New Orleans, which is perched on a swamp, either there will be no slant drilling allowed at all, or, the slant driller will have to place his drill very far beneath the earth.
When a friend of mine who really should know better heard this, he accused me of being a G man (a government man); a non anarchist. A minarchist. He was making the same error as you are Bob, in thinking that law is a total monopoly of the state. No, it is not. Law precedes government. The state continually violates libertarian law. But, how could this be if, as you and this friend of mine think, the government is the source of law, and whenever anyone such as myself proposes a law (signage for attack dogs; requirements that slant drillers not interfere with neighbor’s property rights) he is accused of violating AnCap?
Walter E. Block, Ph.D.
Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics
Joseph A. Butt, S.J. College of Business
Loyola University New Orleans