Sunday, October 2, 2016

More From Walter Block on Stop and Frisk

My original plan was to write and essay today on stop and frisk as a response to Dr. Walter Block's perspective on it. (For his perspective see: here and here), however, the back-and-forth emails on the topic continue between Dr. Block, Dr. Edelstein and me.

So I post the most recent emails below and will hold off my essay until the email discussion ends.

Below is the latest:

From: Michael Edelstein
To: Walter Block
Cc: Bob Wenzel

I don’t believe you answered my question. Do you think you have?

Warm regards, Michael

Michael R. Edelstein, Ph.D.


Dear Michael:

I’ll now be very explicit in my answers to your two direction questions.

1.      Do you support this stop-and-frisk program in NYC as proposed and implemented?

Yes and no. Yes, if they are going after real criminals (murderers, rapists, thieves); no, if they are going after victimless criminals (prostitutes, pimps, drug dealers).

2.      Is it “an authoritarian police state activity?”

Yes, and God bless it, if it is to stop real criminals.

Is that explicit enough?


Hi Walter,

How does stop and frisk go after real criminals? Do you expect police to find evidence of rape and murder during these stop and frisks? Do you think this occurs?

Remember this is pretty much random individuals of specific demographic groups being stopped and frisked by the government?



Dear Bob:

There is lots of empirical evidence that stop and frisk reduces crime, real crime. Yes, the cops target “random individuals” but from specific demographic groups that are very highly represented amongst the (real, not only victimless) criminal class.

Make believe, for a moment, that you are a minarchist, and think policing is a legitimate government focus. Assume away targeting victimless crimes. Suppose, arguendo, that the cops only hassle high crime type people. They will less likely carry around guns and knives, since many of them are ex-cons, forbidden by law to carry these weapons. Jane Jacobs’ “eyes on the street” will be on them, 24 – 7, only they will be cops eyes. Surely, this will help reduce crime, no?

Best regards,




1. The NYC police in stop-and-frisk are not stopping and frisking anyone they know to be “real criminals.” If they knew a particular person was a criminal, they would immediately handcuff and arrest the person, not stop-and-frisk. Applying your criteria, can I accurately conclude you oppose NYC-style stop-and-frisk on at least these grounds?

2. A necessary aspect of NYC police state activity violates the NAP. If a policeman invades the person or property of an innocent individual, the cop is not legally bound to pay restitution. Yet 99.9% of individuals aggressed against by cops in stop-and-frisk are innocent and not restituted. Would you not agree this qualifies as a violation of the NAP and therefore as police statism?

Warm regards, Michael

Dear Walter,

A few further questions:

1: When you state that there is a lot of empirical evidence that stop and frisk works, what evidence are you referring to?

2. Do you include the Broken Window theory of James Q. Wilson and George Kelling as part of the type of empirical data you are thinking of?

3. When you cite empirical evidence and expand it to a broad-based theory are you violating the Austrian methodological principle that empirical data can not be used to prove a theory in the social sciences?

4. When you state that police "gangs" stopping and frisking other "gangs" is justifiable, let's say in New York City, for example, what are the characteristics of people who are part of the "gang": that you believe are justified in being stopped and frisked by police "gangs"?



  1. Does Block think that cops are 100% honest? Does he not realize that the police will openly lie and 9 out of 10 times will get away with it? Does he not see that police will use this as a weapon against people who film them in order to "legally" confiscate their cameras? (granted they do that currently)

  2. Walter Block, please see my comment at .

  3. "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

    Mr. Block, two questions:

    . Do you believe that Stop and Frisk practices are consistent with those words? If yes, please explain how.

    . If no, can we then conclude that in your idea of the proper rules for a minarchist government, words such as these would not be present?

  4. Each clarification still depends on a faith in the enforcement class (and their bosses, the political class or otherwise) to only harass those bad people over there that deserve it. However this is what has been done in the USA for decades. One 'tool' law after another designed to be used only on the bad people. Civil asset forfeiture in the war on some drugs is an example of such lawmaking.

    After doing this for decades we can the results have been that the enforcement class slowly begins to use these laws against people they were not intended to be used against. We see laws against street vendors being used on kids lemonade stands, we see people losing the cash they had saved on their way to purchase a truck, we just see ordinary traffic stops turning deadly, and much more. Simply put we already know this doesn't work and it results in the violation of individual liberty.

  5. Would the same logic follow for support of preemptive war or targeted drone strikes on suspected future terrorists?

    I assume Block also supports DUI checkpoints.