Tuesday, September 19, 2017

BLOCK RESPONDS 'Thick Libertarians' vs Libwaps

Dr. Walter Block
Dr. Walter Block has responded to my post, On Thick Libertarians and Thin Libertarians vs. Libwaps:
Dear Bob:

Thanks for your very considered response.

There is not a "dime's worth of difference" between us on anything substantive you say in your excellent mini-essay. No, not even a penny's worth of difference.  You and I agree on, oh, 99.9% of all matters of political economy, and this issue of nomenclature is surely in the majority, between us.

However, I don't see your need to make the case for "thin libertarianism" or plain old "libertarianism." As I say, we fully agree on this. Our only dispute is over terminology.

Let me focus on these remarks of yours:

" Thick libertarianism, most associated with the left-leaning, means non-libertarianism. I am being polite by identifying them as libwaps, for once there is any demanded advocacy beyond the non-aggression principle, it is not libertarianism.

"And more concerning is the righty libwaps. It appears they consider themselves to be "thin" libertarians, but they are just libertarians with different appendages---again I am being polite by calling them libertarians when they advocate what they see as necessary traditional cultural appendages to libertarianism.

"So for me, there are no thick and thin libertarians. There are libertarians and there are libwaps, left and right.

I could say the same thing about thin and thick libertarians. For example, I'm only being "polite" to call people who write for the Bleeding Heart Libertarian Blog "thick libertarians"; they are not libertarians at all, since they add, as you brilliantly say, "appendages" to the NAP. But this, I think, is too harsh. Murray Rothbard used to say, "Every dog gets one bite." I see and raise Murray, and say that every dog gets at least 5 bites. That is, a person can be a libertarian even if he deviates on a few issues. These Bleeding Heart Libertarians, bless their hearts as we say in the south, are indeed libertarians. Yes, they deviate all over the place, but, deep down, I maintain, they are at least libertarians. So, your "concession" to them, calling them LIBwaps, is not a mere matter of politeness. They ARE libertarians, just basically confused as to what libertarianism is all about (the NAP, and private property rights based on homesteading).

So, I think, but of us are accurate in considering them as libertarians, you with your "LIBwap," me with my "thick libertarians." (A similar issue arises within the Jewish community. The orthodox Jews consider the reform Jews as barely Jewish. But, I think they do consider them as Jewish. Certainly, the orthodox Jews don't consider reform Jews as Christians, or Buddhists.) The only issue is, which is the better way to describe these Bleeding Heart people. I think both LIBwap and thick libertarians do the job. In my view, there is a tie between them, as far as accuracy is concerned. I give the nod to the terminology I favor, only because it is now in popular use, whereas yours seems idiosyncratic to me.  In my estimate, 99% of people who use either term use the phrase I favor, and 1% use yours. Right now, 100% of the people who refer to that big grey animal with the funny nose as "elephant." Suppose someone were to start calling this creature "X." Now, as far as I'm concerned, "X" is just as good a description of this creature as is "elephant." Both are equally ok. There is a tie between them. I suggest that the way to break the tie is with this sort of majority vote.

So, I suggest you leave off Libwap, and join the rest of us in using "thick libertarian."

Best regards,


Walter E. Block, Ph.D.
Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics
Loyola University New Orleans


  1. How about "Apprentice Libertarians" vs. "Journeyman Libertarians" or "Master Libertarians," to denote one's level of education, skill, craftsmanship and development, on the road to libertarianism---?

  2. I'm with RW. Libertarianism is the SOLUTION to Nazis, ethnic pride, tribalism, price gouging, druggies next door, druggies at your kids' school, police brutality and war. For starters. Why wouldn't you want the folks who hold what you consider to be odious attitudes to adopt the NAP and the "no lying with contracts" ethic? And have them go off and live where you never have to think about them?

    However, I also think libertarians have been nuts for failing to reach out and explain to religious conservatives the wonders of private neighborhoods which would be free of hassles from the tranny bathroom neighborhoods. And vice versa.

  3. To me, the libwap or thick-libertarian moniker would be better applied to someone who believes in personal liberty protected by a rational state through a series of institutions created over time. A normal libertarian believes in the Non Aggression Principle as the sole razor by which all actions should be judged. Those two philosophies cannot be reconciled bwcause a protective state would still be an aggressive state.

    That being said. I NO LONGER hold that a libertarian who is also an activist against discrimination or racism or anti-market zealotry (i.e. being an anti-Trumpista) is a libwap. Just as I am anti-socialist, I am also anti-the above.

    1. It seems to me that you can be an activist against ethnic or racial discrimination or devote your life to promoting them and still be a libertarian. Libertarianism provides the mechanism for people with those views to resolve their differences by, at the very least, completely avoiding each other. As a person without an ethnicity, I just don't care if someone is obsessed with tribalism, either promoting it or fighting it. zzzzzz

      Further, big government democracy is ALWAYS going to break down along ethnic, racial, religious and tribal lines (which is happening right now) while the market is going to tend to diminish those conflicts.

    2. Bob this is one of the most astute to the point statements I have seen in a while:

      "Libertarianism provides the mechanism for people with those views to resolve their differences by, at the very least, completely avoiding each other. As a person without an ethnicity, I just don't care ... "

      When adopting this approach whole heartedly a libertarian can dislike components of modern influence but as long as it doesnt aggressively impede upon you there is no reason to even hold an opinion on it in the present.

      A good friend of mine had a catch phrase: "Dont care if you burn those cars across the street, just make sure to stay off my lawn"

  4. I care if the cars across the street are burning because of arson. I care if Nazis are gassing Jews. But I don't care if some goofballs want to live peacefully among themselves and only admit Aryans to their neighborhood. As opposed to the first two scenarios, the third scenario is not a crisis.