Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Walter Block vs. David Stockman, on Biden vs. Trump

Two of the most important economic thinkers of our day, Walter Block and David Stockman disagree on whether it is better or not for a Trump election victory over Joe Biden.

The difference in their views became public when Stockman penned an essay titled With Due Respect: A Commentary On Walter Block’s Damn Nonsense About Libertarian Voters.

Dr. Block responded here at Target Liberty, Stockman vs. Block: Walter Block Responds on the Value of Trump to Libertarians.

This prompted Tom Woods to set up a debate between Stockman and Block. He published the debate on Thanksgiving Day, "Ep. 1785 Debate: David Stockman v. Walter Block on Libertarian Electoral Strategy":


I want to discuss what I see as the central difference between them that was not made clear during the debate.

Block makes the point that Trump would be better than Biden in the White House.

Stockman argues that Trump is terrible.

Block then pulls out the argument that one should vote for the lesser of two evils. This is an extremely clever move that could only be made by a mind that fully understands the role of choices in making decisions but it distorts the debate. 

Block emphasizes during the debate that economists understand that in the real world economic actors must make decisions between alternatives that exist. He tells the joke of the economist who is asked, "How is your wife?" The economist answers, "Compared to what?'

Thus Block emphasizes the nature of choice and seemingly blocks (pun not intended) Stockman perspective. Stockman's reply is of the "But Trump is terrible" version.

But what Stockman should have done is pointed out that Block was distorting the framework of the question. That the question really is, Do we really want one of two pretty bad guys now with Trump leading the Republican Party into the future or do we take a third option. Let Biden win now, as terrible as he is, so that Trump is kicked to the curbside and the opportunity would exist for a Taft-like Republican Party to develop.

This would completely knock out Block's choices argument and move it to whether there is any possibility of a Taft-like Republican Party in the future.

I hasten to add that Block originally said of Stockman's viewpoint:

 I fear...Stockman [has] adopted "the worse the better" argument. 

But that is not Stockman's argument. His argument is, if I am reading him correctly, that we are not going to get better until we get rid of Trump. That Trump is the problem. 

Stockman is looking more long-term than Block, and though it did not come up in the debate, Block did mention it in his rebuttal:

[H]is view, if I understand it correctly, pertains to the longer run: if Trump loses, then “the Republican Party can be purged of Trumpian right-wing statism” and we can go back to the “Taftian religion.”

This is the essence of the debate. If we look at it from merely a Trump-Biden perspective, maybe Biden would be worse but we really don't know because Trump is so erratic and all over the place. Stockman correctly lays the current mad lockdowns at the feet of Trump and the early lockdown steps taken by Trump.

I'm with Stockman in the sense that the sooner Trump is no longer the guiding influence of the Republican Party the better. We do need to find a Taft-style Republican to fill the void.

This does not mean I am against the populous outrage that Trump has launched. Indeed, I have written:

 This is no time for halfway free market talk, it is a time to deliver the entire free market message. This is our time. This is our opportunity.

Trumpism needs to be turned into libertarianism. Indeed, the term Trumpism should be co-opted by us to mean free markets and liberty.

It is just that Trump that needs to be shown the door, not a Trumpism that we promote as favoring free markets and liberty. If we move the debate beyond just Biden-Trump for the upcoming term, the answer is clear. Trump has to go and we must find a new voice that is much more principled in support of free markets and liberty. 



  1. Hmmmm. Choose the lesser of two evils (Biden instead of Trump) as a means of another choice of the lesser of two evils (the pre-Trump Republican Party, instead of the current, Trumpian Republican Party incarnation). My head is starting to spin.

    I don't think the Republican Party is redeemable or salvageable. They abandoned conservative principles for good long ago. And we'd probably have just a weak splinter-group, spin-off come into existence, and divide and siphon-off the conservative vote in 2024 (like Teddy Roosevelt's Bull Moose Party in 1912, giving the evil Woody Wilson an undeserved win, and sending Taft home with the loss).
    On top of that, in my view, Biden and all he brings with him, in the aggregate, is still the greater of two evils.

    1. The only reason Republicans have any traction at the local or state level because there is no other realistic and viable 3rd party alternatives. If anyone listens to some local conservative radio, many are not real happy with Team R. The AZ and GA Republicans have now shot themselves in the foot in any future elections that may come along.

    2. Agreed.
      Dems are "the evil party," and Repubs are "the stupid/cowardly party."
      Maybe runoff elections are the answer: Everybody would be encouraged to vote their hearts, principles, whims and caprices during the first round of voting, whether Libertarians, Green Party, Dems, whatever....And then the top two vote-getters vie in a runoff. Of course, the whole plurality vote/less than an absolute majority of the vote, is messed-up...

  2. Ah, the libertardian viewpoint devoid of any common sense. If Biden gets in it's game over for you libertardians. I no longer have much respect for Stockman since he to comes from a failed administration on some levels when it comes to reducing government.

    . Tax Cuts - I've seen the spreadsheet done by an accountant of before and after. Most people got more money back.
    2. Pulled us out of the Paris Accords and put down AGW as the stupidity it has always been.
    3. Kept us out of new wars more or less for now.
    4. Spoke out against the military/industrial complex. The last president with a nice looking wife who did that got shot.
    5. Inadvertently showed that the press and both parties are sacks of waste who work against the average American.
    6. Mostly abolished Obummercare. Though I"m unhappy with him trying to 'replace it'. Get government out of healthcare already!
    7. Kicked the CCP out of the port of LA. I'm sure (((Feinstein))) was unhappy about it.
    8. Tried to get hospitals and drug companies to post prices - both shot down I believe by an Obummer judges. Changed it so some Americans could by the drugs they need from Canada and other countries. I'm sure big Pharma hates Trump for this one.
    9. Has not openly tried to abolish the 2nd Amendment though I'm still suspect on his real thoughts, but he knows this is a big issue.
    10. He did get some minorities to finally wake up a bit - Latinos for Trump, BLEXIT.

    1. Yes, I'd say that libertarians shot themselves in the foot by not supporting Trump. In essence they helped support the greater of two evils and not just by a little bit as they seem to want to pretend. They essentially handed all the people they hate the most a massive victory. This victory is a massive loss for anyone who loves liberty. In a very real sense they helped support evil by looking the other way and doing nothing to stop it. No I wouldn't pass a law making them vote or anything like that, but on a moral level I can certainly call them out for this massive blunder. Trump is imperfect, he's no libertarian or even a non-interventionist such as Pat Buchanan,(who I would still vote for in a heartbeat. He is however miles above the swamp creatures who wanted him gone.

      One aspect ignored by all these comments is that Trump just got the vast majority of Republicans to accept the idea that endless wars are not in our best interests. Why does Trump get zero credit for basically transforming the war party into the anti-war party? Who else could have done that? We are supposed to believe that this change in attitude didn't come from Trump or that it will automatically persist without him? LOL Odds are better that without Trump they will be transformed back into the war party the second we start a new war. I believe that only Trump or who he picks next to succeed him stands any chance of keeping the Republican part from falling right back into it's old ways. It's completely wishful thinking to believe that without Trump they will magically morph into a republicanism not seen in a hundred years instead of simply falling back into the pro-war pro-corporatist stand they held for the last 50 years.

  3. What are the odds that without Trump the Republican party will actually be any better? How about ZERO???? LOL If that is Stockman's argument it's based on wishful thinking, certainly not on history or common sense. Without Trump the Republicans are WORSE than democrats. Why would anyone assume that without Trump they will revert to anything other than neo-con control? Let's Be honest, there is at least as good of a chance, if not better, that without Trump the Republicans will be WORSE. They certainly were worse before he came along, why would anyone assume that they will be better without the only guy who has done anything at all to reform them? Seriously that's not an argument at all, it's just wishful thinking. The fact is that without Trump the republicans would not have reformed at all and the Democrats themselves would have no reason to improve either, they can just slide along being their usually lousy selves.

    By the way, there is a third alternative that might make Trump's loss more palpable. Trump will now be king maker, which also makes the idea of his going away wishful thinking. There isn't a republican on Earth who can win without Trump's support. So the Republican party isn't going back to some ancient form of Republicanism that hasn't existed for nearly a hundred years anyway, because whether he wins or not Trump is still the Man who gets to decide the next president.

    1. Isn't the last president who chose his successor Richard Nixon, who received a pardon as a quid pro quo from Gerald Ford?