Friday, February 27, 2015

Walter Block On the Odds of Rand Paul Winning the Presidency; His View on the Potential for Libertarianism; His Take on Whether His Positions Have Damaged His Career

Recently a reporter contacted Professor Walter Block via email and a back and forth exchange on a variety of topics ensued. Dr. Block was kind enough to share the exchange with me, and with his permission I have  excerpted some of the exchange below:

REPORTER: If you believed that Islam were true, then would you be interested in moving into a country with zero income and zero capital gains taxes, and which has Islamic Sharia laws?
As I'm sure you know, most of the countries that currently do not have income and capital gains taxes are Islamic states.

BLOCK: As a Jew, I’d fear for my life in an Islamic country.

REPORTER:  Do you believe that reactions to the political themes in your work has negatively effected your career advancement in academia?

BLOCK:  Yes.

REPORTER: Do you believe that the bias against you in academia is based more on libertarianism in the category of political philosophy, or on Austrianism in the category of economic theory?

BLOCK: Both. Probably more the libertarianism.

REPORTER: During 2007-2012, was there any time when you believed that Ron Paul was going to be the president?

BLOCK:  Until the very end, I thought he had a small chance of becoming president. I bet a friend of mine $1 that he would, and this friend of mine gave me 20 to 1 odds. With those odds, I thought we  had an even bet.

REPORTER: Do you believe that Rand Paul will ever be the president? Have you ever believed that Rand Paul will be the president?

BLOCK: In effect, I thought Ron had a 5% chance of becoming president. I think Rand has a 10% chance of doing so.

REPORTER: I'd appreciate any other comments you have about your state of optimism about libertarianism in the United States.

BLOCK: I think most people are hard wired to oppose freedom and justice, so I'm only optimistic in the long run: oh, 1000 years or so.



  1. Why is he worried about being a "Jew in an Islamic country?"

    Historically, Muslims supported and protected Jews far, far more than Christians did. In Iran, the Jewish community is valued and pretty much left alone.

    A bizarre statement. Block's been slipping for a while; I'll stick with Hoppe for my radicalism.

    1. Libertarianism is about individual rights and he apparently puts tribal rights over individual rights wrt to the people of the Middle East. His past support for Israel, a product of close to 100 years of constant western interventionism, and land theft and occupation of the natives, is also evidence of that.

  2. "BLOCK: I think most people are hard wired to oppose freedom and justice, so I'm only optimistic in the long run: oh, 1000 years or so."

    If humans are "hard wired to oppose freedom and justice" 1000 years will not be enough time to notice the slightest difference.

    The observation that some people "get it" argues against his position. It is my position that it is the lack of visible evidence that libertarianism/anarchy can be superior to the use of force in accomplishing the goals of the "fair share/equitable division" crowd. Once it becomes plainly seen that anarchy can do that better with persuasion than any use of group force can the "rock solid" support of government will wash away in a relatively short time.

  3. People are not hardwired to oppose freedom. How did slavery get abolished?

    1. So that the Northern Republicans and their associated cronies could wrest more freedom from the people of the South. Moral abolitionism played a minor role in general; just a high handed excuse as is always used when tyranny expands. Reference the words of Lincoln himself on the relative the importance of freedom for the slaves; it was a trade he and the Republicans were more than willing to make. Net freedom in the US has been reduced since 1860; even taking the abolition of slavery into account.

  4. Walter and I are in the same page... 1000 years or so. I don't believe the claims that some Austrians make that our movement is growing rapidly

  5. To Donald: here is your visible evidence of what outcomes are produced by centralized planning and decentralized planning.

    I'll also second Dr. Block's notion that "most people are hard wired to oppose freedom and justice." When it comes down to it, most people will choose security (or the perception of security) over their liberty. They will go along to get along and pay protection money to any local gangsters or pay taxes to any local regime, just to avoid stirring up any trouble. Jefferson made the same observation more than 200 years ago:

    "All experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."

    That brings us back to Donald's point: how long does the empirical record need to be before a sizable portion of the population "gets it"? How many failed socialist states, how many Soviet Union collapses, how many episodes of genocide? Given the enduring proclivity for central planning in the West, I can't imagine any event within the next 2-3 generations that would turn the tides. Maybe the battle of ideas will be on an evolutionary time scale, or maybe human nature dooms us to be ruled by knaves til the end of time. We can only speculate. But whether a libertarian society is a lost cause or not, it would be nice for our posterity to be able to say there were some people around challenging the direction of society.

    1. I can see that I have missed the mark and failed to present my point clearly enough to get it through to people who may have fixed lenses on. I'll try again. Someday I may be able to express it better.

      Libertarianism makes no pronouncements about how a society is to deal with the segment of the population that needs help. There is always someone in the set of people who are encumbered with woe to the point of not being able to recover without the help of others. Non libertarians see that omission as a sign of a fatal failure of the libertarian philosophy.

      Not having any such plan is certainly not a failure. Any plan to accomplish such humanitarian ends must be separate and distinct from the skeleton of libertarianism. Libertarianism does not in any way prohibit a system from being developed whereby those humanitarian goals held by people who would otherwise be fully members of the libertarian community can be achieved as long as the non-aggression principle is never violated. There is a big difference between socialistic central planning and an overall design for the rules of a voluntary, mutually beneficial, contractual system of give and take.

      If I can dream up a rudimentary outline of one such plan that can do just that, surely there are greater minds that can do me one or three better. Once such plans are created and understood, then those wedded to the statist use of force as the solution to "correct life's inequities" can drop that support and embrace the full course of libertarianism.