Monday, February 1, 2016

Has Walter Block Left the World of Anarcho-Capitalist Advocacy?

By Robert Wenzel

In an email  Rick Miller has posed an important question of what is required of a farmer who has attack dogs on his property (SEE: Walter Block: Thoughts on the Farmer Dilemma),

Prof. Walter Block has responded with this claim:
My claim is that yes, the owner should be able to have attack dogs roaming his property, but, if so, he must place fences with barbed wire around his territory, along with signs, large ones, warning of this danger.
But at another time Prof. Block has written  (June 1 1969, Libertarian Forum):
 Any threat or initiation of violence against a man or his property is in violation of man's rights and hence inimical to liberty.
These two positions seem to be in conflict. One may argue that rules/laws must be required to protect children, but the advocacy of such must cause one to leave the world of anarcho-capitalism.

The first question that can be asked to illustrate this point is Who is making this rule? Suddenly, there is some sort of ruler over private property. A second question: Where does this stop? Should a swimming pool owner also be required to have "fences with barbed wire around his territory, along with signs, large ones, warning of this danger"? What about a child that is being fed "too much sugar"? Should society intervene to stop this if responsibility doesn't stop with the parents?

And finally, we must ask, what is to be done to a private individual who simply ignores outside regulations? How are these regulations to be enforced if not by some violation of an individuals right to be left alone.

There are many who now call themselves anarcho-capitalists, who fail in fully advocating  an anarcho-capitalist society. They are actually limited government advocates. You can call a group that overrides private property rights by many names, but in the end it is some sort of over-ruling body, that is, some type of government. It may be advocacy for an extremely limited government but it is still an advocacy for some sort of over-ruling body. People who believe such an over-ruling body is necessary should realize this. They are not anarcho-capitalists, if anarcho-capitalism means respect for private property and no government.

I happen to hold the view that the fears that most hold about an anarcho-capitalist society, what I prefer to call a Private Property Society, are unjustified. The significance should be recognized that we, even  now, despite the supposed protection of government, for the most part protect ourselves and our children by staying away from danger. It is a myth that government protects us from danger. If government was the key driver of protection of person and property, locks on doors wouldn't exist, nor babysitters. We protect ourselves.

Anyone who demands an over-ruling dictate that requires certain things be done on a private property, regardless of the property owner's desires, can't possibly believe that we protect ourselves. They, to at least a minor degree, buy into the idea that government protects. It is an extremely dangerous notion, since one can think of many, many rules that can be made to "protect children" and, say, the low IQ, the handicapped.

I would further argue that contra to Dr. Block, the farmer dilemma is not a "very difficult case for libertarians." It is at the core of libertariansim that each person and his property should be  be left alone as long as he is not violating NAP. The entire concept of libertariansim is based on the idea that people are quite capable of taking care of themselves (and their children) and that there is no need for over-ruling bodies. It is the observation that the actions of over-ruling bodies, despite possibly initial good intentions, turn evil. The danger with creating a central power is that it creates a focal point that can be corrupted. For the desire to protect some theoretical child, who theoretically climbs on to the private  land of a theoretical child-molesting killer as theoretical parents ignore the child, a very real central power is created that the worst in mankind can focus on and capture. This is the great danger that has resulted in hundreds of millions of deaths on this planet, the capture of central power by the evil ones. It has been repeated in history time after time.

The message of libertarians to the world should be that central powers are extremely dangerous and that Lord Acton was very right when he warned power corrupts. It should be emphasized that government protection now is largely a myth that we protect ourselves and that creating any central power is creating a seed that has always led to great death.

Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher at and at Target Liberty. He is also author of The Fed Flunks: My Speech at the New York Federal Reserve Bank. Follow him on twitter:@wenzeleconomics


  1. Robert, I'm not disagreeing with you, but as a new comer to anarcho- capitalism, how would this apply to a zoo?

  2. Mr. Wenzel seems to make a common mistake that we often criticize statists for making. He conflates government and society. The Bionic Mosquito's position depicts the reality of a "PPS" more realistically. Man is not some lone individual who can simply do anything he wants as long as he follows the NAP. That is a fantasy. If a child comes on to my property and steals an apple off my tree, I would have the right to deal with him anyway i want from a libertarian point of view. Perhaps I would cut off the child's hands and sent him back home. My neighbors and many others may find my behavior extreme. Would they have the right to enter my property and extract punishment? No, but they have other options. I would become a pariah. Restaurants would refuse me service, I wouldn't be allowed to fill my gas tank at any station in the city. I might not be allowed to travel on the roads of many decent people. In short, society would impose its rules of acceptable behavior through non-aggressive means. There is no need for a central agency to "over-rule" personal property decision. With the passage of time, accepted (permissible?) penalties would be established.

    Clearly this is not "fair" (to sink to a statist expression). Suppose the child destroyed my apple tree. My reaction may vary from intense anger: the tree had been in my family for 200 years. To relief: I had been meaning to cut down that tree for a long time.I kow that the punishment which is unlikely to incur any anger from my neighbors is having the boy plant a new tree and reimburse me a sum of money. Would that be enough for me? Would I demand my pound of flesh despite possible repercussions? I might there is nothing in a PPS which would force me to be thoughtful but there would exist a prevailing societal norm that I would ignore at my peril.

    1. What if your definition of homesteading, and therefore full property ownership, is different than the trespasser's definition, and the trespasser doesn't believe you properly homesteaded the land and therefore he is really not a trespasser?

      Then you proceed to punish the trespasser, but it is discovered that you really don't own the land. What happens next?

  3. Why couldn't dogs or pools or whatever fall under private standards for safe implementation much like many products on the market today do?

    Government or no government we are going to need generally accepted standards and practices. Certainly some group of dog breeders or such can have an organization that maintains standard practices for properly restraining dogs of various types and warning others. Pool manufacturers and swimmers can have their own organization that comes up with safety standards for pools.

    We are conditioned to believe only government can do these things. Often government simply applies force to what industry groups or enthusiasts figure out. If something should happen following standard safety practices would go a long way for the property owner in dispute resolution. If he didn't follow the standards then he would need a good explanation of why he didn't.

    This system still functions where ever government has not interfered and functions reasonably well.

  4. As always, my biggest struggle within the "ancap" philosophy is the notion that it's possible to completely eliminate subjectivity in determining what is a NAP violation(a debate I've previously had with Rick Miller, upon which Block weighed in), and even in a definition of what "is" property.

    I think it's important to try to understand when objectivity can be applied, & when subjectivity has to be acknowledged when objectivity may be impossible, in using reason to discern the nature of the NAP in general.(and it's ancillaries, like punishment & restitution)

    RW, it would seem that this statement of Rothbard's, pointed out by BM on his website(sent to him via an anonymous contributor) contradicts your thinking:

    "Thus, it should be quite clear that, under libertarian law, capital punishment would have to be confined strictly to the crime of murder. For a criminal would only lose his right to life if he had first deprived some victim of that same right. It would not be permissible, then, for a merchant whose bubble gum had been stolen, to execute the convicted bubble gum thief. If he did so, then he, the merchant, would be an unjustifiable murderer, who could be brought to the bar of justice by the heirs or assigns of the bubble gum thief."

    Do you disagree with Rothbard on this topic or do you not see a conflict?

    1. " biggest struggle within the "ancap" philosophy is the notion that it's possible to completely eliminate subjectivity in determining what is a NAP violation..."

      A straw man argument. "Subjectivity" is just an intellectual problem that humans have. They must solve it as best they can. Government is just a gang of humans committing coercive monopoly on the art of deciding. Being humans, they have the same problems with subjectivity, motive, and knowledge as those humans who didn't join the gang.

      So why question the objectivity of non-gang members and thus hint that gang members are magically more objective?

    2. "A straw man argument. "

      lol...really? I wasn't actually making an argument, just a statement.

      ""Subjectivity" is just an intellectual problem that humans have. They must solve it as best they can."

      This is a hysterical statement- for a variety of reasons I don't feel like listing, but suffice to say I agree with it.

      "So why question the objectivity of non-gang members and thus hint that gang members are magically more objective?"

      lol...I truly have no idea how you gleaned that from my statement.

  5. 1. If a property own kills someone “for trespassing”, a claim of trespassing has been made. The NAP isn’t about mere claims of aggression.

    2. Regarding the “flag pole owner”, he’s actually a renter of the floor he lives on.

  6. Libertarian law doesn't just "exist." Ancaps take it for granted because they believe it's natural or something. You need authority over people to make laws for them. MISES was right and Rothbard was wrong.