Monday, July 10, 2017

Block vs. Wenzel: On a Private Property Society and Proportional Punishment

During a recent exchange email exchange with Dr. Walter Block on a Private Property Society and proportional punishment, I asked Dr. Block:
 Do you believe the concept "proportional punishment" is something that can be objectively defined?
Below is his response:
 Dear  Bob:

Do I believe the concept "proportional punishment" is something that can be objectively defined?

My answer is, partially, or not yet. But, that is the entire Rothbardian enterprise. I think the [Bionoic] Mosquito made a good point when he said that we libertarians have been trying to do this for years. An earlier attempt at this with "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. In my writings, my claim for "proportional punishment" is two teeth for a tooth, plus costs of capture, plus scaring. I don't think anyone has this nailed down quite yet, but I see this attempt as crucially important for libertarian theory.

You, in contrast, have given up on this attempt entirely. You are taking a radically skeptical position. You are removing yourself, thereby, entirely, from one of the most important attempts to make libertarianism coherent. The mainstream has a theory of punishment (whatever the courts, legislators say). We, too, have one. We haven't nailed this down 100%, but at least we're trying. You're not only giving up, but calling all of us who make this attempt "statists." C'mon.

Best regards,


Walter E. Block, Ph.D.
Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics
Joseph A. Butt, S.J. College of Business                
Loyola University New Orleans


  1. Why does it have to be objectively defined (now)? In a society in which there were private and local dispute resolution forums, wouldn't local judges/juries (if that is how cases are decided) develop the answer on a case-by-case basis from the ground up? The whole area of punishment and compensation may differ among different communities. Moreover, some victims may choose to enforce less than whatever the decision is, others may bargain for something in exchange for not levying the punishment, etc. And in Robert's PPS, if the private property owner is the adjudicator, wouldn't his views be relevant (the private property owner's, not Robert's)?

    I think what's more important (outside the PPS concept) is recognition of who is an aggressor and who is a victim, and that the latter has a right of some sort against the former.

  2. What about compensation for losses incurred by the victims of US aggression abroad? You don’t hear “anti-war” border nationalists supporting that, even in principle.

    1. Yes, you really don't hear that discussed by anyone.

      Not to minimize the victims' suffering, but such compensation would be a double expropriation of the US (libertarian) taxpayer. First, his income is stolen to pay for the military aggression he does not support. Second, if compensation were awarded against "the US," taxpayers' income would be stolen again to pay for it.