Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Walter Block On Mask Wearing

Recently over at EPJ, I posted an email that Dr. Walter Block sent out to his Human Action seminar attendees. In the email, Dr. Block explained the details of the mask-wearing requirements.

This prompted the below exchange between a recipient of the email and Dr. Block. The introduction is by Dr. Block to the Human Action seminar list:
Human Action seminar meeting 
In my last missive to this list I announced our upcoming Human Action seminar meeting for this coming Friday, 9/4, from 5:30-7:30pm, to be held at NYPizza, 4418 Magazine St. (see here). I also said that wearing masks would be required (except when we were in our meeting room).
Here is a conversation you may find interesting. M is a person who attended the HA seminar for several years, and always made important contributions to it. He is now working out of town, and unable to attend. But, he intends to move back to New Orleans, and I hope and trust he will once again join us. What I get out of this correspondence is that the HA seminar is devoted to Austrian economics (a positive science), not libertarianism (a normative science). 

Letter 1
From: m
Sent: Monday, August 31, 2020 4:14 PM
To: Walter Block <>
Subject: Tu ne cede malis...Except for the face diaper?
Dear Walter,
I am deeply disappointed in your apparent surrender to the madness. 
Wearing the "mask" is flying a white flag that screams, "I acknowledge that the State has the legitimate authority to tell people how to breathe!"  Make no mistake--the order does come from the State--even as the Jesuits, administrators, shopkeepers, et al., enforce it, and even on private property.
Liberty does not come without a price.  In my own way, I have defied the petty Herods and Gauleiters by: resigning my teaching job rather than participate in the conditioning of children; giving up my docent work at the Alamo; daily going about my business every day as best as can (despite the Bexar county "Executive Order") without a face covering.  That has cost me thousands of dollars already, but I have my integrity.
"Liberty" without a price--and surrender to the slavery of the Zeitgeist--is why I never accepted that label, "libertarian."  It's one thing to talk about "theory" and quite another to live as a free man.
"Closer to home" haven't we seen how deadly has been the conditioning via ceaseless propaganda, panic stirred up for the purpose of more State control, and all the rest of the plannedemic (the only worthwhile neologism to come out of the craziness) on young people?  The way children are being conditioned with the active participation of their teachers has been the most wicked part of the ongoing shame.
Ask yourself, "Would Mises wear a mask?"
Peace, M 
Letter 2
On Mon, Aug 31, 2020 at 2:17 PM Walter Block <> wrote:
Dear M:
Sorry to disappoint you. But, libertarianism says nothing about living as a free man, in my view. Rather, it is solely a theory of what is just law. And its conclusion is that just law consists of adherence to the non aggression principle, private property rights based upon homesteading, and the law of free association.
I strongly disagree with your claim that in choosing to wear a mask when standing, as required by pretty much all restaurants and, also, by Loyola University, rather than cancelling my Human Action Seminar and foregoing all restaurant dining, I am acting incompatibly with libertarianism, as defined above. In so doing I have not initiated violence nor the threat thereof, have not violated the NAP, nor free association.
Why do you think I’m acting incompatibly with libertarianism?
If Mises wanted to dine in a restaurant, I’m sure he would wear a mask when standing. But, suppose he would not. That only means he does not highly rank dining in a restaurant, or, in my case, holding the HA seminar. It has nothing to do with libertarianism, as I see matters.
Best regards,
Walter E. Block, Ph.D.
Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics      
Loyola University New Orleans 
Letter 3 
From: m
Sent: Tuesday, September 01, 2020 4:20 PM
To: Walter Block <>
Subject: Re: Tu ne cede malis...Except for the face diaper?
I do think you are behaving in accord with libertarianism--and with all its moral poverty.  Again, why I am not a libertarian. 
But this is the medium for this.  Face-to-face--not face-to-mask, mind you--we'll have a chance to discuss it, Deo volente (cf. Exodus 33:11).  In the meantime, you might keep in mind that business about millstones, even if you don't think it applies to Jewish atheists.
Letter 4
Dear M:
I don’t see why it is immoral to either comply with private property owners’ requirements to wear a mask, or to decline to enter their premises.
WalMart, restaurants, WalGreens and other such places require a mask for entry to their stores. I don’t see why it is immoral to comply.
Best regards,

RW comment:

I tend to side with Dr. Block on this although as an advocate of the PPS I wouldn't use the phrase "theory of what is just law."

What we all need to recognize is that, as Harry Browne put it, we live in an unfree world. There are thousands of government regulations that we follow every day without protest and on top of that there are occasionally silly rules created by private businesses.

If we refuse to abide by every regulation of the state that we face on a daily basis, we would probably be shot by the state within 48 hours.

That is if we disobey a state order and the police are called and we don't recognize the authority of the police, we are going to get plugged. That is the way the world currently works.

I am sure M must obey all kinds of rules that he would ignore if it was possible.

The same thing goes for businesses that make silly rules, if we start demanding that businesses operate entirely in line with our thinking, there are going to be very few businesses that we will be able to frequent. (More on private businesses who expand on state demands in a future post).

As for Mises, his wife Margit von Mises in her memoir, My Years With Ludwig von Mises, recounts the harrowing tale of their escape by bus across Europe from Switzerland to Lisbon on their way to America.

A number of times the bus driver had to turn and take a side road because of German soldiers ahead of them. At no time did Mises demand of the driver that he use the main route because freedom dictated that Germans shouldn't have road blocks on the roads. Or demand that the bus driver turn around and head back to Switzerland because he was altering the original planned route because of German soldiers.

He understood that sometimes you have to recognize the power of the state and adjust accordingly.

When Mises finally did get to America, he had another problem. His money was still in Europe and there were exchange controls not allowing him to bring the money over to America. He didn't fly back to Europe pull the money out of the bank and demand that he be allowed to bring the money to America in a suitcase. He also did not say, "The hell with the money."

He worked around the problem. He had F.A. Hayek purchase rare books in Europe with his money there and send the books to America where he sold them.

So I would say Dr. Block is operating in a Misesian manner, you have to find the workarounds to the degree you can and keep the big picture in mind when considering what you are giving up by going along (reluctantly) with a minor regulation.

I would argue that for Dr. Block and the other attendees,  it is probably a small thing to walk through a restaurant with a mask on to get to the backroom to the high-level stuff going on.

As for me, I am not a big fan of government facemask wearing orders and I will agitate the system about it to the degree I can. But I know my limits. I walk around without a mask outside and try to get away with as limited of mask-wearing as I can inside but I am not going to make mask-wearing my last stand. My biggest battles are at the high-end intellectual level where all major movements are started or destroyed, not at the foxhole level.

And my guess is that the kind of intellectual plotting going on in the backroom at New York Pizza at 4418 Magazine St in New Orleans outweighs the 20 seconds of required mask-wearing each way in and out of the restaurant.



  1. The emailer is wrong for resigning his teaching position and leaving his students to bigger Statists. At least he could have taught them a lesson to distrust government technocrats. Maybe worked in some Road to Serfdom. Withdrawing doesn't persuade anyone of anything. It's lost opportunity.

  2. FyI to Block, Walmart is the best in allowing people to enter not wearing masks. I have found several times recently that the mask ambassadors at the door do not even ask anymore .

    1. I have confirmed this at Sam's Club also. The security guard pointed at his mouth when I walked in. I said, "Do you allow any exemptions?" And he nodded his head and I walked in.

  3. Restaurants are places of public accommodation by law. They are subject to all civil rights laws. If a person cannot wear a mask for health or religious reasons they cannot be refused service by law. That the state violates the law is a fact. So is the status and requirements of a public accommodation.

    1. I have followed Allan Stevo's advice in his columns at to say "I am unable to wear a mask safely" to see if I can be accommodated (I believe no one can wear a mask safely). The big box stores all were ready for me, though Costco asked "You have a health condition that prevents you from wearing a mask?". I just repeated Stevo's recommended phrase and nodded. The manager dated and initialed a Post-It I carried as documentation. Walmart just waved me in, though the gatekeeper got on his walkie-talkie and told someone about me. A restaurant I called in Orlando said I must wear a mask--"state rule", which is false, so I did not go there. If you highly value not wearing a mask, in many cases you can accomplish that. I highly recommend Stevo's columns on this.