Episode 52: Walter Block
Libertarian ideas have been a major theme in The Conversation. They were introduced in our second episode by Max More and have since been elaborated upon by David Miller, Robert Zubrin, Tim Cannon, and Oliver Porter. But while libertarianism has been discussed frequently, it has always been a secondary theme within episodes about, say, transhumanism or space exploration. But libertarianism is too intriguing to discuss obliquely, so we’re pulling it out of the background and exploring it in a full episode. We were especially interested in the logical conclusion of libertarian thought and, for that, we turned to Walter Block.
Walter Block is a self-described anarcho-capitalist, chair of the Economics Department at Loyola University in New Orleans, Louisiana, and a Senior Fellow at the libertarian Mises Institute. Block is also the author of numerous articles and several books, including Defending the Undefendable and The Case for Discrimination.
Connections to earlier episodes abound as Block calls John Zerzan crazy, suggests Gary Francione commit suicide, and lambastes the ideas of John Rawls that were advanced by Lawrence Torcello. Whatever you think of this episode, you’ll certainly remember it.
(Eleanor is slammed this week, so we’ll be switching out my placeholder art soon.)
My favorite definition of “Libertarian” is “a Republican who owns a bong.”
that rings a bell.
It’s so strange listening to someone whose fears are very well founded, but whose suggestions for potential solutions seem so very… ghastly and frightening. I’m sure it alls makes perfect sense to him, but I must’ve missed some part of his reasoning and just jumped straight to the conclusion, which on its own sounds too far removed from anything I already understand.
I can’t trace his process. What is libertarianism exactly? All his thoughts begin and end with libertarianism, but having listened through I still don’t understand what he means by it.
Is libertarianism essentially just capitalism? What makes it different from capitalism? How is what we already have here in North America not already libertarianism? What is the difference between libertarianism and the free market as it stands, or even neoliberalism? Why is government very very bad, but other forms of social organization capable of growing to be just as large and just as controlling and capable of just as much destruction somehow very very good?
He implies all these subtle details which could reasonably explain everything, but the only answer he provides is libertarianism is libertarianism is libertarianism and anything that is not libertarian should just commit suicide? Well okay, fine, but you’re not giving me much to go off here. I just don’t understand.
This guy is an idiot.
Sorry, that’s overly reductive. This guy is either a zealot or a troll. (I rather suspect the latter.)
His early point about how we bathtubs kill more people than snakes yet we fear snakes is cretinous. Most of use a bathtub just about every day, so the bathtub has a lot more opportunities to kill us than a snake. Plenty of us won’t ever encounter a lethally poisonous snake once in our lifetime.
I agree with Morroque that Block just posits that libertarianism will solve all our problems without in any plausible way explaining how it would work. The only working libertarian scenario he can formulate seems to involve everyone adhering unfailingly to the “non-aggression principle,” which would mean that no one would ever hurt another person or take their property (which also assumes that we’d have no irresolvable disputes over whose property was whose). Frankly, with human behavior that utopic, I think just about any form of society would work swimmingly.
I think he does (probably accidentally) have a point in that government is just a big gang. But if you remove government, you just get a lot of competing smaller gangs. We’re not “hard wired for socialism” so much as cognizant of the fact that two people are stronger than one, three stronger than two, etc. So you have to join a gang (or be a citizen under a government) in order to protect yourself from the threat of other gangs/governments. Unless, of course, we’re all these non-aggression angels, which, as Aengus points out, history well demonstrates that we aren’t.
I can’t recall who, but I think someone said that if you want to see what a country without a government looks like, you can just look at Somalia.
see first comment. its about all you need to know about this breed (of bathtub.)
hard wired for socialism?! we’ve done a good job of supressing that inbuilt tendency then. without even transhumance. oh perhaps he means the effectiveness of mutual aid in smooth running small communities, but this genius wants us to go en masse to the far stars so what do we need? Capitalist utilitarianism. He needs to read more sci fi. Good thing about this fellow is he is so rude you need not feel you’re letting the project down by being rude, and calling people idiots, cretins, etc. Just another ayn rand fan wanting to be attractive to a new wild young generation? Too long in the university perhaps? Wild youth gone to his, ah, brain. And he likes Zizek. Snakes look good company if you take the time to know them.