Friday, January 22, 2016


That was fast.

In response to my request, I have received feedback from Walter Block and others.  The several are names that you would know; if you respect libertarianism in the Rothbardian tradition, they are also names you would respect.  They have asked that I keep their names anonymous; contrary to my statement in the subject post, I have agreed to do so.

So, to summarize the anonymous feedback: You’re right.

I was sent the following by one of the prefer-to-remain-anonymous feedbackers, an excerpt from Rothbard’s The Ethics of Liberty, Chapter 13:

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.

Shooting someone for stealing a stick of gum – and in Rothbard’s example, not even a child.

Look, just because Rothbard wrote it doesn’t mean it is correct libertarian theory.  However, precisely because Rothbard wrote it, if you want to demonstrate otherwise you probably need to come up with something more than “because I wanted to.”

Now, on to Walter, who gave his OK to post the following; I offer it without comment:

I regard the Bionic Mosquito, and Bob Wenzel, as gifted libertarian theorists. The both of them. I regard both of them as friends of mine. Good friends.  I don’t mind it at all when friends of mine disagree with each other. Heck, I disagree with both Bob and the Mosquito on some few issues, plus with other friends of mine such as Murray Rothbard, Hans Hoppe and Stephan Kinsella, just to name a few. But it really bothers me, no, it sickens me, when the debate takes on not just the disineterested, calm, friendly, search for truth, which I welcome, enthusiastically, but also vituperation, nastiness, name calling, etc. I pride myself that I strive mightily not to engage in such activity even when debating enemies of Austro-libertarianism (I don’t always succeed, but I do try real hard), let alone with friends and intellectual fellow-travellers with whom I agree with on, oh, 99.8% of all issues, such as I do with the Bionic man and Bob Wenzel. Indeed, I have debated with both of them in the past, always cordially in all cases, and hope and trust this will always continue.

Please, Bob and Mosquito, be kind to each other in the debate over punishment theory you are now having with each other. Please, I beg you both, realize that you are both staunch libertarians. You are fellow soldiers in the intellectual fight for liberty. If people like the two of you cannot remain civil, and even more than civil when disagreeing with each other, then there is just that much less hope for our beloved movement.

Now to the specifics. I think Bob makes some good Austrian subjectivists points about only victims can know how much harm has been perpetrated on them by criminals. But, to think that victims and they alone may make up any punishment rules thay want on their own property, without notifying everyone else of unusual rules (like killing, or seizing coats, a la Donald Trump) I find completely incompatible with libertarianism (I make this point in my article on “murder park.” See below). Killing a child for stealing an apple I find totally incompatible with libertarian theory. Children are different than adults in libertarian theory, as they are in every other theory with which I am familiar. It is permissible to commit assault and battery on them, see my debate with Stephan Molyneux on this matter. Going to bed with a 5 year old girl, even if she “agrees” to do so should be a crime under libertarian law, as it is in all civilized societies, because children of that age are simply unable to give consent. It is much the same with apple stealing. They must be treated differently than adults, in terms not only of punishment theory after the fact, but even in defense of property during this criminal behavior. How, differently? More gently of course.

Murder Park:

Whitehead, Roy and Walter E. Block. 2002. “Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: A Property Rights Perspective,” University of Utah Journal of Law and Family Studies, Vol. 4, pp.226-263;

Block, Walter E. 2002. “Radical Privatization and other Libertarian Conundrums,” The International Journal of Politics and Ethics, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 165-175;

Block, Walter E. 2007. "Alienability: Reply to Kuflik.” Humanomics Vol. 23, No. 3, pp. 117-136;;jsessionid=0685BBB744173274A5E7CE3803132413?contentType=Article&contentId=1626605


December 9, 2013. Debate: Walter Block and Stefan Molyneux, Freedomain Radio on spanking children. Video:; MP3:

I hope and trust you don’t mind that I send this to Bob, too.

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
6363 St. Charles Avenue, Box 15, Miller Hall 318      
New Orleans, LA 70118            
tel: (504) 864-7934
fac: (504)864-7970
Skype: Walter.Block4             
If it moves, privatize it; if it doesn't move, privatize it. Since everything either moves or doesn't move, privatize everything.


I thank Walter, and also the several others who wished to remain anonymous, for their feedback.  However, perhaps the most succinct and insightful comment was offered at the subject post:

Black Flag January 21, 2016 at 3:09 PM

Wenzel hasn't defended Anarcho Capitalism, he has defended the judge, the jury, and the executioner, (all bundled together as one man) likely of statist ilk, who feel they can operate without consequences for error.

Why should Wenzel oppose the state when he's fine with an individual operating the same way? Is the libertarian objection to action, or the label attributed?

I wish I thought of this line of reasoning.  In sixty words, Black Flag said more than I did in ten-thousand.  Wenzel wants to create two billion tyrants.  This isn’t libertarianism.

Looking at Black Flag’s web site, it seems he has just started writing.  All I can say is, keep writing.


  1. Great. What of Wenzel's claim that executing a child or sexual child abuse simply could not happen in the Private Property Society that Wenzel envisions? A major part of his justification is that these things could never happen anyway, even though these things would be legal.

    So Wenzel is saying, yeah, you could kill a child (or sexually abuse a child) as a punishment, but since that could never happen anyway there is no problem with my PPS idea.

    1. Matt, the main issue (for me) has been tackled. As I mentioned in my previous post, there were many confusing (to paraphrase my longer comments) aspects of Wenzel's posts. For me, no concern, as the entire concept can now be dumped (although you and I knew that anyway, albeit perhaps for some of the same and also some different reasons).

    2. Indeed. If that is settled for you, great. I am more interested in the thought processes that led to this error rather than the error itself.

      I am still keen to hear other opinions on this. If you get more feedback I hope that you will update this post.

    3. Matt, if I receive anything further via email, I will update accordingly.

  2. I like both RW & Bionic, for very different reasons and they are both very different people-

    I had to say that because in fairness to BM, I don't think in the years of reading RW I've ever heard him admit he was wrong on any given topic.(maybe recent with the interest rate issue?) I hope he does this time around.

    I was really glad to see Rothbard has addressed this previously as I know RW holds him in high regard- but I'm just slightly troubled that the issued centered around only kids for Block- because as you noted, Rothbard extended that to adults as well.

    I think the issue is one of natural law(culture) and as much as we'd all like to eliminate subjectivity in our philosophy it seems to be impossible both logically and practically. Bastiat addressed this to some degree in "Economic Harmonies" and suggested that the fact be embraced rather than fought against.

    The human experience itself is subjective, so while it's nice to try to eliminate subjectivity in reason/logic, it's impossible to try to eliminate it in our daily lives.

    1. I am not expecting Wenzel to admit to being wrong, however if he cares a lick about the libertarian movement he should consider doing so.

      Regarding Block limiting it to children, I also noticed this - however, I did ask him specifically about the death of a child; in any case, the exception destroys the entire concept (is the farmer to ask for proof of age before shooting? Who is to determine the cutoff age between child - adult? The shooter?).

      In any case, Rothbard has answered definitively.

    2. Thank-you Anonymous for the book tip. If Bastiat addressed that in "Economic Harmonies" then I will read that book next!

    3. @ gpond

      There very first two paragraphs from it:

      "Are we really certain that the mechanism of society, like the mechanism of the heavenly bodies or the mechanism of the human body, is subject to general laws? Are we really certain that it is a harmoniously organized whole? Or is it not true that what is most notable in society is the absence of all order? And is it not true that a social order is the very thing that all men of good will and concern for the future are searching for most avidly, the thing most in the minds of all forward-looking commentators on public affairs, and of all the pioneers of the intellectual world? Are we not but a mere confused aggregation of individuals acting disconcertedly in response to the caprices of our anarchical liberty? Are our countless masses, now that they have painfully recovered their liberties one by one, not expecting some great genius to come and arrange them into a harmonious whole? Now that we have torn down, must we not begin to build anew?*11

      If the import of these questions were simply whether society can dispense with written laws, with regulations, with repressive measures, whether each man can make unlimited use of his faculties, even when he might infringe on another's liberties or do damage to the community as a whole—whether, in a word, we must see in the doctrine of laissez faire, laissez passer,*12 the absolute formula of political economy; the answer could be doubtful to no one. Political economists do not say that a man may kill, pillage, burn, that society has only to let him alone; they say that society's resistance to such acts would manifest itself in fact even if specific laws against them were lacking; that, consequently, this resistance is a general law of humanity. They say that civil or criminal laws must regularize, not contravene, these general laws on which they are predicated. It is a far cry from a social order founded on the general laws of humanity to an artificial, contrived, and invented order that does not take these laws into account or denies them or scorns them—an order, in a word, such as some of our modern schools of thought would, it seems, impose upon us."

      The last line in particular is interesting to me.

  3. Because Matt expressed interest in hearing others’ thoughts about this, below is a snippet from a private email I sent to bionic mosquito. I don’t believe I was supporting either side of “the dispute”, but rather I’m interested in the principles or basis that one could judge the situation. For me it was never about winning or losing an argument to either side. I do not request comment from BM, though he may comment or not as he sees fit. There are just my own ponderings… Even I see I may have made some mistakes in the email, but I will just let them stand.


    For what little it is worth, although I probably didn’t state what I was getting at in my posts very well, the ideas I was “playing with” are these that follow. And, by the way, whether the child is murdered or raped, in other words however bad you make the retribution, it makes no difference to what I’m getting at because what I’m getting at are basic principles and from where they come. The particulars are unimportant. So here goes.

    1) You said that you do not believe there are ‘objective’ punishments that can be teased out of libertarian theory.
    2) You said some punishments cross the line and become aggression - you know it when you see it.

    To me you were stating there is no objective standard for punishment, but then (again, to me), you were arguing as if that is not the case. Somewhere inside yourself you found what you believed to be a solid objective fact. That murder of the child is wrong in this instance.

    This is a common theme that I’m always exploring in my journey and readings and thinkings. If we are under AnCap, and there is no coercive authority over any of us — although there could be volunteered authority under contract or voluntary association — then WHO and more importantly BY WHAT AUTHORITY — or more to the point under WHAT and Whose objective/subjective standard is this to be judged? Either it is objective, as in objectivist rights and objectivist/objective law that is discovered. Or else it is someone’s subjective judgement. In this theoretical argument you claimed to be making a subjective judgement, I guess, in that *You* know it when *you* see it. Block now seems to be making an objective judgement with statements like: “that is incompatible with libertarian theory”. And of course Rothbard also believed in objective law and rights (natural ones).

    So, to me, I wasn’t looking at the harshness of the punishment so much as WHO and by what authority (and objective or subjective) would get to make that judgement?

    Naturally being a civilized person I would decry the murder of a little boy for apple stealing. I feel it in my bones that would be wrong. But my feelings don’t mean squat. Assume a person (the farmer) who owns his property free and clear. He has not agreed to any association (governance) and has not agreed to any contracts (governance). When he performs his aggregious act and stipulate that it was on his own property. Then by what principle does one decide that he was wrong to do so? Is it objective? Is it subjective? If subjective, then whose subjectivity counts? I’m not sure these are the kinds of questions that interest you. Many times you have stated something like “It’s enough for me that…x” . But it is of great interest to me.

    My interest is in having others ponder and perhaps discuss issues that are interesting to me. The nature of laws for example. Objective or subjective? This is my interest.


  4. Thank you for the recognition, but the credit for my revelation goes to you, Wenzel (despite all of this, I still hold him in high esteem), and the discussion itself.

    Like I said in the original comment, if not for this discussion I wouldn't have realized certain positions I may have advocated could have likely violated the NAP. It was a humbling moment I won't soon forget, and I hope for more.

  5. Actaully the answer is quite simple. At present if someone say crashs into your car with theirs (and the cops can't make it) you pass the details on to your insurance company or agent who will make efforts to put you back into the position you were before, and they investigate and take it up with the other party. That that keeps the peace so there is no need to storm off to murder or rape kids. Even in the case of murder there more chance for the accused to cooperate with the insurers than with the 'heirs'.

  6. If something is wrong for a person to do, it is also wrong for the State as well. The Non Aggression Principle must always first be applied to the State.

    One of the thoughts that immediately pops up when you think of it this way- would it be ok for the State to murder a child?

    Sometimes the theoretical coffee house chatter needs to know where that line between practical and itself lies. It's also a trick of the Statists to get you endlessly apologizing for hypotheticals in your system while their mountain of corpses overshadows the argument, unnoticed.

  7. I’d like to start with my prior comment about differentiating between those in contractual privity and those who are not:

    I believe we need to differentiate between four different concepts:

    1. People in contractual privity with others;

    2. People who are not in contractual privity with others;

    3. Allowable invasions of the private property of another and/or the seizing his/her body for trial; due to the allegation that they have committed a crime/violation of the NAP; and

    4. Refusing to allow ingress or egress regarding someone else’s property due to either a criminal act on their part or a loathsome act which does not arise to the level of #3 above.

    I believe that under Ancap most people would be in contractual privity with most of their neighbors. If there was a place owned by someone with whom they were not in contractual privity, their insurance company/protection agency probably would be very upset if they visited such a place.

    If someone owned property and you were not in contractual privity with that person, you would really want some advance contractual guaranty that they are not going to hold you as sex slave for accidently visiting their property and breaking one of their strange rules. I would expect that their neighbors would/could simply build a wall around them refusing them ingress and egress until they became more “reasonable”.

    I have been pushing these concepts for years to no avail. The always rude Gene Callahan really does not like these ideas:

    I suppose this does not really answer the question of whether you would be allowed to make up all of the criminal procedure rules for your property. However, if you insist upon acting like a jerk, offended people in surrounding neighborhoods can and will make life pretty miserable for you. This will all depend upon culture and peer pressure. If most people want to act like jerks, those people are probably not going to be too interested in maintaining a meticulous prohibition upon the initiation of violence. On the other hand, if a substantial percentage of the population wants to maintain a meticulous prohibition upon the initiation of violence, they are probably going to be reasonable people.