Isaiah 1: 9 Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.
Walter Block is well known for making significant contributions to libertarian theory. His volume of writing is overwhelming in this regard. Unfortunately, Block also writes a few pieces that do ten times the damage of all of the good he has done.
Block will often use extreme examples to make some esoteric point – a point meaningless in practice and having no application in a world of imperfect humans, where we know the failings and even corruption of those who hold political power. In other words, Block takes what should be considered a broad guideline and turns it into a precision instrument. He gives the surgeon an axe, and asks him to rid the patient of brain cancer.
A million commies come into your open-borders’ town? No problem. Martian invaders demand that you murder someone in order to save thousands? Sure, why not – sounds plausible. And his apologia for the State of Israel speaks volumes.
Frankly, of all of the controversial and even wrong-headed positions he takes (when considered against the non-aggression principle) his incorrect position on abortion is probably the least wrong and least damaging to the cause of liberty. Which really says something about these other views of his.
And now we have forced vaccinations – all perfectly compatible with the non-aggression principle. Read that again: it is not aggression to forcibly and without consent stab someone with a sharp object and inject a concoction into the body. He defends this absolutely undefendable act by considering the possibility that you might sneeze and thereby infect someone thousands of miles away. Don’t believe me? Here is Block’s example used to justify his application of libertarian theory:
A has a virus. He can get a vaccination injection guaranteed not to harm him, which will prevent it from spreading to others. For some reason, work with me here, B cannot get the injection (he’ll die from it), and will also perish if infected by A. This virus can travel thousands of miles. There is no way to protect B if A is not vaccinated. Under these admittedly extreme circumstances, if A refuses to get vaccinated, and B dies as a result of contagion from A, and we can prove this, I’d consider A a murderer. Murder is incompatible with the NAP. QED.
There is absolutely nothing about this scenario that is applicable in any world occupied by humans. Using such examples only convinces normal people that libertarians are loons – as if there isn’t already such damage done by libertarians stretching from Cato to Reason.
Further, Block’s logic here can be used to justify intervention in even the most remote possibility of pre-crime (is there a possibility even more remote than the one Block offers here?). I won’t get into examples, because this whole thing is just silly season. Pre-crime is now a violation of the non-aggression principle. Let the implications of that sink in.
In the same forced vaccination post, Block offers the following regarding the government’s actions in shutting down countless businesses and churches and putting forty-million (and counting) people out of work during this corona:
My own thought on this, not speaking as a libertarian, is that the government has done a reasonable job in warding off the virus, but that soon, more like days than weeks, we ought to be opening up things gradually, and the elderly, those with immune problems, should be very careful, continue to wear masks, don’t get out and about too much.
Goodness. Block takes advantage of his privilege in freely posting at the LRC blog, apparently without reading a single one of the hundreds of articles Rockwell has published over the last ten weeks on this crime of incomprehensible proportion unfolding before our eyes.
Block considers himself as continuing in the tradition of Rothbard. I will leave this for others to decide. My one observation here: while I do not agree with everything of Rothbard (I am thinking of abortion; there might be one or two other areas, but none jump out at me), I don’t recall reading anything from Rothbard that I would describe as silly-season libertarianism.
Now, I haven’t read everything Rothbard has written (I am not sure this is humanly possible), but everything that I have read has been adult content. Not from Block.
One of the best and most important statements made by any libertarian on any topic in recent years has been made by Block – and I know Hans Hoppe made a similar point eighteen months ago at his PFS conference. Block would write:
…the real, more basic, understanding of libertarianism is not the NAP. Rather, it is our libertarian punishment theory. A more sophisticated understanding of libertarianism does not say, with the NAP: “Thou shalt not murder, initiate violence against innocent persons or their legitimate possessions.” Rather, it states, that if you do, you will be punished in accordance with libertarian punishment theory.
The non-aggression principle works perfectly well in this capacity. It is insufficient for liberty when used in any other manner. It is turned into nonsense when it is used to defend against Martian invasions or used to justify forced injections.
Block could have used this statement of his as his guideline in his forced vaccination example. “A more sophisticated understanding of libertarianism… states, that if you do [violate the non-aggression principle], you will be punished in accordance with libertarian punishment theory.”
There is no such thing as pre-crime in libertarianism – whether in a sophisticated understanding or not. It is a punishment theory; punishment comes only after the crime and after proper evidence has been weighed and after a guilty verdict is rendered.
So, what about scattering the remnant? Even I – as sympathetic as I am to libertarian theory and as much as I can appreciate much of Block’s other work – am driven away by what can only be considered the lunacy of libertarians if Block’s work is considered the proper framework for liberty.
If Block’s applications such as these describe libertarianism applied, count me out. I am focused on liberty.