Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Walter Block as Role Model

EPJ has published an important email exchange between Brad DeLong and Walter Block.

In the exchange, Block correctly points out that DeLong does nothing but issue ad hominem attacks against him. It's a terrible thing to see this from a professor at a major American university. Indeed, a university, the University of California, Berkeley, where Janet Yellen, perhaps the next Fed chair and her Nobel Prize winning husband, George Akerlof, have both taught. Is this what the establishment has been reduced to when challenging non-Keynesian economic theory, name calling?

But aside from the early-age type school yard taunts made by DeLong, there is something else to note about the Block paper on Hayek that DeLong waves in his hands. Block was taking a courageous position  when he wrote the paper in 1996. It was not as if Hayek was some distant scholar to Block. In 1976, Hayek wrote this glowing comment about Block's then just published book, Defending The Undefendable:
 Looking through Defending the Undefendable made me feel that I was once more exposed to the shock therapy by which, more than fifty years ago, the late Ludwig von Mises converted me to a consistent free market position. … Some may find it too strong a medicine, but it will still do them good even if they hate it. A real understanding of economics demands that one disabuses oneself of many dear prejudices and illusions. Popular fallacies in economic frequently express themselves in unfounded prejudices against other occupations, and showing the falsity of these stereotypes you are doing a real services, although you will not make yourself more popular with the majority.
Given Hayek's comments about Block's book, it would have been very easy for Block to direct his focus elsewhere rather than on the weaknesses in Hayek's laissez-faire views.

Indeed, as a footnote to the paper, Block writes:
I write this paper with not a few misgivings. Hayek was always exceedingly kind to me, both personally and in writing; for example, see his forward to Walter Block, Defending the Undefendable (New York: Fox and Wilkes, [1976] 1991). In criticizing him now, part of me feels as if I am “biting the hand that fed me.” The reason I  finally decided to take pen to hand on this topic is that I feel I owe Hayek my best thoughts; it would seem a dishonesty, and a renunciation of the scholarship for  which he stood all of his life, to “pull punches” out of considerations of friendship. We all, that is, the best of us, encourage our students to be critical about our own  viewpoints, Hayek no less than any.
What Block did when he wrote this paper is demonstrate something I have witnessed in Block throughout his career, a willingness to search for truth wherever it may take him, with truth being the ultimate goal. Further, he has also, more than any other scholar I am aware of, been willing to discuss his views about Austrian economics and libertarianism in front of any group that will have him. And from letters, articles and youtube videos I have seen of his exchanges with others, he as always been respectful and courteous towards other, with truth being the ultimate goal.  He is a role model.

As for Brad DeLong's name calling, you might pick up a trick or two that might help you on a third grade school yard.


  1. As I've done before...Just standing up to be counted as a Block Head.

    Long Live Walter "Moderate" Block!

  2. Its an old tactic- attack the messenger and not the message. Block Rocks!

  3. Count me in as a Block Head as well. And this is coming from the son of an economics PhD graduate from Berkeley.

  4. You have to keep throwing that dead cat in the church of those ivory tower intellectuals. The defenders of taxation and inflation are as pompous as they are immoral.

    1. I would suggest a frisky live cat with teeth and claws. Better yet a black cat to freak out the superstitious savages posing as intellectuals.

  5. I agree with Walter Block about most things, but I don't think he is entirely free of ad hominem thinking. The whole academic world is I note that he refused to reply to a critic until he published in a peer reviewed journal. He needs to acknowledge that the whole credentialisn establishment of which he is a part is based on an ad hominem premise.

    I think he is a good person, and has done a lot of good. This is a minor criticism, but we all can improve.

    Marion McCoskey

  6. Block is, in my view, the greatest living advocate for liberty and the greatest living libertarian thinker. Only Hans Herman Hoppe is close to his equal for me. Both are much more consistent and deep thinkers than other popular libertarians like Ron Paul or Lew Rockwell, as much good as those two have done for as all.

  7. Listen, do we really care what DeLong has to say about anything? I seem to remember (paraphrasing) him calling David Gordon a Nazi because Gordon had taken the correct non-interventionist position vis a vis WWII.

    I mean, really, have some class you jerk.

  8. As always, Dr. Block comes off as the mature, consistent, deep thinker and DeLong as the opposite of that. The name calling is really all a DeLong type has.

  9. I just recalled that Richard Ebeling had mentioned Hayek's propensity to be too nice to the statists.


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