Thursday, January 30, 2014

Walter Block: How NYT Mischaracterized My Views on Slavery (And What I Tried To Do About It)

Reply to the Scurrilous, Libelous, Venomous, Scandalous New York Times Smear Campaign
By Walter Block

The “Rand Paul problem” from the point of view of the New York Times and other such “progressives” is that he is far too clean. He does not shut down traffic lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge. He has no mistresses nor any love children. He has not stolen vast amounts of money; heck no money at all. He has not put his foot in his mouth regarding witches or rape or “read my lips” or anything else for that matter.
These people greatly fear a Rand versus Hillary confrontation in 2015. The former could “out-left” the latter on war, imperialism, victimless crimes, and “out-right” her on economic liberty, the second amendment and private property rights. Rand has a better shot at beating Hillary than any other plausible Republican candidate, and, it would appear, the time to grease the skids is now upon us.
What is to be done, then? Why, defame Rand directly of course, but also besmirch him not for anything he has done, but line up a bunch of people who could in any way be associated with him, attack them, and imply that Rand is somehow responsible for their actions. The not so hidden agenda here is that, really, Rand agrees with all of them, although he is too sneaky to come out and say this. The candidates for this operation? Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, Lysander Spooner, Hans Sennholz, Ayn Rand, Karl Hess, Ron Paul, Lew Rockwell, Tom Woods, Jack Hunter, Gary North, Alex Jones, and me. My only surprise is that Tanenhaus and Rutenberg, the authors of this disgraceful hit piece did not dig deeper. I am sure that if they had, they could have come up with some dirt on Rand’s plumber, or baby sitter, or gardener, or grocer, etc. Surely, one of them, or a family member or a friend of theirs, did something reprehensible that can be pinned on Rand, with just a little body English, for which the New York Times is justly famous.
Tanenhaus and Rutenberg have delivered themselves of an outrageousattack on Rand Paul, the Mises Institute, and several Austro-libertarian scholars associated with both. In this response, I shall focus only on the injustice perpetrated on me; the other (living) targets are fully able to reply, if they wish to do so, on their own. (For Lew Rockwell’s incisive response in behalf of the Mises Institute, go here. Bob Wenzel’s responseis also excellent.)
If I had to summarize their essay in the form of a syllogism, at least as it refers to my small part in it, it would be this:
a. Rand Paul is a libertarian
b. Walter Block is a libertarian
c. Walter Block says that slavery was “not so bad.”
Therefore
d. Rand Paul believes that slavery was “not so bad.”
This attempt to smear Rand Paul’s possible campaign for the presidency of the U.S., to say the least, is an invalid form of argument. It is worse than silly, no? And, yet, it would appear, that is the conclusion the New York Times is attempting to draw. To see the invalidity of this mode of argument, try this one on for size:
a. Rand Paul is a libertarian
b. Walter Block is a libertarian
c. Walter Block says that Mozart was the best music composer and Ayn Rand the best novelist.
Therefore
d. Rand Paul believes that Mozart was the best music composer and Ayn Rand the best novelist.
While I have no problem with premises (a) and (b) above, here is what I actually published about slavery not being “so bad,” and precisely what I was trying to convey to Mr. Tanenhaus in the several hours of interviews I did with him in an effort to explain libertarianism to him:

“Free association is a very important aspect of liberty. It is crucial. Indeed, its lack was the major problem with slavery. The slaves could not quit. They were forced to ‘associate’ with their masters when they would have vastly preferred not to do so. Otherwise, slavery wasn’t so bad. You could pick cotton, sing songs, be fed nice gruel, etc. The only real problem was that this relationship was compulsory. It violated the law of free association, and that of the slaves’ private property rights in their own persons. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, then, to a much smaller degree of course, made partial slaves of the owners of establishments like Woolworths.”
The point is that free association, one of the bedrocks of the entire libertarian edifice, is a bulwark against slavery. On the other hand, the so-called Civil Rights Act of 1964 undermines free association. It forces Woolworths to associate with people against their will. Thus, very paradoxically, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 supports slavery. It does so by undermining free association, the violation of which allows slavery. Our friends on the left, amongst whom we must include writers for the New York Times, are thus placed in a bit of a logical quandary. They, of course, as do all men of good will, oppose slavery. But, in their support of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, they attack the law of free association. Logically, they cannot have it both ways. When it comes to slavery, they defend the law of free association, which would allow the slave to quit or not be enslaved in the first place; all well and good. But, when racial discrimination is under discussion, they reject the right of the Woolworths of the world to invoke that self-same right of free association, which would allow discriminators of that ilk to refuse service (decline to associate with) people with whom they do not wish to interact. It would appear that New York Times editors and journalists do not appreciate or even comprehend sarcasm.
But is it not unfair, and harmful, to racial minority groups to allow bigots to discriminate against them in lunch counters, or in employment, or in any other way? No, no and no. Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams have done more than any other two scholars to demonstrate the falsity of this sort of reasoning. If white owned restaurants do not wish to serve black people, the latter will be more desperate, willing to pay more than otherwise, to be able to purchase meals. Thus, profits in doing precisely that will rise, and other entrepreneurs, both white and black, will have more of an incentive to provide such services. If employers discriminate against black workers, this will drive down their wages to lower levels than would otherwise obtain. This, too, sets up enhanced profit opportunities for yet other firms, to hire these people. If some transportation companies insist that African-Americans ride only in the back of the bus, others will spring up to attract such customers; they will earn higher profits, at least initially.  Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” works all throughout the economy. Racial discrimination is impotent to really harm its targets. Why, then, did this aspect of laissez faire capitalism not actually function in the south in the early part of the last century? ‘Twas not due to any “market failure.” Rather, the free enterprise system was not allowed to function, due to Jim Crow laws. For example, in order to set up a competing bus company, one that would allow black people to sit in any section of their vehicles, permission had to be obtained from state(ist) authorities, the very people responsible for the Jim Crow back of the bus law in the first place. Nor must it be thought that initially black people would have to suffer from higher lunch prices, lower salaries, sitting in the back of the bus, etc. These are only theoretical possibilities, if entrepreneurs do not take advantage of profit opportunities. But we have a name for businessmen of that type: bankrupt. For a more detailed explication of the economics of discrimination along these lines see my 2010 book on this topic, here,here or here.
I spent more than just several hours with Mr. Tanenhaus trying to explain to him how central to libertarianism is the non-aggression principle (NAP).  I told him that the essence of this philosophy is that it is illegitimate to threaten or actually use violence against innocent people. I gave him all sorts of examples. I tried to make the point as dramatically as I could to him. I went so far as to say that the onlything horrid about actual slavery was that it violated the NAP. Otherwise, apart from that one thing, slavery was innocuous: you could pick cotton in the healthy outdoors, sing songs, they would give you gruel, etc. This of course was a hypothetical. A point made to dramatize exactly why slavery was wrong. Not because of cotton, gruel, singing, etc., but due to the vicious violation of the NAP against innocent black people.
And what does that intrepid New York Times reporter make of all this? He turned this into a supposed claim of mine that actual slavery was not so bad.  Specifically, he reported my views in this manner: “Walter Block, an economics professor at Loyola University in New Orleans who described slavery as ‘not so bad,’ is also critical of the Civil Rights Act. ‘Woolworth’s had lunchroom counters, and no blacks were allowed,’ he said in a telephone interview. ‘Did they have a right to do that? Yes, they did. No one is compelled to associate with people against their will.’”
Minor problem. I never in a million years would have said “No one is compelled to associate with people against their will.” This is an obvious falsity, what with affirmative action and other anti discrimination laws. Rather, my view is, “No one should be compelled to associate with people against their will.” (Don’t they have tape recorders at the New York Times?) And this applies to Woolworths, to those forced into slavery, to victims of rape, to all those forced to associate, or interact with, or to have anything to do with, others under compulsion.
Major problem. In actual point of fact, I along with pretty much all other men of good will think that this institution was vicious, depraved and monstrous. Why? Again, because of NAP violations, not anything else, certainly not anything as peripheral as singing songs and eating gruel.  I think that the movie “Django Unchained,” and the television series, “Roots,” accurately depicted this system. It would be impossible for any fair minded person to turn what I said into support for such a despicable system.  Surely, no good-hearted person, such as I consider myself, let alone a libertarian for whom NAP violations are at the core of his philosophy, could think that actual slavery was “not so bad.” It is one of the worst things that man has ever perpetuated against man. The only thing I can think of that is worse is mass murder.
Was this stupidity or maliciousness on the part of Mr. Tanenhaus to so twist my words? I cannot be sure, but my assessment is that for this modern reincarnation of Walter Durantythere was a bit of both involved, with the latter surely predominating, since he didn’t appear particularly stupid to me during our long interviews.
Do I regret I did a series of interviews with Mr. Tanenhaus?  Should I resolve never again to deal with a journalist from the New York Times? I would gladly do it again. For one thing, there is always the outside chance of converting such a person to the freedom philosophy.  For another, there is the possibility, admittedly unlikely, that a mainstream journalist would at least be fair.  I go further. My aim is to convert the entire world to the one true faith, libertarianism. I will sit down and talk to the very devil himself in this effort, or, to Communists, Nazis, New York Times reporters, it is all in a day’s work for me.
I once gave a speech after which two young kids who said they were Nazis approached me. As is my wont, I moved immediately into conversion mode. I said that we libertarians would give members of their group a better deal than any other political philosophy. They could deny the Holocaust, sing Nazi songs, wear big black leather boots, salute swastika flags, build ovens, do the goose step, etc. (I am nothing if not a bit tent libertarian.) You could even place Jews, blacks, gays, Romany, and all other non-Aryans in these ovens, provided, only, they went there voluntarily. The only thing we libertarians would not allow them to do, so important do we think it is, is violate the NAP. They may not initiate or threaten violence against any innocent person. Force may properly be used only in defense against initiatory attack.  That is the sine qua non of libertarianism.
Did I think I had a real chance of converting these two kids? Not really. Nazism is perhaps too far off the libertarian path, although you never know about things like that: maybe they were ripe for conversion; they did come to hear my formal speech, after all. My main goal in this and other such episodes it to tell the truth about libertarianism (it opposes by law onlythe threat or actual use of violence against innocent people and their property), and does not see swastikas, ovens, Nazi salutes, goose stepping, as a per se violation of the NAP. This is a crucially important point, and I will not be deterred from making it out of fear of possible misunderstanding of it by people with an IQ hovering around comfortable room temperature or by evil people who support barbarism (e.g., denigrate the NAP) such as Mr. Tanenhaus. Secondly, there were other audience members who were listening in to my conversation with the two Nazis. I wanted to demonstrate to them, too, the proper libertarian analysis of that uncivilized political philosophy.
Were I to have told Mr. Tanenhaus this Nazi story of mine, I have no doubt he would have reported to his readers that “Block is a Nazi,” or “Block embraces Nazism,” or “Block thinks that Nazis killing Jews and others in ovens wasn’t really so bad.”
So, should I not try to promote libertarianism in terms of extreme cases, such as slavery, Nazism, on the ground that such examples can easily be twisted to the very opposite of the plain meaning of what I said? Not a bit of it. My motto is, Full steam ahead, go right at ‘em, and the devil take the hindmost. The illegitimi are going to misinform gullible people, such as most readers of the New York Times, no matter what is said. Nothing can be done to change that, except of course for a mass conversion to libertarianism, or, at least, decency.  Why allow their possible (well, very likely) misinterpretations to deflect me, us, from making the libertarian case in the most powerful way possible?
It is easy to see how a journalist at the New York Times could so seriously misconstrue libertarianism. Less so, far less so, can this be understood in the case of Reason. These people are supposed libertarians themselves. What had they to say about Mr. Tanenhaus’ smear of me as supportive of slavery as it actually functioned? Here is the reaction of Reason editor Nick Gillespie: “One economist, while faulting slavery because it was involuntary, suggested in an interview that the daily life of the enslaved was ‘not so bad — you pick cotton and sing songs.’” Now, these people full well know who the “one economist” is, namely me. Mr. Tanenhaus, after all, does mention me by name, and spells it correctly. Mr. Gillespie is fully cognizant of the fact that I am a libertarian. At least he should have known this, since I have contributed to this movement over many years and have published in his own Reason Magazine and Reason Papers on numerous occasions. Did it not seem jarring to him that I would support slavery as not being “so bad?” Am I amiss in thinking that as a fellow libertarian he would have checked things out with me before piling on? I am not at all that disappointed with Mr. Tanenhaus. I expected little better from him; after all, what does he know? He works for the New York Times, for goodness sakes! But I am truly amazed, and appalled, that a supposed libertarian such as Mr. Gillespie would be so vile.
A postscript on voluntary slavery. I am on record on numerous occasions in support of voluntary slavery; some other libertarians support me on this issue as well. See Andersson, 2007; Block, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007A, 2007B, 2009A, 2009B; Lester, 2000; Nozick, 1974, pp. 58, 283, 331; Philmore, 1982; Steiner, 1994, pp. 232. I want now to anticipate and obviate possible objections emanating from “libertarians” such as Mr. Gillespie that my stance here implies that I favor, however slightly, coercive slavery as it actually existed in history, and even nowadays, in some places.
What is voluntary slavery? Consider the following. My child is sick with a dread disease. It will kill him unless he has an operation. The operation costs $5 million, and I, a poor man, just do not have anything like that amount of money. But you, gentle reader, are a rich person, who has long wanted me to be your slave. So, we make a deal. I agree to become enslaved by you, for $5 million. You give me that amount of money, I turn it over to my child’s doctors, and then I come to your plantation to serve you.  We both gain in the ex ante sense from this commercial interaction, as is always the case. You value my servitude more than the $5 million you pay for it; I regard my child’s life more highly than my own freedom. Forget about the niceties of this example. Ignore the political incorrectness here. Do not consider libertarian objections along the lines of not being able to alienate the will. Focus on just one issue: Does this contract, or does it not, violate the NAP? I say it does not, and would hence be legitimate in the libertarian society.
This is not the time nor the place to try, once again, to refute those libertarians who disagree with me on this issue (I am in a distinct minority in the libertarian community).  My aim here is more limited. It is to distinguish the hypothetical case of voluntary slavery from the operation of real world coercive slavery. I claim that the latter is a paradigm case of NAP violation, and ought to be opposed to the utmost, while the former is not. I have little doubt that Mr. Tanenhaus will seize upon this example in a “gotcha!” moment. He will aver that this is but further evidence that I support real slavery, and that since I do, Rand Paul, another libertarian, must as well.
One last word. I allege that it is libelous to claim I maintain that (real world) slavery wasn’t really so bad. Shall I sue Mr. Tanenhaus and his employer? The latter certainly has deep pockets. I am rather ambivalent about this. On the one hand, libel is not a per se violation of the NAP.  Under libertarian law, Mr. Tanenhaus and the New York Times have a legal right to besmirch my good name with allegations of this sort.  Yes, they have attempted to ruin my reputation. Probably, they have succeeded, at least with a goodly number of people. But, I do not own my own reputation. Rather, it consists of the thoughts of other people, and I cannot own those.  For more on this, see my book Defending I. On the other hand, the NAP only requires that libertarians refrain from using violence (lawsuits ultimately constitute the use of invasive force) against innocent people. The New York Times hardly fits this bill. Rather, that organization is a major mouthpiece for the state. As Lew Rockwell pithily put it, and as reported in this very article, they are “part of the regime.” Therefore, they would not be off bounds for a libel suit launched by a libertarian.
I am content with the fact that thanks to this vicious smear, more people than would otherwise be the case have now at least heard of libertarianism. Not in a good light, to be sure. But, perhaps, a significant number of them will do some research on the subject. A good place to start would be with the web of the Mises Institute, mises.com, and/or with LewRockwell.com. Auburn, AL is the center of the Austro-libertarian movement; long may it prosper.
References:
Andersson, Anna-Karin. 2007. “An alleged contradiction in Nozick’s entitlement theory” Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 21, No. 3, Fall: 43–63; http://mises.org/journals/jls/21_3/21_3_3.pdf
Block, Walter E. 2008 [1976]. Defending the Undefendable. Auburn, AL: The Mises Institute; available for free here: http://mises.org/books/defending.pdf
Block, Walter E. 1999. “Market Inalienability Once Again: Reply to Radin,” Thomas Jefferson Law Journal, Vol. 22, No. 1, Fall, pp. 37-88; http://www.walterblock.com/publications/market_inalienability.pdf
Block, Walter E. 2001. “Alienability, Inalienability, Paternalism and the Law: Reply to Kronman,” American Journal of Criminal Law, Vol. 28, No. 3, Summer, pp. 351-371;http://www.walterblock.com/publications/reply_to_kronman.pdf
Block, Walter E. 2003. “Toward a Libertarian Theory of Inalienability: A Critique of Rothbard, Barnett, Gordon, Smith, Kinsella and Epstein,” Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol.17, No. 2, Spring, pp. 39-85; http://www.mises.org/journals/jls/17_2/17_2_3.pdf
Block, Walter E. 2004. “Are Alienability and the Apriori of Argument Logically Incompatible?” Dialogue, Vol. 1, No. 1. http://www.uni-svishtov.bg/dialog/2004/256gord6.pdf
Block, Walter E. 2005. “Ayn Rand and Austrian Economics: Two Peas in a Pod.” The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. Vol. 6, No. 2, Spring, pp. 259-269
Block, Walter E. 2006. “Epstein on alienation: a rejoinder” International Journal of Social Economics; Vol. 33, Nos. 3-4, pp. 241-260
Block, Walter E. 2007A. “Secession,” Dialogue. No. 4; pp. 1-14;  http://www.uni-svishtov.bg/dialog/2007/4.07.WB.pdf
Block, Walter E. 2007B. “Alienability: Reply to Kuflik.” Humanomics Vol. 23, No. 3, pp. 117-136; http://www.emeraldinsight.com/Insight/viewContentItem.do;jsessionid=0685BBB744173274A5E7CE3803132413?contentType=Article&contentId=1626605
Block, Walter E. 2009A. “Yes, Sell Rivers! And Make Legal Some Slave Contracts” The Tyee. July 25; http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2009/07/24/SellRivers/
Block, Walter E. 2009B. “Privatizing Rivers and Voluntary Slave Contracts” July 27; http://www.lewrockwell.com/block/block134.html
Block, Walter E. 2010. The Case for Discrimination. Auburn, AL: The Mises Institute; http://www.amazon.com/The-Case-Discrimination-Walter-Block/dp/1933550813/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1336605494&sr=1-1; http://mises.org/store/Case-for-Discrimination-P10442.aspx; available for free here:http://mises.org/daily/4957
Lester, Jan Clifford. 2000. Escape from Leviathan. St. Martin’s Press.http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0312234163/qid%3D989845939/107-8070279-6411737
Nozick, Robert. 1974. Anarchy, State and Utopia, New York: Basic Books, http://www.amazon.com/Anarchy-State-Utopia-Robert-Nozick/dp/0465097200
Philmore, J. 1982. “The Libertarian Case for Slavery: A Note on Nozick” Philosophical Forum, XIV (Fall): 43-58; http://cog.kent.edu/lib/Philmore1/Philmore1.htm;
Rockwell, Lew. 2014. “We Win the NY Times Prize.” January 27; http://www.lewrockwell.com/2014/01/lew-rockwell/the-new-york-times-doesnt-like-me/
Steiner, Hillel. 1994. An Essay on Rights, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers; http://books.google.com/books/about/An_Essay_on_Rights.html?id=gBoWUMpKJjwC
Tanenhaus, Sam and Jim Rutenberg.  2014. “ Rand Paul’s Mixed Inheritance.” January 26; http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/26/us/politics/rand-pauls-mixed-inheritance.html?hp&_r=4
Wenzel, Robert. 2014. “In Defense of the Mises Institute.” January 27; http://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2014/01/in-defense-of-mises-institute.html
Postscript:
This is a missive I sent on 1/28/14 to the letters editor of the New York Times:
I published these exact words on 2/25/13 (http://www.lewrockwell.com/block/block219.html) long before being interviewed for your story “Rand Paul’s Mixed Inheritance,” on 1/26/14:
“Free association is a very important aspect of liberty. It is crucial. Indeed, its lack was the major problem with slavery. The slaves could not quit. They were forced to ‘associate’ with their masters when they would have vastly preferred not to do so. Otherwise, slavery wasn’t so bad. You could pick cotton, sing songs, be fed nice gruel, etc. The only real problem was that this relationship was compulsory. It violated the law of free association, and that of the slaves’ private property rights in their own persons. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, then, to a much smaller degree of course, made partial slaves of the owners of establishments like Woolworths.”
I tried to explain my views to your journalist on the basis of precisely these words. His translation: “Walter Block, an economics professor at Loyola University in New Orleans … described slavery as ‘not so bad…’”
This is shameful. You owe me a written apology.
The New York Times declined to publish this letter of mine to the editor. Here is the actual correspondence that led to their decision (they impose a maximum of 175 words):
1. To: Louis Lucero II
Assistant to the Senior Editor for Standards
The New York Times
On Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 2:39 PM, Walter Block <walterblock@cba.loyno.edu> wrote:
Dear Editor:
Please consider publishing this in your letters to the editor page (it is 173 words):
I published these exact words on 2/25/13 (http://www.lewrockwell.com/block/block219.html) long before being interviewed for your story “Rand Paul’s Mixed Inheritance,” 1/26/14:  “Free association is a very important aspect of liberty. It is crucial. Indeed, its lack was the major problem with slavery. The slaves could not quit. They were forced to ‘associate’ with their masters when they would have vastly preferred not to do so. Otherwise, slavery wasn’t so bad. You could pick cotton, sing songs, be fed nice gruel, etc. The only real problem was that this relationship was compulsory. It violated the law of free association, and that of the slaves’ private property rights in their own persons. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, then, to a much smaller degree of course, made partial slaves of the owners of establishments like Woolworths.” How did your journalists report this views that I clearly explained? They said “Walter Block, an economics professor at Loyola University in New Orleans … described slavery as ‘not so bad…’” This is shameful. You owe me a written apology.
Best regards,
Walter
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
fax: (504) 864-7970
wblock@loyno.edu
http://www.walterblock.com/
http://www.walterblock.com/publications/
http://samesideentertainment.com/talent/dr-walter-block/
https://www.facebook.com/wblock2
WalterBlock.com: https://twitter.com/WalterEBlock
Twitter Account: https://twitter.com/WalterEBlock
If it moves, privatize it; if it doesn’t move, privatize it. Since everything either moves or doesn’t move, privatize everything.
2. To Walter Block
From: NYTimes, Senioreditor [mailto:senioreditor@nytimes.comSent: Tuesday, January 28, 2014 6:06 PMTo: Walter BlockSubject: Re: letter to the editor
Dear Dr. Block,
Thank you for your email. While illuminating, your previously published remarks are not necessarily material to the comments you made to our reporter in a telephone interview. In our story, we write:
Walter Block, an economics professor at Loyola University in New Orleans who described slavery as “not so bad,” is also highly critical of the Civil Rights Act. “Woolworth’s had lunchroom counters, and no blacks were allowed,” he said in a telephone interview. “Did they have a right to do that? Yes, they did. No one is compelled to associate with people against their will.”
The time and spatial constraints of journalism often preclude our giving as much detail or context as we would like, but not including the full text of a nearly year-old blog post in our article does not constitute a factual error. Because we are only able to address factual errors, and not mere omissions, we don’t believe a correction is warranted in this case.
We know you’re unlikely to agree with our decision, but we hope you can understand it all the same.
Best,
3.To: Louis Lucero II
Louis Lucero IIAssistant to the Senior Editor for StandardsThe New York Times
On Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 7:17 PM, Walter Block <walterblock@cba.loyno.edu> wrote:
Dear Mr. Lucero:
Of course my published remarks are quite irrelevant, per se. I certainly don’t expect a journalist to reprint them in their entirety. But they convey exactly what I told your Mr. Tanenhaus in my several interviews with him. Clearly, there was a bit of sarcasm in my statement. I was talking hypotheticals. Yet your Mr. Tanenhaus made it appear as if I thought that actual slavery was not “so bad.” You don’t agree that this is a total perversion of my views? Of course actual slavery was horrid and despicable. But why? Because of picking cotton and singing songs etc? No, of course not. Because it was compulsory.
Best regards,
Walter
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
fax: (504) 864-7970
wblock@loyno.edu
http://www.walterblock.com/
http://www.walterblock.com/publications/
http://samesideentertainment.com/talent/dr-walter-block/
https://www.facebook.com/wblock2
WalterBlock.com: https://twitter.com/WalterEBlock
Twitter Account: https://twitter.com/WalterEBlock
If it moves, privatize it; if it doesn’t move, privatize it. Since everything either moves or doesn’t move, privatize everything.
4. To Walter Block
On Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 2:39 PM, Walter Block <walterblock@cba.loyno.edu> wrote:
From: NYTimes, Senioreditor [mailto:senioreditor@nytimes.com] Sent: Tuesday, January 28, 2014 6:42 PMTo: Walter BlockSubject: Re: letter to the editor
Dr. Block,Thank you for your reply, but we are comfortable with our characterization of your views.Regards,
5. to Mr. Lucero
Dear Mr. Lucero:
I have a one word response for you: wow!
Best regards,
Walter
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
fax: (504) 864-7970
wblock@loyno.edu
http://www.walterblock.com/
http://www.walterblock.com/publications/
http://samesideentertainment.com/talent/dr-walter-block/
https://www.facebook.com/wblock2
WalterBlock.com: https://twitter.com/WalterEBlock
Twitter Account: https://twitter.com/WalterEBlock
If it moves, privatize it; if it doesn’t move, privatize it. Since everything either moves or doesn’t move, privatize everything.
Dr. Block is a professor of economics at Loyola University New Orleans, and a senior fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He is the author of Defending the UndefendableThe Case for DiscriminationLabor Economics From A Free Market PerspectiveBuilding Blocks for LibertyDiffering Worldviews in Higher Education, and The Privatization of Roads and Highways. His latest book is Yes to Ron Paul and Liberty.
The above originally appeared at LewRockwell.com.

30 comments:

  1. So uhhh, we are going to do more than just send a couple emails to a POS editor at the NYT right? I mean, Dr. Block probably did the right thing, but that obviously didn't work. This isn't something Walter should just let go though.

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  2. Wow, Walter Block just owned the psychopaths at the New York Times.

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  3. "but not including the full text of a nearly year-old blog post in our article does not constitute a factual error."

    "Dr. Block,Thank you for your reply, but we are comfortable with our characterization of your views."
    Sue the shit out of them Walter. Personally I think it would be easy to win(but I'm not an attorney).

    If you win,

    #1 You can force them to print a retraction on the pages of their own rag.
    #2 You can donate the money to prove it's your reputation you are concerned about.

    I'm assuming if persuasion is your number one goal, that your reputation, even to the indoctrinated is important.

    While you may not be able to justify the control of people's thoughts in libertarian principle, you are certainly entitled to be able to try to mitigate damages from those attempted to falsey hurt your reputation.(and hence we are getting close to a big ole discussion/debate on IP...let's try to stay away from that for now and focus on the harm to you).

    I think your written clarification was a good thing Dr. Block and I'm glad you did it.

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  4. I would also like to add to my above comment that if Dr. Block decides to sue the NTY's that I will contribute $100 immediately to his legal efforts.

    Best Regards to all.

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    1. Would love to see Block go into a court room and argue that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 supports slavery since it forces a racist business owner to serve black customers.

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    2. He wouldn't have to Jerry. All Block's attorney has to to is admit his entire statement as an exhibit and let the jury decide if the NYT's was fraudulent in representing his views.

      Open and shut case in my mind.

      If opposing counsel wants to bring up the 1964 Civil Rights Act comments to suggest that Block is pro-slavery I doubt that he would be successful with a jury as simply putting the original quote in context is the issue.

      Just because you can't see forcing a racist business owner to serve blacks as a form of slavery doesn't mean it isn't.

      More importantly though, Block's comments are clearly anti-slavery, and the NYT's never once even bothered to suggest a nuanced view by Block.

      Again, open & shut.

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    3. So the truth- the 1964CRA DOES support slavery is too hard for JW to contemplate.

      If I'm forced to serve people wearing swastikas, or wearing white hoods and KKK regalia, or shirts that say "GO BACK TO AFRICA" then what happens when I- a gay white man- decides to an them?

      According to Jerry Wolfgang I should be FORCED to serve them, no matter how much it upsets me or my customers. AND if I refuse to serve them, or kick them out, I should be jailed and lose my business.

      Jerry Wolfgang- you are a pussy who refuses to debate, refuses to engage when you're PROVEN wrong, refuses to explain your postion.

      You are such a coward. Please send Bob an email and schedule an interview. Explain your position. Help us understand your views.

      I have no doubt you will disappear from this post, and never reply, and then post more Bulshit on another thread.

      C'mon, be a man!

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    4. PLEASE IGNORE THE TROLL!

      If JW would ever engage in debate...great. TROLLS should be banned.

      Dammit people, please quit engaging this tiresome moron.

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  5. A total annihilation of the article Dr. Block. When I first read this smear job by the NYT, I was appalled at the characterization of the Mises Institute as some sort of Armageddonistic christian/pro-Confederacy website. Block correctly destroys the fallacy that the article attempts to propagate here:

    "To see the invalidity of this mode of argument, try this one on for size:
    a. Rand Paul is a libertarian
    b. Walter Block is a libertarian
    c. Walter Block says that Mozart was the best music composer and Ayn Rand the best novelist.
    Therefore
    d. Rand Paul believes that Mozart was the best music composer and Ayn Rand the best novelist."

    Beautiful! Likewise, this:

    "My only surprise is that Tanenhaus and Rutenberg, the authors of this disgraceful hit piece did not dig deeper. I am sure that if they had, they could have come up with some dirt on Rand’s plumber, or baby sitter, or gardener, or grocer, etc. Surely, one of them, or a family member or a friend of theirs, did something reprehensible that can be pinned on Rand, with just a little body English, for which the New York Times is justly famous."

    While I am sure most NYT readers will not understand what the authors are attempting to achieve through their article-and will, therefore, initially come to the conclusion that Rand is a wacko nutjob- many of them will use the link to Mises.org provided in the article to see what all the hubbub is about! I am sure they will be expecting to see some crappy, outdated website with confederate flag wallpaper, etc., but they will find, of course a sleek and professional site full of scholarly articles.

    I really hope they stay on the site for awhile to search around for the evidence of crazy-nuttiness! Perhaps they will go to the Literature section where hundreds of books have been made available for free download. Even if these poor-souls were to merely browse the Mises daily section, they are likely to conclude that the NYT characterization of this group was severely out of line with reality- a major blow to the NYT's credibility, and a major win for those who rightfully deplore that publication.

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  6. Who cares what a prog that works for a State organ thinks?
    More and more people are ignoring them......as per Tananhaus himself........quoted from an interview from a few years back-


    " Thomas Mallon, a superb novelist and critic, once told me the dirty little secret of book reviewing, including at TBR(Times Book Review), is that in fact too many books are reviewed. It was easier to say this some years ago, when several newspapers had robust stand-alone Sunday book review sections. Today there is only TBR, and we’re looking anemic ourselves—our weekly page count has shrunk fifty percent from only a year ago. It’s a concern, not only for authors and readers but also for reviewers, who practice an art whose cultural status seems to be going the way of the German mark during the Weimar Period. I wish I had an answer, but I don’t".
    .
    That German mark analogy is perfect.
    "

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  7. Let me just say, as an American Indian, heck yeah I'm glad somebody shot Lincoln. Racist pig that Lincoln is and all those Lincolnites are, including at NYT. :)

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  8. This guy just does not get it. A business owner is not a "slave" because he is required to serve black people. Slavery in the USA was about legally classifying blacks as property, not merely limiting their 1st Amendment right to free association. As property, they were not entitled to due process under the Bill of Rights since due process applies to people, not property. If slavery was only bad because slaves were denied freedom of association, then the only Amendment that matters is the free association clause of the 1st Amendment. The rest of the Bill of Rights is irrelevant.

    He defines slavery improperly to reach the following conclusion. He is making a circular argument.


    "The Civil Rights Act of 1964, then, to a much smaller degree of course, made partial slaves of the owners of establishments like Woolworths"

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    1. "A business owner is not a "slave" because he is required to serve black people."

      Yes Jerry, that does make the owner a slave. It's amazing to me that you can make the above statement and not see it.

      Don't make the mistake of assuming because Block doesn't see that forcing someone to do something against their will(a clear violation of the NAP), like the owner, as a remedy for being an "asshole" that makes him "pro asshole" or slavery in this instance.

      I think you are better intellectually than trying to defend such a simple(and wrong) viewpoint.

      Why not simply take Block at his word when he says he is anti(involuntary) slavery for everyone, whether black or a business owner?

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    2. JW the Troll strikes again.

      It is no different if the government tells you how to run your business, including who you can and cannot do business with, than if the government tells you that you are "owned" by another.

      The only difference is that under slavery, you are owned by an individual, and under the Civil Rights Act, you are owned by "government."

      You're trying to obfuscate the issue by toying with semantics.

      It's the same obfuscation as saying taxation is "voluntary" or not equating it to theft.

      Going back to the premise of what defines Libertarians is the Non-Aggression Principle. "Aggression" is defined as the "initiation" of physical force against persons or property, the threat of such, or fraud upon persons or their property. This is the cornerstone of being a Libertarian.

      You can skew semantics all day long about what you feel slavery is or isn't, however according to the NAP, to which Dr. Block is saying he adheres to because he is a Libertarian, none of these things are OK unless they are purely voluntary acts.

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  9. To me, the only surprising thing about all of this is that Dr. Block was able to get this Louis Lucero II character to admit, in writing, that both he and the New York Times are comfortable with misrepresenting facts.

    We all know that they do misrepresent facts all the time. However, I was surprised to see how cavalierly they are willing to admit it.

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  10. "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?"

    "Mrs. Lincoln, who described her experience at Ford's Theater as 'surprisingly enjoyable'..."

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  11. Yes, but acknowledging the need for blacks to have freedom of association would be recognizing them as human. The Bill of Rights could be retitled Rights of Humans. What Block is saying is that the Jim Crow laws AND The Civil Rights Act (in part) were antithetical to individual rights.

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  12. I understand Prof. Block perfectly. You may work picking cotton or serving customers. If you do so involuntarily with the threat of violence, then you may rightly be called a slave...In my youth I picked cotton by hand as did many others . Did this make me a slave? No. It was without threat and I was even eager for the exchange of my labor for money.

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  13. Instead of having to defend yourself against bullshit attacks from yellow journalists how about just do what Lew Rockwell did recently. Tell them where they can stick it and don't talk to them. They will ALWAYS lie about what you said.

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    1. You are right, Mike. They will always lie, wilfully. Walter comes across as a bit silly in giving an interview and then trying to argue with a group whose intent is malicious.

      Walter might have academic smarts, but he should have followed the commonsense approach of Lew Rockwell.

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    2. I'd like to say that I think Dr. Block's approach is just fine if he is realistic about the outcome and the possible misrepresentations that come of it, which he appears to be.

      He has stated his feeling is that it elevates the discussion to people who may not have been otherwise drawn to it. Those set in their ways will not be swayed regardless, and will just reaffirm their beliefs with the distortions given. Just as Dr. Block has said, there may be those that are open to investigation beyond the status quo, and he allows himself to be open to media distortions in the hopes of reaching those people.

      The reality is, there are some really smart people out there, and they will recognize the distortions and further investigate them. I applaud Dr. Block for putting himself out there given the media's typical misrepresentations of anything but the status quo.

      If he's willing to do it, I'm all for it. Anything that chips away at the status-quo is a good thing. Education is key. They are attacking Libertarians as a natural step in the gains the ideas have made in the public sentiment because the way of life of the status-quo is at stake.

      As Mahatma Ghandi said, "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."

      We're now in between laughing and fighting. That's good progress in my eyes.

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  14. I advise against bringing a libel lawsuit.
    It will be a costly hollow victory, if it is a victory at all.

    Block is not likely going to convert many more people to libertarianism by winning a lawsuit than he will by not suing and certainly more than he can by loosing one.

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    1. You are probably right Donald.

      However, sometimes just the threat of a lawsuit can change the response by these low level people that make these editorial decisions.

      It might be just enough to file and then see if they are willing to do the right thing.

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  15. Professor Block is my intellectual hero. If I had a few minutes with him, I would ask him to continue to oppose slavery but to lose the "otherwise it's not so bad" routine. It seems to trivialize slavery. Why give the opposition fodder?

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    1. People!!! It's sarcasm!!! Does not one person other than Dr. Block and I get the dripping irony in that statement? It's freaking hilarious!! He's shoving state sponsored coercion and theft in their faces and it goes right over their head.

      Obviously slavery violates NAP. Obviously forcing someone into bondage is horrible. He turns it around and shows the dichotomy: How can we all completely understand that slavery on its face is awful, yet state legislated use of force by taking a portion of the fruits of your labor, or telling you how to do business, or spend your money under threat of incarceration is just fine?

      He shows to everyone around they can only comprehend the semantic word "slavery" but not the underlying definition of what it means. Calling it "slavery" is bad, but democratically allowing the taxation, or "civil rights," or anything else that doesn't actually use the word "slavery" appears to be just fine!!

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    2. Ed and Cory-

      Sarcasm doesn't come through in text.

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    3. I think the criticism that Dr. Block's definition of the term "slavery" is idiosyncratic is perfectly valid. If you are forced to do something against your will, such as paying taxes or driving on the right side of the road, that does not make you a slave in our ordinary use of the term. Hence, calling such a condition "slavery" is a polemical, rather than a logical form of argument. Block is logically consistent in use of the term but shouldn't be surprised that people might misunderstand or even deliberately misrepresent his position. It is certainly true that, in standard English, "slavery" means to be the property of another person. It does not apply to a situation in which one is under the limited and temporary authority of another.

      One other point, perhaps a minor one, but Woolworth's was not exercising either their property rights or their freedom of association by refusing to serve Blacks. They were complying with the state laws. In the North, Woolworth's did not segregate their lunch counters. In other words, Woolworth's property rights and freedom of association were being violated by state law prior to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

      Congress had the explicit authority to invalidate such laws under the 14th amendment to the constitution without violating property rights or freedom of association, and without distorting the meaning of the interstate commerce clause. So the CRA of 1964, in mandating integration, limited our personal rights beyond necessity.

      That integration would have followed as a matter of course from the negation of Jim Crow, is reasonably established by the necessity of Southern states to enact such laws in the first place.

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  16. First they utter half-truths about you. Then they encourage others to rob you. Then they incite murder.

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