Saturday, September 29, 2012

Walter Block on Truth Seeking and Truth Telling

By Allen Stevo

It occurred to me after hearing the various sides of the story from Walter Block’s Tampa speech dealing with the virtues of evictionism that Walter Block is a misunderstood seeker of the truth. He was booed by fellow Ron Paul supporters for presenting an alternative to the present political status quo. How painful it must be for a misunderstood seeker of the truth to be so quickly judged by the small percentage of people who one would think would be quickest to give him the benefit of the doubt. To the contrary, it seems to me that Walter Block is not bothered by this. He offers encouraging advice for those who would like to aspire to the same – for those who aspire to speak the truth as honestly and as audibly as they can. I had the opportunity recently to ask Dr. Block a few questions about the importance of speaking the truth even when those around you don’t seem to want to hear it.

A.S.: Professor Block, you write books, author articles, and give lectures that allow people to characterize you as a gadfly. You’ve told me in the past that you consider the word gadfly to be a compliment. How would you define that term?

W.B.: A gadfly is someone who questions received opinion.

A.S.: By your definition of gadfly, it sounds like essentially anyone can be a gadfly by simply asking a few tough questions now and then.

W.B.: Well asking is important. But so is answering.

A.S.: Why do you think it is important for members of society to aspire to be gadflies, to question those received opinions?

W.B.: Questioning the status quo is a necessary condition for improving it.

A.S.: Should a gadfly want to speak the truth even when it feels like no one wants to hear what he has to say?

W.B.: The truth shall set you free. So, yes. Although, I suppose, there are exceptions. For example, when asked by a burglar where the jewels are or making someone miserable by telling them they’ll soon die.

A.S.: Can a gadfly inspire change in society?

W.B.: Sure. Socrates. Gandhi. Mises. Ron Paul. Ayn Rand. Murray Rothbard.

A.S.: Why do you think it is more natural for some people to unquestioningly receive opinions rather than to develop their own?

W.B.: Human diversity. People are not homogeneous.

A.S.: How does it feel being in the tenuous position of speaking to the 10% of the population that you’d expect to be open-minded about some of your perspective – an evictionist perspective for example – and instead of being heard, you were booed?

W.B.: It felt like a challenge. I wish I had met it better. I should have said, is libertarianism 100% perfect? Of course not. Therefore, it needs improvement. How can it ever improve, if challenges to it cannot be even articulated?

A.S.: How do you find your moral compass? How do you know when you are speaking the truth? Whose opinions do you value? Under what circumstances, and based on whose opinion, would you say to yourself "I have made a mistake in my writing"?

W.B.: Murray Rothbard is my guiding light. I certainly value his opinion (although there is not a 100% congruity between our two views). If I think I’m wrong, I’ll publicly admit it. There are several of my scholarly publications where I have admitted error in a previous publication. It only hurts for a little while. If we want to seek the truth, we have to not allow our ego to get in the way. I don’t always have to be right. I’ve made errors. The best thing to do is to acknowledge them, apologize for them, and move on.

A.S.: Popularity can be weak and can be waning. Do you ever find yourself compelled by the desire to be popular? Does it hurt whenever any of your views are considered unpopular?

W.B.: Yes, I’d like to be popular, but not if it means compromising with libertarianism, or Austrianism, or the truth. Of course it hurts when my views are denigrated; but it is a "good" hurt. I feel that I am carrying the message of Murray Rothbard, and it is an honor to do so.

A.S.: What role do you think marketing should play to someone who seeks to tell the truth?

W.B.: I’m pro-marketing. I only wish I could do it better, more eloquently, give better examples. But, all I can do is my best. I always try hard, real hard.

A.S.: If evictionism had a different name, would it be more widely accepted instead of quickly misunderstood?

W.B.: I’m open to better names. Any suggestions. I just don’t want to call it "golf," or "apple pie" or something like that which is a bit fraudulent. A suggestion I’m thinking about is "pre birth adoption." But I still think evictionism is more accurate.

A.S.: Should a seeker of the truth such as yourself care that any of his ideas might be quickly misunderstood by some?

W.B.: Yes, I care. I don’t want to be misunderstood. In my lectures, my teaching, my writings, I try to be as clear as possible, so as to obviate misunderstanding. But, people misunderstand. They think that in extolling the virtues of the free enterprise system, you are pushing greed, that you hate the poor, etc.

A.S.: What advice do you have for someone who is timid about writing about what he considers true out of a fear that someone might dislike what he has to say?
W.B.: Read Michael Edelstein’s book Three Minute Therapy; available on Amazon.

A.S.: Should it matter to a challenging scholar, to a gadfly, that he is booed? Should he want to be booed?

W.B.: No one really wants to be booed, I think, unless he is a masochist, which I am not. I’d prefer not to be booed, and shouted down. I’d prefer that people calmly, politely, stated why they disagreed with me. How else are we going to get that proverbial one millionth of an inch closer to the Truth?

A.S.: You seem to be referencing Kierkegaard with this one millionth of an inch language. As Kierkegaard wrote of the search for God as insatiable by nature, do you consider the search for the truth to be insatiable? Will the seeker of truth never feel satisfied?

W.B.: There will always be scarcity. That’s the precondition for economics. We’ll always want more than what we have. Of everything. Including the truth

A.S.: Thank you, Professor Block.

Allan Stevo [send him mailis a writer from Chicago. He is the author of Somewhere Between Bratislava and DC and How to Win America for Ron Paul and the Cause of Freedom in 2012. He writes about Central European Culture at During his day, Stevo helps investors locate promising Manhattan real estate – one of the most aggressive investment environments in the world.

The above originally appeared at LewRockwell.comCopyright © 2012 by


  1. "It occurred to me after hearing the various sides of the story from Walter Block’s Tampa speech dealing with the virtues of evictionism that Walter Block is a misunderstood seeker of the truth"
    Or maybe it was the fact he was feebly advocating the murder of the most defenseless people in our society. Boo yoo, if he doesn't like being booed. And how ridiculous to claim the mantle of truth seeker when he purposely engages in euphemisms for murder.Some one wrote that if you have to explain to someone why torture is wrong, don't bother talking to them. The same goes with murder in my mind.

    1. And what you're advocating is mass parasitism and destruction of property rights in your own body.

      If you have a trespasser, you can use whatever necessary force required to make him leave. Sometimes it doesn't involve physical force and sometimes it does, to the point of bodily injury.

      If you actually read and follow the argument, evictionism does NOT imply murder. Yes if you remove the fetus early on it will die, but just like the trespasser, it does not have a right to the woman's body. However, later on removal when it is viable does in fact SAVE lives. And as he mentioned, as technology progresses the viability of evicted fetuses will also improve.

    2. First off I think it's wrong to boo Walter Block. But as far as evictionism goes the problem I have with it is it acts like the unborn baby arrived in the mother's womb by it's own accord, & ignores the fact that it's the woman's fault that the baby is there to begin with. Therefore to me it constitutes an initiation of aggression to bring a child into the world and then eliminate or 'evict' it. It would be like if I invited you to take a ride on my private jet and then pushed you out mid-flight because I didn't want you there any more. Or invited you to be a passenger in my car and then attempted to push you out going 80 miles per hour and when you ask me to stop first saying no, I have no positive obligation to stop for you and the car is my property so I have the right to evict you under the current conditions.

  2. With all due respect to Walter Block, equating an unwanted fetus to a trespasser is illogical, contrary to biology, and morally misguided. Does he not know how babies are made, and of what stuff they are made of? The fetus did not climb its way into the woman's body like some sort of alien invader. It represents an expression of the reproductive power of nature formed part and parcel from the woman's own body, in combination with a sperm from a man. How misleading to speak of that process by which all mammalian life preserves its kind, without which none of us would exist, as "mass parasitism." That idea deserves to be booed.