Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Block versus Wenzel on Rand Paul, part 2

By Walter Block

My ideal goal in debates is not so much to score points off of my opponent, to show I’m better than him, to put him down, etc. Rather, it is to view him as a partner, in an attempt to get that one millionth of an inch closer to the always elusive Truth, with a capital T. I’m only human, so all too often I forget all about this ideal, and go for the jugular vein, at least metaphorically.

But in debating Bob Wenzel on pretty much anything, it is very easy for me to
attain my ideal: no tricks, no “sucker punches,” just an attempt, together with him, to try to make sense of a very complicated world of political economy. For one thing, he and I are friends, so that alone makes this very easy. For another, we have already had experience debating intellectual property, and never was a harsh word heard on either of our parts. And, in this case, he is so overwhelmingly complimentary to me, that it would be churlish on my part to be anything but civil to him. Imagine, he nominates me for the Nobel Prize, reiterates some very complimentary things that Hayek said about me, takes my case against Rand Paul who, seemingly, “threw me under the bus.” So, it is with a light heart that I once again take up the “cudgels” against him.

What are my substantive reactions to his two missives on him, me and Rand Paul?

My friend Bob starts off with “Rand Paul Sucker Punches Walter Block.” In it he quotes Rand’s statement in The New Yorker:

“I really was disappointed,” Rand said, his voice rising. There was a quote “from some guy who I’ve never met saying something about how slaves should have been happy singing and dancing because they got good food or something. Like, O.K., so now I’m in the New York Times and you’re associating me with some person who I don’t know.” He went on, “It’s one thing to go back and interview my college professor or groups that I actually was with. But I was never associated with any of these people. Ever. Only through being related to my dad, who had association with them.”

This is pretty devastating. Here I have been defending Rand, and this is how he treats me? He calls me, in effect, a racist (pretty much everyone knows precisely who he is talking about), and doesn’t even have enough respect for me to mention my name. Pretty awful stuff, if true (see more about his below).

But first, let us assume arguendo that The New Yorker accurately quoted (you’ll see where I’m going with this in a minute) the junior Senator from Kentucky. Does this mean it would now be appropriate to support Hillary Clinton against him in a hypothetical race for president in 2016? It is to laugh to take that position. Rand Paul is still the most libertarian member of the Senate at present, and perhaps for all time. Hillary Clinton is a war-mongering feminist socialist interventionist of the worst sort. Rand is still not a Rothbardian nor a Ron Paulian. He is his own man. But compared to Hillary? C’mon, libertarians, get serious. Did you hear that joke about the elephant and the mouse. The latter rode on the former’s back across a rickety bridge, and said, “Boy, we made that bridge sway.” On a scale of zero to a hundred on my libertarian meter, Rand gets about a 70, and Hillary gets a 5, if that much. There is no more comparison between these two possible candidates for the highest office in the land than there is between the weight of the elephant and the mouse. They are just simply in two different universes, when it comes to comparisons of this sort.

Enough with the arguendo. Let’s get down to some facts. I do not have a personal relationship with Rand Paul. I only met him once. Probably, Rand doesn’t remember this, but he and I did once meet. It was at a conference at Reno, Nevada during a fund raising event for Ron. I was honored because there were only 3 speakers out of about a dozen who were singled out for attendees to pay extra money to listen to them in a private session. To the best of my recollection Ron Paul garnered something like $1000 extra per person, people paid something like $500 to listen to Rand Paul, and about $100 ($200?) a crack to attend my session. I was probably one of, oh, 1000 people to have shaken hands with Rand Paul on that day. Possibly, he has heard of me through his father, and/or on the basis of a book or two I have written.
Did I have a personal relationship with Rand as I do with Ron, I would have called and/or e mailed Rand, and assured him that I never came within a million miles of saying that the “slaves should have been happy singing and dancing because they got good food.” But I did not do this. Instead, what I did was get in touch with a highly placed person in the Rand Paul campaign, and asked him about all of this. He assured me that Rand never said what was attributed to him by The New Yorker; he was entirely misquoted. Here is what this person e mailed me: “(Rand) actually does know that (you don’t support slavery) and said so when discussing this article with this reporter. The conversation bears little relationship to the mangled one (that appeared) in The New Yorker today. He (Rand) clearly noted (that) The Times butchered what a bunch of people believe, including you.”
I admit it. I was fooled. I read what The New Yorker quoted Rand as saying, and I initially believed it. I was dismayed. It is one thing to be mistreated by The New York Times, but to be dealt with in such a manner by Rand, who I had defended, by the son of Ron who I revere? This was, how shall I put it, harsh? In the event, I should have known better. I recently had an experience of my own about being misquoted by a mainstream journal, the New York Times. You would think that once bitten, twice shy: I should have discounted as a misquote what Rand supposedly said about me. I am an idiot. Why should I, knowing full well just what the mainstream media is capable of, think that another member in good standing of that club would accurately report a quote?

I asked this senior member of the Rand Paul staff if the Senator would issue a clarification. He told me that when a politician gets into it with a journalist, the candidate for office typically comes off a far away second best. His exact words were: “debates with journalists rarely end well for pols. So my guess is we will leave it alone.” I am entirely content with that response. The last thing I want to do is even in the slightest ruin Rand’s chances for higher office, and thus relatively boost those of the other Republican candidates, or that of Hilary.

I thank Mr. Wenzel for correcting me regarding my claim about Ayn Rand and John Hospers. As Bob correctly notes, in 1972 Ayn Rand preferred Nixon, not Ford, over Hospers.


Block accused by New York Times of thinking slavery “not so bad”:

Tanenhaus, Sam and Jim Rutenberg.  2014. “Rand Paul’s Mixed Inheritance.” January 26;

Block’s reply to the New York Times:

Wenzel, Robert. 2014A. “Rand Paul Sucker Punches Walter Block.” September 30;

Wenzel, Robert. 2014B. “A Response to Walter Block on Rand Paul.”


  1. Hahahaha! Let me get this straight: Rand tries to cozy up to the leftist media by agreeing to an interview with The New Yorker in which he essentially smears Block and denies any association with him or more importantly, his ideas. Block reaches "a high level staffer" who assures him that Rand's words were twisted. When asked the obvious follow up question as to whether the campaign will issue a small statement saying as such, the answer is a convoluted 'no'.

    I hope that TNYorker does a little more digging on Randy and his college pool buddy. The homosexual overtones from that part of the piece were downright hilarious, and the mudslinging serves Rand right for even sitting down with a reporter from that magazine.

  2. I wonder how often journalists record their interviews.

    Walter, we all love your work here, even if some of us dare to disagree from time to time on an issue here or there. In the big picture, libertarian development as a philosophy owes a great deal to you.

    What will it owe Rand?