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Walter Block

Articles by Walter Block

Is libertarianism fish or fowl?

November 14, 2021

Many people, even sophisticated political commentators, think that libertarianism is internally inconsistent. How else could you assess this philosophy, they plaintively ask? After all, supporters of this view favor the legalization of prostitution, certainly a left-wing position, as well as elimination of the minimum wage law, a stance not only associated with conservatives, but the far right. Libertarians favor the legalization of gay marriage, again a left-liberal position, alongside opposition to rent control, a view held by most right-wingers. These seeming contradictions can be multiplied almost without end. For example, supporters of the freedom philosophy want to legalize drugs, all of them, pornography (except for children) and gambling, along with their

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Coyotes in Stanley Park: Part 2

October 22, 2021

Read Part 1 here.

There have been numerous instances of people being bitten by coyotes in Stanley Park, the Jewel in the crown of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
The Stanley Park Ecology Society (SPES) and the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation together run, own, and manage this massive 1,000 acre forested recreational center, located cheek by jowl with the Pacific Ocean and Hollywood North.

What is their reaction to this more than merely annoying state of coyote affairs? They seem most interested in getting to the bottom of exactly why it is that these beasts are now mauling park attendees. They are also cautioning people not to feed the animals. Oh, that, and, also, the park is now closed from 7pm to 7am, and people are being warned not to enter at

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Privatize the CBC

September 30, 2021

Quick, What’s the Fourth Estate? Bet you didn’t know. No fair peeking at Google. Ok, ok, I’ll tell you. The fourth estate consists of newspapers, radio and television stations and other such mass media. Why pray tell are these institutions considered the Fourth Estate? Are there any other “estates?” If so, there ought to be three others. What are they?
The first estate is the executive branch of government; it sees to it that the rules are obeyed, the country defended. The second is the legislature; it enacts the laws; declares war. The third is the judiciary, a sort of referee for the other two, and, between them and the general public. Hark back to when you took civics in high school; you would have heard lots about all of this. What was the point of breaking up

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In Defense of the Speculator

September 21, 2021

It will come as yesterday’s news that the speculator is perennially under attack by the social justice warriors. Yet speculators serve a crucial and valuable role in surviving economic disasters. Original Article: “In Defense of the Speculator” This Audio Mises Wire is generously sponsored by Christopher Condon. Narrated by Michael Stack.

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In Defense of the Speculator

September 18, 2021

In the view of most economic illiterates, speculators do not bake bread; they do not supply medicines; they are AWOL when it comes to working on the shop floor; they don’t teach math or the cello. They are thus parasites on others who do supply such needed everyday goods and services. Here’s a real-life quote …

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Are Non-Compete Clauses Legitimate? Yes.

July 24, 2021

What exactly, is a non-compete clause? It appears, typically, in a labor contract. In view of the wages and working conditions and other benefits the employer will be bestowing on the employee, the latter agrees that for the duration of his employment there, and if and when his relationship with the firm is later severed, he will not compete with his employer. This is usually stipulated for two years or so afterward, although the noncompete duration may vary. The fear on the part of the company is that the employee will either set up on his own as a competitor, or work for a different firm in the same industry. He will have the benefit of his first employer’s trade secrets, ways of doing business, etc. The employee, presumably, is paid a bit extra for agreeing to

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Libel Laws Should All be Repealed

June 12, 2021

Libel law is back in the news what with some public rethinking (more like wailing and gnashing of teeth) about New York Times v. Sullivan. Should public figures be more or less protected from being libeled is one issue that has arisen. Another is exactly who is and who is not a public figure? Then there is the question of whether or not “actual malice” should be a requirement for libel. And where does the First Amendment fit in to all of this? Justice Clarence Thomas and Senior Judge Laurence Silberman are thinking out loud about restructuring Sullivan.
These questions do not go deep enough. Instead of seeking “balance,” and fine-tuning this legal precedent, we should dig deeper. Of more basic moment is the question of whether libelous speech ought to be unlawful

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Do Labor Unions Really Raise Wages?

May 28, 2021

The US House of Representatives recently passed The Protecting the Right to Organize Act, known as the PRO Act by a 224 to 194 margin.
What are its provisions?
. It would pretty much “cancel” right to work laws now prevailing in 27 different states.
. It would further empower the National Labor Relations Board to exact fines on corporations for so-called “unfair practices.”
. It would require employers to give unions information about their employees’
. It would allow certification via “card check” rather than anonymous vote
. Anything else you can think of that will advantage organized labor is probably in there too.

But do not be afraid, let alone very afraid- at least not yet: it is unlikely in the extreme that this initiative will gather anything like the

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Governmental Inevitability: Reply to Holcombe

May 19, 2021

Holcombe (2004) has written an interesting and challenging but ultimately fallacious essay on government. In his view, this institution is “unnecessary, but inevitable.” I heartily agree with the former contention, but adamantly reject the latter. Worse is the implication for him of the supposed inevitability of the state: since it will come about in any …

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Coyotes in Stanley Park

April 19, 2021

Stanley Park is one of the most beautiful recreational centers in Canada. It is, if I may be permitted to say so, the Jewel in the Crown of Vancouver, British Columbia. I am a race walker and I’ve entered dozens of 5k, 10k, and half marathons there. The outer track is about 6 miles; while walking, running, skating or biking around it, you can view the majestic Grouse Mountain, English Bay, the Vancouver skyline, numerous beaches, the Lion’s Gate Bridge, a statue of the mermaid, the University of British Columbia, North and West Vancouver, and much much more. It is truly a trip worth taking.

But all is not well in what would otherwise clearly be considered this environmental heaven. There are coyotes at large in in Stanley Park, and some of them are not at all

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Rain, Rain, Go Away. Come Again Another Day?

December 28, 2020

According to that nursery rhyme we all grew up with: “Rain, rain, go away. Come again another day.”
This goes in spades for hurricanes, which have devastated the economy, and tens of thousands of lives. But our complaints about the weather do not end there.

Sometimes, on the day of an annual parade, we just don’t want it to rain. We’re not against a little precipitation; oh no. We would just like it to pour down when we want it to, not when “it” decides to do so.
Who does “it” think he is anyway? He has a lot of nerve. Raining when he wants it to, not when we want him to?
Not as much as with hurricanes, of course, but, still, a lot of economic welfare hangs in the balance. If we can rearrange the timing, then outdoor concerts cannot get rained out, nor can

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A Libertarian Analysis of the COVID-19 Pandemic

November 6, 2020

ABSTRACT: What is the correct analysis, from a libertarian point of view, of governmental action in the face of the coronavirus? Is the state justified in imposing quarantines or vaccines to cure this disease? These are the questions we shall be wrestling with in this paper. KEYWORDS: infection, property rights, threats, disease, pandemic, COVID-19, contagion …

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Rejoinder to Appelbaum on Friedman

October 25, 2020

By John P. Mackey and Walter E. Block

In his September 18, 2020 New York Times column, Binyamin Appelbaum appeared to be highly critical of Milton Friedman.

The former started out by calling the latter “a free-market ideologue,” and he did not mean this as a compliment. He ended on this note: “After 50 years of listening to Friedman, it’s time to do something about the flaws (in the views of this Nobel Prize winning economist).” In between, he maintained we should no longer wait for, or rely on, businessmen to renounce “selfishness portrayed as a principled stand,” as he purported Friedman would have it. It is now time- it is past time, in his view, to get the government involved in compelling the wealthy in effect to support social justice.
It would appear at

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Who Owns Your Genes?

September 27, 2020

Doctor He Jiankui was sentenced to a three year prison term, fined $430,000, and fired from his academic position as Associate Professor at the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China. Did he engage in groping a patient? No. Poisoning a client? Again, no. According to the official Chinese Xinhua News Agency, Dr. He and two others, Zhang Renli and Qin Jinzhou, were convicted of gene editing fetuses.
His clients were a healthy mother and a father who was HIV positive. Dr. He engineered the genes of their twin girl babies so they would be resistant to HIV..
At the outset, this appears to be an agreement between consenting adults to engage in a capitalist act. The couple knew of the risks involved in this new medical technology. According to

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The Decriminalization of Polygamy

August 29, 2020

Utah’s anti-polygamy laws came under fire on December 2013, by US Federal Judge Clark Waddoups. He ruled in Brown v. Buhman that this state’s ban on polygamy was unconstitutional.
This year, Utah state Senator Deirdre Henderson sponsored a measure that would decriminalize this practice but not legalize it. The Utah state Senate approved this bill unanimously. If signed into law, plural marriage would be punished with fines of up to $750 and community service, but would no longer warrant a jail sentence of up to five years as a third degree felony.
Let us react to this initiative under six headings: 1. religion, 2. sociology, 3. libertarianism, 4. aesthetics, 5.feminism and 6. practicality.

1- Religion. From a religious point of view, this new policy, if signed

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Well-Intentioned Policies That Make Life More Expensive

July 15, 2020

Demand curves slope in a downward direction. This means that the higher the price, the less of an item, or good, or service will be sought. The more roadblocks, hurdles, thumbtacks, placed in the way of any given action, the less likely it will occur. Economists do not agree on many things, but on this insight …

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Should Insider Trading be Legalized?

July 14, 2020

New York City businessman Telemaque Lavidas was recently found guilty of insider trading. He was charged with utilizing inside information about a U.S. biotechnology company, and passing it on to Georgios Nikas, a Greek entrepreneur.
Lavidas and all others charged with this so-called “crime” should be freed, immediately. Insider trading should be legalized forthwith: it is a victimless crime.

Consider the following. A is a wealthy investor, B is a helicopter pilot and a geologist. A is looking for gold, or diamonds, or oil, or copper or some other such mineral. He hires B to go “out there” and seek promising rock formations. In the first contract, A offers B a large salary, say $500,000 per year, plus all expenses, and requires the B share information about his

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US Trade Is Crippled by the American Government, Not the Chinese

July 13, 2020

Some fair-weather friends of free trade have been rethinking their positions in the face of supposed Chinese economic weaponization of pharmaceuticals. They are now embracing managed trade instead. Why? Consider the following threat made by Tsinghua University’s economics professor Dr. Li Daokui: “We are at the mercy of others when it comes to computer chips, but …

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Restore Laissez-Faire Capitalism

June 20, 2020

When I first saw Daniel Henninger’s 2020 op ed “Restore Laissez-Faire Capitalism.” (Wall Street Journal; p. A13, April 16) I said to myself “Whoop di do.” No. I lied. Actually, I said: “Double Whoop di do.” This is a title that a Ludwig von Mises or a Murray Rothbard could easily have chosen for many of their sterling contributions.
But a careful perusal of this short essay greatly moderated my enthusiasm for it. I now give it an A-, not the A++++ I was ready to award it based on the title alone.
Why my less than rabid appreciation for this really excellent column? (The economist was asked “How is your wife? Came the answer: “Compared to what?” Compared to most op eds in the major media, “really excellent column” is a highly accurate assessment of this one).

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COVID19 and Public Housing

May 29, 2020

Why even discuss the flaws in public housing during a pandemic?
Simple. Black people are more vulnerable to this dread disease than whites for several reasons. They are poorer, and “wealthier is healthier.” African-Americans suffer to a greater extent from other medical maladies which weaken immune systems, such as diabetes, obesity, heart conditions, etc. Also, they tend to congregate to a greater extent in large cities, and population density is one of the dimensions implicated in Covid 19.
And, proportionately fewer whites are found in public housing than blacks, and this is likely true even in absolute numbers. Black lives matter. The sooner we eliminate this housing scourge, the more precious lives will be saved.
At the outset, public housing sounds like a

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Defending the Miser

January 2, 2020

[Excerpted from Defending the Undefendable] The miser has never recovered from Charles Dickens’s attack on him in A Christmas Carol. Although the miser had been sternly criticized before Dickens, the depiction of Ebenezer Scrooge has become definitive and has passed into the folklore of our time. Indeed, the attitude pervades even in freshman economics textbooks. …

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Monopoly and Antitrust

December 20, 2019

Presented at the Mises Institute’s “First Annual Advanced Instructional Conference in Austrian Economics” at Stanford University; June 21–27, 1987. Includes a Question and Answer period.

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El contrato Yellow Dog: ¡Volvamoslo a instaurar!

November 19, 2019

El contrato Yellow Dog [«contrato de perro amarillo»] es un tipo de contrato muy honorable. Afirma que una de las condiciones para poder trabajar es que el trabajador renuncie a unirse a un sindicato. El contrato no es diferente, en principio, a que usted vaya a una fiesta en casa de una persona y el …

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Zoning and the Free Market

December 29, 2018

Much is often made of allowing “consenting adults” to exercise their freedoms unhindered by government regulation. Unfortunately, this presumption is often limited to the realm of activities like gambling and prostitution. But should not consenting adults also be allowed freedom in larger economic matters such as real estate? In this 1981 lecture, Walter Block discusses …

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Defending the “Gentrifier”

August 29, 2018

[Originally published February 9, 2015] Reprinted from Mises.org
Gentrification gets bad press. It would appear that the gentrifier (he who engages in gentrification) is a malign exploiter, a bully, someone who takes advantage of the weak and the poor. And these are the nice things said about him.
What is the case against this practice? First and foremost, it pushes previous residents out of their homes. These people may have lived in their neighborhoods for years. They may be the third or fourth generation to occupy these premises. But when someone comes along, flashing big bucks, it is game over: the occupants have to vacate. What is the means through which the gentrifiers do their evil deeds? They simply try to purchase real estate in the target area, or attempt to rent accommodation

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Defending the “Gentrifier”

August 10, 2018

Gentrification gets bad press. It would appear that the gentrifier (he who engages in gentrification) is a malign exploiter, a bully, someone who takes advantage of the weak and the poor. And these are the nice things said about him. What is the case against this practice? First and foremost, it pushes previous residents out …

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You Didn’t Consent to Be the State’s Victim

June 1, 2018

[A selection from Toward a Libertarian Society.] Reprinted from Mises.org
Just as an important difference in everyday life is that between a bathroom and a kitchen, so, too, does a crucial distinction in political economic philosophy exist between government and private contractual arrangements. But here is where the analogy breaks down. There are other, even more important insights to be garnered in ordinary living than that between these two rooms (e.g., don’t eat poison, feed yourself, take care of babies); there is simply no more important delineation in libertarian theory than that which exists between coercion (the government) and voluntary cooperation (the market).
Yet, such is the parlous nature of our discipline that there are even people parading themselves around as libertarians

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