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Walter Edward Block (born 21 August 1941) is a free market economist and anarcho-capitalist associated with the Austrian School of economics.

Personal history and education

Block was born in Brooklyn, New York to Abraham Block, a certified public accountant, and Ruth Block, a paralegal, both of whom Block has described as "liberals."[1] He earned his undergraduate degree in Philosophy summa cum laude from Brooklyn College, where he was a member of the varsity swimming team. Block earned his Ph.D. degree in economics from Columbia University and wrote his dissertation on rent control.

Block self-identifies as a "devout atheist".[2]

Professional career

Block now holds the Harold E. Wirth Endowed Chair in Economics at Loyola University in New Orleans. From 1979 to 1991, he was the Senior Economist with the Fraser Institute. In addition to his faculty position at Loyola, Block is also a Senior Faculty member of the Ludwig von Mises Institute for Austrian Economics. His most famous work is Defending the Undefendable, of which John Stossel said, "Defending the Undefendable... opened my eyes to the beauties of libertarianism. It explains that so much of what is assumed to be evil--is not."[3] Lew Rockwell of the Mises Institute said this about Walter Block's active role in modern libertarianism:

Murray Rothbard, in his life, was known as Mr. Libertarian. We can make a solid case that the title now belongs to Walter Block, a student of Rothbard's whose own vita is as thick as a big-city phonebook, and as diverse as Wikipedia. Whether he is writing on economic theory, ethics, political secession, drugs, roads, education, monetary policy, social theory, unions, political language, or anything else, his prose burns with a passion for this single idea: if human problems are to be solved, the solution is to be found by permitting greater liberty.[4]

Introduction to libertarianism

File:Walterblock.jpg

Block's early thinking life was characterized by egalitarian thought. In an interview by the Austrian Economics Newsletter, Block stated, "In the fifties and sixties, I was just another commie living in Brooklyn."[5] Block credits his "conversion" to libertarianism to personal meetings with Ayn Rand while he was an undergraduate student. Alan Greenspan was in attendance at some of these meetings.[1] As Block describes it, "In 1963, when I was a senior at Brooklyn College, Ayn Rand came there to give a lecture. I attended, along with about 3,000 of my fellow mainly leftish students, in order to boo and hiss her, since she was evil incarnate…Not having had enough booing and hissing at Ayn in her formal lecture, I decided to…to further express my displeasure with her and her views."[1]

Block thereafter attended a luncheon with Rand, Nathaniel Branden, and Leonard Peikoff. After Block's challenging of several luncheon attendees to demonstrate capitalism's superiority, Branden forged an agreement with Block: "Nathan very graciously offered to come to the other end of the table with me for this purpose, but he imposed two preconditions: first, I would be honor bound not to allow this conversation to lapse with this one meeting, but would continue with it until we had achieved a resolution: either he would convince me of the error of my ways, or I would convince him of his. Second, I would read two books he would later recommend to me (Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt).[1]

Although Block credits Ayn Rand, Branden, and other Objectivists with his initial interest in laissez faire theory in general, he says of Murray Rothbard that,

After I met Murray, it took him probably all of 15 minutes to convert me to the same anarcho-capitalist position I have held ever since.... In retrospect, before I had met Murray, I was nine tenths of the way toward embracing laissez faire capitalist anarchism; all I needed was a little push in the same direction I had already been going for some time.[1]

Slave contracts

Block, along with Robert Nozick, is one of the leading libertarian defenders of voluntary slave contracts, arguing that a slave contract is "a bona fide contract where consideration crosses hands; when it is abrogated, theft occurs". He critiques other libertarians who oppose voluntary slavery as being inconsistent with their shared principles. Block seeks to make "a tiny adjustment" which "strengthens libertarianism by making it more internally consistent." He argues that his position shows "that contract, predicated on private property [can] reach to the furthest realms of human interaction, even to voluntary slave contracts."[6]

Endorsement

On February 17, 2006, Dr. Walter Block publicly expressed his support for the Free State Project (FSP). He is quoted as saying,

You people are doing the Lord's work. The FSP is one of the freshest practical ideas for promoting liberty that has come out of the libertarian movement in the past few decades. May you succeed beyond your wildest dreams, and thus demonstrate in yet another empirical way the benefits and blessings of liberty.[7]

Books

As author

As editor

  • Zoning: Its Costs and Relevance for the 1980s (Ed.; 1980)
  • Rent Control: Myths & Realities (Ed. with Edgar Olsen; 1981)
  • Discrimination, Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity (Ed. with Michael A. Walker; 1982)
  • Taxation: An International Perspective (Ed. with Michael A. Walker; 1984)
  • Economics and the Environment: A Reconciliation (Ed.; 1985; translated into Portuguese 1992) ISBN 0-88975-067-X
  • Morality of the Market: Religious and Economic Perspectives (Ed. with Geoffrey Brennan, Kenneth Elzinga; 1985)
  • Theology, Third World Development and Economic Justice (Ed. with Donald Shaw; 1985)
  • Reaction: The New Combines Investigation Act (Ed.; 1986)
  • Religion, Economics & Social Thought (Ed. with Irving Hexham; 1986)
  • Man, Economy and Liberty: Essays in Honor of Murray N. Rothbard (Ed. with Lew Rockwell; 1988)
  • Breaking the Shackles; the Economics of Deregulation: A Comparison of U.S. and Canadian Experience (Ed. with George Lermer; 1991)
  • Economic Freedom: Toward a Theory of Measurement (Ed.; 1991)
  • Libertarian Autobiographies (Ed.; forthcoming)

Articles

See also

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 [1] Walter Block. "On Autobiography." LewRockwell.com. 4 December 2002.
  2. Block, Walter. "Open Letter to Ron Paul by Walter Block." LewRockwell.com. 28 December 2007. [2]
  3. "Personal Reason." Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. 24 June 2007
  4. [3] Lew Rockwell. "Putting Opponents on the Hot Seat." LewRockwell.com. 3 May 2006.
  5. [4]"Radical Economics: An Interview with Walter Block." Austrian Economics Newsletter. Summer 1999.
  6. "Towards a Libertarian Theory of Inalienability: A Critique of Rothbard, Barnett, Smith, Kinsella, Gordon, and Epstein." pp. 39-85, Journal of Libertarian Studies, vol. 17, no. 2, p. 44, p. 48, p. 82 and p. 46
  7. [5] Walter Block's endorsement of the Free State Project. FreeStateProject.org. 17 February 2006.

External links

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