The Economics and Ethics of Rape

I recently received this message over the transom from a disaffected reader of mine who shall remain anonymous. It was sent to a friend of mine, I received it indirectly from her. This writer was not a happy camper. (You young pups, if you don’t know what a transom is, or its significance look it up.)

Here is the message: “Did he (that is, me, Block) say, for example, that there is an ‘optimal level of rape in every society?’ I don’t know, that’s one example someone shared with me. To illustrate relative harms, did he write, for example, that a parent could justify giving one’s young child up for sexual acts with an adult benefactor to save their life? I am not making any judgements about these claims, their philosophical merit, or whether they fairly represent what Walter said (or didn’t say). If he did say and write these things there may have been good reasons to frame them in the way that he did. I am just reporting the responses I received when I started asking around…” (which were very negative).

This does sound horrendous. Reading in between the lines, it can be construed as attributing to me the view that I favor rape and child molestation. Let us consider each of these charges in turn.

Of course there is an optimal amount of rape. From an ethical point of view, that amount is precisely zero. Rape is a horrendous crime, second, only, to outright murder. All men of good will must wish it to be entirely banished from the human condition. (I write at a time when this despicable crime is now being committed in Israel). It should be banished forever.

However, from an economic point of view, the optimal amount of rape is not zero. Let me explain, lest it be thought that I am now taking back what I just about this heinous crime.

Of course, there is an optimal number of rapes (murders too, ditto for all other evil vicious crimes) and the optimal number is greater than zero – from an economic as opposed to an ethical perspective. For our society to try to ensure zero rapes would take the entire GDP, and I doubt that even this herculean effort would succeed in full eradication. That is, to somehow, doubtfully, achieve this good goal would take more than all of our wealth. If we devoted all of our economic efforts to entirely ending rape, we would thus all die of starvation, cold, disease, etc. That is no way to run a railroad.

So, what, then, is the optimal number of rapes from an economic point of view?

It would be the number that would ensue if we privatized the police forces and thus employed the “magic of the market” so as to most efficiently combat this scourge. In similar manner, what is the optimal amount of cookware, or carrots, or cars? It is the quantity of each that emanates from the free enterprise system.

Under present statist institutional arrangements, the optimal number would be at the point when the full cost of stopping the marginal or last rape just equaled the harm done by this crime. This of course it totally theoretical, since none of these statistics are available to us.

Now, let us consider the second issue, allowing children to be raped in order to save their lives.

“Death before dishonor” is all well and good for adults who can chose for themselves. But guardians of children are supposed to guard them! If a guardian of a child were confronted with the choice of allowing the child entrusted to him to die, or to be raped, and he chose the former, he should be considered a criminal. And not just a slight malefactor; rather an outright abettor of murder.

I have two children, they are adults now. If I were ever faced with such a dire choice, I would unhesitatingly choose the latter. My kids could always get therapy if they were alive. If they were dead, due to my choices… well, it would never happen.

Yes, in some cultures, “Death before dishonor” is widely accepted. But justice is justice. Allowing a dependent to be put to death when the alternative was a far lesser rights violation, should be severely sanctioned. Even the Godfather, in the movie of that name, drew a sharp distinction between these two crimes rape and murder.

My first point; it is a veritable staple of the dismal science; the optimal rate of rape or any other such heinous crime, is not zero, paradoxically. The second is a basic libertarian point; the optimal amount is precisely zero. The critic cited above is not a good economist, nor a libertarian. He is an economic and an ethical illiterate.

Walter Block is the Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics at Loyola University, New Orleans. Read more of his work on his Substack.

Featured: The Rape of Proserpina; artist unknown; painted ca. 17th century. Nizhny Novgorod Art Museum, from the collection of Fyodor Mikhailovich Kamensky (1836 – 1913).

Sexism Rears its Ugly Head in an Airplane

I took an airplane trip the other day. It was a direct flight from Seattle to New Orleans on Alaska Airlines, if you must know. I had the occasion to use the rest rooms three times. Hey, it was a four-hour flight and I’m not as young as I used to be. (I used a different one each time. I even once snuck into the first-class lavatory, but don’t tell anyone).

There, staring me in the face as I concluded my business (doing research for this essay!) was a pull-down shelf, stretching the entire width of the commode. It was the appropriate size for changing a baby’s diaper. That was not what horrified me. Rather, it was the illustrated sign posted on this apparatus indicating its purpose. There were two figures indicated therein. One, a little baby, lying on his back. That was quite alright with me. The younger set needs help in this regard. However the other depiction was entirely offensive. It indicated an adult person (you could judge by the relative size of the two figures) standing above and leaning over the baby. That was the offensive part.

At this point I feel compelled to offer a trigger warning. Some readers, with delicate sensibilities, might be so offended by what I am now about to relate that they will keel over in a dead faint and need medical attention. Yes, they will feel “unsafe” without this trigger warning, and maybe, even so, with it. Having fulfilled my obligation to be sensitive (I’m a college professor and I have been inculcated with the wokeism now reigning on campus; I have learned how to deal with snowflakes) I can now relate what offended me: the adult leaning over the baby, ready to diaper the baby was wearing a dress!

I just knew that would shock your socks off! I gasped in dismay when I first saw this. It indicated that a woman (or a transgendered man; I have to be careful here; I am now treading in a veritable land-mine; I might be accused of violating the strict strictures of “inclusion” and “belonging” now rampant in higher education) was changing the baby’s diaper. Oh, woe! As a man, a husband, married with children, I have indeed changed my fair share of diapers (ok, ok, far fewer than my wife) but still, I found this highly offensive. Why should it be assumed that a woman would be diapering a baby!? This is sexism run rampant! Men, too, can get pregnant, have babies, and change their diapers. Arnold Schwarzenegger did so in his 1994 movie Junior. That’s proof enough for me. If it isn’t for you, you’re a sexist pig!

Then, to my utter dismay, I espied yet another offensive statement, accompanied by a picture, also in this very same set of washrooms, again, all three of them! Well, the statement was alright. ‘twas not offensive. It indicated that only bathroom tissue was to be placed in the commode and flushed down. The problem was the figure placed next to this message. It was the picture of a man (well, at least “he” was not wearing a dress; as I say, one can’t be too careful nowadays, at deducing this sort of thing. If truth be told, it is extremely dangerous for academics such as I, even with tenure, to deduce anything at all in this context, while under the baleful eye of deans and provosts on campus). Nevertheless, courageous professor that I am, I am willing to go out on a limb here.

What is my conclusion on the basis of this figure? It is that men, but not women, are slobs. Now, this is perfectly acceptable to me; men, after all, are tyrants, exploiters, rapists (they have a penis; this must be true) responsible for all the ailments afflicting society. However, this only applies to straight white males. Men from other races are certainly not implicated in this charge; they are all angels, come down to earth to inspire the rest of us. Nor are even white males a threat to all that is good and holy, provided they are not heterosexual. The problem with the figure on the toilet was that it did not make this distinction! It indicted all males! This is something up with which we wokesters simply will not put!

So I urge my fellow snowflakes to boycott Alaska Airlines and all other air carriers who are so insensitive as to engage in these sexist, racist, offenses. Soon, your intrepid Paul Revere (me, that is) will examine railroads and bus lines to ensure there are no offenses against political rectitude therein.

Walter Block is the Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics at Loyola University, New Orleans. Read more of his work on his Substack.

Libertarian Party Votes

In the last election, in 2022, there were squeakers in Arizona, Nevada and Georgia. There was a run-off in the latter case.

What do all three have in common besides being state voting Johnny-come-latelies? Members of the Libertarian Party played a role in all three.

Election results: Arizona Senate
Last updated Nov. 9, 2022, 7:07 p.m. CST
Kelly* (D) 51.3%
Masters (R) 46.5%
Victor (Libertarian Party)2.2%
67% of the votes are now in

Election results: Nevada Senate
Last updated Nov. 9, 2022, 6:57 p.m. CST
Laxalt (R) 49.9%
Cortez Masto* (D) 47.2%
None of these candidates 1.1%
Other candidates1.8%
77% of the votes are now in

Election results: Georgia Senate
Last updated Nov. 9, 2022, 6:51 p.m. CST
Warnock (D)* 49.4%
Walker (R) 48.5%
Oliver (Libertarian Party) 2.1%
98% of the votes are now in

Let me explain, since there are some complications in this statement. First, Marc Victor is indeed a libertarian, and ran as such. He was polling at no less than 15% for a while. However, he officially dropped out of the race several weeks ago. He did so in favor of the Republican Blake Masters. Despite that fact, he still took in some 2.2% of the vote.

There is no formal Libertarian Party candidate listed on the Nevada results. However, “none of the above” reeks of libertarianism. That party is the only one to feature this option for its internal votes. Chase Oliver is indeed a member of the LP and was certainly heavily involved in the Georgia results. He is the sole reason for the December run-off.

If there were no libertarian presence in either of these three races, the majority of the votes garnered by the libertarians would have gone, heavily, to the Republicans, not the Democrats. My estimate is a 90% – 10% split in favor of the former. If true, Walker would now very likely be the declared winner of the Senate seat in Georgia. Something similar occurred in the last election in that state between Perdue (R), Ossoff (D) and Shane Hazel (LP). As well, without the Libertarian Party participation the Republican candidates in Arizona and Nevada would have been given a small but significant boost

Needless to say, the Republicans are more than just a little bit miffed (that is putting it pretty mildly) with the Libertarian Party. Stated Dov Fischer (not a spokesman for the GOP, but certainly a conservative in good standing):

“P.S. And thank you, Libertarian Party of Georgia, for once again denying the Republican conservative the 50.01 percent majority that could have secured a win for smaller government and less government interference in our lives, instead forcing a runoff to save the Democrat ‘progressives’ plans.”

I have some advice for them; it may not help at all this time around, but there are other elections coming up. I have been a member of the LP since 1969 and have run for office twice (you’ll never guess? No, I didn’t win either time); nonetheless I cannot speak officially for the LP. But I can certainly have my say. Free speech and all that.

Right now the Republicans give the back of their hands to the LP. They challenge their right to be on the ballot in the first place, and this costs the latter time, money and effort they would rather spend on getting out their message of free enterprise, private property rights, very limited government. Why not be nicer? Stop this harassment. Allow the LP to run unopposed in heavily Democratic districts, or for mayor of Duckberg, USA, population 300. In return, the LP would stop being the spoiler in races such as the three mentioned above (there are dozens more examples out there).

There is indeed precedent for this sort of thing in the US. For example, in New York State, the Democrats engaged with the Liberal Party as their junior partners, as did the Republicans, for the Conservative Party. I don’t say a deal of this sort can be consummated, but at least it bears thinking about. This sort of thing occurs in many other countries (Israel, Italy come to mind); why not here? Doesn’t a party that reliably garners 1% of the vote and sometimes double and triple that deserve some respect? The Libertarian Party is the Rodney Dangerfield of politics.

To be fair, I must say that the LP is not always closer to the Rs than the Ds. During the VietNam war, the very opposite occurred. It takes place, also, nowadays, when issues such as the legalization (not necessarily support) of drugs or sex for consenting adults arises. But in the present circumstances, with wokeism, cancel culture, socialism, etc., libertarians are much closer to Rs than Ds.

It behooves the GOP to at least think of doing something about this problem, rather than confining itself to regretting the situation, while exacerbating it with its enmity toward the LP.

Walter Block is the Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics at Loyola University, New Orleans.

Featured: “Stump Speaking,” by George Caleb Bingham; painted in 1853.

Stopping Murderers

There has been a spate of even more unusually horrendous mass murders in recent days, topped off by the monstrousness that occurred in Uvalde, Texas to school children and teachers. But pretty much every weekend there are reports from Chicago, Baltimore, New Orleans and other cities run by Democrats of shootings, sometimes stretching into the dozens.

What is going on here, and, more important, how can this be stopped, or, at least, the incidence of this phenomenon radically reduced?

One obvious point is to vote out the “progressive” wokesters in the next election. They have been undermining the morale of the police, trying to deprive them of financial resources by “defunding” them, turning prisoners loose, downgrading felonies to misdemeanors, etc. Before these politicians seized the city reins, there were fewer such murderous outbursts.

Another is to harden the targets. There should be one and only one entrance to a school, and there ought to be an awake guard posted right there. Arming teachers and staff would also go a long way in the direction of dissuading criminals from entry. Left wing politicians oppose these safety measures, but we can pretty much ignore their hypocritical criticisms: they surround themselves with armed guards.

If drugs were legalized, all of them without exception, there would be fewer murders. We have as evidence for this contention the example of booze. Under prohibition, gangs shot each other over turf. Does this now occur at liquor stores? Of course not.

Then there is the break up of the American family, or, worse, its failure to form in the first place. This is due to our welfare system. We had this program in effect for many years, with little ill effect on the family, but Lyndon Baines Johnson, another Democrat, greatly enhanced it in the mid-1960s. Then the family started falling apart. All too many kids nowadays grow up without a dad in the house. A non-intact family is causally related to all sorts of societal ill effects: crime to be sure, but also unemployment, lack of schooling, divorce, etc. Unhappily, if we were to end this pernicious program, it would take a generation or more for the beneficial impact on crime reduction to take place, given the negative social mores introduced in its wake.

Is there no other alteration that can have more immediate effects? Fortunately, there is: public executions. There will be a great hue and cry against implementing any such policy. One objection will be that if a mistake is made, the wrong person will be put to death. But to err is human. There are cases when an innocent man was incarcerated for decades; it hardly follows that no one should be in jail. Also, some of these folks were guilty of other equally serious crimes, and merely punished for the wrong one of many. The solution to this objection to the death penalty is to employ it only when we are certain of guilt.

Another objection is that the death penalty is not statistically significantly related to a reduction in the murder rate. This cannot be denied. However, Isaac Ehrlich has done important research in demonstrating that the execution rate is responsible for fewer murders. What is the difference between the two policies? All execution states are also death penalty states, but the reverse does not hold true. That is, many states, such as California, have the death penalty on their books, but for many decades executed no one at all.

If executions are to negatively impact the murder rate, they must be public, very public. The needle, in a place where only a few people can be witnesses, simply will not do as a deterrent. These murders are often “low information voters.” For them, out of sight is out of mind. But if they can see executions on television, it will focus their minds! There must be a firing squad in a large stadium, or perhaps a hanging from on high, which thousands of people can view. This will do more in terms of making would-be murderers think twice, thrice, before engaging in their bestial activities than anything else. We these punishments televised, even the better for promoting civilized behavior.

It is uncivilized to execute murderers? No. It is uncivilized to have so many murders of the innocent as we suffer from at present.

Walter Block is the Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics at Loyola University, New Orleans.

Featured: “Nemesis,” by Alfred Rethel; painted in 1837.

Dennis Prager, High School Principal

Dennis Prager is many things, but a high school principal he is not. Maybe a frustrated non high school principal, but not an actual one. This, however, does not stop him from offering a wise, witty, erudite, inspiring speech that he hopes will become the template for all those who take up this position.

He is also very courageous. He uses the “N” word all spelled out. True, his usage of this prohibited word is employed so as to forbid his students, white or black or anything else, from so doing. He does so in the spirit of Lenny Bruce, who also used that word in a similar context. But, still, it took great valor to do so; tenured faculty have been fired for emulating him in this regard. I myself in sharp contrast am an abject coward. My university employer would like nothing more for me to engage in such word usage, tenure be damned. I dursn’t.

He announces that the school will “no longer honor race or ethnicity: I could not care less if your racial makeup is black, brown, red, yellow or white.” There will be no school clubs based upon such considerations nor any celebrations on that basis; they just drive people apart.

Classes, he avers, will all be conducted in English; a strict dress code will be implemented; obscene language will not be tolerated (this includes use of the “N” word, “even when used by one black student to address another black”); further, “there will be one valedictorian, not eight.” Principal Prager also inveighed against scaring students about global warming. He concluded, right before instituting the Pledge of Allegiance that “There will be no more attempts to convince you that you are a victim because you are not white, or not male, or not heterosexual or not Christian.”

Comes the question; should all high school teachers buy into this perspective (to say nothing of college presidents)? Would they do so in the free society, given that the desiderata was good education? Yes! A thousand times yes.

But there are other possible goals. One of them is economic freedom. Here, in contrast, the motto should be: “let 1,000” flowers bloom. Well, actually, far more than that since in the free society each school would be free to inculcate whatever policies it wishes.

There is nothing incompatible with just law and the use of the “N” word. Surely there are some educational consumers who would take it amiss to have their free speech rights trampled upon in such manner. They might well prefer to patronize other more linguistically free educational establishments. Then, too, opinions vary as to the propriety and desirability of several other Prager policies.

I, personally, would want my children and grandchildren to be enrolled in a school predicated upon the principles articulated by Mr. Prager. If I were a high school teacher I would vastly prefer to be employed by this man. However, in a free society, not everyone would share the views that he and I do. The two of us would be no more justified in shoving these principles down the throats of the entire society than are the wokesters who are presently attempting to do just that to the rest of us.

But Mr. Prager is articulating his own preferences; this is well and good. No one should interpret him as attempting to make these principles mandatory for anyone else.

Walter Block is the Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics at Loyola University, New Orleans.

Covid: Punishing the Unvaccinated

As you read this, in the frozen country to the north of us, there is a gigantic Covid protest, newly disbanded. A “Freedom Convoy” of truckers, which started out in British Columbia (near Seattle), arrived in the Canadian capital, Ottawa (near New York State) to protest that country’s vaccine policies. Additional support for this initiative now exists in most major cities in that country. The U.S. usually the leader in these sorts of things, is now emulating our cousins to the north. As well, copycat protest of this sort have taken place in many other countries.

However, according to Howard Stern, hospitals should turn away would-be patients who are unvaccinated. He stated, “At this point, they have been given plenty of opportunity to get the vaccine.” He continued, in the inimitable way we have come to expect from him, when challenged on the ground that mandatory vaccinations or punishments violate freedom: “F— their freedom. I want my freedom to live.”

Then, too, there is an attack on the unvaccinated emanating, of all places, from the esoteric area of bioethics. For the uninitiated, the be all and end all in this discipline, at least for most practitioners, is that past behavior is irrelevant for sick patients. When someone comes to the hospital, he is treated just like anyone else, based only on the symptoms presented. In other words, doctors should not stint in their treatment of the obese or heavy smokers on the ground that their present ailments are self-induced. If they would have behaved better, more rationally, they would not likely be in the hospital in the first place, unfairly taking up valuable medical resources that could have been used for more worthy ill people.

This principle went so far as to treat in the exact same manner a suicide bomber in Israel who failed to kill himself — and his victims,: the past is the past and is irrelevant; only the medical status of the patient, right now, is of relevance for treatment. Triage of course can take place; but only based on the present and the future likelihood of success, not on what occurred beforehand.

However, thanks to Covid, even this primordial principle is now under attack by medical ethicists. Practitioners, many of them kicking and screaming in protest since they are so deeply mired in this philosophy, are now very reluctantly reconsidering this basic and long-standing view of theirs.

What are we to make of all of this?

It is easy to see the point of Howard Stern and his fellow philosophers. The non-vaccinated do pose a threat, not only of contagion and spreading infection, but also of hogging up hospital beds and forcing doctors to turn away needy folk such as stroke victims, sufferers from heart attack and kidney failures, and this is the most important point, through no fault of their own on the part of the latter.

Let us argue by analogy. Suppose that Typhoid Mary refused to be taken out of circulation. Posit that she had insisted upon returning to her job in the food dispensary, where she could continue to infect others. Would we have treated her with kid gloves as some people still insist the unvaccinated be dealt with? Of course not. So, if they are akin to her, then we have to take our hats off to Howard Stern, and applaud this new direction in bioethics.

However, there is a disanalogy. When Typhoid Mary was put out of commission, it was based on the best scientific evidence then available. She was an asymptomatic carrier, and that was the end of the matter. Disagreeing with this assessment was akin to denying the earth is round, or that 2+2=4.

Do we have the same level of confidence nowadays regarding Covid? We do not. The powers that be claim scientific support – over and over again — for their claim that the vaccines are efficacious in preventing Covid, and have no serious negative repercussions.

But these claims cannot be made with the imprimatur of science. For that is a deliberative institution, where all opinions are welcome and decisions are made on the basis of evidence, nothing more and nothing less.

In the event, however, doctors have been threatened with the loss of their licenses and epidemiologists and virologists with the loss of their jobs for questioning the official analysis and supposedly spreading “misinformation.” That is not science. That is the absence of the scientific method.

Further, the burden of proof rests not with those who wish to defend practices stemming from time immemorial, but with those who wish to radically change them. Unless otherwise proven guilty of a crime, you are supposed to be innocent. The unvaccinated have not been proven guilty of anything, at least not by science, and thus should not be treated as criminals. Yet threats against them abound: not only being triaged out of hospitals, but losing their children, even being compelled to vaccinate, at the point of a gun.

Not kosher; not at all kosher.

Walter Block is the Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics at Loyola University, New Orleans.

Featured image: “Triumph of Science,” by Jordan Henderson; painted in 2022.

Kyle Rittenhouse And The Left

The left still has not gotten over its hissy-fit in the aftermath of Kyle Rittenhouse being found innocent of all the charges launched against him by a woke Attorney General. All of them. This young man was not found guilty of not even a one of these indictments: first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, first-degree attempted intentional homicide and two counts of first-degree reckless endangerment.

But this has proven an embarrassment for the so-called “progressives.” It has been by now established that the three men Kyle shot were chasing him; that one of them tried to hit him in the head with his skateboard; that another one of them actually first aimed a gun at and testified to that effect at the trial. If that is not self-defense, then nothing is, and the unanimous jury saw the matter in exactly that way. Should the socialists of the nation back down admit error in their initial assessment of the trial and apologize to young Mr. Rittenhouse for the calumny they have heaped upon them.

Yes, of course. But, no, that will never happen. The cancel culture never backs down, never admits error. Instead, they double down. So what is their “Plan B” in this case? It is to assert that had a young black man done exactly what Kyle Rittenhouse did, he would have not walked away unscathed. Either the police would have murdered him, or he would have been found guilty of all charges had the case gone to trial.

Let us delve into this matter.

Suppose a young black man, an African American, had picked up a gun, crossed state lines with it, tried to bring succor and safety to the local inhabitants from a riot in their neighborhood. What would have been his fate?

Let us break this down into three parts. First, would he have even been brought to trial in the first place? The odds against this are enormous.

Thomas Binger, Kenosha County District Attorney General, is a died in the wool wokester. Imagine him bringing charges against a young black man who was chased by three white men, threatened with a skateboard to the head and a gun aimed at him. Fughedaboudit, as they say in Brooklyn. It does not compute. No way this would have happened.

Second, suppose, arguendo, that this counterfactual did take place. Posit that Binger did indeed bring these charges. Those videos are definitive. There is no “he said, she said” about them. Binger would not have waited to give them to the defense team, nor would he have proffered an inferior hard-to-see video.

It took a jury 27 hours to acquit Kyle Rittenhouse of all charges. If it took 27 minutes from them to do so in behalf of this theoretical black kid of 17 years of age, that would have been a long time.

The left is on firmer ground with regard to the third element of this hypothetical case. How would the police have regarded a heavily armed black youngster? Not too well, it must be said. The cops would likely have seen him quite differently than they viewed the young white man. They would have interpreted him as far more of a threat, a danger to themselves and others.

Does this point to “systemic racism?” Not a bit of it. It is crucially important to realize that both white and black constabularies would have looked more askance at the black than at the white well-armed teen in this manner. It is imperative, especially in our racially charged epoch, to ask why? Hatred of blacks? That would hardly explain the reaction of African American cops. What then is the causal agent?

If you can’t figure this out, you are a product of a woke university, with its sociology departments, with its black, queer and feminist “studies” programs, with its social “justice” philosophy departments and law schools. Hint: the very different reactions would be due to the widely divergent experiences cops, all of them without exception, have had with the two different demographic groups.

Walter Block is the Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics at Loyola University, New Orleans.

Should The Libertarian Party Disband?

Edward Ring opens up his call for the abandonment of the Libertarian Party with this powerful criticism: “Siphoning off voters from the side that’s fighting the hardest to preserve individual liberty and economic freedom is not principled. It is nihilism.”

He follows this up with the second of his strong one-two punches:

“If you want to find a Libertarian Party organization that has achieved relevance, look no further than Georgia. That’s where Shane Hazel, running for the U.S. Senate as a Libertarian, garnered 2.3 percent of the vote in November. Hazel’s showing may have been insignificant, but the Republican candidate, David Perdue, only needed 0.3 percent more votes to have avoided a runoff, where he lost… All that Perdue needed was for one in seven of Hazel’s voters to choose him instead, and the GOP would still control the U.S. Senate…”

So, is it true? Would the cause of liberty be helped by the termination of the LP?

I think not. (Full disclosure: I have been a member of this party ever since 1969 when I ran for New York State Assembly, two years before the creation of the national party in 1971).

First of all, it is not that clear, as this author contends, that the Republicans are all that closer to libertarian principles than are the Democrats. Yes, indeed, they are, on economic issues. The Elephant clearly beats out the Donkey in terms of lower taxes, regulations, private property rights. This despite the fact that socialist Romney care started in Massachusetts. Neither party favors ending the fed or a unilateral declaration of free trade with all nations. Mr. Ring charges libertarians with “Killing American Jobs: Libertarians support ‘free trade’ without first insisting on reciprocity.” Here, he just reveals his lack of economic sophistication. I recommend that he read Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations,” or, for a more modern analysis of tariffs, Milton Friedman’s splendid work on this issue.

Free trade is necessarily beneficial to all participants at least in the ex ante sense. If Jones purchases a shirt for $10, it must be because at the outset, he values it at more than that amount, for example, $15. So, he earns a profit. The salesman Smith valued it at less than that amount, otherwise he would have not accepted the deal. If he placed a value on that shirt of $2, he gained to the tune of $13. Both sides benefit. And it matters not one whit whether Jones and Smith are in the same or different countries. This logic applies domestically as well as internationally .

But if Jones purchases a shirt from abroad, does that not mean lessened sales for the domestic supplier Smith? Yes, it does. So fewer shirts will be created locally, and more in this other country. But hat will the foreign shirt manufacturer do with the money paid to him by Jones? Why, turn around and buy something else in the domestic country! If it is good economics to protect Smith, from foreign competition, then it makes sense for, say, Colorado, to protect its industry from the “incursions” of manufacturers in Texas, for instance. That’s nonsense on a stick. No, one of the reasons the U.S. is so wealthy is because we have a gigantic free trade zone. No internal tariffs. These economic principles apply in all realms.

What about the minimum wage? The Democrats want to raise this to $15 per hour. The Republican plank on this matter? To $10 per hour. Both are horrid, albeit the former slightly more than the latter. The higher it is, the more unskilled persons it precludes from employment. The economically illiterate (and here, unfortunately, I include several Nobel Prize winners in economics) maintain that this law is like a floor under wages; the higher it is raised, the greater will be salaries. If so, why limit this to a mere $15 per hour? Why not $50, or $1000, or $1 million for that matter? In that way, we could all become rich! Why not eliminate foreign aid to poor countries, and advise them to inaugurate and then raise their minimum wage levels to the skies? No, this law, rather, is akin to a hurdle, or a high jump bar. The higher it is, the more difficult it is for unskilled workers to obtain any employment at all. Not only should it not be raised, it should be eliminated entirely. At its present national level of $7.25, it consigns to joblessness all those with lower productivities.

But economics is only one of the three dimensions of political economy on which all philosophies must take a position.

The second one is personal liberties. And here the Democrats are much closer to the liberty position than are the Republicans. The latter are still being dragged into the 21st century in terms of legalization of marijuana; only Oregon, has made tiny steps in this regard with even harder drugs, and we all know which party is in charge there. Mr. Ring asks “Have libertarians recognized the consequences of tolerating use of these drugs?” Evidently, he does not recognize the horrendous effects of prohibition. Maybe he’d like to put alcohol on the banned list again? That substance, too, has deleterious effects. The Republicans are the paternalistic party. On the other hand, they are way better than the other organization on not defunding the police and gun control.

A similar pattern exists with sexual relations between consenting adults for pay. Legalization of prostitution is anathema to most politicians in the red states. The blue-staters are at least a bit more ambivalent on this and other such issues.

The third dimension is foreign policy. Here the libertarian view is the one articulated by Ron Paul, as also occurs in the other two cases. This former Congressman advocated a strong defense, but no “offense” at all. No more roughly 800 military bases in some 200 countries; bring the troops home, all of them. How do the Redsters and the Bluesters stack up on this non-interventionist policy? A mixed bag can be found on both sides of the aisle. There are Democratic warmongers such as Hillary Clinton, and also Republican ones such as Tom Cotton and Ted Cruz. There are also Democratic office holders such as Bernie Sanders and Republican ones such as Rand Paul who are much closer to the libertarian position. Indeed, the two of them have cooperated with one another on such issues. Tulsi Gabbard is another Democratic Ron Paulian on foreign policy. Both parties were roughly equally responsible for the anti-libertarian wars in Afghanistan and Viet Nam. Call this is tie as far as the libertarian sweepstakes are concerned.

So, what is the final score? If this were a chess match, I would rule one win for the Democrats, one of the Republicans, and a drawn game. That is, 1.5 points for each. Nothing much to choose here for the libertarian.

There is one point Mr. Ring overlooks that might incline libertarians in the direction of the GOP: the Federalist society. This is an organization in which conservatives do not merely tolerate libertarians but actively cooperate with them, work with them, befriend them. (This is in sharp contrast to the Young Americans for Freedom in which libertarians were roundly condemned as “lazy fairies,” a takeoff on the phrase “laissez faire capitalism” favored by the freedom philosophy.)

If Mr. Ring is serious about obviating future experiences such as provided by Shane Hazel, libertarian hero, he would urge Republicans to offer Libertarians an olive branch instead of the usual smack upside the head. Instead of making it difficult for the party of liberty to get on the ballot through endless lawsuits, for example, make a deal with the Party of Principle. Allowing them to run for some minor offices without Republican opposition, or, even, dare I say this, support. In return, the LP might agree not to run candidates in races expected to be very close. I cannot of course speak for the Porcupine Party (its nickname in New York State), but I don’t see offers of this sort even being contemplated. Nor is there a lack of precedent for this sort of thing. In New York state the Republican Party cooperated with the Conservative party along similar lines.

No, it is not “nihilism” to insist that the message of liberty be brought to the American electorate. Neither major party fills that role.

Addendum: Mr. Ring is mistaken in taking the platform of the Georgia state libertarian party as descriptive of all libertarians. Immigration, for example, is a hotly debated issue amongst its members.

Walter Block is the Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics at Loyola University, New Orleans.

The featured image shows, “La liberté (Freedom),” by Jeanne-Louise (Nanine) Vallain; painted ca. 1793-1794.

High Taxes And Unemployment

According to a recent study authorized by the National Association of Manufacturers, President Biden’s proposed tax hikes will indeed cause unemployment. In the view of NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons, it is possible to quantify the damage to the economy: “one million lost jobs in the first two years.” The research was undertaken by Rice University economists John W. Diamond and George R. Zodrow.

To be sure, there is some superficial plausibility to this contention of the employers’ association and these economists. If the government takes additional funds out of the private sector, the latter will indeed have less money with which to employ people.

But what will the government do with its additional revenues? Why, it will create other employment opportunities. It might do so by subsidizing industries that will help reduce carbon emissions, such as those that provide energy via wind, water, solar, etc. It will almost certainly hire people to upgrade roads and bridges, and build new ones. The health field can certainly use a few more, ok, a lot more, doctors and nurses; hence, financial support for medical education.

But suppose that Mr. Biden stuffs all this additional tax money into his mattress; e.g., does absolutely nothing with it. Will that not create horrendous unemployment? Not a bit of it. Prices will then be lower than otherwise would have been the case (thanks to the real balance effect), and everyone’s money holdings will be that much more valuable. Since jobs come from revenues, this will also reduce joblessness. Alternatively, and just as unlikely, posit that the Biden administration uses the extra funds garnered by this tax increase to purchase goods and services from abroad. Will that promote domestic unemployment? No, again. For those abroad will use these payments to purchase our products, again increasing job slots.

Lookit, if high taxes cause unemployment, then states like New York, New Jersey, Illinois, California, Massachusetts should have vastly higher unemployment rates than low tax states such as Arkansas, Louisiana Mississippi. But this simply does not occur. Similarly, unemployment rates ought to be positively correlated with high taxes across nations, and that does not prevail either.

Does this mean that Biden’s tax policy is good for the economy? That is highly disputable, and entirely a different matter. All we can say for sure, on the basis of elementary economics, is that this will mean a transfer, or redeployment, but not unemployment. People will be shifted from some jobs, companies and industries to others, based on this plan, but there need be no overall increase in unemployment, after these shifts occur. Yes, there might well be a temporary increase in joblessness while this reallocation occurs, but that would be true of any shift in policy. Should Mr. Biden be required to maintain each and every policy of his predecessor? Not on the basis of increasing unemployment, unless he does so.

It is perfectly understandable for Republicans, the National Association of Manufacturers and other such groups to throw everything possible at this present administration’s tax policy and hope that something sticks. But let us not toss basic economics out the window. Higher taxes, to be sure, have some drawbacks; but unemployment is not one of them.

Walter Block is the Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics at Loyola University, New Orleans.

The featured images shows, “Highway 99,” by Ronald Debs Ginther; painted March, 1933.


Now that a little bit of time has passed since the “insurrection” of January 6, 2021, let us put those events into some perspective.

There were calls, then, from far and wide, to either quickly impeach President Trump from office, or to utilize the 25th Amendment to remove him from office, whichever was quicker.

We know now that the riots started well before Trump’s speech ended, so it’s wrong to strongly or even weakly imply that the subsequent events were a reaction to his speech. Here is Trump’s key statement about protesting, “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” Donald Trump is accused of egging on, instigating, inciting his supporters to engage in an insurrection, to overthrow the U.S. government, starting with a violent attack on a sitting congress. What he did during his speech of January 6, 2021 was to utter phrases such as, “You will never take back our country with weakness,” and many others similar, and to encourage his supporters “to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard” outside of Congress. It is not at all clear that he anticipated the actions of the rioters, let alone supported them.

Rather, his goal was to attain an electoral college victory. How so? By demanding that electors from enough Biden states be rejected by Mike Pence in particular, in his role as Vice President, and by Congress in general. Yes these were last ditch efforts to overturn an election that he, along with many others, thought improper.

This essay is NOT a defense of Mr. Trump’s speech on January 6, 2021. If you read his speech carefully, you will find not a scintilla of evidence that he incited anyone. In prospect, it was a good speech. In retrospect, it was unwise, given the results: he lost the support of such “virtue signalers” as Betsy DeVos, William Barr, Mick Mulvaney, Matt Pottinger, Ryan Tully, Stephanie Grisham and Sarah Matthews. President Trump’s error was in giving the likes of Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi an opening to attack him. As a sometime supporter of President Trump, do I regret that he gave that speech (as I also am remorseful about his performance in his first debate with Mr. Biden)? Yes I do. This is not because of the discourse itself, which was an excellent one. Instead I am saddened by it because of the “hay” his enemies were able to make of it. Are the likes of Schumer and Pelosi happy with Trump that he spoke out as he did on this occasion? Of course they are. Deliriously so. Therefore, I am not.

Let me try to clarify this point. I am not saying that although there was no evidence that Trump was inciting the crowd that marched on the capitol, he should not have created the situation in which violence erupted. Instead, I am saying that although there was no evidence that Trump was inciting the crowd that marched on the capitol, he should not have created the situation in which his enemies were able to score so many points against him.

Rather, I am now using this episode to engage in a philosophical analysis of the law regarding incitement. “Incitement” is pretty much on everyone’s lips, Democrat as well as Republican, friend or enemy of Mr. Trump’s. This gives us a golden opportunity to reflect upon the libertarian analysis of incitement, and why it should not be considered a crime.

The difficulty with this law is that it is a violation of free will. Murray N. Rothbard said it best when he wrote:

“Should it be illegal …. to ‘incite to riot’? Suppose that Green exhorts a crowd: ‘Go! Burn! Loot! Kill!’ and the mob proceeds to do just that, with Green having nothing further to do with these criminal activities. Since every man is free to adopt or not adopt any course of action he wishes, we cannot say that in some way Green determined the members of the mob to their criminal activities; we cannot make him, because of his exhortation, at all responsible for their crimes. ‘Inciting to riot,’ therefore, is a pure exercise of a man’s right to speak without being thereby implicated in crime. On the other hand, it is obvious that if Green happened to be involved in a plan or conspiracy with others to commit various crimes, and that then Green told them to proceed, he would then be just as implicated in the crimes as are the others—more so, if he were the mastermind who headed the criminal gang. This is a seemingly subtle distinction which in practice is clearcut—there is a world of difference between the head of a criminal gang and a soap-box orator during a riot; the former is not, properly to be charged simply with ‘incitement.’”

In sharp contrast, when Spike Lee was incensed at George Zimmerman for his killing of Trayvon Martin, he was not guilty of mere incitement. Mr. Lee was, instead, responsible for actively aiding and abetting the crowd to go and attack this man who was later exonerated for his act of self-defense. Mr. Lee gave the crowd Mr. Zimmerman’s address (it was erroneous, but that is beside the point) and publicly mused about the latter something to the effect of “Why is this man still alive?”

If you go to bed with a consenting five year old girl, you are guilty of statutory rape, even given that this youngster “agreed” to that act. Why? We simply do not believe that a person of that age is capable of assenting to any such behavior. If you engage in sex on a voluntary basis with a 25 year old woman, whatever else it is of which you may be accused, it cannot be statutory rape, since any rational society maintains that people of that demographic are entitled to make such decisions for themselves. But where do you draw the line between these two ages? At 15? 16? 17? Whatever age you choose, it is possible to object that it should be one month younger or older. This is the classic example in philosophy of the continuum challenge. There is no unambiguous answer to questions of this sort (nor to those like the one about an 18 year old being of an age to participate in the military, but not to drink beer) forthcoming from any area on the political economic spectrum. All we can do in this country is rely on the prudential judgement of the electorate on such matters.

We have a continuum issue here. Lee, who went out of his way to help bring about mob violence, behaved culpably under libertarian law. The person who simply advocated violence did not. The key distinction is that Mr. Lee aided the mob by providing (though erroneous) an address for Mr. Zimmerman. Mr. Trump did no such thing. Lee did not merely incite. He aided and abetted the mob. President Trump did not even incite, let alone aid and abet.

P.S. Anyone notice the wildly different treatment of this right wing riot, compared to the much more devastating ones put on by left wing “peaceful” marches, mayhems, organized by BLM and Antifar? I don’t think it is politically correct to even mention this disparity. So, fughedaboudit, as we say in Brooklyn.

P.P.S. Is it possible that there was a false flag operation in effect here? That BLM and Antifa snuck into the confused melee, with the goal of undermining President Trump’s authority? Enquiring minds want to know.

Walter Block is the Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics at Loyola University, New Orleans.

The featured image shows, “The Siege of an Elephant,” a print attributed to Joannes van Doetecum I, ca. 1550.