Posts tagged Walter Block

Re: Cato Institute Publishes Leftist Screed!, Pars Decima

I can certainly think of some that are vastly better than the AFL-CIO establishmentarian unions. What about the IWW? The Coalition of Immokalee Workers?

For the record, some IWW locals make use of post-Wagner labor laws (most commonly in efforts to combat retaliatory firing of organizers for unionizing activities). I think that sucks, but the union as a whole is pretty minimally involved, and — importantly, unlike the AFL-CIO and Change to Win [sic] unions — they are largely opposed to State-mediated collective bargaining, and to the whole State regulatory apparatus, and they do have an organizing model which doesn’t depend on the use of federal labor bureaucracy.

The CIW is another can of worms. As far as I know they have never made any use whatsoever of any federal union law at all. If for no other reason than the fact that they couldn’t use it even if they wanted to. The Wagner Act explicitly excluded farmworkers’ unions (also domestic workers’ unions — the point was originally for St. Franklin to be able to count on the support of white-supremacy-forever Southern Democrats, so jobs black people took under Jim Crow weren’t included), and none of the post-Wagner amendments have changed that. Block and Huebert’s blanket assertion that all actually-existing unions either practice vigilante violence or solicit state violence or both is either breathtakingly ignorant or else dishonest. They seem to have no idea at all that several large unions have no access at all to the NLRB under existing federal labor laws, whether they want it or not.

(To be fair, I must note that the largest farmworkers’ union, the UFW, has no access to the federal NLRB, but does have access to a state government agency — the California ALRB, created in the 1970s through their lobbying efforts — in California, their main base of operations. I think this helps explains, actually, why the UFW, which was one of the most dynamic organizations in the labor movement for many years, has accomplished relatively little since the 1970s: they were bought off by the political patronage, and meanwhile the board was captured within a couple years by the big produce bosses, just like every other regulatory board in the history of the world. But as far as I know the CIW has access to nothing of the kind in Florida. Neither does FLOC in most of the states where it operates — mainly in the Southeast U.S., if I recall correctly. What they get done, they get done in spite of, or because of, the fact that they receive neither the legal benefits nor the regulatory burdens of the NLRB regime. And I think that’s a lot of the reason why farmworkers’ unions have accomplished so goddamned much in the past 40 years, while the establishmentarian labor movement has largely stagnated or collapsed.)

Re: Feminism and Libertarianism Again


First, I notice that you haven’t answered my question. I mentioned one specific case in which people who advocate a “thick” conception of libertarianism (including Howley, myself, Roderick Long, Wendy McElroy, Hans Hoppe, Chris Sciabarra, Ayn Rand, Benjamin Tucker, Herbert Spencer, and a lot of other people from many different wings of the mvement) often stress the importance of non-coercive cultural phenomena to libertarian politics: cases in which there are important causal preconditions for a flourishing free society. Here it seems that libertarians have strategic reasons for favoring some non-coercive cultural arrangements over other non-coercive cultural arrangements, even though neither arrangement involves an initiation of force against identifiable victims. Do you disagree? If so, why? Or do you agree, but think that strategic commitments are somehow unimportant for libertarians to consider? If so, why?

Second, rather than responding to this question, at all, you have simply repeated a set of completely unsupported definitional claims. I don’t know what expertise or authority you think you have that would justify these from-the-mountaintop declarations. It certainly has nothing to do with the history of the word “libertarian” (or the French “libertaire,” from which “libertarian” was derived). The word has meant all kinds of different things throughout its history: it was originally coined by Joseph Dejacque as a euphemism for anarchistic socialism (which is still the primary use of the term in Europe); it has been used as a general contrast term for “authoritarianism”; American free marketeers and Constitutionalists started using it as a replacement term for “classical liberal” in the mid-20th century; about a decade later, a few (e.g. Murray Rothbard, later on Walter Block) started using it to specifically describe an axiomatic ethico-political system deriving from the non-aggression principle. The last of these definitions is the only one that systematically excludes consideration of any social question other than those having to do with the legitimate use of force. Some other meanings of the term (e.g. the understanding of “libertarianism” as more or less synonymous with “classical liberalism”) tend to minimize but not do away with other considerations; others (e.g. the identification of libertarianism with anti-authoritarianism or anarchism specifically) tend to put quite a bit of attention on broader questions about the desirability of different non-coercive social structures. You can find out some of the history behind these kinds of debates from books like Chris Sciabarra’s Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical and Total Freedom; I already linked an article of my own (from FEE’s The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty) which discusses some of the philosophical aspects of the debate and mentions some of the history of debates within the movement along the way. Of course you’re under no obligation to agree with me on the matter (lots of libertarians don’t–Walter Block, for example, has recently written against “thick” conceptions of libertarianism) but the position is certainly out there, and has been out there for a good century and a half or so, and it’s a bit much for you to simply hand down unsupported declarations about the “definition” of libertarianism (as if there were a single uncontested definition!).

Third, you make the following specific claim about what Kery Howley has been doing in her posts on libertarianism and feminism: “her line of argument isn’t an attempt to characterize certain social pressure as immoral and to encourage libertarians to speak out against them (which is fine and I agree), rather she is simply trying to expand the definition of coercive force to fit her pet issues. It’s intellectual lazy at best, and dishonest at worst.”

As far as I can tell, this characterization of what Kerry has done in her posts is completely inaccurate. It’s an accurate description of the position Todd Seavey dishonestly attributed to her, but has nothing to do with what she says here, and nothing to do with what she says in “Libertarian Feminism versus Monarchist Anarchism,” in which she explicitly states that, while certain forms of misogyny may operate through “social pressure” rather than coercive force, “No thinking libertarian is only concerned with coercion; most of us worry just as much about conformity and passivity.” (That last sentence is, in fact, the only time in either post in which she mentions coercion at all — to deny that all of her concerns as a libertarian have to do with coercion.) For Seavey, and then you, to repeatedly claim that she is trying to describe purely verbal misogyny as “literally coercive” (Seavey) or “trying to expand the definition of coercive force to fit her pet issues” (you), when she states in so many words that her position is exactly the opposite, that she’s concerned with these so-called “pet issues” even though they do not involve the use of coercion — and then to have you, to crown all, accuse her of intellectual laziness or dishonesty on the basis of this up-is-down, black-is-white strawman of her position — is something that is utterly outrageous. I wish I could call it extraordinary, but in fact it is my experience that there is nothing extraordinary of feminists being treated with this kind of dismissive contempt and indifference as to basic accuracy about their stated positions.

Re: Following and promoting


Point taken; but I’d say that the issue here really just turns on what verb “thin conception of libertarianism” is supposed to be the object of. You can follow a thin conception of libertarianism without ever promoting libertarianism (of any kind), but you can’t advocate or promote a thin conception of libertarianism. But presumably someone who follows a thin conception may want to promote it, too, for reasons which they may think of as having to do with libertarianism (in which case I guess we’re talking about some slight thickening, at least in the strategic dimension, away from the degenerate case of thinness), or which may not have anything to do with libertarianism, but rather be for the sake of other reasons (which puts us back in the degenerate case, and may seem quite weird, but is in the end a conceivable option).

Of course, the real upshot here may be that it may be somewhat misleading to speak of “thick” and “thin” conceptions as if they involved a distinction of kind. Really the debate is between thickerer conceptions, with variations in degree along several different axes. Certainly, you could characterize my own position, in part, by saying that it’s much thinner than that of, say, orthodox Objectivsts — in the sense that my ideas about what would constitute the proper context and preconditions for a flourishing free society are much broader and less detailed — but much thicker than that of, say, Walter Block.

Re: Walter Block Replies

Micha: I fail to see how the issue of immigration could be seen as complex, rather than for what it is ….

I think the short answer is this: calling border laws and internal immigration policing a complex issue for libertarians primarily serves a social function, not an intellectual one, in the Mises Institute / circle.

The issue is actually, obviously, extremely simple, and Hoppe’s and Ron Paul’s positions are actually, obviously, completely wrong. I suspect that most of those who criticize their positions but pass off the issue as a complex one realize this, but also reckon that it wouldn’t go over well in mixed company to say so in as many words.