Friday, January 31, 2014

Walter Block - Another Libertarian Blockhead! ("Slavery wasn't so bad!")

Walter Block

Where in the hell do these economic blockheads come from? What regressive pit of offal breeds them and then disgorges them into the world to posture like madmen, confuse their students, and undermine polity in the name of some misbegotten theory?  I've already expounded on one branch of these cretins, the bunch that pushed Pareto-based economics, e.g.  http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2011/06/modern-economics-its-evil-basis-pareto.html

This was the work of none other than Vilfredo Pareto, who invoked the example of a "collectivity" of a wolf and a sheep - with the wolf only happy unless he could eat the sheep. (Else, only the sheep remains happy grazing on its patch of grass - while poor Wolfie starves)  Thus was born modern economic theory which inverts everything sensible, such as Greenspan arguing back in 2003 that Bush tax cuts were preferable to Social Security benefits. The poor little rich folks would use the money saved from those cuts to invest and help the economy, while Social Security could be collected merely because a guy could breathe.

Pareto's model translated into the argument that the buck is worth more to the rich man, and hence, any transfer from the rich to the poor hurts the rich more than it helps the poor (especially as the 'utils' for the poor man is also rather smaller by comparison).  E.g.     












From this degraded bollocks, it became possible to argue - for example - that it makes more sense to give the prospective patient or person to be screened (say for colon cancer)  $1,499 NOT to get the colonoscopy, than to let her get the test and consume valuable specialist time and resources via $2,000 subsidy. (Bestowed by whatever insurance allows it, say Medicare or Obamacare, or even high flier private) .

In a similar vein, these dregs argued that having 1,000 - 10,000 average Joes and Janes die each year from climatic catastrophes  (or fouled water from pollutants) is more tolerable than having oil speculation losses for the rich, because then they will also pull back on their investments in ETFs (exchange traded funds), hedge funds, and all the rest ....ultimately ending in less investment banking profits and perhaps another financial collapse. 

By a similar line of perverse Pareto reasoning, it made more sense for the impoverished billions in the third world to breathe filthy, polluted air than clean air. The reason is obvious: it is inefficient because if they had to pay for it, they couldn't afford it. By the same token, it makes more sense to dump the toxic wastes from advanced nations in poor nations than vice versa, because the same reasons apply: the 3rd worlders would never be able to afford their own clean up costs, so what's an extra five million gigatonnes of waste in the overall scheme of things?

Hence, from this "Libertarian-ish" style of bunkum it is not surprising that a Prof named Walter Block could spring, though I'm amazed he's at Loyola- where I studied in the 1960s (before transferring to Univ. of South Florida, where I could do astronomy with some of the best names in the discipline - including Heinrich Eichhorn, Sabatino Sofia and James Hunter).

According to a  Jan. 26 New York Times Sunday Review article on the 'Rand Paul Political Brand', Block actually had stated that "slavery wasn't so bad" - taking up the long standing libbie trope that, after all, the blacks were cared for, got their 3 squares a day and some time off (Sundays) and so long as they behaved themselves they weren't flogged by the overseer. (Block ought to be forced like 'Alex' - the character of 'Clockwork Orange' - to be strapped to a seat with his eyelids fixed in place and forced to watch the whipping scenes from '12 Years a Slave' in an endless loop for at least a day)

That may cure him of his delusions, but maybe not. Most hard core libertarians are so detached from reality that they inhabit a land of delusion of their own. (In one argument some three years ago, one actually argued that the gov't had no business interfering to interject civil rights legislation, and if the blacks really wanted it they ought to have struggled on their own to achieve it.)

In a similar kind of vein, Block - in an interview response to the author of the Times piece (p.21) observed that in the 1960s:

"Woolworth's had lunchroom counters and no blacks were allowed. Did they have a right to do that? Yes, they did! No one is compelled to associate with people against their will."

But consider the consequences if this bat shit crazy meme was extended willy-nilly so that anyone could apply it. Pharmacies could refuse serving people they regarded as 'misfits'  - say denying birth control pills to young, single women or not even permitting blacks to cross the doorway.

Owners of football teams could decide that they want no Jews, blacks, or gays entering their stadiums and they might put that into place. Private hospitals -operating as businesses - might decide that they want no blacks, Jews or gays on their premises either. Restaurants would feel free to bar anyone they think is marginal, including those who look like 'thugs' - or  whoever doesn't fit flitty criteria like hair length, or quality of dress.

In other words, you'd invite a society bordering on chaos, and don't think for a moment that  the millions of excluded folk would just sit there and take it! It is no wonder that Block describes himself as an "anarcho-capitalist".    No surprise that Block's ideas were hatched from the "Austrian School" of Friedrich von Hayek. See below:


















Recall that von Hayek's austerity solutions led to the collapse of the Weimar Republic and the rise of Nazism.  The Wehrmacht soldiers I met in May, 1985, all agreed that Hitler would have had little chance to attain the Chancellorship had austerity measures not been implemented in the late 1920s - such that most people had to beg, borrow or steal just to get bread or feed their infants. Hitler offered a promise of plenty for all, via his concept of  Lebensraum - or expanded living space. Of course, these riches would come at the expense of other nations taken over by the Nazi expansion of the Third Reich!

Today, the seeds of this aberrant thinking remain, as voting rights laws are gutted state by state and even portions of the civil rights bill are placed in peril. Meanwhile, billionaires like Peter G. Peterson want to impose austerity via cuts to Social Security and Medicare, so he and his wealthy pals - like Tim Perkins -  can live high off the hog, buying up 18 giant yachts instead of 2 and fifty giant residences from Curacao to Monaco while homeless citizens have nada.

To the extent we let these fools succeed, we will all regret it, and the decline of our nation will be accelerated.

To read some of the reactions of the Loyola community to Block's bollocks, go to:
http://www.loyolamaroon.com/search-1.2265630?q=%22Walter+Block%22

4 comments:

Verrucca said...

Hi there. I saw that you don't have a lot of comments, so I thought I'd try to fix that.

So, first off, you have been deceived. The New York Times grossly misrepresented Block's position. To state is simply, his point was that, regardless of living conditions, to be treated as property, without the control over one's own body, was what made slavery horrible. Slavery as it existed, absent the coercion, would simply have been a job.

Block's point about the lunch counter is a bit more subtle. If it is morally wrong to force someone to work for you against their will, how is it any less wrong to force someone else to trade with another against their will? I'm sure you will disagree on this point, but it is really about extending the same freedom to everyone, even if they choose to use that freedom in ways that you do not approve of.

Blaming Hayek for Germany's severe recession in 1930 is a peculiar non sequitur. Germany was in an untenable financial situation at this point. It had defaulted multiple times on its reparations, gone through three years of hyperinflation and was rapidly accruing foreign debt. The cutbacks undertaken by Brüning were a bid to reduce government spending to the point that it could make good on its obligations. It was not, as you suggest, some kind of misguided policy to promote growth. This was the Great Depression. Whatever happened for the next few years, it was gonna suck.

Your final paragraphs constitute another non sequitur. The ability or inability to gain traction over our massive government apparatus through voting rights is not a virtue to a libertarian. Rather, the size of government itself is the problem. You are right to point out the injustice that the rich are afforded such privileges, but it is privilege granted by regulations that crush competition, allowing big firms to thrive at the expense of the small. It is a government whose welfare state serves little purpose but to keep a population dependent.

Listen, I have a lot of sympathy for liberal views, but liberal policy in practice is characterized by a complete lack of understanding that the economy is not a series of levers and pulleys that the government can manipulate. Freedom and equality have to come from the bottom up, not top down, or it is just another flavor of tyranny.

Copernicus said...

Verrucca wrote:

"Slavery as it existed, absent the coercion, would simply have been a job."


Reply: Slavery in the South could never have been "just a job" given the formidable aspect of degradation (physical and mental) that was part and parcel of it. In other words, contrary to lots of twaddle there were no "noble slave owners" - all engaged in predatory rape of their female slaves and resorted to the use of flogging on the slightest pretext.

Don't even think this approached a "job" or that slavery could be cleanly separated from the debasing aspect.
--------------

"Block's point about the lunch counter is a bit more subtle. If it is morally wrong to force someone to work for you against their will, how is it any less wrong to force someone else to trade with another against their will? I'm sure you will disagree on this point, but it is really about extending the same freedom to everyone, even if they choose to use that freedom in ways that you do not approve of."

Nonsense! The restaurateur or trader is afforded certain privileges (via a licensing) to trade or provide services (such as food) in the public domain. Hence, the so called "freedom" is limited to do whatever they want - and hence that can't include refusal of service unless there are extenuating circumstances, i.e. the customers enter drunk and disorderly. The trader doesn't have the latitude to refuse service on basis of race, skin color. Sorry!
--------

"Blaming Hayek for Germany's severe recession in 1930 is a peculiar non sequitur. Germany was in an untenable financial situation at this point."

It's not a non sequitur at all since as Konrad Heiden has noted it paved the way for the severe austerity and removal of economic support that enabled a fiend like Hitler to gain power - by promising a way out (via Lebensraum). The "untenable" position merely meant a more workable solution needed to be found to avert war. One of those suggested by Heiden was the Allied (from WWI) forgiving the war debts, reparations demanded by Versailles en masse. Then such austerity (Hayekian) wouldn't have been needed.

-----------------
"It was not, as you suggest, some kind of misguided policy to promote growth. "

I never claimed it was a misguided policy to promote growth in Germany but rather in the U.S. now, as the rebukes and their cronies continue to cut social programs (like food stamps) or demand cuts to Social security, Medicare.
----------------

"Your final paragraphs constitute another non sequitur. The ability or inability to gain traction over our massive government apparatus through voting rights is not a virtue to a libertarian. Rather, the size of government itself is the problem."

The "size of government" is essential to weigh in behind citizens deprived of their rights, e.g. voting, so long as a vast array of private and other interests (as well as political party - e.g. Repukes) are arrayed against them and seek to suppress those rights.

When we get to the phase an entire political party isn't dedicated to eviscerating rights we can perhaps discuss limiting the size of gov't. We also need a much more powerful IRS to be able to audit and go after the fat cats with accounts in Switzerland.
------------------

"It is a government whose welfare state serves little purpose but to keep a population dependent."


Nonsense and balderdash. Whatever "welfare state" exists is again- essential- if corporations will not create adequate jobs and just sit on their loot. It is not a matter of creating "dependence" but rather a measure of counter support to balance the massive corporate socialism in abundance.

On that note this issue - now over three months old- is closed.

I thank you for your 0.02!

Copernicus said...

One more point pertaining to the paucity of comments (actually there are a total of 847, but still relatively small for the number of posts)

This is to be expected for an eclectic blog which deals with a number of different topics, including astrophysics, advanced math, theology, economics and politics. In other words, the typical set of followers - or readers - won't be versed in all these differing areas so will only tend to respond to the ones they know.

Even then, if one is basically "preaching to the choir" in terms of topic (say liberalism to political liberals) one would not expect many comments. What would they say? 'I agree!'

The only ones would generally come from oppositional voices - hence yours for this post (or Pastor Mike's for the religious ones)

Copernicus said...

To Verrucca's hubby:

Once more this issue is CLOSED. As I pointed out no more comments are accepted!