“Defending the Indefensible”, by Walter Block: at the roots of libertarianism

Friedrich von Hayek called Walter Block's book "too strong a medicine, but one that can do good even to people who will hate it". “Defending the indefensible” is just that. A cure against collectivist thought and a faithful introduction to the libertarian idea, to protect the free market and the individual.

Throughout the book, through subtle logic and a provocative tone, Block defends all social categories that are universally despised. From the prostitute, passing through the child employer and the speculator, to the “male chauvinist”. The basis of the provocative potential of the text is articulated starting from a fundamental concept: the definition of aggression .

According to the American economist, only acts of violent aggression are to be considered harmful to human rights. Indeed, “libertarianism does not imply pacifism; it does not prohibit the use of violence in defense. Libertarian philosophy only condemns initiating violence – the use of violence against a non-violent person or against his or her property ”.

According to this logic, and taking up one of the less provocative examples that Block examines, this is why it is not possible to condemn those citizens who peacefully refuse to pay taxes: "The tax regime is contrary to the libertarian principle in that it carries out an aggression against those non-violent citizens who refuse to pay ”. The individual cannot modify or refuse the offer and "it does not make the slightest difference that the State offers goods and services in exchange for tax contributions, because the exchange (goods for tax contributions) is compulsory", therefore mandatory, as imposed by the state itself.

Block does not judge the morality of the behavior of the tax evader, the male chauvinist or the prostitute. He merely points out that the goods and services that harm the individual – smoking, alcohol, drugs, gambling, prostitution, etc. – they are produced by the market as required by its consumers. The market produces them precisely to meet the needs of each of us: “Libertarianism is not a philosophy of life. It does not want to establish the boundaries between good and evil. The defense of subjects such as the prostitute, the pornographer, etc., consists in affirming that they do not initiate physical violence against non-aggressors ”.

Taking up the words of Ludwig von Mises, we could say that “the market is always innocent”. Not being endowed with morality, it limits itself to producing all those goods and services that are required by individuals. Regardless of their legitimacy or their correctness.

Also highly recommended is the afterword written in 1993 – the book was published in 1976 – where Block offers the distinction between libertarianism and libertinism.

Being libertarian is a necessary but not sufficient condition to be libertine too. A libertarian, for example, supports the legalization of drugs, but, at the same time, he can try by all means to discourage the individual from taking drugs. And so don't be libertine. In short, the libertarian is in favor of legalizing even things that are not desirable to him.

"Defending the indefensible" remains an indispensable reading. An anthem against the stereotypes widespread in society and, above all, a text in total opposition to today's wave of politically correct.

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This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Atlantico Quotidiano at the URL http://www.atlanticoquotidiano.it/recensioni/difendere-lindifendibile-di-walter-block-alle-radici-del-libertarismo/ on Sat, 01 May 2021 03:52:00 +0000.