Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Top Ron Paul Supporter Defends Slavery

Libertarian philosopher Walter Block and board member of Jews for Ron Paul, an organization I had already exposed as a fraud, makes the argument for slave ownership. Now connect this to Ron Paul's argument that the Union should have bought the South's slaves and you recognize that we're dealing with Mises school devotees who believe slavery is legal.

The underlying point of the libertarian critique is that if I own something, I can sell it (and should be allowed by law to do so). If I can’t sell it, then, and to that extent, I really don’t own it. Take my own liberty as perhaps the paradigm case of the debate over inalienability. The claim is that if I really own my liberty, then I should be free to dispose of it as I please, even if, by so doing, I end up no longer owning it…………..My thesis: No law should be enacted prohibiting or even limiting
in any way people’s rights to alienate those things they own. This is “full monte” alienability, or commodification.

Suppose that the master says to his human property, “Now that you are my slave and must obey me, give me back that $1 million I just paid for you.” At most, this example proves it was foolish to sell yourself into slavery, not that
it was wrong, illicit, or contrary to libertarianism. It would be like agreeing to work for $1 per year. Silly, perhaps, but no rights violation.

The voluntary slave agreement is not a “mere” promise. Rather, it is a bona fide contract where consideration crosses hands; when it is abrogated, theft occurs. If you pay $1 million for the right to enslave me, and I spend it, work for a week at your plantation, change my mind, escape, and the forces of law and order refuse to turn me over to you, then I have in this manner stolen that amount of money as surely as if I broke into your vault and absconded with it. [The slave owner is entitled to force the slave to return.]

3 comments:

charlie said...

Nice try, but distortion is not a way to win an argument. it's clear that Walter Block is not defending slavery as was practiced in the South. Rather, he's arguing that, in principle, a free individual should have the right to sell one's self into what could be considered "slavery" if they so choose. Obviously I don't think anyone would do so -- Block's point is merely that in a truly free society, one should be able to enter into whatever contract one chooses, so long as it doesn't involve the use of force.

Clearly slavery as practiced in the United States (and everywhere else) relied on force, as no one could claim that the Africans who were enslaved did so "voluntarily".

Of course, I'm sure you know this -- unless your ability to read is as poor as your ability (or lack thereof) to form a cogent, reasoned argument.

Sultan Knish said...

claiming that slavery has a legal basis is the first stage of an african slavery defense

the second stage would probably be to argue that most slaves actually consented to be slaves and demonstrated that by failing to revolt or escape,

that's the version i've heard in those circles

George Dance said...

I'm not going to wade through Dr. Block's whole 40 pages, so I'll go by your summary (which I'll trust here, not least because I've had several bloggers vouch for your reliability).

I'd have to disagree with Block, because what he describes is not really 'slavery' as it was practiced. It's a contractual relation that looks like slavery, but it's still a relationship between people who started with fully equal rights (otherwise they wouldn't be contracting); and the normal laws of contract apply.

That Block can't see that leads him to give two erroneous examples. In the first, Suppose that the master says to his human property, “Now that you are my slave and must obey me, give me back that $1 million I just paid for you.”

So the 'slave' gives it back; immediately the contract's voided, as there's been no exchange of considerations. The 'slave' can stay on if he wishes, but he's free to leave at any time.

Block's other example is just as wrong: If you pay $1 million for the right to enslave me, and I [...] escape, and the forces of law and order refuse to turn me over to you, then I have in this manner stolen that amount of money as surely as if I broke into your vault and absconded with it. [The slave owner is entitled to force the slave to return.]"

All that Block's 'master' would be entitled to would be his money back; he could go to court for that (plus costs). But he would not (or at the very least should not, on any libertarian understanding of law of contract) be entitled to re-enslave Block.

For those two reasons - that the Blockean 'slave' is entitled to all his civil rights, and that he cannot be compelled to be a 'slave' when he no longer consents to be one, Block's libertarian 'slavery' does nothing to justify historical slavery.



Posted by Sultan Knish at 8:52 PM