With a Leftist
by Walter Block: Austrian
Thymologists Who Predicted the Housing†Bubble
(aka Don Trent Jacobs) and Walter E. Block. 2010. Differing
Worldviews in Higher Education: Two Scholars Argue Cooperatively
about Justice Education
I first became aware of Don Four Arrows Jacobs when he emailed me.
He invited me to co-author a book with him where we would "cooperatively
argue" with each other, on a host of subjects, each of us defending
his own view. He claimed his view was "left-wing" and
seemed to assume mine was "right-wing. My first thought was
that this guy was some sort of weirdo, who didnít do his homework.
Didnít he know that I opposed right-wing conservatives as much as
I did left-wing liberals? My second thought was to Google him. If
he was some sort of nut, Iíd have nothing to do with him. If he
didnít have a track record sufficient for me to find him on the
web, I could pretty much dismiss him with a polite letter.
To say that
I was surprised with what I found about Four Arrows on the web would
be a vast understatement. He was all over the place, with numerous
publications to his credit. He was a professor at a graduate school.
An American Indian activist, he was also a world-class athlete (U.S.
alternative on the equestrian team). Instead of dismissing him and
his offer of co-authorship out of hand, I decided to pursue the
matter with him.
I had to settle two issues with him. One, I was not a conservative,
I am a libertarian; it took him a while to get this, but he certainly
did. And, second, what was with this "cooperatively arguing"
business? My mode in debate is to kick, claw and scratch, aiming
for the crotch and the neck; no Marquis of Queensbury rules for
me. He explained this to me as an attempt to really delve deeply
into the othersí positions, and to try to see if there could be
any common ground. If not, not, but, at least we should try this.
Intrigued, I agreed to pursue this matter with him. The result of
our collaborative efforts is this book.
process was a fascinating one for me. After agreeing on the subject
matter to be covered (this changed a few times as we got to know
each other) we evolved upon a modus operandi: we would alternate
beginning and ending each chapter. We would send each other statements
on the topic of the day, well, of the week, continuing to interpose
our views with each other, until neither of us had anything more
I found his
work to be uneven. On the one hand, he couldnít spell worth a damn
(well, neither can I, but my spell check, I think, works better
than his), he had run on sentences galore, and sometimes I found
a few sentences that were almost intelligible (evidence of his writing
while on the run). On the other hand, even though we donít agree
on much in the book (our views are very congruent on foreign policy
and U.S. imperialism, and what a great hero Julian Assange is; but
these topics do not appear in the book; we confined our writing
to subjects on which we diverge), I found his writing to be brilliant
and incisive. As you will see when reading it, there were several
places where he forced me to reconsider my opinions, and, indeed,
to change them. As well, I also, at times, felt that I "had"
him; that, surely, seeing my most recent brilliant contribution,
he would convert, on the spot, to libertarianism. I was of two minds
about that prospect. On the positive side, it would be wonderful
to have so eloquent an addition to the stable of libertarian spokesmen
as Four Arrows. On the negative, that would pretty much end our
book project, as its impetus stems from our disagreements, not our
agreements. In the event, neither of us converted to the position
of the other; but, I think we both learned from each other, and
our respect for each other grew.
I was the detail
man; he, the big picture guy. This book represents his vision, not
mine. I take the lionís share of credit for the copy editing. Thanks
to me, there are far fewer typographical errors than otherwise there
would have been. I acknowledge that this book was his idea, and
that while it now reflects both our perspectives, the initiative
for it was is.
There is precedent
for this sort of collaborative effort, across ideological lines.
There was cooperation (well, at least for a while) between Congressman
Ron Paul and Senator Bernie Sanders regarding the issue of monitoring
the Fed; those two constitute strange bedfellows if ever there were
any. They are rather parallel to Four Arrows and me. I think very,
very highly of Dr. Paul, as does my co-author of Mr. Sanders. Cal
Thomas, who takes the conservative view and Bob Beckel, who takes
the liberal view, co-author a regular editorial column in USA
Today. Then, of course, there are these two books: Radosh, Ronald
and Murray N. Rothbard, eds. 1972. A
New History of Leviathan. New York: E. P. Dutton, and Polner,
Murray and Thomas E. Woods Jr. 2008. We
Who Dared to Say No to War: American Antiwar Writing from 1812 to
Now. New York, N.Y.: Basic Books. Both are co-edited by
a libertarian, Rothbard and Woods, respectively, and a leftist,
Radosh and Polner. However, these two books cover areas of foreign
policy, war and peace, on which there is broad general agreement
between the two sides. In contrast, there are sharp disagreements
between me and Four Arrows in our book Differing Worldviews in
I have not
yet to this day met Four Arrows personally, face to face, but I
feel I know him better than at least some people I see regularly.
I expect we fill finally cross paths in the physical as opposed
to the electronic dimension, when the two of us go on the lecture
tour to promote this book.
Of course, Walterís memory is sketchy at best so his memory about
my writing is not completely accurate. In fact, I often I had to
remind him what subject we were discussing before he digressed significantly
(this happened most when I had him on the run). Still, I must admit
that the bookís clean sentences and engaging flow is largely his
doing. He did not even let me use the same word twice on a page
and if I did so in a paragraph, well, he called me a fascist. Of
all the collaborative books and articles I have written with my
"left-wing liberal" colleagues, none have gone
as smoothly, responsibly or professionally as Differing Worldviews
owing to Walterís commitment to clarity and precision as to the
commitment we made about "cooperative arguing."
I still think his thinking on a number of issues to be inconsistent
at best, and dangerous at worst. The only ideas of his that I found
sensible, at least initially, were the ones on which we agreed.
(Maybe we will co-author another book about the remarkable common
ground we found in the material we wrote but did not use in this
In trying to
understand Walterís assertions that shocked my senses, I nonetheless
found his arguments often forced me to look deeply at my position,
even modifying it upon occasion.
In any case,
I think my life is a bit better for having engaged a man who I invited
to co-author with me only because I had disagreed with everything
he had written, and I think whoever reads this book will come to
a similar conclusion.
As our world
continues falling out of balance, I think it is important for the
political and philosophical polarities to at least come to terms
as Walter and I have done. I am loathe to admit it, but I think
that the idealism of Walterís free market libertarianism somehow
connects to the traditional autonomy of Indigenous non-materialistic
worldviews (this is just about the highest compliment I can give
his views). I am haunted by the possibility that Walterís anthropocentric
atheism and his love for capitalism come close to relating to Indigenous
understandings, but if we start traveling and talking more about
this with people, maybe weíll all find out.
now that we are done with the book, I challenge you to a game of
Well, since Iím old and fat, and Four Arrows is young and fit (notice
the attempted psyching out here?), I may not beat him at handball
(notice our competitiveness?), but, at least Iíve got a shot at
him in this regard. Whereas, with regard to any contest regarding
being on a horseís back, I hereby acknowledge defeat (notice how
we each vie with the other to get in the last word?) By the way,
this back and forth format is precisely the one we employ in the
Block [send him mail] is a
professor of economics at Loyola University New Orleans, and a senior
fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He is the author of Defending
the Undefendable and Labor
Economics From A Free Market Perspective. His latest book
Privatization of Roads and Highways.
© 2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
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