Driving to and from Jerusalem

by Walter Block and Vedran Vuk by Walter Block and Vedran Vuk


Walter Block:

Whenever I attend a Mises Institute event, invariably I will return to home base with, oh, some half dozen new ideas for articles, books, op-ed columns, etc. This most recent trip of mine was no exception in this regard. The combination of challenging formal speeches, conversations with participants over meals and during breaks is unbeatable in terms of encouraging the creative juices.

But this time things were a bit different. In addition to attending the Supporters’ Summit and discussing the presentations of other speakers’, and hearing reactions to my own, I drove from New Orleans to Auburn AL with a student and friend of mine, Vedran Vuk. He drove on the way up, I on the way back. The passenger in each case had the duty of taking notes on our conversations. Apart from a bit of gossip, ok, ok, a lot of gossip, we focused almost entirely on libertarian and Austrian ideas for new projects. Not all of these are new (in my view this shouldn’t stop us from writing about them; very few publications are entirely new), and certainly not all of these will be written about by us. We offer them to let you in on our conversation, and in case some of them will interest you, and/or inspire you to write about them.

Vedran Vuk:

Adam Smith said that whenever two businessmen meet the conversation will turn to conniving against the public. Similarly, when two Austro-libertarians get together, the conversation turns to conniving against the government and privatizing the oceans in almost no time. On this trip, I had the rare privilege of an extended conversation with Dr. Walter Block. And of course as I mentioned, the conversation leads from privatizing the ocean, sociobiology, guns, welfare, to almost any topic that shouldn’t be brought up in polite company. There is enough political incorrectness in the following ideas to make Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh look like a gay couple at a California Democratic Party rally. I hope you enjoy the ideas and can use them for articles or just some thought.

With these introductions, we are now ready to share the thoughts we had on this trip:

  1. Suppose someone owns an island. Later, the water level rises (this is a constant refrain for economists from New Orleans) and covers the island entirely. Does the owner of the (now ex) island own that part of the ocean that now covers his island? Obviously not, under present law, which thus constitutes an eminent domain taking of this island. But what about under libertarian law? Extrapolating from this point, stipulate that oceans should be privately owned, what process would be best to bring this about?

  2. How much money in total can a person below the poverty line get? Lefties always point out that TANF (temporary assistance for needy families) is very little. But the truth is that a person qualifies for multiple programs at once. Add up public housing/ section 8 vouchers, food stamps, TANF, and other programs like disability and unemployment. The number starts getting sizable.

  3. Autos are being imported into the U.S. This isn’t so clear nowadays, as it was several decades ago. At present, any given auto has parts in it from many, many nations. Nevertheless, several American companies, such as Ford, have a policy of allotting better parking lot spaces to those of their employees who drive supposedly "American" cars. Is this legitimate? Certainly. Any firm may allot parking spaces on whatever basis it wishes.

  4. Housing vouchers. In a recent issue of the Times-Picayune (New Orleans newspaper), a woman was quoted complaining that the government paid only $1100 of her $1250 a month rent. The paper further pointed out the woman’s occupation, a nurse. Later in the same issue, an article explained the huge demand for nurses and their high wage increases. However, the woman in the article claimed that she had to "scrounge" for the additional $150 dollars for rent. Has it gotten this bad that people just don’t think they should pay rent? You can educate someone from a bad neighborhood and give them a nursing degree but have you given them a permanent welfare mindset? It looks like this is a possibility, at least in this case.

  5. Tee shirts. All the hippies wear Che Geuvara, Mao, Lenin and Marx tee shirts. What about poor Hitler? Why no tee shirt in his honor? Cesar Chavez, the union leader of Mexican American farm workers also has one. For a website poking fun at Che t-shirts, visit che-mart.com. For politically incorrect and neo-con shirts, check out rightwingstuff.com.

  6. Who financed the Balkan war? There is a book called Homeland Calling on the subject which suggests that much of the money came from Croatian businessmen living in the U.S.

  7. The AMA is evil. Thanks to restrictions on entry, doctors’ salaries are in the stratosphere. This is a big element in the medical crisis.

  8. Subsidies we’d like to see. (This shows that we’re not extremists, opposed to all government subsidies.): One way tickets to Cuba for Che admirers, with a life raft for the return trip.

  9. In a rational world, Google and Wikipedia, etc., would have made libraries obsolescent, to a great degree. But, in our world, there are public libraries. They don’t go bankrupt, none of them, even if the need for them is far less than ever before. This is like the rise in the number of people who work in the department of agriculture, "servicing" fewer and fewer farmers. Google and Wikipedia may not have eaten into the business of public libraries, but we’d bet they have done so for private libraries, and also encyclopedia sales, both in the private sector. This is as it should be. Someone with a taste for statistics ought to do a paper on this.

  10. Earthlink discusses a monopoly in New Orleans. I (Vedran) heard some talk of bringing wireless internet to the whole city of New Orleans. However, these wireless services will be provided much like the monopoly style electrical companies that citizens have received for a long time. Can this type of monopoly be stopped before it is started?

  11. Consider ADD drugs like Ritalin and Adderall. Why are prescriptions required for these drugs? The only people who can get them have learning disabilities but there is extremely high illegal use of these amongst Ivy League schools. If the drugs help everyone pay attention and study, then let everyone have them. This is intellectual egalitarianism.

  12. Do trees sited near roads constitute a trespass? This is true only if roads were privately owned. You always see a cross where someone had a car accident right by a tree. You can guess what happened. The car lost control and smashed into a tree. In the market these trees would not exist. Maybe they would. We can’t say for sure. But it is profitable to cut the trees. No purpose for them being right by the road when they can bring in money.

  13. Cigarette smuggling. Supposedly, only two thirds of cigarettes exported in the world show up in imports. There is a huge profit to be made smuggling cigarettes from lower taxed to higher taxed areas. There is evidence that terrorists are using this as a funding source. Are New York and Western European liberals funding terrorists with their high cigarette taxes?

  14. Unsuccessful union strikes. Most big union strike periods did not seem to raise wages much. How can unions be responsible for raising wages in general when a lot of the time they failed to even raise their own?

  15. Martin Luther King was a plagiarist. Academia is dead set against plagiarism. There are several cases where plagiarists have been severely punished. And yet Boston University has not yet seen fit to rescind his Ph.D. degree. This is a big mystery. Ha.

  16. Donald Trump is supposed to purchase his first high rise building in New Orleans. What are the implications of this event, should it occur, for the real estate market in New Orleans?

  17. Here is a contradiction: The government has its own lotteries. And yet is regulates private gambling, presumably in the public interest. The government makes great profit on its own operations. There is no tendency for profits to fall to zero in this "industry" as there would be in any industry in the private sector.

  18. Railroad unions are evil, and have ruined railroads. Bob Poole is a self-styled efficiency expert for the government, collaborating (we use this word advisedly) with NHSTA to determine the best routes for trucks, among many other things. If he is such a great central planner, why doesn’t he advise the government to disband all railroad unions (heck, all unions period), so that those very inefficient trucks would not be able to hog up so much highway space? Or, could it be that his mandate is a very limited one? That is, he has to accept things as they are, and focus only on highways. In any case, he is a sell out.

  19. What are the ten worst unions? Everyone is always moaning and complaining about how big business is ruining the political process with its heavy contributions to politicians. But large unions, too, make big donations to politicians. In fact, one could argue that unions have more influence. Unions influence politics both through money and votes from members. Most corporations can only throw money at a candidate, but they can’t provide actual votes.

  20. Government sector unions are particularly egregious. The whole raison d’tre of (private sector) unions is that they face profit making capitalist pig types, who want to grind the workingman down into the ground. Therefore, the government must step in, and rescue the worker (pronounced woika in Brooklyn) from the clutches of business. But, government is thus the good guy. They don’t make profits; they don’t exploit anyone. How, then justify a union that strikes the good guy government? Can’t be done.

  21. Jim Cramer. Someone needs to write about this guy. He’s very popular on stocks these days. The other day he said something to the effect that Bernanke is killing the economy……yeah lets print even more money and lower interest rates.

  22. The lion is a counter example to sociobiological theory. According to the latter, the male is like cannon fodder, since the female is the biological limit on progeny (the farmer keeps 30 cows and one bull, not the other way around.) So the male goes out and hunts, and fights those who try to take over the cave. But, in the case of the lion, it is the opposite. The female does the hunting and the male sits around on his butt. Is this a true counter example? What are we missing?

  23. Another contradiction on the part of our friends on the left. They see great heterogeneity of species. If the yellow beaked bird is scarce, they want to save this species, even though there are lots of white beaked birds around, otherwise indistinguishable from the yellow beaked ones. Each and every species is precious. We must save them all, and damn the costs. However, for human beings, there is great homogeneity. We are all alike. The only reason each race, nationality, gender, is not proportionately represented in all walks of life is because of some sort of chicanery: racism, sexism, etc.

  24. Hilary is fond of saying, well, we senators had a pay raise of $30,000; therefore, we should raise the pay of the poorest people by raising the minimum wage level. She doesn’t realize there is a disanalogy here.

  25. The recent business school BBQ at Loyola University should be used as a lesson to the lefty kids who came to eat there for free. Next time we should compare this to the healthcare system. Have a flyer asking whether they enjoy the long line and how long do they think that the business school can afford free BBQ’s every day.

  26. The withholding tax. John Levendis (an economics professor at Loyola University) mentioned that a person should be able to sue the government due to the withholding tax for loss of profit during the year. The money could have been reinvested in a three month Treasury Bill for example yielding profits before April 15th.

  27. Legal positivism and Catholicism are incompatible. The former says in effect that whatever law government passes is a legitimate law. There is no higher law on the basis of which we can judge government law. Anyone who says there is, is really a "G" man (a government advocate). He is imposing his own views on law. But Catholicism does supply a vantage point (as does libertarianism) on the basis of which state made law may be judged. And yet some people espouse both: legal positivism and Catholicism; this applies, even, to an economics professor at Loyola. We’ll have to confront him with this, but he’s so slippery.

  28. Opposition to gambling casinos stems from regulations. When there are very few casinos, any new one does bring problems. But, if there were a free market in them, and they were located wherever entrepreneurs wanted to locate them, these problems would disappear. The bootlegger-Baptist connection thrives in terms of gambling as well.

  29. There are many ways to regulate drugs, that is, there are several dimensions. One is outright prohibition. Another is in terms of degree. This breaks down, further, into tax (for cigarettes) and geography (gambling, alcohol selling) where there are limits as to where firms can locate. We are pretty much all aware of the difficulties of outright prohibition. But there is less appreciation within the libertarian community that partial prohibition is also problematic. Are there other dimensions besides tax and geographical limitations? Rothbard’s Power and Market offers a categorization of intervention, which is not unrelated to this point.

  30. Here is another dimension: perceived degree of harm of banned substance or practice. For example, heroin is very bad, cocaine is bad, marijuana is only slightly bad, in the eyes of the state. Similarly, in sex, prostitution is totally evil, but strip clubs are lesser offenses.

  31. The plight of black women:

    1. why are there so many connections between white females and black males, and so few between white males and black females. This hurts black females the most, for the following other reasons:

    2. black males are vastly overrepresented, compared to their overall population, in jail and in the army

    3. black males are vastly overrepresented, compared to their overall population, in terms of dying in their teens—30s.

    4. Could this phenomenon explain a higher incidence of STDs in the black community, since there are relatively few black males compared to black females, compared to the situation that would ensue were none of the above facts correct?

  32. Posthumous publications have great merits, if you are contemplating writing about politically incorrect issues.

  33. USA Today had an article about liquor license quotas in Boston. Supposedly, there is a waiting list for liquor licenses causing devastating damage to those wanting to start a new restaurant. Businessmen are having difficult times entering a market where they are not allowed to compete fairly in respect to serving liquor.

  34. We would love to see an article interviewing about ten or so Austrian professors and discovering what they invest in. I (Vedran) had some conversations on the subject with Mark Thornton. He seems like a good place to start. Austrians talk a lot about the macro-economy. Well, where is their own investment money placed besides gold and silver?

  35. There seems to be an unnecessary amount of quarreling and underlining animosity between certain Austrian professors. This is ridiculous. There are so few Austrians out there. We don’t need to be backstabbing each other.

  36. Libertarians always advocate being armed for self-defense and for protection against a tyrannical government. However, isn’t this idea in respect to an anarchist society contradictory to the division of labor? We shouldn’t need to be able to use a gun anymore than we should be able to fix a car engine. It’s a useful skill, but it is something the division of labor can best address. A condo building with security guards takes away almost all purpose for the individuals inside to be armed.

  37. At Loyola University of New Orleans, every year there is an event called "Take Back the Night." This program is supposed to promote awareness about rape and sexual assault. Why not start a new program called, "Take Back the Night….with Guns"

  38. Note to self (Vedran): Think of expanding my Bono article

  39. More nicotine in New York cigarettes would be a market reaction. Hopefully, the cigarette Nazis will not destroy this market mechanism to serve consumers.

  40. There have been studies done in Europe observing how much heroin a person can withstand on a daily basis. If drugs were legalized, people would still have a biological limit to doing drugs. Even the most addicted and rich rock stars have a limit to daily consumption.

  41. Why the hell are drug addicts prohibited needles?! People are dying from STDs using dirty needles, and it’s not preventing anyone from abusing the drugs since almost all drugs that can be injected can be snorted or smoked.

  42. Sociobiology. Some people would argue that women are not encouraged to enter into lots of professional fields; therefore their performance on the right tail end of the Bell Curve is low. What about professions where they are encouraged? The most widely known chefs are men. The biggest fashion designers are males such as Gucci, Louis Vatton, and Calvin Klein. These men disprove the claim. They are discouraged from entering these fields. If you’re going into fashion designing, most heterosexual men will consider you a queer. Martha Stewart is one of the rare exceptions. The lead character in that movie Billy Elliot is another.

  43. Random thought. Communist countries often outperformed the US at shooting in the Olympics. We wonder why.

  44. Ford Pinto. Should every car be as safe as possible? Why not add side airbags? If some manager does not make this decision people will die. But we should let consumers decide safety. No one would be driving if everyone had to buy a Mercedes. This is done in the medical field with Mercedes doctors. Surprise, surprise! Not everyone can afford medical treatment.

  45. There is a need for some Libertarian Political Correctness. Even some well known libertarians constantly make a mistake regarding the War Against Northern Aggression. 600,000 Americans did not die during the war. 350,000 Yankees died and 250,000 Confederates died. They were separate countries, at least for a time. Only people advocating that secession was not legal would use the grouped 600,000 term. You wouldn’t call the casualties in the Mexican War all Americans just because they happen to be on the same continent.

  46. There is a certain professor at Loyola who shall remained unnamed who encourages pessimism and double majoring in finance economics, instead of economics and mathematics, which would be more helpful for graduate school in economics. We very much disagree with this. Certainly, it will not help promote liberty to send Loyola students off to Wall Street.

  47. The Minister of Propaganda for Nazi Germany, Joseph Goebbels, was at times (1943 total war speech after the fall of Stalingrad) more honest about the condition of war than our own current administration. Scary thought. Also, even amid his rabid anti-Semitic outbursts, he seemed to understand the oncoming Cold War that would arise between East and West.

  48. Threatening someone is wrong. But what of incitement? If incitement is against the law, may you arrest someone for threatening to incite a group of people against you? How direct does incitement need to be? What if you incite people against all men? What about bankers? What if you specifically say Jewish bankers? What if you say a certain person’s name? Aren’t there degrees to which one is guilty of incitement? If incitement is a violation of libertarian theory, should we put women in jail who wear mini skirts? Certainly, that’s the way many Muslims feel. That is, incited.

  49. Rothbard was all over the place, not exactly acting in accordance with the division of labor. He is thus guilty of a performative contradiction. He talked the talk of the division of labor, but he didn’t walk it. Instead, he made magnificent contributions to all sorts of fields related to liberty.

  50. Police wear uniforms to indicate that they do not intend to use their weapons for harm. Police officers out of uniform deserve no special protection compared to regular citizens. The punishment for shooting a police officer out of uniform should be the same for shooting a civilian. There can’t be special treatment if it is not obvious that the person is an officer of the law.

  51. Note to myself (Walter): Reply to dumb Maroon editorial on Marginal Productivity (The Maroon is the Loyola University student newspaper). Students should get a basic economics education under any major.

  52. There is no rhyme or reason to road building in New Orleans. There will be potholes on main streets like St. Charles Ave. but a random side street will get a whole new road. Workers are just standing around the trolley tracks barely getting anything done. Oh the inefficiency.

  53. Track down which company sold FEMA the trailers. Does anyone in this company give large political contributions? Any political connections?

  54. If people feel vote counting is corrupt, is there a lower voter turn out?

  55. Here is a new concept which explains a lot of what is now going on: the pussification of society. We owe this one to George Carlin. Too bad he isn’t a consistent libertarian. He’s great on government, but seems to think that business is per se evil.

To conclude. In rereading this, we are once again struck by how many random thoughts can strike two Austro-libertarians in 12 hours: 6 hours up to Auburn from New Orleans, and another 6 hours back. And this ignores must of what we discussed, which cannot be revealed for public consumption. This was quite a trip for us.