He Gets Letters

Replies to Readers


I usually get a lot of responses to my columns on LewRockwell.com. Most times, 50 or so; however, sometimes I receive into the 300 range in this regard. I try to answer all letters (except the really vicious ones). Please excuse me, though, if, sometimes, I do not give your very excellent replies the full responses they really deserve.

Every once in a while some letters are sent to me that, along with my answers, might be of interest to a general (well, Austro-libertarian oriented) audience, such as those who avidly follow LewRockwell.com, as I do. (Indeed, if I do not get my almost daily "fix" of LRC, I am even more irritable than ordinarily so.)

In any case, I thought I would share two recent missives with you, along with my reaction to them. Here goes.

I. Ex student

This one is from an ex student of mine. He is one of the most brilliant students I have ever had, anywhere, in some 4 decades at university. Yet, this young man teaches in a high school, to the great loss of education in particular and liberty in general. He writes as follows:

Dear Walter,

I’m sorry I missed the get-together in August.  How are things with you?  Do you have a fresh batch of seniors this semester, or are you just doing research?  For my own part, school has hit me like a stack of bricks.  I am teaching four classes and have three preps, but I have some terrific kids.  

I read an Economist article yesterday praising the government for bailing out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and was shocked that such an august publication could be so short-sighted.  I talked about it with my liberal girlfriend and for the first time admitted the extent of my libertarian sympathies.  She cried when I said I didn’t think people had a right to food.  What does one do?  I am very tight-lipped about politics for exactly this reason.  

Hope all is well, Signed X

Dear X:

I’m doing both: research, and trying to help promote my students’ careers (speaking of which, when are you going to get your PhD and teach at university level, you rotten kid?)

Maybe, tell your girlfriend that ceteris paribus, more people, paradoxically, actually starve in societies where they believe in rights to food than where they don’t. Ask which is more important to her: people having rights to food plus having little or no food, or, no rights to food, but plenty of food. Or, get another girlfriend? They don’t call me Walter "Advice to the Lovelorn" Block, for nothing. Or, maybe, I should change my name to Aunt Walter?

Is it okay to use this material for a column I’m going to write? I certainly won’t mention your name.

Best regards, Walter

Some further thoughts on this correspondence. There is no better place to access the Austro-libertarian view on Fannie and Freddie than the Mises web. While other so-called "free enterprise" think tanks are taking the position that this plethora of government bailouts is "justified" or "necessary," or "required," people associated with LRC take a very clear libertarian position. My favorite on this subject, at least so far, are these two, both written by the same person. A prize to those who can guess his identity. No peeking!

There is nothing wrong with teaching in a high school. I’m sure that the kids instructed by this former student of mine will be all the better for it. But, I have not had a brighter student, a more articulate one, a better writer, than this young man. His high school’s gain is a loss to the cause of liberty, given that he could do so much more at a university, particularly at a graduate school.

As to Aunt Walter’s advice to the lovelorn, it is tough to be a young male libertarian. At most gatherings where they frequent, the male—female ratio is about ten or twenty to one. For example, at the recent Mises University (look at the picture; see how many women you can find), my estimate is that there were almost 200 students; about 15 or so of them were female. (Hint for young ladies: a word to the wise is sufficient.) Nor is this merely a modern problem for male libertarians. Things have always been this way; I can attest to this, at least from 1962, when I first became a libertarian.

What to do? Well, get a non-libertarian girlfriend. Now what? Keep quiet about one of the most important things in your life? Well, engineers, computer nerds, physicists, mathematicians, etc., do not share their technical lives with their wives or girlfriends. Of course, libertarianism is different. It is the rare BBQ, dinner party or PTA meeting where such narrow scientific issues are discussed. But the state of the union, unemployment, foreign policy, elections, feminism, environmentalism, discrimination, etc., are usually at the tip of everyone’s tongue, and libertarians have passionately strong views on all of them. Three hints: one, keep dating until you find someone who can tolerate your views without crying or screaming at you. This girl need not be a libertarian; mere toleration is quite enough; hey, more than enough. Two, engage in a do-it-yourself project: try to convert your date to the one true faith. Three, don’t awfulize about your failures. Instead, keep trying. If at first you don’t succeed… As an aid, read this book.

II. Over the transom

Here is the second letter I now wish to share with you. I don’t know this person at all, but, hopefully, this exchange between us will be of interest to you. This letter was originally sent to Lew Rockwell, but Lew asked me to address it.

From: Llewellyn Rockwell Sent: Sun 9/14/2008 2:54 PM

To: Walter Block Subject: Fwd: Civil Service

Sounds like he needs a Blockian response…

From: Walter Block Sent: Mon 9/15/2008 6:44 PM

To: Lew Rockwell Cc: Christopher Cambra Subject: RE: Civil Service

Mr. Rockwell, I am a 22-year-old political science major at the University of Massachusetts. Many of my socialist teachers call me a hypocrite for being anti-state yet attending a state school, yet I consider myself a good capitalist for taking advantage of the inherent inefficiencies of government. Either way I do what I can to be the best libertarian I can be. I read your blog everyday and listen to your podcasts, I volunteered for Dr. Paul on the ground in New Hampshire last January. The more I read your blog and other libertarian writings, especially those of Dr. Murray Rothbard, the more I realize not only am I a libertarian but I was born a libertarian. My question to you or to any libertarian theorists is about the possibility and implications of an upcoming draft. The idea of serving the state goes against nearly all libertarian principles especially the non-aggression axiom, however I also feel urged to follow the laws of the land even if I disagree with them. I know Dr. Paul has recently advocated acts of non-violent protest, but I also know during the Korean War he served in the military, as did my own grandfather. Are there any other libertarian writings about the responsibility of the individual during a time of the draft? I apologize for being verbose. Especially if this has already been addressed on your blog. Thank You.

Christopher Cambra.

Dear Christopher:

As you can see, Lew Rockwell asked me to respond to your letter.

With regard to the first item, I entirely agree with you. I think you are fully justified in going to a state school, and, also, walking on state streets, riding on government highways, using US currency, mailing letters, borrowing books from statist libraries, etc. I’ve written a bit on this, see here, here, here and here. Maybe start with Ron Paul and matching funds, then go to Arakaky. Please read these, and if you have any questions, responses, do share them with me.

As for hypocrisy, if you don’t mind failing your courses, ask your pinko professors if they have a car, house, tennis racket, golf clubs, television, computer, etc., and how they square these possessions with their crappy egalitarianism. Better yet, shut up, get your degree, get a PhD, become a libertarian professor, and join those of us who are dedicating their lives to opposing commie profs, among others. Do attend a Mises event; you’ll be among friends.

As to the second, here is a paper I wrote quite a while ago on libertarianism and the draft, attacking Milton Friedman for his support of the voluntary military. It is not exactly on point re your query, but you might find it to be of interest.

Best regards, Walter E. Block, Ph.D.

Further thoughts. I wish I had recommended, in addition, some of the many publications by Laurence M. Vance on war, the draft, and the moral or proper (e.g., libertarian) reaction to them.

I now notice, reading both of these responses of mine a short time after I first wrote them, that I am encouraging both of these young men to become professional libertarians. I think that because as I am nearing the end of my career (well, I’m 67, but I’m a young 67; I don’t look a day older than 66), I want to ensure that the baton that was in effect handed on to people of my generation by the likes of Mises, Rothbard, Hayek, and many, many others, continues to be carried. There are very few things more precious than liberty, and all of them are greatly enhanced by liberty. What could be a more satisfying career for someone who shares our views? Hayek and Mises are reputed to have said that they expected the libertarian movement would end with their passing. Happily, this did not occur. Far from it, judging from the quantity and quality of young people associated with the Mises Institute. But, if some is good, more is better. Let’s everyone get off their rear ends and promote liberty!

Walter Block Archives