Why I Write

Why do I write, publish, engage in public speaking, teach at university, try to mentor young people? Why am I a hard working member of the Austro-libertarian movement? There are several reasons. Let me discuss them in the order of increasing importance to me.

a. To improve things

This is truly embarrassing, but my least important motivation is to improve things. Yes, I do want to improve the human condition. I am convinced that the way to do this is to promote free enterprise, Austrian economics and libertarianism. I want to leave the world a better place for those who come after me. Accordingly, I have tried to eliminate such monstrosities as the minimum wage, rent control, price ceilings and floors. I have attempted to promote the gold standard, laissez faire capitalism, and the thought of such mentors and idols of mine as Murray Rothbard, Ludwig von Mises and Ron Paul. I fear that sometimes I have been in a rut in this regard. For example, I have attacked the minimum wage law on countless occasions, well, maybe, in over two dozen separate publications. Repetitive? Yes. There are only so many ways I can level my disgust at this pernicious legislation. But my thought is that as long as this disgrace is on the law books, it is fair game for attack. I look forward in future to pulverizing it again and again.

I have also tried to shed light on the issue of abortion, on blackmail law, and general libertarian theory, with my series of books entitled Defending the Undefendable (volume II is scheduled to appear soon, and I’m now working on III and IV). One of our greatest losses of life emanates from governmental ownership of roads and streets. Some 40,000 people have perished on U.S. highways on average in the last decade. My book on this subject is an attempt to save lives. And the same goes for markets in used body parts. These are illegal, so numerous people are forced to use kidney dialysis machines, and die while awaiting transplants, while perfectly good organs go into graves unused.

b. Twist noses

Another true confession, one that again does not place me exactly in a good light. I enjoy tweaking noses, the more pompous the better. Those most deserving of the back of my intellectual hand are scholars who really should know better. Paul Krugman comes to mind immediately. However, most of my ire has not been directed at lefties, liberals, socialists or “progressives” as they now like to call themselves, such as the Nobel Prize winning New York Times yellow journalist. All too often attacking these people has seemed to me like shooting fish in a barrel. Not really much of a challenge. Instead, my targets have mainly consisted of those who have a reputation for supporting free enterprise, but who do so only half heartedly, or weakly, or inconsistently. My opponents in this regard have been intellectuals such as Milton Friedman, Ronald Coase, James Buchanan, Gary Becker, George Stigler, Friedrich Hayek and others who are widely seen as exponents of libertarianism and free enterprise. All of these people have indeed done exactly that. However, not fully, not consistently; they “leak” all over the place. They have compromised, they have prevaricated. It has seemed to me important to set the record straight in this regard; to show that these emperors are sometimes really unclothed.

I suppose I have a bit of a negative personality. Criticism comes easy to me. It is enjoyable. In this regard I have even tangled with people who I greatly admire. But here the criticism has been muted and limited, and has always to the best of my ability acknowledged that debates with people of this sort are “within the family.” I would list in this regard people such as Murray Rothbard, Ludwig von Mises, Hans Hoppe, Philipp Bagus, David Howden, Robert Murphy, Matt Machaj, Laura Davidson, Stefan Molyneux, Wendy McElroy.

c. Give something back; pay off Rothbard

I am greatly motivated by the desire to give something back to my mentors, mainly Murray N Rothbard. He is the one who has affected me the most in my professional career, and in pretty much every other aspect of my life as well. Often, when I am unsure of pretty much anything, I ask, “What would Murray have done?” It is my fondest wish that one day I will be judged to have been worthy of his friendship for me. I have not officially dedicated all of my books to him, but I have implicitly done so, by trying to be true to the path he set out for me, many years ago. When he was alive, I would often call him to ask his opinion of issues that puzzled me. After his far too early passing, I have been on my own. But, I have tried to “channel” him in the sense of trying to get into his head, think like he did, have the courage he showed, be like my role model as much as I could be. Although I am an atheist, I cannot shake the feeling that he is up there somewhere, looking down on me, hopefully rooting for me. I would like nothing more than to make him proud of me, and that thought is never too far away from me in my career as an Austro libertarian.

d. Immortality

Here is yet another unseemly characteristic to which I confess. My contributions to economics and the libertarian philosophy are my best shot at immortality. I would like to be thought of in the years, decades, alright, centuries to come. As I approach the end of my career, I realize that this is unlikely in the extreme. Yet, it is still one of my most important motivations.

e. Beauty

At last I come to a motivation about which I need not squirm. I am proud of this one, my most important motivation. Austrian economics and libertarian theory are the most beautiful things in the universe as far as I am concerned. They beat out the rainbow, the sunset, flowers, gorgeous women (ok, ok, I know I’m a pervert for adding this latter category, but I can’t help myself). I go so far as to say that Austrian economics and libertarian theory are even more beautiful than the music of Mozart, Bach, Handel, Vivaldi and Beethoven, my favorite composers, in that order. This type of economics and philosophy is more attractive than the best chess games ever played, and the most skillful sporting events, other things in which I see great beauty.

I am blessed because in my quest to make a contribution to Austrian economics and libertarian theory I too live a life of beauty. The loveliness of these perspectives pervades my life. It makes my life a joy. I am honored, I am privileged, to enjoy a life of contemplating the most beautiful things in the universe: understanding a little bit of economics, and a small amount of liberty.

The Best of Walter Block