Advice To An Anguished Libertarian

—–Original Message—–
From: G
Sent: Saturday, December 01, 2018 9:40 AM
To: Walter Block
Subject: ethical problem on advising government owned firms

Dear professor Block,

Thank you very much for having answered my previous question on You really gave me sound arguments that cleared my mind. I’m writing to you today because I have a decision I need to make and I don’t know if it is compatible with libertarianism.

As a matter of fact, I’m starting as an investment banker in a few months and my bank advises big clients during major transactions. Even though the majority of its clients is privately owned, some of the clients that it advises are partly owned by the state.

Now, is it unethical for me, as a radical Austro-libertarian, to advise clients where the government has a stake in them? And if they want us to advise them on acquiring other privately owned firms, should I feel guilty if I advise them to do that because it’s in their (and our bank’s) interest?

Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions and I hope this will clear my mind and enable me to spread our word more effectively.

Kind regards, G

Dear G:

Thanks for your kind words. Good luck in your decision. Your question does you honor. Only a very good libertarian would even think to ask it.

Bob Poole of Reason Magazine and I are both interested in streets and highways. I wrote many articles on this topic and also this book:

Block, Walter E. 2009. The Privatization of Roads and Highways: Human and Economic Factors; Auburn, AL: The Mises Institute;; available for free here:;;; audio:;;

Poole, too, has published widely on this topic. In addition, he often consults with government authorities, bureaucrats, politicians; I don’t (well, I wouldn’t, apart from Ron Paul and other of his persuasion). Why not? Because I don’t want to be an efficiency expert for the state. Murray Rothbard said this (in For a New Liberty, p. 49): “if you wish to know how libertarians regard the State and any of its acts, simply think of the State as a criminal band, and all of the libertarian attitudes will logically fall into place.”

It is contrary to libertarianism to aid and abet, to promote, to help, this evil institution. It is monstrous (one of Murray’s favorite words) to donate to the government money not under duress, to promote statism in any other way.

You face a fork in the road; down one path lies the one Poole has chosen; down the other, my Rothbardian path. I urge you to take mine.

There are three ways to do this. First, take the job, and, whenever you are called upon to directly or indirectly help promote statism, either decline that client, or, give the exact opposite of the advice you think correct. I fear that as a newcomer, you won’t be able to do the former, and, if you do the latter, your career might not advance in the manner you would wish it to. But, still, if you do either of these, I think taking the job would be compatible with libertarianism.

Second, take another job.

Third, If you do take this job, and do not either decline those clients, nor give the exact opposite of the advice you think correct, I have an amelioration for you: donate 1% of your salary to either the Mises Institute or to (the vehicle that has allowed us to be in touch with one another). This is not as pure a choice as the other two, but, if we take a big tent libertarian perspective on this matter, I think you can maybe, possibly, squeak by under the tent. Perhaps not fully, but the perfect is sometimes the enemy of the good.

Note, I do not say that taking money FROM the government is incompatible with libertarianism, either by accepting social security checks, or employment, enrollment, in a government enterprise (such as a public university), or using its roads, libraries, etc. Here are some of my publications on that:

Block, 1972, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009A, 2009B, 2010, 2011A, 2011B, 2011C, 2011D, 2016; Block and Arakaky, 2008, Block and Barnett, 2008, D’Amico and Block, 2007

Block, Walter E. 1972. “The Polish Ham Question.” The Libertarian Forum. June-July, Vol. 4, No. 6-7, p. 5;;;

Block, Walter E. 2002. “Accepting Government Subsidies,” Fraser Forum, February, p. 27;

Block, Walter E. 2004. “Radical Libertarianism: Applying Libertarian Principles to Dealing with the Unjust Government, Part I” Reason Papers, Vol. 27, Fall, pp. 117-133;

Block, Walter E. 2006. “Radical Libertarianism: Applying Libertarian Principles to Dealing with the Unjust Government, Part II” Reason Papers, Vol. 28, Spring, pp. 85-109;;;; (death penalty justified, net taxpayer, ruling class analysis p. 87)

Block, Walter E. 2007. “Ron Paul and Matching Funds,” October 1;

Block, Walter E. 2008. “Replies to readers” September 23; (libertarians hypocrites for using public school?)

Block, Walter E. 2009A. “Libertarian punishment theory: working for, and donating to, the state” Libertarian Papers, Vol. 1;

Block, Walter E. 2009B. “Toward a Libertarian Theory of Guilt and Punishment for the Crime of Statism” in Hulsmann, Jorg Guido and Stephan Kinsella, eds., Property, Freedom and Society: Essays in Honor of Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute, pp. 137-148;

Block, Walter E. 2010. “You are a rotten kid (rent control and libertarianism),” February 27;

Block, Walter E. 2011A. “It’s Ayn Rand Bashing Time, Once Again.” February 18;

Block, Walter E. 2011B. “May a Libertarian Take Money From the Government?” March 11;;

Block, Walter E. 2011C. “Toward a Libertarian Theory of Guilt and Punishment for the Crime of Statism,” Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 22; pp. 665-675;

Block, Walter E. 2011D. “Hoppe, Kinsella and Rothbard II on Immigration: A Critique.” Journal of Libertarian Studies; Vol. 22, pp. 593–623;

Block, Walter E. 2016. “Is It Compatible With Libertarianism to be a Banker? Yes!” September 29;

Block, Walter E. and Chris Arakaky. 2008. “Taking Government Money for Grad School?” May 23;

Block, Walter E. and William Barnett II. 2008. “Continuums” Journal Etica e Politica / Ethics & Politics, Vol. 1, pp. 151-166 June;;

D’Amico, Dan and Walter E. Block. 2007. “A Legal and Economic Analysis of Graffiti” Humanomics Vol. 23, No. 1, pp. 29-38;;;


8:00 pm on December 1, 2018