Applied Libertarian Theory, Part 2

Letter 1

From: Sergey Fedorov

Re: question on applied Libertarian theory

Dear Professor Block,

Hope you are doing well and stay safe.

I have two questions on libertarian theory – if you have a minute to reply (or refer to your answer in a specific published article), I would be grateful.

1. You, as well as many other libertarian philosophers, explicitly oppose international usage of military force. But international arena is a sort of anarchy (self-emergent order). And we know that, assuming anarchy, division of labor will lead to specialization, including emergence of security agencies. So why is it wrong if a capable state intervenes by military force on behalf of others? (Let us ignore here any public choice and economic implications.)

To make a real-life example, what if China attacks Taiwan, and Taiwan asks for US military help? Clearly US has no obligation here, but at the same time non-intervening would mean not only violation of property rights and overriding free choice of Taiwanese people, but quite likely mass-murders.

And if we agree that international intervention for protection against violence is acceptable, specialization requires to possess military capital and technology.

2. What is your view in regard of ownership rights over kids (I refer to kids in a proper socio-biological sense, not arbitrary legal definition; say, anyone would agree that 6 year old human being is a “kid”)? Assuming a kid has at least one parent who is capable and willing to act as a parent. It is clear that a kid is not able to be fully responsible for him/herself. And historically, prior to modern era, families treated kids as a kind of property. If we do not state a proper self-ownership of a kid, who owns him/her and to what extent?

It seems intuitively clear that any direct violence against the kid is violation of NAP (unless we assume full ownership rights of parents over kids). But what about cases of deliberate carelessness that endangers a kid? For example, a kid walks into a window, parents see that and do nothing.

Two sum up, this question is twofold: a) what is the “thin” libertarian position regarding property rights here?

b) would you in principle admit that in some cases, including those not being of direct violence (physical abuse), external intervention may be justified (in anarchy, perhaps, by security agencies or by community, in the current world – by public agencies backed up by the government)?

Why I ask the second one is because many libertarians oppose vaccination – and while it is clear that vaccination for adults must be voluntary, it is not so clear in case of kids.

Yours faithfully,

Sergey Fedorov

Letter 2

Dear Sergey:

Very important questions.

1. The Lincoln Brigade from the US, Canada, elsewhere, went to Spain to fight Franco in 1936. That would be the libertarian model to save Taiwan from the possible invasion by China. The US government, if it has any legitimacy (it doesn’t) is to protect only inhabitants of that country, not those of Taiwan. Borrowing from the Franco example, invidivuals from all over the world would be free to help defend Taiwan against China. Ditto for ridding Venezuela of Maduro. No government should do that, but if private citizens did that, that would be compatible with libertarian non interventionism. The point is, the latter applies, only, to states, not individuals.

2. Parents can’t own children. But, they can own the guardianship rights to them. How do they get them, initially? By homesteading them. Typically by giving birth to them and caring for them. Also, by adopting them with the permission, maybe for payment to, the original owners of the guardianship rights. These guardianship rights can be lost by neglect or child abuse. Then, a private defense agency, or a govt if we are minarchists, would be justified in taking the kid out of the control of the parents who are abusive or neglectful.

I’ve written a bit about this. Here’s a bit of a biblio.

On vaccination:

Block, Walter E. 2013A. “Libertarianism and Compulsory Vaccinations.” January 19;

Block, Walter E. 2013B. “Forced Vaccinations.” February 4;

April 29, 2015. Marc Clair [] evictionism, Rand Paul, vaccinations; Marc Clair Editor In Chief;; (203) 558-8342; Skype is MarcMadness8780;;

February 11, 2015. Sam Seder debates Walter E. Block. The Majority Report [] The Majority Report with Sam Seder. Live M-F 12:00 NOON ET.; Ring of Fire Radio. With Sam Seder, Mike Papantonio and Bobby Kennedy Jr. Weekends.; Resolved: “laissez faire capitalism is the best system known to man”; 646-257-3920; topics: vaccinations, a reprise of our min wage discussion, your email sign off “If it moves, privatize it; if it doesn’t move, privatize it. Since everything either moves or doesn’t move, privatize everything.” and if it’s ok, a listener wanted me to ask you to explain the difference between consequentialist and deontological libertarianism;

February 11, 2015 Debate with Leftist Sam Seder on libertarianism, Non-aggression, property rights, retributions and libertarians, Native Americans, homesteading, property in America, Rand Paul and Vaccinations with Sam Seder on The Majority Report (

On children:

Block, 1976, 2003, 2004, 2011, 2013; Block and Fleischer, 2010; Evers, 1978A, 1978B; Feser, 2004; Rothbard, 1982, chapter 14.

Block, Walter E. 2008 [1976]. Defending the Undefendable. Auburn, AL: The Mises Institute;

Block, Walter E. 2003.  “Libertarianism vs. Objectivism; A Response to Peter Schwartz,” Reason Papers, Vol. 26, Summer, pp. 39-62;  Nambla, child sexuality, child abuse

Block, Walter E. 2004. “Libertarianism, Positive Obligations and Property Abandonment: Children’s Rights,” International Journal of Social Economics; Vol. 31, No. 3, pp 275-286;;

Block, Walter E. 2011. “Terri Schiavo: A Libertarian Analysis” Journal of Libertarian Studies; Vol. 22, pp. 527–536;

December 9, 2013. Debate: Walter Block and Stefan Molyneux, Freedomain Radio on spanking children. Michael DeMarco;; skype: michaelmdemarco; 716-533-2171; Video:


July 16, 2017. Vancouver, BC, Canada. Walter Block debates Tim Moen, Leader of the Canadian Libertarian Party.

Topic: Is spanking children compatible with libertarianism? Contact: Victor Pross:; or go here: Open to the public.

Block, Walter E. and Michael Fleischer. 2010. “How Would An Anarchist Society Handle Child Abuse?” October 13;

Evers, Williamson M. 1978A. “Rawls and Children.” The Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 109-114;

Evers, Williamson M. 1978B. “The Law of Omissions and Neglect of Children,” The Journal of Libertarian Studies Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 1 – 10;

Feser, Edward. 2004. “Self-Ownership, Abortion and the Rights of Children.” Journal of Libertarian Studies. Vol. 18, No. 3, Summer, pp. 91-114;

Rothbard, Murray N. 1998 [1982]. The Ethics of Liberty, New York: New York University Press.

Best regards,



2:23 am on July 8, 2020