Are Trade Sanctions an Act of War?

From: John Lind

Sent: Tuesday, September 29, 2020 5:03 AM


Subject: Question about: The right to discriminate vs an act of war

Dear Walter Block

I have a question regarding the right to discriminate against others in trade based on collective ethnic background, such as blacks, whites, Jews, etc., and the individual’s right to participate in the free market and not be subjected to aggression.

Ron Paul is very clear that he is against collective sanctions against countries like Iran, he believes that this is an act of war on the country’s population, (its individuals) and instead wants to demand free trade between nations instead. See link.

Ron Paul: Iran Sanctions = Act of War

Shouldn’t the same analysis apply when individuals / companies have collective trade sanctions against collective groups in society? Should not this also be seen as an act of war against these groups? Is it not precisely free trade that creates peace in a society?

How can one purely pragmatically and philosophically defend that we allow collectivist behaviors that threaten accessibility in the free market?

How can it be pragmatically and philosophically defensible that the only tool one allows as a defense is to do the same thing back against those who discriminate? , namely to discriminate and boycott them as well, which we know is an act of war and against peace according to Ron Paul. Then we also participate in a behavior that encourages war and reduces the individual’s freedom on the market, which is a prerequisite for peace.

My main question is, should not the freedom of the individual to participate peacefully in trade take precedence over the right of people to commit aggressive acts against collectives that threaten the accessibility of the free market to the individual, which is fundamental to maintaining peace?

How can aggressive behavior such as sanctions in trade that can lead to violence and war override the individual’s right to participate in free trade that is a prerequisite for peace. Should we not defend peace and counter aggressive behavior that is an act of war? Is not an act of war one of the greatest threats to peace and individualism and free market, no matter who does it? And if so, should we not have the right to defend ourselves against this like any violent act, with methods that work pragmatically and that strive to use as little force as possible?


John Lind

Dear John:

I think there is a disanalogy floating around somewhere in all this.

It is one thing for a government to declare sanctions against another. The first government is willing to use violence against anyone who ignores their requirements. I think Ron Paul is exactly correct in opposing such acts. They are in effect an act of war. If govt A blockades govt B, that is a violent act.

But personal discrimination against “blacks, whites, Jews” or gays, straights, bald people, the blind, whoever, is an entirely different matter. There is no initiatory violence or threat thereof going on here. By the way, male gays discriminate against women and bed partners, love interests, lesbians do the same against men, straight males do so against other men, ditto for straight women. The only ones who do no such thing are the bi-sexuals. Must all libertarians adopt bisexuality? Of course not. Libertarianism is predicated on free association, and a synonym for that is discrimination.

Best regards,



3:54 am on March 16, 2021