Blockian Proviso Rides to the Rescue

From: I
To: Walter Block
Subject: Re: Question on Libertarianism

Dear Mr. Block, I thought about your argument and the question seems to be: If I own something, do I have to take care of it? I would say not. So just because I own a cellphone doesn’t mean I have to charge it. And just because I own a slave doesn’t mean I have to feed him/her. So why would a child be any different?
Furthermore, it seems like when Rothbard says that parents can abandon their children he doesn’t mean that as long as the parents own the child they have to feed him/her, but like any other type of property, they can abandon him/her. On the contrary, Rothbard writes in The Ethics of Liberty, page 100, that from the beginning, parents do not own their children, for if they would, “that would imply the bizarre state of affairs that a fifty-year-old adult would be subject to the absolute and unquestioned jurisdiction of his seventy-year-old parent.” So rather, Rothbard’s argument that parents should have a right to starve their children to death comes from the idea that in libertarianism there are no positive obligations, and so whether or not you own something, you are still not obligated to take care of it. Another problem I have with your argument is that it won’t work in Peter Singer’s drowning child scenario (and neither would Kinsella’s argument). So if someone would see a child drowning in a pond and there is no real risk involved in saving him/her, would the law be wrong in forcing the man to save the child? Thank you very much, I

Dear I:

I want to have my cake and eat it to. I want to uphold two claims, that seemingly contradict each other.

1. Parents may not starve their children; if they no longer want to feed them, that’s ok: but they must then bring them to a hospital, an orphanage, a synagogue, a church, something like that where others will take care of the child (only if no one in the entire world wants to take them on may they legitimately be allowed to die).

2. There are no positive obligations in libertarianism.

I’ve tried to solve this, reach this goal, with my writings on abortion, abandonment, homesteading land in the donut, or bagel formet (leaving virgin land empty) in the middle of one’s homesteaded holdings. Here are my publications on this below.

Stephan Kinsella was kind enough to call what I’ve done the “Blockian proviso,” but he rejects my analysis. See my attempt to refute him, see this:

Block, Walter E. 2016. “Forestalling, positive obligations and the Lockean and Blockian provisos: Rejoinder to Stephan Kinsella.” Ekonomia Wroclaw Economic Review.


Block, Walter E. 2015. “Expiration of private property rights.” The Journal of Philosophical Economics. Vol. VIII, Issue 2, Spring;;

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. and Peter Lothian Nelson. 2015. Water Capitalism: Privatize Oceans, Rivers, Lakes, and Aquifers Too. New York City, N.Y.: Lexington Books; Rowman and Littlefield; (ch. 5 on abandonment)


Block, 1977, 1978, 2001, 2004, 2008, 2010A, 2011, 2012, 2014A, 2014B; Block and Whitehead, 2005; Dyke and Block, 2011

Block, Walter E. 1977. “Toward a Libertarian Theory of Abortion.” The Libertarian Forum. Vol. 10, No. 9, September, pp. 6-8;

Block, Walter E. Undated (1997?). “L’Aborto: Una Legittima Difesa,” Claustrofobia, anno 1, n. 3, pp. 16-22.

Block, Walter E. 1978. “Abortion, Woman and Fetus: Rights in Conflict?” Reason, Vol. 9, No. 12, April, pp. 18-25.

Block, Walter E. 2001. “Stem Cell Research: The Libertarian Compromise.” September 3;

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. 2008. “Homesteading, ad coelum, owning views and forestalling.” The Social Sciences. Vol. 3, No. 2, pp. 96-103;

Block, Walter E. 2014A. “Evictionism and Libertarianism.” Journal of Medicine and Philosophy. Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 290-294;;

Block, Walter E. 2010B. “A libertarian perspective on the stem cell debate: compromising the uncompromisible,” Journal of Medicine and Philosophy. Vol. 35: 429-448;
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Block, Walter E. 2011A. “Terri Schiavo: A Libertarian Analysis” Journal of Libertarian Studies; Vol. 22, pp. 527–536;;

Block, Walter E. 2013. “Toward a libertarian theory of evictionism,” Journal of Family and Economic Issues. June;

Block, Walter E. 2014A. “Should abortion be criminalized? Rejoinder to Akers, Davies and Shaffer on Abortion” Management Education Science Technology (MEST) Journal. Vol. 2, No. 1, January, pp. 33-44;;

Block, Walter E. and Roy Whitehead. 2005. “Compromising the Uncompromisable: A Private Property Rights Approach to Resolving the Abortion Controversy,” Appalachian Law Review, 4 (2) 1-45;;;

Dyke, Jeremiah and Walter E. Block. 2011. “Explorations in Property Rights: Conjoined Twins.” Libertarian Papers, Vol. 3, Art. 38;

Block, Walter E. 2012. “A Not So Funny Thing Happened to Me in Tampa.” August 30;

Read at least some of this and tell me whether and if so why you think I’ve failed in this quest. Then, I can respond to your objections.

Best regards,



9:12 pm on September 12, 2017