Sent: Thursday, October 17, 2019 1:58 PM
Subject: The debate between the concepts of freedom of speech vs private property rights
Message originally sent via LinkedIn.com
Dear Professor Block:
My name is D and I am from Canada. I have watched many of your debates, interviews and presentations on YouTube.com, as well as, read your articles and comments on LewRockwell.com and Mises.org. You have played a major role in my own (continuing) education about libertarianism and the Austrian School of Economics. In addition, a few years ago, I purchased your book — “Defending the Undefendable” — which I have tried sharing with co-workers, friends and relatives. Unfortunately, I have always had the book returned to me by the next day. I guess radical Anarcho-Capitalist ideas remain verboten in a country like Canada that has become increasingly more socialist and opposed to freedom and individual liberty.
About a year ago, I watched a presentation at Jayant Bhandari’s “Capitalism and Morality” conference, by the great Doug Casey, during the summer of 2018. I enthusiastically agreed with almost everything that he said during his speech; however, I did find fault with one of his points. I would love to receive your feedback with regard to whether or not you agree with my critique of Mr. Casey’s speech.
As an example of the decline of free speech in the West, he told the story of a confrontation that occurred while he was having dinner at a Las Vegas hotel during the Freedom Fest conference. He was having dinner with a few of the conference speakers and, while having dinner, someone at his table made a sex-related joke. This caused the diners at a neighbouring table to become “triggered” and request the manager of the restaurant to move them to another (far away) table. He stated that this was an example of the decline of free speech and the increasing number of people becoming overly sensitive about being offended by others. While the latter might be true, I would not view his story as an example of the decline of free speech, but instead, the triumph of private property rights. As (arguably) the greatest libertarian of the twentieth century, Murray Rothbard, often argued, private property rights trump freedom of speech. The first amendment of the U.S. Constitution only applies to the federal government and restricts it from infringing upon the right to free speech of American citizens — on their own property. It does not apply to other private property holders (i.e. restaurant owners). Since, in the case of his anecdote, the customers at the neighbouring table had been offended by the sex-related joke, they could make a complaint since they were paying customers of the establishment. It was then up to the restaurant owner — or his or her representative in the form of the restaurant manager — to then decide on an appropriate course of action, which could have legitimately included asking the person who made the joke to leave the restaurant. The right to free speech does include the right to say whatever one wishes in someone else’s home or business. If it did, then how could — for example — one prevent a worker from swearing obscenities at his boss in his office?
I felt the same way when I heard about the removal of Marc Faber from various companies’ Board of Directors after he published some very politically incorrect remarks about the average difference in intelligence between blacks and whites. Marc Faber is someone whom I admire very much. He is a genius and a great contrarian in a world full of cowards. However, the companies that removed him from their Board of Directors were fully right to do so since their first responsibility is to maximize profits for shareholders, and not martyr themselves for any political cause. If they felt that Mr. Faber’s continued relationship with their respective companies would damage their business, and harm returns for their shareholders, they had no choice but to remove Mr. Faber because of his published opinions. Again, in the end, private property trumps freedom of speech.
Thank you, Professor Block, for taking the time to read my message to you. You have done great work — over the last five decades — spreading the cause of liberty. You have been a great educator with regard to both economics and political philosophy. Don’t slow down now as the world needs your wisdom more than ever.
On Thursday, October 17, 2019, 06:42:33 p.m. EDT, Walter Block <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Thanks for your kind words about me.
If my good friend Doug used this as an example of the decline of free speech RIGHTS in the West, then he was wrong, and I agree with your critique of this claim.
However, Doug is an excellent libertarian theoretician, and I can’t believe he said anything like that. Instead, I expect he used this as an example of the decline of OPENNESS to free speech in the West, in which case this is an excellent example, on his part.
Can you be more specific? Can you get me his EXACT words on this matter? If he erred on this, I expect it would be a mere mis-speaking, similar to a typographical error. Doug and all excellent libertarians know that, along with Murray (no “arguably” here) Rothbard, that free speech rights are predicated on property rights.
Sent: Friday, October 18, 2019 1:22 PM
To: Walter Block
Subject: Re: The debate between the concepts of freedom of speech vs private property rights
Dear Professor Block:
Thank you for your reply. I apologize for writing back to you so late; however, until this afternoon, I had not had a chance to read the messages in my inbox. I have attached with my email a link to the video of Mr. Casey’s speech at last year’s “Capitalism and Morality” conference. The entire speech is, of course, both enjoyable and informative but the comments, that are pertinent for our correspondence, begin at 34:22. Once you have listened to the speech, I would love to hear back from you, so that, you can let me know if I was wrong in my critique.
I agree with you that Murray Rothbard is the greatest libertarian of the twentieth century. I have gotten used to prefacing that statement with “arguably” because of past interactions with left-libertarians and Objectivists. The former whom I know usually point to either John Rawls or Robert Nozick as the greatest libertarian; whereas, Objectivists say that Ayn Rand is the greatest champion of liberty in the twentieth century and that libertarians copied her ideas. I admire Murray Rothbard because he put together nineteenth century radical American individualism and the Austrian School of Economics in a way that had never before been done.
Thank you, Professor Block, for taking the time to correspond with me. I wish you the best and continued good health. I hope to hear back from you soon.
I tuned in at 34:22 and listed for about 5 minutes. I didn’t hear anything untoward. At what precise point did he say something you think problematic?
Murray Rothbard is the greatest libertarian of the twentieth century? I’d say that’s true for all time, throughout history. Who do you think was a better libertarian than my man Murray, ever?
Walter3:27 am on October 31, 2019 Email Walter E. Block