Legally Obliged to Purchase the Car? No.

From: R
Sent: Wednesday, June 13, 2018 10:09 PM
To: Walter Block
Subject: contract

Hi Walter, I looked at a new car today, negotiated a price for a trade-in, and signed some contractual papers that said I’ll pay $X for the deal, but I didn’t take the car, and I didn’t pay him. The deal was I’d pick up the car the next day. When I got home in my old car, I thought a bit and decided I’d rather not make the deal. Am I obligated to buy it–I did sign an agreement? The dealership spent hours arranging all the documents. Best wishes, R

Dear R: I think you are morally obligated to buy the car. However, I don’t say that qua libertarian, since libertarianism is not concerned with morality, only with just law. I don’t think you are legally obligated to do so, at least not under Rothbardian libertarian law, to which I subscribe. You are not legally obligated to do so, until money, collateral, has changed hands, which has not yet occurred. Rather, your signature amounts to a promise to buy the car, a moral obligation, but not a legal one. You are legally obliged not to steal. So, for example, if you drive the dealer’s car off the lot and your check bounces, or, you pay him but he refuses to turn over the automobile, then there is a violation of property rights, e.g., theft. Best regards, Walter


4:50 pm on July 7, 2018