Should libertarians Support Trade with Dictatorships?

From: N
Sent: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 3:32 PM
Subject: Thank you for teaching me that I am not a libertarian!

I spent months trying to convince a friend that you were no libertarian. Libertarians care about liberty. They would never want to enslave anyone. Or help anyone enslave others. Real libertarians would never support a company that buys cocoa from slavers who cut open the feet of runaways.

But you do. And you were told in email that slavery was a problem in cocoa. And that fair trade was trying to fight it. And you still stood by your anti fair trade article. And therefore you are not a libertarian.

And then I realized I could not find anyone who agreed with me that you were not a libertarian. That libertarians could never support slavery on purpose. I was alone in thinking these things.

So I guess my friend was right and I was wrong. Libertarians can support slavery. On purpose.

I guess you only want liberty for yourself. Just like they say.

But if you are a libertarian then I am not. I care about the liberty of people in Africa too. Not just my own.

I won’t vote for Gary Johnson again. Maybe he does not support slavery. But maybe he does. I just don’t know anymore.

I should have just stayed out of politics. Except single issues I actually care about a lot. But there probably are no presidential candidates worth voting for.

So thank you for helping me learn more about myself. If anyone asks, I will not tell them I am a libertarian. Because I’m not. I’m against slavery. Unlike you.

Dear N:

Your major premise is that free trade with slave masters will necessarily hurt the slaves. This is an empirical issue. What’s your evidence for your contention? Did trade with the USSR, China, help or hurt the people enslaved by these governments? You seem so sure it hurt. Why? Are you even aware of arguments to the contrary?

Using your “logic” I can conclude that you (and me too) favor murder. Major premise: The US govt murders innocent people; hit is hard to deny this. Minor premise you (and me too) “trade” with the US govt. You, and me too, pay taxes to them buy stuff from them (mail services, drivers licenses, etc). Conclusion, we’re both supporters of murder. The point is, we all engage in commercial interaction with a murderous institution, the US government. We use their roads, parks, currency, even though we do not have to (we could become hermits, commit suicide, limit ourselves to barter). If it is justified for us to do this, the same conclusion follows for trading with countries like North Korea, Cuba, USSR, China, etc.

If I really supported slavery, why would I have a long paper trail favoring reparations for the grandchildren of slaves:

Alston and Block, 2007; Block, 1993, 2001, 2002; Block and Yeatts, 1999-2000

Alston, Wilton D. and Walter E. Block. 2007. “Reparations, Once Again.” Human Rights Review, Vol. 9, No. 3, September, pp. 379-392;

Block, Walter E. 1993. “Malcolm X,” Fraser Forum, January, pp. 18-19;

Block, Walter E. 2001. “The Moral Dimensions of Poverty, Entitlements and Theft,” The Journal of Markets and Morality, Vol. 4, No. 1, pp. 83-93;;;; Search for “Walter Block” under “Authors” here:

Block, Walter E. 2002. “On Reparations to Blacks for Slavery,” Human Rights Review, Vol. 3, No. 4, July-September, pp. 53-73;

Block, Walter E. and Guillermo Yeatts. 1999-2000. “The Economics and Ethics of Land Reform: A Critique of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace’s ‘Toward a Better Distribution of Land: The Challenge of Agrarian Reform,’” Journal of Natural Resources and Environmental Law, Vol. 15, No. 1, pp. 37-69;


4:40 pm on February 2, 2018

Political Theatre

LRC Blog

LRC Podcasts