My Favorite Atlas Shrugged Character: Ragnar Danneskjold!

Dear Jon:

Nice try. But, I think there’s a disanalogy. In my case, both acts are Ragnars’.

In your case, you’ve got two different people acting.

Is that sufficient to deflect your brilliant criticism? I’m not sure. I’ll have to think about it.

I still remember fondly when I introduced libertarian class analysis at one of my courses, and you blew up at me. We always had fun on these sorts of things, and, happily, still do. I’m glad you’re staying in touch. I still have hopes that one day you’ll get your phd and become my junior colleague.

Best regards,

Walter

From: jonnyl21

Sent: Thursday, November 12, 2020 4:22 PM

To: Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu>

Subject: Ragnar, Apples, and Proving too Much

Walter,

Regarding a libertarian taking money from the government, you have written in various places about your two-stage analysis.  For example, “…Ragnar’s behavior constituted a double or two-stage act. First, he grabbed gold from the government; then, and only then, did he return it to Hank. But, if a double act is to be licit, then each and every part of it must be, too.” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/defending-the-undefendable/201205/may-libertarian-take-money-the-government)

Your argument may prove too much.  Consider the following.  It is lawful for Alan to give money to Bill in exchange for an apple.  It is also lawful for Bill, after having received the money from Alan, to give an apple in return.  According to my reading of your two-stage analysis, each stage of this double act is licit.  Therefore, it would be licit for Bill to receive Alan’s money and then never hand over the apple.  But this is fraud.

How does this apply to the original question?  In your analysis of Ragnar, you argued that since it is legitimate to take money from the government and return it to the taxpayer-victim, it is therefore legitimate to take money from the government without then returning it to the taxpayer-victim.

But perhaps the legitimacy of Ragnar’s first stage depends on the completion of the second stage (return to taxpayer-victim).  In other words, your argument begs the question, assuming the very premise that needs to be demonstrated.

Here I have accused you of proving too much, and begging the question.  Care to defend your argument by detecting flaws in mine?

Jonathan

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3:36 am on April 3, 2021