Questions About Austro Libertarianism

A 14 letter series

Letter 1

From: Diego de Lagarde

Sent: Monday, August 24, 2020 12:27 PM

To: wblock@loyno.edu

Subject: Ethics of imposed quarantine

Dear Professor Block,

First of all, I truly hope that during these tough times you and your loved ones are doing well. This pandemic is certainly an unprecedented event and I would not want to bother you with a useless personal reflection. Nonetheless, if you were able to provide any kind of a response, I would be deeply grateful.

I am a sixteen-year-old French high school student currently living in Spain. This year, I have progressively found myself in agreement with the perspective the Austrian School offers on economics as well as the principals of libertarian political philosophy. I am finishing Hayek’s book The Road to Serfdom (of which I believe you are not a big fan) and have planned on reading your critic once I have finished the book.

In these past few weeks, I have been trying to prepare my college essays in order to apply for university in France, the UK or Canada, but it has been quite challenging as I get distracted with your online lectures organized by the Mises Institute. In other words: thank you for your entertaining and astute way of presenting and defending Austrian economics.

Nevertheless, I came across a video where you deliberate with Professor Bagus on the ethics of quarantine and had a couple of questions. I understand that your opinions on this topic might have changed, so I would appreciate it if you could update me on any change of opinions you have had.

In the video, you make a reference to the Nuremberg trial and Professor Bagus says he would put you in jail up for locking up (or kidnapping) infected people so that they cannot spread the virus. I think having a trial is fair, as long as it takes into account (as you mentioned) that the authority who forced confinement had good intentions. But what if it had not imposed quarantine? It could then be prosecuted for endangering the population through negligence. Who would be held accountable? The authority (may it be a politician or a private defense company) or each individual who contaminates? By analogy with a private highway that contaminates too much where you would sue the highway company, I would deduce that the authority would be sued. All in all, if the authority forces quarantine on people it can be sued for kidnapping and if it does not it can be sued for murder (although involuntary). It is similar to your antitrust joke where no matter the action that is taken, the concerned party is in deep legal trouble. So what should the authority do?

Anyway, if you have read up until here, I hope that I have not wasted your time with these few interrogations. Enjoy your week.

Sincerely,

Diego de Lagarde

Letter 2

Le lun. 24 août 2020 à 21:24, Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu> a écrit :

Dear Diego:

I will respond substantively to your questions on one condition: that you seriously consider enrolling at Loyola. Do we have a deal?

Might you be interested in enrolling at Loyola and studying with me and my free enterprise-oriented colleagues? If so, take a peek at this material:

https://www.loyno.edu/

Loyola has a high tuition; this cannot be denied. However, this Jesuit University does award scholarships, not only on a need basis. As well there is the Walter Block Scholarship, which is additional to the funds offered by Loyola: http://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2018/12/introducing-walter-e-block-scholarship.html

Further info on the WB scholarship:

Block, Walter E.  2019. “Prospective libertarian students should consider the Walter Block scholarship.” February 3;

https://www.loyolamaroon.com/10021154/showcase/opinion-prospective-libertarian-students-should-consider-the-walter-block-scholarship/;

https://www.targetliberty.com/2018/12/an-opportunity-to-study-under.html

The Walter Block Scholarship

I have been a professor of economics at Loyola since 2001. During that time, I have had numerous excellent students, who were interested in my research projects: Austrian economics and libertarian theory. I have been lucky that many of these students, while still in high school, read my publications and listened to my speeches, some in person for example at the Mises University, and others on the web. As a result, they enrolled at Loyola in order to study with me, and my half dozen fellow free enterprise professors. This might not sound like all that much, given that we have some 200 professors, but, believe me, Loyola New Orleans is a beacon of light as far as Rothbardianism and Misesianism are concerned. At next door Tulane University, with a faculty at least triple our size, there are only two professors who fit this bill. And at LSU in Baton Rouge, quadruple our size, there is not a single solitary professor who espouses such a political economic philosophy. Yes, we have numerous social justice warriors, Marxists, feminists, professors, as do virtually all universities. But, at least at Loyola, a student will be introduced to both sides of debatable issues, unlike at most universities. As well, with so many professors who appreciate economic freedom, there are many students who also do. According to research I have seen, one of the best predictors of student satisfaction is finding friends among the student body.  You will, here at Loyola.

So, if you are a student at a junior or two year university, which has no libertarian professors, and no students of this persuasion either, think of transferring to Loyola. If you are a high school student, getting ready to apply to university, consider us. If you are a parent or grandparent of a college age person, do consider suggesting that they apply for admission to Loyola, in order to study with me and my free enterprise fellow colleagues.

Just recently, a former student of mine has set up a Walter E. Block scholarship. It is worth $25,000, for the next four years, for a total of $100,000. I am now able to disburse these funds to Loyola students who demonstrate an interest in private property, free markets and limited government. Make no mistake about this, Loyola’s tuition is very high. However, my school does give generous scholarships, based on financial need, and also for other reasons. My scholarship money will be in addition to those funds, not a replacement for them. So, apply to Loyola, even if you thought our price tag was too high. With this scholarship money at my disposal, we can be financially competitive even with public universities.

This award is for students who are interested in studying the economics of free enterprise, who are supporters of the philosophy of private property rights, limited government, deregulation, free trade. Please provide me with evidence of your interest in this libertarian free market philosophy. Books you have read on this subject? Book reports on them? Term papers on this subject? Leaders of this philosophy by whom you have been influenced? As an application, please write me a letter along these lines. You can reach me at wblock@loyno.edu

Block, Walter E.  2019. “Attention High School Students.” February 6;

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2019/02/walter-e-block/attention-high-school-seniors/

Block, Walter E. 2017. “C’mon Down To New Orleans; The Water’s Fine. Enroll at Loyola University.” June 27;

https://www.lewrockwell.com/lrc-blog/cmon-new-orleans-waters-fine-enroll-loyola-university/

Loyola Economics Students Published Widely in Refereed Journals; http://www.loyno.edu/news/story/2017/7/17/3962

http://business.loyno.edu/bios/faculty?field_bio_program_filter_value=Economics

Block, Walter E.  2017. “The Best Place to Study Undergraduate Economics.” June 30; http://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2017/06/the-best-place-to-study-undergraduate.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+economicpolicyjournal%2FKpwH+%28EconomicPolicyJournal.com%29

Wenzel, Robert. 2017. Interview with Walter E. Block. “The Inside Scoop on Studying Economics at Loyola University-New Orleans” September 3;

http://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2017/09/the-inside-scoop-on-studying-economics.html

http://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2017/09/the-inside-scoop-on-studying-economics.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+economicpolicyjournal%2FKpwH+%28EconomicPolicyJournal.com%29

Block, Walter E. 2008. “Attention Students: Should You Get Your Ph.D. and Become a Professor?” June 28; https://archive.lewrockwell.com/block/block104.html (debate with Gary North) https://www.lewrockwell.com/lrc-blog/young-person-saved-from-academia/;

http://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2018/04/loyola-professor-attacks-austrian.html

Top Ten Contemporary Academics Helping The Political Right (I’m #8)

http://www.poletical.com/academics-helping-the-right.php

https://www.literature-map.com/max+stirner.html Literature map; some interesting writers

100 Most Influential Libertarians: A Newsmax/FreedomFest List (#46)

http://www.newsmax.com/BestLists/libertarians-newsmax-freedomfest/2017/06/01/id/793510/

Block, Walter E. 2018. “Scholarship Opportunity: Spring 2019 New Business Students!” December 15; https://www.lewrockwell.com/2018/12/walter-e-block/scholarship-opportunity-spring-2019-new-business-students/

Wenzel, Robert. 2018. “An Opportunity to Study Under a Libertarian Great.” December 11;

http://www.targetliberty.com/2018/12/an-opportunity-to-study-under.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TargetLiberty+%28Target+Liberty%29

Wenzel, Robert. 2018. “Introducing the Walter E. Block Scholarship.” December 11; http://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2018/12/introducing-walter-e-block-scholarship.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+economicpolicyjournal%2FKpwH+%28EconomicPolicyJournal.com%29

Our economics department: http://www.business.loyno.edu/bios/faculty?field_bio_program_filter_value=Economics

Walter E. Block is Harold E. Wirth Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics, College of Business, Loyola University New Orleans, and senior fellow at the Mises Institute. He earned his PhD in economics at Columbia University in 1972. He has taught at Rutgers, SUNY Stony Brook, Baruch CUNY, Holy Cross and the University of Central Arkansas. He is the author of more than 600 refereed articles in professional journals, two dozen books, and thousands of op eds (including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and numerous others). He lectures widely on college campuses, delivers seminars around the world and appears regularly on television and radio shows.  He is the Schlarbaum Laureate, Mises Institute, 2011; and has won the Loyola University Research Award (2005, 2008) and the Mises Institute’s Rothbard Medal of Freedom, 2005; and the Dux Academicus award, Loyola University, 2007. Prof. Block counts among his friends Ron Paul and Murray Rothbard. He was converted to libertarianism by Ayn Rand. Block is old enough to have played chess with Friedrich Hayek and once met Ludwig von Mises, and shaken his hand. Block has never washed that hand since.  So, if you shake his hand (it’s pretty dirty, but what the heck) you channel Mises.

Walter E. Block received his Ph.D. in economics from Columbia University (1972). He has worked at Canada’s Fraser Institute and taught at Rutgers University, Baruch College, The State University of New York at Stony Brook, Holy Cross College, and University of Central Arkansas. He is Senior Fellow of the Mises Institute, recipient of the Institute’s 2005 Murray N. Rothbard Medal of Freedom and the 2011 Gary G. Schlarbaum Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Cause of Liberty, and holds the Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair at Loyola University New Orleans, New Orleans, LA 70118 wblock@loyno.edu. Loyola has among the highest proportion of free-market advocates of any economics department in the country (100%). Block is the author of Defending the Undefendable (I and II) and two dozen other books on economics, as well as over 600 journal articles. His latest few books are: Property Rights: The Argument for Privatization (2019); Philosophy of Law: The Supreme Court’s Non- Use of Libertarian Law (2019); Space capitalism: the case for privatizing space travel and colonization (2018); An Austro-Libertarian Critique of Public Choice (2017); Essays in Austrian Economics (2017). But he states that his greatest claim to fame is that he was a friend of Murray Rothbard’s for almost 30 years. He also brags that he shook the hand of Ludwig von Mises.

Top Ten Contemporary Academics Helping The Political Right (#8)

http://www.poletical.com/academics-helping-the-right.php

https://www.literature-map.com/max+stirner.html Literature map; some interesting writers; I’m in the middle, to the right of Hermann Hesse, and below Bruce Lee

100 Most Influential Libertarians: A Newsmax/FreedomFest List (#46)

http://www.newsmax.com/BestLists/libertarians-newsmax-freedomfest/2017/06/01/id/793510/

Dr. Walter Block has been in the forefront of the libertarian movement for over 50 years. Lew Rockwell has transferred the title of “Mr. Libertarian” from Murray Rothbard to Walter: https://www.lewrockwell.com/2010/11/lew-rockwell/the-astounding-walter-block/. Professor Block has done 100s of youtube lectures and interviews. He is responsible for a dozen professors now spreading The Gospel According to St. Murray. He has published over 600 articles in refereed journals and law reviews, almost 30 books (including the ever-popular Defending the Undefendable), and literally 1000s of op-eds in newspapers and blogs, including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Here is what Hayek had to say about Block’s book DTU: “Looking through Defending the Undefendable made me feel that I was once more exposed to the shock therapy by which, more than fifty years ago, the late Ludwig von Mises converted me to a consistent free market position. Even now I am occasionally at first incredulous and feel that ‘this is going too far,’ but usually find in the end that you are right. Some may find it too strong a medicine, but it will still do them good even if they hate it. A real understanding of economics demands that one disabuses oneself of many dear prejudices and illusions. Popular fallacies in economics frequently express themselves in unfounded prejudices against other occupations, and in showing the falsity of these stereotypes you are doing a real service, although you will not make yourself more popular with the majority”

Block is a leading Austrian School economist and an international leader of the freedom movement. His earliest work Defending the Undefendable (first edition Fleet 1976, latest edition Mises 2008, translated in 12 languages) is now, more than 30 years later, still regarded as a classic of libertarianism. This collection of essays, which argues in behalf of societal villains as economic scapegoats based on the principles of nonaggression, forces its reader to think and to rethink his initial knee-jerk emotional responses, and to gain a new and far sounder appreciation of economic theory and of the virtues and operations of the free market economy. Block’s writing was inspired by Henry Hazlitt, the author of the most widely read economics text Economics in One Lesson. Block’s latest book is: Yes to Ron Paul and Liberty.

Block has been a fixture in the libertarian movement for some four Decades. He actually met Ludwig von Mises and F.A. Hayek, and was friends with, and mentored by, Murray Rothbard.  His contributions to academic libertarianism and to Austrian economics have been prodigious. Block’s writings continue to challenge the conventional wisdom (or ignorance) of how economics works and will retain its freshness for decades to come.  His public speaking style has been described as a combination of that of Woody Allen, Lenny Bruce and Murray Rothbard

Dr. Block has written over 600 articles for peer reviewed refereed journals, some two dozen books, and literally thousands of op eds for magazines and newspapers. Block appears widely on radio and television. He is a contributor to such scholarly journals as The Review of Austrian Economics, Journal of Libertarian Studies, The Journal of Labor Economics, and the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics. He is currently Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics, College of Business Administration, at Loyola University New Orleans.

Walter E. Block is the Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics at Loyola University New Orleans. His Ph.D. was from Columbia University. His interests include Austrian economics and libertarian theory. He has published almost 600 articles in refereed journals, 27 books, and thousands of op eds.He lectures globally at university campuses, business and civic groups. He has a series on privatization (roads, oceans and space); his most popular books are Defending the Undefendable I and II; he is now working on volume III in this series plus a libertarian analysis of abortion. His main claim to fame is that he once played chess against Friedrich Hayek and on another occasion shook the hand of Ludwig von Mises, and never washed his hand afterward. It is now pretty dirty, but if you shake his hand, you channel this hero of his.

Top Ten Contemporary Academics Helping The Political Right (#8)

http://www.poletical.com/academics-helping-the-right.php

https://www.literature-map.com/max+stirner.html Literature map; some interesting writers

100 Most Influential Libertarians: A Newsmax/FreedomFest List (#46)

http://www.newsmax.com/BestLists/libertarians-newsmax-freedomfest/2017/06/01/id/793510/

Autobiography: https://archive.lewrockwell.com/block/block21.html

https://libertarianconvention.org/speakers/walter-block/

URLs:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZfyVuSKkE0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZfyVuSKkE0

http://www.walterblock.com/media/

http://www.walterblock.com/publications

http://www.walterblock.com/

www.WalterBlock.com/publications

www.mises.org/blockhttp://mises.org/articles.aspx?AuthorId=443

http://www.mises.org/media.aspx?action=showname&ID=443

http://www.bostream.nu/lal/Walter/Johan2.html#IV

http://cba.loyno.edu/faculty/Block/index.html

http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&lr=&q=walter+block&btnG=Search

http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=Walter+Block&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en&btnG=Search

www.walterblock.com http://www.walterblock.com (Kins)

Pic: http://business.loyno.edu/faculty/wblockhttp://www.business.loyno.edu/faculty/wblock

http://business.loyno.edu/faculty/wblock

c.v.: http://www.cba.loyno.edu/faculty.html

http://www.business.loyno.edu/faculty/wblock

http://ssrn.com/author=71168

http://itunesu.mises.org/

http://mises.org/media.aspx?action=author&ID=443

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DrTsaSUFfpo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WhqTtil7Ls&feature=channel_page;

http://mises.org/multimedia/block/block-Fraser.wmv

http://mises.org/Controls/Media/MediaPlayer.aspx?Id=4044 bsll

blog posts for the Mises Institute: http://blog.mises.org/author/walter_block/

Mises Daily articles: http://mises.org/articles.aspx?AuthorId=443

scholarly articles and book on the Mises Institute website: http://mises.org/literature.aspx?action=author&ID=443

http://www.walterblock.com/media

pic: http://tinyurl.com/23br6j2;

http://www.business.loyno.edu/system/files/images/loyola-university-new-orleans-walter-block_0.jpg;

http://www.walterblock.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/walter-block.jpg

http://www.flickr.com/photos/walter1897/5015192410/

http://mises.org/articles.aspx?AuthorId=443

http://ngrams.googlelabs.com/graph?content=Walter+Block&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=0&smoothing=3

Best regards,

Walter

Letter 3

From: Diego de Lagarde

Sent: Monday, August 24, 2020 3:35 PM

To: Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu>

Subject: Re: Ethics of imposed quarantine

Professor Block,

Thank you very much for your prompt response.

We have a deal. I will do my research on Loyola University. I had not thought of US universities as an option because of their high tuition fees, so I will check the scholarships the university offers. In Spain, higher education is free, for better or, rather, for worse.

Sincerely,

Diego de Lagarde

Letter 4

Le lun. 24 août 2020 à 23:31, Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu> a écrit :

Dear Diego:

Ok. Here are your questions, comments:

In the video, you make a reference to the Nuremberg trial and Professor Bagus says he would put you in jail up for locking up (or kidnapping) infected people so that they cannot spread the virus. I think having a trial is fair, as long as it takes into account (as you mentioned) that the authority who forced confinement had good intentions. But what if it had not imposed quarantine? It could then be prosecuted for endangering the population through negligence. Who would be held accountable? The authority (may it be a politician or a private defense company) or each individual who contaminates? By analogy with a private highway that contaminates too much where you would sue the highway company, I would deduce that the authority would be sued. All in all, if the authority forces quarantine on people it can be sued for kidnapping and if it does not it can be sued for murder (although involuntary). It is similar to your antitrust joke where no matter the action that is taken, the concerned party is in deep legal trouble. So what should the authority do?

In my view, Philipp is wrong when he says that a quarantine is NEVER justified. Surely, it was justified in the case of typhoid Mary. But, whether it is justified in any other particular case, such as covid 19, is an empirical question. Does the person to be quarantined pose a threat or not. This is a very difficult question to answer.

I wrestle with it here:

Block, Walter E. and William Barnett II. 2008. “Continuums” Journal Etica e Politica / Ethics & Politics, Vol. 1, pp. 151-166, June; http://www2.units.it/~etica/http://www2.units.it/~etica/2008_1/BLOCKBARNETT.pdf

Forget about covid for a moment. I go out onto the street a start flailing my arms in all directions. Or, I drive at 100 miles per hour on the highway. Am I a threat? I think the best way to resolve that question is to privatize all roads and streets, and allow each owner to make that determination. Then, allow competition to determine which street, road owner made the best decision. No one need sue anyone, since if you go out onto the road or street, you are tied by a contract to do what the owner wants.

On street privatization:

Block, Walter E. 2009. The Privatization of Roads and Highways: Human and Economic Factors; Auburn, AL: The Mises Institute; https://store.mises.org/Privatization-of-Roads-and-Highways-Human-and-Economic-Factors-The-P581.aspxhttp://www.amazon.com/Privatization-Roads-And-Highways-Factors/dp/1279887303/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1336605800&sr=1-1; available for free here: http://mises.org/books/roads_web.pdfhttp://mises.org/daily/3416http://www.walterblock.com/wp-content/uploads/publications/radical_privatization.pdf; audio: http://store.mises.org/Privatization-of-Roads-and-Highways-Audiobook-P11005.aspxhttp://www.audible.com/pd/Business/The-Privatization-of-Roads-and-Highways-Audiobook/B0167IT18K?tag=misesinsti-20http://us1.campaign-archive1.com/?u=bf16b152ccc444bdbbcc229e4&id=6cbc90577b&e=54244ea97d;

http://www.sanfranciscoreviewofbooks.com/2017/09/book-review-privatization-of-roads-and.html

Now, return to covid. I offer the same analysis. Let the owner of the property in question make this determination. In the free society, all property would be privately owned.

No, that really doesn’t solve the problem, but it’s my initial try. Why not? Because the covid germ can hop from one property to another. I guess what I’m saying is that this depends upon the facts of the case, and we libertarians have no comparative advantage in uncovering these facts. Therefore, we ought not to take strong stances on it.

Best regards,

Walter

Letter 5

From: Diego de Lagarde

Sent: Tuesday, August 25, 2020 6:38 AM

To: Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu>

Subject: Re: Ethics of imposed quarantine

Professor Block,

The issue, I think, Austrian economics has with the COVID-19 epidemic is that it is transmitted through involuntary actions. From what I know, the Austrian School is fundamentally praxeological whereas the virus is mostly spread through reflexive behaviour (i.e. sneezing). So the way I see it, in this case, we should try to bring the behaviour to an action we can control: self-confinement.

The problem I have with letting the owners of the streets make a decision is that no one will feel a personal responsibility, they will just do what the owner of their street decides. The only difference between a State-run country and an anarchist one would then be that the authority wouldn’t be a government but a company. At least in an anarchist country/community, individuals would sign a real contract with the company (not an “implicit” one with the government). But is this delegation of responsibility to a company truly libertarian? Wouldn’t it be better if each individual were to assume their own personal responsibility?

Let’s assume for a moment that we know exactly who is contaminating who (I’ll come back to this assumption in the next paragraph). In that case, the choice could go to each individual and he/she would have to choose between self-confining or a number of other sanitary measures. But if he/she contaminates anyone, he/she would have to pay compensation to the person he/she infected. I think the compensation should be a standard monetary one, it would be too complex and time-consuming to determine a specific amount for each individual. In this case, if you get infected, you would get paid and could then use that money in case you infect one person, kind of as a “joker card”. Obviously this compensation could be waived for family or doctors (since it is their job). Moreover, patient 0 would also receive compensation from the company (scientific laboratory, the person who owns the bat that carried the disease…) responsible for the outbreak.

Coming back to my initial assumption: we know who contaminates who. Maybe if this system were to be set in place since the very beginning, it would be easier to clarify who infects who with a tree diagram. Also, I think infected people would probably think twice before going out on the street. In any case, if governments have been able to track down in numerous cases who the infected individuals have gotten in contact with, private agencies could do that instead.

I don’t know, these are just some spontaneous thoughts… maybe my assumption is too big of an “if”. Please do correct me if you feel like I have misunderstood or misinterpreted anything.

Sincerely,

Diego de Lagarde

Letter 6

Le mar. 25 août 2020 à 16:37, Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu> a écrit :

Dear Diego:

Austrian economics is a value free science, devoted to positive economics. Libertarianism is not value free, and is prescriptive, not descriptive. It is a normative discipline. The covid challenge lies entirely with the latter, not the former.

In my view as a libertarian, not an Austrian economist, the typhoid Mary case is definitive. It establishes that sometimes, it is justified to use violence (compel a quarantine) against an innocent contagious person. Whether or not this applies in the present case is an empirical issue, and, I contend, we libertarians have no comparative advantage in answering it.

Best regards,

Walter

Letter 7

From: Diego de Lagarde

Sent: Wednesday, August 26, 2020 9:05 AM

To: Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu>

Subject: Re: Ethics of imposed quarantine

Dear Professor Block,

Thank you for making clear the misconceptions and confusion I had between Austrian economics and libertarianism. I still have a lot to read and many things to learn.

I am sorry if I am missing your point, I guess I would tend to think that every person has to assume their actions and therefore it is Mary’s responsibility to self-confine. This is why I do not believe any company or authority has the right to confine her “for the common good”. However, that is what happens in a minarchist state, I would assume. What if we waited for her the contaminate someone and then confine her for that reason? This would justify violence against her and would avoid using violence against people who have a virus but do not spread it.

I guess that would be the only case in which I think the use of violence against a contagious person is justified. Forgetting about COVID for a moment, what if we imagine we had a test that could determine potential killers. Would it be justified to lock up all of these people up because they might kill someone?

Anyway, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate you taking the time to answer my e-mails. I am sure I must be making many mistakes and unreasonable assumptions, so thank you again for all your patience.

Sincerely,

Diego de Lagarde

Letter 8

On 26 Aug 2020, at 22:40, Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu> wrote:

Dear Diego:

Yes, it is Mary’s responsibility to self-confine and not spread the typhoid disease. But suppose she does not? Then, she constitutes a threat of physical violence against others.

It is the responsibility of all of us to refrain from rape, murder, theft, etc. But suppose that some of us do not. That is some of us engage in these evil crimes. Are not the rest of us entitled to use violence against them, to stop them.

Same for typhoid Mary

Best regards,

Walter

Letter 9

From: Diego de Lagarde

Sent: Wednesday, August 26, 2020 6:14 PM

To: Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu>

Subject: Re: Ethics of imposed quarantine

Dear Professor Block,

So I guess I do agree we can use violence, only in the context of self-defense. Nonetheless, I still think that we should only use it once typhoid Mary has proved she is a threat, id est by contaminating someone. Wouldn’t you agree?

We should not imprison people because a test dictates they are likely to rape, murder or commit theft (assuming such test would exist). We should only put them in prison once they have committed the harmful act. By analogy, we should only confine people once they have actually infected another individual.

Sincerely,

Diego de Lagarde

Letter 10

Le jeu. 27 août 2020 à 01:36, Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu> a écrit :

Dear Diego:

I disagree with this: “We should only put them in prison once they have committed the harmful act.”

Suppose someone is running at me with a knife yelling he’s going to kill me. Do I really have to wait until the knife pierces my body to take violent defensive action against him? Surely not.

How close to me does he have to get before I may properly shoot him in self defense?

Read this article on that:

Block, Walter E. and William Barnett II. 2008. “Continuums” Journal Etica e Politica / Ethics & Politics, Vol. 1, pp. 151-166, June; http://www2.units.it/~etica/http://www2.units.it/~etica/2008_1/BLOCKBARNETT.pdf

I hope and trust you don’t mind that I copy on this conversation my co author on that paper.

Best regards,

Walter

Letter 11

From: Diego de Lagarde

Sent: Thursday, August 27, 2020 5:22 AM

To: Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu>

Cc: William Barnett

Subject: Re: Ethics of imposed quarantine

Dear Professor Block,

I have read your article Continuums, co-authored by Professor Barnett, whom I also thank for these reflections. I find two relevant sections to the COVID situation in your article: Part II Physical invasions as well as Part III International Relations.

In Physical invasions you describe the impossibility of determining a geographical limit to determine if self-defense is justified. You arrive at the conclusion that aggression can only be determined by the context and that no single factor (such as proximity) can be used to establish a “standard” juridical response to these cases. I do agree with you.

In International Relations you use the Viet Nam war to debate whether or not the US has the right to act as a “policeman of the world”. I would conclude, as you did, that since it is not mentioned in the Constitution (and for other reasons, but that is another debate), they do not have any right to do so.

Going back to the pandemic situation, I would not illustrate it as someone chasing you down a dark alley with a knife. I believe it is much more comparable to a person walking next to you and you are not sure if what that person has in their pocket is a knife or any other object. I think this is comparable to someone coughing (during the COVID situation) next to you: in both cases, you will try to walk away, but I trust you will not shoot that person. Consequently, I think you cannot determine at the moment when or if that person is going to infect you, and, therefore have no justification to confine a contaminated person before they might infect someone.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Diego de Lagarde

Letter 12

On 27 Aug 2020, at 23:31, Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu> wrote:

Dear Diego:

You make very good points. Perhaps the situation is somewhere between these two:

someone chasing you down a dark alley with a knife

a person walking next to you and you are not sure if what that person has in their pocket is a knife or any other object

Best regards,

Walter

Letter 13

From: Diego de Lagarde

Sent: Friday, August 28, 2020 1:08 PM

To: Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu>

Cc: William Barnett

Subject: Re: Ethics of imposed quarantine

Dear Professor Block,

I truly appreciate a good discussion on politics, economy, philosophy… thank you for that. I am almost disappointed that you ended up agreeing, to a certain degree. I think this modest discussion has pushed me to see beyond what is evident. I am still striving to become a “good economist” according to Frédéric Bastiat’s definition.

Please do update me on any change of position on this. I would imagine you have more important matters to attend to, so this conversation has been a true privilege for me. I don’t believe we have fully found a solution, a better analysis will certainly be given ex post facto.

I plan on reading Economics in one lesson by Henry Hazlitt, as well as Bastiat’s original version (in French). Would you have any other recommendations? Thank you in advance.

With gratitude,

Diego de Lagarde

Letter 14

Dear Diego:

I HIGHLY recommend to you these two books:

Rothbard, Murray N. 1973. For a New Liberty, Macmillan, New York; http://www.mises.org/rothbard/newliberty.asp

Rothbard, Murray N. 1998 [1982]. The Ethics of Liberty, New York: New York University Press. http://www.mises.org/rothbard/ethics/ethics.asp

Best regards,

Walter

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3:31 am on December 6, 2020