The Evils of Slavery

From: W
Sent: Monday, February 05, 2018 2:24 PM
Subject: question on slavery

Walter, I have a student who is doing some research and writing on slavery and he is looking at it in part as a denial of rights of association. Also, like you, he points out that slavery is about stealing the labor (or at least the product of labor) of someone else. The slave is not the owner of his own labor, but rather by directing it elsewhere and using the threat of violence, the slave owner is engaged in theft. I know you have written on this subject, and I’d like to be able to direct him to some literature on it, yours included. Anyway, if you can help, I’d appreciate it. See you next month. W

From: Walter Block []
Sent: Monday, February 05, 2018 2:53 PM
To: W
Subject: RE: question on slavery

Dear W: Yes, I see slavery, in part, as theft of labor, but this hardly exhausts the full evil of that “curious institution.” Obviously, there’s quite a bit more to it than that. E.g., rapes, beatings, humiliations, etc. If slavery constituted only theft of labor, the overseer would leave the slave alone, say, after work ended at night and before it began in the morning. Of course, actual operation of this institution was not limited to this sort of “benign neglect.”

However, I don’t see “slavery … as … in part as a denial of rights of association.” In my view, the denial of the right of free association pretty much encapsulates ALL of the evils of slavery. If free association (one of the main building blocks of libertarianism) were strictly upheld, there could be no such thing as slavery, at least not as ordinarily understood. To do so we would have to ignore weird cases of “slavery” for example, where the masochist wants to be a slave to the sadist. And, also, this goes for voluntary “slavery” wherein, for example, the father agrees to become a slave in order to save the life of his child.

Here are my pubs on slavery (mainly, arguing in behalf of reparations to 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;
(David Horowitz)

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;

Best regards, Walter


2:38 pm on February 11, 2018