Voluntary Slavery

From: J
Sent: Tuesday, January 22, 2019 1:44 PM
To: wblock@loyno.edu
Subject: Morality of “slavery”

Dear Prof. Block,

I was thinking about the morality of “voluntary slavery”, and also of forced labor as compensation for crimes, and came up with this situation:

Suppose Country B invades Country A. After a long war, where the infrastructure of country A is destroyed , the invaders are finally repelled, but many B soldiers are captured in A.

Would it be moral to force the captured soldiers to work to repair the damage done at war? If yes, does this forced work covers just the damages (or maybe double damages), or should it cover as well both the human and the economic costs of the dead soldiers of country A (i.e, should the B soldiers be forced to work not only to repair the destroyed infrastructure, but also everything that the dead As would have produced in a normal life?)

Finally, does it make a difference whether the B army is a voluntary or a conscript one?

Regards, J

Dear J:

Good question. Good challenge. Thanks. The way I see matters, it matters not one whit whether the B criminals are a gang in the same country as A, or individual criminals, or members of an army. The same punishment should be meted out to them whether or not they wear a military uniform. It seems to me that the B’s have done lot’s worse than destroyed some infrastructure; they are actually murderers.

What should be the libertarian punishment for murder? To summarize: they stole a life from their victim, they owe their own life to the heirs of the victims. These heirs may do whatever they wish with the murderers, including execution, life imprisonment at hard labor (akin to justified slavery), and, also, forgiveness.

Here is some literature on that:


Block, 1999, 2002-2003, 2003A, 2003B, 2004A, 2004B, 2006, 2009A, 2009B, 2011; Block, Barnett and Callahan, 2005; Gregory and Block, 2007; Kinsella, 1996; Morris, 1968; Nozick, 1981, pp. 363-373; Olson, 1979; Rothbard, 1998, 88; Whitehead and Block, 2003

Block, Walter E. 1999. “Market Inalienability Once Again: Reply to Radin,” Thomas Jefferson Law Journal, Vol. 22, No. 1, Fall, pp. 37-88; http://www.walterblock.com/publications/market_inalienability.pdf;

Block, Walter E. 2002-2003. “Berman on Blackmail: Taking Motives Fervently,” Florida State University Business Review, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp. 57-114

Block, Walter E. 2003A. “Libertarianism vs. Objectivism; A Response to Peter Schwartz,” Reason Papers, Vol. 26, Summer, pp. 39-62

Block, Walter E. 2003B. “The Non Aggression Axiom of Libertarianism,” February 17; https://archive.lewrockwell.com/block/block26.html

(15th floor flagpole)

Block, Walter E. 2004a. Austrian Law and Economics: The Contributions of Adolf Reinach and Murray Rothbard, Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics, Vol. 7, No. 4, Winter, pp. 69-85

Block, Walter E. 2004b. “Reply to Frank van Dun’s ‘Natural Law and the Jurisprudence of Freedom,’” Journal of Libertarian Studies. Vol. 18, No. 2, Spring, pp. 65-72.

Block, Walter E. 2006. “Radical Libertarianism: Applying Libertarian Principles to Dealing with the Unjust Government, Part II” Reason Papers, Vol. 28, Spring, pp.  85-109; http://www.walterblock.com/publications/block_radical-libertarianism-rp.pdf;

Block, Walter E. 2009A. “Toward a Libertarian Theory of Guilt and Punishment for the Crime of Statism” in Hulsmann, Jorg Guido and Stephan Kinsella, eds., Property, Freedom and Society: Essays in Honor of Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute, pp. 137-148; http://mises.org/books/hulsmann-kinsella_property-freedom-society-2009.pdf

Block, Walter E. 2009B. “Libertarian punishment theory: working for, and donating to, the state” Libertarian Papers, Vol. 1; http://libertarianpapers.org/2009/17-libertarian-punishment-theory-working-for-and-donating-to-the-state/

Block, Walter E. 2011. “Rejoinder to Kinsella and Tinsley on Incitement, Causation, Aggression and Praxeology” Journal of Libertarian Studies; Vol. 22, pp. 641–664; http://mises.org/journals/jls/22_1/22_1_32.pdf

http://www.constitution.org/cb/crim_pun.htm. Beccaria’s _Of  Crimes and Punishments_

Block, Walter E., William Barnett II and Gene Callahan. 2005. “The Paradox of Coase as a Defender of Free Markets,” NYU Journal of Law & Liberty, Vol. 1, No. 3, pp. 1075-1095; http://tinyurl.com/2hbzd4

Kinsella, Stephen. 1996. “Punishment and Proportionality: the Estoppel Approach,” The Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 12, No. 1, Spring, pp. 51-74; http://www.mises.org/journals/jls/12_1/12_1_3.pdf

Morris, Herbert. 1968. “Persons and Punishment.” The Monist. Volume 52, Issue 4: October, pp. 475 – 501; http://www.law-lib.utoronto.ca/bclc/crimweb/bboard/personsandpunishment.pdf

Nozick, Robert. 1981. Philosophical Explanations, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press

Olson, Charles B. 1979. “Law in Anarchy.” Libertarian Forum. Vol. XII, No. 6, November-December, p. 4;

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

In the view of Rothbard (1998, p. 88, ft. 6): “It should be evident that our theory of proportional punishment—that people may be punished by losing their rights to the extent that they have invaded the rights of others—is frankly a retributive theory of punishment, a ‘tooth (or two teeth) for a tooth’ theory. Retribution is in bad repute among philosophers, who generally dismiss the concept quickly as ‘primitive’ or ‘barbaric’ and then race on to a discussion of the two other major theories of punishment: deterrence and rehabilitation. But simply to dismiss a concept as ‘barbaric’ can hardly suffice; after all, it is possible that in this case, the ‘barbarians’ hit on a concept that was superior to the more modern creeds.”

Whitehead, Roy and Walter E. Block. 2003. “Taking the assets of the criminal to compensate victims of violence: a legal and philosophical approach,” Wayne State University Law School Journal of Law in Society Vol. 5, No. 1, Fall, pp.229-254


3:21 am on May 2, 2019