Well-meaning, Intelligent, Committed, Libertarians Disagree With One Another on Several Issues

Letter 1

—–Original Message—–

From: Gary Barnett

Sent: Sunday, October 11, 2020 7:44 AM

To: Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu

Subject: “Voluntary’ slavery


 I hope this finds you well.

 I only have one comment, and that is that there is no such thing as

 ‘voluntary’ slavery. That is simply a complete contradiction, and as

 you know, I do not accept any theory based on such obvious contradiction.

 Slavery is a state of one being held and owned against his will, and

 voluntary contract is based on mutual consent. Never shall the two be

 one and the same. For if any situation exists where one claims to

 agree to be a slave, he was never a slave in the first place, and if

 held by force after any conflicting contractual agreement between the

 parties was reached, that contract would necessarily be null and void.

 I am taking the time to write to you because I take this argument to

 be counterproductive, and in fact, a dangerous game based on

 inconsistent logic. Any that enter into a voluntary contract cannot be

 said to then lose all voluntary rights. If that were the case, the

 contract was flawed at the outset.

 If you argue that the contract was not fulfilled by the alleged slave,

 and that the alleged slave owner could then sue for damages or

 continued ownership, that would nullify the ‘voluntary’ slave argument

 altogether, as the situation would revert to a conclusion that was

 identical to any other voluntary contract, and not one based on true

 slavery. True slavery could never sanction any redress by the slave.

 I find this conversation troubling and without merit, for if this type

 of behavior is considered libertarian, then that is why I am no

 libertarian, and never will be. I will remain an anarchist, and always

 retain a clear vision of the truth instead of accepting any and all

 inconsistencies and open-ended contradictions.

 I know you are busy, as am I, so no reply is necessary.

 Sincerely … Gary

Letter 2

On Oct 11, 2020, at 10:37 AM, Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu wrote:

 Dear Gary:

 My son, God forbid, has a horrid disease. $10 million will cure him.

 I’m poor. I don’t have anything like that amount of money. Mr. Burns

 of the Simpsons is very rich. He’d like me to be his slave. He may

 whip me, even kill me, and he won’t be a criminal. He can make me pick

 cotton, give him econ lessons. So, he gives me the money which I turn

 over to my son’s doctors. Then I got to his plantation to be a slave

 of his. We both gain, as is per usual for all voluntary acts, at least

 ex ante. I value my son’s life more than my freedom. Mr. Burns values

 my servitude more than the money. Why can’t I call this arrangement

 voluntary slavery? It’s voluntary. We both agreed to it. It is slavery

 in every element of that concept. If I try to escape, the cops will bring me back to his plantation.

 Here are some readings on this:


 In the view of Boldrin and Levine, 2008, p. 254: “Take the case of slavery.

Why should people not be allowed to sign private contracts binding

 them to slavery? In fact economists have consistently argued against

 slavery – during the 19th century David Ricardo and John Stuart Mill

 engaged in a heated public debate with literary luminaries such as

 Charles Dickens, with the economists opposing slavery, and the literary giants arguing in favor.”

 Andersson, 2007;  Block, 1969, 1979, 1988, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003,

 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007A, 2007B, 2009A, 2009B; Boldrin and Levine,

 2008; Frederick, 2014; Kershnar, 2003; Lester, 2000; Mosquito, 2014;

 Nozick, 1974, pp. 58, 283, 331; Steiner, 1994, pp. 232-233; 2013, pp. 230-244; Thomson, 1990, pp.


 Andersson, Anna-Karin. 2007. “An alleged contradiction in Nozick’s

 entitlement theory.” Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 21, No. 3, Fall:

43–63; http://mises.org/journals/jls/21_3/21_3_3.pdf

 Block, Walter E. 1969. “Voluntary Slavery.” The Libertarian Connection, Vol.

I, No. 3, April 13, pp. 9-11.

 Block, Walter E. 1979. Book review of Nancy C. Baker, Baby Selling:

 the Scandal of Black Market Adoptions, New York: The Vanguard Press,

 1978; in Libertarian Review, January, Vol. 7, No. 12, pp. 44-45.

 Block, Walter E. 1988. “Rent-a-womb market,” Thunder Bay Ontario

 Daily; June 26.

 Block, Walter E. 1999. “Market Inalienability Once Again: Reply to Radin,”

Thomas Jefferson Law Journal, Vol. 22, No. 1, Fall, pp. 37-88;


 Block, Walter E. 2001. “Alienability, Inalienability, Paternalism and


Law: Reply to Kronman,” American Journal of Criminal Law, Vol. 28, No.

 3, Summer, pp. 351-371;


 Block, Walter E. 2002. “A Libertarian Theory of Secession and

 Slavery,” June 10; https://www.lewrockwell.com/block/block15.html;



 Block, Walter E. 2003. “Toward a Libertarian Theory of Inalienability:

 A Critique of Rothbard, Barnett, Gordon, Smith, Kinsella and Epstein,”

 Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol.17, No. 2, Spring, pp. 39-85;


 Block, Walter E. 2004. “Are Alienability and the Apriori of Argument

 Logically Incompatible?” Dialogue, Vol. 1, No. 1.


 Block, Walter E. 2005. “Ayn Rand and Austrian Economics: Two Peas in a Pod.”

The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. Vol. 6, No. 2, Spring, pp. 259-269

 Block, Walter E. 2006. “Epstein on alienation: a rejoinder”

 International Journal of Social Economics; Vol. 33, Nos. 3-4, pp.


 Block, Walter E. 2007A. “Secession,” Dialogue. No. 4; pp. 1-14;


Block, Walter E. 2007B. “Alienability: Reply to Kuflik.” Humanomics

 Vol. 23, No. 3, pp. 117-136;



Block, Walter E. 2009A. “Yes, Sell Rivers! And Make Legal Some Slave

 Contracts” The Tyee. July 25;


 Block, Walter E. 2009B. “Privatizing Rivers and Voluntary Slave Contracts”

July 27;


 Boldrin, Michele and David K. Levine. 2008. Against Intellectual Monopoly.

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press;




 Frederick, Danny. 2014. “Voluntary Slavery,” Las Torres de Lucca 4:





 Kershnar, Stephen. 2003. “A Liberal Argument for Slavery,” Journal of

 Social Philosophy, 34 (4): 510-36

 Lester, Jan Clifford. 2000. Escape from Leviathan. St. Martin’s Press.



 Mosquito, Bionic. 2014. “The Sanctity of Contract.” April 19;



 Nozick, Robert. 1974. Anarchy, State and Utopia, New York: Basic



 Steiner, Hillel. 1994. An Essay on Rights, Oxford: Blackwell



 Steiner, Hillel. 2013. “Directed Duties and Inalienable Rights.”

 Ethics 123 ( January): pp. 230–244

 Thomson, Judith Jarvis. 1990. The Realm of Rights, Cambridge, MA,

 Harvard University Press



 Barnett, 1986, 1988; Calabresi and Melamed, 1972; Epstein, 1985;

 Evers, 1977; Gordon, 1999; Kinsella, 1998-1999, 2003; Kronman, 1983;

 Kuflik, 1984, 1986; Long, 1994-1995; McConnell, 1984, 1996; Radin,

 1986, 1987; Reisman, 1996, pp. 455f., 634-636; Rothbard, 1998; Smith, 1996, 1997; Unknown, nd.

 Barnett, Randy E. 1986. “Contract Remedies and Inalienable Rights”

 Social Philosophy & Policy Vol. 4, Issue 1, Autumn, pp. 179-202

 Barnett, Randy E. 1988. The Structure of Liberty: Justice and the Rule

 of Law, Oxford: Clarendon Press

 Barnett, Randy E. 2007. “Libertarians and the War.”July 17;


 Calabresi, Guido and Melamed, Douglas. 1972. “Property Rules,

 Liability Rules, and Inalienability: One View of the Cathedral,”

Harvard Law Review, Vol. 85, No. 6, April, pp. 1089-1128

 Epstein, Richard. 1985.  “Why Restrain Alienation,” Columbia Law

 Review, vol. 85, 970

 Evers, Williamson. 1977. “Toward a Reformulation of the Law of Contracts,”

Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 1, Winter, pp. 3-13;


 Gordon, David. 1999.  “Private Property’s Philosopher,” The Mises

 Review, Vol. 5, No. 1, Spring, pp. 1-7

 Kinsella, N. Stephan. 1998-1999. “Reply to George Smith: A Victim’s

 Right to Punish,” Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 14, No. 1,

 Winter, pp. 79-93

 Kinsella, N. Stephan. 1998-1999.  “Inalienability and Punishment: A

 Reply to George Smith,” Winter, Journal of Libertarian Studies.

 Kinsella, N. Stephan.  2003. A Libertarian Theory of Contract: Title

 Transfer, Binding Promises, and Inalienability, Journal of Libertarian

 Studies 17, no. 2 (Spring): 11-37

 Kronman, Anthony. 1983. “Paternalism and the Law of Contracts,” 92

 Yale Law Journal


 Kuflik, Arthur. 1984. “The Inalienability of Autonomy,” Philosophy and

 Public Affairs, Vol. 13, No. 4, Fall, pp. 271-298

 Kuflik, Arthur. 1986. “The Utilitarian Logic of Inalienable Rights,”

 Ethics, 97, Oct. 1986, pp. 75-87

 Long, Roderick. 1994-1995. “Slavery Contracts and Inalienable Rights:

 A Formulation.” Formulations. Winter;


 McConnell, Terrance. 1984. “The Nature and Basis of Inalienable

 Rights,” Law and Philosophy, Vol. 3, No. 1,  pp. 25-59

 McConnell, Terrance. 1996. “The Inalienable Right of Conscience: A

 Madisonian Argument,” Social Theory & Practice, Fall, Vol. 22, Issue 3, pp.


 Radin, Margaret Jane. 1986. “Time, Possession and Alienation,” 64

 Washington University Law Quarterly, 739

 Radin, Margaret Jane. 1987. “Market-Inalienability,” Harvard Law

 Review, Vol. 100, No. 8, June, pp. 1849-1937

 Reisman, George. 1996. Capitalism. Ottawa, Il.: Jameson Books

 Rothbard, Murray N. 1998 [1982]. The Ethics of Liberty, Humanities

 Press, Atlantic Highlands, N.J., 1998 [1982], pp. 40-41, 135-136;


 Smith, George. 1996. “A Killer’s Right to Life,” Liberty, Vol. 10, No.

 2, November, pp. 46-54

 Smith, George. 1997. “Inalienable Rights?,” Liberty, Vol. 10, No. 6,

 July, p. 51

 Unknown Author. No date. “But What About Voluntary Slaves?”



 Best regards,


Letter 3

From: Gary Barnett

Sent: Sunday, October 11, 2020 11:45 AM

To: Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu>

Subject: Re: “Voluntary’ slavery

Sorry Walter, I don’t buy it.

Very sincerely … Gary

Letter 4

Dear Gary:

Ok. No problem. Libertarians disagree on several issues: this one, voluntary slavery, but also abortion, immigration, the LP, strategy, Israel.

We can agree to disagree on these issues, and also work together in support of each other on the other 99% of issue in political economy on which we enthusiastically agree with each other.

Best regards,



4:46 am on March 22, 2021

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