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Letter: Walter Block has made too many assumptions and contradictions


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Dear Editors,

One of our goals as an academic institution is to encourage people to cultivate critical thinking.  You can imagine my dismay when reading the Sunday New York Times and I found remarks by Dr. Walter Block. 

 In the Jan. 25 article “Rand Paul’s Mixed Inheritance”, Dr. Block made two claims, one empirical and one conceptual, that are simply wrong.  First, he made the claim that chattel slavery “was not so bad.”  “Bad” is a comparative measure that, like every comparison, is understood in a contrast set. My initial question was where is the evidence?

Dr. Block makes an assertion but gives no evidence for his assertion.  Furthermore, it is also conceptually contradictory to his position as a libertarian that people could be treated as property against their will.  So, by even hinting to endorse slavery enforced against someone’s free will, Dr. Block seems to contradict his basic libertarian principles.

His second claim is an example of a fundamental logical mistake.  In peaking of discriminatory lunch counters, Dr. Block makes the mistake of assuming that because of the Civil Rights legislation people would be compelled to associate with others against their will. The Civil Rights legislation did no such thing. 

What the Civil Rights legislation did was prevent places like Woolworth’s from excluding people because of their race. No one was forced to sit at the lunch counter.  The law simply made clear that people could not be excluded from the lunch counter because of their race.

If these remarks were made in a paper for my class, I would return the paper with a failing grade. This is hardly critical thinking. Rather it is a position filled with assertions, without argument or evidence, to gain attention.

Sincerely yours,

Kevin Wm. Wildes, S.J., Ph.D.


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4 Responses to “Letter: Walter Block has made too many assumptions and contradictions”

  1. Nicholas Zounis on May 6th, 2018 5:32 pm


    Yes, the entire hysteria surrounding slavery is overly simplified, slavery was a complex issue and had very little to do with simply white people oppressing black people which is the common narrative.

    For example, many slaves in the time had common understandings with their “owners”. Most blacks enjoyed being part of a family unit, and many where treated as family members, this idea that all salves were oppressed is simply not true.

    Walter Block is correct, slavery was not that bad and many blacks where happy to be slaves in America than the harsh alternative, living as a savage in Africa with the constant threat that another tribe will overrun your tribe and rape and murder your children.

  2. chris goodwin on May 7th, 2018 3:43 am

    (Un ?) luckily I do not subscribe to the New York Times, so did not see Sunday’s edition. So I cannot see what WB said, not its context.

    Where is the nearest fence for me to sit on ?

  3. Dr Jim Byrne on May 7th, 2018 11:01 am

    As far as I can tell, this is the same Walter Block who was a big fan of Dr Albert Ellis, the Extreme Stoic therapist who died in New York City in July 2007. Ellis would have argued that people can learn to tolerate anything, even slavery. (But why the f*** should they?) This, I believe, is the same Walter Block who wants to privatize all public highways. This seems more like neoliberalism of the worst anti-egalitarian variety. So, not surprising that he turns out to be in favour of slavery and against dining with black people. It’s a good thing that he has been exposed for the rightwing reactionary that he clearly is; and it is also a good thing to note where Dr Albert Ellis’ so called ‘Rational Therapy’ leads to. A form of madness! 🙂

  4. Doug Casey on May 7th, 2018 3:51 pm

    Dr. Wildes– I believe you’re purposefully being obtuse, in the interest of being politically correct. If you know Dr. Block– which you must– you certainly know better.

    The fact is that slavery has been part of the human experience, often on a mass scale, since Day One. It still is in many parts of Africa and the Mid-east. Of course slavery is objectionable on many levels. All Dr. Block is saying is that things could be a lot worse. Why would you take issue with that?

    As for the Civil Rights legislation, one of its effects was to violate the property rights of the owners of restaurants, etc. And in the process actually increase, not ameliorate, antagonism between the races. In a free society everyone should have a right to associate with, or discriminate against, anyone else for any reason. It may be a stupid reason, but that’s not the business of the State.

    My guess is that you’re using your classroom to endorse the concept of being a Social Justice Warrior, and using the coercive power of the State in non-violent purely civil situations.

    Based on your letter, I’ll have to give you somewhere between a D and an F.

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Letter: Walter Block has made too many assumptions and contradictions