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VINE VOICEon October 30, 2008
In the classic Defending the Undefendable, Austrian School economist Dr. Walter Block makes both moral and utilitarian cases for completely laissez-faire capitalism -- no exceptions! The premise of the book is, if freedom to choose can be defended and even celebrated when it comes to the prostitute, the pimp, the drug user, and other social pariahs, then certainly that same freedom should be afforded to everyone else. These supposedly "undefendable" figures, Dr. Block shows, are not only "defendable" but actually heroic.

For example, the drug dealer: He is only providing a product that is in demand to a customer who demands it. It isn't the drugs themselves that promote crime, says Block (with supporting evidence included), but the high cost of the drugs -- and that high cost is a direct result of the drugs' prohibition. To the extent that the drug dealer braves the dangers of the black market to supply drugs to willing customers, he is putting downward pressure on the substances' prices, thereby reducing the likelihood of drug-related crimes against people and property. In this sense, the drug dealer is not only not a bad guy, but indeed a hero.

Libertarians are already very familiar with arguments (moral and utilitarian) for the legalization of drugs and prostitution. But what about blackmailers, slanderers, and libelers? Block takes up their cause. My favorite chapter features Block's analysis of "crooked" cops actually being superior to "honest" cops. After all, the crooked cop gives non-violent "criminals" (i.e. drug dealers, drug users, prostitutes, johns, etc.) the choice of paying a bribe or going to jail, while the honest cop gives them no such choice and instead kidnaps and confines them for their non-crimes. The crooked cop might park his car in an alley and go to sleep on the clock -- wasting taxpayer money, to be sure -- but not as much as the cop who actually "does his job" destroying liberty and property.

Another interesting thing about the book is how the public dialogue has changed since Defending was first published in 1976. For example, while America has drifted even deeper into socialism in the past 32 years, today's statists are not so brazen as to make arguments against the very existence of the profit system! But Block felt compelled to write a chapter defending the profiteer, as well as chapters defending the advertiser and the middle-man.

One final thought on this great book: I never cease being amazed at how thoroughly statism has been ingrained on my mind through the public schooling system, etc. For example, even as a staunch libertarian, I always supported the idea that you couldn't yell "fire" in a public theater -- this is where laws against "free speech" were sensible, right? Well, obviously, there's no need for such laws: "free speech" does not exist on private property, and the theater owner has every reason and right to make a rule against yelling "fire" -- there's no need for a government law. Duh! Block devoted an entire chapter to this concept, and it was ink and paper well spent.
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on February 27, 2009
This work by Dr. Walter Block makes full use of applying the cornerstone of libertarian philosophy, the non-aggression axiom, to those who are viewed as the dregs of our society.
The author's introduction gives a quick summary of the libertarian view that as long as there is no initiation of aggression (violence, coercion, etc); anything we do amongst ourselves cannot be considered unjust. He applies this view to the profession of the prostitute, the oft-vilified drug user and drug pusher, the "typical" fat capitalist pig, and many others in a who's who of vile people, and shows through exemplary examples and illustrations how these people often end up contributing to society in ways that the public, which despises them most often, takes for granted and fails to notice.
The tone of this book is very fun to read, and the ease of it's use is reminiscent of Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics, while it's philosophical insight and rigorous defense and application of the non-aggression axiom makes it seem almost as if it were an epilogue to The Ethics of Liberty, by Murray Rothbard.
I recommend this book to any student of economics, seeker of liberty, or any open minded individual ready to see the unseen, and maybe take up the case for defending the undefendable

I hope everyone appreciates the cheesy way I ended this review.
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on February 8, 2012
In this unique book, economics professor Walter Block defends people who follow controversial practices. Each chapter is devoted to a different type of person - most of whom the average American would consider the lowest of the low. Pimps, drug pushers, blackmailers, ticket scalpers, dishonest cops, slumlords, litterers, fat capitalist pigs, and child labor employers to name a few of the more than 30 practices discussed in this book.

After reading "Defending", one is not meant to come away with a new found appreciation for sex workers, outlaws or cheats, it is merely a book meant to make you think - and it does just that. It is meant to release you from the bonds of mainstream thinking and get you to open your mind and ask yourself, "why is this practice so bad?" It teaches you to think for yourself and how to stand up and defend your own positions. After reading this book I came away with a great respect for Dr. Block because through his book I had received a great lesson in critical thinking.

If you want to read an entertaining, politically incorrect book that really makes you open your mind, read "Defending the Undefendable" by Walter Block. Regardless of your opinion of the practices discussed within its pages you will find yourself enjoying its contents immensely.
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on January 28, 2012
Do you have an open mind? If so, this CD is for you. But if you are someone who KNOWS what is right and wrong and don't want to hear another viewpoint, then you will not enjoy this book. Personally, I don't think that blackmail is a good thing. But hearing Mr. Block's opinion makes me at least see a different side.
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on March 12, 2013
This book is a good refresher (or introduction) on some very basic economic principles, applied to many of society's scorned, including prostitutes, pimps, drug dealers, heroin addicts, blackmailers, gypsy cab drivers, counterfeiters, misers, slumlords, profiteers, and strip miners, fat capitalist pig employers etc....

The author makes a strong case that:
1. Free markets will eliminate much of the negative societal effects of the above pariahs, and
2. Much of the negativity associated with said pariahs should actually be blamed on the state attempts at market intervention.

He labels them heroes for bearing the scorn of society, fighting state attempts at coercion, and providing services that benefit society in ways that society fails to see.

This book is very entertaining (okay, hilarious at times), and it is convincingly argued in most cases. But a few chapters were plagued with weak arguments that detracted from the book. For example, in his defense of litterbugs, the author states correctly that private businesses don 't have a litter problem. He suggests that if sidewalks and parks were privately owned, the litter problem would be solved by profit-driven entrepreneurs having financial incentives to pick up after their guests. He offers no helpful suggestions on how private ownership of sidewalks would be feasible. The chapter on yelling fire in a crowded theater was also unconvincing. His argument starts out strong, with the point that entrepreneurs utilizing a market contract system will be more efficient than government at securing safety on their own private property. But he blows his argument by suggesting that some entrepreneurs might prefer to cater to sado-masochists who enjoy having their shows interrupted, and as long as they advertised their intention to allow disruptions, ordinary people should respect the right of these sado-masochists to have their place. He might have just been being funny since he does pull off hilarious points elsewhere in the book with skill.

Still, this book is a terrific read for anyone interested for a fun read on free market economics.
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on September 30, 2014
As with Blocks "The Case for Discrimination," I like the general attitude (live and let live, and seek reasons for "undesirable" business practices or roles, uncover hypocrisy in criticism), but not sure there's much gained in reading *all* of these essays -- smaller marginal returns ;) (Also, some of them feel pretty forced -- I'm thinking of the defense of drug dealers per se -- and it almost feels like an exercise that Block doing.)

I would leave it around to be read, and hope it might influence some re-thinking by people who who never otherwise see some of these bit of unconventional thinking, but I think that while some of the individual essays are great, A+ worthy, I'd call the book itself no more than a B-.
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on January 31, 2015
Really, what the von Mises institute should do is re-issue an update of this every year, outfitted with the latest scholarship and most keenly worded arguments, including counter-arguments.

Instead they're simply putting this out there as is, as a "classic." The problem with this is that, while this guy's points may be valid in many cases, at this remove, they're convincing in few because a lot of his evidence will strike you immediately as dated.

Such as when he says in the chapter on rape that it's okay for a husband to rape his wife. Yowch.
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on October 15, 2011
If you really believe in individual freedom you must read this book and face the consequences. It's a very enjoyable reading, with very controversial topic and some strong arguments. The book will take you by surprise and shake lots of your misconceptions about some topics that are taken from granted.
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on February 15, 2012
Walter Block wrote, perhaps, one of the best introductions to the basic tenets of the libertarian thought. By analyzing cases of various outcasts of our society, he makes it clear that social engineering doesn't work. The more government tries to control those things that seem to be "immoral" or "unjust", the worse life becomes to all.

Why the society wouldn't allow consenting adults to do whatever they want (of course, if they don't initiate violence against others)? If something is immoral to us, we are free not to do it. If some deal seems to be unfair, we are free to avoid it. But we have no business to restrict others from those activities. Freedom is moral, and it is beneficial from the practical standpoint. That is a plain common sense.
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on August 22, 2015
Absolutely amazing. If you have any libertarian ideals this book is for you. Block is such a wonderful writer, he is easy to read and puts together his arguments is a succinct and concise format. It might sound crazy right now, but when you are done reading this book you will have no doubt that these supposedly undefendable characters are really heroes, risking their lives and future for your benefit.
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