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Laissez-faire capitalism: The best and only moral system under which to live -- no exceptions!
on 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.