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An intelligent observation from a reader of Legal Foundations of a Free Society (my comments interspersed)

Page 486 had a great example of nuggets in this book that give me a different perspective. Nothing earth shattering, just a more accurate way to understand.

Scarcity is a particularly poor term, for this reason: think of paper clips and why we call them scarce goods. At the root it has nothing to do with the class of paper clips. It’s rather about a specific instance of a paper clip. Now ask if 2 or more people can use that specific object simultaneously without conflict: no. That makes it an economic good. This means we can be talking about the Mona Lisa, of which there is 1, or that paper clip, of which there is (drumroll) … 1.

[continue reading…]


No time to clean this one up at present, so here it is mostly raw—

Now, the topic of Willful Negligence.
I looked at “The Libertarian Approach to Negligence, Tort, and Strict Liability: Wergeld and Partial Wergeld”. I understand the idea of a “spectrum between non-action or mere behavior”.
Where I get jumbled up, is on the combined topics of “willful negligence” and “action”. Example:

Joe is lounging in his easy chair holding his known-to-be-vicious dog on a leash. He falls asleep; dog gets out of the house and kills a child. Whatever other details we wish to add (front door open, etc) should show Joe as extremely willfully negligent. Even stipulate Joe shows no remorse, indeed, objects to any estoppel argument. [continue reading…]


No time to clean this one up at present, so here it is mostly raw. All the indented (and lighter colored) text is from my questioner:


This is not a question, more of a light-bulb insight the book helped clarify for me: Page 225 says “…acquiring and abandoning both involve a manifestation of the owner’s intent”.

Formerly, I would sense a gap between the nature of first-acquired title, versus subsequently title transfer.

Original appropriation seemed clean and straightforward. But acquiring already-owned resources always seemed interlaced with a history of title transfer…acquiring it from someone who themselves can show clear title from a former owner; and that former owner can show the same, and so on, as far back as the property’s history is known (reasonably). And indeed I intuitively saw nothing wrong with this. It just seemed complicated in comparison to pure homesteading.

[continue reading…]


Libertarian Answer Man: Service-Only Contracts and Exchanges

Q: Re page 424 at the top [“Against Intellectual Property After Twenty Years: Looking Back and Looking Forward,” in Legal Foundations of a Free Society], was the topic of exchanging a tangible for a service. This got me to thinking: how about service-only trades? I haven’t seen this covered, perhaps it falls outside libertarian legal framework.

How would we categorize an agreement whereby the parties exchange only their services (actions), AND make no provision for non-performance … therefore, no tangible resources are involved at all? An example: I’ll help set up for your party; you wash my car; and we don’t discuss what happens if one of us reneges. [continue reading…]


Libertarian Answer Man: Threats Against Third Parties

Q: Hi Mr. Kinsella,

Am I right in understanding that, based on your estoppel theory, [see chs. 5-6 of  Legal Foundations of a Free Society] it would NOT be a crime for A to say to B, “Give me $100 or I’ll punch C” (assuming C is unaware of this statement)? Because neither B nor C suffers any fear of receiving a battery. [continue reading…]


Jesus Christ, stop whining about “libertarian purity tests”

Interchange between me and Jessi Cowart on FB, starting here:

Jessi Cowart for LPTexas Vice Chair

I’m a minarchist, and I reject the notion that this makes me any less libertarian than my brethren who identify as anarchists. This movement is about fighting the state. It’s not a pissing contest to see who’s more “hard core.”


You are less libertarian. You’re partly libertarian and partly statist. A mini-statist.


Your purity test is tired. Anarchists who try to arbitrarily move the goal post on what it means to be libertarian – and call their allies statists – aren’t helping to advance liberty. [continue reading…]


All footnotes!

My new book, Legal Foundations of a Free Society (Houston, Texas: Papinian Press, 2023), is festooned with footnotes. One reason for this is I’m used to the style and requirements of law reviews and law journals. Every scholarly discipline has its citation format. I, for one, despise in-line citations {like: (Block 2017a)}, and I also despite endnotes. I prefer a modified version of Chicago-style, and in footnote form, although many people hate footnotes, as I noted previously:

I’ve always liked the following comments by Bryan Garner, in The Elements of Legal Style (page 93). Garner notes that although footnotes can usefully refer you to other references, “you can hardly ignore, at the foot of every page, the notes that ‘run along, like little angry dogs barking at the text.’ These days, the notes are more likely Great Danes than chihuahuas.”1

In any case, my new book is littered with them. Some may hate them, but not everyone, apparently. From one reader:

In case you had any concerns about all the footnotes and Appendices, I for one am a fan. I read each one that has supplemental commentary. LFFS trivia: the first page of Part 1 has no footnotes. It’s not till page 79 we find another page absent footnotes. Love the meat on the bone!


  1. Quoting S.M. Crothers, “That History Should Be Readable,” in The Gentle Reader 172 (1903; repr. 1972). To Footnote or Not To Footnote. []

This is a lightly edited interchange with a libertarian friend.



I’ve read Robert Hessen’s In Defense of the Corporation and found it excellent. I found it interesting that he disagrees with the notion that corporations are distinct entities, separate from the voluntary association of individuals (shareholders, board, executive, etc.) that makes up the corporation. Also interesting is his careful and insightful description of corporate liability for tort, distinguishing intentional and unintentional/negligence cases, and pointing out that agents (such as board members, executives, etc.) do not escape liability for their actions, i.e. cannot hide behind the corporate veil (though he doesn’t use this term).

[I found Norman Barry’s article “The Theory of the Corporation” very good and clear, too, for the most part, though some of it is somewhat mangled. More on this later… ***.]

(( I discuss and critique Van Dun’s criticism of my and Walter Block’s “libertarian legalism” in “A Tour Through Walter Block’s Oeuvre,” in Elvira Nica & Gheorghe H. Popescu, eds., A Passion for Justice: Essays in Honor of Walter Block (New York: Addleton Academic Publishers, forthcoming); see also Legal Foundations of a Free Society, pp. __, et pass. ))


However, some legal scholars, such as Frank van Dun, do not think that limited liability entities are compatible with a natural order.1

[continue reading…]

  1. Perhaps he had in mind Frank Van Dun, “Is the Corporation a Free-Market Institution?,” Ideas on Liberty (March 2003). van dun: also: “A note on Austro-libertarianism and the limited-liability corporation“;

    Hessen was also criticized in two articles by Piet-Hein van Eeghen, “The Corporation at Issue, Part I: The Clash of Classical Liberal Values and the Negative Consequences for Capitalist Practices,” J. Libertarian Stud. 19, no. 3 (Summer 2005): 49–70, and “The Corporation at Issue, Part II: A Critique of Robert Hessen’s In Defense of the Corporation and Proposed Conditions for Private Incorporation,” J. Libertarian Stud. 19, no. 3 (Fall 2005): 37–57.  []


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