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KOL004 | Interview with Walter Block on Voluntary Slavery

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Kinsella on Liberty Podcast: Episode 004.

Transcript below.

Walter and me at my dad’s house in Prairieville, Louisiana, for a (Catholic) baptism party for my son, October 2003

My longtime friend Walter Block was recently in town (Houston) and stayed over at my house one night. While we visited we had several discussions on libertarian theory, as we usually do when we see each other. He agreed to let me record a discussion on one of the few issues we do not completely agree on: voluntary slavery; we recorded this last night (Jan. 26, 2013). Walter believes voluntary slavery contracts ought to be enforceable in a private law society, and in this I believe he is wrong and in the minority of libertarians (with Nozick, say). We touched on a variety of issues, including debtor’s prison, how acquisition of body-rights differs from Lockean homesteading, and the like.

Youtube:

Some of my writing relevant to this topic and our discussion include:

Walter’s articles on this topic include:

 

Update: see this Facebook post:

  • Stephan Kinsella: I agree with David Gordon. I disagree with pro-voluntary slavery libertarians, like Walter Block (Thomas L. Knapp is another, though he pettifogs on the use of the term “voluntary slavery”).
  • Jeremiah Dyke: I too think it’s insane not to have the ability to contract any percentage of your labor for any duration of time. [Sarcasm]
  • Stephan Kinsella: This is not an argument. Abilities don’t come from opinions. Let’s be clear: to justify voluntary slavery means you have to justify the use of force by a would-be “master” against a would-be “slave”, if the slave tries to run away or changes his mind or disobeys an order. The libertarian thinks use of violence against another person’s body is unjustified aggression, unless it is (a) consented to, or (b) in response to aggression.
  •  But the slave has not committed aggression, so (b) is not a possible justification. Some alienabilists disingenuously argue that it IS “aggression” since the master owns the slave’s body, so it’s trespass (aggression) for the slave to use the master’s property (the slave’s body) in ways the owner (master) does not consent to. This argument is disingenuous because it is question-begging; it presupposes the legitimacy of body-alienability, in order to prove it. So this does not fly. I will say that I get very tired of people who engage in question-begging arguments. They do this all the time in IP — where they label an act of copying “stealing” in order to show that what was “stolen” must have been ownable property. Horrible reasoning. I hope you don’t engage in this kind of dishonest trick.
  •  As for (a); clearly the slave who tries to run away does NOT consent to the force the master wants to apply to him. The only way the alienabilist can get around this is to say that the PREVIOUS consent the slave gave (say, a week before) is still somehow applicable, i.e. that the slave cannot change his mind. Why not? because … well … because … well … because the slavery contract was binding! So we see, yet again, the sneaky and dishonest resort to question-begging; slavery contracts are binding because they are binding. Neat trick, that!
  •  The reason people can change their minds is that it does not commit aggression. And the reason a previous statement of intent is relevant is simply that it provides evidence of what the current consent is. It’s a standing order, but one that can be overridden with better, more recent, evidence. If a girl tells her boyfriend he may kiss her now, and any time he feels like it in the future, then when tomorrow comes he is reasonable in assuming that she is still actually consenting NOW to another kiss, even if she says nothing, because she set up that presumption earlier. Her previous statement was not a binding contract, but just a way of establishing a standing presumption about what her ongoing consent IS. But if he goes to kiss her and she says NO, then we know that the previous statement about what her future consent WOULD be, was a bad prediction and has been undermined by the better, present/current evidence she is giving.
  •  It is no different in all the voluntary slavery situations.

***

TRANSCRIPT

Stephan Kinsella vs. Walter Block on Voluntary Slavery

Jan. 26, 2013

00:00:01

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Okay, so this is Stephan and Walter is here sitting next to me in my billiards room, former billiards room.  There’s no billiards table anymore.  My wife took it out.  There’s just a bunch of gray wallpaper.  And Walter has been here for awhile in Houston.  How do you like our fair city?

00:00:22

WALTER BLOCK: Oh, it’s a wonderful city.  I’m glad to be here, and I’m glad to be on your podcast.

00:00:26

STEPHAN KINSELLA: If we form a new state, I will do what I can to get you welcomed here.

00:00:31

WALTER BLOCK: Oh, you’re very kind.  Thank you.

00:00:33

STEPHAN KINSELLA: So Walter and I have been buddies for awhile, been hashing out issues in paper and in person at Mises events, etc. for quite awhile.  And we’ve talked this weekend—we’ve been together three nights now—about a lot of things: retribution.

00:00:51

WALTER BLOCK: Cabbages and kings.

00:00:54

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Bitcoin a little bit.

00:00:55

WALTER BLOCK: A little bit.

00:00:56

STEPHAN KINSELLA: We didn’t get to fractional reserve banking but…

00:00:58

WALTER BLOCK: IP.

00:00:59

STEPHAN KINSELLA: IP.  Well, there’s not much to talk about there.  We agree on that too much.

00:01:03

WALTER BLOCK: Yeah.

00:01:03

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Okay, so on the issue of voluntary slavery.

00:01:06

WALTER BLOCK: Yes.

00:01:07

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Which we’ve talked about before.

00:01:08

WALTER BLOCK: Yes.

00:01:09

STEPHAN KINSELLA: A little bit and sparred in print.

00:01:13

WALTER BLOCK: Yes.

00:01:14

STEPHAN KINSELLA: So what I thought I would do is try to summarize my take on your take on it, and you tell me where I’m wrong or where we disagree.

00:01:25

WALTER BLOCK: Sounds good.

00:01:26

STEPHAN KINSELLA: All right.  Or my take on our common Rothbardian influence or whatever.  And the one problem I have with your analysis is that you rely upon a type of analysis Rothbard makes as well in his Ethics of Liberty like where he talks about debtors’ prison, etc.  And the assumption that I have a problem with is the assumption that if you own something it means you can make a contract about it, or you can sell it.  I’ll put it that way.  And so you always give these hypotheticals about the guy who has little money.  He needs a million bucks to save his kid.

00:02:18

And so he wants to enter into a voluntary slavery contract, which is outlandish because this is probably unlikely, but let’s just assume it.  And so you’re saying that if we don’t allow these contracts, he won’t be able to do the deal, right?  But my question is what is the thing that’s stolen?  And I see this ambiguity in the Rothbardian issue of debtors’ prison as well.  So let’s talk about a typical contract of a debt like you’re talking about.  So someone loans a million bucks to A on a given day.  And they’re supposed to do something in exchange for it: be a slave, repay it in a year with 10% interest, or whatever, right?

00:03:15

WALTER BLOCK: Yeah.

00:03:16

STEPHAN KINSELLA: So the argument is that if you do not comply with the terms of the agreement, then you’re a thief.

00:03:22

WALTER BLOCK: In effect, yes.

00:03:23

STEPHAN KINSELLA: So the question is what has been stolen?  Is it the original sum of money, or is it something in the future when the performance that was not given?

00:03:37

WALTER BLOCK: Well, I think it’s something in the future when the performance that was promised isn’t given because that’s what the contract specifies that you should give.  But are we or are we not getting off the issue of voluntary slavery by talking about debtors’ prison, or do you see it as the same issue?

00:03:53

STEPHAN KINSELLA: I think – well, I think they’re related.  They’re not the same issue, but they’re related.

00:03:57

WALTER BLOCK: Okay, we can talk about both.

00:03:58

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Let’s talk about the debtors’ prison thing just for a second.

00:04:01

WALTER BLOCK: Sure.

00:04:02

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Because Rothbard says in The Ethics of Liberty that if you do not repay a sum owed, then theoretically you are a thief and could be sent to prison because retribution is – I mean punishment is deserved in the case of an act of theft.  But then he tries to sort of get out of that result by saying that it would be disproportionate.  So he uses his proportionality theory to say it’s too extreme of a punishment, but in theory debtors’ prison is justified.

00:04:42

WALTER BLOCK: I borrow 100 bucks from you.  I promise to repay 110 in a year or 10% interest, and comes the year and I don’t have the money.

00:04:51

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Yes.

00:04:52

WALTER BLOCK: I stole 110 from you I claim.

00:04:55

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Okay, so you’re saying it’s 110 that’s stolen, not the original 100.

00:04:58

WALTER BLOCK: Right.

00:04:59

STEPHAN KINSELLA: So you would agree that the original 100 that is loaned is given over to the borrower basically 100% title.  In other words, he has complete ownership of that money at that time.

00:05:13

WALTER BLOCK: Yeah.  I borrowed it.  I can do with it as I please.

00:05:15

STEPHAN KINSELLA: You have to be able to in order to spend it.  That’s the purpose of a loan is so that you can borrow the money.

00:05:19

WALTER BLOCK: Right.

00:05:20

STEPHAN KINSELLA: So if there’s a theft, it’s a theft of the money that’s not repaid.

00:05:23

WALTER BLOCK: Right, yes.

00:05:24

STEPHAN KINSELLA: But if the borrower is penniless at the time of the repayment date, he doesn’t have $110.

00:05:33

WALTER BLOCK: Right.

00:05:34

STEPHAN KINSELLA: So what $110 is actually stolen?  Where is it?

00:05:38

WALTER BLOCK: I don’t know where it is.

00:05:41

STEPHAN KINSELLA: But it doesn’t exist.

00:05:41

WALTER BLOCK: It’s been dissipated.

00:05:42

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Well, it doesn’t exist.

00:05:43

WALTER BLOCK: But we…

00:05:44

STEPHAN KINSELLA: No, the 100 was dissipated.

00:05:46

WALTER BLOCK: The 100 has been dissipated.

00:05:47

STEPHAN KINSELLA: And then he did not make a profit.

00:05:50

WALTER BLOCK: Right.  He lost it all.

00:05:51

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Yes.

00:05:51

WALTER BLOCK: He, let’s say, gambled on the horses.

00:05:53

STEPHAN KINSELLA: So there never was a 110 that he owned or has that the creditor has a claim to.

00:05:59

WALTER BLOCK: Right, but that’s what you have a right to, and I owe you 110, and now you can take it out of me in hard labor or a pound of flesh or whatever the deal is.  But I owe you 110.  The year is up now and…

00:06:14

STEPHAN KINSELLA: But you’re conflating owing with property, so I mean Rothbard even in his contract theory says that the original theory of contract, which is promise-based that you have to pay what you promise was off base and that it’s all about transfer of title to property.

00:06:33

WALTER BLOCK: Right.

00:06:33

STEPHAN KINSELLA: So if you view – the way I view a debt contract based upon Rothbard and Evers and the way Evers elaborated on it is that in a debt contract the creditor gives $100 to the borrower on day.  And he gives it outright with no conditions whatsoever.  But – well, there’s one condition.  The condition is that there’s another exchange, which is a future title transfer, 110 in a year.  But we all know, both sides know, that the future is uncertain.  That transfer might not happen.  The creditor – the debtor might not even be alive, and he might not have the money.  So basically there’s an exchange of the title transfer to a future uncertain hope we might call it or possible thing.

00:07:24

WALTER BLOCK: Expectation maybe.

00:07:25

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Whatever.  In exchange for a title transfer to $100 now, a present good.

00:07:30

WALTER BLOCK: Right.

00:07:31

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Right.  Now, if on the future one-year anniversary date there is no $110, I don’t see what the debtor is stealing.  I don’t understand what property of the…

00:07:45

WALTER BLOCK: Creditor.

00:07:46

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Creditor that the debtor is actually stealing.

00:07:50

WALTER BLOCK: Well, he made a contract to give him 110.  He doesn’t have the 110, so he’s stealing 110 because the creditor owns a promissory note, say, and it’s not being made good.  So if you don’t want to call it stealing, you have to…

00:08:08

STEPHAN KINSELLA: No, I don’t.  And see the…

00:08:09

WALTER BLOCK: I would say call it quasi-stealing or like stealing or something like that.

00:08:14

STEPHAN KINSELLA: But the problem is you’re calling it stealing to justify the debtors’ prison or the consequence or the calling it of a contract.  And yet in your argument right now, now you’re – it seems circular to me because you’re saying, well, he made a contract or he promised to do it.  So to me, one’s got to be primary, and we have to do one or the other.

00:08:35

WALTER BLOCK: Well, Murray does come out against promises, like if I promise to sing at your wedding or something, it’s – I’m not liable to.  But this is more than a promise.  This was a contract.

00:08:46

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Yes.

00:08:47

WALTER BLOCK: Now, I’m not a contract fetishist.  I don’t say that all contracts must be upheld.  For example, Hans, me and Guido have this attack on fractional reserve banking even though it’s contractual.  We don’t go along with contracts there.  Certainly a contract to commit murder against an innocent person, I hire you to kill some innocent person, that’s not a valid contract.  Another invalid contract would be you agree to sell me a square circle, which can’t exist, or a pink elephant or a unicorn, which conceivably could exist but doesn’t exist.  All those contracts are invalid, so I’m not a contract fetishist.

00:09:26

STEPHAN KINSELLA: But what does it mean for a contract to be invalid?  When you say it’s invalid, what does that mean?

00:09:30

WALTER BLOCK: Null and void.  I mean it’s silly.  I’ll sell you a square circle for $10.  I mean…

00:09:36

STEPHAN KINSELLA: It means it can’t be enforced.

00:09:38

WALTER BLOCK: It can’t be enforced.  The whole thing is sort of nugatory because it’s silly.

00:09:43

STEPHAN KINSELLA: But the whole point of contract is we have a property owner that we recognize as in control of legal ownership of a scarce resource.

00:09:52

WALTER BLOCK: Right.

00:09:52

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Which means he has the power to dispose of it.

00:09:54

WALTER BLOCK: Right.

00:09:55

STEPHAN KINSELLA: He has the power to buy his manifestation of his ascent or his consent communicated by some language or something that everyone recognizes to assign title to someone else either partially or in completely.

00:10:10

WALTER BLOCK: Right.

00:10:11

STEPHAN KINSELLA: If it’s completely, then it’s a sale.  If it’s partially, then there’s a co-ownership situation or a rental or a lease or something like that, right?  So let’s imagine that I have a box, a cardboard box that’s worth virtually nothing, and I tell you that inside this box there is either a diamond or there’s not a diamond.  There’s a maybe diamond.  But there’s an X-percent chance of there being a diamond in the box.  And I say, Walter, if you will give me $10 now, I will give you this box, and you will own the box and whatever is inside the box.  Now, you would recognize that as a valid contract I would assume.

00:10:50

WALTER BLOCK: Yes.

00:10:51

STEPHAN KINSELLA: So you’re buying an uncertain thing.

00:10:58

WALTER BLOCK: Pig in a poke.

00:10:59

STEPHAN KINSELLA: A pig in a poke.  So you open the box.  There’s a diamond.  You’re rich.  There’s not a diamond.  You lost out.  It’s a gamble basically, right?

00:11:06

WALTER BLOCK: Yeah.

00:11:07

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Now, I view that as the way the future necessarily always is, that if you ever have a claim to a future good that you’re buying an uncertain thing, a hope of something existing.  But if the thing doesn’t occur or doesn’t exist, there’s not an act of theft actually.  So this is my problem with this debtors’ prison thing.  I just don’t see how someone who is unable to repay a debt is a criminal or a thief unless you adopt the theory of contract Rothbard repudiated, which was the promise theory.

00:11:48

WALTER BLOCK: Well, I don’t adopt the promise theory.  I agree with you and Murray that the promise theory is invalid.  But I think this is more than a promise because there’s been an exchange of titles.  I do want to articulate that I don’t believe that there’s any such thing technically speaking as a future good.  Right now there are no future goods.  There’s the expectation of the good in the future, but that’s just the…

00:12:12

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Okay.  No, no, I like that.  I agree with that.

00:12:14

WALTER BLOCK: But is there a problem, the 110?  Suppose I forgot about the 110 just for the moment, just for argument’s sake.

00:12:26

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Suppose we forget about the exchange.  Let’s just make it a one-way exchange.  Let’s say that you give to me your beloved libertarian acolyte.  You say, Stephan, in one year I will give you $110 just if you’re alive, not for – it’s not an exchange.  It’s just a unilateral but conditional gift.  Now, let’s say in one year you don’t have the $110.

00:12:54

WALTER BLOCK: Well, I agree with Murray and I think you about promises.  If I just promise you something and then I don’t fulfill the promise, I’m not a criminal.  I’m a bad guy.  I’m a rotten kid but…

00:13:05

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Well, I’m not talking about a promise.  I’m talking about a title transfer.  I mean are you saying that Murray’s title-transfer idea only works if there’s an exchange like two-directional transfers.

00:13:20

WALTER BLOCK: Oh, I see what you’re saying.  Now look, if I give you this wristwatch right now as a gift, and now I say I changed my mind; give it back to me, you can say no backsies as kids would say.

00:13:32

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Or what if you give me the watch now and you say, Stephan, I’m going to give you this watch as a gift right now.

00:13:36

WALTER BLOCK: Here it is.

00:13:37

STEPHAN KINSELLA: And then I say, fine, but I’m going to let you use it for a year.  I’m going to lease it back to you.  Or you say, Stephan, I’ll give you this watch for a year, but you can’t get it until a year from now.  I see no difference in those two different arrangements.

00:13:51

WALTER BLOCK: I agree.  I agree.

00:13:51

STEPHAN KINSELLA: But the point is there’s a distinction between possession and ownership.  And there’s – right, so…

00:13:57

WALTER BLOCK: I would say if I give you the gift either now, or I give it to you as of a year from now, and I don’t come through in a year, I stole your watch.

00:14:07

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Yes, but let’s – so let’s say that you give me the watch now as of a year from now.  In other words, you date it – you say that, Stephan, I think I’m not going to need this watch in a few months.  But I want it for a few months, but I’m going to go and give it to you now, so in one year, the ownership will be yours.

00:14:28

WALTER BLOCK: I’m giving you this watch now, but – and I say, Stephan, is it okay if I borrow it for a year?  And you say yes.

00:14:32

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Yes.  Whatever.

00:14:33

WALTER BLOCK: And now a year comes, and I don’t return your watch to you.

00:14:36

STEPHAN KINSELLA: No, no, no.  If you don’t return it to me, I would agree that’s theft.

00:14:40

WALTER BLOCK: Ah okay.  We agree on that.

00:14:41

STEPHAN KINSELLA: But if the watch doesn’t exist in a year, did you steal it from me?  Did you steal it from me?  Let’s say the day before the due date the watch evaporates.

00:14:50

WALTER BLOCK: Or lightning hits.

00:14:52

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Or someone steals it or whatever.

00:14:53

WALTER BLOCK: I owe you a watch.  It’s your watch.

00:14:55

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Well, but…

00:14:56

WALTER BLOCK: I gave it to you.

00:14:57

STEPHAN KINSELLA: But you say you gave it to me.  What is the it?

00:15:01

WALTER BLOCK: Well, I would say that if a year comes and the watch evaporates or it gets crushed or something, I owe you, let’s say 100 bucks.

00:15:10

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Why?  Why?

00:15:11

WALTER BLOCK: The watch would be the equivalent, because it’s your watch.  I borrowed it for a year, and I’m not returning it to you.  I’ve got to give you something.  But Stephan, we did say we were going to talk about voluntary slavery, and we’re only…

00:15:22

STEPHAN KINSELLA: I’m getting to that.  I’m getting to that.

00:15:23

WALTER BLOCK: We’re only going to talk about this for a few minutes, and we’ve already been talking about this.

00:15:26

STEPHAN KINSELLA: You’re right.  You’re right.

00:15:27

WALTER BLOCK: So let’s talk about voluntary – unless you want to do more on this.

00:15:30

STEPHAN KINSELLA: No, no, no, no.

00:15:31

WALTER BLOCK: It’s your show.

00:15:32

STEPHAN KINSELLA: That’s fine.  It’s my show.

00:15:33

WALTER BLOCK: Okay.

00:15:33

STEPHAN KINSELLA: My show.  Okay, and maybe this was preliminary and pointless, but anyway it’s fine.

00:15:41

WALTER BLOCK: No, it was fun.

00:15:41

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Whatever.  Okay, so involuntary slavery, and I see connections to what we’ve been talking about.  But the problem I have with voluntary slavery is that there’s an assumption by people that ownership of an object implies the right to alienate the title to it.  And so people like you who are being consistent, you just make an analogy, or you make – you say that just like I can sell my car or my watch, I can sell my body because I own them all.  And that’s very simple, and it – I mean it’s simple in a good way.  It’s like pure.  You’re saying, listen, the reasoning is the same.

00:16:35

WALTER BLOCK: Occam’s razor.  It’s simple.

00:16:36

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Yeah.

00:16:37

WALTER BLOCK: So that doesn’t mean simple minded.

00:16:38

STEPHAN KINSELLA: No, I’m not saying simple minded.  The problem I have with it is that it – the original assumption is that ownership implies the ability to sell.  Now, the reason I think that you say that and others say that is because they’re so used to objects of commerce that we sell being things that we own that they assume that the ability to sell is a natural aspect of ownership, right?

00:17:07

WALTER BLOCK: Yes.

00:17:08

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Now, when I think from fundamentals and I think what’s the root of ownership of bodies or ourselves as some people say, sub-ownership or body ownership and the ownership of things that we use that are not part of our bodies.  I see them as distinct, and I see the Lockian idea is the root of ownership of external objects but not our bodies.  The Lockian idea is that we own ourselves, which I think is a vague statement.  I think self is sort of misleading and subject to equivocation.

00:17:42

I prefer to talk about scarce resources like our body, so the question to me is only who owns my body.  Myself – we can disagree on what self means.  Does it mean your soul, your memories, your hopes, your dreams, your extension of yourself, whatever?  The only real dispute is who owns your body, some slave owner or a communitarian group or yourself or the person who inhabits the body or controls it.  Whether you’re religious or not, you don’t need to go into that.  The question is which person has the right to control that body?  And the answer that we give, we libertarians give, you and I give, is that the original person is the initial owner, not the only owner.

00:18:29

WALTER BLOCK: The inhabitor of the body.

00:18:30

STEPHAN KINSELLA: But not – but only initially.  You can lose that right by committing crime, let’s say.

00:18:35

WALTER BLOCK: Absolutely.

00:18:36

STEPHAN KINSELLA: And you think you can lose it by uttering certain words, certain magical incantations that transfer the ownership to someone else.

00:18:43

WALTER BLOCK: Yes.

00:18:44

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Right?

00:18:45

WALTER BLOCK: I do.

00:18:46

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Not to disparage you.

00:18:47

WALTER BLOCK: No, no, no, no.  I accept that as an accurate…

00:18:49

STEPHAN KINSELLA: I would say you can lose the ownership of your body by committing an action of aggression because I’m a libertarian.  And I believe that every person has the right to control his body, but you don’t have the right to commit aggression, which implies that you have the right to use force to stop aggression or somehow in response to aggression.

00:19:12

WALTER BLOCK: Defense.

00:19:13

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Right.  You can also use someone else’s body if they consent to it.

00:19:17

WALTER BLOCK: Absolutely.

00:19:18

STEPHAN KINSELLA: So to my mind as a libertarian there’s only two ways that you have the right to use someone else’s body: number one, if they consent to it, number two, if they’ve committed an act of aggression that justifies treating them like…

00:19:32

WALTER BLOCK: An objective.

00:19:34

STEPHAN KINSELLA: An object.  Right, like you partially or completely own them, either during an act of self-defense or after if you believe in retribution, whatever.  But the point is that’s the only two ways.  And my idea is that if I just promised you or say to you I will be your slave or whatever, that action, number one, is not an act of aggression.  So then the only way that the master is entitled to use force against the purported slave later if he changes his mind and tries to run away, which he would have to have the right to use force against him if he’s going to be a legitimate slave owner, is if the guy has consented.  Now, it seems to me our difference is that you think he did consent because he said so earlier, and I say he didn’t consent because he said no now.

00:20:31

WALTER BLOCK: Later.

00:20:31

STEPHAN KINSELLA: And to me, you would have to say that an earlier statement of assent overrides a later one, whereas to my mind it’s always the most recent one that matters because, for example, let’s say you say let’s get in the ring and box.  Do you agree?  Yes.  We get in the ring.  We’re kind of staring each other down.  You put your gloves on.  You’re looking kind of tough.  Walter is a lot more buff than I thought he was.  I start having second thoughts, and I go, on second thought, I don’t want to box Walter.  Now, if you punch me in the jaw anyway, in that situation, wouldn’t you agree that you have committed aggression?

00:21:22

WALTER BLOCK: Absolutely.

00:21:23

STEPHAN KINSELLA: And it’s because I didn’t consent, right?

00:21:26

WALTER BLOCK: Well, let me give my side of it now.

00:21:30

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Okay, go ahead.

00:21:31

WALTER BLOCK: But I first want to preface it because not everyone listening will be a libertarian.

00:21:36

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Okay.

00:21:37

WALTER BLOCK: And I want to say that voluntary slavery has nothing to do with the kind of slavery that existed in the United States before 1865 or 1861.  That was coercive slavery, and we’re not discussing that.

00:21:49

STEPHAN KINSELLA: We both disagree with antebellum slavery, right?

00:21:54

WALTER BLOCK: Yes.

00:21:55

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Finally something we can agree on.

00:21:56

WALTER BLOCK: We agree on that.  Well, we agree on many, many things.

00:21:59

STEPHAN KINSELLA: That’s true.  I know.  I’m joking.

00:21:59

WALTER BLOCK: But on this issue we bitterly and utterly oppose that as pretty much a paradigm case of the violation of libertarian rights.

00:22:08

STEPHAN KINSELLA: And probably almost every form of slavery in history that’s ever existed.

00:22:12

WALTER BLOCK: Yes, certainly.  Okay, so with that out of the way…

00:22:16

STEPHAN KINSELLA: And by the way, as an aside, what about people joining the US military now and they cannot quit?  They enlist.  I would say they’re sort of coerced into it because of unemployment or inflation or minimum wage laws, and the US government is an illegitimate slaver owner in the first place.

00:22:42

WALTER BLOCK: What’s that called?  The performative contract where I – there’s a word I’m missing where I can force you to live up to your contract even though…

00:22:51

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Specific performance.

00:22:52

WALTER BLOCK: That’s it—specific performance contract.  That’s what we’re now discussing.

00:22:55

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Yeah.

00:22:56

WALTER BLOCK: Well, in my view, specific performance contracts are justified, and with regard to your boxing analogy before I get into my own little shtick, in the boxing morays, if you put your knee on the canvas, I’m not allowed to punch you.  And I’m not allowed to punch you under the belt.  I can only punch you over the belt or above the belt.

00:23:20

STEPHAN KINSELLA: You mean just during the regular match?

00:23:22

WALTER BLOCK: In an ordinary boxing match, if I punch you below the belt, I’m committing a foul…

00:23:27

STEPHAN KINSELLA: So in other words, no one’s consented to being punched under the belt.

00:23:31

WALTER BLOCK: No one has consented…

00:23:33

STEPHAN KINSELLA: And so that if you punch them under the belt you’re doing something that is known to be unconsented to.

00:23:37

WALTER BLOCK: Right.

00:23:37

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Which is aggression.

00:23:38

WALTER BLOCK: And now if it’s an accident…

00:23:40

STEPHAN KINSELLA: If it’s intentional.

00:23:39

WALTER BLOCK: If it’s an accident, it happens.  But if it’s intentional, you can lose the match right then and there.

00:23:44

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Right.

00:23:45

WALTER BLOCK: And also if I knock you down and you’re lying on the ground or just your knee is on the ground, I can no longer punch you.

00:23:53

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Right.

00:23:54

WALTER BLOCK: Even though above the belt.  So if you don’t want to consent anymore, and let’s say I look buffer than you thought I would look, all you have to do is get down on one knee, and now it’s illegitimate for me to punch you.

00:24:05

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Got you.

00:24:06

WALTER BLOCK: So I think that the boxing analogy isn’t – I mean it’s a good first thought, but it doesn’t carry through.

00:24:12

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Okay, okay, so go ahead with your – go ahead.

00:24:13

WALTER BLOCK: Now let me give my two minutes on this.  The example I use is I have a child who has got a dread disease, and it will cost a million dollars to cure him.  And you, Stephan, have long wanted me to be your slave, and you could order me around.

00:24:30

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Which is actually true.

00:24:31

WALTER BLOCK: Yes, because you’re a vicious kind of guy but very rich.

00:24:33

STEPHAN KINSELLA: And you would be a good slave.

00:24:34

WALTER BLOCK: Yes.  I would obey, and what I – the deal is you give me a million dollars, and I give it to my son’s doctors, and they cure him, and we each gain because I value his life more than my freedom.  You value my servitude more than the million dollars, so we each gain.  Now, if we don’t allow voluntary slave contracts to be enforced, then you’ll not give me the million dollars because you know that as soon as I change my mind later on after you give me my first order I say, hey, wait; I don’t like you anymore, you’re not going to give me the million dollars, and my son will die, and we’ll both be out of a mutually beneficial contract.  So that’s my motivation for supporting voluntary slavery.  And the thing about consenting, you see, I think that our preliminary discussion is relevant as you said.

00:25:25

STEPHAN KINSELLA: I know.  I know.

00:25:26

WALTER BLOCK: Because it’s not just the promise.  You gave me a million dollars.  There was a contract.  There was a collateral.  I forget what Murray calls it.  It’s some word I’m missing again, and maybe collateral is good.  But you gave me some physical thing, a million dollars.  And now if I…

00:25:43

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Like a performance bond.

00:25:45

WALTER BLOCK: Well, no, not a performance bond because a bond can be overcome.  You gave me a million bucks, and if I run away with myself, namely, if I disobey you, I am stealing a very valuable piece of your property, even maybe more valuable than a horse or a dog or maybe even more valuable than a house.  I’m stealing your property, namely, me.  So the question is if I disobey you and the contract says that you can whip me if I disobey and I disobey and you start whipping me and I yell to the police, hey, he – Stephan is whipping me, he’s committing assault and battery, you’ve got a very good defense.

00:26:21

You can say, wait.  I own Walter.  I bought him fair and square.  There’s a contract and there’s a signature.  And I’m not committing assault and battery on Walter because he’s my property.  And, you see, Murray says, well, you can’t buy my will, and my answer to that is will-shmill.  I don’t care about will.  You only own my body.  You don’t own my thoughts.  I mean you can’t own people’s thoughts.

00:26:47

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Yeah.

00:26:48

WALTER BLOCK: But you own the right to whip me if I disobey you, and let’s say the contract specifies that.  So you’re an innocent person when you whip me for disobedience, and you have to say, no, you’re guilty because you’re committing assault and battery because I changed my mind.  And I think it’s too late.  There are no backsies.  I already sold you myself for a million bucks, and I don’t have the million bucks to…

00:27:11

STEPHAN KINSELLA: You mean your body, not yourself.

00:27:12

WALTER BLOCK: Sorry.  I stand corrected.  My body is sold…

00:27:15

STEPHAN KINSELLA: I’m being precise not to be pettifogging…

00:27:16

WALTER BLOCK: No, no, no, no, no.

00:27:17

STEPHAN KINSELLA: But because – I mean so…

00:27:19

WALTER BLOCK: I appreciate that.

00:27:21

STEPHAN KINSELLA: So there’s actually three problems with this.  Number one, you’re saying that I sold myself to justify…

00:27:31

WALTER BLOCK: My body, my body.  I sold…

00:27:33

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Or your body, sorry.

00:27:33

WALTER BLOCK: I misspoke.

00:27:34

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Sorry.  I misspoke.

00:27:35

WALTER BLOCK: Now you misspoke.  It’s catching.

00:27:37

STEPHAN KINSELLA: You sold your body as an argument to justify the ability to sell your body.  So I see that as a little bit of circular argument.  In other words, this is what we’re disputing, whether or not you have the ability to utter words that transfer title to your body.  And you’re just saying, well, I sold my body, so therefore, it justified to use force against someone’s body as if you own them.  But that, to me, seems question begging.

00:28:02

WALTER BLOCK: There was this very famous case of Ludwig Wittgenstein and Normal Malcolm, two very famous philosophers.  Normal Malcolm was the student of Ludwig Wittgenstein, and they were walking down the street.  And Ludwig Wittgenstein said to Norman Malcolm I will give you these trees that we now pass on two conditions.  One, you don’t do anything with the trees, and two, you don’t try to prevent the previous owners from doing anything with the trees.  And what he was trying to tell Norman Malcolm was, look, if you can’t sell it, you don’t own it.  And if you can’t prohibit other people from doing stuff with it, you don’t own it.  Just because I give you these trees or sell them to you doesn’t mean you own it.  These two things are crucial, and I say now that if I really own myself, I have a right to sell it myself.

00:28:47

STEPHAN KINSELLA: I know.  And this is…

00:28:48

WALTER BLOCK: Not myself, my body.  I keep slipping.  If I really own my body, I have a right to sell it.  If I don’t have a right to sell it, I don’t own it.

00:28:56

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Well, it reminds me.  I – of these registries that sell you stars.  You’ve seen this?

00:29:00

WALTER BLOCK: No.

00:29:01

STEPHAN KINSELLA: You can name a star after yourself?

00:29:03

WALTER BLOCK: Oh yeah.

00:29:04

STEPHAN KINSELLA: There’s a private registry, so you pay them 20 bucks, and they’ll send you a kit, and they name – I mean there’s billions of stars.  So they just pick one.  They put Walter Block, Jr. on it or whatever.

00:29:14

WALTER BLOCK: Right…

00:29:15

STEPHAN KINSELLA: No, it’s just in their little private registry, but you’ve bought the right to name a star.

00:29:18

WALTER BLOCK: Fair and square.

00:29:19

STEPHAN KINSELLA: I don’t know what that gives you.  I had another friend who lived in China.  He was a medical student 20 years ago, and he says, yeah, when I was there I bought a house, and I still own it.  I said, what do you mean you still own it?  He never goes there.  He goes, well, you know, there’s a house that I bought when I lived there.  I said, well, is it just empty?  He said, no, a family lives in it.  I said who?  He said whoever the government said to live in it.  I said, well, so in what sense do you own the house?

00:29:45

WALTER BLOCK: Do they pay you rent?  What?

00:29:47

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Nothing.  I said – he says, well, if I travel to China some day they would probably let me stay there for free one night or something.  I said, well, so you basically don’t own it at all.

00:29:56

WALTER BLOCK: Right.

00:29:57

STEPHAN KINSELLA: So I understand what you’re saying.  But – and I kind of agree with your point about this will issue.  I think Rothbard, when he says that the reason he disagrees with voluntary slavery is that the will can never be alienated.  I agree with you that you don’t need the will to be alienated to own someone.

00:30:21

WALTER BLOCK: Just the body.

00:30:23

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Just like you don’t need a dog’s will to be alienated to be the owner of a dog.  By its nature as an animal, a moving spirit, it has its own will.  You need the legal right to compel it to do as you want it to do.

00:30:36

WALTER BLOCK: Precisely.

00:30:37

STEPHAN KINSELLA: That’s what slavery is.  So I don’t agree with that, but the more I’ve thought about it, I think Rothbard was getting at something that I actually agree with, which I think is this distinction of the sources of ownership, which is that the basis of ownership of the human body is distinct from and more primary than the ownership of external objects that we homestead.

00:31:02

And the basis of ownership in the human body, which is what Hoppe points out, is basically who has the closest connection to or link the best claim to the resource.  And in the case of the human body, it just happens to be the natural connection, which Rothbard points out as natural, which is who has direct control over it.

00:31:24

Now, Hoppe makes this explicit, and I think that’s what Rothbard was getting at when he talked about the slave owner – the slave’s will was still part of him.  What he meant was even after you promise to be a slave, you are still the controller of your body.  And therefore, you still have the best connection to it, and therefore, you’re still the owner of it because the source of ownership of bodies is this direct control thing.

00:31:51

WALTER BLOCK: Well, when I homestead a bit of land by putting in a corn crop or I domesticate a cow or wild cow and I domesticate it, in the first instance, I am the owner assuming that I mix my labor with it sufficiently.

00:32:06

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Yes.

00:32:07

WALTER BLOCK: Of the land or of the cow.

00:32:09

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Yes.

00:32:10

WALTER BLOCK: But then if I sell it to you, you’re the owner even though I was the first owner.  Well, I say the same thing goes with the bodies.  Certainly we all agree – me, you, Hans, and Murray agree that we are the initial owners.  That’s the whole point of being against coercive slavery in the early south or in the early US, north and south.  But here we diverge because we agree that we’re the initial owners, and I say yes, we’re the initial owners of the body that we all inhabit, each one of us a different body.  But then I say you have a right to sell it, and if you don’t have a right to sell it, then you don’t really control and own the body fully.

00:32:50

STEPHAN KINSELLA: But you do because ownership means the right to control.  It doesn’t mean the right to get rid of the right to control.

00:32:55

WALTER BLOCK: Well, I guess – I think we’re at a standstill here because…

00:32:58

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Well, let me ask you this.

00:32:59

WALTER BLOCK: I don’t know what else to say.

00:33:01

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Let me ask you this.  Do you believe that – well, the source of the right to own things, does it come from – is there only one source?  In other words, are you saying that everything comes from homesteading?  Because if every property right comes from homesteading, then how do children become self-owners?

00:33:30

WALTER BLOCK: Well, you see, that’s a problem we discussed a few hours ago in the kitchen.  And I think that the only person who is really seriously trying to tackle that issue is you.  I don’t – I only give you a 99 out of 100 on that article because I still feel a little queasy.  The argument if I remember, and you correct me if I’m wrong, is the child consists of nothing more than the sperm and the egg plus a bunch of food.  And the sperm came from the father, and the egg came from the mother, so how does the kid get to own himself?

00:33:59

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Right.

00:34:00

WALTER BLOCK: And I don’t know the answer to that.  That is…

00:34:02

STEPHAN KINSELLA: But this is my – but you don’t believe that kids are slaves to their parents.

00:34:06

WALTER BLOCK: No.  None of us believe – you don’t believe that either.

00:34:09

STEPHAN KINSELLA: I don’t believe it.  So you think at some point the kid – the child gets rights.

00:34:14

WALTER BLOCK: The kid gets…

00:34:15

STEPHAN KINSELLA: So you either have to think there’s some act of homesteading…

00:34:18

WALTER BLOCK: Yes.

00:34:19

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Or you have to think there’s a separate source of rights to a body, which is what I believe.

00:34:24

WALTER BLOCK: No, no, I believe in homesteading.  You know, you have…

00:34:26

STEPHAN KINSELLA: But homesteading means acquiring ownership to an unowned resource.

00:34:30

WALTER BLOCK: Right.

00:34:31

STEPHAN KINSELLA: The child’s body is not unowned.

00:34:32

WALTER BLOCK: Well, you have a child.  I have two children.  And my advice to all new parents is get in as much kissing as you can because all too soon they start thinking they own themselves.

00:34:43

STEPHAN KINSELLA: And Walter, I’ve taken that advice, and I’m doing it.  I’m doing the hell out of it.  My kid is 9 and still hasn’t petered out yet.  I’m still taking your advice.

00:34:51

WALTER BLOCK: My son, whenever I try to kiss him, he says, no homosexual activities.

00:34:54

STEPHAN KINSELLA: I know.  I know.

00:34:55

WALTER BLOCK: He’s a pain in the ass, my kid.  But when they were…

00:34:58

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Well, he’s what, 36?

00:35:00

WALTER BLOCK: He’s 34 now so he’s still a pain in the ass.  But when my children, and I’m sure this is true of Ethan, when they were six months ago, you can kiss them all you wanted, and they had no objections.

00:35:11

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Yes.

00:35:12

WALTER BLOCK: But as they got older and older, they started going like this, putting their arms up and saying no.  They learn the word no, and then all things deteriorated when they learned the word no.

00:35:21

STEPHAN KINSELLA: But even if you say they homestead their bodies, you have to admit they’re not homesteading an unowned resource.

00:35:27

WALTER BLOCK: Well, they’re homesteading an egg and a sperm and some food.

00:35:29

STEPHAN KINSELLA: But it’s not unowned.  Until they homestead it, it’s already an owned thing.

00:35:35

WALTER BLOCK: By – who owns the…

00:35:36

STEPHAN KINSELLA: By the mother, the parents.

00:35:37

WALTER BLOCK: Okay, so let’s say that the parents own the kid until he’s six months old.

00:35:41

STEPHAN KINSELLA: So there’s a transfer of ownership.  It’s not like homesteading…

00:35:43

WALTER BLOCK: Yes.

00:35:44

STEPHAN KINSELLA: It’s more like a contract or something.

00:35:46

WALTER BLOCK: No, no, not a contract.  He sort of takes control of his body before when he’s six months…

00:35:50

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Yes, because control matters.  I agree.  This is what matters.  Control is what matters.

00:35:54

WALTER BLOCK: Yes, we agree on that.  Control is the key, and the kid sort of gradually wakes up into self-awareness and self-ownership.

00:36:00

STEPHAN KINSELLA: I agree.

00:36:01

WALTER BLOCK: And when the kid is 3 years old…

00:36:04

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Yeah.  I’m not debating on the transition and how we draw the line.  What I’m saying is at a certain point he becomes the self-aware, sapient or sentient controller of that body.

00:36:16

WALTER BLOCK: And therefore owner that body.

00:36:18

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Yeah, but he’s the owner because he’s the controller, not because he’s the – not because he homesteaded it.

00:36:23

WALTER BLOCK: Right.  But then I say, and here we diverge, I say he can sell it.  You say he can’t sell it.

00:36:28

STEPHAN KINSELLA: No, no, but this is my point.  If you recognize that the rationale or the basis for ownership of a person’s body is his direct control of it…

00:36:38

WALTER BLOCK: Initially, yes.

00:36:40

STEPHAN KINSELLA: As opposed to ownership of a chair or a car or a table because you acquired it and it used to be unowned.  See, what I’m thinking is ownership means the legal right to control, which means to have the – you’re the person who has the right to make the decision about who can use this resource.  You can consent or not.

00:37:05

WALTER BLOCK: Yes.

00:37:06

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Sex, boxing match, whatever.  In the case of something that you acquire that was previously unowned, because you acquired it and because its natural is external from human bodies, and because it used to be unowned and because it is owned only because there is a human actor who intends to own it and asserts his domination over it or dominion over it, he can abandon that.  He could release it back into the wild.  He can abandon his ownership.

00:37:39

WALTER BLOCK: Like committing suicide you mean?

00:37:41

STEPHAN KINSELLA: No.  I’m talking about a chair.

00:37:42

WALTER BLOCK: Oh, oh, sorry, sorry.

00:37:43

STEPHAN KINSELLA: I’m talking about the chair.

00:37:44

WALTER BLOCK: Certainly.  You can abandon the chair.

00:37:46

STEPHAN KINSELLA: I say I owned it.  Now I can unown it.  I unown it.  So to me, if you can own something or acquire it, you can unown it or unacquire it.

00:37:56

WALTER BLOCK: But you can also unown yourself by committing suicide.

00:37:58

STEPHAN KINSELLA: But that’s not unowning yourself.  That’s ending yourself.

00:38:02

WALTER BLOCK: Or you can unown yourself by selling yourself into slavery.

00:38:04

STEPHAN KINSELLA: But that’s – okay, so that’s where we disagree.

00:38:07

WALTER BLOCK: Okay, let me raise a different point of view because we’re starting to repeat ourselves.  Now, I’m sure you’ll agree with me on this, namely, markets in used body parts—blood, kidneys.

00:38:18

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Absolutely, absolutely.  Of course it should be legal.

00:38:20

WALTER BLOCK: We have a right to alienate our liver or whatever we want.

00:38:24

STEPHAN KINSELLA: The question would be whether you can be compelled to go through with an agreed-upon operation.

00:38:31

WALTER BLOCK: Well, let’s forget about that for the moment.

00:38:32

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Okay.

00:38:33

WALTER BLOCK: I mean obviously that’s…

00:38:34

STEPHAN KINSELLA: I agree with you.  Of course that should be legal.

00:38:35

WALTER BLOCK: Certainly we can alienate parts of our bodies.

00:38:37

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Absolutely.  Once you sever it from your body, I think that’s an inalienable owned thing.

00:38:42

WALTER BLOCK: Right.  So what I’m trying to work you into is agreeing that if you can sell a toe and you can sell below the ankle and you can sell below the knee, you can sell below the hip.

00:38:52

STEPHAN KINSELLA: No, you can sell anything after it’s severed.

00:38:54

WALTER BLOCK: Why can’t you sell the whole thing?

00:38:54

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Because…

00:38:56

WALTER BLOCK: In one fell swoop.

00:38:58

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Because there’s no one there left to agree to the transfer.

00:39:05

WALTER BLOCK: I just agreed.  I agreed because I wanted to save my son’s life.

00:39:08

STEPHAN KINSELLA: But I don’t think I can agree now to sell my foot and have it be enforced.  That’s why I said who can be compelled to go through with it?  If I choose not to go through with the surgery – now, I’ll give you this.  I think that there’s some circularities in parts of your argument, but I’ll give you this.  The difficulty with my argument is this, which you haven’t raised, so I’m going to give you…

00:39:32

WALTER BLOCK: I need all the help I can get.  Thank you.

00:39:35

STEPHAN KINSELLA: The hard part is this.  I believe you can alienate title to acquired objects or even future acquired objects.  So let’s suppose I agree that every piece of property that I ever come to own in the future is yours, and you’re my master.

00:39:57

WALTER BLOCK: Right.  Now you’re the slave; I’m the master.

00:40:00

STEPHAN KINSELLA: So you can’t beat me for running away, but you can snatch every morsel of food away from me the second I get it.

00:40:07

WALTER BLOCK: Interesting.

00:40:08

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Every dime I make from any job you can take it from me.  You can garnish my wages.  You can garnish my food.

00:40:13

WALTER BLOCK: Interesting.

00:40:14

STEPHAN KINSELLA: So basically that would give you the ability to compel me to do what you want because if I don’t listen to your orders you can cause me to…

00:40:23

WALTER BLOCK: Die.

00:40:24

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Suffocate to death or die, whatever.  So – and I don’t have a good argument against that except for some kind of libertarian bankruptcy-type argument, which is the ability to kind of have a little sphere of minimal living support that you can’t alienate.  But that makes me uncomfortable because it’s like a bankruptcy argument.

00:40:45

WALTER BLOCK: No.  Welfare for the bankrupt.

00:40:48

STEPHAN KINSELLA: So if you could compel someone to do what you want by having them alienate everything outside of their bodies, then you could achieve almost the same thing as with your body.

00:41:00

WALTER BLOCK: Well, thank you.  I appreciate it.

00:41:01

STEPHAN KINSELLA: I’m going to delete the last two minutes of this.

00:41:04

WALTER BLOCK: No, no, don’t you dare.  Because I want to make a meta discussion now just for a minute and then get back to this.  One of the things I enjoy not only in this discussion but in every discussion I’ve ever had with you is that we’re really not trying to beat up the other guy.  There’s no ego.  We really try to get to the truth with a capital T, and if you see an argument that can help me or vice versa, you will articulate it.  Now, I just don’t see anything that will help you.  No, I’m kidding.

00:41:31

STEPHAN KINSELLA: I know.  Well – and thank you, but in truth, I’m actually not that upset by the idea of voluntary slavery contracts.  It’s just – to me it’s more academic because, to be honest, let’s say we achieve Walter Blockian libertarian world, which would be 99.9% of what I want anyway.  The only problem is people that are so stupid that they agree to…

00:41:53

WALTER BLOCK: They’re so stupid they want to save their sons’ lives.

00:41:56

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Well, it’s…

00:41:56

WALTER BLOCK: But you have son.  Wouldn’t you want to save his life if you were in a dread disease and I was rich and only I could save him?

00:42:03

STEPHAN KINSELLA: No.

00:42:04

WALTER BLOCK: That doesn’t…

00:42:03

STEPHAN KINSELLA: I’m joking.

00:42:04

WALTER BLOCK: Wouldn’t you want to save him?

00:42:05

STEPHAN KINSELLA: I’m joking.

00:42:06

WALTER BLOCK: I’m going to tell your wife what you just said.  You’re going to be in trouble, boy.  No, no, seriously.  If your son had a dread disease and I had enough money to save him if you promised to be my slave…

00:42:21

STEPHAN KINSELLA: I would want to be able to do that, of course, but I would also want there to be an out for me to find a way to weasel out of it later.

00:42:27

WALTER BLOCK: But if there was a way for you to weasel out of it…

00:42:28

STEPHAN KINSELLA: I couldn’t do it.  I got it.

00:42:30

WALTER BLOCK: Then the contract would fall apart.  So if you love your son, you have to agree.

00:42:36

STEPHAN KINSELLA: I have to agree with you.  I know, and I do love my son.  If I don’t agree with you, I’m a bad father, and I know I’m not a bad father.

00:42:42

WALTER BLOCK: You are a bad father if you don’t agree with me.

00:42:45

STEPHAN KINSELLA: No, but my point is really, to be honest, this doesn’t upset me too much because the worst case is we have a society where, if you actually sign on the dotted line and you go through these formalities and you say it, then you’re a slave.  It’s like, well, I mean I’m not too afraid of living in that society because if you really hate that idea, then just don’t sign the damn slavery contract.

00:43:07

WALTER BLOCK: Right, and let your son die.

00:43:08

STEPHAN KINSELLA: You’re really – no one’s any worse off by having another option on the table.

00:43:13

WALTER BLOCK: Hey, I think I’ve made a convert of you now.

00:43:15

STEPHAN KINSELLA: I’m just telling you your world doesn’t horrify me that much.  It’s just…

00:43:19

WALTER BLOCK: No, no, it’s not just that it doesn’t horrify you.  It’s that bad fatherhood is going to happen to you if you don’t agree with me, boy.

00:43:28

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Well, I think we’ll call this one a draw at best.

00:43:31

WALTER BLOCK: I’m happy to call it a draw.  That was fun.

00:43:35

STEPHAN KINSELLA: All right, Walter, thank you.

00:43:37

WALTER BLOCK: Oh, it was – it’s always a pleasure.

00:43:38

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Now let’s go watch some impermissible TV.

00:43:42

WALTER BLOCK: Okay, sure.

00:43:44

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{ 15 comments… add one }
  • Richard Hunter August 28, 2017, 10:08 am

    To own something is to control something, to be able to use and dispose of it as you wish. In today’s society, you do, mostly, have the ability to control, use, and dispose of your body as you wish – but slavery is illegal – that is you are not allowed to sell yourself into slavery. This means that you are NOT able to use and dispose of yourself as you wish in this regards. In other words, you don’t completely own yourself. It would seem that the government at least partly owns you – maybe a 10% stake in you – which allows you to do most, but not all things, as you wish.

    I think, in short, that the assumption is often made, rather lazily, that we own ourselves, but when the issue is examined it will be found that it really isn’t that simple.

    • Stephan Kinsella August 28, 2017, 11:05 am

      Being unable to sell yourself into slavery is not a limit on ownership but a consequence of it. As for the state owning us, you need to distinguish between positive law and the rights that correspond therewith, from justified law and rights. It is true that the state acts as our masters and thus legally partially owns us, but this is not justified anymore than chattel slavery was. Each person is the 100% natural owner of himself.

      • Richard Hunter September 12, 2017, 1:21 pm

        Indeed there is a difference; and if you found yourself as a slave in Mississippi in the 18th century, you would certainly find out the difference: Both of us have the right not to be slaves, and that right is guaranteed to us because we live in a 21st century westernised society. We also have a moral right not to be slaves. However the 18th century slave only had the latter kind of right, and what difference did it make to his situation?

        Indeed his slave master not only had the legal right to enslave people, he believed he had the moral right as well!

        Moral or natural rights are ultimately no more than opinions that people hold. They are useful in that they can influence people and so lead to societies adopting them as legal rights.

        The trouble with talking of ‘natural rights’ is that it implies that theses are universal, but they are not. As I mentioned, not everyone was against slavery. There are legal rights and then there are opinions. To talk of ‘natural rights’ is to talk of nothing at all.

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