On January 25, 2014 the New York Time’s published an article “Rand Paul’s Mixed Inheritance” in which they used highly edited and de-contextualized quotes from Dr. Walter Block (eminent and highly regarded libertarian scholar and economist at Loyola University) from an interview they had with Walter shortly before the article went to press. When The Daily Show makes light and distorts the words of Peter Schiff we understand they are mere clowns and it is their job to distort the truth in order to elicit a humorous response. However, when a publication such as the New York Times engages in such behavior we are slipping into the world of state-sponsored Pravda-esque media that deliberately distorts the truth in order to prop up the statist status quo by painting the picture that anyone who does not believe as they do must be “crazy” and if they do not appear to be “crazy” then it is perfectly acceptable to distort and misrepresent what they say in order to give that appearance (e.g. the Mises Institute comments in that article are so far off the mark it is laughable).
Subsequent to the Times article being published several members of the Loyola faculty as well as its President published open letters denouncing Dr. Block’s words. Tom Wood’s has built an excellent resource page giving all the relevant background for those interested in learning more. As a part of this effort to right the wrong against Dr. Block I submitted my own letter in response to the original knee-jerk finger pointing going on at Loyola. Here is my submission (with some slight style editing here):
15 February 2014
To: President, Faculty and Staff of Loyola University
The fact that you are so aghast at Walter Block’s recent remarks in the New York Times and elsewhere only serves to underscore why it is so important he continues to make the same point again and again. You are not simply missing the point – you are not even aware there was a point. Your indignation is wholly predicated on your (quite correct) disdain for the effects of slavery (violence, exploitation, horrendous living conditions, etc.) But that is not at all what his remarks pertained to. He was addressing the root cause and propagator of slavery: force. And how is such force made manifest both then and now? Government. Government (pre- and post- US revolution) protected, condoned, supported and legalized slavery. All the things you decry in your response were a RESULT of the very thing (force) he was denouncing.
Do you or do you not agree with the following sentence?: “<X> is good, but if <X> is forced upon the individual then it becomes <forced-X> which is bad.” If presumably you agree with this sentiment, then you must agree that by inserting the word “labor” for “X” we are left with nothing other than the very message Dr. Block was conveying. That is all.
Now, with respect to his characterization of slavery (i.e. the effects of slavery) being not “so bad” all I can say is that you clearly have never met the man, read his books or listened to any of his lectures. Were that the case you would realize he was merely engaging in pedagogical hyperbole in order to provoke a response that seizes the attention of the listener. To elicit thoughtful reflection from a student/listener, the deft lecturer will sometimes employ (obvious) exaggeration to invoke a
n [transitory] emotional response. Your decision to [remain mired in emotionalism] engage in a knee-jerk emotional response rather than [moving on to] thoughtful contemplation says more about your own intellectual intransigence than it does about your mistaken presumptions regarding Dr. Block’s beliefs. His provocation was meant solely to compel the listener to acknowledge the sheer futility of being angered by effects whilst simultaneously ignoring their very cause. Your response has only served to unwittingly demonstrate how correct he is in his efforts to spread this message.
Dr. Gregory T. Morin