Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The invisible hand of libertarianism

Hands up anyone even remotely surprised to hear a Fraser Institute alumnus making an argument in favour of slavery.

In an argument with Rafe Mair at The Tyee "Yes, Sell the Rivers", libertarian Walter Block defends privatization using an example of what he is careful to call "voluntary slavery" :

"My child is gravely ill. Only an operation can save his life. But, this medical care costs $100 million, and I am a poor man (we assume away the possibility of government health care that will swoop in and ruin our example).
Seemingly, my only option is to witness the passing away of my beloved child.
But wait!
Rafe Mair, richer than Bill Gates, has for a long time wanted me to be his slave. He'd like more than anything else to boss me around, and then whip me every time I displeased him. He values this opportunity way more than the medical costs necessary to save my child's life. So, we strike a deal. Rafe gives me the $100 million, which I immediately turn over to the hospital. Then, I go to Mair's plantation, and become his slave.

Why is this so objectionable? Rafe and I both gain from this deal. I value my child's life more than my own freedom; way more. Mair values my servitude more than the costs of buying me into servitude; again, way more, let us suppose. If voluntary slavery is legal, we can consummate this financial arrangement, to our mutual gain. If not, not, to the great loss of both of us.

Slave-master Rafe would never shell out the cold cash if, after he paid, I could haul him into court on assault and battery charges when he whipped me. Then, without this financial arrangement, I would have to witness the death of my child, probably the most devastating thing that can ever happen to a parent."

$100 million in medicare costs for an operation?
What kind of cockamamie example is that ?
Oh yeah, right, Walter Block is the author of "Socialized Medicine is the Problem".
"[Our healthcare system] should be privatized and take its place among all other industries (cars, computers, chalk) that contribute mightily to our advanced standard of living ...
At this point the critic will retort, “It is not fair to charge people market prices for health care; the rich will be treated better.” But that is precisely the point of being rich in the first place. If the wealthy did not get better treatment, what would be the point in trying to amass riches?"

So according to Block, voluntary slavery is the best scenario result of privatizing 'socialized' medicine.
Good to know.
Author Taras Grescoe once quipped to me that a libertarian is just a conservative who once smoked a joint. Maybe more than one was required here.


Niles said...

Yep, it's voluntary alright. That's been the tradition for thousands of years. Poor people, starving to death as a result of war, poor crops, forced emigration, bars to employment and other ill-considered life choices that proved they are not the wise and just inheritors of life, *always* had the generous fallback status of 'fixed asset' provided to them by the successful 'producers'. Excess children were like money in the bank.

All *completely* voluntary. No one was standing right *there* with a sword to their throats, forcing them to do it. They had the option to die in liberty. That slave yard was just sitting in the neighbourhood, looking to do noblesse oblige for the cravens who couldn't take the high road and perish.

I'd like to see this fellow do just that. Sell himself as totally surrendered property to someone who completely controls all actions of the remainder of his chattel life without a jot of mercy. And make a documentary of it for the rest of the shite for brains who think it's just a fiiiine solution.

After all, it's not a Final Solution, so all is good.

vw: dismor. like mordor, only this guy's idea of a great social set up

Dave said...

Ah yes, the spawn of Isabel Paterson, Rose wilder Lane and, (the piece de resistance) Ayn Rand.

Something to keep in mind about the Mises Institute types is that their beliefs centre on the assumption that they will, if they ever gain exploitative power, automatically assume the favourable side of their ideology.

We've already had the lassaiz-faire capitalist, libertarian of the future depicted for us on popular television - Star Trek's Ferengi.

Believe me Quark would have been Paterson's, Lane's and Rand's messiah.

Oh yeah. If you're unfortunate enough not to be among the rich, you automatically become one of the exploited. Libertarian dogma.

Alison said...

I was very taken with Ayn Rand's novels when I was 14 - but then I was also partial to stories about vampires and pirates and aliens. They spoke directly to that unfettered celebration of the disembodied self that is the hallmark of being a teenager.
It's a testament to the ingenuity of the human mind that people like Rand can take a personal tragedy like getting stuck at that stage of emotional development and make up an entire theory of human interaction just to justify it.

Libertarians annoy because they refuse to admit that they can only behave this badly because mom and dad are looking out for them. They resent this too, as teenagers will.

thwap said...

Too bad for Block that those human rights are "inalienable" in our system.

Typical of the moron to pretend to be unable to conceive of how "voluntary" slavery leaves itself open to abuse.

I'm actually stunned. What a scum-bag.

sunsin said...

$100 million in medicare costs for an operation? What kind of cockamamie example is that?

That's what an operation would cost in the Fraser Institute's dream world, silly.

Oemissions said...

following their logic, everyone has the right to pollute, waste resources and kill, injure other people.

Nonya said...


Not quite, the basic principle of libertarianism (or voluntaryism) is no initiation of force. Do what you wish so long as it does not interfere with others doing that of which they wish.


You speak as if Block's hypothetical of voluntarily entering into a contractual agreement to render services at the discretion of another being will result in you being forced to do the same. That agreement has nothing to do with you, no matter how much you want it to.

How are you exploited in a voluntary exchange? One is not forced into a voluntary exchange, because by definition it would no longer be voluntary. When you exchange for something, you are saying what you are receiving is worth more or as much to you in comparison to what you are giving up. If that was not the case, then you simply wouldn't exchange.


At least my daddy loved me...

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