Answering Charles Murray on Legalizing Blackmail


[W]alter Block starts with the rhetorical position that property is a natural right rather than the result of a necessary contractual exchange of rights, agreed to in order to construct property rights that are adjudicable, in order to prevent retaliation for impositions of costs upon one another, by providing a means of restitution and punishment by the community rather than retaliation by the individual.

His position is illogical.

The first question of ethics is not one in which we assume the value of cooperation, but one in which we assume the value of predation. So cooperation must be preferable to predation. And it is only preferable if it is productive.

Cooperation must be rational or it is irrational (obviously). For cooperation to be rational, it must be:
– Mutually Productive,
– Fully informed,
– Warrantied to be fully informed,
– Consisting of Voluntary Exchange or Transfer,
– Free of negative externality (of the same criteria).
If these are all true then there is no need for retaliation.

Walter Block, like his mentor Rothbard, is attempting to restate Maimonides’ dualist ethics as if they are a universal good. Instead of a utilitarian tactic for a minority living at the behest of a tyrant attempting to minimize his costs of policing.

But, the first logically necessary question of ethics is ‘Why don’t I kill you and take your stuff?’

Block’s position on blackmail is one in which it is preferable to kill the blackmailer and take his stuff rather than to cooperate with him.

So, it’s not complicated. Dualist (and poly-logical) ethics cannot by logical necessity be advocated as a universal ethic – it’s a logical contradiction. Natural rights are used as a nonsensical justification for various spurious ends. We do not presume rights, nor are they ‘existent’ prior to contract. They are merely the necessary terms for rational political contract.

Cosmopolitan ethics attempt to preserve ingroup parasitism on outgroup members, while at the same time prohibiting the formation of family organizations that suppress parasitism.

Rothbardian anarchism (libertinism), is an expression of group evolutionary strategy that ‘games’ (circumvents) the defenses of western aristocratic, truth telling civilization.

So, instead, the first rule of ethics is that one should not engage in parasitism.

Blackmail is unproductive and parasitic, and therefore a violation of the agreement for non-imposition of costs that serves as the only rational incentive to cooperate.

(Although this level of argument is probably a bit deep for even the interested and informed.)


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