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Voluntary Slavery, Once Again

From: SteveThomasPsych

To: wblock@loyno.edu

Subject: Regarding the Bad Samaritan

Dr. Block,

Recently I viewed your lecture from late 2016 on “Defending the Undefendable” given at the Mises Institute. A question came to me when you were giving an example of a person who was drowning being offered a rope in exchange for a lifetime of servitude. In that situation, if the servitude was found by the formerly drowning man to be intolerable, would he be transgressing the property rights of his master by committing suicide?

This question came to me and I wanted to send off an email quickly so as to not forget it. I will think about it, and hopefully come to some conclusion, but if you have answered this before or the answer seems obvious, please do not waste a moment in replying.

All the best,

Stephen Thomas

Dear Stephen:

Yes, in the case, the slave committing suicide would be a crime against his owner. It is difficult to see the punishment that could be imposed upon this theif, however. I think that is where the logic of this takes us. Sometimes, logic takes us to weird places. But logic is still logic. Of course, if the major premise is wrong… But, I think the major premise is correct: voluntary slavery is compatible with libertarianism:


In the view of Boldrin and Levine, 2008, p. 254: “Take the case of slavery. Why should people not be allowed to sign private contracts binding them to slavery? In fact economists have consistently argued against slavery – during the 19th century David Ricardo and John Stuart Mill engaged in a heated public debate with literary luminaries such as Charles Dickens, with the economists opposing slavery, and the literary giants arguing in favor.”

Andersson, 2007;  Block, 1969, 1979, 1988, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007A, 2007B, 2009A, 2009B; Boldrin and Levine, 2008; Frederick, 2014; Kershnar, 2003; Lester, 2000; Mosquito, 2014;  Nozick, 1974, pp. 58, 283, 331; Steiner, 1994, pp. 232-233; 2013, pp. 230-244; Thomson, 1990, pp. 283-284.

Andersson, Anna-Karin. 2007. “An alleged contradiction in Nozick’s entitlement theory.” Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 21, No. 3, Fall: 43–63; http://mises.org/journals/jls/21_3/21_3_3.pdf

Block, Walter E. 1969. “Voluntary Slavery.” The Libertarian Connection, Vol. I, No. 3, April 13, pp. 9-11.

Block, Walter E. 1979. Book review of Nancy C. Baker, Baby Selling: the Scandal of Black Market Adoptions, New York: The Vanguard Press, 1978; in Libertarian Review, January, Vol. 7, No. 12, pp. 44-45.

Block, Walter E. 1988. “Rent-a-womb market,” Thunder Bay Ontario Daily; June 26.

Block, Walter E. 1999. “Market Inalienability Once Again: Reply to Radin,” Thomas Jefferson Law Journal, Vol. 22, No. 1, Fall, pp. 37-88; https://walterblocks.com/publications/market_inalienability.pdf

Block, Walter E. 2001. “Alienability, Inalienability, Paternalism and the Law: Reply to Kronman,” American Journal of Criminal Law, Vol. 28, No. 3, Summer, pp. 351-371; https://walterblocks.com/publications/reply_to_kronman.pdf

Block, Walter E. 2002. “A Libertarian Theory of Secession and Slavery,” June 10; https://www.lewrockwell.com/block/block15.htmlhttp://libertariantruth.wordpress.com/2006/12/08/a-libertarian-theory-of-secession-and-slavery/

Block, Walter E. 2003. “Toward a Libertarian Theory of Inalienability: A Critique of Rothbard, Barnett, Gordon, Smith, Kinsella and Epstein,” Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol.17, No. 2, Spring, pp. 39-85; http://www.mises.org/journals/jls/17_2/17_2_3.pdf

Block, Walter E. 2004. “Are Alienability and the Apriori of Argument Logically Incompatible?” Dialogue, Vol. 1, No. 1. http://www.uni-svishtov.bg/dialog/2004/256gord6.pdf

Block, Walter E. 2005. “Ayn Rand and Austrian Economics: Two Peas in a Pod.” The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. Vol. 6, No. 2, Spring, pp. 259-269

Block, Walter E. 2006. “Epstein on alienation: a rejoinder” International Journal of Social Economics; Vol. 33, Nos. 3-4, pp. 241-260

Block, Walter E. 2007A. “Secession,” Dialogue. No. 4; pp. 1-14;  http://www.uni-svishtov.bg/dialog/2007/4.07.WB.pdf

Block, Walter E. 2007B. “Alienability: Reply to Kuflik.” Humanomics Vol. 23, No. 3, pp. 117-136; http://www.emeraldinsight.com/Insight/viewContentItem.do;jsessionid=0685BBB744173274A5E7CE3803132413?contentType=Article&contentId=1626605

Block, Walter E. 2009A. “Yes, Sell Rivers! And Make Legal Some Slave Contracts” The Tyee. July 25; http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2009/07/24/SellRivers/

Block, Walter E. 2009B. “Privatizing Rivers and Voluntary Slave Contracts” July 27;


Boldrin, Michele and David K. Levine. 2008. Against Intellectual Monopoly. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; http://www.dklevine.com/general/intellectual/against.htmhttp://levine.sscnet.ucla.edu/general/intellectual/against.htmhttp://mises.org/store/Against-Intellectual-Monopoly-P552.aspx

Frederick, Danny. 2014. “Voluntary Slavery,” Las Torres de Lucca 4: 115-37, http://www.lastorresdelucca.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=145:laesclavitud-


Kershnar, Stephen. 2003. “A Liberal Argument for Slavery,” Journal of Social Philosophy, 34 (4): 510-36

Lester, Jan Clifford. 2000. Escape from Leviathan. St. Martin’s Press. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0312234163/qid%3D989845939/107-8070279-6411737

Mosquito, Bionic. 2014. “The Sanctity of Contract.” April 19;


Nozick, Robert. 1974. Anarchy, State and Utopia, New York: Basic Books, http://www.amazon.com/Anarchy-State-Utopia-Robert-Nozick/dp/0465097200

Steiner, Hillel. 1994. An Essay on Rights, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers; https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2mi4-xFgT7NNWhEQWNhbXB6enc/view

Steiner, Hillel. 2013. “Directed Duties and Inalienable Rights.” Ethics 123 ( January): pp. 230–244

Thomson, Judith Jarvis. 1990. The Realm of Rights, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press



Barnett, 1986, 1988; Calabresi and Melamed, 1972; Epstein, 1985; Evers, 1977; Gordon, 1999; Kinsella, 1998-1999, 2003; Kronman, 1983; Kuflik, 1984, 1986; Long, 1994-1995; McConnell, 1984, 1996; Radin, 1986, 1987; Reisman, 1996, pp. 455f., 634-636; Rothbard, 1998; Smith, 1996, 1997; Unknown, nd.

Barnett, Randy E. 1986. “Contract Remedies and Inalienable Rights” Social Philosophy & Policy Vol. 4, Issue 1, Autumn, pp. 179-202

Barnett, Randy E. 1988. The Structure of Liberty: Justice and the Rule of Law, Oxford: Clarendon Press

Barnett, Randy E. 2007. “Libertarians and the War.”July 17;


Calabresi, Guido and Melamed, Douglas. 1972. “Property Rules, Liability Rules, and Inalienability: One View of the Cathedral,” Harvard Law Review, Vol. 85, No. 6, April, pp. 1089-1128

Epstein, Richard. 1985.  “Why Restrain Alienation,” Columbia Law Review, vol. 85, 970

Evers, Williamson. 1977. “Toward a Reformulation of the Law of Contracts,” Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 1, Winter, pp. 3-13; http://mises.org/journals/jls/1_1/1_1_2.pdf

Gordon, David. 1999.  “Private Property’s Philosopher,” The Mises Review, Vol. 5, No. 1, Spring, pp. 1-7

Kinsella, N. Stephan. 1998-1999. “Reply to George Smith: A Victim’s Right to Punish,” Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 14, No. 1, Winter, pp. 79-93

Kinsella, N. Stephan. 1998-1999.  “Inalienability and Punishment: A Reply to George Smith,” Winter, Journal of Libertarian Studies.

Kinsella, N. Stephan.  2003. A Libertarian Theory of Contract: Title Transfer, Binding Promises, and Inalienability, Journal of Libertarian Studies 17, no. 2 (Spring): 11-37

Kronman, Anthony. 1983. “Paternalism and the Law of Contracts,” 92 Yale Law Journal


Kuflik, Arthur. 1984. “The Inalienability of Autonomy,” Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 13, No. 4, Fall, pp. 271-298

Kuflik, Arthur. 1986. “The Utilitarian Logic of Inalienable Rights,” Ethics, 97, Oct. 1986, pp. 75-87

Long, Roderick. 1994-1995. “Slavery Contracts and Inalienable Rights: A Formulation.” Formulations. Winter; http://libertariannation.org/a/f22l1.html

McConnell, Terrance. 1984. “The Nature and Basis of Inalienable Rights,” Law and Philosophy, Vol. 3, No. 1,  pp. 25-59

McConnell, Terrance. 1996. “The Inalienable Right of Conscience: A Madisonian Argument,” Social Theory & Practice, Fall, Vol. 22, Issue 3, pp. 397-416

Radin, Margaret Jane. 1986. “Time, Possession and Alienation,” 64 Washington University Law Quarterly, 739

Radin, Margaret Jane. 1987. “Market-Inalienability,” Harvard Law Review, Vol. 100, No. 8, June, pp. 1849-1937

Reisman, George. 1996. Capitalism. Ottawa, Il.: Jameson Books

Rothbard, Murray N. 1998 [1982]. The Ethics of Liberty, Humanities Press, Atlantic Highlands, N.J., 1998 [1982], pp. 40-41, 135-136; http://www.mises.org/rothbard/ethics/ethics.asp

Smith, George. 1996. “A Killer’s Right to Life,” Liberty, Vol. 10, No. 2, November, pp. 46-54

Smith, George. 1997. “Inalienable Rights?,” Liberty, Vol. 10, No. 6, July, p. 51

Unknown Author. No date. “But What About Voluntary Slaves?”


Best regards,



3:02 am on July 21, 2020

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