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Voluntary Slavery, Another Discussion

Letter 1

From: Mads Nørgaard

Subject: Question about slavery

Hi Walter,

I just listened to the Tom Woods podcast you attended ep. 1592 where you explained your conflict with the New York times and it made me wonder where I myself stand on the question of voluntary entry into servitude.

If you for ex. needs a million dollar to save your son from death and I am willing to give you a million dollars if you become my slave and thereby my property.

Then what if I was a psychopath who later decided to torture you to a slow and painful death, but let’s say the neighbors see us and they try to stop me, would the neighbors the not be the bad guys?

According to the property rights, I guess they would be, right?

But isn’t there something inherent in human nature that makes us very uncomfortable when seeing other people suffer, and making bad guys out of those trying to prevent the suffering seems to be the immoral thing.

Best Regards,

Mads Nørgaard,


Letter 2

Dear Mads:

Yes, the neighbors would be the bad guys, if the voluntary slave contract allowed for death by torture.

Here are some readings on this:


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,


Letter 3

From: Mads Nørgaard

Sent: Thursday, June 11, 2020 6:24 AM

To: Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu>

Subject: Re: Question about slavery

Thanks Walter,

That makes sense.

I will definitely have some more reading for when I’m done with Rothbard and Mises. I’m a big fan of the Mises Institute and especially you, so if you’d answer one more of my questions it would be greatly appreciated.

I have been thinking a lot about negative rights recently, and I don’t completely understand how the right to life would work in an anarcho-capitalist society.

If I have a right not to be killed, wouldn’t that entail that someone has to help me when a person tries to kill me? But then you’d still be facilitating someone else’s labor as if it was a positive right.

Or the right to not be abused or coerced, but who can ensure that right? Only myself I guess. And then what’s the point of calling it a right when there is no one but oneself to enforce the right?

Best Regards,

Mads Nørgaard

Den man. 8. jun. 2020 kl. 18.56 skrev Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu>:

Letter 4

Dear Mads:

You have no right not to be killed; you only have a right not to be murdered. Would that entail that someone else has to help you when a person tries to kill (murder) you? No. It would only imply that everyone else on the planet has a duty not to murder you.

If you are killed by a storm, or an earthquake, your rights will not have been violated.

Best regards,



2:08 am on July 28, 2020

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