A week ago I sent an e-mail to Walter Block. I decided not to publish it here until our exchange was finished. So here it is.
I had read your argument on matching funds before but I didn’t decide to send you mail until I read your exchange with Arakaky. Accepting state money is not analogous to breaking into Fort Knox. The state does not want you to break into Fort Knox and take its money. That is why it is heavily guarded. In contrast, the state whole-heartedly hands out money in the form of student aid, government contracts, welfare, subsidies and so on. As an Austrian economist you must agree that both parties to such a consensual trade benefit in an ex ante sense. The anti-statist must be like Max Stirner, who in The Ego and Its Own dismissed any “right” to free speech state legislators may have seen fit to grant him in their “Constitution” and instead seized that freedom for himself.
I have not read any Ayn Rand (nor do I have any intention to), but I did read your book Defending the Undefendable recently. I have a blog post on it at here.
Being of consequentialist bent (though I am an emotivist/non-cognitivist and so don’t believe in “utility”) I differ with you on certain issues. Behaviors that take place in a background of statism and violate public property can often be analogous to transgressing against the private property of others. Since a counterfeiter or litterer (two examples I dispute) do not have the capability of destroying the state, they cannot be considered heroes because they have not alleviated the burden of statism from anyone. Instead what they do harms others. Imagine if statism were all the more severe and we were all prisoners. We would be fed prison food made by the slave labor of prisoners. A person who spits in the food before it is served is defying the state and transgressing against its property, but he is also diminishing the quality of what food is available to the state’s victims. The congestion caused by cars on the road given the state’s monopoly is a significant harm which is why I have some (but not large enough to tip the balance) reservations about ending restrictions on taxi services.
In response Walter Block wrote “You make some very good points. I urge you to write them up formally, and get them published. In my view, it doesn’t much matter whether the state wants you to take its money; why should we pay attention to its desires?”.
My response is that I don’t care much for formal publication, so the blog is sufficient. The reason we are interested in the state’s desires is that it bears directly on whether accepting money it gives is analogous to its enemies stealing money from it. Imagine that our hypothetical pirate or bandit hijacks a truck full of government money. Under your theory that is commendable. Let’s specify further that the money was bound for grad students. The pirate has just prevented the grad students from taking government money. If preventing that is good, then how can the grad students taking the money also be so?