Walter Block: No Brainer Who To Vote For

Dr. Block has kindly given me permission to share here an email which I received a few days ago. I’ve deleted only the identity of the individual to whom the following was initially addressed, a portion unrelated to Dr. Block’s endorsement of Gary Johnson for President, and Dr. Block’s email and telephone numbers from his signature line (to avoid their capture by automatic spamming software).

Professor Block writes:

“Yes, Gary Johnson is more of a Reason and Cato “libertarian” than he is a Rothbardian one. And, yes, the former is vastly inferior to the latter. Let me urge you, nevertheless, to vote for Johnson-Gray rather than Romney-Ryan, even though Johnson, and Gray too, are not pure libertarians.

“After I jump up into the air, two things happen: the earth pulls me down, and I (very slightly) pull the earth back up to me. To even mention these two things in the same sentence is to commit some sort of formal logical fallacy, for which there must be a name.

“And that is the fallacy I think you are laboring under. Posit that Rothbard is a 100% libertarian, that Ron Paul is a 97% libertarian, and that both Johnson and Gray are only, say, 75% libertarians. But how do Romney-Ryan match up on this libertarian scale? Do they reach the 5% level? I’m not sure, but certainly no higher. So, here we have a 75% libertarian running against at 5% libertarian, and you’re wondering which one a libertarian should support? That’s almost like wondering about the gravitational pull I personally exert upon the entire earth. The perfect is the enemy of the good. I think all libertarians are morally obligated to support “good” libertarians such as Johnson-Gray, even though they are not perfect.

“I know both Johnson and Gray personally. Both are willing to at least listen to my type of (Rothbardian) libertarianism. Both are far too busy, now, to read books I suggest to them, but I have no doubt they will do so in future. So, to me, it is a no brainer as to who to vote for. If the LP ticket gets 5% of the vote, the LP won’t have to go though the Herculean task of getting on the ballot in 2016. If Johnson-Gray get 5% of the vote, particularly if this is more than the difference between the vote for Romney – Obama, even if only in a few states, the mainstream media will once again start talking about liberty, libertarianism, the LP.

Isn’t that worthwhile voting for them?

Best regards,


Walter E. Block, Ph.D.
Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics
Joseph A. Butt, S.J. College of Business
Loyola University New Orleans
6363 St. Charles Avenue, Box 15, Miller Hall 318
New Orleans, LA 70118

12 thoughts on “Walter Block: No Brainer Who To Vote For

  1. paulie

    Great stuff!

    I don’t think the Rothbardians have a lot of Romney fans, though.

    The bigger arguments he would have with fellow Rothbardians this year – if he wants to address them – are those writing in Ron Paul and those who don’t vote.

    A few that are for Virgil Goode or Obama, but not nearly as many as supported those parties in 2008. I don’t think I’ve talked to one Rothbardian Stein voter, although it’s possible there are some somewhere.

  2. Thomas L. Knapp

    I’d be interested in the logic behind Dr. Block’s claim that I am “morally obligated” to support ANY candidate.

    That seems to be a departure from Rothbardianism on Block’s part. Rothbard argued that “defensive voting” is not immoral, but I don’t recall him ever asserting that it’s obligatory. Then again, I’m not a Rothbard scholar.

  3. Joe Buchman Post author

    >>Isn’t that worthwhile voting for them?<< I'd like to give a shot at answering Dr. Block's question above. I do not know. I am not sure that just casting my vote matters all that much (indeed in Utah it won't have any shot at all at impacting the electoral college vote). But I am 100 percent certain that working my heart out for these guys, to do what I can to maximize the number of votes they receive, DOES reach the standard of being worthwhile. I voted today. Was pleased to vote for 7 Libertarians who I know personally. But what made THAT feel worthwhile was all the other work I've done to maximize their vote totals. To those disillusioned regarding voting, I highly recommend conducting this experiment -- invest as much time and energy working for the campaign you support before voting for it and notice if you experience a reduction in disillusionment. I imagine Dr. Block will have an economic term for this phenomenon, and I hope he will choose to post here in response to all our questions.

  4. Richard Winger

    I love Walter Block’s column, but it seems to say there is a connection between Gary Johnson polling 5%, and ballot access. 5% is important because it relates to general election public funding, but it has no relevance to ballot access. Each state sets its own law on how a party remains on the ballot, with percentages required that range from one-half of 1% to 20%. The median is 2%.

  5. David Colborne

    I think declaring Paul a “97% Rothbardian” is being more than a little generous. My feeling is that he and GJ are about the same, just with a different 75% for each and a different approach on how they get their 75% across. GJ/Gray have more of a pragmatic, “Let’s try this libertarian policy, see how it goes” approach, while Paul is more of a, “We need to try all 75% of these libertarian policies simultaneously, here’s the books I’ve read to back it up, and you’re a fool if you feel otherwise” kind of guy.


    #4 great that the Utah LP office seekers have your support. Here in PA I’m so mad I could spit. The League of Women Voters Guide appeared in today’s paper. Remember all the hassle and money it took to get GJ and the LPP candidates on the ballot this year? Yet not one of the four statewide LPP candidates responded to the LWV question. Not one!
    A free forum to contrast our views with those of the old party candidates and not one took advantage of it. Does anyone think voters will give two craps about a candidate whose “answer” is “Did Not Respond?” Forty years of failing to do even the simple things expected of a candidate. Forty years of petition gathering and we can’t even fulfil the first of David Nolan’s expectations of the usefulness of a Libertarian Party. Yes, I’ll vote the straight Libertarian ticket, as I always do, but I’m not a happy camper today.

  7. Joe Buchman Post author

    ATBAFT @ 9,

    Part of our standard for endorsements was to cause candidates to reach a minimum standard for running a real campaign — one with a website, for example, with their endorsement of us back on it.

    I gotta wonder if the LWV somehow failed in their invitation to those candidates to get into the guide (some of these guides we’ve worked to get into were a bit hard to find — some are produced by the state (Oregon), some by other organizations like LWV, by some newspapers and other media, on some television station websites — trying to be sure the campaign was in all of those was a challenge. And in some states, like Oregon, it’s vital. Apparently EVERYONE there reads theirs before voting.

  8. walter block

    To Paulie: I do address “those writing in Ron Paul and those who don’t vote. ” I do so here:;

    To Thomas Knapp: a moral obligation is not legally binding; it is not “obligatory.” You also have a moral obligation to brush your teeth, eat healthily, etc.

    To Joe Buchman. I agree. Enthusiastically

    To Richard Winger. I stand corrected. I think you know more about these things than me. On accepting govt funding, see this:

    To PeterO: “libertarian ‘purity’ smacks of Stalin?” mathematical purity consists of saying that 2+2=4, and denying that 2+2=5. Is that Stalinism too? Chemical purity consists of not allowing poisons into food. Stalinism?

  9. Joe Buchman Post author

    Peter @13,

    You sound like a character out of Atlas Shrugged. Intellectualism isn’t characterized by kaleidoscopic impurity, but by the ability to bring a laser-like focus to the problem at hand at the time.

    Aside from that, I see no demands here.

    That said, keenly listening to other’s points of view as preparation for explicating a path to agreement is, perhaps not a sign of intellectualism, but of the kind of folks I, at least, like to hang out with.



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