Jim's Reviews > Defending the Undefendable

Defending the Undefendable by Walter Block
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's review
Oct 15, 2008

it was ok
bookshelves: 2non-fiction, 1paper
Read in November, 2008 , read count: 1

In the first couple of sections, Sexual & Medical, he presents some good arguments in favor of less government interference & that's not surprising, given his Libertarian stance that he warns about in the introduction. His arguments are somewhat thin, but not too bad.

I found that the third section on free speech lost some cohesiveness of argument. His arguments for not regulating blackmail, slander & libel were very thin. His comparisons against 'academic freedom' aren't particularly valid. He presupposes rationality & responsibility on the part of businesses that I don't believe exist, especially in his case for free speech against the yelling of, "Fire!" in a movie theater. This is an unfortunate habit of Libertarians.

He puts up a fair defense for advertising & overall brings up some good points, but they lack the conviction & depth of his earlier arguments supporting sex & drugs. His arguments for unregulated cab drivers are OK, immediately followed by poor arguments supporting ticket scalping. Over & over he does this. He makes valid points & then weak ones usually due to faulty premises, not the logic inherent to his argument until he gets to 'The Dishonest Cop' & here his logic & premises fall apart.

He takes his theories over the top into absurdity in his discussions about counterfeiting money, saying that only gold & silver are real money, again showing his premises are incorrect. He forgets (or ignores) that currency is a consensus of worth. Precious metals, jewels & even seashells were historically used because they were not counterfeitable, fairly rare & ornamental. They had no use in industry, yet everyone wanted them & agreed on their worth. The current global consensus is not to base money on any specific goods since there isn't enough of anything that would make sense & their value would affect significant industries. He shows that he understands debasement, inflation & other ills that can befall a currency, yet makes specious arguments for allowing counterfeiting on the grounds that the government already does it. Silly.

The book gets worse, if possible, after this in sections V, VI & VII, Finaces, Business & Ecology, respectively. Several categories don't need any defense; inheritors & speculators. Others, profiteers, stripminers & litterers, are improperly defined, poorly defended & a waste of time to read. He goes out of his way to make completely improper comparisons in his rant against the establishment & its departure from his Libertarian values.

He gets somewhat back on track with section VIII, Labor, & his discussion on the minimum wage law, but fails to take into account the growth of technology, which undermines one of his major arguments. That's the pattern - make a somewhat convincing argument & then blow it through neglect or diatribe.

He follows this near success with the most specious & horrible arguments for child labor. I guess he doesn't read much history, as he actually writes, "Moreover, the institution of child labor is an honorable one, with a long and glorious history of good works." Abortion wasn't legal when this book was written, so one of his main arguments against parental responsibility is void.

Basically, the book was a waste of time. If it teaches anything, it's to watch what you spend time reading.
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Reading Progress

10/15 page 41
17.67% "Libertarian look at some of our more stupid attitudes & laws. Great cartoons, too."
10/23 page 106
45.69% "He started out OK - I had high hopes - but he's losing it. Weak premises & now his ignorance is showing."
04/24 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by Kelly (new)

Kelly I've read books like this...sorry you spent precious time on this one!

message 2: by Jim (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jim It wasn't a complete waste of time. At least it made me think about what he was saying. I'm often accused of being a Libertarian. Just as often accused as being too conservative or liberal, though. I like the idea of folks minding their own business, detest laws 'for the good of others', but think some common sense needs to be used. There is a proper place for Federal & State oversight.

message 3: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Again - agreed! I don't want a "nanny state" but there should be a safety net for the most vulnerable (does not mean healthy people who don't want to work). I'm not sure I know anyone who can unequivocally categorize themselves as a pure Libertarian, Conservative or Liberal (if they can it sort of makes me think they're "drinking the Kool-aid"). I share many beliefs with Libertarians, but there is some ideology that makes me part ways in the creation of my own personal ideology :-)

message 4: by Kelly (new)

Kelly I do believe that most things (exceptions national security, military..) would be done a lot more efficiently on the state level. I don't think the feds should be involved in education along with a host of other things.

Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh What a well thought out review, Jim. I hear what you're saying about it not being a complete waste of time 'because it made you think about what he was saying'. Nothing wrong with that, though I still won't bother reading it.

message 6: by Jim (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jim Agreed, Kelly. LOL! Love/agree about the Kool-aid.

Thank you, Florence. I don't think you'll miss anything you can't live without.

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