Now Block and Nozick were arguing that in their libertarian utopia, a person would be able to sell oneself into slavery.
I would have thought that the words 'voluntary' and 'slavery' were antonyms but not, apparently, to 'libertarians.' Dr. Block believed that the logical extension of the complete liberty to do as one pleases includes signing oneself into a slavery contract.... I tell the story to demonstrate that the Fraser Institute is so ideologically right wing that at least one of its senior fellows would prefer a world where slavery was perfectly legal.
C'mon. Libertarians "believe ... that the logical extension of ... complete liberty (is) to do as one pleases." Nonsense. Au contraire. Libertarians do not at all maintain that everyone should be free to do as he pleases. We favor laws against murder, theft, rape, fraud. A major difference between us and other folk is that we are serious about such laws, and, even, have the temerity to apply them to members of the state apparatus.
Why the scare quotes around the word "libertarian"? Libertarians favor liberty. Is that such a scary, or unlikely, goal? Are Canadians opposed to liberty? Is Mair against this idea?
Now, as it happens, the case for legalizing voluntary slave contracts is held by a minority of libertarians. Indeed, until recently, only Nozick and I held this position, and, according to my friend and colleague David Gordon, Nozick had renounced this viewpoint before his death. (Some of my scholarly publications on this subject can be found here, here, here, here and here; for more, go to my website.)
But the seeker after truth never unduly concerns himself with how many people take one or another view on any given question. Validity cannot be voted upon, democratically. So, then, let us consider the actual case in behalf of this "curious institution."
Here's the situation. My child is gravely ill. Only an operation can save his life. But, this medical care costs $100 million, and I am a poor man (we assume away the possibility of government health care that will swoop in and ruin our example). Seemingly, my only option is to witness the passing away of my beloved child. But wait! Rafe Mair, richer than Bill Gates, has for a long time wanted me to be his slave. He'd like more than anything else to boss me around, and then whip me every time I displeased him. He values this opportunity way more than the medical costs necessary to save my child's life. So, we strike a deal. Rafe gives me the $100 million, which I immediately turn over to the hospital. Then, I go to Mair's plantation, and become his slave.
Why is this so objectionable? Rafe and I both gain from this deal. I value my child's life more than my own freedom; way more. Mair values my servitude more than the costs of buying me into servitude; again, way more, let us suppose. If voluntary slavery is legal, we can consummate this financial arrangement, to our mutual gain. If not, not, to the great loss of both of us. Slave-master Rafe would never shell out the cold cash if, after he paid, I could haul him into court on assault and battery charges when he whipped me. Then, without this financial arrangement, I would have to witness the death of my child, probably the most devastating thing that can ever happen to a parent.
In opposing voluntary slavery, Mair thus exposes himself as a cruel, heartless beast. A baby killer, even. Hey, he bruits it about that I favor the ordinary type of slavery, the kind that was prevalent around the world in the first part of the 19th century, and, even now, in some far corners of the world, still, horrifically, exists. If he can characterize me as a supporter of that kind of slavery, I can call him an advocate of child murder.
It should by now be clear that there is a gigantic, stupendous difference between these two types of slavery, voluntary slavery and coercive slavery. The one has absolutely nothing to do with the other, except for sharing one word, "slavery." Ordinary traditional slavery amounts to kidnapping, theft of labor, unlawful imprisonment, etc. The voluntary variety of slavery involves none of that. I, as a father, walked into this type of slavery with my eyes open; completely open. There was no force or fraud involved in the consummation of this arrangement.
So, yes, some libertarians favor voluntary slavery, and most support the privatization of rivers. Make the most of that, socialists!