Defending the Undefendable by Walter Block

About the Book (from
Defending the Undefendable is among the most famous of the great defenses of victimless crimes and controversial economic practices, from profiteering and gouging to bribery and blackmail. However, beneath the surface, this book is also an outstanding work of microeconomic theory that explains the workings of economic forces in everyday events and affairs.

Murray Rothbard explains why:

“Defending the Undefendable performs the service of highlighting, the fullest and starkest terms, the essential nature of the productive services performed by all people in the free market. By taking the most extreme examples and showing how the Smithian principles work even in these cases, the book does far more to demonstrate the workability and morality of the free market than a dozen sober tomes on more respectable industries and activities. By testing and proving the extreme cases, he all the more illustrates and vindicates the theory.”

F.A. Hayek agreed, writing the author as follows: “Looking through Defending the Undefendable made me feel that I was once more exposed to the shock therapy by which, more than fifty years ago, the late Ludwig von Mises converted me to a consistent free market position. Some may find it too strong a medicine, but it will still do them good even if they hate it. A real understanding of economics demands that one disabuses oneself of many dear prejudices and illusions. Popular fallacies in economic frequently express themselves in unfounded prejudices against other occupations, and showing the falsity of these stereotypes you are doing a real services, although you will not make yourself more popular with the majority.”

About the Author
Walter Block earned his PhD in Economics at Columbia University. He is an author, editor, and co-editor of many books which include Defending the Undefendable; Lexicon of Economic Thought, Economic Freedom of the World 1975-1995; Rent Control: Myths and Realities; Discrimination, Affirmative Action, and Equal Opportunity; Theology, Third Word Development and Economic Justice; Man, Economy, and Liberty: Essays in Honor of Murray N. Rothbard; Religion, Econonomics, and Social Thought; and Economic Freedom: Toward a Theory of Measurement.

Dr. Block has written more than 500 articles for various non-refereed journals, magazines and newspapers, and is a contributor to such journals as The Review of Austrian Economics, Journal of Libertarian Studies, The Journal of Labor Economics, Cultural Dynamics, and the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics. He is currently a professor and chair of economics, college of business administration, at Loyola University.

Why the President Should Read This Book
Defending the Undefendable is a great primer on Libertarianism. It addresses many of the “But what about…” questions that arise when one is first introduced to the subject. What about legalizing drugs, would that really be a good thing? Wait, legalize prostitution? Wait…you’re saying we should even legalize bribery and blackmail?! Block explains in each case why we should, not only for pragmatic reasons, but based on principle. That guiding principle is the non-aggression axiom, which, according to Block, states “…that it shall be legal for anyone to do anything he wants, provided only that he not initiate (or threaten) violence against the person or legitimately owned property of another. That is, in the free society, one has the right to manufacture, buy or sell any good or service at any mutually agreeable terms. Thus, there would be no victimless crime prohibitions, price controls, government regulation of the economy, etc.”

While informative and eye-opening, Block does make assumptions some will find troubling. For example, he states that prostitution is not “inherently evil” and since it is not inherently evil and involves a mutually agreed upon exchange between consenting adults, there should be no law against it. However, I think there is a large number of people who would consider prostitution, indeed any sexual relationship outside of marriage, to be inherently evil, and in a sense, a form of “aggression” against which some defense is necessary, even to the extent of forcibly preventing such exchanges to take place.

But it is not necessary to agree with Block on every point in order to enjoy the book, nor to be educated. The point of the book is perhaps not necessarily to convince, but to get one to think more open-mindedly, and our President surely could use some of that medicine.