As I have noted elsewhere, I have not been impressed with some of the more recent output of Walter Block. For a guy steeped in Austrian economics (a school of thought whose members tend to pride their ability to reason) Block’s grasp on Logic is surprisingly shaky. The latest example is this piece, which was posted just yesterday at mises.org. For a site as popular and acclaimed as mises.org is, its lack of editorial over-site here is amazing.
My main gripe with the piece is that its main argument is that because some gays and some feminists did something that violated the non-aggression principle, we can dismiss the all of them as non-libertarian (and by extension be dismissive of their concerns). This painting whole demographics by the same broad brush is exactly the kind of collectivism, I would hope Block would be the first object to. Just read his opening statement:
“This will shock you, gentle reader, but the feminists are not libertarians, and neither are the gays”
Apparently Block sees both groups as monolithic entities, in which every member agrees with everything everyone else in the group does. This may shock Block, but there are some homosexuals and feminists who are libertarians and some who are not. Both groups are made up of diverse individuals, with a wide range of political opinions and philosophies. As such, speaking of either group as if it were some sort of hive mind is absurd. This is such basic logic that a man of Blocks acclaim should not need this explained to him.
Block’s faulty reasoning here is a classic example of a guilt by association fallacy. How would it be any different to argue, that mises.org contributors are all collectivists because, one of them (Walter Block) uses collectivist reasoning? Or perhaps, I could argue that because some white people violated the NAP, that “the whites” are not libertarians? It is nonsense! Further more, this sort of thing is likely to drive away, many would-be allies. The next generation of would-be libertarians is likely going to be more sympathetic to gay rights and feminism, than the previous one and as such it is a bad move to alienate them by making logically unsound arguments.
To address the specific issues Block raises, I agree that people should not be forced by the government to do commercial activities with individuals that disagree with. That said, though I do think we should use social pressure to discourage all business from engaging in discrimination based on sexual orientation. I think boycotts, public shaming ect, are perfectly legitimate ways to fight homophobia in commerce. He also raises the issue of feminist opposition to leering (or the act at staring at people in public places). I see nothing wrong with feminists, or people in general, using social pressure to discourage guys from staring at women like hungry wolves looking at a piece of meat. It is rude and uncomfortable. Casually looking at someone is one thing, but staring at them (in the way described in the link Block provides), is creepy and it is a real problem. I am not saying the state should forbid it, but I do think it is something social pressure can and should be used to discourage.
Block criticizes criticism of “leering” by asserting that “it takes time, effort, treasure, away from the only proper task, the elimination of rape.” First of all, who refers to money or resources as “treasure”, in normal conversation? What year is he living in, 1893? Second, the idea that we should be focused on fighting rape to the extent that we ignore all other problematic forms of behavior directed at women, is absurd. We should be fighting all these things. I am reminded of arguments that we should not fight for any other causes or make any purchases, while there are starving children in the world. Block inevitably comes off as a guy, who thinks men should be able to stare women down as awkwardly and uncomfortably as they want, and never even be criticized or suffer any social consequences for it. Criticism and social pressure are not an acts of aggression.