Monday, March 2, 2009

Defending the Undefendable

I just finished this book by Mises.org fellow Walter Block and all I can say is, though you may not agree with everything he says (I don't), what he says will definitely alter your perspective on some of society's most notorious scapegoats. The book can be found here at the Mises.org book store and here as a full .pdf download. Here is the description from Mises.org and both a for and against quotation:

Professor Block's book...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."

"Many years ago Hazlitt's little masterpiece, Economics in One Lesson, demonstrated how, in order to measure the consequences of economic activies, one must look beyond their immediately obvious effects to thir secondary effects.  Here Professor Block sets out highly specific, and sometimes shocking examples of Hazlitt's thesis.  By concentrating on the positive economic contributions of extreme cases, he forces the reader's consideration and greater appreciation of these principles." -Robert D. Kephart

"...A positive menace to the libertarian movement.  His smart-alecky, sensationalist style, the silly and false social and psychological assumptions he uses to back up some otherwise (mostly) valid political and economic points, the frivolous and insensitive attitudes he displays toward serious human problems all serve to confuse and distract from the valid points.  Most people will be difficult to convince on rational political grounds without obscuring the issue with other half-baked, offensive, and unnecessary arguments.  The book will be offensive to people not just because his general attitude will be interpreted as callous, asinine, and an affront to human dignity.  It will surely reinforce the worst stereotypes people have about capitalists." -Sharon Presley (Laissez Faire Books)

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