Block vs. Epstein: Advantage Epstein

The Block-Epstein debate over eminent domain is now online.

I've looked forward to listening to this debate ever since J. H. Huebert first announced it last month. I appreciate Huebert's efforts in organizing the event and making the audio recording available for those of us unable to attend in person.

Unfortunately, I found the debate disappointing. Epstein and Block are talking past each other, primarily because they are mixing together two debates at once: the economic methodology debate and the political theory debate. Block is an Austrian economist and an anarchist. Epstein is a neoclassical economist and a minarchist. These combinations are not the only possibilities; it is possible to be an Austrian minarchist (e.g. Mises) or a neoclassical anarchist (e.g. David Friedman).

Behold, my fancy table:

|||Political Theory||
| ||||
||| Minarchist  |Anarchist|
| Economic Methodology     |Austrian|Mises|Block|
|| Neoclassical  |Epstein|Friedman|

Good match-ups would be:

  1. Mises/Block on political theory
  2. Epstein/Friedman on political theory
  3. Mises/Epstein on economic methodology
  4. Block/Friedman on economic methodology

While other combinations may work, they run the risk of conflating two separate issues. The risky combos are

  1. Epstein/Block
  2. Friedman/Mises

Since this debate was supposed to be about political theory and not economic methodology, I would have preferred David Friedman instead of Walter Block, or Mises (if he was still alive) instead of Richard Epstein.

Ultimately, I give the advantage to Epstein, even though I disagree with his political conclusions. Epstein is the better speaker, and I found his arguments stronger than Block's. Perhaps that is because, for me, economics comes before politics. Despite my agreement with Block on the conclusions, I agree with Epstein on the premises. Conclusions follow from premises, and not the other way around.

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I reckon Von Mises would

I reckon Von Mises would have eventually graduated into the ranks of anarchy, given a sufficiently lengthy life-span. Even with his 1940s book, 'Bureaucracy', where he clearly accepts the minimal need for government, you can see him feeling his way towards anarchy and laying out the ground for Rothbard to explore, later. However, if you do uncover a time machine to bring back Herr Professor, even from the 1940s, please book me a ticket at the debate. Even as a minarchist, an evening with Ludwig von Mises would be an enlightening event in anybody's calendar! :-)

I have to disagree with you.

I have to disagree with you. Epstein relies on the ridiculous doctrine that land-owners own land in a cone narrowing to the center of the Earth and expanding outwards into the abyss of space. That is nuts, and contradictory to homesteading. Epstein also used severl appeals to historical popularity, and ad hominems.

Saying something like "lets have everyone go to Block-haven and then a number of years later, we can carry out the bodies" may be humorous, but it is not convincing or rigorous. Agreeing with Epstein's neoclassical premises is flawed, for reasons being laid out in the Block/Caplan Methodenstreit by Block and other Austrians. Furthermore, Block even assumed some of Epstein's premises and still showed how they do not show that we need eminent domain.

To say that economics comes before politics is true. A primary issue to resolve is whether to use the Austrian or classical framework. However, morality and law also comes before politics, and is even of more primary importance than economics; however, as Rothbard noted, even morality is constrained in the sense in that it must have praxeologically meaningful goals ("egalitarianism" is not praxeologically meaningful). Block starts from the non-aggression axiom, which can be defended (as Hoppe and Rothbard have done) as an absolute moral truth. Once you accept such as an absolute moral truth, there can be no justification for straying from it.

Furthermore, Block even assumes some of the critics premises, and still shows how that doesn't necessitate eminent domain. See and