Last night, Walter Block debated (or “collaboratively discussed with”) Four Arrows on the common ground of their very disparate worldviews. The discussion was based on the book the two men co-authored: Differing Worldviews in Higher Education: Two Scholars Argue Cooperatively about Justice Education (PDF here), an argumentative yet cooperative discussion on a number of issues.
The debate was held at the St Louis University school of social work and the lion’s share of the audience were social work people. Obviously, they were both outraged, confused, and befuddled by Walter’s viewpoints and arguments. The Q&A made this very clear: most questions were directed only to Walter and most of them were quite confused about what he was actually saying. (For instance, a question about how Walter incorporated the culture of people in the mountainous country in his “Austrian economics.”) But overall the event was very respectful, and many should have learned that libertarianism is not as strange and evil as they used to believe.
As Walter noted after the event, this is probably the first time most of these people have heard a libertarian argument. In this sense, the event was a complete success – and more “outreach” of this type is very important for our movement to grow and in order to eventually change the world for the better.
The most surprising statement of the night was Four Arrows’ initial declaration that he is “a libertarian now,” thanks to Walter’s persuasive arguments. Way to go, Walter! But unfortunately we also learned that this perhaps was a little premature: Four Arrows later commented on the minimum wage and how voluntary exchanges below the minimum wage level somehow “extracts” money from employees and enriches employers. I’ll leave it to Walter to finish what he started.
The great take-home of the night, however, was the forcefulness and persuasiveness of the Blockian arguments – or should I say “paradigm”? – even to a social work crowd. Walter is undoubtedly a worthy recipient of the Gary G. Schlarbaum Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Liberty award.
Update: The organizers filmed the event and will, after editing, post the discussion on Youtube. I’ll post a link when it is available.