Who Do You Believe? The New York Times, or Walter Block and Your Own Lying Eyes?
By Thomas DiLorenzo
“Those people who owned slaves in the pre-Civil War U.S. were guilty of the crime of kidnapping.”
Professor Walter Block, Human Rights Review, July-Sept. 2002, p. 55
Most readers of LewRockwell.com are probably aware of the facts that: 1) A New York Times reporter maliciously libeled Professor Walter Block in a hit piece on Senator Rand Paul by claiming that Professor Block, who has supported Senator Paul, supposedly said that slavery was “not so bad”; 2) that Professor Block sued the New York Times for libel; 3) an establishment judge (the only kind) ruled against Professor Block; and 4) Professor Block has appealed the judge’s outlandish ruling.
It is not surprising that an establishment government lawyer in a black robe would support the views of “the” establishment government propaganda rag in its quest to discredit and smear an ever-so-slightly anti-establishment politician, Senator Rand Paul, by libeling one of his academic supporters. What is surprising is how the federal judge in the case, U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle, did not even bother to document or support with evidence his dismissive statement that “Perceptions about Block’s notion of race related issues were largely fueled and published by Block himself,” as he dismissed the lawsuit. He either made no attempt to determine what Professor Block actually said, or he intentionally and dishonestly ignored it.
What Professor Block said to the New York Times hatchet man “reporter” was that, philosophically speaking, there is a difference between voluntary and involuntary slavery. An example of the former is indentured servitude. About half of all the European immigrants to the original thirteen American colonies were indentured servants. These were mostly poor youth who, in return for passage to America, voluntarily contracted to work for a number of years for the person or business that paid for their voyage. After the period of indentured servitude expired (five years, for example), he was usually given a stipend and became an accepted member of American society with no further work obligations to his previous “employer.” This is the kind of “slavery” that Professor Block, with tongue in cheek, said “was not so bad” compared to real, involuntary slavery. It was a voluntary work contract that was very different from real slavery, which involved the crime of kidnapping, and much worse. At no time has Professor Block ever said that slavery was anything but a moral abomination and an economic drag on the rest of society – the long-standing view of all libertarians.
It does not take much brain power to discern this distinction between voluntary and involuntary servitude. Thus, it is impossible to believe that either the New York Times “reporter” and his editors, or Lemelle, did not understand it. Moreover, the judge’s snide comment that “perceptions” about Professor Block’s “notion of race related issues” are “fueled and published by Block himself” is unequivocally false, as anyone who has spent even a few minutes reading Professor Block’s writings on the subject would conclude.
Professor Block has published numerous peer-reviewed journal articles, for example, on the subject of reparations for slavery. Like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and various other black political activists, Professor Block is on record as being in favor of reparations for slavery – as long as a black person today can prove that his ancestor(s) was/were indeed enslaved, and as long as the reparation can somehow be paid by the descendants of the slave owner(s), not the general taxpaying public.
It would have taken Lemelle or the New York Times only a minute or two to do an internet search and find Professor Block saying such things as “those people who owned slaves in the pre-Civil War U.S. were guilty of the crime of kidnapping” (Walter Block, “On Reparations to Blacks for Slavery,” Human Rights Review, July-Sept. 2002, p. 55). Calling slavery “the crime of kidnapping” cannot be construed by anyone as consistent with saying that is was “not so bad.” Or, “Were justice fully done in 1865 these people [i.e., slave owners] would have been incarcerated, and that part of the value of their holdings attributed to slave labor would have been turned over to ex-slaves.”
Once again in the same publication, Professor Block wrote that in “a regime of justice the farms would [in the present day] be in the hands of the great grandchildren of slaves” instead of the descendants of the slave owners. He then goes on to say that he personally favors a policy that would “return these specific lands to those blacks in the present day who can prove their ancestors were forced to work on these plantations . . .” He, goes even further, writing on page 56 that: “Were justice to have reigned [in 1865], the product of their [i.e., the slaves] entire output would have been given to them, [and] none of it would have remained in the slave masters’ hands.”
In the Spring 2001 issue of the Journal of Markets and Morality (pp. 83-93), Professor Block wrote that “Full compensation [for slavery] might even have contemplated enslaving these former masters to the newly-freed slaves – a sort of poetic justice” (p. 89). Contrary to the lying New York Times, Professor Block is on record as saying that slavery was so bad that its demise justified enslaving the former slave masters as a form of compensation for the crime.
Professor Block’s lawyer surely must have made Lemelle (I don’t call him “Judge Lemelle” since the ill-mannered judge himself did not use the language of “Professor Block,” “Dr. Block,” or even “Mr. Block,” but just “Block”) aware of all of this. He chose not only to ignore it, but to lie about it and claim that Professor Block’s writings show exactly the opposite of what they do in fact show.
As despicable as Lemelle and the New York Times have been in this sordid affair, Professor Block’s employer, Loyola University-New Orleans president Kevin Wildes, was even sleazier and more immoral in his handling of the libeling of one of his faculty members. And he is a Catholic priest. Like almost all modern-day Jesuits, Kevin Wildes conducts himself more like a cultural Marxist ideologue hiding behind a priest’s collar than a holy man. University presidents these days have small armies of assistants, assistant vice presidents, deans, assistant deans, assistants to the assistants, etc. They also conscript faculty in myriad faculty committees to do the work that all the highly-paid assistants and assistant-to-the-assistants are unwilling or unable to do. Rather than asking at least one of his subordinates to look into the New York Times smearing of one of his faculty members – or better yet, talking to Professor Block himself about it — Kevin Wildes immediately condemned Professor Block on his university Web site. His fellow Jesuits at Loyola University-New Orleans then recruited some of their more feeble-minded students to pile on with ignorant and hateful comments on the university Web site condemning Professor Block, who they had never met and whose writings they had never read. (This is a good illustration of what much of the business of American universities in the social sciences and the humanities is about today: producing infantile-minded, politically-correct, left-wing ideologues and blabbermouths in the image of Kevin Wildes and his ilk).
Professor Block has appealed Lemelle’s ruling to another government lawyer in a black robe. One thing this whole sorry episode shows is that there is nothing the statist establishment in America hates and fears more than a well-educated libertarian with a word processor and internet access.