is an editorial writer for the National Post, a Canadian
newspaper (somewhat similar to the Wall Street Journal
in overall outlook). On January 19, 2013, he wrote an essay entitled
call me a libertarian." In that essay of his, he did
not give even one reason why he rejected my favorite political
economic philosophy, libertarianism.
Why is it
important that Jonas be severely rebuked for this outrageous behavior
of his? It is because he is one of the leading libertarian voices
in the entire country to the north of us. If he explicitly rejects
libertarianism, as he has recently done, then there is just that
much less hope for the fledgling libertarian movement in Canada.
On the other hand, if he can but be moved to at least discuss
this perspective on the pages of the National Post which
he so far adamantly refuses to do (it is one of my motives for
writing the present essay to shake him out of that cowardly stance),
this will give a boost to free markets and laissez faire capitalism
in that country.
has published 16 books, including one coauthored by Barbara Amiel,
his former wife, who is also another important Canadian libertarian.
He has contributed to such U.S., British and European publications
as the National Review, Saturday Review, The
Chicago Sun-Times, The Daily Telegraph, Wall Street
Journal, Foreign Policy Magazine, the Hungarian
Review (Budapest) and The National Interest. Jonas'
media awards in Canada and abroad include the Edgar Allan Poe
Award for the Best Crime Non-Fiction Book (New York, 1978), two
Nelly Awards for the Best Radio Program (Toronto, 1983 and 1986),
three National Magazine Awards (Toronto, 1991; 2006 and 2007),
and two Gemini Awards for the Best TV Movie and for the Best Short
Dramatic Program (Toronto, 1993). For more on this author, see
next day, January 20, 20123, I published a blog on LewRockwell.com
than passing curious: George Jonas and libertarianism."
In this response of mine I said, among other things: "Naturally,
as a long time libertarian myself, I was interested in why a columnist
for a major newspaper did not ascribe to the one and only correct
view on political economy. He obviously knew how to spell the
word ‘libertarian.’ He even thought this philosophy important
enough to write about it. I started reading with bated breath….
In the event, I was rather disappointed with this column of his...
Jonas did not mention a single solitary policy proposal of libertarianism….
Instead, he meandered all over the lot, discussing numerous issues
that simply had nothing to do with support for, or detraction
of, libertarianism…. Maybe, one of these days (hint, hint, Jonas)
he will explain why it is that he opposes the freedom philosophy,
the only just system, the last best hope for peace, prosperity
and the very survival of mankind."
fun began. On January 28, 2013, Mr. Jonas replied to my missive
with an op-ed entitled: "George
Jonas on libertarianism: Drawing out the true believers."
he made was to attribute my article to my long time friend and
libertarian colleague Lew Rockwell. Said Jonas: "Some bloggers
on their own sites made no bones about their disappointment. ‘Jonas
did not mention a single solitary policy proposal of libertarianism,’
complained the noted anarcho-capitalist commentator Lew Rockwell."
No, no, ‘twasn’t Lew Rockwell who said that. ‘Twas me,Walter Block.
I had with Jonas’ response was that he still never mentioned any
substantive principle or policy of the libertarian philosophy,
and told a gigantic anxiously waiting world (ok, ok, the very
small world of libertarianism) why he rejected it. He offered
the following as an excuse: "… many readers were disappointed.
They expected a critique of libertarian philosophy or Libertarian
party politics, perhaps even an analysis of U.S, presidential
candidate and (undeclared) libertarian legend Ron Paul, which
my piece wasn’t. All I wanted to answer was the question, ‘what
are you,’ not to explain why I wasn’t something else."
Yes, I was
a bit disappointed. Whenever anyone explicitly rejects libertarianism,
I, along with numerous other inquiring minds, want to know why.
This is especially true of a man like George Jonas, most of whose
past columns may be fairly summarized as supporting economic freedom
and private property rights, basic tenets of libertarianism. When
someone writes a column entitled "Don’t call me a libertarian,"
this would appear not to be an altogether outrageous expectation.
excuse for not manning up and articulating which libertarian principles
he rejects is that "the editors christened" his initial
essay of January 19, 2013. This gets him off the hook for not
substantively responding and satisfying the curiosity of libertarians
in his first go around, but hardly in his follow up.
But he is
not out of excuses quite yet. His third one had to do with dentists
and Papuans, which I confess was a bit beyond my limited intellectual
ken. Jonas must be a very brilliant man to come up with something
like that. Or, maybe it’s a Canadian thing? Like living in igloos
and riding around on a dog sled? Who knows? (On a more serious
note, this Papuan dentist stuff fully suffices to excuse his article
of January 19, but not at all his of January 28.)
error on Jonas’s part: Ron Paul is an "undeclared" libertarian?
This man ran for president of the United States on the Libertarian
Party Platform in 1988
and has been for many years the acknowledged leader of the world-wide
libertarian movement. On this see here,
Don’t they have any fact checkers at the National Post?
Sloppiness, thy name is Jonas.
comes the big howler, perhaps the biggest non sequitur ever written.
Let me quote this in full, lest I be accused of making this up
out of the whole cloth. According to Jonas:
(Jonas was attacking Lew Rockwell, here, but I am really the ‘guilty
party’) pointed out that I meandered all over the map, discussing
issues that had nothing to do with what he called, ‘the freedom
philosophy, the only just system, the last best hope for peace,
prosperity and the very survival of mankind.’... Why, thanks,
Mr. Rockwell (my name is Block; Block!). I knew I wasn’t a libertarian,
but I wasn’t aware I actually opposed libertarianism until I read
it on your site. But now, in just a few lines unless Rockwell
(Block; Block!) was writing tongue in cheek he persuaded me
that I would probably oppose libertarianism, and he also told
me why. It was that bit in his blog where he described libertarianism
in such utopian terms.
Rockwell (Block; Block, I tells you!) was pulling his readers’
legs, which of course is possible, any political philosophy that
prominent followers describe as ‘the only just system’ and indeed
‘the last best hope for … the very survival of mankind’ would
be too millennial for my taste. I don’t think I would feel comfortable
reasoning with people about policy issues, whether they involved
central banking, drugs or abortion, who felt that they embodied
the last best hope for mankind’s survival. If that’s what they
genuinely believed, why, they might feel justified, indeed duty-bound,
to coerce me until I adjusted my views to theirs.
believers scare me. They don’t scare me less if they believe in
the same things that I do. In a curious way, they scare me more."
is really magnificent, in a weird sort of a way. It gives me hope.
If Jonas misunderstands libertarianism to this gargantuan degree,
perhaps there is hope for enlisting him in the one true faith
(no, I don’t speak tongue in cheek, here) when once he learns
what libertarianism really is all about.
the instruction right now. The essence of this freedom philosophy
is the non aggression principle (NAP). This means it is impermissible
to ever "coerce" anyone, for any reason. This means
that even "true believers" such as me, could never,
ever, not in a million years, as long as I wanted to remain consistent
with the notion of liberty, "feel justified, indeed duty-bound,
to coerce (you) until (you) adjusted (your) views to mine."
It is a non sequitur of the most outrageous kind to think this.
Now I admit Mr. Jonas’ view does have a certain empirical appeal
to it. People who fervently believe in something are probably
more likely to impose their beliefs on others by force, than those
who don’t fervently believe in anything. But all bets are off
in this regard, surely, when the fervent belief is that no
one should ever compel, force, coerce anyone into believing
anything. The NAP further maintains that no one should
ever compel, force, coerce anyone into doing or not doing
anything either, except of course to respect this very rule of
non aggression. If agreeing to this is not the "last best
hope for mankind," I should be very interested in finding
out why not.
I note that
Mr. Jonas, a slippery fellow, he, has still managed to completely
ignore the question of why he rejects this philosophy. He still
refuses to discuss whether, or where, or on what specifics his
views diverge from the libertarian ones on "policy issues
(such as) central banking, drugs or abortion," or indeed,
on anything else. He ventures no opinion on, much less a refutation
of, the claim that the NAP is the "the only just system,
the last best hope for peace, prosperity and the very survival
of mankind." He hides behind the ad hominem argument that
anyone such as me (Lew Rockwell too, if I can speak for him, and
also Ron Paul, ditto) who strongly maintains this perspective
must be some kind of nut. Sloppy, sloppy. Don’t they teach logic
up in the frozen northland?
So, I invite
Mr. Jonas (hint, hint), if he has any courage at all, to enter
the lists. Read up a bit on libertarianism (read some Murray N.
Rothbard, not quasi, semi, demi "libertarians" like
F.A. Hayek and Milton Friedman). Specify where he agrees, where
he disagrees with this viewpoint. Come on in, Mr. Jonas, the water
is just fine in libertarian-land.