Thursday, September 13, 2018

Walter Block on Space Capitalism

Walter Block appeared on CSPAN to discuss his new book on space capitalism. Block makes the case that safety, efficiency, and environmental outcomes will improve if what are now considered public goods, such as roads, oceans, and outer space, are privatized.  Libertarian approaches to externalities depend on the creation of liability-and-damage torts.  Could the Apollo moon landing monies have been better spent?  Block thinks so, and he's right.

Block proposes that GDP  be defined as consumption + investment + imports - exports - government spending.

The current definition of GDP adds rather than subtracts government spending.

Block suggests that Elon Musk is a crony capitalist and not a legitimate investor. That's of course true.  I disagree, though, that you can assess whether someone who receives government money is a saint or a sinner.  All government action is coercive, and in our  socialist state all of us receive government subsidization to some degree.  The aim should be to limit government subsidization in general.  There is no good nor bad Elon Musk.

A leading Tesla bull, analyst Romit Shah, just downgraded Tesla, calling it "no longer investible."

Block's characterization of public-private partnerships as fascism is spot on. In Capitalism and Freedom Milton Friedman argues that interstate highways should be privatized, but city streets should be public because it is difficult to charge for use.  Today, with EZ Pass-like technology, there is no reason for public ownership of roads. The costs should be assigned to users.  If ownership is assigned to a private utility, it will be done more efficiently, with less threat to public safety and less likelihood of state use of public assets to suppress speech and opinion.

Block is an alum of Brooklyn College, where I teach, and he once spoke to my classes.  Bernie Sanders attended Brooklyn for one year with Block, and they were on the track team together in high school.  Block became a libertarian after Ayn Rand spoke at Brooklyn College, at which, along with several elite colleges, she chose to speak in 1960.  John Hospers, the first Libertarian Party presidential candidate, taught at Brooklyn College at that time and also was influenced by meeting Ayn Rand at that talk.

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