Abuse Your Illusions

Walter Block is a libertarian without guile, a theorist who refuses to confine his classical-liberal analysis to strictly economic questions.  Liberty is liberty, he would argue, and value is value, whether we are deciding a question of zoning or a case of censorship.  Honest man that he is, he opposes both zoning and censorship as acts of government infringement upon our liberties and as the forced substitution of other people’s values for our own.  In a recent online editorial, Professor Block offers us a rigorously libertarian (to be accurate, we should say “liberal”) answer to the moral questions raised by stem-cell research.  

Block is well known for defending the indefensible, and he takes the novel position that recycling fetal parts for research and medicine is morally acceptable, so long as the “parents” (i.e., those who supplied the genetic material) are unwilling to rear the child and there are no other takers for the fetus.

As a good libertarian, Block takes it as a given that we have no “positive obligations” to other people except not to harm them deliberately.  Unborn babies, even from the point of fertilization, represent human life, but they are in the position of a wild cow that no one has “homesteaded”—i.e., domesticated and claimed ownership of.  Therefore, if the parents choose not to rear the child and offer it...

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