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Walter Block: Austrian Economics’ Footnote Machine

Written by Gary North on September 27, 2014

Walter Block is a professor of economics at Loyola University in New Orleans. He has been an active participant in the libertarian movement for over 40 years.

Within the libertarian camp, he is by far the most prolific in academic journals. Nobody else comes close. He has published something in the range of 450 journal articles. He just will not stop. They keep coming out of his word processor like an assembly line.

I publish a lot of stuff, but it is not peer-reviewed. I do not have to convince an editor that what I have to say is important. The editor does not have to convince several screening readers that it is important. All I have to persuade is my subscribers. My subscribers tend not to care one way or the other whether I insert a lot of footnotes. They probably would prefer that I do not.

Professor Block is a master of footnotes. He has offered more of them than any other libertarian economist.

He now has a problem. The larger a man’s legacy, the more unwieldy it is. Who can receive it and extend it? No one person. This is a task for a team — an uncoordinated team. How can anyone who is capable of extending part of it, discover that part? This is a very large haystack with many needles.

What if the legacy is a large pile of bricks? Can they be used to construct many buildings in an undesigned community? Or is there chaos in the brickyard?

This is the problem of inheritance. Everyone who leaves a legacy faces this problem. The larger the legacy, the greater the problem.

What can a person do to give guidance to the potential heirs, whoever they may be?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Prof. Walter Block
Economics Department
Loyola University
New Orleans, LA

Dear Walter:

I have been thinking about your situation. About 40 years ago, George Stigler wrote the following (approximately):

There are two groups of economists: those who write, and those who do not write. Over time, members of each group become more efficient in their specialization.

You are clearly a member of the first group.

There is an old saying: “You write faster than I can read.” It surely applies to you. You write so much, and in so many different journals, and on so many different topics, that nobody could follow you if he wanted to, and academic specialization being what it is, nobody is going to try.

Another question comes to mind: “Where do I start?” For that, there is no known answer with respect to your writings.

Then there is this question: “Even if I start, will I live long enough to finish?” The answer to this question depends on how young the person is who asks it, how fast he reads, and how soon you are going to die. In general, however, the answer is “no.”

(For the rest of my article, click the link.)

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