Afraid To Debate

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Afraid To Debate

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I would like to share with you a correspondence I had with Professor M. Isabel Medina. She is a colleague of mine, in that she is on the faculty of the Law School of Loyola New Orleans, while I am its Business School faculty. However, as you shall see, this exchange of letters left something to be desired in terms of collegiality. ("Lawfac" refers to the entire faculty of the law school; "Voigt" is a former provost, now a professor of sociology; "Locander" is dean of the business school. I do not know the identity of "drdave." Faculty@cba.loyno.edu is that of the business school faculty.) The present correspondence resulted from the publication of this op-ed.

Letter 1

From: medina [mailto:medina@loyno.edu] Sent: Fri 11/21/2008 8:53 AM To: wblock@loyno.edu Cc: lawfac@loyno.edu; decuir@loyno.edu; voigt@loyno.edu; locander@loyno.edu; drdave@loyno.edu Subject: statements about wage disparities and sex and race

Professor Block,

I must respond to the statements that you have made publicly while on sabbatical on the reasons for continuing wage disparities between women and men and between African Americans and caucasians. I am assuming that your statements were as reported in the press. I agree that your views, however wrong and ill considered and unsubstantiated I find them to be, are within the bounds of academic freedom.

I must take serious issue, however, with any statements that you have made apparently to the effect that your views are accepted by the Loyola faculty and community.

Let me make clear I do not agree with your views and I do not find them intellectually defensible. Please make clear in future that when you express these views you are speaking only for yourself and not for other members of the Loyola faculty and the Loyola community. Please don’t make claims that Loyola faculty are comfortable with your views or have no problem with them — that is a patently false and misleading statement whose falsity can be quickly and simply established by reading the scholarship that is produced by a number of the law faculty. That kind of statement may have the effect of impugning others’ professional reputation so I urge you to take more care when ascribing your views to others.

Sincerely,

M. Isabel Medina Ferris Family Professor of Law Loyola University New Orleans College of Law

Letter 2

— — — Original Message Follows — — – From: “Walter Block” <walterblock@cba.loyno.edu To: <medina@loyno.edu Cc: <lawfac@loyno.edu, <decuir@loyno.edu, <voigt@loyno.edu, <locander@loyno.edu, <drdave@loyno.edu, “Faculty” <Faculty@cba.loyno.edu Subject: RE: statements about wage disparities and sex and race Date: Fri, 21 Nov 2008 19:05:48 -0600

Dear Prof. Medina:

No, wait, please ignore that letter I just sent out. That form letter. I was in the midst of answering yet another 100 letters in response to my talk in Baltimore (I’m now way over 500 responses), when I realize that this one was a bit different. It is from a Loyola New Orleans faculty colleague. As such, it certainly deserves a detailed answer. So, please forgive me for sending you that form letter.

Let me now, please, respond substantively to your letter.

First, it is a heroic assumption on your part to think that the press accurately reports complex issues. As you can see from this, that is not fully the case in the present controversy.

Second, thanks for your support of my academic freedom.

Third, with regard to my claim that my “views are accepted by the Loyola faculty and community”:

This is rather complex. I maintain that my “views are accepted by the Loyola faculty and community” IN THE SENSE that my colleagues at Loyola New Orleans pretty much full well know my views, which I have not been at all shy about sharing for the past 7 years on campus (I must have written at least a dozen op eds in the Maroon), AND YET they saw fit to grant me the Dux Academicus award, and, also, awards at both the college (of business) and university level for research. When I made this claim, which I don’t think can be denied, I was trying to compare Loyola NO, with Loyola Baltimore, much to the credit of the former. That is, that Loyola NO, but NOT Loyola Baltimore, support the academic freedom of colleagues. So, yes, in THAT sense, all of my colleagues at Loyola NO (well, except for Marcus Smith and Julian Wasserman, who, in their response to Bill Barnett’s and my Maroon op ed on arming the co-eds called for our silencing; here, they operated as if they were on the faculty of Loyola Baltimore, not Loyola NO) “support” me and my views.

However, on the other hand, I do not for a minute believe, nor have I EVER stated (any newspaper report to the contrary is wrong) that it is my opinion that views my are accepted by the Loyola faculty and community” IN THE SENSE that my colleagues at Loyola New Orleans AGREE WITH ME ON THE SPECIFICS NOR THE SUBSTANCE. Certainly, I would not be so bold, foolish and rash as to think, even in my wildest deliriums, that my views are accepted by the Loyola faculty and community” IN THE SENSE that my colleagues think along the same lines as I do with regard to “reasons for continuing wage disparities between women and men and between African Americans and caucasians.” This is just plain silly. If any journalist said I said this, I will be happy to clarify the record.

Please, do send me the evidence you have that can buttress your claim in this regard; that is, please send me either the url, or a hard copy of the report to this effect. There must be some REASON, or evidence, that led you to write your letter to me . I would be very grateful to you if you sent me this material, so that I can clarify the record. If you cannot supply this material, you will have to forgive me for wondering why you wrote me as you did.

In this letter of yours to me you state that my “views (are) wrong and ill considered and unsubstantiated” as far as the “continuing wage disparities between women and men and between African Americans and caucasians.”

In some circles, not mine, of course, those can be construed as “fighting words.” After all, “wrong and ill considered and unsubstantiated” is a pretty harsh assessment. However, in my academic and intellectual circles, those words can be and are by me construed as an invitation to dialogue, to discuss, as members of a scholarly community, these issues. If your letter was a private one to me, I would have invited you to lunch, or dinner, where we could amicably discuss these matters and issues.

But your letter was not a private one to me alone.

Rather, you copied all your law school colleagues, plus a few others, plus my deans. Accordingly, I am copying my own colleagues at the b school, plus a few others, and hereby CHALLENGE YOU TO A PUBLIC DEBATE ON THESE ISSUES. Hopefully, this will be as amicable as our private discussion, under other circumstances, would have been.

We are both members of the scholarly community. We have a difference of opinion on important issues, which you chose to publicize. It is the duty of academics to get to the truth of matters of this sort. I am a firm believer that public debates are one good way to get that proverbial one inch closer to the truth. Plus, we don’t have a football team. Students like to see (proverbial) professorial blood on the floor. I’m sure a debate between us on these issues would attract a lot of student attention.

I’m on sabbatical this academic year. But, I’ll be on campus on 3/10/09, for about a month, and would be available for a debate during those weeks. So, please let me know if you are interested in taking part in such an event.

Best regards,

Walter E. Block, Ph.D. Harold E. Wirth Endowed Chair and Prof. of Economics College of Business Loyola University New Orleans 6363 St. Charles Ave., Box 15 New Orleans, LA 70118 tel: (504)864-7934 fax: (504)864-7970 wblock@loyno.edu

Letter 3

From: medina [mailto:medina@loyno.edu] Sent: Sun 11/23/2008 2:48 PM To: Walter Block Subject: RE: statements about wage disparities and sex and race

Dr. Block, I prefer to do my scholarship and my debate of serious ideas in writing. From my perspective, you were speaking out of line when you claimed some sponsorship or sympathy by all of the Loyola NO community for your views.

The fact that you’ve received awards, etc., really has nothing to do with that.

Please make it clear when you speak in public that you speak for yourself and not the entire Loyola faculty.

M. Isabel Medina Ferris Family Professor of Law Loyola University New Orleans

Letter 4

— — — Original Message Follows — — – From: “Walter Block” <walterblock@cba.loyno.edu To: <medina@loyno.edu, <lawfac@loyno.edu, <decuir@loyno.edu, <voigt@loyno.edu, <locander@loyno.edu, <drdave@loyno.edu Cc: “Faculty” <Faculty@cba.loyno.edu Subject: RE: statements about wage disparities and sex and race Date: Sun, 23 Nov 2008 15:38:34 -0600

Dear Prof. Medina:

Thanks for your response.

I greatly regret your preference to confine your debate of serious ideas to writing. Our students will be the losers. I’m sure hundreds of them would have attended such a public (verbal) debate between us. However, I respect your decision. Public debate is not for everyone, although I would have imagined that legal academics would have welcomed that more than others. (I have for YEARS challenged members of the sociology dept, others with a so called feminist viewpoint, to debate me on these issues. It would appear that you are very far from being the only faculty member who prefers not to engage in public debate.)

On the other hand, there is still a charge of yours against me outstanding, that you repeat in this second letter of yours. To wit “From my perspective, you were speaking out of line when you claimed some sponsorship or sympathy by all of the Loyola NO community for your views.” In my previous letter, see below, I asked you to provide some EVIDENCE that I am guilty of stating this blatant untruth.

I note that you have not complied with this eminently reasonable request of mine. I do not favor libel laws, and have written extensively about this. Indeed, I oppose them, as a libertarian. Thus, I shall not be suing you for libel.

But just because I take this position does not mean that I favor libel. I think it is improper. It is impolite. It is certainly problematic on the part of a member of a community of scholars, such as yourself. You make a charge against me, call it X. I ask you to provide evidence that I am guilty of X. Instead of complying, you repeat this charge, and ask me to cease engaging in X (“Please make it clear when you speak in public that you speak for yourself and not the entire Loyola faculty.”) Do you not find this objectionable? How would you like it if I publicly charged you with doing something untoward? Then, when you asked me to provide evidence for this claim, instead of complying, I reiterated this charge, and again called upon you to cease? I cannot imagine you would much appreciate being treated in that manner.

Let me say it loudly and clearly. I have never ever claimed that my views are supported by the entire Loyola faculty, or community. Indeed, the very idea is preposterous. I know full well that most members of our faculty do not share my libertarian views.

Since you have not done your homework on this (supported your accusation against me), let me do it for you. As far as I am aware, the ONLY thing I have EVER said on this topic is as follows:

“Second, with Loyola University New Orleans, where I have been since 2001. Here, they awarded me tenure, and a named endowed chair. Although this university is dominated by professors of a very different ideology than mine, and they full well know my positions on politics and economics (it is not in my nature to be shy and retiring about issues I think are of utmost importance), they went so far as to recognize my research with awards at both the College of Business and University level. And to top it off, I was the recipient of the prestigious Dux Academicus Award, given annually to the academic leader of the faculty. See on this here and here.” (Source: Block, Walter. 2008. “The Idea Police vs. Walter Block: A (Not So) Funny Thing Happened To Me in Baltimore.” November 18.

How you can distill out of this the claim that I said that I speak for the entire Loyola faculty on this or any other matter is beyond me. Indeed, I said the very OPPOSITE, in this publication: “this university is dominated by professors of a very different ideology than mine.”

But, perhaps, it is not this statement that led you to write me in the first place, upbraiding me for my “being out of line.” If so, I think you have a moral obligation (not a legal one) to furnish me, and the others you have written, with evidence that I am guilty of what you have charged me with.

Yours truly, Walter E. Block, Ph.D.

Letter 5

From: medina [mailto:medina@loyno.edu] Sent: Mon 11/24/2008 7:58 AM To: Walter Block Subject: RE: statements about wage disparities and sex and race

Dr. Block, I was responding to a news article that appeared in Inside Higher Education, I believe, and what you were quoted as stating in that article. If the article contained a miscommunication or misrepresentation of your ideas, you should follow up with them as I am sure they would be happy to print a retraction or correction.

I don’t consider views that the reason there are wage disparities between African Americans and caucasians is difference in I.Q. between the races, to be serious, supported by solid empirical evidence and credible.

Isabel Medina

Letter 6

To: Prof. Medina

Cc: lawfac@loyno.edu; decuir@loyno.edu; voigt@loyno.edu; locander@loyno.edu; drdave@loyno.edu; Faculty@cba.loyno.edu

Dear Prof. Medina:

I note that your most recent letter to me was addressed to me only, and did not go to the others who were previously copied on it. Please, let us continue to copy ALL of the people on this correspondence to whom you copied your original charge against me, see below. That is, the following: lawfac@loyno.edu; decuir@loyno.edu; voigt@loyno.edu; locander@loyno.edu; drdave@loyno.edu. Plus, I have included my colleagues in the b school, since you copied your colleagues in the law school. As well I have been copying additional individuals, since you have done so too. It seems unfair to make a charge against me, in front of a large group, and not carry through on this in its entirety to them. That is, it seems improper to me for you to make a PUBLIC accusation, and then continue in PRIVATE. In addition, it is my understanding that only you, as a member of the law school faculty, but not me, can reach them by use of lawfac@loyno.edu. Is this true? Please, in your reply to this letter, do copy all law school professors.

I must now thank you, finally, at last, after several requests of mine, for offering some EVIDENCE concerning your allusion to my supposed “speaking out of line when you claimed some sponsorship or sympathy by all of the Loyola NO community for your views.”

You offer the following, as exhibit A, if I understand you correctly.

The only relevant paragraph from that interview (please correct me if you think I am overlooking something else therein) is this:

“At least at his home institution in New Orleans, he said, there was no resistance from faculty. ‘The only people I’m getting in trouble with so far are the politically correct thought police at Maryland,’ he noted, adding that he was willing to debate members of the Loyola College faculty on the issues.”

About this, a few words.

Suppose our positions were reversed. Suppose that is you were quoted in some newspaper, or blog, as saying that every professor on the Loyola University New Orleans campus agreed with your own views on law and political economy. Stipulate that you and I do not agree on all matters of law and political economy. Would I have written you a letter along the lines of yours to me of 11/21/08, see above? Would I have copied numerous people on such a letter? To ask this is to answer it: no, I would have not. Instead, I would have

  1. sent YOU alone (not copying everyone and his uncle) the material in question on the basis of which your statement MIGHT be made
  2. ASKED you if this cited material accurately actually reflected your views.

I would NOT have said this to you: “I am assuming that your statements were as reported in the press,” as you said to me in your letter of 11/21/08, above. Perhaps your experience with journalists is radically different than mine, but, when they report something so PATENTLY WRONG and PREPOSTEROUS as me saying that ALL faculty members of Loyola University New Orleans agree with me on matters of law and political economy, that I am in effect the spokesman for the entire faculty, the rational person would have taken this with a grain of salt. A LARGE grain of salt.

Now let us consider the specifics of this exhibit A statement:

“At least at his home institution in New Orleans, he said, there was no resistance from faculty. ‘The only people I’m getting in trouble with so far are the politically correct thought police at Maryland,’ he noted, adding that he was willing to debate members of the Loyola College faculty on the issues.”

In my view, this verbiage is at BEST (for your interpretation) ambiguous. It does NOT clearly state that I think that all faculty members of Loyola University New Orleans agree with me on matters of law and political economy, such as concerning the male — female, or the white — black, wage gap, and that I am their spokesman for this or any other matter. I see your point, though. With enough body English, and an interpretation sympathetic enough to your reading, one COULD distill out of this statement something akin to what you are charging me with. But this would be just one possible interpretation. Another, I think far better interpretation, one that I certainly meant to convey to this journalist is this: that while the faculty and administration of Loyola College (Maryland) ran roughshod over my academic freedom, my own colleagues at Loyola University (New Orleans) were not at all like that. Instead, they gave me awards, knowing full well my positions on matters of law and political economy; instead, my dean sent me a letter of support, not necessarily for my substantive position; rather, only, for my academic freedom. That is, “resistance” and “getting in trouble with” had nothing to do with the substantive issues, and everything to do with academic freedom, support for inquiry no matter how unpopular. I was attempting to compliment Loyola University New Orleans, while denigrating Loyola College Maryland, not on substantive issues, but merely, and only, on matters of academic freedom. E.g., there are politically correct thought police at Maryland, but NOT at New Orleans.

How to resolve this issue? Tell you what; I’ve got a deal for you. One of the readers of this correspondence between us, a graduate of Loyola Law School in the 1980s, wrote the following to me:

“Considering it was Professor Medina who raised the issue of whether you claimed to speak on behalf of the entire Loyola faculty, I trust she will either substantiate the assertion, or withdraw it with her apology.”

In my judgment, you have not “substantiated” your assertion. Rather, you have finally, after many requests of mine of you, pointed to an ambiguous statement that might or might not substantiate it, depending upon interpretation. In my view, this is at best for your side, a gray area. So, if you will withdraw your assertion that I claimed to speak for the entire Loyola New Orleans professoriate, and apologize to me for making this wild eyed accusation to many other people before having the courtesy to check with me first about it, I will attempt to get the author of this piece to edit it.

The edited version would read as follows (added material in CAPS):

“At least at his home institution in New Orleans, he said, there was no resistance from faculty. ‘The only people I’m getting in trouble with so far are the politically correct thought police at Maryland,’ he noted, adding that he was willing to debate members of the Loyola College faculty on the issues. BLOCK FURTHER ADDED: WHILE MY COLLEAGUES AT LOYOLA UNIVERSITY NEW ORLEANS SUPPORT MY ACADEMIC FREEDOM TO ADDRESS SUCH CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES AND TO OFFER MY OWN PERSPECTIVE, IT IS BY NO MEANS THE CASE THAT THEY AGREE WITH MY ANALYSIS OR CONCLUSIONS; INDEED, MANY OF THEM DISAGREE.”

Alternatively, if you can suggest any other emendations that will get this point across more clearly, I will be very receptive to your editing.

Yours truly, Walter E. Block, Ph.D.

Dr. Block [send him mail] is a professor of economics at Loyola University New Orleans, and a senior fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He is the author of Defending the Undefendable and the newly released Labor Economics From A Free Market Perspective.

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