Block to Fok

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Block to Fok

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I. Block to Fok

From: Walter Block Sent: Thursday, December 04, 2008 12:49 AM To: Wing Fok Cc: Faculty Subject: FW: query about “statement”

Dear Wing:

Did you sign onto, or approve of, this “statement” of that committee?

Please tell me this is not the case.

Whether or not, I have a formal request to make of you as the b school’s representative on that committee: please ensure that all the committee members are sent my query, below. I have no way of knowing whether it will reach them without your efforts in this regard.

Best regards,

Walter

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

II. Fok to Block

From: Wing Fok Sent: Thu 12/4/2008 9:19 AM To: Walter Block Cc: Faculty Subject: RE: query about “statement”

Dear Walter: I did approve and sign onto the statement. I am disappointed to see in your email that you stated: "Please tell me this is not the case," implying by signing onto the statement, I did something you disapproved. I believe I am entitled to my opinion as well. I thought you, all of my colleagues, would respect and celebrate that. Please allow me to explain why I approved that statement: I believe the first half of the statement expressed clearly that you, operating as an "academician," possessed the right to express your opinion based on your research or your understanding of the research. I do not deny that nor want to suggest that you did anything wrong in so doing. In fact, those attended the previous meetings organized by the diversity task force relating to the recent discussions on your presentation in Baltimore could attest that I am one of those defending your academic freedom in so doing. What I believe you should have realized is that we play multiple roles in the society and in most organizational settings. Besides being an academician whose role is to seek the truth, we are also faculty members of Loyola University New Orleans and as such, we have the responsibility to be concerned with people’s perception towards our university based on our behavior. Perception is built on particular incidences, unfortunately. Although your years or research probably did not suggest anything otherwise, your discussion in Baltimore did (perhaps unintentionally) create the perception that can be misunderstood by some and it is, therefore, yours responsibility to clarify your position. In addition, you need to be aware that not everyone reading or listening to your presentation in one occasion has the opportunity to review all of your previous publications and draw the conclusion based on your years of research. It is, in my opinion, asking too much. I believe it is your job to provide evidence that you were misunderstood, not to challenge anybody who did not have the opportunity to study (nor understand due to lack of specific expertise) all your previous research. Having said that, I believe a flaw about your presentation and your mentioning of the "Bell Shape Curve" principle, is the failure to acknowledge the possibility that other factors may contribute to the scores on the IQ test reported on the "Bell Shape Curve." A case in point, I remember when I was college bound in Hong Kong, I took one such IQ test and there were questions on the test that I could not even understand due to the lack of sufficient English comprehension capability. I do not believe missing the right answers to the question has anything to do with my "IQ." As academician, it is important for people to understand that you have considered other possibilities before making a generalized observation. At least you should have pointed out that using "IQ" as a surrogate measure of "intelligence" has its limitations. Please let me know if I was mistaken and you did include those other possibilities in that presentation.

On your other questions, I believe I will leave it to the committee, with my involvement, to answer them specifically. On your request to ensure every member receiving your query, I am not sure whether I am actually the representative of business school but as a colleague who respect and celebrate your right to believe in what you believe in, I will certainly do my best to ensure all members are informed of your query.

With my best regards,

Wing Wing Fok, Ph.D. Henry J. Engler, Jr. Distinguished Professor in Management Director of International Business Center College of Business Loyola University New Orleans Phone: (504) 864-7937 Fax: (504) 864-7970 Email: fok@loyno.edu

III. Block to Fok

Dear Wing:

I was appalled and dismayed that anyone would sign that letter because of its logical errors. I was really hurt that you did so, since I thought we were friends. But, all is not lost. There is a reason that they put erasers at the tip of pencils: people make mistakes. So, I ask you to change your mind, renounce your previous position, and ask that your vote be changed; e.g., deleted from that list of signatories.

Why? What logical error? The error concerns the burden of proof.

Suppose I bruit it about that Wing Fok is a Communist, Nazi and member of the KKK. The burden of proof rests with ME to prove this. How can I prove, or demonstrate, or give evidence for these outrageous claims of mine? Simple: I go to your publications, your published speeches, the tapes of your lectures, TV and radio appearances. I cite you saying what great groups these three are, how you admire their policies, have officially joined them. I offer quotes, in quote marks, to this effect. I come up with a “smoking gun” which demonstrates your allegiance to these execrable groups.

Suppose I use word search on all this material and come up with the finding that Wing Fok never so much as even mentioned these three horrid organizations. So I conclude: Aha: Wing Fok is a Communist, Nazi and member of the KKK. He didn’t DENY this, did he? No, Fok certainly did not deny being a member of these disgusting groups; he didn’t even mention them. That proves he really is a member of them; that he approves of them.

IF I were to do this, which I certainly am not doing, I am only using this counterfactual to make my point, arguendo, I would be guilty of inverting the burden of proof.

You say “I believe it is your job to provide evidence that you were misunderstood.” But, in my hypothetical example, you did not provide evidence that you were misunderstood. You did not provide evidence that you are not a Communist, Nazi and member of the KKK. This might not be so hypothetical. I imagine, that if I combed through all of your publications, I would not find you even mentioning these three words (Communist, Nazi, KKK), since they are way off the beaten path of your scholarly activity. Does that mean you really are a member, or sympathizer of these groups? Of course not.

This “statement” you signed on to inverts the burden of proof. It accuses me of all sorts of untoward things. But it does not offer one shred of evidence that I am guilty of anything of this sort. I tell you, if a student of mine in a term paper wrote that X was guilty of Y with no support for this contention at all, I would give that term paper a failing grade. This “statement” you approved of made precisely this sort of error.

I also have problems with your letter to me, above. Here, you make several statements I find problematic. First, you assert that I mention the book “The Bell Shape Curve.” You repeat this, so I don’t think it can be a typographical error. The correct title for the Herrnstein-Murray book is the “Bell Curve” not the “Bell Shape Curve.” Then, you charge me with merely mentioning this book. But, surely, thousands of people have mentioned this book. Can one really be guilty of an academic malpractice, of the sort this “statement” accuses me of, and that you repeat in this letter, for merely mentioning a book? Surely not!

You condemn me, saying that I fail “to acknowledge the possibility that other factors may contribute to the scores on the IQ test.” Wing, how do you know that? Have you combed through all of my publications? As well, are people to be condemned for what they do not say? If so, then you are guilty of an awful lot of things, since there are many things you, too, have not said, either in writing or speaking.

You say: “Please let me know if I was mistaken and you did include those other possibilities in that presentation.” Wing, I find this highly problematic. You are already on record, twice, once by signing that “statement,” second by writing your letter to me of 12/4/08, in condemning me for doing X, or, rather, not doing X. Now, you ask, did I really do X, or, rather, in this case, fail to do X. How is it reasonable to condemn a person for (not doing) something, when you do not know if the person is guilty of (failing to do) it? I would never condemn you, or anyone else for doing anything untoward, unless I had evidence that they did something untoward.

Wing, you say the following: “your discussion in Baltimore did (perhaps unintentionally) create the perception that can be misunderstood by some and it is, therefore, yours responsibility to clarify your position.” Were you in Baltimore at that time? Did you listen to my lecture? If not, and I don’t remember seeing you there (it was a relatively large audience, but, certainly, I would have remembered if I had seen you there), how do you know what I said there? Further, just when would you have liked me to “clarify” my position? I gave that lecture on 11/6/08. Should I have written about this since? Published an article on it? Should I have testified before your “Affirmative Action Diversity Tast (sic) Force?” I would have, you know, but they never asked me to do so. Don’t juries have to hear from both sides before they condemn the accused? Why didn’t this “Affirmative Action Diversity Tast (sic) Force” get in touch with me before writing its “statement”?

You say (note, I quote exactly what you said, I do not attribute to you things you haven’t said) “Besides being an academician whose role is to seek the truth, we are also faculty members of Loyola University New Orleans and as such, we have the responsibility to be concerned with people’s perception towards our university based on our behavior.” I say, people’s perceptions be damned. In my view, the job of a professor is to profess. To profess what? Why, to profess the truth. And, of course, to do so in a clear and unambiguous manner. If other people purposefully misunderstand, or do so with reckless disregard, that is their problem.

Look, suppose a chemistry professor at Loyola gives a clear concise explanation of chemistry. He tells the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth. Whereupon, one of his students makes a bomb based on this knowledge the professor imparted, and goes out and blows up some innocent people. Is this the fault of the chemistry professor? Of course not. Or, take your own field, management. You pursue the truth. You write about it, speak about it. Unbeknownst to you, one of your students, or anyone who reads any of your publications, is a Nazi, Communist, and/or KKK member. He uses knowledge garnered from your pursuit of truth in management, to better manage these despicable (see, I’m following your advice, I’m trying to fend off future claims that I’m a member of these groups, or admire them) organizations; as a result, they become more efficient at spreading their horrid views. Is this your fault? Are you to be condemned for not taking “the responsibility to be concerned with people’s perception towards our university based on our behavior”? Of course not. Yet, this is precisely the position in which you are placing me.

Wing, I beg of you, I implore you, admit that you made a mistake in signing that “statement” of the “Affirmative Action Diversity Tast (sic) Force.” Tell them that you no longer wish to condemn me on the basis of no evidence at all, merely on the basis of hearsay, second and third person reports, suppositions, assumptions, etc. Then, of course, if you (and your Tast Force) do your homework, and find something that I actually wrote or said that violates your principles, you can then condemn me.

Best regards as always,

Walter

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

Afterward:

Wing Fok and I have been friends ever since I arrived at Loyola University New Orleans in 2001. We have served on committees together, participated together in many business school parties, bbqs, etc., over the years. We have had lunch together. We ask about each other’s children, and families. We shared jokes. His office is only some30 feet or so away from mine. Since our last names rhyme, typically, and we both have a sense of humor, when we see each other, at least once but usually several times a day in the halls, we say to each other things like: “How are things going, Doc Fok,” or “how do you do, Doc Block.” Sometimes, when we are in a rush we merely greet each other in passing with: “Doc Block,” or “Doc Fok,” respectively, accompanied by a polite nod. I didn’t think of Wing as a good friend; we were not that close. But, I thought of him as more than a mere acquaintance.

I was therefore amazed and appalled to find his name on that committee’s document. For one thing, that “task force” report was, substantively, a horrid example of unfairness. On a personal level I would have expected any member of that committee who was a friend of mine to insist that the committee at least obtain my side of the story before condemning me; if he failed in that attempt, to at least not sign on to its report for that reason alone. I found it even more horrendous that Wing would defend his decision, and, not even reply to my letter to him, above, about it. I tell you, if I were on an academic committee considering Wing’s publications, or speeches, even if I sharply disagreed with them, I would have treated him, and that matter, very differently. I would have treated him as a friendly colleague.

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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