More Controversy Over Female-Male Pay Gap
Here are several more correspondences that have emerged from my very interesting lecture at Loyola College in Maryland (I have lightly edited all contributions, mainly correcting spelling errors.) For previous entries in this series, see here, here, here and here.
I. The first correspondence starts with a letter from Keith Vetter, Professor in the Law School of Loyola University New Orleans; it is addressed to Isabel Medina, fellow law school professor, of whom we have heard before. It is copied to the usual suspects.
From: Keith Vetter [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] Sent: Mon 12/1/2008 2:29 PM To: email@example.com Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com Subject: Re: statements about wage disparities and sex and race
If Professor Block’s views on blacks and women — I’m not familiar with them — are as irrelevant and fantastical as his views on macroeconomics, his putative area of expertise, I really wouldn’t be concerned about them being taken seriously in many quarters of any importance. In the macroeconomics area, he seems to me like a medieval advocate of the world is flat theory trying to explain why Magellan’s circumnavigation of the globe is consistent with his views. I suspect that he exhibits an equal perspicacity in related — or unrelated — areas. “There are none so blind, as those who WILL not see.”
Ib. Here is my reply to Vetter:
From: Walter Block Sent: Monday, December 01, 2008 6:42 PM To: Keith Vetter; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: RE: statements about wage disparities and sex and race
Dear Prof. Vetter:
I am very curious as to which of my publications in macroeconomics you take such exception. Please do tell me. Most of my articles in macro I have co authored with Bill Barnett. I assure you that he, a medievalist, and a flat earther, is responsible for all the errors therein; whereas I, in contrast, have contributed only non-medieval material. I, in contrast to him, believe that the world is round. Could you be confusing the two of us with each other?
Yours truly, 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 email@example.com
Ic. And here is Vetter’s response to me
Thanks for the personal letter. Apparently, unlike some of your colleagues, you and I are alike in not taking banter or ourselves excessively seriously. It ain’t a life or death matter. As for your publications, I have kept up with your numerous articles etc. in the Loyola and local media. I have not read any of your scholarly publications — on the other hand, I do not read many legal “scholarly” publications either. Most of them are bloated and marginally relevant to the actual practice and making of law. I assume that you are roughly of the Austrian/Chicago/Ayn Rand school of macroeconomics, based on those sources. If I am wrong, please correct me. However, note that I use the word “roughly.” I am neither interested in nuances or angels on the head of a pin, as a medievalist would be. In short, I am either a dilettante or a renaissance man, depending on your perspective. Please read my reply to your colleague Pat for further exposition.
As for my former student — and a very good one — Bill Barnett, I can assure you that when he left my tutelage, he most definitely believed that the earth was round. If he has changed his opinion, I have no doubt that it is due to the pernicious influence that you have had on him.
Best Regards, Keith (not a Ph.D.)
About which, a few comments. Perhaps I should not have been so jocular; an economics colleague of mine warned me about this, but only after I wrote this letter. Never again. Evidently, Prof. Vetter feels friendly enough with me, on the basis of my somewhat humorous response to him, to address me by my first name. My own "philosophy" on this nomenclature business is as follows: first names are only for friends. I start off with everyone on this basis (except undergraduates, of course; we’ve got to draw the line somewhere, no?); everyone, that is, who either I know nothing about, or has acted in a friendly way toward me. But, I do not at all regard Prof. Vetter’s letter to Prof. Medina, of 12/1/08, which he was kind enough to copy me on, as friendly at all.
I find it shocking, yes, shocking, that Prof. Vetter would regard my publications in macroeconomics as "irrelevant and fantastical" when he admits he has not read any of them ("I have not read any of your scholarly publications.") It is certainly incompatible with being a member of a community of scholars, such as a university purports to be, to criticize a colleague’s publications in so hysterical a manner while being totally ignorant of them. How would Prof. Vetter feel if I dismissed his scholarly output in such an exorbitant manner, not having read a word of them?
I can excuse Prof. Vetter for conflating Austrian and Chicago views on macroeconomics, which are almost as far apart as it is possible for them to be. It is a perfectly reasonable error for a non-economist to make. Heck, this mistake is made, even, by many economists (Rand, to the extent she had any discernable macroeconomic views, would certainly veer in the Austrian direction; e.g., her views on gold in Atlas Shrugged). But this error certainly reveals he is in no position to assess my contributions, such as they are, to macroeconomics.
Id. Here is a letter from my business school colleague, Prof. Pat Lynch, in support of my position vis–vis Prof. Vetter:
From: Patrick Lynch Sent: Tue 12/2/2008 8:08 AM To: Keith Vetter; Faculty Subject: RE: [Fwd: Re: statements about wage disparities and sex and race]
Keith, you and Professor Medina are entitled to your opinions. However, Walter did offer to debate Isabel in a public forum. Nevertheless, she declined, and you and she continue to use the email to criticize Walter. If you and Isabel are so secure in your position, why don’t both of you accept Walter’s offer to debate him? I certainly would welcome the opportunity to witness an intelligent debate, and based on my experiences working with Walter the past three years, I can assure you he will provide much food for thought. If you and Isabel aren’t willing to debate Walter, I would suggest that all cease these emails.
As an aside, I find the tone of your email offensive and your criticism of his position on macroeconomics unsubstantiated. The question begs asking, What are your qualifications to question his economics expertise? If he were to ridicule your posture on a given legal issue, I would have to pose a similar question to him.
Best regards, Pat
Patrick M. Lynch, CPA, CFE, CFF, DABFA, CrFA, CPCU, CLU, ChFC, MS Taxation Assistant Professor of Accounting Office MI 310 College of Business Loyola University New Orleans 6363 St. Charles Ave., Box 15 New Orleans, LA 70118 504-864-7974 firstname.lastname@example.org
Ie. Here is Prof Vetter’s response to my friend and colleague Pat Lynch’s defense of me (I want to acknowledge that two other friends and business college friends of mine, Lee Mundell and Ron Christner, supported Pat’s response to Vetter):
From: Keith Vetter [mailto:email@example.com] Sent: Tue 12/2/2008 6:06 PM To: Ron Christner Cc: Lee Mundell; Patrick Lynch; Faculty Subject: Re: [Fwd: Re: statements about wage disparities and sex and race]
First of all, let me assure you that I agree wholeheartedly with Walter Block’s position on academic freedom. I will vigorously defend his right to express his infantile opinions wherever and whenever he wishes. On the other hand, that also gives me the right to criticize his opinions for what they are: irrelevant and fantastical. I have the right to do this by e-mail or any other forum, just as he does. I’m sorry you find my remarks offensive, but freedom of speech allows one to take positions that others may find offensive — of course their remedy is to label them offensive, as you have done.
As for the “question that begs asking,” let me know the next time you see one. It would be quite a sight. In the interest of eliminating mendicancy — a position that I am sure you and Walter would agree with — I will try to silence the begging question. I have no expertise in macroeconomics. And by the way, if Walter were to question my opinion on a legal issue, I would not question his expertise — I would attempt to answer the criticism. Questioning expertise is a form of ad hominem argument, avoiding the issue.
If you wish to know my opinion on the Austrian/Chicago/Ayn Rand school of economics, I agree with the testimony of Alan Greenspan regarding that school of thought — it doesn’t work, as even the blind should see given the present state of the nation and world’s economy. He expressed my views much more clearly than I could, and I think you would agree, he can lay some claim to “expertise.” At least he had the good grace to admit he was wrong. Other advocates of this school would do well to do the same. It’s not so hard, W-R-O-N-G — give it a shot.
I have cited a clear exposition of my views, so I suggest that you or Walter or anyone else refute them, by e-mail. This would be more to the point that a debate between Walter and me. In fact, I politely decline a debate on a number of grounds: first, I have neither the time or inclination, second, I have given you access to a clear exposition of my views that you can refute in writing, third, a debate between two obscure professors at a small Southern liberal Arts University would have the same national impact as, say, a speech at the Carrollton Rotary Club, and fourth, in light of the views of most policy makers and major economists, it would be irrelevant.
Best Regards, Keith
About which, some comments.
I appreciate Prof. Vetter’s support for my academic freedom. This is more than I received from the administration of Loyola College, Maryland.
My "friend" Keith, with whom I am on a first name basis (well, he is, with me, at least) mentions my "infantile opinions" without vouchsafing any answer as to what, pray tell they may be? My views on macroeconomics? On the male-female wage gap? We are left in the dark. All that I know is that according to this scholar, my views remain "irrelevant and fantastical." But I still don’t know why.
I don’t mind having my views characterized as "infantile, or irrelevant and fantastical." Been there before, had that done to me on more than one occasion. But, usually, coupled with such charges are chapter and verse of my shortcomings, with at least an attempt to show me my errors. I do join Pat in finding this sort of name-calling "offensive" when there are no specifics given.
Vetter asserts his right to criticize his (Block’s) opinions. But he has not done so. At least to date, this legal scholar has confined himself to name calling.
Pat was not calling into question Vetter’s "freedom of speech." He was merely finding Vetter’s use thereof "offensive," something the latter thinks he has a right to do. So, why the complaint?
Vetter charges Lynch with "questioning expertise" and therefore engaging in an ad hominem argument. Not so, not so. Merely "questioning expertise" does not at all constitute an ad hominem argument. Rather, in order to engage in an ad hominem argument, one must first argue. But Lynch does not argue. Specifically, he does not argue that Vetter is wrong because he lacks credentials in economics. Rather, Lynch merely questions Vetter’s credentials. One would think that Vetter could discern the difference between these two, but, alas, no. That is, Lynch asks the following question: "What are your qualifications to question his (Block’s) economics expertise?" Note, Lynch does not argue that Vedder was mistaken in his assessment of me, and, certainly not because of Vedder’s lack of credentials, as is required of an ad hominem.
As to Alan Greenspan, he is a traitor to the views he learned from Ayn Rand, and espoused when he was a young man (in favor of gold as money). I will certainly admit to Prof. Vetter, and, indeed, to the entire world, that I am W-R-O-N-G on this or any other issue, just as soon as I seen an argument, or some evidence demonstrating this. I wonder if Prof. Vetter would do so.
II. This second correspondence is with a woman who was initially quite irate with me and my views, and then, less so. I am calling her J, to protect her anonymity. I will "out" her only to the extent of saying that she holds the CPA degree and works in that capacity.
IIa. J to Block
From: J Sent: Wed 11/26/2008 10:59 AM To: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org Cc: email@example.com Subject: Truly Disappointing
Dear Father Wildes, Dean Locander, and Professor Block,
I am a graduate of the College of Business (in the year XX), a former Director of XX for the Student Government Association, and a former member of the XX program for the College of Business. I am writing concerning the recent speech Professor Block gave to the community at Loyola Maryland. As a professional woman I was appalled by the remarks made by Dr. Block, and I hope the members of the LOYNO community are as well. I have always admired that Loyola fosters in its students and faculty a desire to seek greater understanding through dialogue; however, I have failed to learn through Dr. Block’s remarks how his findings will serve to improve my future as a professional woman. I suppose since my future seems so dim, I should avoid a partner track and begin starting a family so that I can do what I do best — be average. Is that what we are teaching at Jesuit institutions now? I always thought that we strove for excellence in all things. Or is that lesson to be reserved just for my male counterparts? I regret not taking more classes in sewing, cooking, and parenting, considering that Intermediate Accounting III and International Finance will do nothing for my career as a future homemaker. Dr. Block suggested poetry is a subject in which women excel. Perhaps I should have designated my annual contribution to the English department instead of the College of Business.
My greatest concern is for the young women in the College of Business. If Dr. Block considers his female students to be far inferior to his male students, why should they even go to class? Would it be so that they can achieve a greater understanding of their inferiority so that they will not be disappointed in themselves when they fail to be anything other than average? Isn’t that a wonderful lesson — you can try, but really you’ll never amount to much other than being a wife and mother who leaves cute little poems in her husband’s briefcase so that he can have a productive day at the office. How far we have come!
I would like to ensure Dr. Block that this email has been composed as I am eating a sandwich over my desk. I would hate for him to think that I am contributing to the lack of productivity of women in the workplace. How trite would that be!
I have copied Ms. Frank on this email so that I can confirm that I would like to move my contribution to the College of Business that I made one week ago to the English Department. Thank you Ms. Frank. If you have any questions in doing this, please don’t hesitate to call.
Sincerely Disappointed, J
IIb. Block to J
From: Walter Block [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] Sent: Wednesday, November 26, 2008 2:15 PM To: J; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org Cc: email@example.com Subject: RE: Truly Disappointing
Thanks for your interesting letter.
Have you actually heard what I said, or, are you basing the points in this letter on second hand reports? I strongly suspect the latter. True? If so, that is not the scientific way to go about these things. I would be appalled if my own students did that.
If you are actually interested in what I SAID (see the fourth entry for a link), you can peruse this material.
- A tough sell in the marketplace of ideas
- Those delicate Jesuit sensibilities
- When Austrian Economics and Jesuit Theology Don’t Mix
- A (Not So) Funny Thing Happened To Me in Baltimore
- Tales From an Academic Looney Bin
When and if you do so, I should be glad to communicate with you on this, once again.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
IIc. J to Block
From: J Sent: Wed 11/26/2008 2:01 PM To: Walter Block Subject: RE: Truly Disappointing
After reading the article on Nola.com, I did a little research to try to find the transcript of your presentation. Although I was not able to, I did find the fourth link you cited below through this weblink.
I had indeed read your comments, and I am still unclear as to your solution for me to be achieving above average success since I am a married female professional. I like to consider myself more than nature’s insurance policy. I would also like to think that the professors who taught me and women like me considered me more than that as well.
Perhaps it is because we assume women are average at best that some women fill that role once they have become married or have children. I mean why keep working if people aren’t going to see you as "management material." Perhaps the answer is not to continue accepting this as God’s truth, but to expect more of our husbands. Considering so many of them reside on the right side of the Bell Curve, you’d think they can use some of their superior ability to chip in a little, mine does.
Lastly, I am curious as to whether or not the levels of productivity have been studied since the birth and resounding popularity of things like March Madness and fantasy football. I can tell you as someone who works with men, managing a fantasy football team can be awfully time consuming. It seems that every time I pass the gentleman in the office next to me that’s what he’s doing. And March Madness — well now there’s really something to call in sick for.
I have read many of your editorials in the Maroon, and, although I do not always agree, I respect your opinions because of the thoughtful manner in which you outline your argument. However, it does not take much thought to generalize an entire group of people. If I was one of your students, I would expect a different and better curving scale to apply to me since I am just average.
IId. Block to J
Madame Curie, Judit Polgar, Golda Meir, Indira Ghandi, Margaret Thatcher all broke through the glass ceiling. Joan Robinson probably would have won the Nobel Prize in economics, had it been around at that time.
My “solution” for you is to try to break through the glass ceiling in your own field.
NOTHING I have ever said is incompatible with that advice. (If you find something, let me know, and I’ll publicly retract it.) All I said that as a matter of STATISTICS, fewer women achieve such success (I certainly have not, even though I’m not a married female), than men. Certainly, fewer married women do, perhaps unless they have a house husband, a rarity.
So, try as hard as you can, is my advice. Only realize that the historical statistical odds are against you.
Does this enrage you? It is the truth. Does the truth count for nothing in academia?
May I have your permission to publish this correspondence, using your name? If not, I’ll certainly protect your anonymity.
Best regards, Walter
IIe. J to Block
From: J Sent: Wed 11/26/2008 2:38 PM To: Walter Block Subject: RE: Truly Disappointing
I appreciate your reply. I have and will continue to do my best to shatter the glass ceiling once and for all. I have had the opportunity to be raised by a woman who started putting in a few cracks. I have also been lucky enough to work with two very impressive women who have done the same. The odds may be against me, but they get better every day.
As for publishing this correspondence, I would prefer not to be named. Ironically enough, I would not want to offend the women I know who have made the difficult choice to forego professional success for family life.
If it is published, would you send me a copy?
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.