by Hans-Hermann Hoppe
From and to the Chronicle of Higher Education for a published article:
Dear Professor Hoppe, here are some of the questions I’d like to pursue.
1) What do you think of the standard defined by the Provost — that you must “cease mischaracterizing opinion as objective fact in the educational environment”?
I am tempted to reply to the Provost’s suggestion with a simple quip: Is the alleged categorical distinction between fact and opinion itself a fact or an opinion? I’m certain the Provost would be somewhat helpless in answering this question. To this day, there exist vigorous philosophical debates regarding the issue. Things are not as simple as they appear to a bureaucrat’s mind.
In any case, most so-called facts in the social sciences are more or less corroborated hypotheses — and so are most opinions (insofar as they concern empirical rather than normative matters). I did not mischaracterize anything in my lecture. This is mere play with words in a desperate attempt on the part of the university to avoid any admission of guilt. They have already backpedaled quite a bit. But they do not dare say that they trampled on my right to free speech and academic freedom. I have received hundreds of letters from all over the world: no one sees this any differently — except UNLV’s leadership.
2) But, just for the record: Is there solid empirical literature re: homosexuals and time preferences, or should the public instead regard your comments as reasonable speculation?
In class (as you can also gather from the audio I sent you), the statement was presented as an intuitively plausible hypothesis (if you typically do not have offspring, you typically provide for shorter time periods).
Though I did not speak in class in detail about the subject because it was not the subject of my lecture, there exist of course abundant "indicators" (some of which are no doubt disputable — after all, most propositions of the social sciences are hypotheses) such as lower life expectancy, riskier behavior (as documented by higher incidence of AIDS, etc.), and instability of relationships.
3) Did Mr. Knight give you any warning that he was going to file a formal complaint about your comments?
He never spoke to me (and I didn’t know who he was until several weeks after the alleged incident). He never warned me about an informal or a formal complaint. He also never asked me to clarify my statement during the lecture.
4) Who sat on the grievance committee that considered Mr. Knight’s complaint?
The first grievance committee was made up of (3) administrators/bureaucrats: the affirmative action officer, the university code officer, and the student judicial code officer.
The second "peer" review committee was made up of the dean of the college of natural sciences, a biology professor, the vice-dean of the hotel college and the president of the student government (a hotel school student). To the best of my knowledge no member of the “peer” committee had any qualifications in the area of economic theory.
Please note that only one of the seven committee members was a member of the teaching faculty.
5) What actions do you believe the university should take at this point? Do you anticipate taking formal legal action against the university?
The university should apologize. They must uphold academic freedom which permits and even obliges faculty to discuss controversial matters at variance with "common wisdom" (and certainly doesn’t require we speak only about matters that have passed the test of peer-reviewed wisdom, as the letter from the Provost absurdly claims); otherwise, we would never be allowed to express "original" thought or even speak about on-going research. There exist thousands of ideas that are peer-reviewed but stand in contradiction to and are incompatible with each other. Does the Provost realize that science existed even before the printing press and peer-reviewed publications?
The university has acted in violation of my first amendment rights, due process, and its own bylaws. It has severely damaged my reputation as well as my health, and it owes me reasonable compensation for this. The ACLU Nevada, as my legal representative, is prepared to see this through in federal court.
6) The Provost’s letter says that “you were previously informed in writing regarding similar incidents by your Dean.” Could you describe those earlier conflicts?
There has been one previous incident. It concerned an entirely different subject than the present one. The present investigating committees were only provided with the initial complaint, but were NOT informed that after an informal meeting with the then affirmative action officer, that complaint was completely dismissed. In fact, during the meeting, the affirmative action officer at one point suggested, before a witness, that I was a Nazi, upon which I ended the conversation and wrote a letter of complaint to the university president (currently one and the same), who did not even acknowledge receipt of my hand-delivered letter. The university would be embarrassed if this whole matter were fully revealed. In telling a half-truth, however, UNLV has tried to smear me.
7) In a better world, how would a university manage conflicts like this one? If you were the president of a new university in an environment with no external government constraints, what would you tell students to do if they found a professor’s arguments unpersuasive and/or obnoxious?
I would inform students that they have the right and duty to ask and challenge their professors. I would inform students about the nature of a university, the principle of and reasons for the institution of academic freedom, and the meaning of the word professor. Further, I would tell them that if they don’t like what they hear they can always look for another professor more to their liking.
In any case, I would inform them that what is "politically correct" cannot be the standard of truth at a serious university.
Hans-Hermann Hoppe [send him mail], whom Lew Rockwell calls “an international treasure,” is distinguished fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and professor of economics at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Democracy: The God That Failed is his eighth book. Visit his website.