The Idea Police vs. Walter Block

A (Not So) Funny Thing Happened To Me in Baltimore


I. Introduction

I was invited by my good friend and long time Mises Institute colleague, Tom DiLorenzo, to make a few presentations at his school, Loyola College in Maryland. I gave two lectures on 11/6/08. The first was to his class, and it concerned my book Defending the Undefendable. Tom had assigned this publication as part of his required readings, and the students came prepared with numerous, probing and very thoughtful questions.

The second was to an open meeting sponsored by the campus Adam Smith society. By my count, over 100 people were crammed into a room for this event with seating for about 70. There were students in every available space: window ledges, floors, all over the place. It was a very friendly, cordial audience; hey, they (almost) laughed at several of my pathetic jokes.

I never read my speeches. I give them all extemporaneously. Unfortunately, in view of the controversy it has generated, my lecture at Loyola College in Maryland was not taped. Fortunately, I have given this lecture at the Mises University, and it is available here. It may not be word for word identical to what I said in Baltimore, but I spoke from the same set of notes both times, so the overlap ought to be very high. I offer this for your consideration because of the fact that this speech generated a lot of discord, although not in the way I thought it would.

Initially, my presentation didn’t seem to generate much controversy at all. There must have been, oh, 10—15 questions, and none of them were hostile. To the best of my recollection, they were all requests for further information, clarification, implications, etc. I was warmly congratulated upon it afterward by Stephen Walters, a member of the economics department at Loyola College in Maryland, a person with whom Tom DiLorenzo and I had spent an amiable 15—20 minutes before this talk. He impressed me as a free market type; well, of the Harold Demsetz variety, whose student Walters was at UCLA. (More about him below.)

II. The lecture

In this lecture I tried to make three points (Tom had suggested to me the topic of "social justice"). First, I said, there were two ways to interpret "social justice." One, as plain old ordinary justice, but applied to social issues. But, if so, why do we need new nomenclature? Second, as "socialist justice," or "justice" from a socialist point of view, and I rejected that, as an opponent of this perspective. I also mentioned in this regard that the Jesuit Order had been highjacked by a bunch of Marxist "liberation theologians," who combine the non-atheistic parts of Marxism along with Catholicism. The early Jesuits were part of the School of Salamanca, a 16th-century school of thought populated by staunch free market pre-Austrian thinkers who would have made Milton Friedman and F.A. Hayek appear as pinkoes. For further reading on this, see here and here.

Then, as an example of social justice, I examined the claim that the market was sexist. (Here is where the Mises University lecture mentioned above, starts.) Under this rubric I examined and rejected two claims. One, that the pay gap between males and females was due to employer discrimination; and two, that the glass ceiling emanated from this source.

As for the pay gap, I made the case that it was due, instead, to the asymmetric effects of marriage. This institution enhances male earnings and reduces those of females. Why? Because wives do the lion’s share of cooking, cleaning, shopping, child care. (A survey I took of my Loyola Maryland audience overwhelming supported this contention.) This is an example of the basic economic axiom of opportunity, or alternative costs. When anyone does anything, he is to that extent unable to do something else. Since I was in Baltimore, I illustrated this by use of Michael Phelps, world champion swimmer. I opined that he probably wasn’t a world-class cellist, because to achieve that goal in addition to having a lot of talent, you have to spend many hours each day practicing, and he was busy with other (watery) pursuits. Well, women are also busy with activities other than supplying labor to the market, hence their lower productivity in this sector, compared to what it would be if they were never married.

I gave several bits of evidence, or proof, or illustrations, of this. For one thing, when you compare not all men and all women, but only the never-marrieds, the wage gap between males and females virtually disappears. When you take only young people, aged 18—24, again the male-female wage gap cannot be found, since most of them have never been married. And this entirely reasonable. After all, while women’s productivity on average may well have been lower than men’s in past centuries, when physical strength was important in this regard, in the present century this is no longer true. For another thing, if (all) women really had the same productivity as men, nowadays (they don’t, due to marriage), then there would be additional profits available to any firm that specialized in hiring females. Surely this is a situation that could not long endure.

Now consider the glass ceiling, where Austro libertarians have an even more radical explanation. While men and women, on average, have equal productivity in the market (apart from the influences of marriage), their variance is not at all the same. Rather, men are God’s, or nature’s, "crap shoot": they are all over the lot, ability-wise. In comparison, women are God’s, or nature’s, insurance policy: they are for the most part bunched toward the middle of the IQ, or productivity, frequency distribution. Their standard deviation is very low. I gave examples of this. Take, first, the left-hand part of this bell curve. Men vastly outnumber women in prisons, as homeless street people, in mental institutions, and cemeteries at early ages (that is, men die way before women, not only from natural causes, but also as murder victims). At the other end of the spectrum, there are also precious few women to be found. There are very few female chess grand masters, Nobel Prize winners in hard sciences or economics, top physicists, chemists, mathematicians. Larry Summers was booted out of his Harvard presidency for speculating that part of the explanation for this state of affairs was biological in origin. I went him one better by claiming that this was an important part of the cause, and made the socio-biological case that low female variance allowed our species to out-compete others. E.g., if females were now found in disproportionately high numbers in prisons, on the street, in mental institutions, etc., they would have been incapable, a million years ago, of raising babies. Such a species would have lost out to our own, where very few women are not able to raise the next generation.

Then came the question period. I thought that it would be very spirited; that there would be lots of objections, even a bit of venom. After all, I had said some pretty radical things on a college campus, virtually all of which are very political correct nowadays. In the event, this expectation of mine was not met. The questions and comments, over a dozen of them to my recollection, were remarkably low-keyed, polite, thoughtful. Most attendees asked for refinements, elaborations of my talk. Several were very complimentary. As an example of the former, one young man asked about the pay gap between blacks and whites, which I had said in my lecture was of about the same magnitude as that between females and males, about 25—30%. My answer, of course, was in terms of lower productivity. After all, if black people had the same productivity as white people on average, but were paid less, then there would be profit opportunities available to all those who hired blacks and fired whites, and such a situation could never last.

But why was this so: Why, that is, would this minority group have lower productivity than the majority? Surely, it couldn’t be attributed to marriage asymmetry? No, I replied. And here I was very careful to say that the cause was a matter of dispute, and that I, as an economist, was not in a position to say which was correct. Instead, I would merely offer both options, and call for the audience to make up its own mind on this issue. The politically correct answer is that lower black productivity is due to slavery, Jim Crow legislation, poor treatment of African-Americans in terms of schooling, etc. The politically incorrect explanation was supplied by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray in their book The Bell Curve: lower black IQs. This was accepted without much demur. I really couldn’t elaborate upon this, since this was one of the last of the questions, and we were about to end the session. I mention this in such great detail, now, since it was the basis of a firestorm of protest that later took place. But, I repeat, at the time of the lecture, there were no objections to this explanation of mine; no wailing and gnashing of teeth, no protests, not much of anything. It was just an ordinary academic meeting, discussing controversial subjects, but in a very sensitive, scholarly manner.

III. Controversy

After the lecture, I thought no more about it. I visited relatives in New York City for a few days. However, when I returned to my office in New Orleans on 11/10/08, and accessed my e-mail, I realized that this Baltimore presentation was no ordinary lecture of mine (where was Mencken, Baltimore’s most famous cynic, when I needed him?). In what follows, I shall cite the incidents that took place, coupled with my commentary on each.

A. Linnane

The first indication I had that things were out of the ordinary was a letter from Rev. Brian F. Linnane, S.J., President, Loyola College Maryland. He did not send it to me. It was not even addressed to me. Rather, it was sent to me by a student at Loyola College Maryland, who shall remain anonymous. Fr. Linnane’s letter is as follows:

From: “President” <[email protected]> To: “President” <[email protected]> Date: Sun, 09 Nov 2008 08:10:14 -0500 Subject: Respect for Diversity at Loyola Dear Members of the Loyola Community:

On Thursday evening, invited speaker Professor Walter Block, an economist from Loyola University New Orleans, delivered an address on “Injustices in the Politics and Economics of Social Justice.” Many in attendance found some of Professor Block’s comments both insensitive and incorrect, and have shared their concerns with members of the Economics department and others throughout the College.

While Economics faculty members have issued a response and apology, I feel it is important at this time to remind all members of the Loyola community that while our commitment to academic freedom ensures that we welcome students, faculty and guest speakers of all academic and political perspectives, we will not endorse or support racism, sexism or any other form of intolerance.

We are a Jesuit institution, and as such, a respect for diversity is one of our defining values, and an essential component in our commitment to preparing men and women to become leaders in a rapidly changing world made all the more rich by the many cultures and viewpoints that shape it.

I hope that all of you believe as strongly in this aspect of our character as I do. I encourage all of you to continue to think critically and to engage in discussions with your classmates, colleagues and friends about the important role diversity plays in our community.

Sincerely, Rev. Brian F. Linnane, S.J. President

Here is my response to this letter:

11/9/08 Rev. Brian F. Linnane, S.J. President, Loyola College Maryland

Dear Rev. Linnane:

Could you please share with me the economics faculty members’ “response and apology,” regarding my lecture. Always interested in improving my presentations, and, getting that one inch closer to the truth, I would be exceedingly interested in hearing specifics on which of the claims I made during that lecture that are “incorrect.”

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

Fr. Linnane, S.J. did not see fit to answer this letter of mine. About which, a few comments. First, it would have been polite if the Rev. Linnane, S.J. had addressed me on this issue. After all, I was the "malefactor" here. Surely, his ministry includes correcting those of us who have violated proper academic practices. But, how am I to know I stand in violation of intellectual propriety, unless I am told about my transgressions? Second, my letter was a cordial one. Surely, it was within the bounds of civilized discourse. It is thus, also, impolite for him not to answer my inquiry. Third, one wonders how he even came to write this letter in the first place, given that he did not attend my talk, and thus knew of it only second hand, at best. Had he asked me for the contents of my speech, as he should have before commenting about it, I would have gladly offered him the talk mentioned above.

Now, for the substance of this letter. If it is indeed true that "Many in attendance found some of Professor Block’s comments both insensitive and incorrect," I wonder why no one in attendance shared that reaction with me. The Q&A session lasted at least 20—30 minutes. Certainly, there would have been time to express such dissatisfaction. "Incorrect," I can understand. I am always looking for ways to improve, and would have been happy to have been specifically corrected, as my letter indicated. But "insensitive"? What, pray tell, does "sensitivity" have to do with academic discourse? As long as a presentation is made in a civilized manner, as mine certainly was (otherwise this would have been listed in the indictment against me), substantive "sensitivity" should be eschewed in intellectual dialogue. After all, at one time it would have been deemed "insensitive" to claim that the earth revolves around the sun; are the most "sensitive" members of the campus community to have veto power over what research and logic uncovers? For shame. Fr. Linnane, S.J. speaks of "diversity" on campus. I have no doubt that he has on his faculty a very diverse group of Marxist-feminist-relativist-obscurantist-black studies theoreticians (am I leaving anyone out? If so, I most humbly apologize). Yes, this college president has all the usual "diversity" bases covered. What I doubt very much is that if he has, apart from Tom DiLorenzo to the best of my knowledge, any ideological diversity. Yet, Fr. Linnane, S.J., heads up an institution of higher learning. Do not his students deserve to at least hear of other views, apart from those of the many Marxist-feminist-relativist-obscurantist-black studies theoreticians?

B. Jolley

Next comes my correspondence with Courtney Jolley, which was, as you can see, initiated by her; it goes as follows:

First letter:

From: Courtney Jolley [mailto:[email protected]] Sent: Tuesday, November 11, 2008 2:33 PM To: Walter Block Subject: Your Message to Loyola President Brian Linnane, S.J.

Dr. Block:

Below is a copy of the letter sent by members of the economics department to Loyola’s student newspaper, The Greyhound. The letter appeared in the Nov. 11 issue.

Dear Members of the Loyola Community:

The officials and members of the Adam Smith Society and the Economics faculty wish to apologize for the insensitive and incorrect remarks made Thursday, Nov. 6 by invited speaker Professor Walter Block of Loyola University New Orleans.

Professor Block’s response to a question about the differences between average earnings of African-Americans and whites in America, which maintained that the disparity could be explained by differences in average productivity, was offensive, and we are sincerely sorry for it.

It is important to note that the remark was offensive not just because it was racially insensitive, but because it was erroneous and indicated poor-quality scholarship. There is ample scholarly evidence that, after adjusting for productivity-related characteristics (e.g., years of schooling, work experience, union and industry status, etc) a considerable wage gap remains. This gap is likely explained by employment discrimination. For a fuller discussion of this issue, see J. Gwartney and R. Stroup, Microeconomics, 12th Edition (2009), pp. 292—4.

Professor Block’s remarks also included offensive comments regarding the source of wage disparities between men and women. We are deeply sorry for these remarks and the harm they have caused.

In short, economists are well aware of the existing gender and racial injustice in America, and are conducting much useful research to help overcome it. Furthermore, we are united as a department in refusing to tolerate or sympathize with gender or racial prejudice in any form.

We appreciate the thoughtful questions and responses we’ve received from members of the Loyola community, particularly its students, and we look forward to continued dialogue on topics of great importance such as this one.

Sincerely, The Loyola College Economics Department

If you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact me.

Thank you, Courtney Jolley Director of Public Relations

Second letter:

“Walter Block” <[email protected]> 11/11/2008 3:33 PM

Dear Courtney:

Please tell me:

  1. who signed this letter
  2. which of the signatories actually attended my lecture

Best regards, Walter E. Block, Ph.D.

Third letter:

From: Courtney Jolley [mailto:[email protected]] Sent: Wednesday, November 12, 2008 8:36 AM To: Walter Block Subject: RE: Your Message to Loyola President Brian Linnane, S.J.

Dr. Block:

The signature chosen for the message below (WB: this now appears just above) came from members of the economics faculty as a group. It would be their decision whether or not to attach individual names to the message. You are welcome to reach out to the department for additional information.

Thank you, Courtney Jolley Fourth letter:


Dear Miss Jolley:

I’d very much like to "reach out" to these folk. Can you please tell me how to do this? Can you give me all their e-mail addresses? Or, is there one e-mail address that can address them all?

Alternatively, can you please forward this correspondence of ours to all of them? It is very important to me that I have the answer to the two questions I posed below. (These questions now appear above, since I put our correspondence in date order.)

Best regards, Walter E. Block, Ph.D.

Here are some comments about this correspondence.

It was exceedingly kind and thoughtful of her to acquaint me with the letter (available here) written by the economics department. I appreciate that. I greatly regret that my second letter, above, did not acknowledge this, and thank her for her generosity in sharing with me this information. I now apologize to her.

I am really unable to understand how "the signature chosen for the message below came from members of the economics faculty as a group." No "group" can sign anything. Only individuals can. I know for a certainty that Tom DiLorenzo signed no such letter. So, the signature "The Loyola College Economics Department" is a misnomer; I am too polite to call this a downright lie. At most, then, this was signed, individually, by all of the members of this department, apart from Tom DiLorenzo. I was appalled and amazed to learn that Stephen Walters, a tenured member of the economics department at Loyola College in Maryland signed on, after complimenting me on my lecture immediately after it took place. At what pressure he was subjected to by the administration I can only guess. I wonder what his mentor, Harold Demsetz, will make of this act of cowardice of his.

Miss Jolley did not see fit to tell me how best to "reach out" to the so-called "Loyola College Economics Department," so I am, at least officially, still in doubt as to the identities of the signatories, and whether or not they actually attended my discussion.

As it happened, on the evening of 11/6/08 my daughter and I, along with Tom DiLorenzo, attended a dinner given by this Adam Smith society. Not a disparaging word about my lecture was heard, at least by me.

Also, more than passing curious, I have never determined which of the signatories actually attended my presentation.

Now for the pice de rsistance, the letter from "The Loyola College Economics Department."

First, how can A apologize for the mistakes, errors, or "insensitivity" of B? If B, me in this case, is truly guilty of such transgressions, do not the ordinary laws of logic make it impossible for anyone else, A, the "Loyola College Economics Department" in this case, to make an apology? Possibly, "The officials and members of the Adam Smith Society and the Economics faculty" could have apologized for inviting me to speak at their august center of higher learning. However, this will not do either, since it was Tom DiLorenzo who did the inviting, not them.

Second, as indicated above, my main topic was male-female wage differentials, not black-white ones. I only ventured into the latter issue in response to a question, and, given the nearness of the hour, felt compelled to limit the duration of my answer to a minute or two. It is difficult to do full justice to a somewhat complicated issue given these time constraints.

Third, The Loyola College Economics Department thinks my claim that labor productivity differences can explain wages differentials is "offensive not just because it was racially insensitive, but because it was erroneous and indicated poor-quality scholarship." Is it "racially insensitive" to claim that black people are more than proportionately victimized by high blood pressure and sickle cell anemia, and that Jews suffer more than others from Tay-Sachs disease? This may well be true, at least in some very "sensitive" quarters; some will be offended by these medically true statements. But, is it not important that "insensitive" but truthful statements be promulgated in an institution of higher learning? After all, people’s very lives are at stake.

As to the substance of their claim, surely one of the basic building blocks of our dismal science is the discounted marginal revenue productivity theory of wage determination. It is no less than an axiom of labor economics that productivity, for short, plays a very important, not to say definitive, role in the setting of wages. If this is "racially sensitive" to people, perhaps they should not enter into, or stay in, the field of economics.

The Loyola College Economics Department continues: "There is ample scholarly evidence that, after adjusting for productivity-related characteristics (e.g., years of schooling, work experience, union and industry status, etc) a considerable wage gap remains. This gap is likely explained by employment discrimination. For a fuller discussion of this issue, see J. Gwartney and R. Stroup, Microeconomics, 12th Edition (2009), pp. 292—4."

As it happens, Jim Gwartney and Rick Stroup are both friends of mine. I am co-author with the former of four different publications; here is the highest profile one of them. One of the books I have edited contains no fewer than three contributions of the latter; see here. Were I a member of The Loyola College Economics Department, I would of course apologize for this appalling and economically illiterate statement of theirs. It misleads the youth of the nation, and we all know what happened to Socrates for that sort of thing. But I am not so blessed: I am not a member of The Loyola College Economics Department; so I cannot apologize for Gwartney and Stroup. I must therefore content myself with pointing out why they are in error, and have fooled not only generations of economics students, but, also, anonymous members of The Loyola College Economics Department.

To take only one example, a given number of years of schooling spent in a white suburb are not exactly equivalent to the same amount of classroom time in an inner city neighborhood. Any study, such as offered by Gwartney and Stroup, that purports to hold constant productivity through this proxy variable, years of education, is thus fallacious to a very great degree. Even worse are Gwartney and Stroup’s claim that the remaining wage gap "may well be the result of employment discrimination (Microeconomics, 4th Edition (1997), p. 640)." This is very irresponsible on their part, and I once again apologize for them. No, wait, I can’t apologize for them; only they can do that. Sorry, I lost it for a moment. Since when is it justified to characterize lack of knowledge as "employment discrimination." The remaining gap might be due to all sorts of other things, apart from failure to adequately control proxies for productivity. Perhaps it is a result of biased statistics offered by our census reports.

Yes, this is a possible explanation, but not a very plausible one, as any introductory economics student at least at Loyola University New Orleans could attest. For, if it were really true that African-Americans were being paid less than their productivity and whites were not, and that their average productivities were equal, hiring a black person would be more profitable than hiring a white one. Employers who did so could drive out of business those who did not. (I am here focusing on employer discrimination, and eschewing that emanating from employees, or customers.)

Side note to Jim Gwartney and Rick Stroup: Since I am not a member of Loyola College Economics Department I cannot apologize for this statement of yours in your book Microeconomics. I must content myself with asking you to apologize for this extraordinarily economically illiterate statement of yours. Jim? Rick? How could you? How could you betray your economic training in such a foul manner? You both know better than that. Did your publisher insist that you stick in this politically correct piece of garbage into your text? Even if so, you knew it was nonsense; you should have taken your otherwise very good textbook to a different publisher. The road to hell is paved with concessions of this sort.

Next The Loyola College Economics Department avers that "Professor Block’s remarks also included offensive comments regarding the source of wage disparities between men and women. We are deeply sorry for these remarks and the harm they have caused." The Loyola College Economics Department really ought to read up on Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams who are leading authorities on this topic. Since they seem unfamiliar with this literature, I offer to acquaint them with some of it. See here, here, here, here, here and here. (As it happens, I have edited a book on this topic to which both have made contributions, and am a co-author of the latter’s, with a refereed journal article on this subject.)

Last but not least, states The Loyola College Economics Department: "We appreciate the thoughtful questions and responses we’ve received from members of the Loyola community, particularly its students, and we look forward to continued dialogue on topics of great importance such as this one." "Continued dialogue?" With whom? Certainly not with me. Nor, I suppose, with anyone who does not share their beliefs. They did not have the courtesy to send me a copy of their letter. They did not have the courage to sign it, individually. Maybe I should apologize for them for these oversights?

I tell you what, gentlemen. You think I am wrong, mistaken, incorrigible, in my views on the pay gap, wages, discrimination, productivity. There is a tried and true way to settle such disputes in academia: I hereby challenge any of you to a debate on these issues. I agree in advance to the Rev. Brian F. Linnane, S.J. as the moderator of such a public exchange of opinion. I’m sure he will be fair. Or, if you wish, we can set up a panel discussion on these matters, with me and Tom DiLorenzo defending the free enterprise position, and any two of you, your own views on these matters. I realize that these are very unfair odds; to even things up, I should include your entire department on the other side. But, life is sometimes unfair.

C. The Baltimore Sun

I did an interview with Laura Vozella of the Baltimore Sun, which is available here, and now appears in its entirety, followed by my comments on it:

November 14, 2008

Those Delicate Jesuit Sensibilities

Laura Vozzella, November 12, 2008

An economics professor from Loyola University in New Orleans traveled to Baltimore’s Loyola last week to give a lecture, and everybody’s been apologizing ever since. Everybody, that is, but the professor, Walter Block, who chalks up the flap to political correctness. Block said he knew he’d step on toes, since, by his account, he started off with a bit about how the Jesuit order has been “hijacked by a bunch of Marxists and liberation theologians.” “I imagine that didn’t go down too well with the Jesuit audience,” he later told me by phone.

The various apologies issued around campus — one from the college’s economics department, another from President Brian Linnane — were offered not to allegedly lefty priests, but to women and African-Americans. “Professor Block’s response to a question about the differences between average earnings of African-Americans and whites in America, which maintained that the disparity could be explained by differences in average productivity, was offensive, and we are sincerely sorry for it,” read a letter from the economics faculty and the Adam Smith Society. “Professor Block’s remarks also included offensive comments regarding the source of wage disparities between men and women. We are deeply sorry for these remarks and the harm they have caused.” College officials have declined to elaborate on just what Block said. Apparently it was so offensive that they can’t even bear to say why they’re offended. But on the phone with me, Block filled in the hot-button blank: “Sociobiology.” He said he’d told the audience that differences in IQ might account for why blacks and women earn about 30 percent less than their white, male counterparts. Yikes! What in the name of Larry Summers was he thinking? Block said there’s research to back up that theory, noting the controversial book The Bell Curve. He offered a little consolation for women, saying they aggregate in the middle of the IQ scale, while men are the outliers. That’s why, he said, men dominate the ranks of both prisoners and Nobel laureates. “Nobel Prize winners in hard sciences,” he added, “not the wussy stuff like poetry.” Block said no one pulled him aside after the lecture to express dismay. He said he’d gotten applause. But days later, a student forwarded the e-mailed apology from President Linnane. “We are a Jesuit institution, and as such, a respect for diversity is one of our defining values,” it said. Said Block: “They respect diversity but not diversity of opinion.”

My reaction to this interview: I thought that this reporter was eminently fair. And, too, highly accurate, given that all through our interview she was interrupted by several of her small children, thus illustrating my point about the male-female wage gap and unequal child care responsibilities. There were, however, two minor errors in her report.

First, she says: "He said he’d told the audience that differences in IQ might account for why blacks and women earn about 30 percent less than their white, male counterparts."

This is indeed claimed with regard to the white-black differences, but does not at all apply to men and women. As far as I am aware, the gap in IQ between men and women either does not exist, or, is so statistically insignificant that it can play no explanatory role. The gender distinction as to IQ, or any other measure of ability, does not apply to the averages of each. Rather, the variance of males is far greater than that of females.

As to the racial difference, I didn’t really say what she attributes to me. What I said, instead, was that there are two theories which attempt to explain black-white differences in productivity, and that I, as a mere economist, am not competent to determine which is correct, and/or to what degree each has captured part of the truth. The two theories are, again, IQ, and the different historical experiences of the two groups, one of which suffered from slavery, Jim Crow, poor schooling, etc., the other of which did not. The reader is invited to determine for himself the truth of either of these hypotheses; economics begins with the fact of productivity differences, and leaves to others the explanation for this state of affairs.

The second is a very minor point. She attributes to me this statement: "They respect diversity but not diversity of opinion." What I said, instead, was "They respect diversity of skin color, gender, ethnicity, sexual preference, etc., but not diversity of opinion.” As I told her, I award her a 95 out of 100 in terms of accuracy.

D. Radio show interview

On Nov. 13 I did an hour long radio interview emanating from Baltimore, MD. It was the Ron Smith Show, on WBAL Radio AM1090, available here and here. I was invited on this show due to the brouhaha aroused by the academics at Loyola College in Maryland.

I found in Ron Smith a kindred spirit. He said he was a friend of Tom DiLorenzo’s, and I can well believe it. We did have one slight disagreement, over the role of profits in the free society, but this was a minor glitch. Neither of us felt compelled to apologize for the views of the other on this matter.

IV. Conclusion

In my academic career, I have had experiences with three different Jesuit institutions of higher learning.

First, with Holy Cross, in Worcester MA, where I was a member of the economics department from 1991—1997, at which time I was denied tenure. I had as many refereed journal publications as virtually the entire rest of the economics department put together; those who voted against me didn’t like my student evaluations, but refused to compare them with either all members of the economics department, or with all professors attaining tenure that year, as I had asked them to do. Obviously, they didn’t much appreciate my support for free enterprise, private property rights, Austrian economics and libertarianism. The rest, I fear, was window dressing.

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.

Third, with Loyola College in Maryland. You have just read of my experience with them, above. They are now in the process of changing their name to Loyola University in Maryland. Let me just say that it takes more to make a University, worthy of the name, than number and quality of students, publications of faculty, physical facilities. It also requires a certain openness to ideas, enthusiasm to tolerate different opinions, civility, politeness, willingness to dialogue instead of shutting down debate. Attempts to squelch support for free enterprise and laissez faire capitalism, by smearing adherents as "racists," or "sexists," is simply incompatible with being a great institution of higher learning, worthy of the name "University."

V. Postscript from Tom DiLorenzo

The chairman of the economics department, Rev. Hank Hilton, S.J., was very adamantly opposed to the letter and did not sign it. He literally pleaded with Walters to not do it.

Father Hilton, S.J., also informs me that the way the College handled this is a sin according to Catholic doctrine. Publicly condemning someone for his ideas without first communicating with that person and asking for clarification is “intellectual sin,” he told me.

The names of the economics department signees are as follows: Marianne Ward, Nancy Williams, Steve Walters, Norm Sedgley, Andrew Samuels, Fred Derrick, Charles Scott, Vange Ocasio, John Burger (who is in Belgium this year). Of those who signed this letter, only Williams, Walters and Ocasio were in attendance at the lecture. Father Hilton, S.J., of course, was there as well.

I wrote two very long letters to the entire business school faculty, and administrators, over the weekend of November 7—9, 2008 explaining what you said, and why they were behaving in an atrocious way. I said “shame on every one of you for this attack on academic freedom,” among other things. They ignored every single word of it. I have yet to hear anything from ANY administrator despite the fact that they have trashed me as much as you.

VI. Reiteration of debate challenge

Since this is so important, I hereby reiterate my challenge to debate members of The Loyola College Economics Department:


Come to think of it, I have just changed my mind about one aspect of this challenge, upon learning about the heroic role played by Father Hilton, S.J. If truth be told, I didn’t really think that Rev. Brian F. Linnane, S.J. would be a fair moderator. I was merely offering an olive branch to him. But he still has not seen fit to mend his ways. Instead, I now suggest Rev. Hank Hilton, S.J., as the debate moderator. I know nothing of his substantive views on these or any other issues, but as to his fairness, his support of academic freedom, his menschkeit as we say in Yiddish, his heroism in the face of great opposition, there can be no doubt. Bless you, Father.

Walter Block Archives