A Return to the Walter Block/Loyola Thought Police Controversy

"He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him." ~ Proverbs 18:13

Readers of LewRockwell.com are familiar with the slander attack on Dr. Walter Block by the PC thought police at Loyola College in Maryland last November, 2008. Since Dr. Block will be delivering virtually the same lecture (it will not be verbatim, as he doesn’t read his speeches, but rather speaks extemporaneously) that ignited the slander attack at his own institution, Loyola University in New Orleans, on March 25, 7pm, Nunemaker Hall, open to the public, we thought it would be useful to briefly review what happened. (Come one, come all; the lecture is free and open to the public.)

I invited Dr. Block, my old friend, renowned Austrian School economist, and the most famous libertarian scholar in the world, to give a lecture at Loyola College on a day that he was in town to visit his daughter, a student at a local university (who attended the lecture). It also happened to be the day of the Loyola economics department’s annual Adam Smith Alumni Dinner, and I hoped that attaching a lecture by a well-known scholar to the dinner would lure more alumni to the event, which was co-sponsored by the student Adam Smith Club. Earlier that day, Dr. Block taught my law and economics class, which had just read his famous book, Defending the Undefendable, in which he makes many of the same arguments that he made in his evening lecture. The class asked him some very good questions, which he thoroughly enjoyed answering, and he was very well received indeed. There was no acrimony at all.

The main topic of the evening lecture that ignited the bizarre slander attack was the economics of the "gender gap" and the "glass ceiling." It is an assumption of Marxist-inspired academic feminism that capitalism is inherently discriminatory and that, therefore, government-imposed employment quotas (a.k.a. "diversity") and the regulation of wages is necessary to achieve "fairness" and "social justice." Economists have pointed out the folly in this argument for decades, the most famous of whom is Dr. Block’s dissertation advisor at Columbia University, the Nobel laureate economist Gary Becker.

Dr. Block has gone into detail elsewhere with regard to what he said, but I can summarize it here. He spent much of the lecture elaborating on why it is that marriage affects men and women very differently with regard to their future earnings abilities. Women are much more likely to take time (years) off work for child rearing, and even if they don’t, they tend to spend far more time than men do tending to children and house work. He didn’t say that this was wrong or right, fair or unfair, only that it is a fact of life. This helps to explain some of the male/female wage gap. Students in the audience agreed when he asked them their opinions about this.

Dr. Block also elaborated on the standard, accepted analysis of the economics profession that when wage discrimination (by gender or race) does occur, capitalism actually alleviates rather than supports it. The essential reason is that an employer who exploits an employee in such a way creates a profit opportunity for competitors. A woman who produces $75,000/year in revenue for an employer but who is paid say, $20,000 per year less than an equally productive male employee can be hired by a competitor for say, $10,000 more, allowing the competitor to still pocket $10,000. This process of competition will eventually drive the female wage up to parity with the male wage if competition is vigorous enough.

This point was illustrated with many statistics in a most masterful way by Dr. Block. A similar story was told about the "glass ceiling." During the Q&A session a student asked Dr. Block about the black/white wage gap, and he once again gave an answer that is very mainstream: Competition tends to reduce such discrimination, and if competition is strong enough to totally eliminate it, and wage differences still exist, then the differences must be attributed to productivity differences. The notion that there are productivity differences by race is not at all controversial among economists, who recognize the racially discriminatory effects of such policies as the minimum wage laws, the public school monopoly, the welfare state, the war on drugs, and other government interventions that have disproportionately harmed blacks. As Professor Walter Williams has often said, the inner city public schools are so awful (with a few exceptions) that the Ku Klux Klan could not have done a "better" job of sabotaging the economic prospects of young African Americans. Indeed, during the same week that Dr. Block gave his lecture there was another invited speaker on campus who discussed the challenges of improving urban education. And who doesn’t understand that improved education will lead to improved worker productivity?

There was loud applause at the end of the lecture, after which Dr. Block stood around for about a half hour answering student questions. Four students approached me to personally thank me for inviting, for the first time in their college careers, a speaker at Loyola who did not recite the usual politically-correct party line.

The next afternoon I learned from a colleague that one single student complained to the "peace and social justice" organization on campus, which is really the campus PC Thought Police Headquarters, that some of Dr. Block’s comments were "insensitive." I asked to see the student’s complaint, but to this day no one at Loyola has allowed me to see it — if it even exists. I was told that my economics department colleague Fred Derrick had a copy of the letter, so I emailed him to ask him what it said. He wrote back a terse "it’s on my desk" and did not offer to summarize for me what was in the letter or to forward it to me by email. To this day, no one at Loyola has produced this supposed letter of hurt feelings. At the beginning of his talk, Dr. Block warned students that some of what he was about to say might seem politically incorrect or even insensitive, but that his overriding objective was to pursue the truth no matter whose feelings might be hurt. That’s what academics should be all about, he said.

The lecture was on a Thursday evening. By Saturday afternoon I learned that the College president himself, Fr. Brian Linnane, S.J., was planning on sending an email to all students and alumni condemning Dr. Block for his "insensitive" comments, which he did not quote or mention in any way in his letter of condemnation. Nor did he, or anyone else at Loyola, bother to contact Dr. Block before slandering him in this way. The letter managed to slander Dr. Block as a racist and sexist without actually saying "he is a racist and a sexist," leading me to speculate that a good libel lawyer must have been consulted before the letter was sent out.

I also learned that Professor Steve Walters was working with the College administration to draft a letter for the school newspaper that would insult Dr. Block (and myself) even further by apologizing for Dr. Block’s appearance on campus. Neither Fr. Brian Linnane, S.J. nor the majority of the economics department who signed the letter in the school newspaper attended the lecture. Professor Walters nevertheless persuaded those who were not there to associate themselves with the slandering of Dr. Block without hearing for themselves what he said, and without contacting him to ask him what he said as a professional courtesy. The students associated with the Adam Smith Club were apparently bullied into signing the letter as well.

A couple of months earlier, Professor Walters told me that he was considering retiring and "moving on" because of the obnoxious atmosphere of stifling political correctness that was being imposed on the institution by the (relatively) new administration. He said to me, "I don’t want to be a part of turning Loyola into PC University." Either he was lying to me at that time or he has changed his mind.

The economics department letter condemned Dr. Block in one sentence for saying that black/white productivity differences exist, and then itself said that there are major productivity differences by race in another sentence! After condemning Dr. Block for saying this, the letter approvingly quoted a textbook that says that about 70 percent of the black/white wage gap can be explained by productivity differences. The letter agrees with Dr. Block, in other words. The letter then made the sophomoric mistake of assuming that all of the remaining (30%) difference in wages is explained by discrimination, a statement that would not be acceptable to any reputable economics journal editor. (It’s called the error of "unobserved heterogeneity" in econometrics lingo.)

When a Baltimore Sun reporter contacted Loyola College to ask what, exactly, Dr. Block had said that was so insensitive, no one could tell her. She then mocked the College administration in one of her columns in which she gave Dr. Block the last word.

The PC Thought Police on Dr. Block’s own campus are even more dishonest and immoral than the ones at Loyola College in Maryland. When they got wind of this story, they condemned Dr. Block in a letter in the local newspaper in New Orleans, once again failing to even mention one word of what he actually said in his lecture, or to contact him beforehand. How could they have — the lecture was given in Baltimore, not New Orleans.

Such are the ways in which the cultural Marxists who have captured much of academe censor all politically-incorrect speech on college campuses today.


The Idea Police vs. Walter Block Academic freedom at Loyola College in Maryland.

Battling Political Correctness And beating it: Walter Block.

J’Accuse Walter Block seeks justice from the Loyola University Affirmative Action Diversity Taskforce (good luck!).

That Insensitive Walter Block Not.

The Lynching of Walter Block Tom DiLorenzo on the academic left’s attempted silencing of dissent.

Every Feminist’s Nightmare Is it Walter Block?

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