Letter to a Left-Wing Jesuit

Below, see the letter I wrote to the President of my university, Loyola New Orleans, on 1/23/16. He has not answered this, nor do I expect him to do so. Let me offer a bit of background on this matter, so that the letter can appear in context. I was interviewed by the NYTimes for the (hit) story they did on Rand Paul. I was trying to explain libertarianism to the person interviewing me. I tried and tried, but did not succeed in getting across to him the basics of this philosophy. Finally, out of desperation, I tried to illustrate the non-aggression principle (NAP) to him in the most dramatic way possible. I used the example of slavery, an abomination if ever there was one. I tried to get to the essence of why this institution is despicable. Is it because they picked cotton? No. Is it because they ate gruel? No. Is it because they sang songs in the field? Again no. Then, why oh why was slavery such an atrocious evil? It was because they were forced into this situation, and could not quit. To underscore this, I said something to the effect that if we were to keep intact all of these peripheral elements of slavery (cotton, gruel, songs, living in a shack) but delete the one true evil, that it violated the libertarian law of free association, then “slavery would not be so bad.”  As a result, the NY Times accused me of saying that actual slavery, not this hypothetical I had concocted in order to make a point, was “not so bad.”

Defending the Undefend... Walter Block Best Price: $3.36 Buy New $10.80 (as of 07:05 EDT - Details) Whereupon Fr. Wildes, S.J., the president of Loyola University New Orleans, wrote a letter to the editor of the student newspaper, the Maroon, condemning me for supporting slavery.  (In a separate letter, 17 of my faculty colleagues wrote along similar lines.) This man, Fr. Wildes, did not have the decency to even ask me about this matter before rushing into print. I tell you, were I the president of a university, and one of my professors was quoted in the NY Times as having supported actual slavery, I wouldn’t have flown off the handle and immediately published an attack. Instead, I would have asked this faculty member of mine to come to my office for a little chat. I would have started off with “Please, please, tell me you were misquoted.” If so, I would have supported him against the “newspaper of record.”  On the other hand, if this professor was accurately quoted, and really favored slavery and its reintroduction, I would have fired him on the spot, tenure or no tenure.  Fr. Wildes, SJ, did neither.  With this introduction, here is that letter.

Dear Fr. Wildes, SJ:

In the last few minutes of your speech on Friday, 1/22/16 at our annual convocation, you said something to the effect that (in my paraphrase) you would “strive mightily to always interpret other people’s statements in the most positive way possible and reasonable; you would give a sympathetic interpretation of what others say or write.” I applaud you for this statement. I always try to do this in my own writings and speeches, and, often, I even succeed. I also greatly regret it when I do not. I think this principle you have today articulated is one all scholars should follow. Again, in my paraphrase, “Do not attack straw men.” When you criticize others, do so for their views in their most compelling versions, not their weakest.  I think you have been “channeling” some of  the words of a hero of mine, John Stuart Mill (from his “On Liberty), who said: “He who knows only his own side of the case knows little The Case for Discrimin... Walter Block Best Price: $8.84 Buy New $15.55 (as of 07:10 EDT - Details) of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion… Nor is it enough that he should hear the opinions of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them…he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.”

As you can see, this statement of yours moved me.

In view of this perspective of yours that you recently articulated, would you please consider making a public apology to me for publishing in the Maroon a statement to the effect that I favored slavery (based on hearsay “evidence” from the NYTimes); you did so without even first asking me about this.

I intend to share this letter, and any response you might give me, or none, with others.

Best regards,