DiLorenzo, Tom. 2021. “America’s Stalinist Universities.” February 24;
My friend Tom wrote the following:
“The university administrators knew that Walter Block himself would never apologize, and neither would I, the sponsor of the lecture. So they pressured several members of the economics department who were not even at the lecture to write a letter of apology in the student newspaper, which they dutifully did. That letter was a lie, since it was signed by “The Economics Department” despite the fact that I did not even hear of the letter as it was being written and certainly did not sign it, and neither did the department chairman, Father Hank Hilton, S.J., who considered the entire charade to be morally and intellectually fraudulent.”
Here’s the addendum. “The Economics Department” at Loyola Maryland criticized me on the ground that discrimination against blacks vis a vis whites, and against women vis a vis blacks, did indeed exist. Their proof? Their source for this claim?
‘It was this book (actually it was a previous addition, when only Gwartney and Stroup were the authors, before they added on Sobel and Macpherson, but this was the only cite I could now find):
Gwartney, James D., Richard L. Stroup, Russell S. Sobel, David A. Macpherson. 2017. Microeconomics: Private and Public Choice 16th Edition; Cengage Learning; 16th edition (January 1, 2017)
And what did Gwartney and Stroup have to say about all this? In what way did they support the letter of apology for me on the part of “The Economics Department” at Loyola Maryland? They reported on an econometric equation model that had a significant error term, to which they attributed “discrimination.”
I wrote a polite letter to these two authors making the point that it is specious to equate racial or sexual discrimination with the error term. Rather, the error term in statistics is just that, an indication of lack of information; we simply do not know to what it refers. I also suggested that in subsequent editions of their textbook they correct this mistake of theirs.
In other words, the “The Economics Department” at Loyola Maryland relied upon a totally mistaken understanding of econometrics.
And now, dear reader, you are anxiously awaiting me to tell you about the response of Gwartney and Stroup, right? Will they correct their confusion about basic elementary statistics?
Sorry, you’re gonna have to keep on waiting, since neither of these authors ever responded to my letter to them, nor, even, to two follow-up inquiries. I got zip out of them, nada, nothing.
This is more than a bit unusual. The expected, appropriate, ordinary response when one scholar writes a polite letter to another about a supposed academic misunderstanding is at least to reply. Maybe, thanking the letter writer for the correction, or, defending himself, and pointing out a misperception on the part of the letter writer.
But this case is even stranger. I thought I was a friend of Rick Stroup’s. He and I are both libertarians and free market economists. I must have attended, oh, a half dozen seminars with him. We broke bread together on these occasions. For him not to at least respond to my letter was reprehensible indeed.
Matters are even worse, far worse, with Jim Gwartney. Even disgraceful. For, in addition to how I characterized my relationship with Stroup, Gwartney and I are several times co-authors;
Gwartney, James, Robert Lawson and Walter E. Block. 1996. Economic Freedom of the World, 1975-1995 Vancouver, B.C. Canada: the Fraser Institute; reviews: http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?vid=195&hid=116&sid=781cb0b0-a517-47c5-9874-ee43ba5138d5%40sessionmgr3; www.freetheworld.com; http://www.fraserinstitute.org/researchandpublications/publications/7094.aspx
Block, Walter E., Michael Walker, James Gwartney and Robert Lawson. 1996. “El concepto y la medida de la libertad economica,” Libertad Economica Y Progresso: Un Marco Conceptual, Madrid: Estudios Economicos
Gwartney, James, Robert Lawson, and Walter E. Block. 1996. “Economic Freedom of the World,” Madison Review, v. 1, n. 3, Spring, pp. 35-39.
Gwartney, James, Walter E. Block and Robert Lawson. 1992. “Measuring Economic Freedom”, Rating Global Economic Freedom, Stephen T. Easton and Michael A. Walker, eds., Vancouver: The Fraser Institute, pp. 153-229.
I regard Gwartney’s refusal to respond to my letters to him as nothing less than despicable.
The reader interested in this episode might take a peek at this; my recapitulation of this sorry episode at the time:
Block, Walter E. 2008. “The Idea Police vs. Walter E. Block: A (Not So) Funny Thing Happened To Me in Baltimore.” November 18; https://archive.lewrockwell.com/block/block112.html; https://archive.lewrockwell.com/orig5/top-ten.html; https://archive.lewrockwell.com/orig5/top-ten-nov8.html
Would I have done this again if I knew in advance something of this sort would occur? You betcha I would. Tom DiLorenzo is a good friend of mine, a world-class economist, historian, and libertarian theoretician. When someone like that invites me to his campus to give a speech, I am honored and humbled. As well, Tom and I did a bit of the Lord’s work that day. Cocking a snook at the powers that be is an important way to promote liberty. And, its fun, too!
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