Top College News Subscribe to the Newsletter

Letter: Walter Block has made too many assumptions and contradictions

University President

Published: Thursday, February 6, 2014

Updated: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 18:02

Dear Editors,
One of our goals as an academic institution is to encourage people to cultivate critical thinking.  You can imagine my dismay when reading the Sunday New York Times and I found remarks by Dr. Walter Block. 
 In the Jan. 25 article “Rand Paul’s Mixed Inheritance”, Dr. Block made two claims, one empirical and one conceptual, that are simply wrong.  First, he made the claim that chattel slavery “was not so bad.”  “Bad” is a comparative measure that, like every comparison, is understood in a contrast set. My initial question was where is the evidence?
Dr. Block makes an assertion but gives no evidence for his assertion.  Furthermore, it is also conceptually contradictory to his position as a libertarian that people could be treated as property against their will.  So, by even hinting to endorse slavery enforced against someone’s free will, Dr. Block seems to contradict his basic libertarian principles.

His second claim is an example of a fundamental logical mistake.  In peaking of discriminatory lunch counters, Dr. Block makes the mistake of assuming that because of the Civil Rights legislation people would be compelled to associate with others against their will. The Civil Rights legislation did no such thing. 
What the Civil Rights legislation did was prevent places like Woolworth’s from excluding people because of their race. No one was forced to sit at the lunch counter.  The law simply made clear that people could not be excluded from the lunch counter because of their race.

If these remarks were made in a paper for my class, I would return the paper with a failing grade. This is hardly critical thinking. Rather it is a position filled with assertions, without argument or evidence, to gain attention.

Sincerely yours,

Kevin Wm. Wildes, S.J., Ph.D.

President 

Recommended: Articles that may interest you

anonymous
Thu Feb 20 2014 23:32
Speaktruth (if you can do such a thing) have you ever met Dr. Block? Have you ever read any of his many publications? Have you ever attended any of his many lectures and discussions? If not, how can you say the things you said in your comment, and I quote you, "he is an angry, bigoted, and radical apologist for the return of sweatshops, the return of racial segregation..." You obviously know nothing about Dr. Block except what you hear from other radical liberals and read in the (gulp) New York Times. I have studied with him and know how little you know about him and how little truth you speak. He is one of the most intelligent, kind, and scholarly professors I have had the pleasure of studying with. Too bad there are so many Loyola professors that can't come close to Dr. Block as a scholar, teacher, and researcher. .
anonymous
Thu Feb 20 2014 23:28
Speaktruth (if you can do such a thing) have you ever met Dr. Block? Have you ever read any of his many publications? Have you ever attended any of his many lectures and discussions. If not, how can you say the things you said in your comment, and I quote you, "he is an angry, bigoted, and radical apologist for the return of sweatshops, the return of racial segregation." You obviously know nothing about Dr. Block except what you hear from others radical liberals and read in the (gulp) New York Times. I have studied with him and know how little truth you speak. He is one of the most intelligent, kind, and scholarly professors I have had the pleasure of studying with. Too bad there are so many Loyola professors that even can't touch Dr. Block as a scholar, teacher, and researcher. .
Rocco
Thu Feb 20 2014 15:31
There's a South Park episode where Stan becomes the coach of a children's ice hockey team. One young boy is not at practice - he has cancer, and is very near to death. Stan visits him in hospital and asks, "How are you doing?" The boy, evidently in a great deal of pain, replies, "Pretty good [weak cough]. Apart from the cancer." Now this is a good joke and all, but I doubt any of the faculty at Loyola would take this as a ringing endorsement of having cancer.

As to the Civil Rights Act, if I were to go and stand in Fr. Wildes' office while no less a power than the US government forbade him from kicking me out, or even asking me politely to leave, would he really believe he wasn't being forced to associate with me?

Speaktruth
Thu Feb 20 2014 01:23
Logroll much? Once again, Dr. Block gets criticized for saying something absolutely moronic, and out of the woodwork crawls the same group of anarchist, anti-government, paranoiacs trying to drown out that criticism with wildly overblown praise of Dr. Block, and ad hominem attacks on anyone who points out the truth about Dr. Block, i.e., he is an angry, bigoted, and radical apologist for the return of sweatshops, the return of racial segregation, and the elimination of all worker rights such as the minimum wage, overtime pay, child labor laws, etc.

These same supporters repeatedly post similarly shrill defenses of Dr. Block on other websites catering to extreme libertarian / tea party views. In fact, the similarity of the fatuous praise of Dr. Block might lead one to believe that all of these posts come from the the same person posting under different names - have you been busy, Dr. Block?

Mark Bahner
Mon Feb 17 2014 23:35
Hi,

As others have pointed out, Dr. Wilkes' letter contains very basic errors in logic. Jonathan Lingenfeiter's letter clearly and succinctly points out those errors in logic.

Best wishes,
Mark Bahner

Mark Bahner
Mon Feb 17 2014 23:22
Hi,

I hope folks will read Jonathan Lingenfeiter's letter in response to Dr. Wildes. Mr. Lingenfeiter points out clearly and accurately the errors in logic in Dr. Wildes' letter.

http://www.loyolamaroon.com/2.6713/letter-wildes-letter-assumed-too-much-1.2856224

Best wishes,
Mark Bahner

GSDoc
Sat Feb 15 2014 21:32
Let's see.

"My initial question was where is the evidence?"

So, a Jesuit priest now demands "evidence" prior to belief.

That has to be the most hilariously ironic statement of 2014, either that, or it is a demonstration of the utter imbecility of the "president" of this.... ahem.... "university".

StevenLandsburg
Thu Feb 13 2014 20:25
Though I am not a member of the Loyola community, I hope that my comments will not be out of place here. I've posted those comments at http://www.thebigquestions.com/2014/02/13/block-heads/ .
Anonymous
Wed Feb 12 2014 17:12
No opinion on Dr. Block. I have never had him in a class or meet him. However, Kevin, you can imagine every single reader of The Maroon "dismay" when we read about constant layoffs and ever lowering enrollment numbers. The only "fundamental logical mistake" is you still being in charge of Ignatius Loyola's University.
Anonymous
Wed Feb 12 2014 09:18
Wildes is just looking for reasons to get rid of faculty that oppose his rule. Open letter to Wildes, you are responsible for one of the greatest downturns in Loyola New Orleans history.
pau
Wed Feb 12 2014 06:07
@Anonymous Tue Feb 11 2014 22:38

Dr. Block does in fact have a good reputation in many circles. Those who support his opinions like him a lot. Those who oppose his opinions don't. This whole issue will likely not tarnish his reputation among those who already like him. However, I suspect it will be an annoying red herring that is brought up when people attempt to quote Dr. Block in the future.

Dr. Block's arguments were not "designed solely to gain attention." He does not even hold the opinions he is being primarily being criticized for. Dr. Block has condemned slavery for decades. But he has gone further than simply condemning slavery. He has explained precisely why he condemns slavery.

@Anonymous Tue Feb 11 2014 09:08
I have listened to Dr. Block debate. I disagree with your assessment. The debates I have heard were civil and involved logical argument. I would not call him a great debater. But I have never heard him depend "solely on insults and anecdotes."

Anonymous
Wed Feb 12 2014 04:25
Dear Father Wildes,

I have a graduate degree from Santa Clara University, a Catholic school in California.

I am shocked you have treated such an important professor who has integrity, the way you have treated Dr. Block in your open letter.

Do you hate the notions of political liberty and freedom? Or have you simply not thought about it? Did someone write the letter for you and you did not properly review it?

I never would have heard of Loyola New Orleans if it were not for Walter Block's numerous articles and speeches and his regular invitations for potential students to participate in an economics education in New Orleans which covers the whole spectrum of the subject and invites student contribution to the process. People all over the world have read these things because of him! I at age 54 and located in Europe, actually found myself last year perusing your online catalog! I then thought of referring a niece (graduate of John Caroll University in Cleveland), a young cousin, and even colleagues from Europe, to New Orleans!

I support what has been written above, that Dr. Block is one person out of thousands who would have stood up against slavery when it was occuring and actually being debated. Exactly the opposite of what the idiotic New York Times, a government and corporate propaganda mouthpiece, has attempted to imply.

Sincerely,

TWC, CPA
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Anonymous
Tue Feb 11 2014 22:38
"The good reputation of Mr. Block!?" That is the first time I have ever heard those words strung together.

I encourage all of you claiming Block is a heavy-weight of academia to search "Walter Block" on google scholar. Spoiler: the vast majority of the top hits are Walter F. Block's publications, not Loyola's Walter Block. Sure, the man publishes like crazy but the quality of journal and the impact of his writings are underwhelming. Also, he lists his articles in "The Maroon" in his CV. Come on.

I agree with Fr. Wildes, Block's arguments are designed solely to gain attention.

Anonymous
Tue Feb 11 2014 21:27
"First, he made the claim that chattel slavery "was not so bad."

No, he did not. He was making the very simple point that it wasn't the work or the conditions that made slavery wrong, but the introduction of force into the relationship between people. Without the forced association, and the threatened violence for leaving or not obeying, you have simply a job. He was injecting some humor - something which you and the other smear-mongers obviously lack - when he said that, absent the force in the relationship, it "wasn't so bad." It was just a job, working in the fields and singing songs. It was a passing remark, and perfectly understandable within the context.

I find it very hard to believe that a person such as yourself who is the president of a Catholic university is unable to read and comprehend English or that you are likewise incapable of understanding simple distinctions such as Walter Block made between the work itself and the nature of the relationship. Therefore, in exercising my own critical thinking, I must conclude that you are not stupid but rather evil. Just like that atrocious NY Times "reporter," you are all too willing to lie about others in order to smear them in public for the sake of your own agenda.

How ironic it is that you claim to be someone who is able to lecture others on critical thinking as well as ethics when you are obviously someone who doesn't give a damn about either. You parrot the overtly anti-intellectual Times hit piece, rather than deconstruct and criticize it. And then you flat out lie about someone who is supposed to be a colleague and compatriot of yours and twist his words to imply the very opposite of what he meant. One would think that you would have some tiny sense of pastoral responsibility to protect and defend the people in your own institution, not attack them without cause!

For your next piece, perhaps you should write about the commandment not to bear false witness against your neighbor. Do you recall any Catholic teaching on this commandment? I do. I recall that the Church has fully explicated the meaning of this commandment over the centuries. You ought to know that the proscription goes well beyond simple lying and ecompasses every aspect of insinuating untruth. There is no place for liars and slanderers to hide here. Every time you feign ignorance about what someone meant in order to insinuate a different meaning as a means of attacking that person, you are violating the commandment. Every time you even knowingly leave an impression that is false in order to hurt someone you are likewise guilty.

The Christian is supposed to be committed to truth at all times. What kind of example are you setting here? Do you honestly expect people to buy this nonsense that Block was actually saying "chattel slavery wasn't so bad" when his whole life has been devoted to defending human rights and opposing the introduction of force and violence into human relationships? Who are you kidding? Walter Block is one of the foremost defenders of individual liberty. So what the hell goes through your mind when you join in with some yellow journalist at the Times and start smearing this man in public? You must have something else driving you other than a concern for the truth and the good reputation of Mr. Block. What is it? Care to share it with the rest of us?

Kevinz
Tue Feb 11 2014 19:32
I am from France, and I am familiar with Dr Block's work.
I suppose I wouldn't take too much risk in assuming that he is the most read faculty member of Loyola university - by far - and by far the most popular all around the world.

Anybody who has read one of his book or is familiar with the libertarian philosophy that he defends, know that those attacks have no merit.

What i find disappointing is not that NYT "article". I couldn't care less.

What is disappointing however, is the response from Mr Wildes and some other faculty members.
Because we all know that you know, that this NYT article has no merit.
I understand that it is bad press for your university and that you care about defending it but you couldn't have chosen a worst way to do that.

You expect that most parents and future college students will take this NYT for granted and therefore you chose the easy way out. From the very start you do not promote the idea of looking at any article with a critical eye. Even if it was printed in a big journal.

Fine. I guess it makes it perfectly clear to some parents or students that your university might not be the best for them [Although, if I had a kid, I would want him to attend Dr Block's classes]

Anonymous
Tue Feb 11 2014 19:12
"too many assumptions and contradictions"?
More like too many assertions and convolutions by you.

But seriously, have you even listened to Dr. Walter Block speak even once?

Bob the Infidel
Tue Feb 11 2014 18:34
Loyola would love to fire Walter. Fact is, as much as Jesuits trump their "commitment to free inquiry," that commitment goes right out the window the moment someone makes a credible counterargument.

"Jesuitical" became an insult in the sixteenth century because of their dishonest arguments and their love for special pleading, and this is just one more example of that.

Kelly James
Tue Feb 11 2014 16:53
Dr. Wildes:

You've managed to become president of a prestigious university, so you're obviously no dummy. Therefore, I can only conclude that your misrepresentation of Dr. Block's position was purposeful. In my work, when I receive complaints regarding one of my subordinate employees, my immediate response is to reach out to my employee to ensure I am getting both sides of the story. I doubt you took the time to glance at Dr. Block's essay, much less to reach out to him personally. You seemed only too happy to throw your employee under the bus to desperately prove that Loyola doesn't support racist policies. I'm glad you don't support racist policies, but I am certainly disappointed that you apparently do support the policy of disingenuously demonizing your professors so as to appear politically correct.

Sincerely,

Anonymous
Tue Feb 11 2014 16:12
It seems that Dr. Wildes may have neglected a little critical thinking of his own. He failed to consider that Dr. Block's "not so bad" comment was clearly employing a little known rhetorical device known as sarcasm (it is in the dictionary if he needs to look it up). Sorta like "other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?"
Robert Katz
Tue Feb 11 2014 13:49
Sayeth Kevin Wildes, University President of Loyola:

"... His [Walter Block's] second claim is an example of a fundamental logical mistake. In peaking of
discriminatory lunch counters, Dr. Block makes the mistake of assuming that because of the Civil Rights
legislation people would be compelled to associate with others against their will. The Civil Rights legislation
did no such thing.

What the Civil Rights legislation did was prevent places like Woolworth's from excluding people because of
their race. No one was forced to sit at the lunch counter. The law simply made clear that people could not be
excluded from the lunch counter because of their race."

I have not seen any of the fellows at the Mises Institute or the columnists at LRC point out the ignorance of the above mentioned statement. It is Fr Wildes who makes a fundamental logical mistake, not the honorable Walter Block:

Premise: The Civil Rights legislation would compel people to associate with others against their will.
Dr Wildes refutation of that premise: The law simply made clear that people could not be excluded ...

Well, Fr Wildes does not understand the obvious. One can't exclude (for whatever reason) is tautologically equivalent to one must associate with, and must associate with is tautologically equivalent to compelled to associate with.

It seems that Fr Wildes did a good job of supporting what he claims he opposes; or looking at it another way, opposing what he claims he supports.

Perhaps if Fr Wildes took a remedial course in logic he might learn to think straight. Then he might take a course with Walter Block to learn something about economics and ethics.

You must be logged in to comment on an article. Not already a member? Register now

Log In