The following letter from Kevin Wm. Wildes, S.J., Ph.D. was published in The Maroon, the student newspaper of Loyola University New Orleans. Fr. Wildes is the president of the University.
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 [sic] 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.
Kevin Wm. Wildes, S.J., Ph.D.
This letter is one of the most outrageous acts that I am aware of that has ever been exercised by a University president.
Fr. Wildes apparently has failed to note the key contradiction in the NYT article he referenced or has chose to ignore it. Fr. Wildes simply chooses to pronounce that Dr. Block claims that "chattel slavery 'was not so bad.' [...] So, by even hinting to endorse slavery enforced against someone’s free will, Dr. Block seems to contradict his basic libertarian principles."
Yet, at one point, the NYT article states that Dr. Block holds the opposite position from what Fr. Wildes suggests (My highlight):
One economist, while faulting slavery because it was involuntary, suggested in an interview that the daily life of the enslaved was “not so bad — you pick cotton and sing songs.”This is clearly the opposite of the position Fr. Wildes claims Dr. Block holds and a contradiction to other parts of the NYT article. There are really two possible ways that Dr. Wilde could claim what he does about Dr. Block, given what NYT wrote. Fr. Wildes either has a reading comprehension problem (if he read the entire article) or he is being dishonest. Neither option wears well on a university president.
Fr. Wildes goes on with a more grandiose distortion, that Dr.Block in his position on the Civil Rights Act has made "a fundamental logical: mistake." NYT wrote
Walter Block, an economics professor at Loyola University in New Orleans who described slavery as “not so bad,” is also highly critical of the Civil Rights Act. “Woolworth’s had lunchroom counters, and no blacks were allowed,” he said in a telephone interview. “Did they have a right to do that? Yes, they did. No one is compelled to associate with people against their will."
Fr. Wildes countered:
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.Does Fr. Wildes even understand what goes on at a Woolworth's lunch counter? There is not only the possibility of interaction with others at the counter, but there is necessary interaction with a waiter/waitress and possibly a cashier. That is, under the Civil Rights Act there can be forced associations.
Further, this a four sentence quote from NYT of Dr. Block's view. If Fr. Wildes would take time to look into the thinking of Dr. Block on the Civil Rights Act, he would find it goes well beyond the NYT sound bite and includes a complete defense of property rights and the right of property owners to have whomever they want on their property and to prevent anyone they choose from coming on their property. Indeed, if Fr. Wildes wanted to be generous he could have interpreted Dr. Block's comment on association to mean association on private property, but nowhere in his letter does it appear that Fr. Wildes is attempting in anyway to be generous to Dr. Block.
In summary, Fr. Wildes' letter appears to be a vicious attack on unfounded grounds against one of his own employees. It is outrageous and I really can't fathom why a university president would stoop to such mischaracterizations and distortions. There is now a black eye on Loyola University New Orleans, not because of what Dr. Block said in defense of a pure libertarian position, but in the outrageous manner in which Fr.Wildes distorted Dr.Block's position and failed to stand up for Dr. Block in his principled positions, however different those principles are from the positions held by Fr. Wildes, himself. If Fr.Wildes won't stand up for one of his professor's promoting his scholarly views, one wonders what Fr. Wildes would stand up for. He is an embarrassment to the academic community.