Sunday, October 25, 2015

ROUND 2: Walter Block vs. Michael Walker

It started with this: Walter E. Block vs. Michael Walker: Who Really Came Up with the Idea of the Freedom Project?

Here's Round 2:

From: Michael Walker 
Sent: Saturday, October 24, 2015 5:49 PM
To: Walter Block
Cc: Fred McMahon

Hi Walter,

If you read the biography of Milton and Rose you will find that Milton says that they worked with me to create the Index.  You and Alvin Rabushka were invaluable colleagues in the development of the idea and I have always acknowledged that.  But it is also true that what initiated the whole discussion was my comment on Paul Johnson’s paper on the book 1984 that disagreed with his assessment that George orwell was too pessimistic because he, Paul, had ignored the decline in economic freedom that could be seen in the size of government and other indicators. In my comment I made reference to Milton’s comment in Capitalism and Freedom re markets and freedom.    It was that and the subsequent discussions at the meeting in Cambridg and conversations with Neil McLeod then the president of Liberty Fund that led to my approaching Milton and Rose to co-host with me the first meeting of the group in Napa California.  Two of of the invitees were the people from Freedom House who had created an abysmal index of “Economic freedom” and the low quality of their effort made everybody at that meeting think that we could do better.

I have never tried to diminish your role in any of this Walter and have always thanked you privately and publicly for your courage in coming to Canada to join the Institute and for all the help you were  in educating me, an econometrician,  about the broader ideas of freedom.   But I also know that the index would not have happened if I had not provided the instigation and the  leadership.

Of course you worked with Jim Gwartney and indeed it was you who suggested we invite him to one of the meetings and your name does appear on the first published index.   it does because I,  as “your boss” assigned you to work on that project as I did on many others.. And then I spent a good deal of my time raising the money so that you could do that work.   (Your name does not appear on subsequent editions because you could not work amicably with the others and they asked that you be removed.)  The Freedom measuring project was only one of hundreds of measurement projects that I initiated during my time as the CEO at the Institute some of which I did directly and some I got others to do.  Measurement is my shtick in the same way that the philosophy of Liberty is yours.

I don’t suppose that any of this will assuage you but thought I would give it a shot.  In some ways I feel privileged to be in the company of Milton, and Professor Hayek as people you disparage.

Best regards,


from: Walter Block <>
to: Michael Walker
Robert Wenzel <>
cc: Fred McMahon

Economics Faculty [Loyla-New Orleans]

Dear Dr. Walker (I only use first names to address people I like, who are friends of mine, or, about whom I am at least nuetral; the "dear" I think, is merely a polite salutation):

This could deteriorate into not a "he said, she said" debate, but, rather, one of "he said, he said." The only definitive proof there could be about whose idea this was would be if either of us had tape recorded our first conversation about it. I clearly remember going into your office and suggesting this initiative, and also suggesting that the Liberty Fund would be of help to us in organizing conferences on this topic (I had worked with them before I arrived at the Fraser Institute in 1979). However, I did not tape record this conversation, and, if you did, I expect you would have long ago thrown it out. Why? Because it would have clearly established that the idea of the economic freedom index was mine.

However, there is some indirect evidence that you take credit for work, ideas, that emanated from other people. You once asked that I ghost write op eds for you. We have, oh, a dozen co authored or co-edited books, refereed journal articles, op eds; your name was stuck onto all of these even though I did 100% of the work on virtually all of them.

Here's another bit of evidence that the idea to measure economic freedom couldn't have been yours. For a long time, and, as far as I know to the present day, you really don't understand what constitutes economic freedom.  I was reminded of this lacunae of yours with your mention of Alvin Rabushka. He might be able to offer evidence that you, at least at the time we both went to the Hoover Institution to talk to him about this, didn't really understand what economic freedom is all about. It was your adamant contention that "tax expenditures", "loop holes" e.g., the failure of government to collect some taxes, was really a government subsidy to individuals. I tried to explain to you that this would only be true if the governemnt was the legitimate owner of the entire GDP; then, it would be "giving" some of "its" money to people. Since of course this is fallacious, at least from the perspective of those who favor free enterprise and understand the concept of "economic freedom!", tax expenditures were NOT a subsidy from the government. We discussed this for WEEKS in Vancouver. You wouldn't, couldn't, didn't understand my clear explanations. You dragged me to San Francisco to talk about this with Alvin. The two of us ganged up on you on this point, but you still were not convinced. Pathetic.

I don't for a moment dispute that you brought Milton, Rose and David Friedman in on this initiative. I fail to see the relevance of that point. It does not at all dispute my claim that the initial idea for statistically measuring economic freedom was mine, not yours.

I do agree with you that "the index would not have happened if (you) had not provided the instigation and the  leadership." The initial idea was mine, but, you, indeed, did spearhead this project, did do important administrative work in making it all happen. You were my boss then, and if you didn't want the Fraser Institute to do this, it would not have happened. I also credit you for raising money (along with Pat Boyle) not only for this project, but for keeping the entire Fraser Institute going financially in its early days.  I, also, had a hand in this administrative aspect of the project. I fondly remember leading one of the Liberty Fund seminars on this matter. Milton, Rose, and David were there. They were all very outspoken. At one point I hammered down my gavel (did I really have a gavel?), and said to great applause and laughter: "One Friedman at a time" since the three of them were continually interupting each other and dominating the conversation. I also freely and fully acknowledge that measurement is your "schtick." (By the way, that is now considered a micro aggression on many university campuses, since you are herein using the culture of other people with that word.)

Just out of curiosity, could you please offer some evidence to back up your claim that I "could not work amicably with the other..." members of the economic freedom team. I haven't counted them, but I must have, oh, 150 co authors, and I am on good terms with all of them. Well, perhaps, except for Jim Gwartney. This stems from the fact that his text (co-authored with Rick Stroup) claimed that the error term in econometric regression equations indicates the degree of racial or sexual discrimination. I wrote to Jim and Rick telling them that the error term indicates no such thing, but, rather, our ignorance (you, as an econometrician, hopefully, can support me on this), and he never responded to my query, which I take amiss. But this occurred only in the last few years, not in the 1990s, when we started the economic freedom indices. Did Jim say I couldn't work "amicably" with him?

Dr. Walker, you are an intellectual bully (you don't think I wanted you as a co author, co editor, of publications you didn't work on), and a person who tries to seize credit for the work of others.  Yes, higher education has got its problems, serious ones as I alluded to above. But, when I advise my students as to careers, I warn them about the dangers of working for a free market think tank like the Fraser Institute, mainly as a result of my experiences with you.

Since you publicly claim this idea of the economic freedom index was yours, I have no compunction about sharing this correspondence with others.

Best regards,


Walter E. Block, Ph.D.
Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics
Joseph A. Butt, S.J. College of Business                   

Loyola University New Orleans

1 comment:

  1. This is almost like a fight over intellectual property...."almost".