Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Tulane Student Writes About His Interaction with Walter Block

A Tulane student emails:


I'm an EPJ reader/former Walter Block economics class attendee following the recent Walter Block controversy and recently sent the enclosed email to the Loyola faculty on how after all of the positive letters sent in support of Walter, they still have done the cowardly deed of not uttering a word in defense of Walter. Thought you might like to add it to your collection of letters on the website.


Adam Smith

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Adam Smith <>
Date: Sat, Mar 1, 2014 at 10:35 PM
Subject: The Deafening Silence is Becoming Irritating

To Whom It May Concern,

I am a recent Tulane alumnus, proud former student of Walter Block, and someone who is deeply grateful for the positive impact he has had on my life and the lives of many others. Before I delve more deeply into describing the contributions of this man I greatly respect, I want to talk about courage. Specifically, the lack of courage exhibited by those who are silent regarding the recent matter of the New York Times libelously and erroneously attributing Walter's name to inflammatory rhetoric about slavery. 

I have seen Fr. Wildes mention a need to "correct the public record." Walter, as an adherent of the Non-Aggression Principle and author of numerous academic papers denouncing slavery, is a consistent public intellectual who would not seriously make the statements that were printed in the newspaper. In fact, the correcting of the public record must come from the New York Times itself, in the form of a correction and apology to Walter. Issuing a statement that condemns comments which are libelous and falsely attributed isn't correcting any public record, it is distorting public record. It is distorting Walter's sterling reputation by seemingly correcting and condemning a narrative which is false.

If a journalist called you up to have an extended conversation regarding an article about to be published, and then subsequently misquoted you and/or attributed false statements to your name and reputation, how would you feel? How would you react? How would you feel or react if this happened to a friend? A colleague? Well it did, and the silence of words not uttered in defense of a good, honorable man like Walter is shameful. Would you feel this complacent if you were victimized like Walter has been by the New York Times? I bet not. I implore you to come to his defense, and i'll briefly share my history with Walter to you to give you a clearer perspective on just how positive, meaningful, and virtuous this man and his contributions are to the world. This perspective, one that thousands of people share with me, is why the cowardly silence of those not defending him is, euphemistically, irritating. 

When I was a senior at Tulane, I spent many weekday mornings riding my bike across campus and across Freret to sit in on Walter's economics classes. When most students in New Orleans were shaking off a hangover or still sleeping, I was already at the Loyola campus listening to Walter. If i had known about him before then, I may have partied less or maybe even transferred schools. But I was already about to graduate, and I just wanted to soak up whatever I could of his wisdom before I bid farewell to New Orleans' intoxicating charm. Whether the subject was Environmental Economics, Labor Economics, or even the Principles of Microeconomics, it is safe to say no professor in my 4 years at Tulane captivated me like Walter did. Did you know that his classes were the most diverse I had ever encountered? And that they were some of the most well-attended, to boot? Often before 10 a.m.? Well, now you know. 

I found Walter while researching an economics paper and subsequently walked over to his office for a brief visit. I ended up doing this quite a few times, and even though I wasn't an official student of his, he found time in his busy, rigorous schedule to chat with me, offering wisdom, humor, insight, and companionship. That senior year, I read more books and articles than I had in any previous year in school, simply because Walter inspired me to do so, and because he engendered in me a voracious desire for truth, knowledge, and discovery. Gee, sounds like a professor worth standing up for, don't you think? After I graduated, I since moved to Colorado, where I have been involved in a start-up company, taught myself web design, and begun a fledgling career in public relations for a major public company headquartered here. Before I met Walter, I was a bright, curious but ultimately directionless political science major. Looking back to my conversations with Walter, upon reflecting on them I realize that because of those discussions I now recognize the value of economic understanding, the positive power of a determined individual, and the inherent virtue of living a life with courage of conviction.

So back to courage. If you want to be an educator who delivers the lectures, grades the exams, and then walks out the door, by all means go ahead. But if you want your head to hit the pillow at night with the satisfaction that you did the right thing and stood behind a man who changes lives and minds for the better, speak up, and speak loudly. Courage is always louder than cowardice.


Adam Dylan Smith 

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