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"People with kids care more about the future than people without kids."

Who could take offense at this truism?

"Gays are substantially less likely to have kids than straights."

Angry yet?

"Gays probably care less about the future than straights."

How about now?

I'm not, but apparently one student of Prof. Hans-Hermann Hoppe is:


"I have given lectures like this for 18 years," said Hoppe, a native of Germany who joined UNLV's faculty in 1986. "I have given this lecture all over the world and never had any complaints about it."

But within days of the lecture, he was notified by school officials that a student had lodged an informal complaint. The student said Hoppe's comments offended him.

A series of formal hearings ensued.

Hoppe said that, at the request of university officials, he clarified in his next class that he was speaking in generalities only and did not mean to offend anyone.

As an example of what he meant, he offered this: Italians tend to eat more spaghetti than Germans, and Germans tend to eat more sauerkraut than Italians. It is not universally true, he said, but it is generally true.

The student then filed a formal complaint, Hoppe said, alleging that Hoppe did not take the complaint seriously.

Amazing aspect to me: Hoppe is in trouble for making one of the most reasonable arguments of his career!


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TRACKBACKS (9 to date)
TrackBack URL: http://econlog.econlib.org/mt/mt-tb.cgi/195
The author at Democracy Vs. The Constitution in a related article titled Just So You Know... writes:
    Can we really talk about Hoppe without also talking about Churchill. I know the cases aren't the same, but I think we can all agree a) we disagree with the statements, b) the University can do what it's rules allow, and c) trhese rules certainly do n... [Tracked on February 8, 2005 12:19 PM]
The author at No Treason in a related article titled Hoppe Speaks On The Controversy writes:
    Jeff Tucker points out an MP3 recording of what appears to be more or less a version Hoppe's standard lecture on Time Preference, the lecture upon which the present controversy is based. Upon listening to the lecture I found that it contains Hoppe sp... [Tracked on February 11, 2005 6:11 PM]
The author at Rasmusen Weblog in a related article titled Hoppe Academic Freedom Case at Nevada writes:
    I've blogged before on the case of Professor Hans-Hermann Hoppe at Nevada who was punished for casual classroom remarks on homosexuals and time preference, on February 6 and February 8. I haven't had time to develop the story, but I've... [Tracked on February 17, 2005 10:23 PM]
COMMENTS (15 to date)
Tony writes:

He also made assumptions about gay people having more partners and thus we can presume from this risky behavior they care less about the future. I think this is the more offensive part.

Also, this is only getting flak because of the gay related comments. He said many broad generalizations that would piss people off, but conservatives are having a field day against the student complaining about him claiming it's just protection of the homosexual agenda.

In the same lecture he also said old people don't value the future. I wonder how many cries you'd get to support the professor who made just that statement among Hoppe's supporters.

And it's not like economists really understand future discounting and planning anyway. The average person's failure to spread out consumption over the whole life cycle (borrow heavily when young, save heavily for when old) kinda throws a wrench into any understanding we may have about future planning. Even Friedman admits that.

Boonton writes:

I don't see why a professor shouldn't be able to voice a hypothesis that old people don't care about the future. We all have a right to be wrong and 80% of education is about figuring out how you or someone else is wrong.

Mark Horn writes:

Expanding on Boonton's comments, we not only have a right to accidentally be wrong, but frequently it makes sense to intentionally be wrong. Positing a theory that you know (or suspect) to be wrong is often a useful technique to strengthening a theory which you know (or suspect) to be correct. This is what it means to play "Devil's Advocate".

In this particular case, I don't think that the professor was playing devil's advocate. But that's not my point. My point is the right or wrongness of his argument is irrelevant. Being wrong should have it's own set of rewards and consequences. And the individual who is wrong accidentally, or chooses to be wrong intentionally, should be able to freely choose those alternatives and, as a consequence, learn from them. When we take away the natural consequences, and impose governmental constraints, we enforce people to be as stupid as the governmental constraint assumes they are. People are smarter than that. They can learn from mistakes. If all mistakes are artifically removed, learning will get unnecessarily more difficult.

KipEsquire writes:

As an example of what he meant, he offered this: Italians tend to eat more spaghetti than Germans, and Germans tend to eat more sauerkraut than Italians. It is not universally true, he said, but it is generally true.

Hypotheses such as these are empirically testable. How do you test "gays don't plan for the future" and "gays tend to live riskier lifestyles" (you left that LVRJ quote out).

We don't even have reliable Census data on gays (and don't get me started on polling data) -- we're now going to start making sweeping pronouncements about comparative risk-aversion and life-cycle financial planning in gay versus straight households?

If you want to be politically (sociologically?) incorrect in the spirit of Charles Murray, then more power to you. But you better have some numbers to back it up. Otherwise you're just another bigot.

Barry P. writes:

Amazing aspect to me: Hoppe is in trouble for making one of the most reasonable arguments of his career!

You never know what will cause trouble. I had a teacher in high school who was a dyed-in-the-wool holocaust denier, and wasn't shy about teaching that. For years and years nobody did anything about it. However, when a parent discovered that he was maligning catholics (in English history), then the doodoo really hit the fan.

Barry P. writes:

From what I've read elsewhere, apparently the student claimed that Hoppe's statements "offended" him.

Possibly the worst development in the modern west is the idea that somebody has the right to "not be offended."

I think that Hoppe is basically a wingnut, but the last thing he should have to worry about is whether his words "offend" students.

Edge writes:

Perhaps Professore Hoppe could speak with the Department of Education, which was offended by a PBS cartoon in which a character traveling across the country visiting many other children's families visits the kids of a family with two mommies in Vermont.

The Dept of Ed has asked local PBS affiliates not to broadcast this episode, and by and large, many of them will not.

What can we draw from these two scenes?

John T. Kennedy writes:

People seem to be overlooking Hoppe's reference to Keynes, where he is not speaking in generalities but inviting students to draw a conclusion about an individual's economic judgment based on his sexual preference.

Boonton writes:
Hypotheses such as these are empirically testable. How do you test "gays don't plan for the future" and "gays tend to live riskier lifestyles" (you left that LVRJ quote out).

His hypothesis appears to be that children cause you to become more focused on the future. I suppose we could empirically test this. For example, do childless couples appear to favor a higher discount rate than those with children when choosing between income today and income tomorrow? Is the dicount rate even lower for couples that have an above average number of children?

As for our inability to poll gays...well that will be news to the marketing/advertising community which invests a great deal of time and money in measuring market segments.

Nick Schulz writes:

My view is part of the reason one goes to college is to be offended. If one leaves college without ever being offended, one went to a pretty crappy college.

NS

Lawrance George Lux writes:

I am like Arnold on this issue, it is one of the most reasonable arguments Hoppe has made. He is the one who uses the Cathedral argument which no one can figure out, isn't he?

Guidelines to this Newspeak are impossible, so this morbid fascination with finding Guilty people should be stopped, but will it be? No, Kids have too much fun pointing a finger at someone. lgl

scarhill writes:

KipEsquire wrote:

Hypotheses such as these are empirically testable. How do you test "gays don't plan for the future" and "gays tend to live riskier lifestyles" (you left that LVRJ quote out).

If you're really interested, Jim Lindgren over at the Volokh Conspiracy shows how it's done. Go to
http://volokh.com and do a search for "Hoppe"--permalinks seem to be broken over there.

Jim

Boonton writes:

I think what is going on here is not the argument presented but the 'hidden argument' that some fear to be lurking in the speakers speech.

What's spoken is that children make you care more about the future, therefore gays care less than average about the future. Hidden in this speech is an argument that:

Therefore society should accept discrimination against gays since it will encourage more to care about the future.

The speaker didn't say this and probably doesn't even believe it. The critics are not being irrational, even though the speaker probably didn't mean it you know that it wouldn't be long before some conservative would come out with some attack on gays for 'selfishly' not caring about 'the children'.

We see a similar pattern in the eruption over Summers. The fear is of the hidden argument. That if girls are genetically less adapt at math why both spending all this time and money to educate them? Why not push them back into the kitchen and 'soft' studies like poetry?

What needs to be done is to bring these hidden arguments out into the open and force the critics to confront the fact that just because there may be truth to what the speaker said it doesn't follow their fears will be realized.

glory writes:

i think you hit the nail on the head. hidden arguments are the logical fallacies of categorical assessments.

dsquared writes:

This seems like a storm in a teacup, but it can't emphasised enough that the actual argument (about Keynes) is flat out insane. I dispute that
"there is a belief among some economists that one of the 20th century's most influential economists, John Maynard Keynes, was influenced in his beliefs by his homosexuality".

For one thing, Keynes was not homosexual; he was bisexual and married a ballet dancer just to prove it. For another, Keynes was obsessively concerned with the distant future and wrote about it all the time. For a third, how can anyone with even a tiny appreciation of Keynesian economics describe it as a "spend it now" philosophy? If this is one of Hoppe's least ludicrous arguments, I'd love to see the others.

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