Precinct 333

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Innocuous Comment, Serious Sanction

Hans Hoppe is a professor of economics at University of Nevada-Las Vegas. He is currently under threat of sanction from the university because ONE anonymous student was offended by a comment he made in the course of a 75 minute lecture and didn't feel that the professor took the concern seriously enough.

Hoppe, 55, a world-renowned economist, author and speaker, said he was giving a lecture to his money and banking class in March when the incident occurred.

The subject of the lecture was economic planning for the future. Hoppe said he gave several examples to the class of about 30 upper-level undergraduate students on groups who tend to plan for the future and groups who do not.

Very young and very old people, for example, tend not to plan for the future, he said. Couples with children tend to plan more than couples without.

As in all social sciences, he said, he was speaking in generalities.

Another example he gave the class was that homosexuals tend to plan less for the future than heterosexuals.

Reasons for the phenomenon include the fact that homosexuals tend not to have children, he said. They also tend to live riskier lifestyles than heterosexuals, Hoppe said.

He said 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. Keynes espoused a "spend it now" philosophy to keep an economy strong, much as President Bush did after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Hoppe said the portion of the lecture on homosexuals lasted perhaps 90 seconds, while the entire lecture took up his 75-minute class.

There were no questions or any discussion from the students about the homosexual comments, he said.

"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.

The school originally threatened a letter of reprimand and the loss of a week's pay. That was rejected by the Hoppe's dean and the University provost. Now the school has said they will issue a reprimand and require that Hoppe forego his next pay increase -- an economic sanction that will follow him the rest of his teaching career at the school and beyond, as it would have an ongoing, cumulative effect on his future salary and retirement benefits.

Frankly, I don't see where there is a basis for action against the good professor. In context, there was nothing wrong with his comments. There is apparently some support for his position among professionals in the field. Other than treading on the over-wrought feelings of some (presumably, but not necessarily, homosexual) student, there is no substance to the entire complaint. Must the entire educational process come to a screeching halt because some member of a class of people deemed by the politically correct to have special rights complains?

I hope the university loses -- and that any litigation names not just the school and the officials involved, but also the offended student. The original complaint was frivolous, and Hans Hoppe has been damaged by this attempt to limit his academic freedom and First Amendment rights.


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