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Ward Churchill:

Ward Churchill is the University of Colorado professor who wrote the horrific screed praising the murder of the people in the World Trade Center (on the grounds that they were "little Eichmanns"). His article reveals him to be a depraved person, much as people who applaud the butchery of innocent people are generally depraved. (I see no way of reading "If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I'd really be interested in hearing about it" as anything but applauding the deaths.) I realize that he doesn't think they're innocents — but that a Nazi thinks Jews culpable and therefore meriting death, or a Klansman thinks blacks culpable and therefore meriting death, hardly absolves him of charges of depravity.

Firing for his views: Nonetheless, I agree with Glenn Reynolds and Steve Bainbridge that he ought not be fired for this depravity (and there is talk of that happening).

I think Justice Hugo Black was right to say that First Amendment rights "must be accorded to the ideas we hate or sooner or later they will be denied to the ideas we cherish"; and the same is true of academic freedom principles, flowing both from the First Amendment rights of public university employees and from their tenure contracts and professional norms. If the Ward Churchills of the world are fired for their speech, disgusting as it is, that would be a perfect precedent for left-wing faculties and administrations to fire right-wing professors for much less offensive statements. And given the political complexion of universities these days (and the fact that most of the decisions will be made by university administrations and not by elected officials), this will end up happening to conservatives much more often than to liberals. So I think that protecting Churchill from being fired is both good in principle and good in practice.

Stripping him of chairmanship: Nonetheless, there is no reason that the University had to keep him as Chair of his department, had he not resigned that post. The chairmanship of a department is an administrative post; while a professor's job is to publish his own work and his own views, the chair's job is to advance the academic mission of the university. (Teaching is a separate and complicated matter, but as best I can tell none of Churchill's offensive statements were made in class.) See Jeffries v. Harleston (2nd Cir. 1995), which sensibly draws this distinction.

If the University concludes that keeping a person such as this as the administrative face of the department will cast the department and the university into disrepute, it can properly remove him as chair, while retaining his right to say whatever incendiary things he likes as professor. And of course I'd say the same as to department chairs who said things I liked: A university should have fairly broad authority to strip them of their chairmanship, though not of their posts. Firing him for lying (if he had indeed lied) about being an American Indian: But all this speaks only of whether Churchill could be fired for his views. There is also the question whether he has knowingly falsely claimed to be an American Indian and a member of various tribes (see this story). If indeed it turns out that he lied — and the lies, even if not in his scholarship, were attempts to build credibility as a scholar and public intellectual speaking on behalf of the American Indian community — then I think he ought to be disciplined, and quite possibly fired, for that.

As readers may recall, "Joseph Ellis, historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, admitted [in 2001] that he led his students at Mount Holyoke College to believe that he had served as a paratrooper in Vietnam, when in reality his three years of service had been spent teaching history at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He was also accused of embellishing his role in the civil rights and antiwar movements. He was subsequently suspended from Mount Holyoke for one year without pay and stripped of his endowed chair. Ellis won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for history for Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation." (Quote from infoplease.) As I recall, there was no reason to think that this lie really misinformed Ellis's students about important historical questions; but it is still highly reprehensible, and properly punishable, behavior in a scholar. Ellis was only suspended for a year, but he's a Pulitzer Prize winner and, as I understand, a historian of substantial quality. Had he done less good work, his bad acts may well have led to his being fired, and quite properly so.

Moreover, knowing lies are generally not protected by the First Amendment; and though we usually don't imprison people just because they lied about their own biography, I see no First Amendment problem in firing such people, even tenured academics, based on that. Moreover, as a matter of academic freedom principles, I don't think there's anything especially dangerous in enforcing basic requirements of honesty in one's public statements, particularly about one's own life history. There is some risk of error in adjudicating such controversies, but much less than the risk involved in deciding which viewpoints are so heinous as to be beyond the pale of academic tolerance.

If Churchill actually lied about his racial affiliation in an attempt to get a job — or his chairmanship or similar posts, including temporary ones — then that's outright resume fraud, and may even be criminal (especially if the lie was in the service of getting something of financial value). But even if he knowingly told a falsehood simply to get more credibility, that would be serious professional misconduct.

Of course, all this assumes that he in fact claimed to be an American Indian (or a member of particular tribes), that he knew that he is indeed not an American Indian (or a member of the claimed tribe), and that the statements were unambiguous enough. (There can sometimes be some ambiguity: For instance, if someone who is Jewish only on his father's side claims to be Jewish, I would surely not call him a liar just because the strictest definitions of Jewishness require that one's mother be Jewish, at least unless he was speaking in a context where he knew that his statements would be interpreted using that strict definition.)

But if these charges are true, then they would warrant punishment, including possibly firing. Naturally, whoever fires him for this or supports such a firing must be prepared to apply the same standard regardless of the professor's viewpoints. But I certainly would be prepared to apply such a standard across the board, since academic dishonesty is culpable whether it's done by people with evil political ideologies or good ones.

Thanks to Sabastian Niles for the pointer to the AP story cited above.

Academic Freedom and Slippery Slopes:

I argued below that professors shouldn't be fired even for expressing views that are downright evil. A big part of my argument was the slippery slope concern: That, in Justice Black's words, First Amendment rights "must be accorded to the ideas we hate or sooner or later they will be denied to the ideas we cherish." Let me speak in some more detail about why this slippery slope is a very serious concern.

Let's start with a standard criticism of slippery slope arguments, as applied here: Churchill said things that were unusually awful. Assume that you and I believe they are much worse than other statements that we think deserve to be explored in the academy, even if we might think they're wrong -- for instance, claims that the U.S. is on the wrong side in Iraq, claims that homosexuality is evil, claims that there are significant innate biological differences between racial groups in intelligence, claims that women are innately worse than men in science, and so on. (I think claims of racial intelligence difference need to be explored; from what I hear, they are factually mistaken, but we can only know that they are factually mistaken if scholars are allowed to seriously investigate the issue, and keep investigating it. Claims that Americans or Jews or blacks deserve to be slaughtered, on the other hand, I can do without.)

So we see a distinction between Churchill's vile views and other views. Why not act on this distinction? Why not say, yes, we'll fire Churchill, but, no, others shouldn't be fired based on other speech, precisely because there is a distinction to be drawn between the two. In the words of Wilbren van der Burg, "Someone who trusts in the checks and balances of a democratic society in which he lives usually will also have confidence in the possibility to correct future developments. If we can stop now, we will be able to stop in the future as well, when necessary; therefore, we need not stop here yet."

My answer is that we may be confident that Churchill's views are different from others' views, but we might doubt that others -- faculty, administrators, legislators, judges -- will draw the line correctly. They might indeed consider Churchill's case analogous to that of some professor who is arguing that homosexuality is evil, or that sex discrimination is sometimes proper, or what have you. And by setting a precedent allowing Churchill's firing, we will have made it easier for them to fire others.

Think how often people argue by precedent and analogy in such situations. Several messages I've gotten disagreeing with my position said that, well, surely a professor would be fired for expressing support for the Nazis during World War II, or for saying today that Jews should be killed, or the like -- and therefore Churchill should be fired, too. My view is that all these people should, loathsome as they are, be protected by academic freedom, precisely because otherwise this would set a precedent for the future. In our legal and political system, analogy and precedent are powerful forces, and we need to think hard about the precedent that we'd be setting.

Let me a bit more explicit, by identifying three particular ways that the slippery slope can work here.

1. The equality slippery slope. People often support equal treatment -- which is to say the same treatment for behavior that they think is similar enough. If there's a flat rule that professors may not be fired for expressing views hostile to certain groups (whether Americans, blacks, Jews, or what have you), then a lot of people may grudgingly tolerate a wide range of offensive speech.

But once speech that offends some groups becomes punishable, other groups (in what I call "censorship envy") would understandably ask: Why aren't we protected against views that we find equally offensive, even if you folks respond with some distinctions that we find unpersuasive? And some people may find it hard to resist such arguments. Once an exception is made for the rule, others will be added for the sake of equal treatment.

2. The attitude-altering slippery slope. People often (not always, but often) take a cue about what's permissible based on what's done. We might see firing Ward Churchill as an unusual event, something that's just barely allowed; and we might therefore plausibly reject firing people whose speech was even a little reprehensible.

But once he's fired, and others who say similar things are fired, those decisions may well become part of people's background assumptions of what's acceptable. "Well, we fired Ward Churchill for these statements; that must mean that it's OK to fire people for such statements; and that must mean that academic freedom isn't that strong a principle."

Of course, some people might adopt the attitude that it's fine to fire people only for the most heinous statements, and that it's still not permissible to fire people for any remotely legitimate commentary. But the danger is that people won't take such a nuanced view -- rather, they'll just conclude that because professors do get fired for their viewpoints, it's OK to fire people for their viewpoints.

3. The small change tolerance slippery slope. Finally, it's harder to mobilize political (or legal) opposition to small changes in degree than to big changes, or changes in kind. If there's a flat rule that tenured professors may not be fired for their political views, then any such firing -- whether of Churchill or of someone who has a thoughtful argument against homosexuality -- would be seen as a Big Deal. But if people are routinely fired for expressing extreme viewpoints, then it becomes that much easier for a university to fire people for expressing slightly less extreme viewpoints.

Sure, critics of the second firing may draw distinctions between one viewpoint and another. But the public will be a lot less interested in such criticisms based on fine differences in degree. "These are complicated judgments by professionals," the public may say. "It's established that it's fine for them to fire people based on viewpoint in some situations. Given that this new situation isn't that different from past situations, we'll give the university the benefit of the doubt."

And then, after someone is fired for expressing a slightly less extreme viewpoint than Churchill's, and that becomes the new standard for what's allowed, someone else will be fired for expressing a still less extreme viewpoint, and so on. Over time, the line may move through small steps -- and the public and courts might not stop the motion: Each step would be seen as too small to be worth fighting over, and small enough that we should defer to the university's judgment rather than making a mountain out of a molehill.

* * *

Now none of these mechanisms -- which are of course just briefly sketched here, since it takes me many pages to go into them in detail -- are sure to operate. We do sometimes draw distinctions that don't lead to much slippage. And sometimes we need to draw distinctions, even despite the risk of slippage. (One example: In the decision whether to hire or to tenure a faculty member, we inevitably have to consider the content of his scholarship, and no matter how we try to focus on the quality of the work regardless of whether we agree with the bottom line, it's inevitable that the person's views will color our judgment of the work's quality. But unless we are just to use content-neutral measures, such as the number of pages the person has written, this content-based evaluation is necessary, in spite of its risks. Deliberately viewpoint-based firings of tenured faculty members, on the other hand, are not necessary.)

Nonetheless, I think that allowing professors to be fired for their reprehensible viewpoints poses very large slippery slope risks. Narrow exceptions to academic freedom protection are especially likely to become broader, for all the reasons I give above. And that's dangerous enough that I think we should protect some evil people like Churchill rather than risk stripping protection from all faculty members who express unorthodox viewpoints.

Why Are Universities Different?

Several correspondents have argued that university faculty should be treated no differently from other employees. Here's an example:

Personally, I think "academic freedom" is grossly overrated. Anyone working in practically any industry other than academe who said what Churchill said would lose his job yesterday, and few of us would have a problem with that. Perhaps a case can be made that academics are "special" and should be guaranteed a right to speak freely in a consequence-free environment, but if so, I've yet to hear it.

Here's the case, in a nutshell (though it would take volumes to explore all the implications): In most industries, people are hired to do a good job, and part of doing that has to be getting along with people -- supervisors, colleagues, customers, and potential customers. If you do something that offends people enough, you're no longer doing a good job.

But university professors are supposed to do a good job by saying what they think is right, even when that's offensive or alienating to people. Such an ability to express highly controversial views, even views that many people find deeply offensive, is critical for the effective functioning of universities as institutions. If university professors know that expressing controversial views about the war effort, about racial differences, about sex or sexual orientation, and so on will get them fired, then effective scholarship and public debate about these issues would be very much stifled. A "don't offend the customers" or "if it's controversial, don't say it" approach may be perfectly sensible for many kinds of businesses or even government agencies. But it would be awful for universities.

What is Academic Freedom?----

One statement of the meaning of academic freedom is set out in the 1967 Kalven Report, a statement of policy by the University of Chicago explaining why a university should not take political positions on matters of public policy.

Here is part of the Kalven Report:

The mission of the university is the discovery, improvement, and dissemination of knowledge. Its domain of inquiry and scrutiny includes all aspects and all values of society. A university faithful to its mission will provide enduring challenges to social values, policies, practices, and institutions. By design and by effect, it is the institution which creates discontent with the existing social arrangements and proposes new ones. In brief, a good university, like Socrates, will be upsetting.

The instrument of dissent and criticism is the individual faculty member or the individual student. The university is the home and sponsor of critics; it is not itself the critic. It is, to go back once again to the classic phrase, a community of scholars. To perform its mission in the society, a university must sustain an extraordinary environment of freedom of inquiry and maintain an independence from political fashions, passions, and pressures. A university, if it is to be true to its faith in intellectual inquiry, must embrace, be hospitable to, and encourage the widest diversity of views within its own community. It is a community but only for the limited, albeit great, purposes of teaching and research. It is not a club, it is not a trade association, it is not a lobby.

Since the university is a community only for these limited and distinctive purposes, it is a community which cannot take collective action on the issues of the day without endangering the conditions for its existence and effectiveness. There is no mechanism by which it can reach a collective position without inhibiting that full freedom of dissent on which it thrives. It cannot insist that all of its members favor a given view of social policy; if it takes collective action, therefore, it does so at the price of censuring any minority who do not agree with the view adopted. In brief, it is a community which cannot resort to majority vote to reach positions on public issues.

The neutrality of the university as an institution arises then not from a lack of courage nor out of indifference and insensitivity. It arises out of respect for free inquiry and the obligation to cherish a diversity of viewpoints. And this neutrality as an institution has its complement in the fullest freedom for its faculty and students as individuals to participate in political action and social protest. It finds its complement, too, in the obligation of the university to provide a forum for the most searching and candid discussion of public issues.

The members of the committee issuing the report included John Hope Franklin and future Nobel laureate George Stigler, who slightly dissented from a few sentences on the rare instances where the university in its corporate capacity as a property owner, receiver of funds, or member of an organization might take account of politics.

While criticizing the American Sociological Association for taking a public position on Iraq, William Sjostrom called the Kalven Report "the best statement of academic freedom I know of."

Erin O'Connor praised the language of the Kalven Report while discussing an idea I sent her in my pre-blogging days, a proposal that universities adopt an explicit policy that students and faculty have no right not to be offended. My argument then:

Universities should adopt explicit policies rejecting the right not to be offended. As a current graduate student in Sociology at the University of Chicago, I was offended by the way that some of Marx's ideas on economics were taught, particularly the labor theory of value--as if Marx's critique was sound economics, as if we hadn't had fifty million people killed by the collectivism of agriculture alone (a modest estimate not including the tens of millions dying in collectivist wars).

The idea that I had a right not to be offended in class never even occurred to me, and would be one that I would find offensive to be offered.

I was scheduled to have the great Harry Kalven for first-year torts in 1974 at the University of Chicago, but his final illness progressed to the point where he couldn't teach any more, so we had the brilliant young Bob Ellickson (now at Yale) to fill in teaching us torts, a course outside his usual area of expertise (property).

Unfortunately, Don Randel, the current president of the University of Chicago, has given a more confused and confusing statement on academic freedom.

Who Benefits from Academic Freedom?

Well, if you like this blog — or InstaPundit or ProfessorBainbridge or various other often-right-leaning academic blogs — then you do. Most of us on this blog are academics, and one reason we feel free to express views that differ from our colleagues' and administrators' views (and may even seriously anger some of our colleagues, on questions such as affirmative action, sexual orientation, the war, and so on) is that we know we're protected by academic freedom principles. (By academic freedom principles, I mean First Amendment protection for those of us at state-run schools, but also contractual protection and the protection provided by the profession's social norms.)

Naturally, we like to think that our views are much more sensible and well-defended than those of the Ward Churchills of the world. But we suspect that some of our colleagues may disagree. If it weren't for academic freedom, we might face serious retaliation for speech — even outside-the-classroom, on-blog speech — that our colleagues claims creates a "hostile learning environment" for students, supposedly constitutes "hate speech" (a vague and broad category), supposedly discredits the institution in the eyes of this or that group, and so on.

Now of course there's lots of good and fearless blogging from non-academics; and academics sometimes do avoid certain subjects for a variety of reasons. The world would keep spinning without academic freedom, and somehow public debate will continue. And one can still argue that the costs of academic freedom outweigh the benefits (and one can certainly argue that about tenure).

Still, on balance academic freedom does make it easier for us to speak safely on controversial topics. And if you've found some such speech of ours to be valuable, then you've benefited from academic freedom.

UNLV Economist in Trouble.--

INTRODUCTION:

I read about the problems of Professor Hoppe, an economist at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (tip to Instapundit):

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.

As with so many of these stories of supposed academic misconduct, one must be careful not to assume that the whole story has been told, since usually only one side is talking publicly. But if Hoppe indeed said what he says he said and no more, then I think that it is the administrators at UNLV who deserve reprimands. They should have explained to the student that such claims are clearly within academic freedom, whether true or false. I have no doubt that what Hoppe said would be offensive to some students—and indeed, he is probably wrong on the merits of most of his claims—but his claims are empirical ones. The proper response of someone who is angry with Hoppe is to gather evidence tending to show that he is wrong, and to challenge Hoppe to offer his own evidence to support his claims.

Both Eugene Volokh and I have previously contributed to debunking the apparent myth that gay males have a median of 250 sexual partners. But every representative study that I've seen does find substantial differences between straights and gays, so IF on average one can equate having more partners with taking higher risks, then in that very limited sense, one claim of Hoppe may be at least partly true. I have no reason to think that Hoppe is right more generally on risk-taking by gays. [But see evidence supporting Hoppe in an updated later post.]

As someone who has watched Richard Posner, Gary Becker, and others at the University of Chicago Law School Workshop, I have seen lots of generalizations about how groups act. A claim such as Hoppe made would be quite unremarkable in that classroom setting, however correct or incorrect it might be. Post-Gary Becker, it is common for economists to attribute motivations, beliefs, and behavior to people in different family or sexual situations. Some of the claims are based on assumptions of rationality, some are meant as empirical claims to be supported or rejected by evidence from the real world. I shudder to think what students at UNLV would think if Hoppe had read the claims about how gays think, act, and rationally calculate in Posner's 1992 Sex & Reason, which spawned a lot of vigorous criticisms from both straights and gays, but no calls for academic punishment (at least that I heard). The book still has its defenders and detractors.

For example, consider this paragraph from Martha Ertman's review of Posner's 1992 book in the 1993 Stanford Law Review:

Posner apparently believes that lesbianism is a matter of choice rather than genetic predisposition. He recognizes that there are two contrasting viewpoints on the genesis of lesbianism: (1) it "is biologically determined"; or (2) it is "either a second-best choice by 'mannish' women who are unattractive to men or a political choice by angry feminists." Although he states that given the discrimination visited on gay men and lesbians, "the idea that millions of young men and women have chosen it . . . seems preposterous," Posner seems to prefer the choice theory regarding lesbians. He reasons that any genetic basis for "lesbian preference would have tended to be selected out" in the "evolutionary era." Posner states that this era "apparently was characterized by a high degree of interpersonal violence, [and having] additional male protectors may well have done more for a child's chances of survival than to have additional female protectors." Posner also asserts that "[t]he rarity of lesbianism among animals" negates a genetic explanation of lesbianism, supporting his sociobiological theory. Therefore, assuming lesbians are made rather than born, Posner expects "opportunistic homosexuality to be more common among women than among men, at least relative to 'real' homosexuality."

I can't vouch for whether Ertman's account of Posner's arguments is a fully fair one, but I think you can get a feel for how easily Posner's economic journey into sex could generate the sort of offense that the UNLV student experienced with Hoppe.

As someone who works a lot on diversity issues, where people's backgrounds (including specifically their sexual orientation) are supposed to lead them to have different experiences and different viewpoints, I find it strange that people would rule out viewpoint differences without inquiring into the evidence. The line between a generalization and a stereotype is a fine one. The primary problem with stereotyping is in failing to treat someone who could be treated as an individual as an individual, just assuming when you have individual evidence that the person is guided by his race, gender, sexual orientation, or politics. But it should be permissible to describe average differences between groups, such as that African-Americans tend to vote for Democrats.

I have been working a bit on differences in gay views over the last year (I'm director of Northwestern's Demography of Diversity Project). There is very little published work in the field—and it often conflicts. A recent study found no differences in reported happiness between gays and straights, while perhaps the leading study (Laumann et al.) found that gays are somewhat less happy. Would Ed Laumann, former provost and former chair of Sociology at the University of Chicago, be reprimanded if he were to present his data at UNLV? I could imagine some people being offended to hear Laumann's claim that gays in his sample reported being less happy, though one might attribute such a feeling (if true) to discrimination. If Laumann is wrong (or if his findings are not generalizable to more recent years, as more recent data hints), collecting and analyzing additional data is the way to refute him.

Certainly, stereotypes about gays can be used against them. Peg Brinig and I have been kicking around the idea of examining the claim sometimes made in custody cases that gays are more selfish or less altruistic and thus less likely to make good parents. My preliminary exploration of the data suggests that this stereotype of gays and lesbians is probably false.

SOME DATA ON HOPPE'S HYPOTHESIS:

(To read about the results of my data analysis on questions relevant to Hoppe's general planning claim, click here)

CONCLUSION ON DATA ANALYSIS:

There is good evidence on one GSS question about the future (GRNECON) that gays and bisexuals on average have different views from straights and celibates. Of course, one of the premises of the diversity rationale is that gays and bisexuals have different views on some issues, so this is hardly surprising. Yet the results on the GRNECON question show gays being relatively more concerned about future environmental issues (not less as the Hoppe hypothesis might suggest).

On a more relevant question about planning for the future, there are no significant results using usual scholarly standards. But if you mine the data fairly aggressively (and without a theoretical justification for doing so), there is one specification in which the data point to gays and bisexuals planning less. And the significance of that model disappears if you control for marital status, which would also fit Hoppe's claims.

On balance, the data that I looked at suggest that there are likely systematic differences between gays and straights on average in some aspects of planning, but the nature of that difference is probably not what was hypothesized by Hoppe. In other words, there is more evidence in the data I examined that Hoppe is wrong than that he is right, but there is some evidence on general planning that he is right, though that evidence does not reach significance using usual scholarly standards for choosing models to test.

From what I have seen, the general Hoppe hypothesis is probably false, though it may be true in some particulars. If it's true beyond the number of sexual partner differences (which are probably substantial, but not huge), the effect is almost certainly too small to explain much. But that should be decided in a scholarly setting, not one that challenges the right of an economist to put forward his economic theories in class.

Updates on the Evidence in the Hoppe Case.--

My original post on the Hoppe case was already my longest ever, so I am updating it here.

VC reader Gabriel Rossman points me to this article by University of Rochester economist, Steven Landsburg, in Slate, which discusses an NPR story that pointed out that gays in California were 70% more likely to smoke:

I've just learned from NPR's All Things Considered that in California, gay men and lesbians are 70 percent more likely to smoke than the general population. In a sterling example of why I try not to listen to too much NPR, reporter Sarah Varney immediately segued into the perceived need for more anti-smoking ads targeted specifically at gays.

In other words, Varney implicitly assumes that gays are either too stupid to have gotten the message that smoking is bad for you or too irrational to have modified their behavior accordingly. A more inquisitive reporter might instead have raised the obvious question: What good reasons might gays have to smoke more than other people?

In four minutes of air time, the closest Varney came to addressing that question was to suggest that for gays, stepping outside for a cigarette can be a good way to meet people—as if the desire to meet people somehow differentiates gays from straights. At the same time, she managed to overlook the blindingly obvious: Gays are disproportionately childless, and childless people are more likely to smoke.

As a matter of fact, childless households (whether gay or straight) spend, on average, 56 percent more on cigarettes and alcohol than their childbearing neighbors. (Among households where the parents have some education, the discrepancy is even larger.) Nor is there anything mysterious about why. First, parents have extra reasons to live long and stay healthy, both so they can be there when their kids need them and so they can enjoy the company of their grandchildren. Second, parents have extra expenses—starting with diapers and continuing through college tuition—that leave less disposable income for cigarettes. Third, a lot of parents don't like the idea of smoking in front of their children.

As I stated in my original post, this is the way that economists talk. Some people may find it offensive, but it is completely unremarkable in the discipline.

A check of GSS data on smoking shows borderline significance (1-tailed p=.086) for those having same-sex experience in the last 5 years: 38% of gays and bisexuals smoke compared to 30% of others, so any differences nationally are probably less than in California. If I do a logistic regression, controlling for education and region, then the 1-tailed significance equals the .05 threshold, meaning that (with controls) gays do appear to smoke more in the GSS data. When being gay is measured by the gender of sexual partners since age 18, the effect is not significant.

As to driniking, gays and bisexuals (measured by activity since age 18) are more likely (45%) to report ever getting drunk than others (35%), though the effect is not significant for gays measured by activity in the last 5 years.

As to the evidence in this post, it provides some (but far from conclusive) support for Hoppe's claims that gays engage in higher risk behavior and that differences in child-rearing is a related cause. So now, four pieces of evidence provide some support Hoppe's claims: a greater reported number of sex partners (as I linked in my earlier post), a higher rate of smoking in some studies (but not others), a higher rate of getting drunk (by some measures but not others), and some plausible evidence that child-rearing is related to smoking and drinking rates. The direct evidence of less planning for the future is not shown in these studies, but is consistent with some of them. The evidence that I pointed to against Hoppe's thesis is mostly attitudinal, not behavioral, and economists (though not sociologists) tend to discount attitudes.

The caveats that I mentioned in the prior post apply to my analyses here as well, including the absence of adjusting the sample size for a design effect. I'm off to see a movie; I'll probably post more when I get back today--or post tomorrow.

UPDATE: For more, see David Beito, Ralph Luker, Kenneth Gregg, and Tom G. Palmer. Palmer, a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, considers Hoppe a bigot, not for the statements attributed to Hoppe in class (which he finds unobjectionable), but primarily for other comments made elsewhere about Palmer. Nonetheless, Palmer has written to UNLV in support of Hoppe's academic freedom.

I Propose a Compromise in the Ward Churchill Case:

The University of Colorado doesn't fire him, and in exchange he promises to change his last name to anything but Churchill. (You decide which wartime political leader's name you might suggest to him instead.)