My friend Prof. Eric Rasmusen
Over the past week, the legacy media have been crying down a dear friend of mine, Professor Eric Rasmusen of Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. The shaming has gone far and wide, including the Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, and UK’s Guardian—a glorious unity pronouncing Eric a true Enemy of the People.
What was Eric’s crime?
In a second I’ll tell you what the Mob’s mouthpiece says, but first some needed personal perspective.
Eric is an intellectual; and being an intellectual, Eric’s curiosity ranges far afield to places the rest of us find inscrutable, boring, and at times, threatening.
As an example of the boring and inscrutable, I have a treasure in the bookcases near my desk titled Games and Information: An Introduction to Game Theory. Intellectuals give books to their friends. This wasn’t the first book from Eric, but it’s the most special since Eric’s the author and he inscribed it to me.
Since I want to enter into my parishioners’ worlds, I tried reading Games and Information, but found myself at sea without charts or compass. Another economics prof in our congregation assured me Eric’s work was one of the first successful game theory textbooks. Eric’s publisher, Basil Blackwell, did their best to gussie it up with section headings such as “Nash Equilibrium: Boxed Pigs, the Battle of the Sexes, and Pure Coordination.”
Really, I want to understand game theory, but it’s beyond the realm of possibility. Finding it inscrutable, I’m bored.
Eric finds nothing boring, and that brings us to the part of Eric’s curiosity that is threatening. When I preach, Eric sits in the congregation next to his wife and four (remaining) children typing away on his laptop. This is how he listens to sermons and I find it disconcerting. A preacher preaches with a thousand thoughts flitting through his mind, and one of my thoughts while Eric sits typing is “why can’t he just listen to the sermon?” But this is how Eric listens.
After worship, it isn’t unusual for Eric to send me hundreds of words he’s typed while I preached, much of it summarizing my points, but interspersed are his own reactions to what I’m saying. He’s that bright. He’s that fast a typist.
A couple weeks ago Eric was still sitting in his seat typing half an hour after the benediction. I’d finished greeting the congregation at the exit and went over to say “hi” to Eric. I asked him what he was typing and he said, “Well, actually, I’m sending you an email disapproving of something you said in the service.”
As it turned out, what I’d said had been unwise, so the next Sunday I told the congregation what Eric’s criticism was, and that he was right and I shouldn’t have said it. Now then, can the reader understand my statement that, as I preach, I find Eric’s typing slightly threatening?
Eric’s intellectual curiosity extends to really dangerous things. A few years ago, Eric brought me some mushrooms. To eat.
I asked him where he’d gotten them and he responded, “In the woods.”
“Eric in the woods picking wild mushrooms? Really, is that wise?” I thought. “Oughtn’t he to stick to game theory, law, and public policy?”
But of course, Eric had learned to distinguish the wild mushrooms that kill from the wild mushrooms that taste good, and I learned that Eric and Helen’s kids love going out into the dank forest and collecting delicious mushrooms, giving them to their friends. Learning more, my fears dissolved.
Again, a few years ago, Eric filed a $2.5 billion lawsuit in New York against Citigroup. He stood to benefit several hundred million if the suit was successful, but Eric announced beforehand that any money he was awarded by the court would be given away to charity.
The nature of the lawsuit?
Eric was incensed that Citigroup had avoided billions of dollars in taxes owed the citizens of New York by exploiting a loophole created by a fiat issued by the Internal Revenue Service during the 2008 financial crisis. Looking for a way to recover this money for the public welfare, Eric discovered the state of New York allowed non-residents to file lawsuits in taxpayers’ behalf, and Eric did so.
New York’s Attorney General declined to sign on to the lawsuit with Eric. A Buffalo law firm took the case on contingency fees, but after Citigroup failed to get the case tossed several times over several years, the suit wound to the inevitable end of almost all David-against-Goliath ventures, and Eric lost. New York’s masters of the universe were again too big to fail.
Eric is married to Helen, who herself holds a doctorate. They have four children still living, and one, washed by their tears and the precious blood of Jesus, in Heaven. She died along with Eric’s father and mother after their car was hit by an Amtrak train. Two other of Eric and Helen’s children were also in that car and, by God’s mercy, survived.
A year after Lizzie’s death, her grade school class invited the Rasmusen family to the school for a small observance in memory of their former classmate. Other than Eric, Helen, and their four remaining children, my wife and I were the only outsiders present. It was a terribly hot and humid day, and we were out in the blazing sun at midday as, one by one, each child of that class traipsed under two small saplings to hand Lizzie’s Mom and Dad a gift they had drawn, or some other expression of grief over Lizzie’s absence. Eric and Helen received each gift in turn—maybe twenty-five in all. There they stood, graciously leaning over and hugging and touching and thanking each of these little children, one by one. Such tender condescension!
I’ve taken several hundred words now to discuss Eric’s character. Why?
Because this is precisely what is at issue here in this matter of The People vs. Rasmusen. At least this is the nature of the charges filed by Professor Rasmusen’s self-appointed prosecutor, Indiana University Provost Lauren Robel. She is not concerned with scholarship. It is Eric’s character she went after.
What character defects, specifically?
Listed in a letter Dr. Robel wrote and sent out to the Kelley School of Business community, in order of appearance:
Prof. Rasmusen “disseminates… views” that are “racist,” “sexist,” and “homophobic.” Prof. Rasmusen “posts… pernicious and false stereotypes” including that “women do not belong in the workplace, particularly not in academia,” and that “most women would prefer to have a boss than be one.”
Provost Robel claims Prof. Rasmusen “has used slurs in his posts about women.”
Provost Robel claims Prof. Rasmusen believes that “gay men should not be permitted in academia,” that “they are promiscuous and unable to avoid abusing students,” that “black students are generally unqualified for attendance at elite institutions, and are generally inferior academically to white students.”
Provost Robel apologizes for having to get down in the gutter with Prof. Rasmusen, explaining:
“Ordinarily, I would not dignify these bigoted statements with repetition.”
Thing is, in the entire text of her letter thus far, Provost Robel has not used a single quotation mark. We must take her at her word that she is accurately quoting this perfect Enemy of the People, Professor Eric Rasmusen. No quotations. No citations.
Not even a single link. We must trust her. Everyone must trust her.
But there’s more: Prof. Rasmusen’s views are “stunningly ignorant.” His views are “more consistent with someone who lived in the 18th century than the 21st.”
Then Provost Robel summarizes the scandal Prof. Rasmusen causes Jesus Christ:
“Sometimes Professor Rasmusen explains his views as animated by his Christian faith, although Christ was neither a bigot nor did he use slurs; indeed, he counseled avoiding judgments.”
Provost Robel continues by accusing Prof. Rasmusen of “casting the first… lethal stone,” of writing posts “slurring women” that were “vile” and “stupid.” Provost Robel condemns Prof. Rasmusen’s “expressed views in the workplace to judge his students or colleagues on the basis of their gender, sexual orientation, or race to their detriment.”
Thing is, she tells readers Prof. Rasmusen has “expressed” these views, but we’re now many words into her letter and there still hasn’t appeared even a single quote mark. She’s Provost of a top-tier research university community of forty-thousand sending out a letter seeking to destroy the work and life of a fellow member of her faculty council and she has not a single link or citation proving the truthfulness of her accusations.
Readers ought to be stunned, but as an alum of UW-Madison, I’d watched the mind-numbing insecurity of Chancellor Donna Shalala and her campus hate-speech rules thrown out by the federal courts for violating the First Amendment, so I’m the opposite of stunned. Chancellors and provosts today are incredibly focussed on protecting their charges from any possible “hostile learning environment.”
After having her rules thrown out by the court, Chancellor Shalala remained adamant:
“At Madison, we never saw this rule as more than one tool in an array of tools to fight racism. If we cannot use this kind of rule, we will find other ways.”
This is the pathetic weakness of the pursuit of truth in higher education. As Alasdair MacIntyre diagnosed in After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, outside and inside the Academy today, men live in the prison of “emotivism” in which “the sole reality of distinctively moral discourse is the attempt of one will to align the attitudes, feelings, preferences, and choices of another with its own. Others are always means, never ends.”
MacIntyre further describes this prison in which “bureaucratic authority is nothing other than successful power” and “it is in terms of a relationship to bureaucracy that the self has to define itself.”1
Is anyone able to remain intellectually curious in this world whose bureaucratic enforcers are Chancellor Shalala and Provost Robel?
Maybe. Go ahead, give it a try and you’ll get a taste of the stultifying, moralistic nanny-state of the Academy today which has left intellectuals both female and male fantasizing about absconding with their students to some place up on Alaska’s tundra where they’re free to teach them to think. But instead, here they remain, down in the lower 48 having to “align the attitudes, feelings, preferences, and choices” of students with the “attitudes, feelings, preferences, and choices” of powerful bureaucrats.
Of course Provost Robel doesn’t provide a single quotation of Prof. Rasmusen. To Provost Robel, it is not logic, reason, or truth at the heart of the Academy, but “attitudes, feelings, and preferences.”
Take a look at what sent Provost Robel over the edge. This is the smoking gun in Prof. Rasmusen’s hand which Provost Robel refused to allow her mob to read. She didn’t quote it. She didn’t even provide a screen shot.
Remember, Eric is intellectually curiouser than most, leaving some of us feeling threatened.
If you use Twitter, you know it’s common for users to paste a quote they find interesting, along with the link. The point isn’t the link, but the quote. And the point of tweeting the quote is not to agree, but to wonder whether…
“Why would anyone want to wonder” you ask?
Here we go again: intellectual curiosity.
Eric’s thing isn’t the social sciences. It isn’t measuring intelligence, nor is it the nature/nurture origins or traits associated with genius. But scanning headlines (he has told everyone he just skimmed the article), his interest was piqued by this statement (which he did subscribers the favor of placing inside quote marks):
“… geniuses are overwhelmingly male because they combine outlier high IQ with moderately low Agreeableness and moderately low Conscientiousness.”
This is what motivated Provost Robel’s vicious attack upon my friend Professor Eric Rasmusen.
Prof. Rasmusen did not say or imply that he agreed with this text he quoted. He put it up because he thought it was interesting. Because he thought it might provoke thought.
But enough with all this!
Down with the distinction between making a definitive statement about your own views and posting some quote that interests you. While we’re at it, down with quote marks and quotes.
Just smear Professor Rasmusen. Not only with the quote he found curious, but imply to everyone that he wrote that quote and it demonstrates his sexism. Smear Eric with the title in the link he helpfully provided, then pour on by assuring everyone that Prof. Rasmusen believes “women do not belong in the workplace, particularly not in academia.”2
After all, that’s the implication (I guess?) of the headline (he didn’t write) over the link (he simply provided) to the quote (he didn’t write) saying “geniuses are overwhelmingly male because they combine outlier high IQ with moderately low Agreeableness and moderately low Conscientiousness” (which Eric did not tweet in order to declare his agreement).
The mob feels that Eric is a monster.
Well, Eric happens to be my friend and parishioner, and I spent much time at the beginning of this article demonstrating Eric is no monster. Provost Robel has her story and I have mine. We both know Eric on a first-name basis. It’s possible to feel any number of ways about Eric—which is why it might be nice, before we get out the torches and pitchforks, to check into the facts.
But for the sake of argument, let’s say Eric is every bit the monster that Provost Robel portrays him as. Let’s say the evidence is all there, plain as day.
Even if this were so, it’s telling that Provost Robel didn’t feel the need to give even a shred of evidence. She knew the Woke Mob wouldn’t require it.
One final point: this is why there’s no making peace with the Mob. No matter how much handwringing the church does over its past “intolerance”; no matter how much Christ’s people eagerly claim we are making space for Ls, for Gs, for Bs, for Ts, for Qs—for whomever; it will never be enough.
As long as the church makes any call for people to obey God and repent of their sins, the people who belong to Jesus will be a threat to worldlings.
Too often the church distances herself from men like Professor Rasmusen. We are tempted to think if we distance ourselves from Professor Rasmusen, the Mob will go after him instead of us.
But to allow the Mob to go after anyone is to empower the Mob. And when we empower the Mob, one day soon it will come for us.
Eric Rasmusen served many years as the Dan R. and Catherine M. Dalton Professor of Economics at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. Receiving his bachelors and masters at Yale, Eric did his PhD work at MIT. Eric has been an Olin Faculty Fellow at Yale Law School, Senior Research Fellow at Harvard Law School, Visiting Professor at the University of Tokyo; and most recently a visitor at Nuffield College, Oxford.
[ + ]
|1.||↑||Third ed., pp. 24, 26, 31.|
|2.||↑||One of the more telling dissimulations promulgated by the mainstream media against Prof. Rasmusen came in a Washington Post piece titled, “I have never ever ever seen a university statement like this. My G_d.” Written by Valerie Strauss, the Post declared Prof. Rasmusen the author of the entire article from which he had tweeted simply a single phrase.
It’s hard to fathom how such a mistake could have been made unless, perhaps, Ms. Strauss was as incensed as Provost Robel. It took one hour and fifty-two minutes for the mistake to be corrected, but even after correction of the most egregious manifestation of the error in her piece, Strauss refused to clarify remaining wording by which she continued to lead readers to think, mistakenly, that Prof. Rasmusen was the author of the Unz Review article.
This is not the first time we have engaged with Ms. Strauss and left the exchange not trusting her or her publication. (If anyone is interested in the documentation, just let us know.)