Paul Jacob

In the Gambling Capital of America, Las Vegas, Nevada, a professor of economics is being hounded by the city's proud university, his employer. The university's bureaucracy has risen from its swollen haunches to "defend" a student with a complaint. The professor had not singled out the student. Nor had he called anyone names. He had been trying to explain a technical concept ? one, amusingly enough, that helps explain why people gamble ? and had dared discuss homosexual men and women in that context. He is at risk of public reprimand and loss of a pay raise.

Now, you might think that an institution in Las Vegas, of all places, would be built on a strict idea of contract, with all the traditions of freedom that implies, including a great deal of academic freedom.


Well, Nevada was the first gambling state, and the argument for legalizing gambling comes straight from the freedom of contract. Even a contract as one-sided as between a gambler and a casino is still a contract. If you want to risk your money for a trivial reason, go ahead ? it's your money; just don't make me risk mine.

But at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, such a respect for the right to contract ? and thus speak ? apparently doesn't apply to college professors.

Professor Hans-Hermann Hoppe was explaining to his banking class one day what "time preference" was. If one has a high time preference, one plans less for the future, preferring to spend money now rather than save for it later. A person with such a time preference would be more likely to smoke, less likely to invest, more likely to climb mountains, less likely to buy health insurance, more likely to drink alcohol and drive . . . or be promiscuous.

The terminology comes from the Austrian School of Economics, to which Prof. Hoppe belongs, but has become standard stuff in many disciplines.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.