The Health Hazards Of Government
Edith Efron's "Behind the Cancer Terror" (May) overlooked one of the biggest causes of cancer in our society-one that, fortunately, can be quickly eliminated by bold government action.
Consider this syllogism: scientific research has established that stress potentiates and in some instances "causes" cancer. One of the biggest causes of stress in our society is government-its oppressive taxes, secret police, intrusive regulations, and the like. Therefore, government causes cancer.
As Efron noted, certain scientists and government regulators have sought to ban chemicals judged hypothetically able to cause cancer only in the single most susceptible person in our nation. Would any scientist deny the possibility that stress caused by, say, the Internal Revenue Service has caused cancer in susceptible taxpayers? How many will die 30 or 40 years hence because of the stress the IRS causes today? Does an environment polluted with government-caused stress react synergistically with otherwise-harmless chemicals to cause cancer?
Until science better understands the subtle links between government and stress and cancer, the only prudent and responsible policy is for government health agencies to impose rules forbidding all stress-causing activities by all government tax, police, and regulatory agencies. Surely those who have long and loud professed concern with public health and well-being will agree, will take up the "Stop Government-caused Cancer" banner, and will support lawsuits by millions of cancer victims against our stressful government. It's time the scientific community acknowledged that the bigger government gets, the more hazardous it is to our health.
Lowell Ponte, Carlsbad, CA
Ideas, Not Dollars The Ultimate Defense
Congratulations on your April editorial ("Defending Everyone?") wondering why-and how-the Pentagon is committed to defend more than 40 nations strung around the globe. It reminds me of Henry Hazlitt's classic of the late 1940s Will Dollars Save the World? published by the Foundation for Economic Education. I don't mean to minimize the need for national defense but you and Hazlitt are correct-neither dollars nor guns will save the world. But ideas can, for, as Richard Weaver reminded us, they do have consequences.
William H. Peterson, University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, TN
Water, Not Walls For Mideast Peace
I was glad to see that Reason had the editorial courage to publish a controversial proposal such as Sam Cohen's "Wall Against War" (March)-even if it is questionable on technical, military, economic, political, and moral grounds.
Technically, it is difficult to understand how Cohen's radiation barrier could be made to work as described: innocuous to bystanders 3,000 feet distant, but instant death to aggressors at point-blank range. Militarily, it seems that a barrier of this sort would be only marginally effective: incapable of impeding air attacks, but substantially impeding (if not precluding) the Israelis' heretofore highly successful strategy of counteroffensive action. Economically, it is difficult to believe Cohen: a complex of multiple underground reactors; radiochemical processing, treatment, and disposal facilities; several thousand miles of leakproof piping; and over 2,000 square miles of modern Maginot Line, but constructed for "roughly several billion dollars."
Even more significant, perhaps, are the political and moral shortcomings of Cohen's wall. Politically, he would treat the symptoms of a problem (warfare) without bothering to deal with the problem itself (conflicting territorial claims). The willingness of Arab nations to aggress against Israel does not stem from their misperception of Israel as a weak nation. Indeed, Israel has demonstrated the contrary fact consistently over the past 30 years. How can the presence of a new barrier deter the Arabs from aggression, when its most likely effect will be to intensify their discontent over territory they feel is being unjustly withheld from them? And morally, Cohen's proposal takes for granted the notion of irremediable racial conflict and seeks only to perpetuate the animosity between Israel and its neighbors by erecting a deadly fence between them.
Is there no solution that would attempt to reconcile the Arabs and the Jews by an appeal to their mutual interests? One of the greatest needs, and most prized resources, of the Arab nations is fresh water. The discontent over land stems partly from the scarcity of this commodity. Instead of developing a massive atomic technology to produce millions of gallons per day of radioactive poison, why couldn't Israel instead apply that technology to the large-scale desalinization of seawater, wherewith the Arab lands may be made to bloom? Surely, the Arabs would welcome such a miracle and would be reluctant to raise arms against such beneficence. But this path to peace would require a policy based on reconciliation with and respect for the lives of one's enemies-a path that, of all paths, should surely harmonize with the Hebrew faith.
Michael J. Dunn Auburn, WA