Ronald Bailey's "The Battle for Your Brain" (February) seemed more like a persuasive pill popping agenda than an article. Evidently, in the future, the avant-garde population will be popping pills for memory and intellectual enhancement. We can dispense with that old-fashioned humanity of self-will, self-awareness, self-discipline, and self-control in favor of drugs. That must delight the billion-dollar pharmaceutical companies. Did Bailey figure out the cost over one's life span?
Dorothy J. Caruso
Balboa Island, CA
In his otherwise excellent article, Ronald Bailey glosses over one of the most important real-world concerns of neuroethics: the danger that neurological enhancements will become difficult to refuse. Bailey attempts to refute this with two arguments: 1) improved brainpower won't necessarily lead to success, and 2) higher education also increases brainpower, and nobody's limiting access to that.
The first argument is clearly irrelevant. Whatever drive, ambition, or other personality characteristics one has, increased brainpower is almost certain to increase one's chances of success in any but the most mindless pursuits. In my opinion, merely this increased chance will lead to huge demand for brain-enhancing drugs.
The second argument misses the point that popping a pill will be far, far easier than pursuing an advanced degree. Let's say a recent high school graduate has two options that will increase brainpower equally: pop a pill once a day, or earn a four-year college degree. Which will he choose?
There is a clear parallel that helps illustrate my points: anabolic steroids. Drawing a parallel to Bailey's first argument, millions of student athletes have used steroids to increase strength, despite the fact that they are illegal and dangerous. Only a tiny fraction of them will reach the professional ranks, much less become superstars. That does not stop them, however, from responding to competitive pressure on their own, smaller battlefields.
To draw a parallel to Bailey's second argument, I have spent 20 years building a top-notch physique without using steroids. (I am a fitness trainer and bodybuilder.) A complete beginner could surpass me in less than six months by using steroids. If they were legal, cheap, and had no side effects, which option would be more rational?
The debate becomes interesting if one assumes that neurological drugs will have dangerous side effects (as virtually all drugs do). If so, the government may very well have an interest in controlling these drugs, as with anabolic steroids. Of course, one could argue that dangerous drugs should be legal, but that an argument different from Bailey's.
Colorado Springs, CO
Wrecks and Renewal
In "Wrecking Property Rights" (February), Sam Staley does a nice job in showing the dangers of eminent domain when government overreaches. But the examples he gives pale in comparison to the deliberate and wholesale destruction of ethnic neighborhoods in major cities by federal planners in the period after World War II, under the guise of "urban renewal."
This sordid chapter of American history isn't taught in schools. But it is fully articulated in The Slaughter of the Cities: Urban Renewal as Ethnic Cleansing, by E. Michael Jones. Focusing on four cities -- Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Chicago -- Jones proves that the destruction of ethnic neighborhoods was not a case of good intentions gone bad but rather was the intent of the undertaking from the very start.
This book is not conspiracy theory run amok but documented research of the highest order. The abuse of government trust here should be of great concern to all libertarians. For me, the interest is more personal. I always wondered what destroyed my 1950-'60s Irish-Italian neighborhood outside of Newark, New Jersey. Now I know.
Peter Kenny Skurkiss
Chester Township, NJ