Letters to the Editor


"I extend to you my heartiest congratulations on the Nov. issue of Reason. Your article on the police, Tibor Machan's on justice, and Jarret Wollstein's letter all combined made it the best of the issues I've seen. I had nigh thought you'd forgotten us out here in subscribers' land, but I see from your remarks on anarcho-capitalism that you knew what's on our minds. Congratulations are due you on yet another account. I was well aware that you had been confronted with the issue of anarchy (I am one of those who don't shrink from the term) vs. archy, and I was becoming anxious because of your silence. As you may know, both of the major sources of Objectivist literature and other materials have disgracefully defaulted in this area: Academic Associates openly by explicitly refusing to deal with anarchists and THE OBJECTIVIST by refusal to discuss the issue even to the extent that AA does. The issue with respect to these attitudes is much more than anarchy vs. archy, but rather extends itself to the issue of intellectual integrity. Your policy of making a part of your magazine a discussion forum and of 'no longer brushing aside interesting issues in favor of recapitulation of well-known…principles' indicates that Reason will be of little value to those Efron calls 'bromidic Objectivists' and that intellectual integrity and truth will determine the content of Reason's pages, and not lip service to principles that require application more than repetition to those who have accepted them".
Ronn Neff,
Bloomington, Ind.

"I have some questions about your article, 'Cops …'. Of course I don't expect you to dash off a direct response. Perhaps answers will find their way into future articles. I'll just list these questions in rapid-fire fashion. Are you saying that police forces ought not to be '…state controlled, run, or owned…'? Or that, though an arm of the government, they should be run on a profit-less basis? Or that, state controlled or not, non-non-profit or not, it would be most rational for each individual to be required to pay a fee as a condition for police protection? If the answer to any of these questions is 'yes', why? Also, with respect to the 'discovering' rather than 'passing' of laws, are you advocating a type of technocracy (since the discoverers are not to be legislators)? And/or who would determine which professors and R and D men will be these whose discoveries are to be enforced as laws? I hope that Reason can continue in its present format and especially applaud your intention to have more complex articles and articles more exclusively philosophical".
Eric Mack.

The answer to your first set of questions is yes. The "why" will indeed show up in future issues. In your second set of questions, you should note your use of the term "law" in two different senses, an occurrence that has confused conversation on this subject when I've spoken about the police to groups in the past. I'll better answer your questions in coming months.

"I would like to make an attempt to answer some of the statements made by Mr. Wollstein in the latest issue of Reason. First, however, I would like to make some comments on the nature of the debate which has occurred on this topic. First, it is notable that this debate is the first serious philosophical discussion in a national scale in which the founders of Objectivism have not taken part. This might be indeed a sign of a 'coming of age' of the adherents of our philosophy, since the principles are being seriously challenged, and must be defended (or abandoned) according to our own independent judgment. This is indeed a healthy sign that Objectivism is not (contrary to the opinions of Dr. Albert Ellis) a religion, but a philosophy. I would like to take a look at the problem that has been raised, and take some tentative steps toward an answer. I would welcome any comments pro or con that anyone might like to make. The problem seems to lie with laws, and with the technical workings of a rational government, if such can exist. The question is 'Who is to decide what laws should exist?' and 'Why should there be a monopoly on their enforcement?' To begin with, laws are abstract principles. They are rules governing the actions of entities. Like the laws of physics, economics, or social interactions. They are not directly observable. They require the use of man's conceptual faculties. This, however, does not mean that they are arbitrary or unknowable. Concepts are objective. They are principles governing bodies 'out there' as perceived 'in here'. They have objective, existing referents. I belabor this point in order to emphasize that they can be objectively verified. If they can be objectively verified they can be written down. Note that it is not a matter of agreement with the laws. If concepts are objective, they are objective. The number of people who use them or agree with them is absolutely irrelevant. This is a fundamental epistemological concept, and is one of the major contributions of Objectivism to the science (supposedly) of philosophy. Now, the basic laws governing human social interactions are called rights. They have been effectively formulated and verified elsewhere. If one accepts that such a formulation is possible, why is not a similar formulation for all other laws governing social interaction possible, given such epistemological 'buts' as context and current knowledge. If principles are objectively verifiable, they can be written down. Therefore an objectively correct legal code can exist. The fact that one does not yet exist is irrelevant. It is also irrelevant whether all people agree with it or not. They rarely do. All that matters is that it be correct. But to deny that this is possible is to postulate unknowable knowledge, an obvious contradiction. Now in a given geographical area, people may acquire power who are acquainted with these principles. Since these principles are correct, it is perfectly moral to establish an agency, voluntarily funded, to enforce them. Since they are correct, and, assuming they are adhered to, there can be no political objection to the agency. If the laws are being violated, the agency can be removed. Whether this removal takes the form of bloody revolution or public censure depends on the circumstances. So far, no one has any reason to object to a government monopoly on the retaliatory use of force, since the rules governing its use are objectively set down, and numerous devices will exist for ensuring compliance. The only other objection that could be raised is one of efficiency. Numerous devices could be postulated for ensuring that the government is the most efficient. Other objections are less important. Mr. Wollstein asks how governments got their geographical jurisdictions. Given an objective set of laws, this question is also irrelevant. It will not matter which 'country' you live in. In fact, the concept 'country' will likely disappear to be replaced with loose, overlapping jurisdictional areas. Since all laws will be the same, it won't matter where you live. The only consideration will be cultural and linguistic. Note that since the purpose of the agencies will be to protect their citizens it will be the duty of the agency to provide facilities for people not speaking the language of the 'country'. The opponents of the 'anarcho-capitalistic' theory usually raise numerous practical objections. The defenders assert that the practical follows the moral. This is true. But, if you produce an obvious, flagrant impracticality, it is a strong indication of incorrect moral reasoning, since the connection between morality and reality is a two-headed arrow. The theory views all competing defense agencies as valid, pro-rights institutions, with the same social status. No one agency is to have any more moral right to exist than any other, nor any less. If all human beings acted in their own objective self-interest, this assumption might be valid. However, we are operating in a context where the absence of this condition is the point of discussion. If asked what would occur if agencies differed on their interpretation, defenders of the theory usually state that 'It would not be in their rational self-interest to do so'. I submit that the Mafia would desire to foster as much dissent and conflict among other defense agencies as possible. (It would, of course, be one itself). In addition, the laws of the market do not apply to such an agency. Market laws operate when force has been excluded. Other laws do when it has not. Any social system granting equal status to my defense agency and Murder, Inc. has a very serious flaw in it. Yet there is no provision for any institutional recognition of the difference between the two. There is only gang warfare. In conclusion, not only can a single government exist using objective, correct law, no other kind is practical in a peaceful society. Because we are dealing with human irrationality in this issue, it is incorrect to expect rationality on both sides. Until someway shows me a way around this massive impossibility, I will continue to advocate limited constitutional government, with all that I have said herein contained within that phrase".
Geoffrey Nathan
President, Radicals for Capitalism
Toronto, Ont.

"In your November issue you mention a magazine, The Rational Individualist. Would you please send me information on subscribing to this magazine".

Raymond E. Cole
Pasadena, California

Write: S.I.L., 800 Hillsboro Dr, Silver Spring, Md. 20902.

"I am a serious student of Objectivism, and I do not wish to be associated with your publication in any way. Please cancel my subscription".

Mrs. Esther Lake
Southfield, Michigan