Letters to the Editor
I would like to reply to your editorial comments in the December, 1969 issue of Reason, concerning the growing up of rock music.
That issue was the first of your magazine that I have read, and, being a student of Objectivism, I am glad to see a work such as yours being published.
I can appreciate your enthusiasm at seeing the intrusion of rationality, in the form of classical music, into rock music: but I must take issue with what you choose to regard as a good sign.
I have not heard any of the selections you listed in your "Editor's Notes," and can only recall one use of pre-twentieth century music in a rock composition: a Bach horn fanfare in the Beatle's " Penny Lane." Aside from lifting this bit complete, the only other methods I can see of how a "fusion of rock, jazz, and classical" can take place are (1) to take a melody from one source and harmonize and/or orchestrate it differently for another set of instruments, (2) borrow certain orchestration styles which belong uniquely to one composer and adapt them to a melody of one's own choosing, or (3) to imitate the dynamics of a composer's harmony—in other words, to fragment an artwork, or even an artstyle, and reassemble the parts into something of one's own whim. When this was projected into a work of fiction concerning the fragmenting of a human body, the Frankenstein monster was the result.
Think of what would happen if similar license were to be taken in other art forms: the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel rendered in pointillism; King Lear newly presented as a broadway musical; a copy of Taliesin West constructed in a cold, wet climate; Atlas Shrugged as a Reader's Digest condensed book; Swan Lake performed, not by dancers, but by choreography plots flashed as diagrams on a screen at appropriate points in the music. This, in essence, is what fusing a finished work of art with something else will amount to.
It is self-defeating to fragment complete works of music, because doing so distorts some element of the composer's idea by dropping its context. The composers themselves were certainly most aware of the capabilities of the media for which they wrote. Beethoven did not write the same melodies and harmonies for his piano sonatas as for his string quartets. His string quartets do not attempt the complex layers of sound constructed for his symphonies. His symphonies and overtures were both scored for orchestra, but the intent of each is enough to place them in separate categories.
Modern classical musicians are now very aware of such distinctions. Bach is no longer performed with a Wagnerian orchestra (and Wagner would sound ridiculous played on Baroque instruments); orchestrations of pianoworks are now rarely performed; Liszt's piano transcriptions of Beethoven's symphonies are of little more than curiosity value.
The point I am trying to make after all this, is that the original composer knew what he was doing, his work sounds best when performed the way he wrote it, and a new adaptation, arrangement, or plagiarism of his work will do little to enhance it. Encouragement should be given to originality rather than timid imitation. Progress in music will be made by surpassing the genius of Tchaikovsky and Wagner, not by slavishly repeating their forms and ideas.
Substantially, I agree with you. Your comments only repeat what I mentioned in my notes. My objection to the Santan reorchestration, for example, failed because Santana's strong point is its intricate rhythms, not its melody lines, and melody is what someone attempted to transfer to the symphony. A mistake, that's all it was.
However, I do disagree with your idea that composers shouldn't use the ideas of others. There is no particular reason why one should treat musical techniques any differently than any other kind of data.
Just because a scientist developed a certain lab technique to accomplish a particular goal, doesn't mean you can't use that technique in a totally different context (unless, of course, the technique is property). Just because GE makes its light bulbs with the expectation that they will be used as light bulbs doesn't prevent me from breaking one open for raw materials. The question, I suppose, is whether you use the raw materials, the techniques, well or poorly. Your listeners will let you know that quickly enough. —ed.
I would like to speak of the November 1969 articles by Tibor Machan, Lanny Friedlander and Jarret Wollstein. First, Mr. Machan.
Mr. Machan's paper does not begin with a clear-cut definition of "justice," nor does he proceed to relate that concept to the moral base from which he implicitly argues. Rather, he immediately begins using the term in his second sentence. Meanwhile, Mr. Machan is a Ph.D. candidate in Philosophy.
With even careful reading, much of his writing—certainly the first and last sections of his paper—is unclear; under the force of questioning, many of his statements on page 9 become less than meaningful. Implicit in his writing—at least there is a good suggestion of it—is a deterministic psychology, or the belief that man's free will resides in his choice of actions. (I would be glad to elucidate with regard to this paragraph.)
A last general comment about his paper concerns the second to last paragraph. In a personal way, I am astounded at what it says, for it is a statement following pages which denounce the injustice of the welfare state. Considering this, the statement at the end of his paper is truly incredible.
Following are two reasons why Mr. Machan's paper should be read with extreme care. They point out two of several contradictions.
"If anything is properly designated unjust [to whom? and why?] it is a situation where someone is either enjoying or suffering consequences not caused by him. (This…may be applied to the enjoyment of gifts and inheritance; [note the word "gifts" as well!]; however, to prevent the resulting injustice would involve a more serious form of injustice, in most cases ["in most cases"?—what does that mean?] the usurpation of the rights of individuals to distribute what is theirs to willing takers.)(p.9)
Objectively, one right cannot contradict another right; therefore, the alleviation of injustice caused by the violating of one human right cannot in itself cause an injustice—or a "more serious form of injustice" (my italics)—to be perpetrated against another human right.
Near the end of the paper, Mr. Machan discusses the draft. He states, in part:
"Of course, some decisions and acts [of the draftee], once the limits of decision-making have been set by law, are the draftee's own. It would, therefore, be false to hold that he was responsible for nothing. (p. 12)"
But, two sentences later he states that the determination of responsibility—"the linking of cause and effect in human action"—is an impossibility, due to conscription. Which is to say that the draftee is responsible for some things (the first quotation), but no one can determine what they are (the second quotation). Then how can Mr. Machan write that the draftee is responsible for some thing(s)?—if no one knows what these things are. Or, what makes Mr. Machan write the first statement? Why does he feel that the draftee is responsible for some thing(s)—while intellectually, he has arrived at the conclusion that no one can point out such areas of justifiable responsibility?
An answer to that question will reveal further contradictions in his paper.
"The Cops: Heros or Villains: (Lanny Friedlander)
"If, in order to achieve a free society, men must be rational, once established that society tends to provide continuing economic incentives toward rationality. (p. 6)(my italics)
"If one assumes a cultural context in which men do choose to exercise rationality.…(p.6)"
With statements that begin with the above, what must be scrutinized is that which follows such statements. For there is the tendency to predicate rationality as the given, which subsequently serves to justify some proposition, such as a new police system. Rationality should not even be implied as a given. As noted by the word "choose" in the quotation, to be rational during a span of time means to choose to be rational during that time. The tendency to forget this, leads to the last phrase of the following three: 1. If men choose to be rational…2. If men are rational…
3. In a rational society.… Thus, we can easily end up with the fantasy: In a rational society, the policeman on the beat would not be necessary; therefore—.…
"…even police work is just a service. like insurance or fire protection, (p.4, my italics)"
The connotation of the italicized phrase should make one stop and question: Shooting down a sniper by the police—is that just a service?—retaliation against the (suspected) initiation of force—is that just a service?—the maintaining of the peace and the law—is that just a service, like insurance or fire protection? In the moral-legal sense, the maintaining of the peace and the enforcement of law are not "just a service, like insurance or fire protection." And the police, as part of the method by which law is enforced, do not represent or symbolize "just a service."
"[Since] the laws of a mixed economy [including the 'laws of a seemingly admirable quality'] are perverted by a penal system that concentrates, not on restitution to the victim, but on 'punishment' of the criminals, justice is not served, rights are not protected, (p. 6)"
Before you can say that justice is not served, you have to identify explicitly what you mean by "justice," and thereby indicate in what manner "rights are not protected."
And what is the difference between "restitution" and "punishment"? Consider the following: The restitution of actual value (plus interest and court charges) destroyed by the offender—in the way that you have written it merely focuses on the monetary paying back of such, and does not focus on the fact that a right has been violated, and that it is the violation of this right which the rational law adjudicates. In other words, it is first whether a theft has been committed, and second what the nature of the theft is, that the rational court considers. But what you imply is merely of the order of a loan having been taken out, which must now be called—or the collection of insurance as per service, or the putting out of a fire by the fire department. At least the concept of "punishment" does at least imply a link to, or a consequence of, willful violation of right(s), over and above any monetary restitution.
"So long as men thought there was sufficient gain to be had by preventing some particular sort of crime or prosecuting some particular criminal, they would do so." (p.7)
If the "or" in the quotation is supposed to mean "that is," then in effect you are saying this if some men thought there was no sufficient gain, they would not bother to do anything about the crime: that is, they would in effect be sanctioning the crime. But let us just focus only on the last phrase—of men finding it profitable to prosecute some particular criminal.
If it is profitable to prosecute a particular criminal, we may then go back one step in our reasoning and say that the crime he committed was a "profit yielding" action to the victim (see quotation). Thus that particular type of crime becomes a value to the "victim," because it yields a good "profit." This type of situation would act as a further incentive for the thinking behind the human being who burns down his own house, and then calls on the service of the insurance company (to pay up)—except now, he would further call on Crime Inc. to frame someone, and then finally he would call on the "service" of the police to grab that someone, in order that he might accrue a net profit, less a pay off of 5% to Crime, Inc. and 10% to the police: that particular crime might be well worth the risk, according to that type of thinking.
"…no social structure can supersede the laws of supply and demand." (p. 7)
And the demand is for crimes yielding a good profit to the "victim," and the supply is met by Crime, Inc., who have the police on the payroll and whose motto is "Frame-Up Guaranteed."
"In a free society, every act of coercion…would be a source of potential profit for honest men [what about dishonest men?]" (p. 7)
If we have criminals and false arrests now, do you think that the occurrence of such would decrease if, for example, false arrest became a profitable "business'? And two sentences later, you write:
"[Thus, this potential profit is] one way in which the elimination of specific acts of criminality would tend to increase profits (of police agencies and related firms) and, thus, incentive." (p. 7; my italics)
But, as you wrote, it is the committing of crimes that "would be a source of potential profit for honest men." The profit making is dependent first on the committing of crimes.
In essence, amongst other things, you are subjecting the validity of a human right to the test of whether the price—or percentage asked by the police (for the police would surely ask for a percentage of the profits)—is low enough to warrant taking into account the violation of that human right.
I rather think the implicit principles that you are setting up in your thesis need to be identified somewhat more explicitly; then, you can proceed—or retract.
(Note: the pronoun "you" was used in the above on the assumption that Mr. Friedlander is reading the above, personally.)
And last, Mr. Wollstein: Mr. Wollstein is editor (or a staff member) of the Rational Individualist, and President of the Society of Individual Liberty. In the middle of his thesis, Mr. Wollstein writes:
"Let me make absolutely clear what I have so far conclusively proven. I have so far demonstrated that if one believes [sic] in the concept of man's right to retaliate (and arrest, incarcerate and judge) at all, then one must accept the fact that private agencies could morally be established for this purpose, and that government cannot morally interfere with their operation so long as they only retaliate force." (p. 17)
Well, let me make absolutely clear that Mr. Wollstein is absolutely and conclusively right. Except for one detail that he forgot to take into account, in his excitement. I will name this one little detail, and if someone is interested in Mr. Wollstein's "conclusively proven" thesis, he will read—or reread—the thesis, apply this one very small inconsequential detail, and watch the thesis become a bubble unconnected to man and his rights.
The omitted detail: The accused ALSO has the right to self-defense.
Apply this detail, and what it necessitates, and watch the Wollstein thesis collapse.
Some complementary thoughts to the above detail: Restated, it reads: The accused has the right to be judged according to an objective legal code; restated: You and I are innocent until proven guilty according to an objective legal code enacted through a process that guarantees my innocence—and yours, and Mr. Wollstein's—until proof of guilt is established; restated: self-defense means self-defense against the criminal, the government, and the accuser (which could be Mr. Wollstein, along with his private police force, in some back alley—arresting, judging, and incarcerating, by God knows what standards); restated: What one delegates to the government is the absolute requirement that they protect you against the initiation of force; to be accused, followed by the act of incarceration, is an initiation of force if one is innocent.
Here is a consideration: The law and its penalties—as well as the policeman on the beat—act as a deterrent, and in that sense, protect us who are sitting at home. But the moment a law is violated, the power of the legal system is aimed at protecting the accused—for this is the implementation of the accused's right to self-defense: I am innocent until proven guilty, and it is the government which protects me from Mr. Wollstein's and other's private police forces. That is the concept, which, although not fully practiced now and is violated by evil laws, does make today's state of injustice in North America a far better state than that which would obtain as a result of the Wollstein thesis.
Currently libertarians including anarchists, free market economists, students of Objectivism, classical liberals, limited statists, and others are actively discussing whether we can and/or should do away with government or not. The purpose of this note is to suggest 1) that the seeming division is not important today and 2) that it really boils down to a misunderstanding of terms rather than a different version of what a free society would be like.
First, if you see attainment of a free society by the reduction of power of the existing governmental institutions, you realize that this is going to take us a while. Libertarians can work together to eliminate all government functions except police, courts and defense. When that is all that the government does, those of us who are anarchists (and who haven't left the struggle to enjoy the abundant personal pleasures of that near-paradise) will argue for the further privatization of this and that function. That will be the time to argue, not now, with so much work for libertarians to do.
Secondly, we seem to be using the words government and anarchy differently. Most libertarians who insist on government tend to define it as any arrangement by which a geographic area is controlled. Thus, a president, a dictator, a war lord, a corporation board of directors, and a private property owning individual are all the governments of the areas they control and have the final say in disputes in those areas.
These limited statists rightfully argue that anarchy or no-government can not exist. And indeed, it can not, because they have expanded their category (government) to include all the items (all systems) and left the other category (no government) empty (except, perhaps for the periods of transition between stable systems, periods usually of fighting and upheaval).
But for those who oppose government, anarchy has a different meaning. Coming from the Greek word Anarchos which means rulerless, anarchy is a system in which free men voluntarily associate with each other and peaceably settle disputes and establish agreements that they live by. The opposite is any system in which some group of men (government) imposes its will by force upon a people in an area.
There is no effort here to establish which are the "correct" definitions of these terms. I simply wish to suggest that we can agree (and I will use different terms) that a free society is one of voluntary association. The agreements that govern it are real "social contracts" (unlike the Constitution which you and I never signed). They would be more like the Articles of Confederation that was an agreement among States that did not confer powers of taxation and regulation on the Confederation Congress.
Looking at such a system from the bottom up we begin with the individual. Since he has conflicts with his neighbors, in order to avoid violence, he will form agreements with them on the rules of the community. One of these rules will establish how the community will relate to other communities. Communities will also associate with each other to settle disputes and to provide for defense and these associations will, in turn, get together with other associations to handle broader questions.
If you want a mental picture of this, think of a lot of communities at the local level; regional associations that handle problems of pollution, extradition of criminals, suppression of regionally unacceptable practices such as slavery or spitting on the sidewalks; an Articles of Confederation Congress and Supreme Court on the "national" level providing for the "national" defense and protecting civil liberties; and on the "international" level a NATO type organization providing collective defense and treaties settling disputes.
Since anarchy has such bad (and mistaken) connotations and since it has caused so much confusion among libertarians, perhaps we should speak of libertarianism, voluntary association, decentralization of power, individual freedom, free markets, etc. (Also, anarchy has little more appeal among students in general and the New Left in particular than libertarianism, etc.)
(However, I must admit that it sure feels good to call yourself an anarchist when you have just heard about the latest government atrocity.)
I appreciate your emphasis upon libertarian principles. Lately I have noted a number of improvements in your format and content. Your analyses of the state and its excesses are usually excellent, although I didn't appreciate the "pop art" cartoons on the New Left—nothing against pop art, but the approach to the Left seemed like overkill.
How about some analysis of some of the good done by SDS, etc.—such as NCUP, Woodlawn, breakfast programs, etc.
I find the editor's notes interesting and informative and would like to see more letters from readers published.
I found that I disagree with just about everything that was contained in your November issue. However, I think you showed great courage in printing them. Even in my disagreement, I learned from the articles. Overall, I think you are doing first-rate and hope to see you expand even further in the future. Meanwhile, I will continue to tell my friends about your magazine and do everything in my power to help you increase your subscription list.
Concerning the November issue, I am sending you separately my detailed comments on it. My only real complaint is the delay in the last two issues. However, disagreement notwithstanding, they were worth the wait. Keep up the good work.
I would like to apologize for the delay. I am working hard to put the magazine back on schedule—as well as turn it into the best of its kind. Thanks for your help. —ed.