I think it unfortunate that a magazine named REASON printed Robert Poole, Jr's article supporting a theft-financed school voucher system.
Rational men cannot and do not tolerate rights violations in their society. You would not find a John Galt, for example, advocating a scheme which steals from some men and gives to others (stealing is the act of taking possession of a man's rightful property without his consent).
The highest, most noble ends in the universe cannot justify the means of achieving them when those means violate a man's rights. If you want education on a moral basis—get the state OUT!
South Pasadena, Calif.
Mr. Poole replies: Rational men who choose to continue to live in a society which violates rights must determine the most effective ways to promote change in the direction of increased legal recognition of rights. Merely stamping one's foot and "not tolerating" rights violations does nothing to change the system.
As I took pains to point out, for a number of reasons I think education vouchers offer the single best hope of creating the necessary preconditions for ending tax financing of education, namely, the creation of a large number of competing private schools and the development of a consumer orientation among the purchasers of educational services. Persons such as Mr. Eenigenburg should keep in mind that proposed voucher systems do not inherently add any new coercion or taxation to that which already exists; they merely cause a (highly desirable) change in the way the tax money is disbursed.
Opponents should also note that the voucher system is the only major educational reform with any reasonable chance of being adopted. Calling for tax exceptions or the abolition of tax financing of education may sound nicer, but it is basically wishful thinking at this point in time. Libertarians should identify and work for evolutionary reforms that have some reasonable chance of success, rather than talking to themselves or tilting windmills.
I enjoyed the "Trends" column, PAY AS YOU EARN (REASON, June 1971), as your answer to Jencks' question of how most students would ever afford to attend college if the taxpayers did not provide the funds.
I think the PAYE plan is a market answer to the problem of students who wish to attend college but cannot immediately afford to. However, there are two points in the opening paragraph of the column that I would not readily concede
First, Jencks' implication that "most students" should have a college education, and, secondly, the implication of your statement that "corporation grants in exchange for work commitments are generally unwieldy and inflexible."
This second point suggests that the corporations therefore cannot play a large role in funding college education. This may be true in the liberal arts area, but I don't think that it is true in the technical areas, as the Center for Independent Education's Report No. 1 suggests. [The report concerns the General Motors Institute and is available from the Center, 9115 East Thirteenth, Wichita, Kansas 67206.]
PAYE is only one of the many solutions that the market would provide. That attending college is a waste of time for many and that sources of corporate financing of education would open up a market could be equally important in the market's functioning to provide education.
From Jim Wilson's critique of rock music ("Fed Up With Rock," REASON, June 1971), it appears that the only rock he has heard comes from top 40 radio, since all of his examples (except for the Dylan) are of the sort typified by commercial "bubble-gum" stations. Apparently nobody bothered to tell him that is the wrong place to look for good music, and this shows in his essay. I anticipate other comments from him after he has taken time to listen to Tim Buckley, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Jefferson Airplane, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Carole King, Carly Simon, Loudon Wainwright III, Randy Newman, Van Dyke Parks, the Mamas and the Papas, Laura Nyro, Pentangle, the Beatles, Donovan, and Joni Mitchell.
In Robert Poole's article, "Leverage Points for Social Change" (REASON, June 1971), he cites, as an area of concern, formulations of problems that preclude all but a limited class of answers. Then he does something similar in the Postscript.
He asserts that there are only three fundamental paths to social change: violent revolution, withdrawal to produce collapse (a la ATLAS SHRUGGED), and evolutionary change from within. I can think of at least one other class of approaches (a member of which was responsible for the creation of this country): alternatives to present institutions.
The most straightforward application of this type of approach is simply for those persons interested in freedom to leave the unfree society in which they find themselves and build a new one elsewhere. This is the approach that I, personally, intend to follow in my plans for Open Sea habitation. The population of the United States is, as I alluded, the foremost example of this approach in history. But there are other, less drastic, versions of the approach as well.
Clandestine violation of the law can affect great changes in existing institutions. Violation can get to be so widespread (speak-easies during Prohibition, betting on horses with bookies in New York) that the laws are, for all practical purposes, dead letters even before they are finally changed (repeal of Prohibition, creation of legal off-track betting in New York). In other cases, the actual violations may be relatively small in extent at any given time, but the threat of a much more widespread violation may serve as a check. An example of this would be the situation in regard to "pirate" radio off England. At the height of the offshore radio boom, less than half a dozen stations were operating in the black, although a similar market in the United States would support dozens or hundreds of profitable operations. However, the possibility that there would be a large increase in the number of radio ships spurred the British government into legalizing an onshore popular-radio service. A more significant example would be the operation of the Swiss currency markets as a check on governmental economic policy. The volume of trading represents a small fraction of the total currency in circulation; however, the specter of such panics as the recent days on which billions of dollars were converted to other currencies forces governments to put their economic policies in some semblance of order before things collapse altogether (as in Germany in the 1920's).
Semi-clandestine activities can also be useful. The authorities are aware of the existence and location of most communes and other utopian communities; however, because they are out of the way, they can get away with much that would not be tolerated in more conspicuous locales. Which ever of the above approaches one finds best suited to one's objectives, this class of approach should be given more serious consideration than it usually is in libertarian planning.
Erwin S. Strauss
Santa Barbara, Calif.
DETERMINISM AND FREE WILL
Tibor Machan ("The Schools Ain't What They Used to Be…And Never Was," REASON April/May 1971) holds that determinism entails the conclusion that both affirming and denying the truth of the statement "Free will does not exist" must have equal value. This is clearly a non sequitur. If everything in the universe has one or more causes, if nothing is "simply there," indeed we can say that it is determined, that it "had to happen." This is also true for the human mind. Our judgments of whether something is the case are indeed determined. This does not entail that these judgments have equal value, i.e., that they are equally accurate descriptions of reality. It only entails that it is determined who will at a given moment make true or false judgments (to paraphrase this: someone with perfect knowledge of the initial state of affairs and the laws of our universe would also know who will at a given moment make true and who will make false judgments).
As Ludwig von Mises has shown in his THEORY AND HISTORY, determinism need not lead to fatalism either in educational or other matters. Determinism does not deny that human beings "really" act or think, it simply holds that those thoughts and actions are not ultimate explanations. They can be analyzed further up the ladder of causes and consequences, e.g., by having recourse to biology and psychology.
Guy de Maertelaere
STOP THE WORLD—I THINK I'LL GET OFF!
I've just completed re-reading REASON's commentary on social change (June 1971) and find myself wanting to make a few comments of my own (A little bit of that reader feedback you're looking for).
Lynn Kinsky put it quite succinctly ("Anthropological Perspective on Social Change") when she used the term "meddling in other people's lives" synonymously with the promotion of social change. However, I cannot agree that "responsible meddling" is any more justified than the irresponsible kind on a concerted level, e.g. agencies functioning under the aegis of governmental control or subsidization are most, if not all, of the sociological elements now in existence.
Quite frankly, I cannot see how anthropology, functional or otherwise, can be of much value in this particular context. The fact that some institution or custom exists within a given culture does not tell me why it exists or whether it is of benefit to me.
If I am willing to accept anthropology's premise that by studying the forest I shall ultimately come to understand the nature of a tree, all is well and good. However.…
Another point presented in this article, stemming, I presume, from the discipline of functional anthropology is that one must now learn to interpret what another is saying, not by the words used but by the meaning implied behind those words. Granted that words can imply a great deal more than dictionary definitions when colored emotionally or when used in different context, but the initial meaning remains fundamentally the same. I'm quite sure Miss Rand did not imply that those who have taken the time and trouble to incorporate a firm grasp on the conceptual meaning and use of their language should chuck it all in favor of grunts and groans! As to taking people at their word, should I or should I not believe this article?
The professor's admonition to his engineering class has little to do with the end product involved—a safe car. (All factors involved, I wonder if such a thing is possible.)
In the final analysis, I could say that as a homeowner I have a social responsibility to keep my front sidewalk clear of obstructions for pedestrians, but this would hardly place me in the "evil altruist" category! Moreover, I would certainly question the rationality of one who claimed it did, figuring that person to be a pretty sad case!!! (I must note, however, that I don't think in terms of social responsibility but in terms of my responsibility, finding it less cumbersome, among other things, in the long run.)
From their onset, the "think tanks" have rallied strong aversion from within. The idea of x number of professionals spending their time and energy cooking up various and sundry changes to affect "us poor mortals" turns me off, to say the least! (As an avid science-fiction fan, I've shuddered more often than not when reading of the collective efforts of a benevolent intelligentsia, whose "think tank" existence was based on the premise that they were better suited to decide the structure of a given society than those living within it! Of course, it's very possible that they are better thinkers, but the temptations of authority are too strong, given the nature of man, to believe that anyone is capable of constant objectivity in all things at all times. Even John Galt went out of context, once!)
Don't misunderstand, I've no qualms about new ideas that stem from an individual who will attempt to put them over in an open market. But I fail to see the difference between "liberal" or "libertarian" meddling so long as it extends from the same coercive arm! Does the value of an idea or experiment justify any method for its implementation? I've yet to discover a human consciousness as supremely objective as reality. That reality may be a slow and even painful teacher, I do not in any way dispute.
When Robert Poole attributed New York's condescension to abolish rent controls ("Leverage Points for Social Change") to RAND's logic and stressing of facts, I saw this as a typical example of objective reality in motion. What politician or social scientist (yipes!) would have considered that same RAND analysis twenty-five years ago before reality had permanently established the economic disaster inherent in their initial plans?
Unfortunately, the method pursued by these same politicians, et al. indicated to me that they still don't believe the facts confronting them but that, at this stage of the game, they're willing to try anything once provided it gets the city out of its economic difficulties!
It is for this reason that I doubt the feasibility of stressing values apart from principles. Maybe it was gotten away with this time, but what happens when some new ideas comes up? Pragmatically, it seems to be of value ("good for now"), but unless a prinicple is maintained how can one implement a viable foresight into the picture?
Libertarian ideals as such are not new, but the fact that they have been more fully integrated and philosophically defined, e.g. Objectivism, is. The point I'm trying to make is this: unless the individual remains the basis for the perpetration of these ideals through example and practice, the so-called social change (my definition—the changing of individual ways of thinking and doing within a given society) hopefully sought just beyond the next hill will continue to remain a Utopian gleam in all our eyes.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".