A Political Travelogue



People have arrived at the libertarian world-view from a variety of paths. One common path has been the American conservative movement. While still largely agreeing with right-wing concepts of free-market economics, these people become disenchanted with the authoritarianism of the right, rethink their values, and become civil as well as economic libertarians. Often, however, it takes them some time to shake off the emotional baggage that went with being a "right-winger." A major element of this baggage is what might be termed "knee-jerk anti-communism."

In brief, this is the phenomenon of identifying "communism" as the personification of total evil and of denouncing, at every possible occasion, Russia, China, the Eastern European States, and everything associated with them, usually with large amounts of gratuitous invective. As a result of this policy, much right-wing verbiage about communist countries is a curious mixture of fact and half-truths, uncorrected by calm analysis of the facts.

Obviously, no thinking person today would defend the regimes in these countries; systematic repression and rights violations are evil wherever they occur and under whatever label, whether in Czechoslovakia, Rhodesia, Spain, or in Washington, D.C. What is being questioned here is the singling out, without apparent reason, of "communist" governments for this special hatred.

What is implicit (and sometimes explicit) in such views is that our (good) government should enforce a total economic, cultural, and political boycott of these (evil) governments in hopes of causing their collapse. Yet as Terence Honikman pointed out recently in these pages ("Boycott South Africa?" REASON August 1971), such boycotts rarely achieve their objectives and often harm the people of the target countries more than their governments. Libertarian policy should aim at maximizing the opportunities for free trade and travel as an effective way of encouraging changes in repressive regimes.

With these thoughts in mind, REASON is pleased to present an up-to-date, eyewitness account of the people and institutions of the USSR. Last fall Professor John Hospers was among a group of Americans who toured the entire Soviet Union, from Siberia to Samarkand to Moscow, Leningrad, and back. As a libertarian scholar who has offered his incisive criticism of totalitarianism in many publications, Professor Hospers here offers a traveler's overview of the people and the government of the U.S.S.R. Dr. Hospers is Director of the School of Philosophy at the University of Southern California and author of the recently-published book LIBERTARIANISM.