To my knowledge, Editor Robert Poole (REASON, November 1971) is the first person to identify the growing body of literature by such authors as Martin Anderson, Edward C. Banfield, Jay W. Forrester, and Jane Jacobs, as "revisionist urban studies." Unless otherwise established, Mr. Poole should be given credit for naming this phenomenon and bringing it into focus.
As a revisionist urban planner, I have been observing the development of this heresy with great interest. Until fairly recently, the number of revisionist scholars could be counted on one hand; it now takes two. Of special interest is the fact that most of the literature has been published within the last five years. This is no doubt due to increased attention being directed to the urban scene as a result of escalating urban violence and the deteriorating state of affairs in many large cities.
The four authors cited in the November editorial were only a sampling and were not meant to exhaust the list. I can think of three additional revisionists who would be appropriate in any such listing. Bernard H. Siegan ("Non-Zoning In Houston," JOURNAL OF LAW AND ECONOMICS, April 1970, also see "Trends," REASON, March 1971) has made a very significant and timely contribution. He clearly demolishes the zoning myth and demonstrates that zoning is, at best, an unnecessary ritual, and at worst antisocial, resulting in such distortions as inflated and depressed land values, higher rents, the protection of slums from competition, an impediment to innovation, and the misallocation of resources.
Poole acknowledges that the libertarian reply of "laissez-faire" as the solution to the failure of urban planning automatically raises the question: How would this be achieved? This brings to mind two revisionists whose ideas relate directly to the how of administering and shaping urban form in the free society. They explain the rationale of a naturally emerging alternative to taxation and political administration of cities which in my estimation holds great promise. This innovative point of view was originally put forth by Spencer Heath in CITADEL, MARKET, AND ALTAR (Baltimore, Md.: The Science of Society Foundation, Inc., 1957) and has been further developed by Spencer Heath MacCallum in THE ART OF COMMUNITY (Menlo Park, Calif.: Institute For Humane Studies, Inc., 1970).
At the moment, the revisionist urban planner must feel somewhat lonely. In order to overcome this condition, I would like to invite correspondence in an effort to discover the extent of this movement and to learn of one another's whereabouts. Perhaps in the future we could arrange a conference on revisionist urban planning similar to the conferences on political philosophy sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies at USC during the fall of 1970 and more recently at the University of San Francisco.
Joseph A. Gilly
26232 Veva Way
Calabasas, CA 91302
BASIS OF ETHICS
I want to comment on Paul Lepanto's reply to Tibor Machan's review of "Return to Reason" (REASON, November 1971). Lepanto refers to a "right" as "a moral principle, defining and sanctioning a man's freedom of action in a social context." Now, the empirical data of ethics is the factual experience by each individual of a positive organism-environment interaction translated by his nervous system into pleasure, together with the presence or absence of conflicts among his long-term motives; he forms purposes of a concrete sort to integrate the first data, ethical metapurposes ("virtues") to integrate the second data. An ethical principle, then, is an identification of the means by which a man can without internal conflict act to attain the purposes which lead to his maximal long-term enjoyment.
This is, of course, a eudaemonistic view, common to Plato, Aristotle, Spinoza, Rand, Nietzsche, and others, though not adhered to by writers in the Christian tradition. The key difference among these positions, I suggest, is whether the abstract principles followed are viewed as inherently self-evident or as means by which empirical data may be dealt with.
Rand's position, here, is not clear with reference to the abstract principles which she regards as ethically essential. However, I do not believe that it can be coherently argued in her philosophical frame that ethical essences are metaphysically common to all men, since she denies this for all other concepts. Thus, each man must build up his own ethical essences from his own data. It is characteristic of a person (I would even say it defines this concept) that he is confronted with the data of his own joy and pain alone; and since joy and pain are relational rather than substantial, it is perfectly possible for men to have opposed data about one and the same action. In other words, an action may be highly beneficial to me and at the same time highly injurious to you.
This makes it substantially unclear why I should regard rights as of any significance whatever, beyond their purely procedural utility in dealing with other men. If I maximize my own utility by aggression, why should I not do so? Rand's main answer is that I thus abandon the existence of a sanction on my actions; very well, why should I not do so, as long as I can defend myself? Why should any man wish a sanction on his actions? If he can defend himself, he needs none; if not, it becomes a mere farce.
I do not see that sneering at Nixon's ethics will do any good in getting rid of him. If I granted Rand's claim that we can have a civilized society only by each man's respect for the sanctions of morality, I could still ask that she justify the desire for a civilized society. I claim that such civilization is not desirable, since it rests on a moralistic fiction which blinds men to the practical reality of politics: brute force. When every man recognizes the necessity of being able to resist force, we will make an end to force; but rhetoric about "rights" is not effective resistance. Civilization, as Rand defines it, seems to me to be nothing more than an elaborate fraud. Further, reliance on this fraud is one of the key reasons why men are still sheep. Finally, I do not fully trust a man who relies on moral fictions to guide his actions toward me; naked self-interest can be dealt with, but self-delusion makes rational interaction absurdly difficult, even impossible. The sanction of "rights" on my acts is one I find ill-founded, unnecessary, and inadequate; I am quite prepared to dispense with it.
William H. Stoddard
I did not see the program "The Advocates" that was mentioned in "Trends" in the December issue of REASON. But if the position of one team on that program was that "…while it was very desirable to get the government completely out of TV licensing, this was not technologically feasible…" they should read an article in the September issue of THE INSTITUTE OF ELECTRICAL AND ELECTRONICS ENGINEERS' TRANSACTIONS ON BROADCASTING. An FCC employee admits that relinquishing government control of the airwaves is probably technologically feasible but not politically feasible. The FCC employee says that the claims that a free market in the radio spectrum would not work are "unsubstantiated."
Colorado Springs, Colo.
The intent of my letter in the September 1971 issue of REASON was not to offer a "critical report" nor to "participate in defining the assumptions" of Mr. Forrester's electro-magnetic machinations. It was to express my indignation at being offered such techno-aristocra-gogy in a magazine which purports respect for individual liberty.
My criticism was expressly directed at "what [the system] purports to do," i.e., model behavior…so that "we can control [its] future direction…by applying proper pressure at sensitive points." [Forrester] It is exactly that issue that the proponents don't want to face (at any time).
Within the context of that stated purpose, the methodology is perhaps consistent and rigorous. However, it cannot be considered reasonable when it's built on a blatantly false premise.
My derogation of particular features of the model was not in the context adopted by Mr. Patterson, whose critique is quite valid, but in the context of the basic pretense of its being a reflection of reality.
The particular figure or representation of the intuitive assumptions of any number of researchers used to graph the "quality of life" is the height of nonsense. If the modelers were able to establish for each and every individual the relative aspects of his existence which contribute to the quality of his life, and asked each respondent to calculate on a scale the importance and the past, present, and future state of each of these variable, and if each respondent could provide an index of response to all possible external influences on those particular aspects of his existence, and if that data could be programmed into a computer and graphed, then and only then would I consider the product to be equally as valid as my daily horoscope.
I am criticizing the technique in the context it was presented: as a model of social reality which will aid, presumably, the application of governmental "control" and "pressure." (No other assumption is justified by the articles.) When the technique is applied to the concrete, limited, and voluntary aspects of business or organizational activity, it may very well prove valuable.
The libertarian conclusions afforded by the technique I certainly applaud. But, I do not applaud them any louder than I would if they came out of a magician's hat. Neither Forrester's spaghetti and meatballs nor a witch's brew can substitute for the rational presentation of libertarian principles.
My comparison between the REASON and PLAYBOY articles was intended to illustrate my distress at their relative presentation of the issue. (To that purpose, the author of the particular article is irrelevant.) I expect to find favorable, or at least comprehensive, reportage of the theories of a B.F. Skinner or J.M. Keynes in PLAYBOY. I do not expect REASON to provide a face-value presentation of these men's theories nor those of J.W. Forrester.
Barrie, Ontario, Canada
In the October issue of REASON, Nathaniel Branden mentioned the necessity for libertarians to be first in seizing upon issues of wide importance. In New York State at the moment an issue of great concern is arising that is bound to be discussed nation wide; it is involuntary mental hospitalization. This one is right up the libertarian sleeve.
A recent case of involuntary (mental) hospitalization involving one Margaret Mahl has occurred in Syracuse, New York. It has sparked a great deal of comment and the time could be ripe for libertarians to make involuntary mental hospitalization one of the major national issues, since it undoubtedly is a nation wide phenomenon.
When the [liberal] Urban Improvement Department in Syracuse decided that Margaret Mahl's house had to be condemned and tried to evict her from it by offering the aged lady welfare assistance, she refused. It was her home all of her life; she loved it; and she would go on making her living in it by selling old wares from the house. Local authorities found that they could quell this display of individualism through the State Mental Hygiene Law and had her hospitalized.
The mail came flooding into the Syracuse POST STANDARD and within the flood was a letter signed by 17 residents in psychiatry at the Upstate Medical Center at Syracuse. (I think this is where Dr. Thomas Szasz is located.) They wrote, "It is frequent and almost routine for us to come in contact with innocent people who have been snatched from the community by the therapeutic hand of social control. [Margaret Mahl is] one of many who have been abused by the New York State Mental Hygiene Law, the authorities who enforce it, the physicians who unquestioningly uphold it, and the institutions that justify its existence." The message has started to come home that, like the Soviet Union, the United States is practicing social control through pseudopsychiatry.
Involuntary mental hospitalization could take like fire as an issue in the immediate future. It has already been attacked at the Upstate Medical Center. It has been concretized and magnified for the Syracusans and they are concerned. The whole nation could be concerned if libertarianism served as the vehicle for transporting the issue to the public when the time is ripe. It could be a part in making libertarianism what John Hospers called "an idea whose time has come."
As a former State Hospital patient I know some of the horrors of the State Department of Mental Hygiene.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".