GHETTO ECONOMICS CLARIFIED
Yale Brozen, in "Ghetto Economics," (REASON, November 1971) indicated that "direct evidence available…does not show ghetto prices to be high despite the high cost of operation.…" He then showed that services in which government has a role tend to be substandard in the ghetto. His analysis was useful in many respects, but I must take issue with his comments on market prices. David Caplovitz has shown, in "The Merchant and the Low-lncome Consumer" (THE GHETTO MARKETPLACE, 1969), that—in Harlem for example—furniture and appliance stores abound (60 in East Harlen alone). The reason is the extremely high markup given to low quality goods: markups ranging from 100 to 300% and higher. Such markups allow many otherwise marginal stores to remain profitable. In other words, Harlem prices are distinctly higher than prices for comparable quality goods in non-ghetto areas.
Again, in a Federal Trade Commission Report (ECONOMIC REPORT ON INSTALLMENT CREDIT AND RETAIL SALES PRACTICES OF DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA RETAILERS, 1968), it was shown that "on the average, goods purchased for $100 at wholesale sold for $225 in the low-income market stores, compared with $159 in general market (non-ghetto) stores." These two reports clearly show a pricing difference between ghetto and non-ghetto areas.
In fact, the prices are high because of a number of elements unique to the ghetto, including high use of extremely liberal credit terms, point-to-point sales methods, life style, and—perhaps—the way a person on welfare values money. But to deny any abnormalities in the ghetto market or to blame any abnormalities which do exist on government actions is to give an incomplete analysis. Such analyses may cause non-libertarians to conclude that libertarians are out of touch with reality and cannot be completely believed.
Dr. Brozen's error may be due merely to lack of knowledge. However, I feel my conclusions are still valid as general criticisms of the simplistic manner by which many libertarians analyze the ills of our society.
Paul L. Siegler
The Hospers' whitewash of Russia, in the January 1972 REASON, particularly his ignorant, false remarks concerning the German-Russo War and the alleged popularity of Khrushchev, Stalin's top killer, is "the straw that broke the camel's back," so to speak.
First of all, communism is the worst, most extreme, most collectivist, and most despotic form of statism. The atrocities and mass murders by the Communists include at least 30 million people killed during the Stalin era alone—see "The Great Terror" by Bob Conquest.
At least 35-65 million have been killed by the Chinese Communists, according to Dr. Richard L. Waller, director of the Institute for Sino Studies at the University of South Carolina, and author of at least three books on this subject. China was recently praised as a "libertarian" area by Mr. Holbrook in a leading libertarian magazine—I saw no critical remarks in REASON on this atrocious apologia for Mao, Chou, and Co. Why not??? Do the "detached scholars" of REASON not view 30 million Russians and 35-65 million Chinese as human beings with the same rights and the same feelings under torture as Americans or German Jews? Cuba has the highest percentage of "political prisoners" in the world—a recent article in the leftist "libertarian" MATCH (Tucson, Arizona) is rather illuminating in this respect—and yet, except for this one article, I never see any criticism of Cuba in any "libertarian" publication and have in fact seen articles of praise, in THE ABOLITIONIST, for instance. Only the "kneejerk" right wing publications have published any degree of critical articles—nothing in the "liberal" or "libertarian" press. Why not?
Second, the communist foreign policy, ideology and conspiracy (that taboo word to all good knee-jerk Randians!!) has been much more aggressive against the United States than Rhodesia, Portugal, Spain, Greece, Brazil, or South Korea. There is ample evidence of a communist and specifically Soviet Russian plot to take over, literally, the whole world. Reference to Lenin's writings and Stalin's opus PROBLEMS OF LENINISM will suffice here—no need even to refer to the many scholarly works of those terrible "anti-communists." Obviously there are many valid reasons why communists are and should be singled out for "special hatred."
Third, it is the trade (long term, low or no interest), credits, aid, recognition, etc. by our government that has enabled these regimes to survive. See Anthony Sutton's two volume opus WESTERN TECHNOLOGY AND SOVIET ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, 1917-30, Volume 1, and 1930-45 Volume 2 (Volume 3 is in process of completion) in this regard. Also Keller's EAST MINUS WEST=ZERO.
Fourth, communist regimes are more statist and dictatorial than any given "fascist" or Latin "caudillo" type regime.
Fifth, there were a couple of factual errors in Dr. Hosper's discussion of the German invasion and a significant omission. The total number of Russians killed during the war was about seven million at most, not 20 million. The "scorched earth" policy was started and carried out by the Russians themselves, not the Germans. The whole purpose was to starve the German troops—see Alan Clark's massive tome BARBAROSSA in this regard and a number of "revisionist" article by Henry Elmer Barnes, A.J.P. Taylor, and Charles Callan Tansill. I might add, parenthetically in this regard, that WW II revisionism and any sort of revisionism in regard to Nazi Germany or fascism seems to be verboten in both "libertarian" and "conservative" publications. Particularly the notorious, undocumented falsehood about the "gassing of six million Jews"—see in this connection about a half dozen books by the late Paul Rossinier, a French leftist who was in the Dachau and Buchenwald camps, among others. Also, Dr. James J. Martin, leading libertarian-anarchocapitalist historian and author of the 2 volume magnus opus of WW II "revisionism" AMERICAN LIBERALISM AND WORLD POLITICS 1931-41 (Devin-Adair, 1965), is a leading authority in this regard.
But back to Hospers: he "forgot" to mention that an estimated 10-15 million Russians fled the Soviet Union when Hitler invaded and that 2-5 million of these Ukrainians, Georgians, Latvians, Estonians, eastern Poles, Lithuanians, and 'greater' Russians were shipped back forcibly to Russia after WW II via Eisenhower's infamous "Operation Keelhaul"—see book of the same name by Julius Epstein (Devin-Adair, 1971).
Once again, funny REASON has never discussed this. It was only the refusal of the Germans to arm and encourage anti-Soviet Russians that permitted the communists to survive. Needless to say, nothing of the sort was remotely indicated by Dr. Hosper's superficial and largely erroneous comments on "the" war.
I think the one-sided "Women's Lib" issue—particularly the glossing over of the statist "Equal Rights" amendment by Lynn Kinsky—and the rather disappointing Branden interview—the lack of critical questions asked—have proven REASON an extreme disappointment to date. I hope the magazine improves and tries to present two sides when discussing a controversial issue but on the performance to date I see no reason to believe that it will.
The venomous Machan review of the Tannehill book as contrasted with his fawning on that cheap little "objectivist" kindergarten primer by Lepanto serve as yet another illustration of the unreasonable approach of your publication.
Michael Paul Hardesty
REPLY FROM DR. HOSPERS:
I agree with most of the allegations in your letter to REASON. In fact, I have myself restated them in my recent book, LIBERTARIANISM.
You mention the millions of people executed by the Chinese communist regime. Correct. See page 402 of LIBERTARIANISM.
You mention the massacres on a large scale conducted in the Soviet Union. Correct. See pages 29-36, 255-64, and 394-98 of LIBERTARIANISM.
You mention how much blacker the Soviet record is than, e.g., Rhodesia. Correct. See pages 406-10 of LIBERTARIANISM.
Virtually all of your other points are paralleled by similar passages in my book. Thus, it is not necessary to remind me of atrocities by totalitarian nations. I am by no means unaware of them.
Nor, in my opinion, is it necessary to remind the readers of REASON. That is why my article contains very little reference to all this. My book contained many attacks on the Soviet government; my article is a first-hand report on certain aspects of life in the Soviet Union today, particularly the nature of its people. In the article I restricted myself pretty much (though not entirely) to what I myself observed. Nor were my observations unusual: any of the other 120 people who toured Siberia and European Russia with me would attest to the same things I said. It is true that there were a number of surprises in these observations—things which I myself would not have predicted beforehand that I would see. What surprised me most of all was the degree to which many citizens of the Soviet Union approve of the very regime that was dominating and regimenting their lives. "How can you praise the system that is exerting a stranglehold over your life?" is the question that always came to mind.
And yet it is true: the majority of Soviet citizens take much the same attitude toward the rebels against their regime as the American middle class takes toward campus demonstrators. It is true, for example, that they admire Krushchev—perhaps because they identified with him as a "jolly peasant" just as much as because he was mainly responsible for the proliferation of consumer goods after the Stalin era. And their admiration for him (at least compared with other Soviet leaders) may well explain why those leaders didn't dare give him a state funeral and hushed up the news of his death. It is also true that in anything having to do with "metal hardware"—from guns to plans to cutlery—they are way ahead of U.S. technology (which was attested to by American experts, not Soviet propaganda) and this too was a surprise, whereas the shoddy nature of Soviet building was no surprise.
But surely it is important (and not a "whitewash" as you call it) to state these things; in the event of a future military confrontation with the Soviet Union, it is surely important to know the truth about what we would face and not to cherish fond illusions. That a statist society could generate such technological excellence may contradict some theories of what can and cannot occur in totalitarian nations; but I found it necessary to report the facts and let the theories fall where they may. After all, I only reported what any candid observer who has been there for any length of time has seen for himself; I do not choose to distort these facts to reinforce the theories of those who have not been there.
Los Angeles, Calif.
OPEN LETTER TO BRANDEN
I finally found time, over the New Year's Holiday, to read the interview you gave to the staff of REASON, which was published in its October 1971 issue. I agree with the editors that you were unusually candid in your responses, and I am delighted that you so clearly repudiated some of Ayn Rand's dogmatic and absolutistic thinking. Just as you have now outdated some of your views of her in your book, WHO IS AYN RAND?, you have probably also outdated some of my views of your views in my book, IS OBJECTIVISM A RELIGION? I think you'll have to admit that, considering that I did not know of most of the differences that were developing between you and Ayn Rand when I wrote this book, I was unusually perceptive in pinpointing the extremely authoritarian philosophy of Ayn Rand and Objectivism, which you have now nicely confirmed, citing chapter and verse that were at the time unknown to me. I am delighted to see that you have disowned her authoritarian aspects, and shall try to distinguish carefully between the two of you in my future references to Objectivism.
I naturally disagree with your comments on my views and work in the interview, since as you predict, I would deny that my approach is basically authoritarian. Authoritative, yes; but authoritarian, hardly! I quite agree with you, however, that I practice a type of behavior-modification therapy—specifically, as I have acknowledged in recent writings, cognitive-behavior therapy. On your side, I am somewhat surprised that you find Fritz Perls' approach so congenial to your thinking; since, although it has a good smidgeon of individualism in its philosophy and is behavior-oriented in its active-directive methods, it is perhaps the leading anti-intellectual factor in psychotherapy today. I would have thought that you would largely get to emotions through thinking, rather than the reverse. And I am not sure whether you are (unawarely!) conforming to the California mishigas (and national hysteria) about the primacy of emotions or whether you are trying to save Reichian, Gestalt, and primal therapy from a fate worse than death—that is, from sanity—by tying them to some hard-headed thinking. We shall see!
Anyway, congratulations on your almost-complete divorce from Ayn Rand. Now she can rule alone as the Supreme Goddess of Pure Reason!
Albert Ellis, Executive Director
Institute for Advanced Study in
New York City, N.Y.
TV AND PATERNALISM
Being an aesthetician, I am deeply interested not only in the concretization but also the communication of ideas. For this reason, I found your comments ("Publisher's Notes" in REASON, November and December 1971) on the Efron/St. John views on the "Fairness Doctrine" of the FCC (as aired on the Advocates TV show, November 1971) and on Miss Efron's recent book THE NEWS TWISTERS to be of considerable significance to me. I largely agreed with the conclusions you reached but was disappointed that you did not explicitly challenge Miss Efron's spurious politico-economic argument from monopoly. You did, however, identify the proper course to take, namely, to urge the abolition of the FCC and of government regulation over communications, in general; and for this, I applaud you.
Briefly, Miss Efron's error is a failure to recognize that the network "monopoly" over TV news is not a monopoly over all media news coverage. People can get unbiased news on a national level from some available media (e.g., newspapers, magazines, radio); even more important, they do have accessible to them the viewpoints of "conservative" and "libertarian" people, too. The fact that they can't (in most areas) get it from TV is truly unfortunate—no one hates Libs more than yours truly—but it is irrelevant in terms of a bona fide monopoly argument. Note that the situation here is very similar to that involving nickel vs. other materials (see CAPITALISM; THE UNKNOWN IDEAL, p. 75, paperback, where Branden writes on monopolies). TV news, that is, is only relatively preferable to the other media offerings.
Also note that Miss Efron hesitantly offered another argument by implication: since most people watch TV to get their news (because of strong psychological advantages TV enjoys over other media), and since most people are "helplessly, unwittingly programmed" with leftist bias (because they are too stupid to recognize it and turn to another medium or put pressure on the networks to improve), then we must protect them and invoke government regulatory power (viz., the FCC's "Fairness (sic) Doctrine." Now this, I assert, is a very arrogantly, intellectualist, paternalist position. Disappointingly, but not surprisingly, no one on the Advocates program pushed her to an explicit recognition of this. It certainly would have been awkward for either "liberal" or "conservative" to explicitly name and denounce paternalism! Not so for us consistent libertarians.
Roger E. Bissell
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".