You publish in the article "Art vs. the State" [August 1973] the incomparable poem "lighght" by A. Saroyan. On reading it and by sudden inspiration there has come to me another one, of like meter and imminent beauty, but far superior in other respects. I say this without any shame or sham modesty which would ill become a person of progressive mind. My poem goes like this: "Shiiiiiiiiit". As you can see it is not only considerably longer than that of my esteemed colleague, but also much more meaningful. Indeed while the imperialist inmates of your benighted country manage obviously very well without lighght, who can do without the bodily function I allude to? Least of all a progressive mind which deprived of his chief means of self-expression would suffer utter frustration and perhaps even, Freud forbid, alienation. So I reckon [if Saroyan received $750 in tax money for "lighght,"] my poem is worth at least $751—where do I cash in?
Juan G. Loewenstein
TAKING GOVERNMENT SERIOUSLY
I enjoyed your interview with Poul Anderson [October 1973]; when I used to read science fiction I liked much of his stuff. I was amused to read on your inside front cover an ad for a book called THE DISASTER LOBBY, with endorsements from the heads of two of our giant corporations and one (I believe) advertising agency. I know that the ad does not mean that you endorse the book, but I think it is significant that corporation heads should expect to find among your readers potential (or actual) converts to the belief that these corporations should be able to do whatever they want, at whatever cost to the earth and the living creatures on it.
And it reminds me of a book that Anderson (with Frederick Pohl) wrote some twenty-five years or so ago. It was called GRAVY PLANET, and was a perfect and terrifying picture of what a "libertarian," contract state might well turn out to be. Society was in fact governed, and utterly ruthlessly, by the private armies and police forces of giant corporations, and the worst crime of all was to be a Consie (conservationist). The book was later printed in paperback under the title THE PLANET MERCHANTS. I strongly recommend it to you and your readers—only skip the contrived happy ending, if we lay waste the Earth, Venus is not going to save us.
I hope you will take strongly to heart Anderson's very sensible remark that anarchism (as you describe it) is a nice idea as long as only nice people are involved. It exposes a serious point, one which hardly any of the contributors to REASON ever mention, or give any reason to believe they have even thought about, that power and force are an inherent and ancient reality in human affairs. The control, distribution, and legitimization of power and force has been a central human problem for as long as men have lived together. As someone (Lenin?) once put it, "Who Whom?" Who gets to do what to whom? Everything I have read in REASON gives the impression that you think the problem is artificial and unimportant, that power is an invention of governments, and that all we have to do is get rid of law and government and all coercion and force will come to an end. One does not have to be a disciple of an Ardrey or Lorenz (I am not) to believe that this is a very simple-minded view. When the big kid in the schoolyard or street threatens to beat up the little kid, and takes his lunch money away from him, you have power, you have government, you have all the raw materials of history right there in front of you. What are you going to do about it? When the racketeer says to the store-owner that if he doesn't pay protection money he is going to have a mysterious fire, and that if he talks to anyone else about it he is going to have a mysterious and fatal accident, government springs into being. The question then is, not should there be government, for there is, not should there be force and power, for there is, but how is that government to be made less arbitrary, greedy, and tyrannical, how are that force and power to be more justly distributed and controlled.
Until you begin to take such questions seriously I suspect most freedom-loving people will not take you very seriously. Indeed, many of them may see you, as I tend to, as rather innocent apologists for rich and powerful people who do not believe in freedom at all—except for themselves and their friends. (If you want to see Ford's vision of human life, just step inside a Ford plant.) Still, even though you treat them shallowly, the questions you raise are important, and it may be that you are stimulating some people, somewhere, to think about them deeply. At least, I hope so.
[Ed.] John Holt is the author of a number of books on education, including HOW CHILDREN FAIL and HOW CHILDREN LEARN.
Can you see the U.S. giving up Alaska to a mere 300,000-minus secessionists [as considered in "Trends," September 1973 and "Letters" November 1973]? The U.S. would send an army that size to get the oil most Americans think they deserve after having been frustrated by environmentalists for so long. This would be a popular war for the U.S., not a Vietnam.
Have you heard of Libertarians with the kind of physical courage this would take? Most "Minervans" were evidently so frightened of fighting with Tongans that the "Minervans" forfeited their moral and intellectual courage. (If asking the U.N. World Court, an intellectually and morally bankrupt body, to decide the Minervan issue wasn't immoral, then I don't know what is.)
If after the unlikely event of Alaska being victorious over the U.S., then all you have to worry about is your next door neighbor, the Soviet Union. It seems to think Alaska was stolen from it. What were Finland's casualties when it defended itself against Russia? You won't get any support from last week's enemy, the U.S. And Canada becomes more Socialist every day.
The American Revolutionaries had all kinds of free enterprisers on their side to back them up. Who do you have? The anti-free enterprise oil cartels. (Read J. Paul Getty's negative attitudes on free economics).
If Ayn Rand was wrong when she said it's not time for political action yet, then she was at least right about one extension of political action: war. There are no warriors. When I see an Objectivist Patton interviewed by REASON I'll know the draw bridge has been lowered from the Ivory Tower. Until then one can continue to enjoy such sinking-concretes as Golden Opportunity in your November issue.
San Francisco, CA
RESPONSE TO RAND'S LP VIEW
On October 21st, Ayn Rand gave her annual address from Ford Hall Forum.
In response to a question from the floor "What is your opinion of the Libertarian Party?", Miss Rand made some comments which I shall here paraphrase. She referred to them as "political amateurs seeking publicity" and as having "half baked and borrowed ideas" with the implication that the "borrowed" ideas were borrowed from her. She gave as her only apparent reason for the inappropriateness of "political amateurs" in the political arena the fact that other alleged political amateurs had caused and compounded the Watergate fiasco.
Her remarks met with less than enthusiastic response from the audience; as compared with some of her other remarks; which leads me to believe that perhaps many of her admirers present also have a sympathy with, or are members of the LP.…
…I offer the following advice to possibly offended members of the LP. (1) Remember that Ayn Rand is a person (not a goddess pronouncing judgment) and has personal opinions apart from her philosophical position. (2) "Borrowed ideas" are not a crime. If Miss Rand does not want her ideas "borrowed" then how can they ever be implemented? Her ideas as propounded in her philosophy are facts—the facts needed for man to deal with other men and the universe—as she sees them. Facts per se cannot be copyrighted or patented and when one knows a fact it is usually best to spread that knowledge in opposition to prevailing error. (3) Continue to give philosophical and intellectual credit to Miss Rand when credit (or honor) is due; just as you do Rothbard, Von Mises, and others. (4) Disregard Miss Rand's opinion of your other "half baked" ideas. Because of its short time of existence, the organized libertarian movement still has growing to do; but it has sound intellectual and academic support; and proper application of your sound philosophical principles will follow. (5) Disregard Miss Rand's opinion of you as seeking publicity. The publicity you seek seems to be for your ideas, not for your faces. (6) Disregard Miss Rand's opinion of you as political amateurs. You are, but the comparison of you to the Watergate people as an example of political amateurism is inappropriate. Miss Rand herself has stated that one shortcoming of the Watergate conspirators was a lack of principle. You, however, are the first political party in America in this century to be based on solid philosophical principle, instead of a pragmatic, shifting power base. (7) Finally, do not let Miss Rand's opinions become facts by compromising your philosophical principles for power or office. Fight and win on your terms only.
Miss Rand has previously stated her disinterest in the political (and other active) application of her concepts, so it will have to be up to you publicity-seeking, political amateurs with your half-baked and borrowed ideas to start the ball rolling.
Overland Park, KS
I submit that Dr. Rothbard's recent "query to our limited government friends" is intellectually dishonest. In fact, it stinks! In Viewpoint (REASON, Oct. '73) he asks: "Do you still revere our rulers? Can you still hold that they have superior knowledge or wisdom to make any decisions whatever?" (Rothbard's emphasis) These questions are framed to imply that advocates of limited government:
a. revere rulers;
b. hold that rulers have superior knowledge or wisdom to make any decisions whatever; and
c. in the context of his article, endorse the government of Mr. Nixon.
Rubbish! We have never held or endorsed anything of the sort. Limited governmentalists (at least the ones who support Ayn Rand's position on the matter) do not revere rulers. A government which is limited by a constitution framed in the libertarian spirit obviates such a concept. Neither I nor limited governmentalists of my acquaintance maintain that rulers have the knowledge or wisdom to which Dr. Rothbard refers. Similarly, I cannot imagine any one of us endorsing Mr. Nixon's administration as has been implied.
I am well aware of the differences between the advocates of limited government and the anarchists but it is not my purpose to argue them here. It is my purpose to denounce attitudes unfairly ascribed to us by Dr. Rothbard—attitudes more appropriate to the worshippers of monarchy.
Furthermore, I suspect that Dr. Rothbard is well aware that he is exaggerating. It is package-dealing of a sort to equate the limited governmentalists with power worshippers. The notion is ridiculous.
The setting up and knocking down of straw men is unworthy for one of Dr. Rothbard's reputation. He is only harming his cause. I respectfully suggest, therefore, that he stick to the subject he knows best: economics. It would be a shame indeed if his columns came to resemble those of, say, Dr. Paul Samuelson.
R. Wm. Donaldson
MORE ON ANARCHOCAPITALISM
Dr. Machan's writings dealing with anarchism ("Viewpoint," December REASON) often give me the impression that he has never read the writings of anarchists very carefully. For example, he regards the principle of consensual delegation of authority, especially in matters of defense, as a mitigation of anarchism. Now, the writings of classical anarchists—Kropotkin, Spooner, Stirner, and Tucker, for example—as well as of modern anarchists like Rothbard or various contributors to the LIBERTARIAN CONNECTION, all express a very different view. The view of these writers is that anarchism should be defined as a rejection of ultimate authority. It is not unanarchistic, in their view, to let another person take control over some aspect of your life by mutual consent (though failure to retain the right or power to revoke this control is a mistake, in their view). What is unanarchistic is the willingness to accept claims to hold such authority without one's consent.
Thus, anarchists would not call Machan's hypothetical 'government' a government. The reason is that it is not a coercive monopoly, the only kind of monopoly that deserves the name or the implied contrast with competitive organizations. Machan's government remains in competition with all the potential 'governments' that might replace it, were it to become inefficient or destructive. If Machan wants to use the word government to include such an organization, this is his privilege; but I don't see that it has any differences I would consider crucial from other, nongovernmental legal agencies.
Indeed, I wonder about Machan's intent. If he is careful to divorce a legitimate, voluntary arrangement for defense from all other such arrangements, which differ only by there being several institutions available rather than just one, and to integrate it with clearly coercive organizations such as the U.S. government, one may ask why? This equation, after all, is no more valid than is the equation of possession of a dominant share of the market with monopoly. I am tempted to wonder if Machan is trying to rationalize some remaining loyalty to the existing government, by linking it with a libertarian and anarchistic organization to which he has chosen also to apply the name 'government'. If not, then I don't see at all what the point is, and would appreciate its being explained.
William H. Stoddard
San Diego, CA
DR. MACHAN replies: I was addressing myself to Rothbardian anarcho-capitalists, i.e., those who argue for anarchism with a legal system. They do not reject authority—and certainly those who argue for government along lines similar to mine (e.g., Rand, Branden, et al.) do not appear to embrace anything like "ultimate authority," whatever that means (just standing there, not saying authority to do what, etc.). The current supporter of anarchism on grounds that it prevents the delegation of authority is Robert Paul Wolff, not Rothbard, et al. Wolff, in turn, opposes capitalism, private property, and all that goes with anarcho-capitalism. It seems that Stoddard, not my short paper (which was certainly not meant to be exhaustive), is confused on anarchism. As to the term "government," it does not mean "coercive monopoly," since coercive monopolies logically presuppose governments. Governments are monopolies only in the sense that within some area they are authorized to use force while others are not—no different from the sense in which I am a monopolist on my own property concerning who comes in and who does not (from those who want to). Stoddard denies me the logical right to call the system I argue for a system with a government. But by his grounds I can deny anyone the right to call an open marriage (a good marriage) a marriage, a good man a man, or a perfect bowling score a score—just because these are all very rare indeed. But even broken chairs are chairs, and rotten apples apples, junk cars cars. So just because most governments fail to live up to the standards appropriate to human institutions (nonaggressive), they do not fail to be governments—or vice versa. Stoddard's advice exhibits an empiricism about the meaningfulness of concepts I do not consider valid. Finally, I resent and it in fact is wrong that Stoddard questions my integrity and motivation when he has no evidence for doing so.
JUSTIFICATION FOR TARIFFS
In your editorial on Sakharov and Solzhenitsyn (Dec. 1973), I was disappointed by your reluctance to discuss "the issue of whether the U.S. government is justified in not reducing tariffs on Soviet goods unless free emigration is permitted." I believe the issue deserves discussion, especially since those who support the Soviets on this issue often misrepresent themselves as advocates of free trade.
A tariff is a tax on the sale of foreign goods to an American buyer. Libertarians believe that governments should not tax (or otherwise interfere with) commercial transactions, as long as the seller holds rightful title to the goods he sells. A slaver, however, does not hold rightful title to goods produced by those whom he has enslaved. Slavery is a political system in which the slave is compelled, through the threat of force, to work for a particular employer. The Soviet state is the only legal employer in the Soviet Union. Under Soviet law, any person of working age who is not employed is guilty of the crime of parasitism, which is punishable by imprisonment. Any person who offers private employment to another, or who engages in private trade, is guilty of economic crimes, and may be punished by death. Thus, a Soviet citizen is compelled to work for the Soviet state as long as he remains in the Soviet Union. As long as anyone is compelled to remain in the Soviet Union against his will, the Soviet government is engaged in slavery, and can hold no rightful title to goods produced by its slaves.
As long as the Soviet government does not permit free emigration, the rightful title to any goods it might offer for sale belongs to its victims: to people currently being held in slavery, or to former slaves recently freed. It follows that one is morally entitled to seize any part of the value of such goods, in order to return it to its rightful owners. When such restitution cannot be made in cash, it may legitimately take the form of radio broadcasts beamed to Russia, help for the resettlement of recent immigrants from Russia in other countries, etc. It is my understanding that funds from selective tariffs are currently used for such purposes. Thus selective tariffs, imposed on socialist governments which do not permit free emigration, are fully justified. The imposition of such tariffs is one of the very few moral things our government has done in recent years.
Adam V. Reed
Department of Psychology
University of Oregon
I would like to express my thorough enjoyment with the short story in the December issue of REASON. The only problem is that I haven't seen my copy of REASON for two weeks. Whereas my REASON has (almost) invariably stayed at home in the past, it is now passing from one hot hand to another. The story seems to breed a particularly contagious strain of enthusiasm. Not only is the story being read and debated, but some are reading the issue from cover to cover. Who knows what REASON lurks in the minds of mankind? The reader do.
Alexander G. Wiggins
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".