TYPES OF DICTATORSHIPS
Some of the re-evaluations of American foreign policy have given us new and reasonable theories of how we got into our present mess. I hadn't previously considered the extent that exchanging diplomatic pleasantries plays in foreign policy til I read Professor Welch's "Containing Communism: The Art of Getting Along" in the January issue. But the problem with some libertarian critics of American foreign policy is that they see no difference between a dictatorship in a single country and a dictatorship allied with others to expand around the world.
Undoubtedly Diem wasn't a libertarian and we all agree getting involved in Vietnam was a mistake. However given a choice, I would rather live in a country where the rulers only want to control the government and steal some money rather than in a country where the rulers want to control every last aspect of my life. Furthermore, Diem never sent troops to take over any other country. Communist North Vietnam has troops in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and South Vietnam.
There is no moral government in existence today, but there are some less rapacious than others. If somehow we can convince the world to move toward libertarianism, I hope we don't proceed too much faster than the Communist bloc because I don't think they will allow us to keep whatever freedom we have now.
Ronald K. Wishart
RESIST ALL RESTRICTIONS
Re your reply to the letters you headed, "Bridge-building with conservatives:" (January) I feel that the letters you printed necessitated, from a libertarian viewpoint, a specific response on at least one point which you failed to mention (and "silence gives consent")!
Mr. Ramsey explicitly, and Mr. Dunn implicitly at several points, advocated that libertarians oppose an interventionist foreign policy. While it is true that government military activity is repugnant to a libertarian (and indeed helps distinguish one from a conservative), it should be apparent that consistency requires the libertarian to be equally opposed to a government interventionist foreign policy and to a government isolationist foreign policy. This means that, in minimum practical-action terms, the libertarian must call for an end to government-financed military, diplomatic, and world-political activities, together with an immediate end to the taxes collected for these uses, and the borrowing and money-printing used as disguised taxes, plus an end to all restrictions on private military, diplomatic, and world-political activities. Any other course involving ending government military (etc.) action, would coerce the individual wishing to actively oppose world collectivist movements, into financing their passive acceptance. This is the minimum libertarian criterion, and I would go much farther: I would refuse to give my consent or sanction to any supposed end to "interventionist foreign policy" that did not include an end to massive government "welfare," "job-training," "ecological," and other similar spending, which distorts the market economy away from the allocation of resources individuals could otherwise be intelligently expected to voluntarily contract for, to defend themselves against the encroachment of totalitarian collectivist forces.
Parenthetically, I could not be in stronger disagreement with Mr. Ramsey's contention that "we libertarians have had little problem being identified as liberals." [and, "instead, we have been lumped with conservatives."] What little publicity among opinion-makers that we have had, has tended to focus on certain libertarians advocating immediate U.S. withdrawal from the Southeast Asian war, support of marijuana decriminalization (not legalization, at least here in California!) initiatives, and other points on which we, or some of us, have been in (superficial) agreement with the left. That we advocate free-enterprise economics is thought to be, at most, a quirk, by these opinion-makers; we will "grow out of it" when we realize the "injustices" created by "unbridled (!) technology." That we (or many of us), like the Randians, accept Aristotelian, as opposed to Platonic, epistemological formulations, and that, consequently, we (or most of us) regard self-sacrifice as evil (and real), and the self as the basis of all rewards an individual can obtain in human life, would be news to almost any liberal who knows of the existence of libertarianism; he would be unable to see, even dimly, why our support on the draft, or drugs, or whores and girlie books, is a refutation rather than an endorsement of his position. I say with Mr. Ramsey, "We must keep up an indignant protest until this error is corrected."
David L. Rosenblatt
Santa Ana, CA
CHRISTIANITY AND SLAVERY
Mark Frazier's "Slavery and Socialism" (REASON, Feb. 1974) was well-written and informative, although readers of your journal should already have been familiar with the thought of Fitzhugh. In any case, the appearance of the article marks a propitious time to make a point.
Obviously a Randian, Frazier takes great pleasure in contrasting the "evils" of Christianity, altruism, being the keeper of one's brother, and family relationships, with the positive goods of selfishness and go-it-aloneness. He implies that anyone who is altruistic, or who desires to help his brothers, must sympathize with slavery and socialism. The presentation of Fitzhugh's ideas are merely a conduit to advance Frazier's own Objectivist viewpoint. Let Mr. Frazier's ears ring loud with the advice that one can be Christian, desire to help others, and uphold the importance of family relationships without being an advocate of slavery. It is precisely this harsh callousness so typical of the Randian philosophy that will nip the libertarian movement in its bud. These same thoughts apply to Professor Machan, a boring and one-dimensional writer who would apparently have a heart seizure if he were disallowed from using Rand's name in one of his articles.
MINERVANS AND WORLD COURT
In the February 1974 issue of REASON, Mr. Lawrence Blair stated that the "Minervans" were so frightened of fighting the Tongans that they forfeited their moral and intellectual courage. He further stated that "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."
Since I was, to some extent, involved with the Minerva project, I would like to state here that, to the best of my knowledge, no person connected with it went to the U.N. or the World Court, or any other such body to ask for resolution of the Minerva matter. Minerva was always considered by me as only a small part of the new country project. We wanted a place to hang our flag, and thought Minerva may suffice for that. We also planned a sea city type of habitat, plus one or more townships on reclaimed land. Even without the Tonga problem, this would have been a difficult project. Therefore, I stated, prior to the start of the Minerva venture, that, should we have an argument over that far away place, we should not pursue it, as we could argue about much closer and more feasible areas, if we wanted to.
I would like to advise interested persons that the new country project is very far from being dead. People are working on it full time. It is a difficult project—many times more difficult than I thought it to be—but we are not about to give up on it.
Mr. Blair stated that when he has seen an Objectivist Patton interviewed by REASON, he will know that the draw bridge has been lowered from the Ivory Tower. We may not have a person with Patton's type of talent on our new country project, but we do have capable and determined people among us to assure eventual success.
Carson City, NE
AN OPEN LETTER TO CONGRESSMAN STEVE SYMMS
Dear Congressman Symms:
I believe that you are open to being rationally persuaded to reject what would commonly be called your "anti-amnesty" stand [as discussed in your interview in REASON, February 1974]. I believe that what I say here ought to be rationally persuasive.
The initial premise of my argument is one which I am certain you will accept. It is that a person's right to his life and liberty, to the possession of the minutes, days, and years of his life, is at least as legitimate a right as his right to those physical objects external to his body which he has created or for which he has traded. Assuming that you accept this premise, let me ask you to imagine the following scenario: In year 1, citizen Goldbug of Idaho owns five pounds of gold. He has a right to that gold having mined it himself or having bought it from someone else who rightfully possessed it. Unfortunately, the government issues a decree demanding that Goldbug hand over his gold in exchange for a sum of government currency for which Goldbug would not voluntarily exchange his gold. In order to keep the gold which is rightfully his, Goldbug flees to Canada. Other owners of gold do not flee. Their gold is stolen. Then, in year 2, the government changes for the better. It allows private possession of gold—though it does not return the gold it acquired through forced sales.
Now, I ask you, would you and/or should you oppose Goldbug's return to Idaho with his gold? Would you and/or should you say that though Goldbug can return, since others have lost their gold, Goldbug too must suffer this loss? I presume you would not oppose Goldbug's return. I presume you see the injustice of demanding that Goldbug suffer as, and because, others have suffered. I presume you see that forcing Goldbug to remain in Canada through the threat of stealing his gold if he returns would be in the same moral category as the thefts of gold which Goldbug's former neighbors suffered.
Now, the Goldbug case is, in all relevant respects, exactly analogous to the case of the draft-dodger who fled to Canada. In fleeing he retained what was rightfully his. He coerced no one. Some of his former neighbors were deprived of what was rightfully their's. But surely these moral wrongs do not strengthen the case for depriving the draft-dodger of his life and liberty or for forcing him to remain in Canada by means of a threat to so deprive him.
If you accept the initial premise, I cannot see how you can escape the conclusion that the draft-dodger must be permitted to return. If you do not accept the initial premise, I cannot see how you can believe in property rights, e.g., rights to gold.
There are two further points that you should consider. In forbidding a person from occupying a certain spot, the government is exercising ownership-type authority over that spot. For surely it is the owner who properly determines who may occupy a particular place. In approving of the government prohibition, you are, therefore, committed to one or both of the following claims: (a) The government really owns what passes for private property, and (b) government property is a legitimate and handy institution. Consider, also, what attitude you would and you should have toward Goldbug. Do you think that those who drove him out of Idaho should forgive him for being driven out? Or do you think that, at the very least, it's those who drove him out who should ask for forgiveness? I presume that you would opt for the second alternative. But, then, surely the only genuine issue in the draft-dodger case is whether amnesty should be granted to those who instituted and maintained the draft.
I do not believe that it is wrong for you to recognize political realities. If your district is "anti-amnesty", there is no reason for you to be the leader of the "pro-amnesty" campaign. There's lots of other things to be done. But don't be or become living, walking, evidence for the liberal claim that advocates of capitalism place a higher value on "property rights" than on "human rights". Recognize that "property rights" exist merely as a form or application of the rights to life and liverty and that compromising one's defense of the latter rights undercuts one's stand for the former rights.
Dr. Eric Mack
Department of Philosophy
Seneca Falls, NY