MORE ON KOLKO'S COMPLAINT
I was most interested in your listing of faculty members [REASON FACULTY REGISTRY, January], and especially the response of Gabriel Kolko [objecting to his proposed inclusion in the Registry]. I think that Kolko is incredibly misinformed as to the nature and place of the contemporary libertarian movement. He just doesn't seem to realize that the "persistent use" of his works does not (and indeed can not) "buttress American conservative ideology." He simply assumes that libertarians are conservatives, and that they are way off base. The truth is, of course, that Kolko is off base. The value of his writings (such as THE TRIUMPH OF CONSERVATISM, RAILROADS AND REGULATIONS, and THE POLITICS OF WAR) lie in the fact that they constitute valid empirical refutations of statism—but all kinds of statism—state socialism just as assuredly as state "capitalism." The fact that Kolko has "been a socialist and against capitalism all of my life" is simply a personal quirk and contradiction, since his works in no way validate the socialistic position, but on the contrary, do a great deal in suggesting the need for a truly free market as the basis of a politically free and peaceful (nonimperialistic) society.
Dept. of Political Science
University of Hawaii
SYMMS A CONSERVATIVE?
I believe you have done the Libertarian political movement a disservice in the February issue of REASON. The implication of the cover of that issue is that the featured interview with Congressman Steve Symms will provide an insight into libertarian politics.
Symms is a conservative, not a libertarian. He brings to Congress an inconsistent conglomeration of views, many of which are good but some of which contain the seeds of statism as do the views of all of his colleagues.
To defend his statist position on amnesty Symms cites the incredible reason of "a well disciplined family, football in college and three years in the Marine Corps." If the Libertarian Party is to succeed in convincing those members of the movement who are opposed to political action that such action can be efficacious in the right for liberty, we must disassociate ourselves with the political philosophy of men like Congressman Symms.
Edward H. Crane
Vice Chairman, Libertarian Party
Los Angeles, CA
HE'S VALUABLE, BUT…
I am appalled. Rep. Symms is a valuable man to have in Congress but he is not a libertarian. Libertarians are neither equivocal on drugs, nor have "corpuscular" reactions to the amnesty issue.
It's bad enough having 99% of the press making no distinction between libertarians and conservatives, but when REASON starts doing it.…
By presenting a full-length interview with Congressman Steve Symms, REASON desired to provide our readers an opportunity to judge for themselves as to Symms' credentials as a libertarian. Although Symms' candidacy was endorsed by the Libertarian Party, REASON emphatically does not endorse all of his positions. While he has been "on target" on many issues, on the whole, Symms' record is—as we have previously noted—"somewhat disappointing." For those that wish to learn more about the views of the first Congressman elected with the endorsement of the LP, a limited supply of copies of the February issue is still available at the price of $1.00 each. —Ed.
NONCOERCIVE SEX EDUCATION
Ralph Raico's "Against Sex Education" [February] could just as well have been entitled "Against driver education" or "Against American history classes", since its arguments (as distinct from its expressions of visceral feeling) have no specific connection with sex. Raico does not show that the theft of money from taxpayers is any more reprehensible when it goes to support sex education than when it goes to support volleyball instruction, nor that the "imposition upon a captive audience of a process designed either to change or to reinforce certain…values" is more severe or more objectionable in the case of "sexual values" than in the case of economic or political values. The details of how pregnancy comes about, how various contraceptives work and how effective they are, and how venereal diseases are transmitted, detected, and treated are as amenable to classroom presentation as is physics or Latin, and Raico has shown no respect in which classes covering such matters would be objectionable in voluntarily supported noncompulsory schools. Certainly attendance at such classes is unlikely to inhibit students from following Raico's recommendation that they learn about sex "at parties, in bars, in johns,…and 'the gutter'" as well as from books. But while I share Raico's respect for the educational value of "the gutter" and of bars (though we differ about johns), I would remind him that the gutter is not a place where one is likely to acquire the factual information about pregnancy and disease that one needs as a basis for responsible action.
James D. McCawley
Dept. of Linguistics
University of Chicago
QUESTIONS FOR HOLT
I wish Boston newspapers were as lenient with letter-writers as is REASON; a letter as offensive as John Holt's (REASON, Feb. '74) would doubtless never be published by the Boston Globe or the now-defunct Hearst paper.
Let's begin with Holt's attack on a book called THE DISASTER LOBBY, a book which, presumably, he has never read, since his criticism aims at the book's ad and the fact that it was placed in a libertarian publication. His proofless premise here is that avaricious and greedy corporation executives expect to dupe dummy libertarians by presenting facts about Disaster Lobby propagandists and the eensy little realities which they are guilty of either overlooking or covering-up. Uh, speaking of cover-ups…Holt can't stand the idea that someone might prove some businessmen not guilty of…virtually anything. Which individuals, John Holt, are guilty of violating rights of other individuals; what are their names and addresses and occupations and how might we lay hands upon them? Until you can answer me, it is impossible to take you seriously.
And it makes me want to puke when Holt states that we should not question the existence of government and power; in a normative tone, he would aim at a more "just" (egalitarian) distribution of force and power. Would he wish to receive his fair share of a broken nose, or a portion of the time which I have spent in a Navy brig? Spreading evil around will not eliminate it, but rather pollute those as yet unsullied by it.…
ANSWER FOR HOLT
With regard to John Holt's letter in the February issue of REASON, GRAVY PLANET was published in paperback under the name of THE SPACE MERCHANTS, not THE PLANET MERCHANTS. More importantly it was not written by Poul Anderson but by C.M. Kornbluth (with Frederik Pohl). I suggest that Mr. Holt check his sources a little more carefully. Also if Mr. Holt knows of a method for manufacturing automobiles in a garden, I'm sure everyone would be delighted to hear it.
As for Holt's "little question" [concerning the "Mafia problem"] in the March issue of REASON, if he would bother to read a book on libertarianism he might find it answered. THE MARKET FOR LIBERTY, for instance, has an entire chapter devoted to the question of organized crime.
Epicurus was an ancient Greek philosopher, not an ancient Roman one as is stated in [John Hospers' article] "The New Epicureans" [March].
Jack C. Kurtz
I am writing this letter in response to the letter from John Holt ["Taking Government Seriously"] in the February issue of REASON. I believe he has some misunderstandings about libertarianism, which I hope I may be able to correct to his satisfaction.
First of all, I must agree with him that the question of power and protection from it has not been adequately explored in the libertarian literature. There have been many attempts to describe libertarian alternatives of protection and justice, but these are always open to skepticism because it is so difficult to postulate what form a radically different society might take.
Even if the form is obscure, the principles are not. Libertarians are attempting to build a totally consistent philosophy based on the facts of human existence, which include a recognition that individuals very often do violence to others. This very observation makes it so necessary that government be done away with, since government claims for itself that which no violent individual or group could ever have: legitimacy.
Of course there will always be individual and gang violence, and some sort of institutions will have to be formed to deal with it. I am not trying to deny the difficulties of this. But I do believe that at least when people come to realize that some people have no right to rule other people, the situation will have improved a great deal.
A more serious charge is that libertarians are "rather innocent apologists for rich and powerful people who do not believe in freedom at all—except for themselves and their friends." I suspect that this impression is caused mainly by the background of many libertarians. Many of us were originally conservatives, and there is still a lot of conservative philosophy masquerading as libertarian. In general, libertarians side with conservative economics, because it more closely adheres to the facts of life than liberal economics. However, conservatives believe that business has been the innocent partner in the business-government-consumer triangle. Numerous cases have been documented which instead show that business has often actively agitated for special regulations, to enhance its position at the expense of others.
Libertarians do not condone allowing corporations "to do whatever they want, at whatever the cost to the earth and the living creatures on it." We are in no way opposed to ecology and conservation, when it is supported by scientific fact instead of emotion. A true libertarian makes apologies for no one, because he realizes that business, government, and the general public have all contributed to the loss of freedom. Instead he tries to select for criticism those people and institutions which have been the worst offenders. In doing so, a libertarian must always use his conception of an ideal society for comparison, rather than defending the status quo as conservatives do.
This is where many of the bad impressions arise. Since it is such a difficult task, many libertarians have not been able to separate what we have now from what could be. Thus, some of our philosophy sounds grossly unfair when viewed in the light of today's society.
For example, the proper economic solution to the present energy crisis is to allow prices and profits to rise, in order to stimulate production. This is the most practical solution, and in a libertarian society it would also be moral. However, we do not now live in a libertarian society. The very companies who would benefit from such action have already received many special favors, and are part of the large state capitalist establishment. Thus, we are faced with the dilemma of not knowing whom to support, because the bad guys are on both sides. I have seen numerous articles on how to correct injustices done by governments, but not one article yet on what to do about past injustices caused by business and other "private" institutions.
Unless we wish to be totally stalemated, it is necessary to take stands on issues. However, whenever we choose the lesser of two evils in a situation, we must make it very clear that the choice was pragmatic, and does not constitute complete philosophic agreement. In fact, there is very little in contemporary society that a libertarian can wholeheartedly support. We are really in search of two things that the world has a real shortage of: freedom and justice for all.
State College, PA
HOLT ON "SOCIAL CONTRACT"
I strongly commend to you and your readers Richard Goodwin's three part article on The American Condition, which begins in the Jan. 21, 1974 issue of THE NEW YORKER.
Mr. Goodwin makes a most important point, that does not always seem well understood by contributors to REASON, that individual liberty in any human society or community must be based on an ethical or moral vision, an awareness of and respect for common interests, concerns, and needs, an understanding that the part of space-time which I call Myself includes many parts of the lives of many other people.
"Every man for himself, and the devil take the hindmost"; "Do whatever you can get away with"; "I've got mine, screw you Jack!"; "Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing"—such attitudes are recipes, not for liberty, but for tyranny.
Or, to put it a little differently, the statement, which is quoted with enthusiasm by at least a few self-styled libertarians, that because I have not signed the "social contract" it does not exist and I am not bound by it, is a most ignorant, shallow, short-sighted and self-defeating remark.
May I also recommend to your readers a most vivid and exciting piece of fiction, THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE, by George Higgins. It is a very plainly and honestly told story about people for whom violent crime is a way of life—and I ask once again, as I did earlier about the Mafia, if we did away with government, what would we do about such people?
I hope you may find it possible to print this letter. It goes without saying that if I did not think that you and your readers had a certain political and philosophical importance in these difficult times, I would not have bothered to write it.
John Holt is the author of a number of books on education, including HOW CHILDREN RAIL and HOW CHILDREN LEARN. —Ed.
AVOIDING SOCIAL SECURITY
I would like to call the attention of your readers to a provision of the Internal Revenue Code which can exempt certain persons from paying the 5.85% or 8% Social Security tax.
Under Internal Revenue Code Section 1402(e), persons who belong to religious orders which are opposed to public insurance can file form 4361 with the Internal Revenue Service and be exempt from paying the 8% self-employment tax.
San Francisco, CA
See this month's "Trends" for further information on tax avoidance. —Ed.
COURAGE TO BE HAPPY
It is ironic that Harry Browne, who seems to care very little for missionary work, will have such a widespread effect among the general public through his recent publication, HOW I FOUND FREEDOM IN AN UNFREE WORLD. Yet even besides his book's entertainment value, and in light of the lucid and quite accurate critique by Dr. John Hospers (REASON, March 1974), Browne offers serious thoughts which should not be ignored by many self-assured libertarians among his readers.
Browne does acknowledge that a person may want to change his personality, but as he writes (p. 312): "Understand, however, that the change will probably be a long-term project. Don't let it interfere with what does make you happy." Merely recognizing the wisdom of a particular moral theory does not mean that the person will automatically be basking in golden rational bliss by trying to put the moral principles into practice. The incorporation of conceptually accepted beliefs into one's emotional superstructure in a long and often painful process which may end in failure. It is a sad waste of irretrievable time not to do those things which one enjoys here and now while still working towards an improved character. Should one instead try to repress all "illogical" and "contradictory" emotions and claim to have become the new Libertarian Man (or Woman) overnight? (Readers of Branden know what havoc such repression can produce in a soul.)
I concede that it is possible for a libertarian to enjoy political activism in and of itself, but I wonder how many people working in the movement are there because they have nowhere else to go? If that happy day ever arrives when we can leap out of bed in the morning and cry, "Hot dog! It's great to live in a free world!" what will the activists do then? This is no facetious question: as Harry Browne argues, especially in Part II, there are great numbers of ways that most of us can achieve what we want in the present irregardless of the diverse "traps" which surround us. I wonder how many libertarians feign a rationality that isn't real for them out of fear of real independent judgment? How many go to meetings and rallies when they deeply would rather watch an old, friendly movie? How many buy the "right" books (and never read them) or contribute to causes and campaigns when there is a more personal investment which would be more satisfying?
In short, how many libertarians have the courage to be happy?
Glenn E. Sieferman