• "CONSERVATIVE" ATTACK ON PROPERTY RIGHTS: It is commonly believed that—in the contemporary American political spectrum—it is "conservatives" who are defenders of property rights and economic freedom, while "liberals" uphold the government's power to restrict such rights. It is, therefore, of some interest to see a leading conservative spokesman speaking out in favor of two recent repressive Supreme Court decisions, and the "liberal" American Civil Liberties Union vigorously championing the side of private property rights.
In the two decisions in question—both handed down on April Fools' Day—the Supreme Court (a) sustained the right of a locality to limit land use by restricting more than two unrelated persons from occupying a private dwelling (Village of Belle Terre v. Boraas), and (b) upheld the constitutionality of the vicious Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 provisions which (i) require banks to photocopy every check over $100 written by their customers, (ii) impose extensive recordkeeping requirements on banks concerning their customers' identities, and (iii) require banks and individuals to report to the Treasury Department many private financial transactions (California Bankers Ass'n v. Schultz).
In the Boraas case, a couple leased their home to six college students. In a 7-2 decision (joined by all of Nixon's "strict constructionist" appointees) the Court held that the village ordinance which allowed the homeowner to rent only to two unrelated tenants was constitutional, based on an earlier decision which ruled that "property rights may be cut down, and to that extent taken, without pay."
In a dissenting opinion (on the grounds of freedom of association and right to privacy, but otherwise approving of such legislation if well drafted), Justice Marshall noted how poorly drawn the ordinance was, since it allowed "an extended family of a dozen or more…[to] live in a small bungalow, [while] three elderly and retired persons could not occupy the large manor house next door." In the California Bankers Ass'n case, the Court (6-3) upheld the Bank Secrecy Act because of the government's interest in enforcing "the myriad criminal, tax, and regulatory provisions of laws which Congress had enacted." Again supported by all of Nixon's "strict constructionists," the Court concluded that the cost burdens imposed on the banks "to spy on their customers" were not unreasonable (estimated $6 million a year expense and required photocopying of a minimum of 20 billion checks) and no constitutional right was violated by requiring information to be kept concerning all aspects of a person's checking account, thus paving the way for government access to a person's "doctors, lawyers, creditors, political allies, social connections, religious affiliation, educational interests, the papers and magazines he reads and so on.…
These decisions were the subject of a debate on the NBC TODAY show (April 3) between William Rusher, NATIONAL REVIEW publisher, and Aryeh Neier, Executive Director of the ACLU. Rusher supported both of the Supreme Court decisions, revealing the inherent authoritarian position of traditionalist-conservatives—which helps explain the difference between conservatives and libertarians. Although the ACLU strenuously opposed both rulings, the ACLU still has a long way to go before it assumes a consistent posture in defense of property rights. We urge our readers to write to William Rusher (NATIONAL REVIEW, 150 E. 35th St., New York, NY 10016) to let him know what you think about his collectivist stance. Tell him REASON sent you.
• GOVERNMENT CHALLENGES ACUPUNCTURIST: California state authorities are seeking to prohibit a prominent acupuncturist from practicing the Chinese art of puncturing the body with needles to relieve pain. Tomson Liang, who teaches acupuncture to doctors in San Diego and reportedly only uses his needles on patients who are referred to him by doctors and surgeons, is accused of practicing medicine without a license (LOS ANGELES TIMES, April 14). If the government succeeds in its action, we can think of some good ways to use Mr. Liang's needles. Bend over, bureaucrats…
• CRISIS OF CONFIDENCE: In a recent analysis of "the public's loss of confidence in the governmental and political processes," Lawrence O'Brien (past chairman of the Democratic National Committee), while asserting that the "basic challenge is to find ways of making government function better," noted (LOS ANGELES TIMES, April 16):
I strongly believe that the present crisis of confidence is not directed against a specific government, as some suggest. Our present crisis arises primarily from the fact that government simply hasn't functioned in a way that merits public confidence. The trouble is not confined to the regime organized by Richard Nixon but, in a general way, applies to all governmental bodies, large or small.
Meanwhile, the Gallup Poll's latest measurement of political party affiliation showed a continued decline in major-party allegiance. In response to the question, "In politics as of today do you consider yourself a Republican, Democrat or independent?" 42% identified with the Democrats, 24% with the Republicans, and 34% did not identify with either party. The most striking results were on college campuses, where only one in seven students described themselves as a Republican (compared with one in four in 1966), while nearly half (49%) in the latest survey say they are independent, outnumbering the proportion who are willing to call themselves Democrats (37%). If this trend continues, the Gallup Poll should soon be asking people whether they identify with either the Libertarian Party or the League of Nonvoters!
• ABACO NEW COUNTRY PROJECT: The project to establish an independent free-market oriented new country on the island of Abaco, Bahamas continues to move forward. Friends of Abaco has received donations ranging from $10 to $50,000 from a wide range of people, mostly those who have been active in the New Country Project in the past. Copies of LIBERTARIANISM are now circulating on Abaco, and by some accounts, Professor John Hospers is now the island's most widely-read author. Hospers was warmly received when he gave the keynote address to the first convention of the Abaco Independence Movement (AIM) on February 25 in Marsh Harbor. Friends of Abaco continues to seek cash support for its efforts to provide material and economic assistance to the freedom seeking people of Abaco.
• LOST SUBSCRIBERS: We wish to apologize to a "lost" group of subscribers who sent in subscription or renewal payments between approximately January 18 and February 15. Your checks were cashed and deposited, but somehow this fact did not get entered in our computer, and you were sent another bill dated February 26. If this happened to you, please let the Circulation Department know (if you haven't already) and we will correct our records.