STEVE SYMMS DEFENDED
I was appalled by the narrow-mindedness exhibited by Edward H. Crane and R.E. Cleary in your May issue in reading Congressman Symms out of the libertarian movement.
If the Libertarian Party is to survive as the political arm of the movement, the notion that there is one pure libertarian point of view must be dispelled. If it is not, then the party will go the way of the Socialists and the Communists, fragmenting into various sects and splinters, each holding that it alone expounds the truth.
Libertarians would have a lot less to worry about if every member of Congress voted like Congressman Symms.
C. William George
AGAINST THE WALL
DON'T WRITE OFF SYMMS
Ed Crane, in his letter [May] commenting on your interview with Rep. Steve Symms, has done both the Congressman and the Libertarian Party a great disservice. Crane writes off Symms, a SIL member who described himself as a "student of libertarianism," as simply as a "conservative" with whom we should "disassociate ourselves."
This is unfair to Symms, who at least deserves the label "libertarian-conservative." He uses every opportunity to promote libertarian views, even when appearing before such staunchly traditionalist conservative groups as Virginia's Cardinal Society. Crane may be surprised to learn that Symms has praise for the Party even before such audiences.
Symms has used this office to advance libertarian causes, such as abolishing the federal postal monopoly and legalizing private ownership of gold. His gold bill, cosponsored with Phil Crane of Illinois, was one of the few attempts made in Washington in years to go on the offensive for freedom. His voting record is not perfect (indeed, THE ROYCE REPORT helped expose that fact), but it is extremely good.
It should be kept in mind that both Symms and the LP are working within the political system. To succeed within that system, one must be willing to concentrate on certain key issues and accept a gradualistic elimination of the State. It should be obvious that even if libertarians inside or outside the LP took over the government tomorrow, it would still take years to achieve a libertarian society. John Hospers, among others, made this point very effectively in a speech to the Free Libertarian Party last year.
I do not agree with the Symms position on amnesty either, but it is foolish to disassociate ourselves with him because we do not agree completely. Should we have repudiated Hospers in 1972 when he seemed "soft" on a few issues? Should we repudiate Rothbard because he backed Nixon in 1972? Should we repudiate Marvin Edwards [see REASON PROFILE, Nov. 1973—Ed.], a Symms-style Republican some of our members are working with in the Oklahoma GOP primary, because he is not 100 percent consistent? Indeed, with the next Congress likely to be worse than the present one, don't we need all the friends we can get?
By writing off Symms, we write off all of our state and federal "representatives," a position some will say is fine, good riddance. Like it or not, though, we are stuck with that crowd until we have the strength to elect our own people. In the meantime, it certainly makes sense to cooperate on issues with such "representatives" as accept our views on them. By writing the relative "good guys" like Symms off as not worth our cooperation, we eliminate any chance of affecting legislation. We eliminate any hope of attracting converts from outside the hard-core "movement" ranks. We ignore reality and confine ourselves to permanent obscurity.
Let's recognize that the present crowd of politicians is a bad one. But there is some good in all of them, and when they support our position they deserve our praise. When, like Symms and H.R. Gross, they are in substantial agreement with us, they deserve our support whether they are Republicans, Democrats, or Peace & Freedomites. If the LP becomes simply a group of bitter-enders, out to eliminate from office all incumbents indiscriminately, we will simply speed up the march of totalitarianism.
The LP of and by itself is not about to elect a large group of Congressmen. Our chance to be effective in the next few years lies in educating the public, mobilizing public sentiment against bad bills and for good ones, and in trying to build up broad-based support for a real third party push in the future. By realizing that we are a political party, by recognizing our weaknesses, and by showing a willingness to engage in "critical alliances," the Party may ultimately succeed. If we follow Mr. Crane's advice, we surely will not.
Eric Scott Royce
Region 7 ExecCom Rep., LP
Editor, THE ROYCE REPORT
MR. CRANE replies: I believe Mr. Royce has read considerably more into my letter than is really justified. The necessity of the gradual elimination of the state, the desirability of working with legislators and encouraging those who agree with us partially, and the wisdom of mobilizing our forces for or against certain legislation is self-evident. I could not agree with Mr. Royce more.
I do take exception, however, to Mr. Royce's transforming the word "disassociate" into "repudiate". I would hope most REASON readers, like myself, would not seriously entertain the idea that a "repudiation of John Hospers" is analogous to my recommendation that the LP disassociate itself from the political philosophy of Steve Symms.
But perhaps this is an area in which there is a legitimate disagreement. To my mind the greatest threat to the future of the Libertarian Party is the compromise of our principles. As we become a more important factor in American politics the temptations to give in to expediency, to associate ourselves with "relatively good" Congressmen in order to gain legitimacy and constituency will be numerous. We must clearly maintain our separate identity while only entering into ad hoc alliances that further the cause of libertarianism.
I do not know which "weaknesses" Mr. Royce is advising the LP to recognize. I do know that our constant adherence to a consistent set of principles is our greatest strength. Our success in the future will result from a gradual recognition on the part of the public that we are consistent, that we are different from any other political party because we place principle above expediency. To create that image in the public's eye we must not allow the public to confuse us with those who are inconsistent.
Steve Symms has done many good things as a Congressman and we should loudly applaud him for them. He has also, however, voted in favor of farmers' subsidies, federal grants for scientific research and federal spending on mass transit. His views on victimless crimes and amnesty are those of a conservative. The fact that Symms accepts the legitimacy of governmental interventionism in economics, and the definition and enforcement of morality by government means he is not a libertarian. To claim otherwise is not only wishful thinking and irresponsible, it is sowing the seeds of compromise that will ultimately lead to the downfall of the Libertarian Party.—E.H.C. III
In your March issue there was a letter from Mr. Steven Schneider, in which he stated that WRAL-TV (Channel 5) in Raleigh, North Carolina, maintained a free enterprise editorial policy. As a Raleigh native, and off and on resident, I can affirm that this is so. WRAL-TV does have a sort of libertarian-conservative, economic position.
Residents of Raleigh are also aware that Channel 5 has always supported a sort of "middle of the road" racism, and that, of course, people who "commit" all manner of victimless crimes should be locked up. The wealthy owners of WRAL-TV are all for certain measures of economic freedom, and very much opposed to social freedom. A rather curious form of libertarianism, wouldn't you say?
Your readers might also be interested to know that Senator Jesse Helms (R., NC) went around quoting Ludwig Von Mises in his 1972 senatorial campaign—and recently advocated that all Raleigh "streakers" be rounded up—nude of course—and incarcerated in N.C. State's Carter Stadium—there to be given hourly cold showers in between forced running on the football field.
I mention this because Senator Helms was previously executive vice-president of WRAL-TV, and the editorialist for the station. The views of Jesse Helms and WRAL are virtually indistinguishable. Sorry, but you'll have to look elsewhere for a libertarian TV station—assuming the FCC changed its ways and permitted one.
I simply cannot understand the strange fixation that some of REASON's readers such as John Holt have about the Mafia ["Letters," March, May].
In the first place most of the Mafia's activities (gambling, sale of black market goods, the making of loans at high rates to high-risk individuals) are quite legitimate and would never be interfered with in a libertarian society. Second, those immoral activities which the Mafia does engage in (extortion, forcible maintenance of monopoly, securities fraud) are minuscule compared to the activities of the greatest band of organized criminals in the world, the U.S. government.
If libertarians ever manage to destroy the American fascist state does anyone seriously believe that they are then going to be terrorized by a few thousand Sicilians!
OPEN LETTER TO JOHN HOLT
I don't know how other libertarians might answer your question on the Mafia ["Letters," March], but they may feel as shy as I do about responding to one who has made the effort you have, to help people gain an understanding of this world.
One hesitates to teach the teacher Mr. Holt, or even to "hoist a fellow on his own petard." But since you insist, and if you'll allow me the liberty of quoting from your work, perhaps you can find your own answer.
"It is a fundamental legal principle that if we can show that a wrong is being done, we are not compelled to say what ought to be done in its place before we are permitted to insist that it be stopped." (THE UNDER-ACHIEVING SCHOOL, 1969, p. 77)
Judith A. Carlson
Wisconsin Libertarian Party
RESISTING FDA CONTROL
Readers interested in biofeedback should know that government action which would give FDA [Food and Drug Administration] added control over biofeedback instruments is now before Congress. HR 9984 defines "medical devices" in such a way as to include biofeedback equipment. The consequences would be doubly disastrous: the sale of equipment would be on prescription only, and the use of equipment would be limited to those applications which have been "proven" effective. To date, the FDA does not recognize any uses as "proven" effective. (The above information is based on oral and written communications received at the 1974 annual meeting of the Biofeedback Research Society, Colorado Springs, Colorado, February 15-20.)
I use biofeedback extensively in my practice of medicine. I do not believe I need any monopolistic control over prescriptions, although I do believe it is wise and advantageous for people considering the use of biofeedback to seek the benefits of my knowledge and experience. Further, I resent the limitations on my own freedom to be innovative which would be added by this legislation.
Readers who are concerned about these issues are invited to communicate with their Congressman and/or with Dr. J.B. Davis, Director, Division of Scientific Review, Office of Medical Devices, Dept. HEW, FDA, Rockville, MD. 20852.
Ann Turner, M.D.
Menlo Park, CA
PAT ON THE BACK
Your magazine is great. I especially enjoy articles on philosophical topics, articles written by philosophers (e.g., Hospers, Machan, Mack), and reviews of philosophers' books. Hospers and Machan…have written what I regard as some of your very best material.
Dennis D. Johnson
To the beautiful Sharon Presley's remarks—March 1974 Profile—to the effect that libertarian principles don't automatically instill professional competence, I shout: Right On!
Over the years, I have had occasion to contract with libertarians for professional tasks at which they professed competence. I have been uniformly disappointed, and I am sure that some of them have been disappointed with me. This experience has led me to write what I have called the Libertarian Syndrome: "If it weren't for the State, and the coercion which it represents, I would step forth and build great monuments to the rationality of the human mind. But, because anything I might do in today's world would sanction the state, I will sit on my butt and do nothing,"
Principles are meaningless unless they emerge as the antecedents of competent action!
Keep talking, Sharon, you've got the message!
Thos. W. Sanders
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".