• FEDERAL DATA BANKS: A four-year survey conducted by the Senate Constitutional Rights subcommittee was recently released by Senator Sam J. Ervin, Jr. The study disclosed that there are 858 federal data banks containing more than 1¼ billion records involving personal information about individuals. The study found that only 10 percent of the data banks are authorized by law. Forty percent of them do not tell citizens that records are kept on them, half do not allow persons to review or correct their files and about 29 of these banks were primarily concerned with derogatory information. The study also noted that some agencies kept data on race, income, and drug addiction and more than 60 percent of the banks regularly share their files with other agencies. According to the CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR's report (June 21), "the Internal Revenue Service and Selective Service distribute information to other parts of the government despite pledges of confidentiality."
Senator Ervin was quoted in THE NEW YORK TIMES (June 18) as saying that the study showed the need for protective legislation "to keep Americans from being numbered, punched, processed and filed away." We don't expect much good to emerge from the current Senate hearings on various bills aimed at setting up a "federal privacy board" to safeguard the rights of privacy of individuals. Our modest proposal: withdraw all tax funds from agencies which maintain data banks—and don't wait until 1984 to stop this widespread federal snooping.
• GOVERNMENT INTRUSIONS: In California the Department of Consumer Affairs has recently arrested three young women who were responding to requests for midwife assistance on the ground that, in assisting with the birth of babies at the home of the mother, they were practicing medicine without a license. Although many prospective parents cannot afford the cost of a physician or otherwise prefer the assistance of a midwife to help with home birth, the state has begun a crackdown on the "illegal" but growing practice of midwifery in California. According to the LOS ANGELES TIMES (June 18), the health and sanitation standards of the midwives is not at issue in their prosecution. Instead, the courts will determine whether the women were guilty of practicing medicine without a license under a broad California statute. The attorney for the three women has said the statute is "so vague it could cover your mother for telling you to take Vitamin C" and intends to challenge the constitutionality of the statute.
Meanwhile in another outrageous governmental act, New York officials are challenging the validity of a reported marriage of a prisoner in Sing Sing. Although the 31 year-old prisoner (who is appealing a life sentence for murder) had sought permission to wed a legal secretary, the United States Supreme Court held that such a wedding would be illegal, on the basis that marriage is one of the civil rights denied persons serving life terms by New York's Civil Practice Act, which deems such persons civilly dead. After reports that a Catholic priest slipped into the prison and secretly performed a wedding ceremony, the superintendent of Sing Sing said he is investigating the situation and that "If they got married, it's certainly illegal." (LOS ANGELES TIMES, June 18).
Don't you feel safer when you walk the streets with this type of enlightened law enforcement?
• HEADWAY IN THE GOP: The Ripon Society has been demonstrating a new interest in libertarianism. The small but sometimes influential group of progressive Republicans has just launched a new journal, THE RIPON QUARTERLY, which made its debut this summer with a heavy showing of libertarians on its masthead (including REASON contributing editor Mark Frazier). The next issue will feature a special section titled "Less government is better," edited by David Friedman, author of THE MACHINERY OF FREEDOM and son of the noted University of Chicago economist. For a sample copy, send $2 to the Ripon Quarterly, 509 C Street NE, Washington, DC 20002, and specify your choice of issues.
• OBJECTIVIST IN OFFICE? According to a June 18 story in the LOS ANGELES TIMES, Objectivist economic consultant Alan Greenspan has been offered the job of chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisors, to succeed current chairman Herbert Stein. The article said that Greenspan was first offered the post in April, and turned it down, only to have the offer repeated in June. As we go to press, the chances that he will leave his consulting firm to head the CEA are considered "about even." Greenspan is strongly opposed to wage and price controls and favors an immediate reduction in government spending. He has expressed concern that the business community has become the target of politicians looking for "scapegoats for the current economic malaise."
• ERRATUM: Last month's guest editorial, "The Libertarian Case Against 'Public' Financing of Elections," appeared without the proper credit. This editorial originally appeared in the SAN DIEGO INDEPENDENT, which recently ceased publication. Our apologies to Lillian Wagner, the paper's former managing editor, for this omission.