BROWNE AND POLITICAL ACTION
As an admirer of Harry Browne's approach to life, I feel compelled to reply to Mike Dunn's criticism [June] of Browne's HOW I FOUND FREEDOM IN AN UNFREE WORLD.
Dunn writes: "[Browne] never seems to realize that even the last Bastion of Purity will eventually be afflicted with rats and termites. The problem is not how to elude situations, the problem is how to solve situations—a problem for which Browne offers nothing."
Dunn prefers direct confrontation to Browne's evasive strategy, both in social situations and in dealing with large-scale problems such as pollution, crime, and taxation.
In social situations, such as dealing with an obnoxious person, this is often a matter of taste. Which do you feel more comfortable with—blasting X with your scorn, or snubbing him by avoidance? Usually, either one will do the job. In any case, setting out to reform a cantankerous soul is usually a waste of time.
In dealing with large-scale problems, part of the answer again lies in personal preference: Do you like politicking, picketing, standing up to the government?—or do you prefer anonymity? As far as results are concerned, Browne is surely right: the addition of YOU to the ranks of Cause X is probably not going to make the difference between its defeat or success.
And even if you like fighting rats and termites (and many do), you can't fight all of the world's problems. You've got to live your life in the meantime—a "meantime" that could very well be the rest of your life. Certainly you don't have to give up all cooperative action in order to benefit from Browne's strategy, and vice versa: It would be foolish not to circumvent as many social and governmental restrictions as possible, even if you are engaged in fighting some of them.
And after all, if a person evades the effects of a problem until the day he dies, as far as he's concerned, he has solved it. Not in a universal sense, he hasn't; yet who is to say he didn't make the best possible use of the resources and alternatives he had to work with?
The result is not all gloom and doom. It is ironic that Browne, even though he professes to be uninterested in changing society, has done more to undermine Christian-nationalist-socialist thinking than just about anyone else in the movement. His untechnical approach, engaging style, and unabashed aim at the reader's own immediate self-interest have made all three of his books bestsellers. By reducing the hard hunks of theory to bite-sized bits easily digestible, he has reached a market virtually untouched by other libertarian writers. We may groan with Dr. Hospers at Browne's philosophical mistakes, but nevertheless, Harry Browne deserves credit for writing three of the most influential and useful books in the movement today.
MORE ON BROWNE
It seems to me that Harry Browne is saying that the free market is not only best suited for the economic needs of man's existence, but that the free market is best suited for all of man's needs.
Since a market consists of all items offered for sale, the government is a part of the market—not above it. As such, its services offered on the market are priced accordingly and their worth set by the market—not by politicians! If an item or service is added or subtracted from the market the market is not drastically affected as to its structure or operation, only the pricing of items and services offered on the market is changed. This change may be drastic—or it may be minor. The change in pricing depends on the total market and not on the item or service withdrawn or added.
Therefore, an individual who chooses to set up one item or service above all the market and say he has no control over it and that he cannot be free unless it is removed fails to understand the working of the market.
Harry Browne, in my opinion, vividly points this out in the sphere of interpersonal actions. The government as an item or service offered on the market has a price based on the market. You may wish to pay it or not depending on your judgment of its worth to you. However, it cannot hold total power over the market, and by so doing, total power over your freedom!
Just as an entrepreneur looks at the total market picture to find where maximum return of his dollar will occur, so does the free man look at the total market to find out where maximum return of his freedom will result.
It goes without saying that this choice is purely an individual one. Although his basic concept of freedom may agree in principle with many others (libertarian) it is only in the context of the total market that he is able to find his personal total concept of freedom.
As to the Alaskan secession ["Letters," June], what possible action can the government take if the people simply ignore them? Pay no taxes, accept no payments, give no obedience. Just how would the government put down such a rebellion? Only by mass imprisonment or mass slaughter. Both methods are far too costly (remember the total market) for the government to use. So, all Alaska needs to be free is free men who act free and are willing to pay the market price for freedom.
Jerry P. Starzinski
This is in response to Professor Eric Mack's reply [June] to David Friedman's response to Mack's critique [March] of Friedman's book—THE MACHINERY OF FREEDOM.
These seem to me to be exciting times for libertarians, for we are witnessing first hand the re-creation of a philosophic system. One big piece of this is Friedman's book and the best review of that book (of the three that I have read) has been Eric Mack's in REASON. In his response, Friedman recognized this and paid a tribute to Mack's critique that I don't think Mack understood.
Quite clearly Friedman admitted that in his anarchist system the possibility exists of extorting "protection money," or as I call it "blackmailer's surplus." And, Friedman noted this to be a "serious deficiency" in his argument while crediting Mack with the "important criticism." Mack's following reply that in this situation anarchism "could very well fail to have libertarian resolutions" was at that point redundant.
If David does solve this problem of "initial distribution" of wealth and power for the libertarian argument, he will succeed where great professional economists and philosophers such as Ronald Coase ("The Problem of Social Cost," JOURNAL OF LAW & ECONOMICS, Vol. III, Oct. 1960) have failed.
A second note that I have is contrary to Mack's reply that Friedman would be "clearer to speak of the total benefits-costs of libertarian law versus the total benefits-costs of nonlibertarian law." In such economic arguments as Friedman's, the cost of lost opportunity (of nonlibertarian law) is impliedly included in the "costs" (or benefits) of any one alternative ("benefits-costs of libertarian law") being considered. This is the same misunderstanding of Friedman's style of argument that Mack made regarding the law enforcer's opportunity cost of forgone bribes from heroin addicts. It is much more clear to evaluate an alternative by assessing all the costs and all the benefits once, than to restate the factors again and again.
Mack is otherwise a careful and imaginative philosopher and I hope to read him again in REASON.
CHEERS FOR ROTHBARD
Considering that it's more than a year after the appearance of a book now famous among readers of REASON [FOR A NEW LIBERTY], I think it a good time to relate a story some may find worthwhile.
In the October 1961 issue of the SOUTHERN ECONOMIC JOURNAL, Professor C.E. Ayres sardonically reviewed Ludwig von Mises' EPISTEMOLOGICAL PROBLEMS OF ECONOMICS. In April of 1962 the JOURNAL published a lengthy comment on the review by one of the profession's then relatively young whipper-snappers. Quoting the reviewer's assertion that "no economist has ever proposed that the economic functions of government be dispensed with altogether," the iconoclast responded in that unequivocal manner we now know so well: "The present writer, for one, is willing to come forward as a living refutation of this particular statement."
Obviously taken unawares by a stunning critique of his review, Ayres must have been thinking to himself something along the following lines: "Doctors have been unable to determine whether this man's conclusions are based upon a childhood disease or upon an illness of more recent vintage." The good professor answered the affirmation with a reply both quizzical and derisive: "I should be much interested in an amplification of this proposal, and suggest that (the writer) begin by advocating that government herewith cease and desist from registering and guaranteeing titles to property."
Who else but Murray Newton Rothbard could have aroused the ire of the professor and a little more than a decade later provide that amplification and make such an embarrassment out of a respected economist who, not knowing whom he was dealing with, can now only be pitied?
Those of us who advocate the necessity of government but who also like to be known as libertarians and not limited statists have certain fundamental disagreements with the man. But we must not forget that living amongst us is a superb and revolutionary economist, historian and social philosopher who is advancing a vision the import of which will have radical and hopefully beneficial effects on the future generations of human civilization.
In a century in which political philosophy is otherwise frightfully barren, is this not a proper time we thanked him and acknowledged his magnificent achievement?
I would like to thank you for including mention of my BIBLIOGRAPHY FOR LIBERTARIANS in the June, 1974 issue of REASON on page 38. I might mention that no one has responded to date.
My project has been complicated somewhat by a recent letter which I have received from Ernst, Cane, Berner & Gitlin, Counsellors at Law for Ayn Rand & Ayn Rand Letter, Inc. Ms. Rand, as I am sure that you are aware, objects to being referred to as libertarian. Her objection extends to refusal of being included in any bibliography for libertarians. Via her lawyers, she has made a formal demand that the AYN RAND LETTER not be included in the publication.
She also strongly objects to my use of the subtitle: IN THE NAME OF THE BEST WITHIN US, since it is the title of the last chapter of her book ATLAS SHRUGGED. As a result she has denied my permission to adopt it for my use. Consequently I would like to request that you run a brief note concerning the omission of the subtitle. Perhaps the notice could read as follows:
"At the request of counsellors at law for Ayn Rand, and Ayn Rand Inc., Ray Anne Kibbey will change the title of her proposed bibliography from A BIBLIOGRAPHY FOR LIBERTARIANS: IN THE NAME OF THE BEST WITHIN US to A BIBLIOGRAPHY FOR LIBERTARIANS. The coverage of the source will remain the same except for omission of works authored by or periodicals edited by Miss Rand."
Ray Anne Kibbey
Assistant Reference Librarian
University of South Florida Library
DON'T "GO PUBLIC"
While browsing through some back issues of REASON, I read with some dismay the announcement in the January 1973 issue that the basis for your decision not to make a public offering of securities was the high cost of SEC registration.
While the cost of SEC registration is indeed high, I would suggest that there are infinitely more compelling reasons than high cost which augur against "Going Public."
It seems incredible to me that a company such as REASON, which purports to be a vehicle for the dissemination of Libertarian ideals, would even remotely consider the prospect of becoming publicly owned, thereby voluntarily subjecting itself to the endless morass of Federal Securities Regulation, with its complex and expensive financial disclosure requirements and very real danger of politically motivated harassment by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
As an attorney with some long experience dealing with the various securities laws and the Securities and Exchange Commission, I can assure you that the decision to "Go Public" is all too often bitterly regretted by Libertarian oriented management once the full impact of that decision becomes a reality. I should think that the mere specter of providing Big Brother with the opportunity, under color of law, to permeate himself into the very bowels of your business and financial soul would be sufficient to dispel any notion of making an SEC filing.
Ronald J. Trosty
White Plains, NY
SPREADING THE WORD
Congratulations on your excellent article on "Fighting Back Against Controls" by Henry G. Manne [April]. Is it possible to obtain this article in a reprint form and/or a pamphlet form?
N.M. Camardese, M.D.
Reprints of Professor Manne's popular article are available at the cost of $100 for 500 copies. A limited number of copies of the April issue are still available for $1.00 per copy, postage-paid.—Ed.
REASON IN LOUISIANA
Congratulations on the publication of Diane Alexander's splendid article, "Pass Adam his Fig Leaf" [April]. It presented a most interesting account of the ups and downs in the struggle for freedom of expression in the film industry, and I enjoyed it very much. I may want to quote from your article on the floor of the Louisiana Legislature when the appropriate occasion arises and would appreciate your permission to do so.
Louis (Woody) Jenkins
House of Representatives
Baton Rouge, LA
Representative Jenkins is a leading spokesman for libertarian ideas in Louisiana. REASON happily consented to his use of Ms. Alexander's censorship article.—Ed.
THE VIRTUE OF SELFISHNESS
Watch out. "Selfish" is becoming the new chic-word of the 1970s, with the predictable misuses. Two current advertising campaigns are trying to extol the virtues of "selfish" support of their causes. The Developmental Council in New York is a private group which creates "public-private" partnerships in low-income areas—all based on "self-interest." Buttons emblazoned with a dollar sign read "Self Interest Pays Off For Everyone." One ad begins: "Let's get something straight right at the beginning. There's only one motive that's going to help poor people get on their feet in this country: the profit motive. Self interest. 'What's in it for me?' And that's the way it should be." Not bad. But now comes government-financed VISTA with its campus recruitment posters headlined: "Selfish Isn't Bad," followed by a definition: "caring about yourself…feeling good because you can give back a little of what you've taken…"
One encouraging note is that the word "selfish" may gain some respectability, and that is good. What is not is that the concept may lose some meaning. The moral: appeals to altruism don't work. Good.
Dennis J. Chase
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".