RENT CONTROL QUERY
The facts and analysis in David Grant's rent control article [August] were interesting, but it ended on a somewhat strange note. Said Grant in his concluding paragraph: "In a society where many industries are relatively unregulated, you cannot place heavy controls on one industry in one city and expect it to thrive. If profits are unlimited elsewhere, you cannot 'guarantee' a ceiling of 8.5 percent return on capital value at some future date and expect landlords to eagerly fix up all their apartments—especially if you guarantee no floor on losses."
Grant's article favored local decontrol of rents in New York City as a solution to that city's housing shortage. But the obvious implication of his concluding paragraph is that nationwide rent control would be an alternative solution. In point of fact, however, nationwide rent control would produce a nationwide housing shortage, rather than alleviating the local housing shortage in the New York area. The crucial fact in this matter is that tenants have landlords outvoted. If rents are decided at the political level, the landlords will get the shaft. The result will be a housing shortage.
Now I have done enough writing to realize that it is easy to wind up with implications that you do not intend. Is that what happened in this case? Or does Grant actually believe that nationwide rent control would end the New York City housing shortage?
MR. GRANT replies: Let me assure Mr. Jones that nationwide rent control was the last solution I had in mind for New York City's housing woes. If my conclusion suggested that, I wish to correct it and hereby sentence myself to re-reading the collected works of John Kenneth Galbraith.—D.M.G.
DECOLLECTIVIZE THE MILITARY
David Brudnoy is quite correct in his Viewpoint dealing with "A Libertarian Critique of the Military" [August] when he refers to the military as a collectivist monstrosity. There is no question that the military, as it now operates, is irrationally structured and thus destructive of individual rights.
But when one examines other basic institutions of society besides the military, e.g., the family and the school, one will find that these also are collectivist monstrosities consisting of the controlling authorities, the parents or school administrators, and the subservient subjects, the children or students who must obey every command coming from these authorities. And whatever "rights" appear to exist in these institutions (as well as the military) are really privileges, privileges which can be withdrawn at the whim of those in charge.
But neither the family, school nor the military need be collectivist institutions, although they are now undoubtedly structured as such due to, as Peter Breggin mentions in his REASON interview, the almost universal acceptance of "the general (altruistic) ethic of do as you are told, be controlled, be subject to control." In other words, sacrifice your individual rights and submit to the dictates of others for the "good of society."
One can decollectivize societal institutions only by extending the recognition and protection of individual rights to all citizens, including children and youths. To decollectivize the family it will be necessary to eliminate the mystically based marriage ceremony and contract, coupled with the elimination or rewriting of laws which apply to the offspring of a pair, laws which now obliterate the rights of these progeny. To decollectivize the school, it will be necessary to eliminate schools and colleges and replace them with education businesses, i.e., place education in the business community where rights are protected. (For further details see my article "The Foundation of Freedom," REASON, April-May 1971.)
To decollectivize the military it will be necessary to operate the military as one would operate any other business (although the military must be a branch of the government, a noncompetitive, non-business organization). The military should hire people, by contract, to do specific jobs for which they will receive training. There is no reason for the dehumanizing and brutalizing basic training that is now given. What is needed is a positive and humanizing program to train individuals in the skills necessary to carry out the functions of the military, and if these individuals do not cooperate, as they agreed in their contract, they should be dismissed (fired).
Military discipline is necessary, just as discipline is needed in any enterprise. But there is a vast difference between the barbaric blind discipline that is achieved by means of force or the threat of force, and discipline achieved by means of voluntary cooperation to achieve mutual interests. It is discipline of the latter type which will serve the military well.
In a military that was structured according to business principles, there would be no need to suppress the freedom of speech (except to protect military secrets that must be withheld from enemies), freedom of political activity (one need not hire or retain an individual who pursues activities which are threatening to the country), or freedom of contract or association. The same rights as possessed by private citizens should also be upheld when one becomes a member of the noncollectivized, business structured military.
Yes, the military is a necessary institution, but like other societal institutions, it need not be collectivized. Knowing that a rationally structured military is a possibility is the first step. The next step is to help bring about this restructuring as the libertarian influence continues to grow.
Professor Johnson reviews William Rickenbacker's The Twelve-Year Sentence elsewhere in this issue.—Ed.
I wish to express some criticisms of Dr. Brudnoy's column entitled: "A Libertarian Critique of the Military." As frequently happens in socio-political discussions, the basic philosophical issue was not clearly delineated in Dr. Brudnoy's article. The fundamental libertarian principle involved in the question of military service—or any kind of service—is whether or not it is voluntary. The intended purposes, actual uses, and means of financing military forces are, of course, also the concern of libertarians; but the subject of Dr. Brudnoy's column was limited to the working and living conditions of personnel in U.S. military service.
From a practical point of view, considering military service in a voluntary free-market setting, it would obviously be wise to make military service as attractive as possible, in terms of financial remuneration, life style, prestige, etc. How else (except by fraud) to induce people to volunteer? It is also probable that military regulations that afforded fewer constraints on the lives of military personnel would be successful in inducing more and better people to enlist, without necessarily increasing costs. The prevailing supply/demand characteristics of the (free) labor market naturally determine how many qualified people sign up for an offered set of military-life conditions.
I certainly agree that many of the restrictions traditionally placed on the lives of U.S. and other military personnel have been senseless and unnecessarily severe. But, again, the essential ethical issue is that enlistment be based on a voluntary contract, i.e., one that does not involve coercion (governmental or otherwise) or fraud. The harshness of the contract's terms is ethically beside the point, however unpleasant, self-defeating, etc., as long as those terms are mutually understood and agreed upon. Actually, all contracts involve the voluntary modification of each party's rights, in exchange for rights concessions from the other(s). The goods and/or services that are exchanged (surrendered) do not have to be similar or (by some standard?) of equal value–they only have to be mutually agreed upon.
In his praise of Jerry Norton, Dr. Brudnoy states that the journalist "frequently speaks—and eloquently—against blanket amnesty." Since Dr. Brudnoy does not define "blanket amnesty," or Norton's argument against it, I hesitate (short of stopping) to question his evaluation of "eloquently." According to my understanding of "the amnesty issue," it involves the government's forgiving (i.e., not punishing) those who have left the U.S. to avoid being drafted (coerced) into military service, a clear violation of their basic rights (slavery). Mr. Norton may argue "eloquently" against such amnesty, but he cannot argue rationally or justly.
The final paragraph of Dr. Brudnoy's column suggests that Jerry Norton's critique of the military's rotten treatment of its personnel is somehow related to the question of the need of military force for defense. Both aspects deserve serious consideration, but I'm inclined to think that the apparently implied illogical connection between them was unintentional.
Joseph J. Curran
Daly City, CA
I read with interest David Brudnoy's article ["Viewpoint," August] on the present nature of the American military. Last February 27th I briefly got into a discussion with Mr. Brudnoy on this very subject at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, Indiana. I agreed full-heartedly with him that the military's manpower should be decreased.
The present military establishment is repugnant to anyone who professes to be a libertarian. All attempts are made to eradicate a person's individuality, and individuality is what the libertarian movement is all about. A person's physical appearance is even altered (through compulsory haircuts) to stifle individuality. Even a century ago there was much more individuality throughout the American military than there is today.
In the book The End of the Draft by Karl Hess and Thomas Reeves there are several examples of what can be done to reform the American military to make it more democratic. One of the more interesting examples was the possible formation of voluntary unions in the military during peacetime. This is now the practice of the Scandinavian, Canadian, West German, and Japanese militaries.
But altogether it is completely asinine to think of World War III (if it ever comes) being fought in the same way as the second World War. Let's face it, W.W. III for the most part, is going to be fought with thermo-nuclear missiles, not men. Therefore the option of reducing the military into a "technological complex"; i.e., a few thousand people pressing little red buttons to release these warheads in case of an attack, should not be ruled out.
Of course it would be better for all nations to cast aside weapons and abolish war, but until that time comes I think the American military has no alternative but to transform itself into either a democratic establishment or a "push-button" technological complex.
MR. BRUDNOY replies: I am in accord with Prof. Johnson's general views on the military, which are humane, correct from (what I gather to be) the orthodox libertarian premises, and possible. At the moment, however, I have some serious doubts whether an entirely free-market situation could obtain in the armed forces; a conservative-libertarian approach would call for a step-by-step movement to the goals Johnson desires. What's that old Chinese proverb about a journey of a thousand miles?
In reply to Mr. Curran, both Jerry Norton and I vastly prefer a voluntary to a conscripted military; what we have now is the former in practice but the latter waiting in the closet to be brought out when the authoritarians decide the voluntary military doesn't serve the purposes they favor. Accordingly, Norton—and I—would prefer that we work within the realities of the moment, bringing due process and as many aspects of voluntarism as are now possible into the military situation. Pie-in-the-sky theorizing I must leave to others, my own bent of mine being practical and my own temperament, conservative. (It is possible, by the way, to be a conservative by temperament and a libertarian by choice. Or somesuch. Which I am.)
Nevertheless, although in theory people now joining the military do so because of a strictly voluntary choice, in fact many do because they can't find work elsewhere. Therefore, on the one hand they know what they're doing, and suffer the consequences; on the other hand they grumble about the strictures put upon them. And rightly so. Change does not come by passive acceptance of unpleasantness; some good healthy "subversion" from within the military, and some attacks (like Norton's) from without, help to better the military situation to which Norton's lecture and my "Viewpoints" piece were aimed.
Mr. Norton's "eloquent" argument against blanket amnesty is one grounded in a humanitarian concern for the lives of the tens of thousands of people who would benefit from amnesty plus a concern for the viability of the armed forces, which viability would be diminished by (in effect) condoning desertion and draft evasion in principle. Neither Jerry Norton nor I like the idea of conscription; both of us recognize that it was the law, however undesirable that law seems to us now, and to others (and us) many years back.
The draft is a bad deal but it was the law; retroactive repeal of laws is not a part of Anglo-American jurisprudence, anymore than an ex post facto law is in any decent governmental system. It is a thorny problem: does one send someone up the river for 20 years because he puffs a marijuana joint, just because the law proscribes pot smoking? Well, we—REASON readers and I—say no. That's easy. But if one approves blanket amnesty now, what will happen in the next war, when, say, soldiers who have joined voluntarily (or, it may easily be imagined, joined because they were drafted) desert?
I don't know about the "implied illogical connection" to which Mr. Curran refers: I do know that this country will always need a military force, and that as best we can make military life decent, we should do so.—D.B.
I found Ms. Kinsky's editorial on the Equal Rights Amendment [August] refreshingly interesting, thought-provoking and useful.
—Useful because it presented the actual text of the ERA, thus dispelling the vague misconceptions many libertarians have about ERA.
—Interesting because it presented a strong case for a position that is certainly controversial in libertarian circles.
—And thought-provoking because the argument was compelling and reasonable.
There are of course good arguments to be made on the other side of this issue too, but if libertarians are concerned with real social change and not just utopian fantasies such issues as the ERA need to be rationally and logically argued and debated from both sides. Sometimes we may actually find that the most reasonable course is not the seemingly obvious one (let's watch out for knee-jerk libertarianism). Ms. Kinsky is to be commended for adding a little-heard (in libertarian circles) dimension to this important issue.
New York, NY
Thanks for your fine editorial on the Equal Rights Amendment. Somehow I've managed to remain uninformed on this issue up to the present time. Now your editorial has given me the intellectual ammunition needed to firmly support the ERA.
William C. White
Los Altos, CA
Mr. White is the California Libertarian Party candidate for the U.S. Senate.—Ed.
I am writing this response to the August editorial to clarify libertarian criticism of the Equal Rights Amendment. First of all, libertarians such as myself positively do not oppose the ERA on the grounds that conservatives such as Phyllis Schafly oppose that amendment. Libertarians in general do not favor current divorce and alimony laws, and support full property rights for women as well as men. Nor are libertarians opposed to female entry into male-dominated fields, when those exceptional women are equally qualified.
However, the ERA (regardless of its specific wording) may serve to enshrine the idea of egalitarianism, just as the Equal Protection clause has done in the case of blacks. Of course the ERA says nothing about quotas, etc.; but then, the 14th Amendment does not mention bussing for compulsory racial balance. Judicial misinterpretation of the Constitution is a current fact of life, and should be considered in the adoption of risky amendments, even if their actual wording seems in order. For more on artificial equality and the women's liberation issue see Dr. Murray N. Rothbard's two articles "Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature" and "The Great Women's Liberation Issue—Setting It Straight," both contained in his latest book Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature and Other Essays. [Reviewed in this issue.—Ed.]
Another problem to be considered by libertarians is that the Selective Service System still exists and thus the draft could be reimposed in the case of war. The ERA would then double the number of eligible draftees. Although the actual number of draftees may well not double, it probably would at least increase with the increased availability. Moreover, the number of induced draft-scared volunteers would probably increase, to the delight of our military slave-holders. Moreover, regardless of the actual total number of men and women drafted, there is the additional uncertainty to which all members of the relevant age group would be subjected; the ERA would in effect double the number of persons subject to this uncertainty.
Thirdly, the inclusion of the ERA in the Constitution may subject other constitutional rights to a precarious "balancing test": when sex equality conflicts with freedom of the press for example, the latter may be denied by the Court. In fact, the Supreme Court did exactly that in the recent Pittsburgh Commission case. By a close 5-4 vote the justices decided that newspapers did not have the right to run want-ad columns separated by sex. Now the pro-ERA agitator may object that if the Court already engages in such ridiculous "balancing," then the ERA could not make things much worse. But it is easier to challenge the constitutionality of mere legislative statutes (as at present) vis-a-vis e.g. the First Amendment than to uphold claims of competing constitutional protections. This same comment applies to yet another danger behind the ERA: interference with private employment discrimination. Despite the ERA emphasis on government discrimination, challenges to government intervention in private discrimination could be made more difficult by adoption of the ERA. The Civil Rights Act, as a mere legislative entity, could presently be declared unconstitutional in its unlibertarian applications with greater likelihood than after the adoption of the ERA.
My final objection to the ERA does concern its actual wording, not merely pragmatic considerations of judicial misinterpretation etc. The "legislative enforcement" clause of the ERA is completely off the mark from a libertarian point of view. What is needed in the women's rights area is precisely not more legislation, but the repeal of existing discriminatory legislation, such as protective labor laws. In fact, I consider the editorial's optimism regarding the probable demise of such laws upon adoption of the ERA as completely unfounded. Could the ERA not just as easily be interpreted to mean that protective labor legislation should be applied to both men and women? Actually the latter would be much more in keeping with current socialistic trends; thus, we would risk hour limits for men as well as women upon adoption of the ERA.
As a final comment let me remark that what really matters to the libertarian is not so much equality of treatment before the law, but rather the total amount of enslavement and other crimes committed by the state. The analogy with taxation is appropriate: much more important than the progressiveness or the proportionality of taxation is its overall level. A progressive tax structure ranging from 0-10 percent for example, is preferable from a libertarian viewpoint to a proportional tax structure of say 30 percent.
At the very least, libertarians should agitate for a change in the ERA enabling clause before embarking on the risky course of campaigning for the ERA's adoption.
Frank H. Horn
Member, Wisconsin LP
KINSKY AND THE ERA
Ms. Kinsky's editorial supporting the ERA was not "profoundly" libertarian. In contrast to her naive assertions, every enabling clause enacted has been used by manipulators to interfere with individual freedom. If she had briefly researched the historical legislative and judicial interpretation of such enabling provisions, that fact would be clear to her unless the cause she supports is above objective evaluation.
Furthermore, the enabling clause by its clear wording contradicts what Ms. Kinsky argues that is "implies." A government body does not "enforce" anything against itself but rather against individuals. And since legislation has created the inequities she complains of, more "appropriate legislation" is not needed but rather delegislation of the old.
Beyond her attempt to assure us that the ERA is not an encroachment, her arguments for support of the amendment could be incorporated in the Democratic Party Platform. Contrary to Ms. Kinsky's position, the ERA is and would be an extension of collectivism.
Dean R. Hyatt
Buena Park, CA
I am very much concerned about the editorial by Lynn Kinsky on ERA. I question the need for another amendment. The basic intentions of our constitution become clouded with each additional amendment. It certainly opens up avenues for interpretations which reach into the relationship of marriage. To be an individual means that one can't force cooperation and love. The ERA, in my opinion, is a cry for attention to problems which can best be solved through proper channels of legislation. The culture of this nation is still based on a moral and ethical value system—I hope.
There are 17 State Legislatures which have rejected (or never ratified) ERA. They are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, IIlinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Utah, South Carolina and Virginia. Nebraska and Tennessee have rescinded their ratification. There is a 97-page Virginia Task Force Report which proves that there are no advantages for women in ERA and many disadvantages. Virginia rejected the ERA based on the findings of this report.
The whole world needs liberation into doing their own thinking. If there are husbands who are slaves, it is their own choice. Using this slave idea as the reason that Phyllis Schlafly opposes the ERA, is a tactic that I don't like to see in an editorial in your magazine.
There are real differences, both physical and social, between men and women. Why not let them resolve their differences without the shackles of ERA? Will ERA cause as much confusion as the 1964 Civil Rights Act which was supposed to be the cure-all for what ails everyone? What happens to the equal rights clause already in the 14th Amendment? Do we achieve equality by lowering the privileges now accorded to men or by raising the privileges of women?
Isn't the reading or rereading of Ayn Rand's Anthem a "must" to get a true perspective on what is happening in the world today? Let's do it before we become a number in a numberless pile being trampled on by those who think the ERA is the paragon for today.
ERA AND SEX DIFFERENCES
I was both amazed and somewhat amused by the emotional editorial on the so-called Equal Rights Amendment in the August issue of a magazine sporting the title, "Reason."
As one who has called himself libertarian for 20 years since giving up the fight to win back the right to use the once-honorable and essentially synonymous term "liberal" from the collectivist Tories who stole it, I object to your dogmatic statements about what is and is not a "libertarian" position with respect to ERA.
My Merriam-Webster II, which finally convinced me to adopt the new label somewhere around 1952 or so, defines "libertarian" this way: "One who holds to the doctrine of free will; also, one who upholds the principles of liberty, esp. individual liberty of thought and action."
If one assumes, as I do, Ayn Rand does, Ludwig von Mises did, John Hospers does, and as you apparently do, that the existence of laws and governments is not necessarily incompatible with libertarian principles, and if you further assume, as a very large number of persons do, that government's sole job is to exercise defense functions, then I see no way that any legislature could comply with your demand that every individual of both sexes be treated the same in all situations. Women, except for a relative few Amazons, are considerably more vulnerable and more in need of defense than most men. I would be interested, for instance, in how you would define the crime of "rape" without making a distinction between the sexes. Similarly, although I don't think "alimony" is or should be warranted merely from the fact of divorce, I think the law must take cognizance of the husband's responsibility to a woman he has placed at a disadvantage by begetting children as something somewhat different in kind than the responsibility of the woman arising from their joint acts.
But, in order to get to ERA, let us assume you are right all the way about what the laws should provide with respect to ignoring sexual differences, and assume further that your ideas on these points were shared by all who come within the scope of the label "libertarian."
Will ERA accomplish the purpose? You seem confident it will, because you think you know what the words mean, saying flatly that "The Equal Rights Amendment specifically enjoins governments from discriminating.…" [Your emphasis.] It certainly does not do it "specifically." With warped, but strong, minds like those of Burger, Brennan, and Warren defining the words, and even with honest judges who look at them on the basis of legal precedents, the ERA will not be interpreted in practice as you suggest. You recognize the problem but dismiss it, saying that "then the Court is the problem, not the Amendment." But the Court problem must be solved first, or the Amendment will miss its mark. Or the amendment should be re-worded to say what you say it says and say it on a basis that will avoid the force of legal precedents that can make a mockery of it, even with honest judges committed to the modern upside-down notions of stare decisis.
If the legislatures that have already approved the amendment were to go ahead and act in accordance with your interpretation of it, women and men who like it that way would have an awful lot of places to go to escape their "slavery."
Meanwhile, if their attempt to force it on the other states is successful, the net result will be to broaden the power of both state and Federal governments to interfere in the lives of individuals, and none of us slaves will have any place to run.
Philip M. Carden
I found Paul T. Sagal's article on Harry Browne [September] to be of considerable interest and importance. Libertarians would do well not to quickly dismiss Browne, or his philosophical precursor and mentor, Max Stirner. Browne has, for one, reached more people with his brand of libertarianism than any other contemporary writer save perhaps Ayn Rand: that is in itself too vastly important an achievement to be ignored, or not to be taken seriously.
It would be inappropriate for REASON to have asked Ayn Rand to review Is Objectivism a Religion? It was likewise inappropriate as Harry Browne wrote to REASON, to have a politician, John Hospers, review his How I Found Freedom, a book that urges the pursuit of the libertarian ideal by primarily extrapolitical means. It is fairly obvious that if politics came to play an increasingly smaller role in the libertarian movement, Hospers might find his stature and importance in the movement likewise diminished. He does have rather a vested interest in the continuation of libertarianism as a political movement, and, in fact, as a primarily political movement. But just as the Encyclopedia Britannica will likely not commission Richard Nixon to write its article on Impeachment, neither should we let Dr. Hospers, as valuable and important as his observations may be, have the last word on Browne. I think, alas, that his review showed moreover that he neither carefully read nor completely understood the subject book.
Perhaps it would be best, in the end, if Harry Browne could find the time to write his own REASON article. If that were done, the questions might to some extent be laid to rest: Is Browne's philosophy an amoral one? Is he, in fact, more or less a disciple of Stirner? Is he an "Epicurean"? Or is his book a practical manual of self-liberation, in itself amoral by emphasizing expediency, but not necessarily advocating amorality? I can think of no one more qualified than Browne—or at least a serious student of amoral egoism as propounded by Stirner, Badcock, Walker, Browne, et al.—to tackle these questions in the pages of REASON, and throw some light on the issues raised.
Grand Rapids, Ml
Since we cannot change the world overnight, let's work with what we have.
President Ford is being tempted to become the President who led America out of the darkness of the Nixon Administration and into an era of "peace and unity." In his efforts to make peace with Congress I fear that he will weaken his once firm opposition to Federal aid.
In Ford's 25 years as Congressman, he opposed almost all forms of social welfare including food stamps, Medicare, Federal aid to elementary and secondary schools, rent subsidies, Model Cities and creation of the Office of Economic Opportunity.
Why don't libertarians barrage him with letters in order to let him know that he is strongly supported at least on this one point?
Franklin Park, IL