• LIBERALS LOSING GROUND: In the wake of Watergate, a fascinating and potentially significant political development is occurring. Many traditional FDR-type liberals are reassessing their political beliefs and are undergoing a remarkable transformation.
As described by Haynes Johnson, a highly respected Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent of the Washington Post, who has himself shifted his political thinking:
Like so many of my generation, I grew up convinced of certain political facts. Franklin Roosevelt was my hero, the Democrats were my party, and ideologically I was a liberal. A strong central government was essential and we, the people, could rely on that government to exercise its powers to insure that the greatest number derived the greatest benefits. Vox populi. Democracy in action.
Now I find myself in a peculiar position.…I want to limit the powers of the state and to protect the individual against the tyranny of the mob.
Johnson describes himself as a "new conservative" with "no place to go politically." He says that he "long ago cast off any allegiance to the Democrats as a party," and he is "not sure anymore what either they or the Republicans represent."
In a column entitled "The Rise of the Conservatives," in the Christian Science Monitor (August 28), Roscoe Drummond describes Johnson's transformation as an example of the growth of the conservative movement, and asserts that traditional liberals who have come to oppose excessive centralization of personal power are "strengthening the voice of conservatism."
What Drummond does not recognize is that many liberals and conservatives who have become disaffected with the politics of traditional liberalism and conservatism have adopted a libertarian position, including many who are not even aware of the existence of the emerging libertarian movement. There appears to be an increasing willingness of people to reject government control and, instead, to advocate reliance on voluntary market approaches as the optimum way to deal with complex social and economic problems. Drummond himself sees a visible increase of voters who conclude that "everything can't and shouldn't be run from Washington." Once the media and pollsters start to ask people whether they consider themselves to be libertarian, rather than simply conservative or liberal, we don't expect it to be long before such commentators as Drummond start discussing "The Rise of the Libertarians."
• REASON VS. THE STATE: IBM has ordered 500 reprints of Alan Reynolds' article "Trust-Busting for Fun and Profit," which appeared in REASON's April 1974 issue. IBM's headquarters in Armonk, NY, said the reprints would be used in support of the company's defense against antitrust activities of European governments. Reynolds' article previously received mention in Datamation, the computer industry's largest monthly magazine. Another company using REASON is Summa Corporation, owned by Howard Hughes, which recently purchased 20 copies of the July issue featuring Robert Poole's "The Seabed Power Struggle." As noted in Poole's article, Summa Corporation is one of the leaders in developing ocean mining technology, now threatened by the proceedings of the U.N.'s Law of the Sea Conference.
• PRESS FREEDOM IN SOUTH AMERICA AND THE U.S.: According to a survey compiled by David Belnap (Los Angeles Times, August 11), the independence of the press in 8 of South America's 10 Latin nations "now is weaker than ever before because of chronic progressive government encroachment." There are many measures used to shackle the press, with the most repressive conditions existing under the military governments in Chile and Peru. Rigorous repression also exists in Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, and only Colombia and Venezuela boast anything approaching press freedom as it is understood in the United States.
Peru's military government recently took over the country's eight major newspapers in the name of "the national interest," using Orwellian rhetoric in claiming that "expropriation of the papers has established the basis for permanent and authentic freedom of expression" in Peru (Los Angeles Times, July 28).
Meanwhile, in a local instance of repression, New York City's Commission on Human Rights has ordered the New York Times to stop printing employment ads placed by the Republic of South Africa, on the basis that they violated city laws against racial discrimination in advertising—even though the ads do not mention racial qualifications—since the Commission considered all hiring by the South African government to be subject to its policy of segregation. The New York Times will fight the ruling in court as violative of First Amendment guarantees of freedom of the press. The New York Times has advocated so many encroachments on economic freedom in the past (including a recent editorial urging the police to close down church bingo games) that it's nice to see them finally begin to (possibly) see the light.
• RESTORING "GOLD CLAUSES": In 1933, Congress acted to deprive Americans of the legal right to own gold and also the legal right to use gold as a measure of value in contracts. Prior to 1933, many agreements contained "gold clauses," requiring payment in gold coin of specified quality. These gold clauses were used as an effective means of protecting sellers and lenders against inflation, by disallowing payment of debts with depreciated paper money. Although Congress has recently authorized the ownership of gold by Americans (to take effect shortly), it has yet to restore our legal right to make contracts in gold.
It is a basic tenet of libertarianism that people be free to make contracts for repayment in any medium of exchange they prefer. Imposing legal tender laws and outlawing gold clauses are blatant interferences with the freedom to contract, but such enactments have been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
We are pleased to note that the August issue of the American Bar Association Journal contains a useful and timely article by Rene Wormer and Donald Kemmerer, "Restoring 'Gold Clauses' in Contracts," which considers various legal problems involved in restoring people's right to make contracts in gold and calls for recognition of the right of Americans to use gold clauses to help protect our contracts from the ravages of inflation.
• STRINGENT MEDICAL REGULATIONS PROPOSED: As we go to press, a Senate committee has approved a bill (S. 3585) that would force future medical school graduates to spend at least two years in areas where there are doctor shortages. Called "the single most important legislative action involving U.S. physicians," the radical bill is sponsored by Senators Edward Kennedy and Jacob Javits. It would impose federal licensing standards on all doctors in order to assure that physicians are "equitably" distributed geographically and by medical specialty, and would require doctors to get new licenses at least once every six years. The September 1974 issue of Community Digest, a publication of Blue Cross of Southern California, reports that the bill is expected to clear the Senate, but faces opposition from the House.
Although the Kennedy-Javits bill is opposed by the AMA, we regret to note that the Student American Medical Association (SAMA) (which purports to represent the nation's medical students) testified in favor of S. 3585. We deplore the stand taken by SAMA and the efforts of practitioners who—by their support of such programs as federal aid to medical schools, national health insurance, government fluoridation of drinking water, and licensing requirements in general—are helping to accelerate government control of health care services.
It is ironic that the U.S. is moving closer towards government control of medicine just as Britain's system of socialized medicine—the National Health Service—appear: on the verge of collapse. According to a report in the Christian Science Monitor (August 1), "the problems plaguing the NHS appear almost endless" and the formerly highly-touted system—which currently has a hospital-bed waiting list of over 500,000—is going through the most serious crisis of its 30-year history.
• WILL KENNEDY RUN? Even the staunchest Nixon loyalists should take comfort in Mr. Nixon's Watergate woes, to the extent it has helped create an atmosphere discouraging Sen. Edward Kennedy from running for president in 1976. After the erosion of public confidence in politicians caused by Watergate, Chappaquiddick has reemerged as a topic of political controversy. The New York Times and New Republic and other normally pro-Kennedy publications have recently carried articles aggressively attacking Kennedy's Chappaquiddick cover-up, and some of Kennedy's closest advisers are now telling him not to run. If he asked us, we'd be happy to tell him where to run.