Robert Greenwood's fine article "Ayn Rand and the Literary Critics" (November) is slightly marred by an understandable but still incorrect interpretation of Nietzsche. Greenwood says that "The Ubermensch, in Nietzsche's terms, is beyond morality, or more precisely, beyond good and evil." When taken out of context Nietzsche's overman does appear to be a nihilist or amoralist, somewhat on the order of the Stirnerite model. Once, however, we realize that Nietzsche fought Kantian duty-morality tooth and nail, and once we understand that it is beyond the good and evil of that morality that the overman must reach, characterizing Nietzsche himself as endorsing the idea of going beyond morality as such is misleading.
Nietzsche did not manage ever to formulate the tenets of a morality for human beings. But he did tell us that once the Kantian ideals have killed society, once nihilism has had its day (as he thought would be the case with our own times), new values will have to be identified, values that are pro-life. Nietzsche's emphasis of the human will in contrast to human reason must also be seen in the light of what Descartes, Hume and Kant did to the prominent idea of reason via their philosophies—dehumanize it into a formal calculus. All this noted, it becomes understandable that Rand herself was attracted to Nietzsche, as shown, incidentally, in some passages of the early edition of We the Living (later removed by Rand and explained without complete precision).
Tibor R. Machan
I have always considered it my job, as a rational human being, to carefully consider what is put forth as "truth," rejecting that which is anti-reason, and integrating that which is logical into the scope of my own knowledge.
Evidently, Patricia Levy-Gleason would disagree. In her review of The Secret Life of Plants [September], she does more than tear apart an obviously mystical, bizarre book. She throws a wet blanket over any conjecture at all in the realm of knowledge, condemning everything that cannot be proved at this stage of human development, regardless of plausibility.
There are questions, however, in all the books she mentioned, that need to be answered. Why do plants grow better with music than without? Why do plants grow better with classical music than with acid rock? Why do hundreds of seemingly upstanding, responsible people report UFO sightings every year? Where did the huge stone carvings on Easter Island originate? What is there about a human's mind that can convince him that he, or someone else, is possessed by devils? These questions are derived from demonstrable facts, and are certainly within the realm of scientific inquiry.
Mankind's knowledge does not move upward in a continuum, it is a series of conjectures being proven correct, and for any one conjecture proven correct, there were many, many more which fell by the wayside, having been proven incorrect. The point here is that conjecture is an essential element of scientific inquiry, and that a blanket condemnation of it because it does not fit in with current knowledge is no different than blanket condemnation of it because it does not fit in with the Bible. It is sad indeed to see a libertarian and a Dark-Ages religious leader walking hand-in-hand in this manner.
As unsatisfactory as conditional amnesty is, one must admire the courage of President Ford for opening the question at a convention of Veterans of Foreign War. The Vets followed his announcement with a lengthy declaration in support of no amnesty. This was followed by the unseeing scolding of Ted Kennedy, who reprimanded the 33,000 Vets for being "narrow-minded" in rejecting Ford's proposal—in contradiction of his own previous militancy against a voluntary army. The body of the official statement of no-amnesty put out by the VFW convention contains a section on the history of American amnesty.
1) There have been thirty-four separate incidents of amnesty in American history.
2) George Washington, in 1795, pardoned the tax rebels of the Whiskey Rebellion who agreed to obey the law.
3) President Truman, Xmas 1952, gave amnesty to "peacetime" deserters who had left their units between V-J Day and the outbreak of Korean hostilities, June 25, 1950.
4) After WWII, 28 months after V-J Day, Truman pardoned 1,523 out of 15,803 draft law violators whose cases came under a government review mechanism.
5) After WWI in 1924, President Coolidge gave amnesty to 100 deserters, who had deserted after the Nov. 11, 1918 armistice.
6) In 1933, Roosevelt granted amnesty to 1,500 persons convicted of espionage act and draft law violations during WWI (15 years before), who had completed their sentences.
7) All of President Lincoln and Johnson's amnesties were conditional, and pardoned Confederates if they swore loyalty to the Union—a move to deplete the Dixie army. Also pardoned were Union deserters if they returned to their units to serve out a period of time equal to their original period of enlistment.
8) President Lincoln's government dealt with draft resisters in New York City where many rioted in March of 1863. Mr. Lincoln's Federals put down the riots with between 500 and 1000 dead.
9) It was not until 1898 that the Universal Amnesty Act removed all disabilities against all former Confederates.
From these facts, the VFW's conclude that there has never, following any American war, been a general amnesty for draft dodgers—only for peacetime deserters.
A libertarian can observe two things from these facts. There has been a long and populated tradition of resistance to conscription and personal involvement in war among Americans. And, considering the undermining of the US Constitution by a series of Presidents who engaged our citizens in military combat without Congress declaring war, the US was at peace during the Viet Nam years, so there is precedent for amnesty in this case.
Chairman, Alaska LP
Laws are, or should be, enunciations of principles of justice and should be applied equally to all persons. I support unconditional amnesty for all draftees and draft evaders. I also object to the Nixon pardon. However, most persons discussing these issues today are not demonstrating concern for principles of law and justice, but the evasion of these principles. Perhaps, as a former national candidate for the Libertarian Party, "The Party of Principle," I can contribute some clarity to the subject.
First, the Selective Service Act is still a law on the books, and draft evaders and deserters have broken the law. In order to maintain respect for law, we must first repudiate and repeal the Selective Service Act so that we can then properly declare unconditional amnesty for all those penalized by that unjust and immoral law. But, to forgive those who broke the law while that law is still in effect, repudiates the principle of law itself and makes a mockery of the entire legal process.
(The principle involved does not concern the morality of the war [any war], but the morality of the draft. The principle is stated in the 13th Amendment to the Constitution which prohibits involuntary servitude.)
On the second issue, most thoughtful persons will agree that it is not a pardon which former President Nixon received, but immunity from the law. If obstruction of justice was Nixon's crime, it is Ford's crime also. The pardon should not have been given before judgment was legally rendered. The pardon, under those circumstances, was also a repudiation of the legal process, taking, as it does, judgment out of the hands of legally constituted authority.
Compassion is not at issue at this time in the Nixon case. Compassion is an emotion properly reserved for those who suffer unjustly or accidentally (such as draftees). We are not sure if this applies to the Nixon case since the law was preventing from establishing to what extent Nixon was a victim or a participant in the alleged crimes. But, in either case, judgment should have been made after the case was presented.
It is, I think, extremely important that the public recognize that if this nation is to be governed by laws, not men, then injustices must be rectified by changing or repealing unjust laws and granting pardon and amnesty where deserved after proper legal and judicial procedure.
Your article on Abaco in the October issue was most interesting and well researched. I had similar interest in the developments there and spent some time in Abaco this summer trying to get some feel for the attitudes and plans of the people, especially those involved with AIM. Purely from a selfish standpoint, of course; I wanted to see if there were any possibilities of outsiders, such as myself, fitting into the society should the movement toward independence take more serious steps.
It seemed apparent to me that the common motivation of the AIM people was a strong desire to "throw those rascals out" and "run things ourselves," as opposed to any sort of leaning toward a libertarian philosophy of government. This is not to say that their grievances aren't quite real; I'm sure they are. If I may generalize from a limited sample, I rather think that people tend to start revolutions from gut issues impinging on individuals in a personal way, and not because of philosophical differences. Perhaps that's why so many revolutions merely end up with a fresh set of despots. It is to be hoped that a leavening of libertarian beliefs can be inserted into the foundations of this particular movement, I did my best to help this along.
However, there is one observation that seems pertinent to the eventual success of the new nation. I submit that the present population of Abaco will not and should not permit any large influx of immigrants into their new country. It would not be in their best interests to do so, since the education, skills, capital, and competitiveness of the newcomers would tend to sink the present population. Friction and conflict would be inevitable, in my opinion. A possible solution to this problem would be the granting of sovereign rule of one of the smaller islands to Mike Oliver's group for the formation of yet another nation, this one deriving its population and impetus from a philosophical base—Libertarianism, if you will. By allowing our new little country (shall we call it Merva II?) to exist nearby, Abaco can take some advantage of the inevitable influx of capital and development in terms of goods and jobs, while retaining the ability to control immigration to their own country and thereby limit the competitive impact of the newcomers. There is some logic to this procedure, since the present inhabitants of Abaco can thus offer a specific reward to those who are preparing to give them aid in their struggle, without losing control of their country and going the way of the Hopi and the Mohican. From the other side of the fence, the actual amount of land involved in forming Merva II isn't nearly as important as its complete sovereignty; after all, we couldn't all fit on the whole archipelago, let alone Abaco. I think we are all looking for a philosophical (or passportal?) home, even if we can't take up physical residence. If some such arrangement could be made with AIM, I would certainly feel much less pessimistic about the ultimate results of Abaco's coming turmoil.
By the way, an interesting item concerns the Crown lands and effect of this on the government. Each person I talked to expressed deep concern with the use of this land and seemed convinced that it was vital that their new government have complete control over it permanently. If any plank in the constitution prohibited the ownership of property by government, as does Mike's excellent document, you had better believe that the prohibition will be ignored! Personally, I think you're going to have to keep government pretty well starved down to the bone and keep a close rein on its powers if it's to remain a free country. All that "free" land is just going to grow as a source of controversy and excuse for growing government, but that is not an easy point to put across on Abaco right now.
Again, my congratulations on an excellent job and an enjoyable magazine.
Lannon F. Stafford
LOSE SOME, WIN SOME
Since I wrote to criticize your emotional editorial on ERA in the August issue, I now take occasion to compliment you on your editorial on the Japanese internment outrage.
I do this for three reasons. First, it was very well written; second, it was correct in fact and inference; and third, the emotion (anger) was based on irrefutable evidence, none of which was overstated or wrenched from a context that would give it any meaning different from that given it in your piece. In short, it was good.
In addition, your readers may be interested to know that the Supreme Court case that upheld the outrage, Hirabayashi v. United States, 320 U. S. 81 (1943) is still being cited as good law to support less blatant but perhaps more insidious outrages in the delegation of arbitrary powers to bureaucratic agencies.
Philip M. Carden
Still fascinated with the idea of presenting images to the public eye, Bruce Ramsey, in his latest letter [October], now does us the service of dismissing Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard as wild-eyed conservative crackpots who prevent the libertarian movement from presenting the kind of image necessary to attract "the right kind of people."
The idea of the libertarian movement having a singular "image" is repugnant. Libertarians must only have in common the uncompromising belief in and commitment to the concept of individual sovereignty. If that principle is understood, then there is plenty of room for and need of the admirers of Rand, Rothbard, Von Mises, Read, LeFevre, etc. We're all working to get the government off our backs and out of our lives, aren't we?
Ramsey states, "Now that Rand has been effectively disowned…" Just who was it that disowned her? I and other libertarians I know have nothing but the utmost admiration and respect for both Ms. Rand's novels and the vast majority of her ideas. Has Mr. Ramsey been appointed (or appointed himself) the Libertarian Pope capable of excommunicating the impure? Along with a fascinating one sentence synopsis of the energy crisis, Ramsey criticizes Murray Rothbard for "praising Chevy Impalas and the beer drinking addicts of TV football" (not avant-garde enough for Mr. Ramsey's taste). I must confess that I violated this self-proclaimed libertarian image by spending three hours last Sunday drinking beer with friends while watching a pro football game on TV.
Am I to be dropped from the squad, Bruce?
I'm writing you in regard to a letter you published in the October issue by a Bruce Ramsey concerning the image of "libertarian-conservatives."
The bulk of his letter consists mainly of normative statements that don't really deserve an answer; i.e., "we should present ourselves as an intelligent and imaginative avant-garde. Some of the time (Brandon, Efron, Szasz, etc.) we project that image, but too often we come off as conservatives or wild-eyed crackpots." I have to question his knowledge of libertarianism if he cites the following as an example of LIBERTARIAN crackpot; "a group that intends to colonize the asteroids by 1990, and are presently raising the money by selling used cars!"—i.e., the Society of Free Space Colonizers. How that ties in with libertarianism is unknown, but he seems to think it does.
Specifically, though, I would like to comment on his statements about how Murray Rothbard is now carrying the "banner of cultural conservatism" formerly carried by Ayn Rand. According to Mr. Ramsey, "he has come out praising Chevy Impalas and the beer-drinking addicts of TV football in a column [Viewpoint, July] about transportation that scarcely concerns itself with transportation at all. He ignores the well known fact that automobiles are guzzling an irreplaceable resource at a rate that cannot be maintained much longer, preferring instead to take potshots at the Left. He dismisses bicycles with a contemptuous sniff, ignoring the fact that they are cheap, healthful and non-polluting. He has so little imagination that he thinks that all subways will be as smelly and decrepit as the ones where he lives."
In the first place, the article by Rothbard was entitled, "Hatred of the Automobile." It was an explanation of the psychological reasons for attacks against the automobile. It was not about the transportation issue as such. He did not ignore the well known fact that autos are gas guzzlers. In fact, Mr. Rothbard uses the term "gas guzzling monsters" in the text of his article. Who could possibly ignore the fact that cars use lots and lots of gas in this day and age?
Secondly, the potshots arrived when Mr. Rothbard "dismissed bicycles with a contemptuous sniff, ignoring the fact that they are cheap, healthful and non-polluting." Well, this is true, he did dismiss bicycles. And it was with a contemptuous sniff. This is how Mr. Rothbard put it: "we can dismiss the bicycle as a patently bizarre attack on living standards and on the aged and infirm." Now I ask: who is taking pot shots at whom?
As far as Murray Rothbard "not having any imagination because he thinks all subways will be smelly and decrepit" misrepresents the context. "Consider the contrast between the auto and mass transportation. The auto is comfortable, individualistic, mobile; the driver is in command of his ship—he can start from anywhere he wishes and end up the same way. The automobile is the supreme form of individualistic transportation, catering to the comforts and wants of the individual owner. But consider mass transit: it is tiring, uncomfortable, collectivistic. Everyone confronts everyone else, everyone is forced to rub elbows with a 'cross-section of democracy' as they are herded from a point set by the transit system to a goal set by it as well." He doesn't say that they are "smelly and decrepit," he simply points out the advantages of the auto.
Mr. Ramseys' fears of acquiring the wrong image obviously far outweigh his concern for accuracy, and fairness. If you don't like his conclusions, then refute them. Potshots we can read in the news anytime.
Paul Sagal's analysis of Harry Browne's ethical attitudes (September) misses a lot because Sagal accepts Browne's own description of his philosophy as amoral. As almost anyone will admit, sticking a tag on something doesn't make it what the tag says. Sagal is just as mistaken as Browne when he calls Browne's ideas amoral.
Browne believes that the only purpose of a code of values is to make the user happy by guiding him to courses of action which will arouse this emotion. He warns against falling into the morality trap. The morality trap consists of doing things which are not in an individual's self-interest, because they are "right." Browne rejects this type of moral attitude in favor of doing whatever produces happiness.
This is all very fine, but it cannot be called amoral. As Rand has pointed out the only valid morality is one that is life sustaining rather than life negating. She argues that to accept life negating principles as a good is absurd. She then declares that that which is moral is that which enables man to survive qua man. That is, that which enables him to live successfully or happily according to his nature. This last part is the important part.
As Rand has also shown, because man has a particular nature, there are certain rules he must follow to be happy. It is impossible to be happy in opposition to one's nature. She then constructs a code of morality based on man's nature and the nature of reality. If followed, this code should lead the individual to happiness.
Browne, by whatever label he and Sagal choose to apply to his ideas, approaches the same result from the other side. He says, do what makes you happy—yet what makes you happy has to coincide with the nature of man and reality. The individual who practices this policy fully will end up doing the same things as the followers of Rand's Objectivist morality.
The net effect will be to produce a code of morality as surely as if this had been his intention. Any code which instructs you to do what makes you happy cannot be amoral. To advance such an idea is to once again tear man between the age old dichotomy of self-interest and the good.
Steven D. Kimball
Port Angeles, WA
MORE ON THE ERA
Though I consider myself a feminist, I have had some reservations about the ERA in that I don't want women to be duped into thinking that rights can be legislated. To achieve and maintain equal status with men requires diligent effort on the part of all women who wish to assert their merits as individuals.
Yet the importance of eliminating government interference with our ability to own and control our lives and property must be my overriding concern; the ERA does empower legislatures to remove such obstacles and appears to be a more productive approach to the problem than confronting sexist laws case by case.
My support of the ERA has been criticized on the basis that I am an anarchist, and the ERA is a piece of legislation. But I consider it entirely consistent with anarchism to support acts by government to inhibit itself. I certainly support the repeal of laws, and the repeal of laws does entail legislation.
One popular argument against the ERA is that it may be misinterpreted by the courts. Without feigning precognition (who knows what the courts may do?) the issue at hand is whether or not to endorse a measure enabling the government to restrict its own ability to aggress against a collectively identifiable group of individuals. The ERA is libertarian in principle, and the possibility of someone misinterpreting our principles should not prevent us from voicing and practicing them. Further, the misinterpretation argument has never been used, to my knowledge, against such constitutional amendments as the right to bear arms. Proponents of such an argument might logically conclude that since the courts are upholding the obvious abuses of the Second Amendment that it should be repealed.
Another nonsensical argument is that the ERA, rather than having the effect of eliminating protective labor laws for women, may instead precipitate similar legislation for men. It hardly seems likely that men, in their superior political and economic position, would tolerate such a move.
Some libertarians seem to have difficulty with the ERA because they have a negative gut reaction to anything popular among "the Left," but such collective assessments based on emotionality rather than reason do nothing to advance libertarianism. The vacuous rationalizations I have heard from some libertarians for nonsupport of the ERA lead me to conclude that these individuals should consider some introspection.
Free Venice, CA
Ms. Keathley is the California Peace and Freedom Party candidate for governor. —Ed.
I teach English at Virginia Commonwealth University, and next semester I'm teaching a course called "The Businessman in Literature." I would appreciate any suggestions your readers may have for poems, stories, novels, plays, screenplays, and essays to be included on a reading list or supplementary bibliography, though I'm mainly looking for imaginative literature rather than non-fiction treatises. The subject need not be strictly "the businessman," but may range to related topics; and the literature may be in any language and from any era.
Please send to: Cheri Parker, Dept. of English, Virginia Commonwealth University, Academic Center, Richmond, VA 23280
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".