In your October 1974 Editorial on disbarment, you appealed to my sense of fairness, but offended my sense of justice and left me with mixed emotions. After the emotions subsided, I now have a couple of comments regarding the points you raised.
First, men are not forced into becoming attorneys; they choose to do so. Before they make that choice they are told and advised again and again that any violation against a specific, written code of professional ethics will lead to an irrevocable cancellation of their right to practice law. Since this is the contract made beforehand, if a prospective attorney does not wish to agree to those conditions, he can seek another profession. (Whether or not this should or should not be a condition of becoming an attorney is another topic.)
Second, it is not the various states that are disbarring Nixon, Agnew, and the remainder of the Waterbuggers, but rather it is being proposed and done so by their own professional associations. These honorable members do not want to associate or be connected professionally with obstructors of justice, bribers, buggers, liars, etc. and are acting to protect their own good names and the reputation of their professional bar associations. (The fact that this independent, voluntary action has the effect of the offenders losing their State licenses to practice law is the by-product of government intervention, which is again another subject.)
Third, you stated that in a free society, disbarment would not deprive an attorney of his right to practice law because it would merely mean he would no longer be a member of the association that certified him. In a free society, can you imagine anyone seeking the services of an uncertified attorney? Can you imagine the judge in a court supported voluntarily by a free market society even allowing a disbarred attorney in the room as a spectator, much less as a counselor? Can you imagine the types of people who, in a free society, would seek out the services of an attorney who had been disbarred for bribery, illegal bugging, and obstruction of justice? So, even in a free society, decertification would certainly be tantamount to the loss of one's license in our present bureaucratic jungle. In point of fact, I submit that it is only in the present state of affairs that all the Watergate participants will probably be able to get their licenses back in a very short time by doing the same things that got them disbarred in the first place.
San Diego, CA
MR. KLAUSNER replies: Mr. Rodgers' letter completely misses the point of my Editorial. The questions which he sidesteps concerning the propriety of Government's power to license occupations and restrict an individual's right to make a living in the marketplace are the fundamental issues confronted in the Editorial. I refer readers to my Editorial rather than repeat my arguments here. Under a certification system, consumers would be free to select the attorney of their choice, whether or not the attorney is a member of a voluntary bar association. In the use of its licensing power, Government has disbarred attorneys for such conduct as drinking liquor (during prohibition) and has refused to allow pacifists to practice law if they would not take an oath to bear arms, even where the applicants were otherwise found to be loyal citizens who were qualified to practice law.
I agree with Mr. Rodgers that decertification might be tantamount to the loss of one's license to the extent that decertification were based on substantial grounds. But even if he doesn't accept my other arguments (against licensing and disbarment) as put forth in the Editorial, I can't see why Mr. Rodgers' "sense of justice" would oppose a system of certification that would allow consumers to select a competent attorney who happens to be a pacifist or has been observed with a joint or a bottle of gin.
In a recent REASON interview [August 1974], I talked in depth about my fight against psychosurgery, involuntary mental hospitalization and other forms of psychiatric reform projects in which I had cooperated with the Church of Scientology.
Since the publication of the interview, some individuals have wondered if I endorse the practices of the Church of Scientology, and so I want to make clear that I do not endorse them. I also want to let REASON readers know that I have had increasing experience with the Church of Scientology since I first gave that interview many months ago, and I have come to the conclusion that their views and mine on liberty are too dissimilar to warrant my continued co-operative efforts with them. I therefore no longer lend my name to projects sponsored by the Church of Scientology.
Peter R. Breggin, M.D.
I find myself in basic agreement with Bruce Ramsey's stand on "libertarian conservatives" as presented in the letters section of the October REASON. There is a danger of losing our singular intellectual identity if we become careless about the distinction between conservatives and libertarians. David Brudnoy who calls himself a libertarian while reasoning from a definitely conservative position is a case in point.
Presenting an avant-garde front to the public is important, but not at the expense of sound philosophy. Dr. Szasz may engender an impressive public image but philosophically he seems to have gotten lost somewhere around A is A. His lack of objective definitions leaves a good deal to be desired.
While it is true that many libertarians seem hard put to shake off conservative cultural ties they have their counterparts in those who accept with open arms the latest liberal-sanctioned social opinions. These individuals so hell bent on revolutionizing everything are ready, to use an old cliche, to throw the baby out with the bath water.
Rand, indeed, in many ways is a source of embarrassment because she often violates her own principles, but Rothbard's tactic is different. Rather than advocating beer drinking, pro football, or big cars he was defending the right of the individual to decide what makes him happy, and to enjoy it.
Mr. Ramsey separates himself from reality when he defends bicycles as solutions to the transportation problem and sounds almost authoritarian in his attack on the gas "guzzling" automobile, as if it were some evil monster robbing unwilling victims of their share of the public supply of gasoline.
There is a touch of naivete in Mr. Ramsey's letter—as if he believed the liberal slogans about merely searching for a solution to energy and population problems. Yet Rand, despite her opposition to legal remedies to pollution-caused destruction, has shown very clearly the mentality of many of the liberal "environmentalists" and other assorted technology haters. In this regard I would caution against contaminating libertarianism with unsound ideology of any sort, liberal as well as conservative.
Steven D. Kimball
Port Angeles, WA
I found a disturbing preoccupation with surface "images" in Mr. Bruce Ramsey's letter which appeared in the October issue. I for one have on occasion enjoyed an afternoon drinking beer and watching football, I have spent a good portion of my youth riding around in '63 and '64 Chevy Impalas and to make matters worse I even dig 1950's rock and roll. I have no intention of presenting myself as a member of "an intelligent and imaginative avant-garde" if this means, as Mr. Ramsey seems to imply, that I must drink only the best wines, ride an English ten-speed bicycle, grow a moustache, attend the opera, smoke a pipe etc. etc. ad nauseum. I use the phrase ad nauseum not because I find these traits by themselves disturbing but because I find the prospect of myself faking them for the benefit of those who might be impressed, quite literally nauseating. It seems both strange and ironic for a believer in individual liberty to be telling me how I must "present myself" in order to further the cause of freedom. I hope I have not misinterpreted Mr. Ramsey's meaning of the phrase "intelligent and imaginative avant-garde." I attach this meaning because he excludes both Murray Rothbard and Ayn Rand from his "avant-garde" not on intellectual but on cultural grounds. I am forced to conclude that he attaches a cultural meaning to the phrase which of course it does not possess. If the phrase were understood properly as "those leading a movement" (in this case an intellectual movement) I would have no objection, indeed I would feel honored to be considered part of the "avant-garde."
If some people conclude from my personal tastes that I am "Mr. Conservative" and a hate all "niggers," "hippies," "ecology nuts," "womens libbers," etc. that is their problem. Mr. Ramsey points out that we must attract the "right kind of people." These are not people who are impressed by "images." As far as I am concerned if a person has a rational mind and uses it honestly, it doesn't matter whether he lives in a split-level in the suburbs or a loft on MacDougal Street. I don't think it's too much to ask of potential libertarians to exhibit the same attitude.
Mr. Rothbard only brought up the subject at all in order to expose the fact that The Left uses this absurd criteria for judging people. We should not come out in favor of automobiles and against bicycles but in favor of what might be termed "cultural blindness" just as, and for the same reasons, Ayn Rand advocates "color blindness" in matters of race relations.
I strongly urge that we do not adopt the irrational tactics of our enemies by concerning ourselves with images rather than ideas. Mr. Ramsey ends his letter with the statement, "If it is unfortunately true that libertarians often appear" (to whom he does not specify) "to be crackpots or conservatives the answer is that many of them probably are." In other words he offers the opinions of those who judge on the basis of appearances as proof that many libertarians are "crackpots and conservatives." I say the opinions of such people prove nothing and are not worthy of discussion. Equally unworthy of our attention are "cultural behavior patterns" or "images." If Mr. Ramsey wishes to attack those libertarians which he considers "conservative" on an intellectual level, he should direct his efforts to that and only that. To attack them on cultural grounds is irrational and also unfair in that it presupposes a largely nonexistent correlation between cultural behavior and ideology. In other words, it is blind, irrational prejudice.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".