I understand that because of the conflict between REASON's typesetting deadlines for the January issue, and the earliest date by which we could have known the probable election results in New York, the paragraph in my article ["Happy Days Are Here Again"] concerning the latter was altogether omitted. I think readers ought to know that the article was intended to include the following:
"In New York the FLP [Free Libertarian Party] once again danced out of its corner and bloodied the opposition noses. They collected 40,000 signatures to put Jerry Tuccille on the gubernatorial ballot. These superlibertarians hoped, through a clever combination of ideology and attention-getting events, to snag the 50,000 votes needed to place the FLP permanently on the ballot. Attention they got, in abundance, but not the needed votes. A consequence of the campaign was the discovery of many "new libertarians" around the state; now the party can and is expanding along traditional organizational lines."
I wish to take exception to Friedman's (REASON, December 1974) statement, that everyone pursues his own interests. If by interests one means everything that a person is motivated to do by his own thinking, then it is apparent that people will pursue their own interests even in a madhouse. But if interests have a rational standard, as judged by the life of Man, then Friedman may be taken to task for his statement. In a world where interests are irrational, it is not obvious how people could be said to be following their best interests. Alcoholics, drug addicts, psychotics, and masochists would be following their own interests according to Friedman—but not by the standard of rationality. A self-defeating person uses his pleasures to entrench himself deeper in his irrationality, or his motivation to be led by fear of living. Sex relations while drunk is one example. Or a dinner at which the companions talk in contemptuous terms about everything around them is another. Or lavish surroundings bought in order to make one feel that all around him are small when compared to his material achievements is yet another example. These people cannot be said to be following their logical interests. By saying that people are following their interests, no matter under what system, one invalidates the claim that people are being sacrificed by malevolent authorities. In saying that people follow their interests, Mr. Friedman is giving people a compliment they don't deserve.
Little Rock, AR
In the December issue of REASON Mr. Friedman states: "you ought to keep your columns open to views you may disagree with." A comment like that calls for reader feedback. I subscribe to and read REASON precisely because it is "hard core," i.e., because it has a firm editorial policy. As a libertarian, there is no shortage of magazines and journals that present views that I disagree with. REASON is something of a refuge for me, like an island of rationality in a sea of intellectual confusion. I definitely do not wish to see its editorial policy diluted with a "liberal" (wishy-washy) openmindedness.
It was interesting to read Mr. Friedman's views on various topics and having done so I have classified him as a "lukewarm" libertarian. He is certainly not someone I expect to vigorously or effectively champion libertarianism and the REASON interview was useful in showing me that. There have been other recent articles which served a similar "debunking" purpose; specifically the Poul Anderson interview and the Paul Goodman eulogy.
However, since I read REASON for moral support and to learn more about libertarianism, I would rather read interviews with and eulogies of full-fledged libertarians. How about an interview with John Hospers or a biographical sketch of Ludwig von Mises? If you have featured these men in REASON before, why not feature them again? They are among the guiding lights of libertarianism and it is far more edifying to read what they have to say than what a groping, confused, quasi-libertarian like Friedman has to say.
There was one suggestion in "An Interview with Milton Friedman" (REASON, December 1974) which I vehemently oppose.
Dr. Friedman said "you ought to keep your columns open to views that you may disagree with." Why? Such opinions already receive wide coverage in newspapers, magazines, on television and radio.
To dilute the pages of REASON with other than libertarian views would be ridiculous. There is a scarcity of libertarian material…more is needed, not less.
Mrs. B.S. Eastman
In REASON, one can find articles presenting the positions of such thinkers as Murray Rothbard, Ayn Rand, Nathaniel Branden, Robert LeFevre, Harry Browne, John Hospers, David Friedman, Milton Friedman, etc.
Dr. Friedman has indicated that he approves of REASON's policy of presenting diverse views which are written from a libertarian perspective, rather than focusing on only one of the many ranges of libertarian viewpoints. [Ed.]
GOLD AND MONEY
Milton Friedman (REASON, December 1974) makes a belated attempt to clarify his position on gold and money in your interview with him. But he fails to confront the most important issue—that is, whether the state should or should not regulate and control the monetary system. There is no middle road to take; one is libertarian, the other is totalitarian.
To avoid confronting the question he sets up a quasi-straw man, i.e., that the only libertarian position opposed to his is a governmentally decreed gold standard. What, may I ask, ever happened to the Rothbardian or Neo-Austrian position of letting people decide for themselves, through their own voluntary decisions, what they shall use as a medium of exchange? It is true that many libertarians, or anarchocapitalists, talk of a return to gold as money, but that is only a judgement made on the historical insight that free people have tended to prefer gold over other commodities as a medium of exchange and that gold has certain physical properties that make its use as money preferable. Whether gold is actually chosen is immaterial to the argument; the only important thing is whether one comes out in favor of liberty, or against it. Although Friedman wants to concede to us the right to freely trade in gold, until he comes out clearly against the governmental money-machine, its legal tender laws and all its assorted paraphernalia he takes the side against liberty.
Charles H. Todd
FRIEDMAN AND CAPITALISM
There were a number of comments by Professor Friedman in your December issue with which I disagreed, too many to go into in one letter. But I think I can narrow the real differences between him and me down to one issue, the issue of language.
Mr. Friedman dismisses this view as just "semantics," but I think when one looks at what he has said carefully, one will see that there is more to it than that.
A case in point is Mr. Friedman's treatment of the word, "capitalism." He maintains that Nazi Germany was "capitalist." I say he is wrong, that REASON is quite correct in pointing out that ultimate control of property in Nazi Germany was vested in the state (NAZI is an acronym for German National Socialist Party). If Mr. Friedman's definition is allowed to stand, then it is true that all societies are "capitalist" since there will always be property and that property can only be owned by individuals (since only individuals act). That is a basic law of praxeology and, as Murray Rothbard has pointed out, the laws of praxeology apply to all people everywhere, while the laws of catallactics apply to all people wherever exchanges are made. Red China has capital and people who manipulate capital and so is teeming with capitalists (and entrepreneurs).
Such a vague approach to language tends to obscure the real issue: whether or not we shall allow to be institutionalized in the social structure initiatory violence on the part of anyone. The question is not whether or not we shall have "capitalism" or "socialism." The question is whether or not we shall have aggression. I say that this cannot be tolerated by a civilized people.
All right, you say, what of it? After all, Mr. Friedman did make his actual position clear. He just used different words. But take a look again.
Professor Friedman says that, in regard to rights of property, there is "ultimately an essentially arbitrary element to where we draw the line." He then pulls out the old saw of who owns the air space. I maintain there is no arbitrary element involved at all; the answer is that no person owns any of it. What the person does own is his china and his eardrums, and that is why United Airlines had better stay higher than 10 feet over my head. And, should Boeing develop a new aircraft that works on the earth's magnetic field and is quiet, I'm sure someday we shall see people flying 10 feet over our heads, just as we now see cars pass 10 feet from our windows.
Professor Friedman correctly points out the subtlety of the libertarian argument, then proceeds to argue in the most brutal terminology. He says, "The thing that really baffles me is that the fraction of intellectuals who are collectivists is, I think, even larger than would be justified by the market." I find his confusion very strange because, having read the interview twice, I am not baffled at all!
As for how we are to achieve the free society, Mr. Friedman is right in saying the answer is not to engage in "sulking in our tents." I don't think it is necessary for proud men to sulk. But, as I recall, Achilles did make his point (who is John Galt?). And if Professor Friedman is really wondering what alternatives his critics can come up with, let me remind your readers that there is no such thing as a "government"; there is no such thing as "society." There are only human beings. And, since A is A and Man is Man, the person who fully realizes this will have no trouble at all finding a way to be free.
Robert B. Crim
Los Angeles, CA
The interview of Milton Friedman (December) proved once again that our state-controlled, state-financed educational system does not produce adults able or desirous of living in a capitalist, free society. It produces advocates and lovers of socialism and fascism and that is the true reason capitalism is on the way out.
Friedman said: "I believe that there must be an ultimate police force." It certainly did not sound like he meant a Defense Force to protect the country from invasion, but a police state which would force all citizens to do what the bureaucrats have decided is good. Several times he mentions preserving law and order as if only the government can do this, as if he had no idea that law and order are endemic to any given population. These are not conditions created by government and forced on the people except in totalitarian states. Laws which are not endemic to a population such as antitrust laws are simply violations of the freedom of businessmen and are one example of how lawless our particular government has become.
Friedman said: "In an ideal world…I would not be free to use my property to hit you over the head." This is not an example of freedom, but it does clearly show that Friedman thinks it is the duty of a government to force its citizens to be good and that only a government can force people to be good. This is a socialist tenet, part of the morality Friedman denies he has. Is he really this naive?
By competitive capitalism, what did he mean? Judging from the whole interview it sounded like he meant a system in which the government would force businesses to be competitive, would monitor them daily, would punish those who failed to play the game as conceived by the bureaucracy. This is not capitalism. It is government control of business and that is fascism.
He said: "problems…are not to be dismissed by some appeal that somehow or other the market is ingenious and will solve them." How could he sit down after a hard day of Non-Think and relax before a television set if the market had not been ingenious and invented, produced and distributed TV sets, not to mention all the work that goes into producing TV shows and the work that goes into producing the products sold on TV which make the medium possible? Governments do produce TV shows "at public expense," but how many of them have invented TV sets? Governments are not productive, problem-solving institutions. They can and do use to their own advantage solutions created by private citizens. And if the citizen is unwilling to hand over his solution or business, the government will pass a law to make him hand it over, which is why we have the tyranny of the FCC controlling radio and TV.
In his several comments about businessmen, Friedman made it plain that he considers all of them thieves and very much in need of control by that Great Good known as government. Then he turned around and complained about how the bureaucracies were bad and he would like to find some way to get them "to wither away." If bureaucratic rule is bad, then there is no such institution as a Great Good government. When is he going to wake up to his contradictions? I have noticed this particular contradiction in the thinking of farmers, writers, businessmen as well as college professors. I wish people would start paying attention to what they are advocating.
A Soviet manager who does certain things to protect his own interests and thus avoids being shot by his government is not a free man living in a free society, but a caged man avoiding the ever present dangers thrown into his path by an armed, coercive, inimical giant. It is incredible that Friedman would try to put this over as an analogy. This is an obscenity. And he must take libertarians for idiots or he would not have had this much gall.
He asked: "I don't see how you can think of a world in which people are not pursuing their own interests. What kind of world would that be?" It is a world in which people are forced to pursue the interests of their various governments. It is a world heading toward a final, global war—unless famine gets us first.
What is to be gained by giving a lot of page space to a man still hung up in the child's idea of a powerful, good father (government) and who has a rampant hatred and distrust of people? It is true we may never make a lot of progress talking to each other, but what kind of progress do libertarians make talking to the likes of Milton Friedman? Statists are everywhere. Nobody has to buy a magazine to read their views. Their obscenities are difficult to avoid.
Mary S. Joyner
DOWN ON LIBERTARIANS
If I may be so presumptuous. I'd like to offer some reasons as to why I think Ayn Rand is so disillusioned with the libertarian movement.
Miss Rand is a moral theorist. Since a society is only as good as the people in it, one must focus on what is the moral way of life and then structure the political framework to best accommodate and preserve it. But the movement, especially the Libertarian Party, which gives her so much lip service, fails to do just that.
At election time a flurry of LP candidates rushes around exposing their bodies and advocating virtual abolition of government and screwing everyone in sight. What happens to the millions of those on welfare? Believe it or not, they are not all sneaky chiselers. Are they to be left on the streets? The responsible among us understand the need for transition programs.
Libertarians don't care what the corporations do so long as they screw the U.S. government (and anyone, such as John Holt, who attacks the growing power of fascist corporations is smeared). Where is the benevolent sense of life? Nothing in current libertarian theory prevents the business world of the used car lot.
Foreign defense? Forget it. The LP pretends Russia doesn't exist. Never mind the consequences of ignoring or supporting (it amounts to the same thing) the Arab-Soviet axis: the destruction of Israel. Libertarians have no time to discuss the moral issues here. They want to hurry and drop all government controls so they can line their pockets through Kuwait oil deals. (I didn't know that James Taggart was a closet libertarian.)
Then there's that revisionist libertarian policy which says that six million Jews were not really murdered by the Nazis, the same Nazis a prominent LP candidate says were economic libertarians.
REASON Profile shows us face after face of libertarians whose only claim to fame is a silver spoon in their mouths and a campaign slogan.
Well, Ayn Rand gives a damn about morality and human lives. She struggled hard to get where she got and it took a lot of brain power to get there. Which many libertarians do not and did not and have not.
Some reader wrote recently that Ayn Rand has been disowned by the libertarian movement. So she has.
Alan Scott Kaufman
IMAGE AND ENVIRONMENT
I would like to comment on two aspects of libertarian philosophy which seem to be evolving, which I find disturbing because they run counter to first principles, and have a potentially damaging effect on our perception by the general public.
It seems to me that we are moving into a period when public attention will be focused by necessity on economic matters. Due to the late emergence of a consistent libertarian philosophy, the banner for civil liberties has largely been carried by others. While there are many battles in this area yet to be won, it is almost too late to assume a leadership role. This is not the case with economics. Economics holds a great deal of opportunity if we can turn our attention to some of the more difficult problems, and explain things in a manner which will not automatically alienate the general public.
The first of these problems I am concerned with is the environment. It should be obvious to everyone that the last few years have seen a hysteria arise over this issue. Libertarians have been correct in condemning the irrationality and resulting expansion of bureaucracy. Unfortunately, the articles I have seen recently which touch on the subject adopt a very anti-environment, pro-industry attitude.
What does not seem to be generally understood is that the environment is a libertarian issue, because it has a real physical science base. Technology does often produce undesirable results, which apply hidden costs to people in the form of bad health, loss of property, etc. Some writers, such as Murray Rothbard, have pointed this out in a general way. It behooves libertarians to understand the implications of this, and to stop automatically siding with industry in environmental debates. Not only is it bad public relations, it also displays a lack of sincerity in our supposed devotion to natural law.
The second area I am disturbed about is being too closely identified with industry. Recent articles I have seen on the energy crisis give good discussions on the detrimental effects of government regulations and the failure to allow the market to work. Unfortunately, these same articles seem to portray industry as the victim, when in many cases industries have actually lobbied for and gotten many special favors from government.
The workings of state capitalism have been frequently probed by revisionist historians. Nevertheless, many libertarians seem to have trouble applying the lessons to present-day cases. By portraying the current situation as government versus industry, with industry the hapless victim, it once again gives us a bad public image and shows a lack of sincerity.
Difficult problems about the environment include defining property rights in air, water, and the subsurface; and devising ways, both scientific and legal, to protect innocent people from the harmful effects of technology. Difficult problems about the government-industrial complex include identifying how badly intertwined things are, and recommending just ways to undo the damage done by both sides. These are problems that are not solved easily, but they must not be avoided because of this.
Let the conservatives go down blindly defending industry and condemning environmentalists. The libertarian position falls somewhere in between, so we ought to be able to make this work to our benefit. Perhaps then we can maintain intellectual honesty, and at the same time gain some popular appeal.
State College, PA
I was surprised to find Kay Taylor ("Letters," November 1974) describing Gerald Ford during his Congressional years as being in "firm opposition to Federal aid."
While I am no expert on Ford's 25-year Congressional career, in researching an article for a newspaper, I did examine his final year in the House—and I must say his opposition to Federal aid during that period was anything but "firm."
Indeed, even a cursory glance at the Royce Reports for 1973, which together deal with only 50 (House) votes, show Ford more than willing to dole out taxpayers' dollars by the millions.
Of the 50 House votes reported by the 1973 Royce Reports, nearly half dealt with subsidies, or indirect subsidies such as Peace Corps funding. Literally hundreds of millions of dollars were involved.
(Lest we forget how much money that really is, let us bear in mind that a person earning $10,000 a year and donating the entire amount to the Feds, would have to work for 100 years just to supply even one of those millions.)
How "firm" was Ford's opposition to these expenditures?
Bearing in mind that 5 of the votes came after he left the House to become Vice President, Ford still only managed to exhibit "firm opposition" (i.e., a "no" vote). on 3 of the 16 subsidy votes for which he was present.
Of such "firmness" are jelly fish made.
San Angelo, TX
Congratulations on finding a reviewer for Spencer Heath's Citadel, Market and Altar who is as maddeningly confusing as Heath himself! I especially like the sentence, "It was his aim…to predict the direction in which the operations of society must further evolve if the parts of the 'societal life form' shall articulate in full harmony." (!!)
Couldn't we have a better review, or a reviewer less committed to the glorification of Heath's works?
Jack R. Sanders
San Diego, CA
Having been personally dismayed at the apparent preponderance of epistemological and ethical skepticism in the "defense" of freedom by libertarians, I was very pleased to see Tibor Machan's article "Affirming the Moral Defense of Liberty" in REASON's December issue. Many libertarians need to critically evaluate the probability of a free society gaining acceptance if its most basic principles have no more foundation to them than the rest of the political philosophies vying for a dominant role in the world.
Dr. Machan does make one point with less than his usual crystal clarity, however. In saying that "careless production, hucksterism,…etc." are "immoral" and that their defense as "quite OK" by libertarians is nihilistic, Dr. Machan fails to adequately define his context. Certainly many of the activities he mentions are "not OK" in the context of the moral code he upholds, in the sense that they are against one's rational self-interest. A political theory, however, while necessarily a derivative of an ethical theory, is nonetheless a very different beast. To say that libertarian political theory holds these things to be "not OK" is to say that it advocates the forcible restraint of people engaging in them, and this is clearly not true. Ethically, what is right is what is to one's rational self-interest; what is wrong is what is contrary to it. Politically (I use the term in the philosophical sense) there is no concept of something being "right," in the sense of being a positive actively encouraged by the political philosophy; what is wrong is what violates the rights (moral sanction of freedom) of others. Thus there are a large number of actions (including prostitution, careless production, etc.) which we may condemn ethically, but which we must remain completely indifferent to politically. And, contrary to Friedman's claim in his December REASON interview, the knowledge that these actions are ethically wrong in no way obliges us (nor even necessarily justifies us) to forcibly prevent them on the grounds that they are also politically wrong.
This, in fact, is the origin of the different kinds of libertarianism within the movement—Objectivist, autarchist, Christian, and so forth. Our ethical philosophies differ radically but each claims to eventually come to the nonaggression principle by its own route. Once this principle is accepted, we can work together in a "collaboration of expediency" to restore freedom and to subsequently pursue our separate goals. But Dr. Machan's point is well taken: this principle must be defended ethically and, ultimately, only one ethical system can legitimately support it.
La Jolla, CA
I would like to add my agreement with Tibor Machan's comments ("Viewpoint," December) on the difficulty of aptly interpreting Nietzsche. It is all too easy to put him into a mold that endorses "feeling" to the extent of seemingly excluding the use of reason. Miss Rand herself, if we can accept some of the observations made by Barbara Branden is Who Is Ayn Rand as being accurate, appeared to do this, apparently forgetting that Nietzsche himself considered the Ubermensch as a balance between the Apollonian and Dionysian characteristics of man. After all is said and done, would not perhaps the best description of Nietzsche's "Overman" be that of saying he is the "passionate man who has his passions under control," implying, at least to me, the dominance of reason.
Ralph T. Barnes
Tibor Machan in his December 1974 "Viewpoint" article continued his pragmatic approach to philosophy. Machan appears to agree with Plato that the ultimate values, the good, are to be mystically intuited and the only problem is to select the justifying argument that will be most practical in morally intimidating others to support one's arbitrary ends.
Thus, Machan argues that if liberty's future is not to be dim libertarians must exercise the weapon of the collectivists, moral intimidation, but turn it around in favor of "ethical egoism." But, rationally, the issue is not what ethical theory is best suited for winning the day for liberty. The question is whether a philosophy of self-interest, the premises of which are self-evident although too frightening for most to accept consciously, does or does not imply the valuing of freedom for oneself and others and the renunciation of aggression.
In his final paragraphs Machan wildly applied his defective methodology wholesale and willy-nilly. Suddenly, his intuition pronounces prostitution, careless production (?), hucksterism, phony experimentation in psychology, blackmail, irresponsible conduct on various fronts, deceit, indiscriminate sex, obscenity, bad scholarship, yellow journalism, and shyster law to be morally evil. Somehow, Machan asserts, people know these things are immoral.
Some of these things constitute fraud or aggression and can be shown to be against the interests of a person who wishes to live as a peaceful trader. Others such as prostitution, indiscriminate sex, obscenity, and blackmail may suffer from arbitrary cultural-emotional biases and may have no inherent conflict with self-interest. Even in blackmail there is no aggression or threat thereof, but simply the withholding of information for a price. Conflict with self-interest is certainly not self-evident. Why a political philosophy must condemn these acts as "immoral" is beyond me. Bad scholarship is generally a simple matter of incompetence or error which is too often confused with unpopular scholarship. With psychology in its infancy I would be slow to label any experimentation as "phony."
After all this criticism, I still agree with Machan's final statements: "We ought to be free because only in freedom can our self-interest be achieved. And our self-interest is the highest value rationally defensible."
But what is necessary is not to ape the moralistic intimidation of the religious past with a new selfish morality spook, but to induce people to accept and act on the vital, but harsh reality of individualism rather than the wish-fulfilling delusions of effortless altruist-collectivist existence promoted by their oppressors.
Peter E. McAlpine
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".