ABACO AND ESQUIRE
REASON [October 1974] and its readers have taken a keen interest in the affairs of Abaco, the small island nation which seeks its independence from the central government of the Bahamas.
As many readers will know, the New Country Project was associated with the Abaco Independence Movement (AIM) for many months. A lot of progress has been made. Support for AIM is widespread among both black and white citizens, and in all settlements. Business people on the island, too, are giving support. And in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, there is a fund of goodwill towards the movement. Presently, a petition seeking home rule from the Nassau Government is being circulated and has already received the signatures of over one half of Abaco's adult population. More will sign, and plans are advanced for the presentation of the petition on completion.
Of course, the movement has its enemies, mainly in the Pindling government circles. Freedom is not always popular. And there are others eager to deride or detract from the movement and its ideals.
Some of you will have read an article in the February Esquire, entitled "The Amazing New Country Caper." It would be understandable if this article caused some concern among those who support the New Country Project in general and the Abaco movement in particular, though the phone calls I have received from libertarians indicate that most recognize the story for what it is—namely, distortions and outright falsehoods.
I have been asked to answer some of the points in a letter to REASON. There are so many errors, both minor and major, that to answer each one would take too much space. But perhaps I may state very briefly my involvement in the affairs of Abaco.
There is no such thing as a WerBell-Oliver organization. The New Country Project, with which I am associated, but with which Mr. Mitch WerBell has no connection, is interested in founding a new country, based on libertarian ideals. Such becomes all the more necessary and urgent as the West rushes headlong into monetary crisis and collapse.
Abaconian leaders approached the New Country Project requesting assistance in their struggle against the Pindling regime in Nassau. This was, and remains, a political rather than a military struggle, and we have not engaged in any activities which libertarians would regard as dubious. (Mr. WerBell, I should point out, was involved in Abaco long before I was.) All along the Project has worked hand in hand with the leaders of AIM. The vital decisions have always been theirs. Our role, among other things, has been to offer help to the Abaconians in things with which they have no experience.
We have, for example, helped them prepare a proposed constitution, based firmly on libertarian ideals. Under this proposed constitution, foreigners—including myself—are expressly excluded from having anything to do with the Government of Abaco. Under another document which we helped them draft—the Articles of the proposed Abaco National Land Trust—each Abaconian would be granted shares in all the land which is presently owned by the government (the so-called Crown Lands), as well as one acre freehold. Excluded would be part of an area to be known as the World Trade Zone, guaranteed a libertarian-based constitution for all time. This would be about four percent of the total Crown Lands, presently unused and uninhabited.
An example of the gross distortion in the Esquire article is when it states that Abaconians will receive their shares in the Land Trust only if the political situation is just and fair, and further, that it is I, Mike Oliver, who will decide when it is just and fair! No! The shares are unconditional! What was stated is that the value of the property will vastly increase "if the political situation is just and fair." This is altogether a different thing. (Readers may wish to know that legal action is being contemplated against Esquire for libel.)
I know that most libertarians will recognize the Esquire article, as well as any other such articles, for what they are. I know they will also appreciate that in such a matter it is never possible for me to publicly reveal all details of the affairs of Abaco. However, those who have assisted in the past may write to me if they have any particular points which concern them, and I shall reply to the best of my ability.
As mentioned above, a lot of progress has been made and libertarian ideas are firmly established on Abaco. I should also mention that things have not always gone as quickly or quite in the direction we would have liked. We cannot force anyone to be free, and we have no wish to do so. To repeat the question which REASON editors Poole and Kinsky asked in their October article: "Are the people of Abaco ready for a free society?" Poole and Kinsky answer their own question: "It does not lend itself to a simple yes or no answer." Ultimately, whatever help is given, the success of the movement rests with the people of Abaco. The choice is theirs.
Carson City, NV
I would like to express my appreciation for Dr. Machan's insightful remarks ["Editorial," February 1975] regarding the complexity involved in pronouncing particular moral judgments, let alone in declaring someone immoral. Objectivity in morals in no way guarantees precise answers to all particular moral questions. Moreover, it calls for a "look and see" attitude regarding many questions. Re: Mr. Greenspan's "compromises":
Against this background, Greenspan—a deep-dyed, Ayn Rand economic conservative—sent the President a 26-page memo that became the framework for most of the policy debate. Greenspan blamed the current malaise mainly on the growth of government intervention in the economy since World War II. He recommended a return to balanced budgets, unregulated markets and smaller government to avoid a "crisis-ridden, regimented society." And for the immediate future, Greenspan favored sending Congress a "shock budget" including an admittedly unrealistic $20 billion, spending cut. (Newsweek, January 20, 1975, p. 17)
If this is compromising, then so be it! More seriously, however, believers in liberty should seek to avoid methods and people who claim that this is or they have the method to achieve liberty. We do exist in a coercive situation, and we must have all our wits about us if we are to succeed.
Trying to pronounce a priori what should be done to change this situation for each and every person is foolish if not dangerous.
Douglas B. Rasmussen
I have great respect for Tibor Machan but I'm afraid that with regard to Alan Greenspan ["Editorial," February] he is totally wrong. I do not know what interview Machan is referring to in which Greenspan said nothing "that contradicts his free market views" but the fact is that Greenspan has done his share in promoting statism. In October he opposed a tax cut when testifying before the Senate. Furthermore, some months later the New York Times reported that Greenspan was trying to push Ford into adopting a stiff gasoline tax. To add insult to injury, Evans and Novack (Jan. 2, 1975) reported that Greenspan opposed William Simon's fight against an expansion of government spending!!!
Also, Machan did not report the reasons for Murray Rothbard's denunciation of Greenspan, reasons which are quite valid. As Rothbard pointed out (Libertarian Forum, October 1974) the only way to stop the march of the State is by a solid, organized opposition from those who suffer from the effects of statism. A few private conversations by libertarians with the White House do little; they merely provide—God forbid!!—"libertarian" blessing to the State which in the meantime still rolls on its merry way. Greenspan's actions, of course, bear this out.
I definitely agree with Machan's conclusion: that it is possible to know what is right. But—as we should have suspected due to the nature of State power—Greenspan has done wrong. In a literal and figurative sense he has "sold out"; he is our first libertarian Benedict Arnold.
STOP COMPULSORY FLUORIDATION
There is a lot more to be said about fluoridation of water than Mr. Reed acknowledges ["Letters," February]. It is not simply that government monopolizes the water supply. As often pointed out, only children are alleged to benefit from the fluoride intake. But more than that: fluoridation is a flagrant violation of accepted—and individualistic—medical practice: namely that water is injected with a chemical irrelevant to itself (in contrast to chlorine, which is supposed to purify it), and injects uncontrolled doses into a collective mass of consumers. Instead of an individually controlled dose, for example, the person who drinks 10 glasses of water a day receives 10 times as much as someone who drinks only one glass. This is a medical monstrosity, quite apart from the benefits or disadvantages of fluoride itself. Those individuals who want to ingest fluorides can obtain them in tablet form, or brush their teeth with fluoride toothpaste. If fluorides can be injected into the water to engage in mass medicine, then what is to prevent the government from pouring penicillin, or tranquilizers, or behavior modification drugs into the reservoirs?
Yes, let's abolish governmental supply of water. But pending that happy day, we are being subjected to compulsory mass medication by government, and we should therefore agitate, in the meanwhile, for the abolition of fluoridation. Let those who want fluoride ingest it individually, and not force the rest of us to imbibe it.
An analogy for Mr. Reed: suppose that the government decreed that everytime we step out on the street, a cop will force us to imbibe some medication—fluoride, penicillin, tranquilizers, or what have you. It would not be enough for libertarians to call for an eventual abolition of government streets, and going over to competing private ownership. In the meantime, we would, I trust, agitate like mad to stop this totalitarian practice. Why then not oppose compulsory fluoridation?
Murray N. Rothbard
New York, NY
FLUORIDE AND TOOTH DECAY
In response to Dr. Reed's letter [February]: One has the right to take poison, but no one has the right to force someone else to consume it. While waters are still publicly controlled, fluoridation leads to the latter situation.
No carefully designed scientifically-controlled experiments have ever been performed to indicate that fluoridated water appreciably reduces tooth decay. Some studies have shown reductions among 6-year-olds, but as these children grow older (12-18), their tooth decay rates do not differ appreciably. As an example, Baltimore, which has been fluoridated since 1952, has one of the highest tooth decay rates in the country.
Don't gamble with your health—stop fluoridation.
John Yiamouyiannis, Ph.D.
National Health Federation
I dislike using a pseudonym while writing to a magazine dedicated to freedom and openness but I have no choice. As a gay person writing to you in that capacity I have no doubt I would lose my job.
Libertarians need votes; gay people need politicians who will support gay rights. I should think there would be a natural connection between these two positions but apparently there is not. Because they have shown the ability to swing certain elections gays are being courted by various political groups, notably socialists. (With some success, I might add.) If Libertarians want some additional voting strength they might point out to gays that socialist parties are notorious for promising rights and then, when in power, taking away these rights (if indeed, the rights are ever granted). Particularly graphic examples of homosexual rights exist in China where gays are shot and in Cuba where they are put in prison. This is apparently a socialist version of the end (power) justifying the means (lies). Libertarians, on the other hand, cannot repudiate gay rights as this would be breaking their primary principle (which I take to be: toleration of any voluntary action that doesn't physically harm another person).
In the time I've been reading libertarian literature I have seen no major references to gay rights except in the works of Thomas Szasz. (This perhaps reflects my own limited reading.) I think that reviews of books such as Homosexual Behavior Among Males: A Cross Cultural And Cross Species Investigation (Churchill) or: Society And The Healthy Homosexual (Weinberg) would be valuable to both gays and libertarians since (I feel) the implications and conclusions of both books are clearly libertarian.
A word to John J. Pierce regarding his criticism [March] of science fiction which projects elements of past history into the future—specifically, empires and feudalisms. (They are not at all the same things, though he appears to think so.)
A libertarian world would presumably be free of endless repetitions of political follies, as long as it stayed libertarian. Failing this, however, it seems plausible that civilizations to come will repeat the basic devolutionary pattern traced out by most civilizations which have been. While that does not show the complete rigidity Spengler believed he had found, still, Caesarism as the "solution" to an era of mass violence, and the eventual disintegration of the Caesaristic state, were much alike in Pharaonic Egypt, post-Hellenic Classical society, Han Dynasty China, and some two score other cases—nearly all that are on record, in fact.
The revival of ancient titles for ranks and institutions is not uncommon. For instance, Charlemagne did it with "Emperor," or consider the United States Senate.
Pierce is right in declaring that history does not recapitulate every detail. You remember Voltaire's remark that the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire; the original Caesars would find little that was familiar in our Senate; and so on. But most of those science fiction writers who assume there is a cyclical factor in politics, and that revolutionaries will often practice word magic, do make an effort to show differences from the past as well as similarities to it. If the similarities are sometimes exaggerated, this is shorthand for the sake of getting on with a story, or it is the language of parable for the sake of giving a warning.
An argument over whether or not a certain literary practice is justified, isn't worth a letter in itself. But an argument over whether or not certain tendencies exist in every state, and how they manifest themselves, is. Not that I claim we will go through the cycle over and over again. Conceivable today a social change has begun, as profound as the Neolithic one which begot the state in the first place. I just say we might repeat, and suspect this is probable unless we can get a more clear understanding of historical forces than we now have. To that end, every possibility we can imagine must be explored, in science fiction and, infinitely more important, the real world. We cannot afford dogmatism.
A point by point correction of Tibor Machan's gross errors in his attack on B.F. Skinner is more than you usually publish in a letter. In any event, reviewing Skinner reminds me of the clarity of his writing and it is difficult to understand how people come up with misconceptions such as Machan's, and further, how I could improve on Skinner's explanations.
Essentially, this is an appeal to your readers to read Skinner, especially Beyond Freedom and Dignity. They certainly haven't received much of an idea of what he says from your articles. The crucial questions Machan raises are already answered there. I believe your readers will be more discerning than Machan.
Now to mention the inherent contradiction in just one of Machan's arguments. One of the more glaring is his claim that Skinner wants to "abolish rational man." Actually, Skinner is trying to place human behavior on a rational, scientific basis; while Machan appeals to mythical and mystical concepts such as "dignity" and "morally worthy individuals".
To quote Skinner, "Autonomous man serves to explain only the things we are not yet able to explain in other ways. His existence depends upon our ignorance, and he naturally loses status as we come to know more about behavior." Autonomous man is very much the new God. Just as earlier man attributed to God, things in the environment he did not understand, now he attributes behavioral qualities to an inner God—Autonomous Man. I refer you to Nietzsche about both this and the issue of morality. And, like Nietzsche writing about God, I'm surprised that I have to address myself to this issue which has been handled so ably before me.
It's particularly important to understand Skinner because he's right. If the proponents of "liberty" don't make use of this knowledge, it is going to be the fascists who do, and do the things you fear—events, incidentally, that Skinner warns about.
The literature of freedom and dignity can still act as counter-control to help stymie the fascists, but it may soon lose its effectiveness under the assault of repressive characters who understand and make use of new knowledge. We are all controllers and controlled, and we will be better off once we accept that and use it.
San Diego, CA
Mr. Machan replies: Mr. Erickson states that there is an inherent contradiction in one of my arguments. He does not say which. He merely refers to my claim that Skinner wants to abolish rational man. Now Skinner says explicitly "To man qua man we readily say good riddance" (BFD/191). Perhaps Mr. Erickson does not know that "man qua man" means "human beings as rational animals". It does. Far from contradicting myself, I merely quoted Skinner to support my claim.
Nowhere did I defend "autonomous man" as Skinner caricatures human beings. Skinner would have it that the only alternative to his conception of human beings (as passive respondents to their environment) is the Cartesian (religious?) view that human beings are machines with a little supernatural spirit tucked away in their head, a spirit that occupies no space and cannot be measured (for it has no natural attributes). But the Aristotelian view that the soul is the-life-of-the-person is never considered. Nor has he paid attention to such work as carried out by Dr. Robert Efron (see page 168 in my The Pseudo-Science of BF Skinner) showing that mentality, at least in some of its manifestations, has been measured as exhibiting duration (temporality).
As to the clarity of Skinner's works, I do advise readers to check him out. I only marvel at Mr. Erickson's standards when he claims that I am unclear but Skinner is not!
GO ASK ALICE
Congratulations on the fine article by Tibor Machan debunking the Alice Cooper of epistemology, B.F. Skinner. Perhaps one could summarize Skinner as follows: "I used to believe in free will, but not anymore."
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".