• REASON SUBSCRIPTION LIST RENTAL: From time to time we receive complaints from readers about their privacy being violated because they think REASON has sold their names and addresses to various junk mailers. We would like to explain what's really going on. REASON never has and does not now sell its mailing list, to anyone; we do indeed respect our subscribers' privacy and do not wish their names to end up on anyone's list (including the FBI's or the CIA's). But REASON readers do sometimes receive direct-mail advertising as a result of their being on our mailing list. This is because we sometimes rent our mailing list as a means of raising needed revenue. In list rentals, as opposed to sales, the advertiser does not obtain a copy of the mailing list; he receives only a single set of address labels to be pasted onto his mailing envelopes. As is standard practice, our mailing list is "seeded" with dummy names so that we can detect any unauthorized mailings (as would happen if the advertiser violated the rental contract and copied the labels).
REASON reviews the advertising copy of each mailer before approving the list rental; not all of the advertisers we approve are libertarians (neither are all of the ones who purchase ad space in our pages). Many of the items which are sent by those renting our list discuss events, organizations or products of interest to many of our readers—and, in this sense, one advantage of being a REASON subscriber is that readers can expect to receive occasional mailings with information our readers can use. We refuse to rent the list to any advertiser whose material is, in our judgment, antifreedom or otherwise offensive (and we turn down quite a few). In this way we attempt to minimize any annoyance to our readers, while not completely depriving ourselves of an essential source of advertising revenue. If a piece of junk mail annoys you, throw it out. But rest assured that the advertiser has not purchased your name from us; he may have rented our list (after we have approved his material), but only for a onetime use.
• TACKLING BUREAUCRACY IN ITALY: The Los Angeles Times recently carried a feature article (March 10) on the "vast, overswollen, underworked and notoriously inefficient Italian governmental bureaucracy, the most cumbersome of the Western industrialized nations." To illustrate the attitude of the Italian public toward government agencies, Times reporter William Tuohy recounted the story of an influential Milanese businessman who arrived at a government agency in Rome after lunch to transact an urgent matter before taking a late afternoon flight back to Milan.
On arriving at the agency, the businessman found the office deserted except for a janitor. "What's going on here?" the businessman asked, "Don't they work in the afternoon?" "No, signore, you have got it wrong," the janitor replied. "It is in the morning they don't work. In the afternoon, they don't come."
The Times noted the incredible difficulties confronting reformers attempting to pare down the Italian bureaucracy with its 60,000 separate governmental agencies. One success story was the closing down of the interprovincial Institute for Fighting Against Malaria in Venice—40 years after malaria ceased to be a problem there! Reformers are still working to eliminate such agencies as the National Agency for the Distribution of Medicine Donated by the Allies in World War II and the Association for the World War II Orphans (the youngest of whom must now be 30). We wish the Italian reformers well in their valiant struggle.
• LIES AND DECEPTION: A recent national poll conducted by opinion analyst Pat Caddell showed that 69 percent of Americans believe their government consistently lies to them—as compared with 35 percent who held this belief in 1972. The problem of lying isn't confined to federal government officials, but commonly exists among politicians who are striving to get elected to office. In a dramatic article by investigative reporter Steven Brill in New York (March 17), "George Wallace Is Even Worse Than You Think He Is," the Wallace legend is examined to see whether Wallace indeed "says what he thinks," and whether as governor of Alabama, Wallace practices what he preaches concerning governmental abuse of power and other issues.
Brill concludes that Wallace is "none of the things his admirers claim, and that his continued presence on the horizon represents nothing more than a triumph of sham over substance." Some of Brill's criticisms reflect his own strong antilibertarian prejudices—particularly in his criticism of Wallace's programs on tax reform, where Wallace is taken to task for not raising many taxes or for not proposing the elimination of various tax loopholes. But Brill does raise some serious questions about Wallace's willingness to deliver on his rhetoric, and charges that Wallace has been related to influence-peddling activity involving Alabama's government-owned liquor stores. We like Wallace's stands on such issues as combatting the federal bureaucracy and reducing high taxes, and he makes more sense to us than any of the other leading Democratic contenders. But given his conduct in office, we're not satisfied that Wallace is worthy of libertarian support.
• GLAD YOU TOLD US: John Kenneth Galbraith has come up with an incredible new explanation of inflation. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times (Dec. 1), Galbraith stated before a conference on the monetary system in Rome that "the root cause of inflation was the breakdown of the class system and the consequent aspiration of the poor to consume as much as the rich." When Mr. Galbraith goes so far as to blame the aspiration of the poor for inflation—instead of identifying the culprit as credit expansion pursued by government monetary policies—we suspect that Mr. Galbraith may himself be heading towards some sort of "breakdown."