I want to endorse and second the point made by "Richard Brewer" about gay rights ["Letters," May]. Libertarian Party candidates may shy away from this issue simply because it is a sure vote-loser among straight people, even if a few precincts here and there could be carried with it. As a matter of principle, obviously, the LP is for gay rights. As a matter of politics, the LP might feel uneasy. It would be a serious mistake for any LP candidate to waffle on an issue as close to our basic ideals as personal freedom of choice and association.
I have found that one gains more credibility and respect in the long run by a direct, unqualified statement, such as "Yes, I believe that homosexuals have every right to be free to live their own lives" than by some verbal evasion. This issue, like the question of atheism, ought to be openly faced and never avoided simply because of hostile audience response. We will get more respect from supporters who count in the longer struggle if we maintain a consistent integrity. We are not conservatives.
My thanks to Mr. "Richard Brewer" for his letter on gay rights [May] and to you, the Editors, for printing his remarks.
Of course the real issue here is not one of gay rights as such, but rather of individual rights. If we, as libertarians, know that each human being is—by nature—free, self-controlling and self-responsible (and that political libertarianism consists of the protection of the logical consequences in individual implementation), it follows that the issue of gay rights should not be a matter of controversy among libertarians.
Yet, in subtle ways, it is.
This is most evident in the relative lack of comment in the libertarian press on past and present political and social persecution of homosexuals. (While the left-liberal press generally supports gay rights, and the conservative press generally opposes.) It is also evidenced by verbal barbs of prejudice which are sometimes encountered in personal discussions with fellow libertarians.
The point I wish to make, however, is that primary responsibility for the lack of discussion on gay rights in the libertarian forum lies not with the editors of REASON (unless some of you are gay), nor with as yet prejudiced or disinterested persons who would prefer no discussion at all. The responsibility is with Mr. Brewer (until he wrote his letter) and with every other homosexual libertarian who allows barbs of prejudice to be greeted by silence—and who does not submit articles on the matter of gay rights to REASON for publication.
Social freedom is the logical consequence of political and economic freedom. There cannot be the one without the other.
Libertarians having extensively explored the political and economic sphere might now ponder the importance (and the opportunity) of vigorously examining the arena of social freedom. Including gay rights.
Blacks, Indians, "hippies" and gay persons are individually (and by statute law, collectively) persecuted by both traditional left and right. The ground is fertile for the dissemination of libertarianism everywhere, because everywhere there are only individual human beings.
Psychological, physical and intellectual individuality not only jibes with a cogent political theory (libertarianism), it is a biological fact. Science, history and the laws of economics back us up. Let's make the most of it. And apply it consistently.
Thank you, Mr. Washburn, for making the point that people who are interested in issues such as gay rights, feminism, Indian rights, etc. should take responsibility for publicizing their views on those issues. Too often people assume that a magazine won't cover a certain topic simply because they haven't covered that topic—that is not true with REASON. We at REASON would be delighted to carry more articles on "social freedom" topics, but we're busy enough producing a monthly magazine (and working at our regular professions besides) that we don't have the time to write such articles. However, we welcome "unsolicited" manuscripts—aspiring authors should first send for our Author Information Sheet, and then get busy writing! —L.K.
Bravo Mr. Katz! I'm happy to know that the world is not going entirely to the dogs. The Katz article [April] was alone worth the price of a year's subscription. I think though, that he was a little hard on Harry Browne, a young man with yet some promise who has already taken many licks from the verbally aggressive libertarians. Katz should have saved some of those brickbats for Albert J. Nock and other nonpolitical pessimists who went along all their lives with yin. Rare indeed is the person who blends yin and yang in the proportions appropriate to his times. It's very hard not to become discouraged after losing a '64 and winning a '68.
Political realities should convince us to place our emphasis on persuasion. Nock and Browne can contribute to the building of our patience, self-possession, and integrity—these are necessities for persuasion. We dare not let them ignore the goal of a free society, but neither do we dare let any goal take possession of us.
Ira E. Marvin
PRECONDITION OF FREEDOM
Congratulations to REASON and Howard Katz for one of the most excellently written, and reasoned, articles recently published [April]. It has been far too rare an event for someone to show the necessity and practicality of moral values. However, Katz's arguments must be taken a step further: if freedom is a precondition of economic values, what is the precondition of freedom, and can it be taken for granted? Ask yourself if anything could uphold political freedom in a madhouse controlled by the inmates!
Rationality is the value presupposed by freedom, a value rapidly evaporating from our society, and one without which I doubt any purely political tactics stand a chance. Can we expect men to appreciate the value of freedom, when they have been convinced of the irrelevance of all values? This is an error philosophy must correct; perhaps political action will assist the process.
Lawrence A. Azlin III
NO TO POLITICS
I have to disagree profoundly with Howard S. Katz' recent article in REASON. It's all very well to say that individual self-liberation efforts cannot provide full protection against the depredations of the State. Has it ever been shown that political movements can do so? The only cases of increasing freedom that I know of occurred in frontier societies or societies which traded heavily with such frontiers—the U.S. and Western Europe, for example. Profreedom movements in more settled societies—the U.S.S.R., 18th century France, or the U.S.—led or will lead only to continuing slavery.
Moreover, Katz' vision of the alternatives open to us is ridiculously narrow. Does he imagine that Harry Browne's strategies are the only ones possible? Or that no one is aware of Nietzsche, Stirner, the Sophists, or on a practical level of the Whole Earth Catalog or Vonulife? Does he really believe that everyone either works within the conventional categories of material success or joins political movements to change the paths to success (as if joining such movements weren't a conventional image of 'success'!)? Are we to imagine that no one is capable of realistic analysis of the problems facing a person who wishes to survive, and that there are no people who have recognized how unstable the current social situation is and tried to escape its dangers in some individual way without simply relying on established modes of action to save them?
I grant that some self-liberators are involved in ego-tripping of various kinds over how successful they have been. So are some politicians—the LP furnishes prize spectacles of this behavior. But careful economic analysis of the real possibilities open to each of us as individuals is the only route with any hope of success. Banding together under the leadership of political quacks will not—though the quacks are scarcely likely to admit this. Quite aside from the monumental inefficiency of movements structured around collective incentives such as the considerations of status and prestige so vital to political groups, the very presence of these incentives is bound to make such movements pay off only for power freaks of various kinds. I am sorry to have to counsel despair—but I see no more hope of achieving freedom in any widespread social situation, without the opening of new frontiers, than of attaining immortality without radical new discoveries in biochemistry—and political movements cannot produce either. I can hope for the best, but I prefer also to prepare for the bad times ahead without wasting my energies for the ego gratification of political activism.
Chula Vista, CA
I found Howard Katz's article, "The Case for Political Action," bewildering in so many different ways that a full discussion would require thousands of words. To give a mere sample of the problems I see in this article, I would like to comment on just one passage: Katz's attempted refutation of the argument that political action—since its benefits accrue "only marginally" to oneself—is inherently altruistic.
"My answer to this," Katz states, "is that I am a fundamental believer in justice. I do not believe that one has to see one's specific reward in front on one's nose in order to justify pursuing a course of action." These two sentences, by themselves, amount to an endorsement of the Kantian view that one should pursue "justice" in complete disregard of one's own interests. Is this really what Katz intends?
Well, perhaps not, for, a little later, he states, "If a person waits until the exact, specific reward is in front of his face, then he can never pursue the long range values, which are the most important values of all." Now Katz is suggesting, though vaguely, that political action is not a selfless struggle for "justice" after all—that it offers definite, albeit "long range," rewards to the individual. Very well; what, precisely, are these rewards?
In the midst of a thoroughly unclarifying analogy having to do with primitive villages, Katz offers his answer: the reward for political action is "recognition and gratitude" from others. This is—at best—an interesting report on Katz's own motivation. But the question remains: what about those of us who do not experience a craving for "recognition and gratitude"?
There are other rewards, too, Katz assures us—rewards of a more "material" nature. For example, "leaders in a political movement are in demand for books, articles, lectures, etc." Yes—and so are astronauts and gurus. But would anyone argue that that constitutes a sufficient reason for becoming an astronaut or a guru?
Katz cites one more "reward" for activists: "Political offices are open to them [!!]." This is a reward? With utmost restraint, I can only say that I hope there are not very many libertarians who share this particular view of political office.
And such, believe it or not, is the full extent of Katz's "answer" to the crucially important claim that political action is altruistic. He offers a few homilies about how "In the long run justice will be served," then goes on to another subject.
I have often suspected that many libertarian activists, despite their avowals of rationality and egoism, do not really have any clear understanding of why they engage in political activities. Katz's article has done a great deal to confirm this suspicion.
Maple Falls, WA
MAKING IT CLEAR
I just finished reading the interview with Leonard Read [April] and I enjoyed it very much. I also agree with Mr. Read that there is a great need for people to be able to explain the case for the free market, private ownership and limited government in terms that the average person can understand. I do hope that more writers and speakers will try harder in the future to make their articles and lectures as easy to comprehend as possible.
I can imagine that perhaps intellectuals run out of patience with individuals who consistently need terms, examples, etc., brought down to their level, but until this is done we will continue to have people criticizing the laissez-faire philosophy simply because they do not understand it. Can we afford this? I think not!
Marilyn M. Hughey
HOW DO WE LIMIT GOVERNMENT?
Tibor Machan and Leonard Read ["Interview," April] are guilty of intellectual dishonesty. They, like every other "limited government advocate" that I have read, go around advocating a "principled government—a government limited to where it should be limited…" BUT (and it's a big but), they never, never tell us exactly how they propose to limit a government that does not want to be limited. This is not a question to be taken lightly, for it is the very heart of a "limited government" system that could work.
The patent office used to require inventors to submit working models of their inventions before a patent would be issued. Perhaps, such a request is in order for those who have "invented" limited government. Let us see a "working model" so that we can really believe the claims laid to this "perpetual motion machine."
David Michael Myers
Ridgway Foley's piece on "A Meaningful Franchise" [April] is a thorough and commendable exploration of libertarian alternatives to the present ballot system. Unfortunately it is vastly too complicated and thus probably doomed to failure.
Here in Vermont, as chairman of a county Republican Committee, I offered a similar proposal for a "turkey ballot." This is Foley's "protest vote," designed to give the voters a chance to reject all the "turkeys" seeking a particular office.
In the Vermont turkey ballot proposal (in general elections, not primaries), voters could vote for "none of the above." If "none of the above" won a plurality, all of the turkeys on the ballot would be disqualified. A new election would be called, with new candidates nominated by party caucuses or by independent nomination process. If "none of the above" won a plurality once again, all of the new crop of turkeys would be disqualified and yet another election held. I do not consider it likely, however, that a second special election would ever be necessary.
There are a couple of refinements that perhaps should be added. There should probably be a 40 percent plurality requirement, which Vermont does not have under present law. It might be smart to assess part of the cost of the special election upon the candidates disqualified in the first, secured by a bond.
But in any case, the straight turkey ballot has an instinctive appeal to all but fearful would-be candidates, who might well face the humiliation of being outpolled by nobody. Adding Foley's "abolition of the office" choice not only clutters up the matter, but presents serious questions of responsibility, since statutes or the courts may well have to decide who may exercise the functions of the officer whose office is abolished.
In a mail poll of about 80 Republican county committeemen and women in the three northeastern counties, in January 1974, respondents favored the turkey ballot by a 48-19 margin. Unfortunately, the incumbent legislator who had promised to introduce the measure was himself defeated (by a real person) in the 1974 primary, in large part due to his well-publicized amorous liaison with a 14-year old page during the preceding session. (Her mother filed a civil suit for rape.) We are now looking for a more likely sponsor…
The "Draft constitutional amendment for the voter's complete choice" [April] is extremely attractive and well thought out. However, I would suggest eliminating the rather baroque mechanism by which an acting office-holder would be picked when no candidate received a majority and the election was thus declared void. The proposed "convention comprised of all duly elected precinct committeemen and precinct committeewomen" would waste large quantities of time and money, would raise many senseless legal issues (regarding who the participants in the convention are to be and how precincts are to be apportioned) and would create anomalies if the office of precinct committeeperson (which the draft indicates is to be an elective office) were abolished by the voters or if the election for that office were voided.
I suggest instead then when an election is voided, the acting office-holder be the candidate who came in second in the voting. This proposal would be more in keeping with the rationale of the provisions in the draft that are to keep the acting office-holder from using the office to further his political ambitions: in this case he could not claim any kind of mandate, since he would not have won any contest, not even election by the precinct committeepersons.
It might be objected that under my proposal an unscrupulous candidate who expected to come in second could persuade a third candidate to run who would siphon off enough votes from the most popular candidate to prevent anyone from getting a majority, thereby putting Mr. Unscrupulous in office. However, if voters can vote for "none of the above," those who are dissatisfied with the most popular candidate can vote against him without voting for either Mr. Unscrupulous or the third candidate. The stooge can't take away votes that the other candidate wouldn't have received anyway. In addition, my proposal is in keeping with the spirit of honoring votes for "none of the above": while it would allow "one of the above" to hold the office, "none of the above" would acquire the power and prestige that usually accompany the winning of an election.
My proposal would make sense only in elections for office, not in primary elections, since forcing one party to put up its second most popular candidate would give an unfair advantage to the other parties. However, given the rest of the draft constitutional amendment, there is no particular need to void primary elections when no candidate receives a majority. If Tweedledum is the most popular Republican candidate, there is no reason why he should be denied a place on the ballot, provided the voters aren't forced into giving either him or Tweedledee the title of "The people's choice."
James D. McCawley
The assertion in the April 1975 "Reason Profile" that David Brudnoy is the only nationally syndicated libertarian columnist is false. Libertarian John Chamberlain, author of the monthly Freeman feature "A Reviewer's Notebook," has been putting out a nationally syndicated column for quite some time.
Art Diamond, Jr.