The July interview with Gov. "Grey Area" Reagan has taught me several things. At first glance it would appear that his views on many issues are a step in the right direction. However, on more careful scrutiny they appear to be a very small step indeed. He believes that government controls are unnecessary up to the point at which he feels they become essential, (this is one of his "greyer" areas). These "grey areas" can be attributed to his lack of understanding libertarian principle which is why he is continually faced with contradictory data.
His philosophy on individual freedom is peppered with contradiction (e.g. the individual must be protected from himself as in the case of the gambling father, etc.). How can he reconcile individual liberty with infringement on property rights?
I think the only place Gov. Reagan would like to see the Libertarian Party is in his political back pocket. He has seized an opportunity to rally splintered YAFers and converts from the New Left to his conservative fold through mere lip service. If the "very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism" then I am afraid the patient is terminal and there is very little value in praying for its perverse soul.
Alan S. Abrams
College Park, MD
Murray Rothbard is always an original and exciting thinker. This is particularly so when he writes about international politics. But his article about the developments in Indo-China ["Viewpoint," July], is laded with such unfounded assertions that only this excites me to write.
Professor Rothbard sees grounds for a sort of vicarious pleasure for libertarians in the fall of the ARVN puppet forces in South Vietnam. Characterizing the failure of this regime as resulting from a loss of majority support and a weakness in the face of the determination of "the mass of Vietnamese," collectively bent against the regime, Rothbard says the army simply ignored orders and fled. The people had won, he concludes, even if one state replaces another. "States exist everywhere; there is nothing remarkable in that.(!)"
In Vietnam there is no development to give satisfaction to the humanist libertarian. What has occurred is merely the bloody strategic failure of one State's military politics and the rise of another's. In world history no State has ever had the true support or concern of a majority of its subjects. In Vietnam, and anywhere, the strength of the ruling regime depended upon the popular indifference between alternative States and the ruler's forcible hegemony. Thieu's only real constituent was the U.S. Government.
States exist by force of arms and popular indifference, they fall by force of arms and/or popular resistance. The notion of majority support is at best irrelevant. In Vietnam the fall was one of arms and not of popular resistance. The retreat of the ARVN soldiery was not in resistance to orders, for it occurred only after the leadership had fled and there were no orders. To suggest that the intellectually impoverished Vietnamese citizenry resisted any State seems silly to me from my own experience. But even if my observation is misled, the coincidence of North Vietnam's military arrival, the withdrawal of U.S. military support, and the demise of the Thieu regime, suggest that popular resistance played little role.
So unless libertarians enjoy military conquest, there is nothing in this exchange to applaud, nor is there anything remarkable. What is remarkable is that States continue to exist and that they are everywhere!
After reading "The Death Of A State" in your July 1975 issue, I am tempted to refer Murray Rothbard to a re-reading of Alice in Wonderland, especially the famous trial of the Knave of Hearts. In studying the evidence, the King reached a momentous conclusion. "If there's no meaning in it," said the King, "that saves a world of trouble, you know, as we needn't try to find any.…"
I thought that Murray Rothbard's respect for the truth, and his powers of observation and analysis were far more profound than displayed in this amazingly puerile article. While no informed and intelligent individual can find anything to be proud about concerning our involvement in Vietnam, apparently the "libertarians" can!
Surely, we are entitled to an honest portrayal of these tragic events. Would any informed person, for instance, dispute the fact that the North Vietnamese regime is dictatorial, or that Russia provided massive aid in their behalf? This is not mentioned anywhere in the article. Why not? The clear inference is that our South Vietnamese puppets were the only despicable ones in the tragedy who, despite monumental assistance from the U.S., were so corrupt, inept, and pusillanimous that we should be delighted by their calamitous debacle. Also, the "greatest bombing offensive in world history" is so far from the truth as to be an absolutely fatuous conclusion, devoid of reality. The truth of the matter is that the American bombing was so severely constrained and directed so timorously from Washington, DC, that it was a military farce. Had the bombing occurred as alleged, all that would be left in North Vietnam would have been a few scrawny water buffaloes. Further, on the subject of atrocities, does anyone recall what happened in Hue during the North Vietnamese Tet offensive? Moreover, has anyone been listening to the brutal accounts of what has transpired in Cambodia to the thousands of civilians driven out of the capital city by the victors? Additionally, can it be established beyond reasonable doubt that Sihanouk was a neutralist?
Finally, I contest the conclusion that it was the "American policy of imperialism" that was responsible for "pushing Indo-China into the Arms of Communism." If we had stayed away completely, this would have been the inevitable consequence. Why then, in heavens name, did we interject ourselves in the first place? Our deliberately blundering involvement merely made the outcome more dramatic and traumatic, and further, served to bleed us of our precious resources and to emphasize our vacillations and weaknesses for the whole world to see. We should query some of the proponents of our engagement. One of the principal, but certainly not the sole, architects of this infamous intervention was Robert McNamara, and, of course, he will never admit a deleterious thing—although after he had departed the Department of Defense he did some invidious gloating as he reflected how cleverly he had hoodwinked the Congress.
In short, had we genuinely wanted to win in Vietnam—and create an environment favorable to the ultimate well being of democracy—and had we committed the appropriate resources available to us, and resolutely and competently directed their application to this end, that would have been the result. Instead of libertarian crowing about the advancement of anarchy in Indo China (which assuredly has not happened, nor is it likely), I suggest a more fruitful approach would be the ferreting out and the identification of what cabal at the top levels of government precipitated our disaster. Then we could devote ourselves to its demise. This cabal theory must have validity; it is the only rational explanation of our miserable self-flagellation and self-destructive actions in SE Asia. As a start, we should, at least and by all means, focus an exhaustive review of the role of the Council on Foreign Relations (Henry Kissinger's foster parents) in the determination and the conduct of our country's foreign policy.
How distressing it is to see such a sophistic article penned by a man whose intellectual credentials are of the highest order. Sadly, this article possesses the flavor of the "intellectual" machinations of a Jane Fonda or a Ramsey Clark—but a Murray Rothbard! I never would have believed it.…
George G. Eddy
CANT AND CRAP
In my years as a REASON subscriber, I have read dozens of your articles I have agreed with and several I have taken honest issue with, but Murray Rothbard's "Death of a State" Viewpoint in your July issue is the first that made me feel betrayed by this magazine I have respected so much. Mr. Rothbard tells us that "what has been happening in Indochina can only be exhilarating to a libertarian." It "vindicates once again the insights of the theorists of mass guerrilla warfare…such as Mao Tse-Tung, Che Gueverra, etc." America "could not prevail against the will and determination of the mass of Vietnamese (and Cambodians), bent against seemingly impossible odds to dislodge governments which were the puppets and clients of Western imperialism…" So these events have delivered a "body blow to U.S. imperialism" that is a cause for "libertarian rejoicing." Pardon me while I vomit!
The first such cause for libertarian rejoicing took place in Russia with the Bolshevik revolution, didn't it, Professor Rothbard, when the cruel dictatorial Czarist regime gave way to what the left has always assured us was the masses of Russian people? The Gulag Archipelego details one part of the happy consequences, the hydrogen weapons directed at America's heart a second. Another great cause for libertarian celebration occurred when the corrupt totalitarian regime of Chiang Kai Shek was finally overthrown by Rothbard's revered theorist of guerrilla warfare, Mao. We well know the happy consequences. And what a gleeful day for the libertarian cause when the terrible dictatorship of Juan Batista was done in by the Cuban people under Castro and Rothbard's other great theorist, Che! And now bravo to the Viet Cong and Cambodia's new rulers.
Think of it—every one of these exhilarating triumphs, from Czarist Russia to Cambodia, has meant the "death of a state." And at each, the Murray Rothbards of the world applaud and call for encores. Just think of the happy days ahead for Murray when the Arab States, Spain, Italy, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, etc. throw off the yoke of American imperialism. Since the rulers of all of the "liberated" states are united on one supreme objective, the destruction of that one most powerful state of all, there is an excellent chance that Dr. Rothbard will live to experience the ecstasy of this ultimate "Death of a State."
It is one thing to criticize and endeavor to understand America's disastrous failure in Viet Nam, another entirely to parrot left wing cant and crap about "American imperialism," or the vicious fabrication of the left that communist revolutions are supported by the masses of people in the countries they have taken over. It is still more incredible to hear REASON magazine editor Rothbard claim that it is a cause for joy that the horror that is communism has engulfed yet another state. Rothbard has not the slightest grasp of the nature and meaning of this horror. Contrast Ayn Rand's authentic portrayal of the meaning of the communist takeover in Cambodia (The Ayn Rand Letter, Volume III No. 2) starting with the forced evacuation of the entire populace of Phnom Penh, with Rothbard's ugly little anti-American propaganda piece telling us this same take-over is a cause for libertarian rejoicing! One is forcibly reminded that a communist take-over might not mean much in life style to a professor already being supported by tax money taken by force from unwilling subjects. Not all libertarians are in that position, however, Professor Rothbard.
Charles R. Kelley
I was appalled at Murray Rothbard's Viewpoint on Vietnam. I had assumed that he was an anarchist in the cause of freedom, rather than an anarchist for the purpose of destroying States.
I fail to see the revelation in the fact that the States of South Vietnam and Cambodia collapsed. States have always collapsed, where's the news in that? Buzz, Buzz as Hamlet says.
Murray seems to be saying that the fact that the destroyed States were immediately replaced by other States is irrelevant to his call for a libertarian panegyric. Not so! Granted that Thieu was a dictator, he was not a totalitarian, as the North Vietnamese Cong are. If he is unaware of the distinction I commend to him Hans Buchheim's tract Totalitarian Rule for a detailed analysis of the distinctions.
In addition I am astounded at the naivete with which he attributes the victory to guerrilla activity! The first picture I saw of the victors was of troops riding into Saigon on a Russian tank. The people indeed! The dictatorship of South Vietnam was destroyed by the totalitarian State of North Vietnam and there ain't no way it was a victory of the people! As for Cambodia, to ask libertarians to celebrate the forceful expulsion of three million people from their homes and property to face mass starvation and disease in the jungle is horrible in the extreme.
I don't know what other libertarians felt about hospital patients bleeding to death after being tossed out of their hospitals in Cambodia, or about orphans of mixed race being machine gunned in Vietnam, but what I felt was hardly jubilation. These were the acts of the "people" before the establishment of new States. As the reports of massacres in the tens of thousands filter out we can find new occasions for rejoicing!
The plain facts are that Southeast Asia was the scene for a naked power play between States as it has been for years. It is a struggle of States and butchers, not "people," and there is no cause for joy now, has not been for decades, and most likely will not be for decades more.
I suppose that when the Socialist revolution topples the State in this country Murray will be dancing in the truck as they cart him off for reeducation.
In the July 1975 issue, Mark Frazier presented an informed, intelligent appraisal of the effects of regulation upon the trucking industry. The unreasonable, shortsighted bureaucratic excesses of the ICC were laid bare and his charges were backed up with telling examples of statist blundering. But this is only half the story.
The activities of the ICC can be viewed in other contexts. The transportation industry is a cartel in which the ICC acts as corporate headquarters. Included in this cartel are 90 percent of the railroads, 60 percent of the motor carriers and 10 percent of the barge lines. Revisionist history and free market economics show that cartels are inherently unstable and actually invite competition from outside the monopoly. And this competition exists relative to trucking, also.
"Gypsy" truckers are independent agents who contract their services; they pick and choose their work, charging whatever the traffic will bear. A "common carrier" is an ICC affiliate which must by law accept all shipments tendered to it and charge only the legal rates as listed in the voluminous ICC tariffs. Generally, the small, less-than-truckload shipments tendered by smaller companies and individuals are unprofitable to the contract carrier; this traffic is invariably tendered to common carriers: the free market has granted them a monopoly in this area. But on volume or truckload freight, the contract hauler is most competitive.
Regulated carriers employ drivers who belong to the IBTWH, the Teamsters' Union. Current contracts all but assure that union drivers will not be required to drive more than 10 hours in one day. But a contract carrier, in business for himself, will drive until he can't keep his eyes open. For this reason, "hot" freight, such as fruit from Imperial Valley to New York City, travels via the independent hauler; such a shipment tendered to a common carrier would start to rot just outside St. Louis.
The Kraft Case cited by Frazier points to another alternative to regulated trucking: private motor carriers. Many companies have found it profitable to haul their own goods, in fact most do. Companies can buy or lease equipment to suit their needs. Some frequently contract gypsy truckers to fill the short-term needs of the fleet.
The ICC cartel is also unstable from within because its members are inherently competitive. Having agreed among themselves not to compete with rates, they freely compete with service. Pacific Inter-Mountain Express won itself a large market by promising to deliver freight from the West Coast to Minneapolis-St. Paul in 30 hours, or the customer gets a pro-rated rebate; PIE's competitors complained, especially about the rebate, but to no avail. Roadway Express started as a one-man line hauling tires out of Akron. Forty years later it is the 20th largest transportation company in America with assets of nearly $250 million. The ICC may have helped, it surely hindered, but in the final analysis it was the entrepreneurship of Roadway and its management which made it a leader. Similarly, regulated carriers may represent dislocations in the market, be protected from "too much" competition and supported by price-fixing agreements, but what counts is the individual shipper's response to the problems at hand. A businessman, as a shipper, can write to Congress, picket the ICC, complain to the newsmedia or rant and rave until blue in the face—or simply find a free market alternative.
Finally, it is important to bear in mind that no one is required to become a common carrier and that those who form the Transportation cartel have done so in the best market tradition. The carriers who complain the most about ICC regulations are those who are either in the cartel now and want it to more closely suit their wants or those who want in and have been denied. In the long run, advances in market and technology will undo the current monopoly. In the meantime, no monopoly is complete—not ATT, MacDonald's, or the ICC. Freedom of choice always exists for those who seek it.
I was quite pleased to see Paul R. Benjamin's article on guns for self-defense in your Financial Issue [June].
Judging by what I read, this issue of direct self-defense is something many libertarians are ignoring, either because of pacifist tendencies, because they believe that the government and maybe the other criminals are too big and too strong to fight no matter what, or simply because guns don't interest everyone.
On the theoretical side I have no quarrel whatever with the article, but on the practical side, I would take issue with Mr. Benjamin's choice of a handgun.
I realize that such a choice is very much a matter of individual taste, but there are some fundamental fallacies involved in this article which should be pointed out. These fallacies seem (from my Canadian vantage point) to have been endemic until very recently among American gun commentators and experts. (Things are changing, but as libertarians have noted, it takes some time for new ideas to move down from the leaders of any cultural segment to the members or followers.) There are three of them:
1. the revolver fallacy
2. the .38 Special fallacy
3. the Colt .45 Auto fallacy
Mr. Benjamin suffers from the first two of these.
The first is the belief that a revolver is simpler and specifically more reliable than an automatic pistol. It is not. The timing mechanism which ensures that the cylinder is lined up with the barrel for firing is quite complex and delicate. It is furthermore very exposed to the entry of dirt and will malfunction easily from dirt. A semi-automatic pistol, by its design is almost completely sealed from dirt (except the Luger) and does not have the timing problem at all. Furthermore, and this may be more important than Mr. Benjamin thinks, most automatics will hold more than six rounds.
The .38 Special fallacy consists in the belief that that particular cartridge is the best all-around defense round. It may once have been, but it is no longer. It may hold more powder and fire a heavier bullet than the 9mm Parabellum (which I recommend) but it is not as accurate nor does it have the range of the 9mm. If one is considering storage or packing large quantities of ammunition about, the greater size and weight of the .38 Spl. can become a distinct liability.
The third fallacy, for the benefit of those who may have come across it in other survival publications, is: 1. contradictory to the other two fallacies, and, 2. combination of the other two fallacies. It consists in the beliefs that the .45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) round is the best "man-stopper" and that the M1911A1 Colt .45 Automatic Pistol is the best pistol around. The belief about the cartridge centers around the fact that it sends a very large bullet downrange. What it ignores is the fact that it sends that very large bullet very slowly as modern pistols go and that in the formula for energy (E-MV2) it is the velocity, not the mass, which is squared. The only reason I can come up with to explain the almost fanatical devotion to the pistol is that it fires the .45 ACP round.
My recommendations would be as follows: for the general use cartridge, the 9mm Parabellum (also called the 9mm Luger). If only one handgun is to be purchased, I would recommend one of the European 9mm autos (except the Luger) such as the Walther P-38, the Star B (which looks like the M1911 Colt) or the FN Browning Hi-Power (which holds 13 rounds), the recent Smith & Wesson Model 39 (7 rounds), or, better yet, the new S&W Model 59 (14 rounds).
If a second handgun is to be purchased and easy concealment is desired, I would recommend something in .38 ACP (called 9mm short in Europe). This cartridge carries a smaller load and is therefore less effective overall than the 9mm Parabellum, but concealed guns are usually for close range work and for that, .38 ACP is more than adequate. Top of my list is the Beretta M1934 at $45.00 in Canada. This pistol might be hard to come by in the U.S. due to the new import restrictions, but fortunately others, such as the Walther PPK (although more expensive) are not. Always try to get at least one extra magazine for your auto pistol.
If a person is afraid that someday he is going to be forced to physically defend his life, he should have the best tools possible for the job.
Live Long and Prosper
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
.45 AUTO FAN
I was quite pleased to see Mr. Paul Benjamin's article in the June issue. His suggestions for home and personal defense are very good as far as they go, but I have a big objection to his choice of a handgun. Mr. Benjamin recommends a .38 Special hollow point cartridge which he calls "utterly devastating." Perhaps it will "utterly devastate" a jug of water, or an old phone book, but it will not stop people with any reliability. Mr. Jeff Cooper, the renowned pistol theorist and instructor, has documented over 500 actual pistol shootouts well enough to say that a man hit in the torso with a .38 bullet can shoot back about half the time. Mr. Elmer Keith, probably the oldest gun writer in the field and quite possibly the most knowledgeable, says flatly that some 300 police officers who were killed in action last year would be alive today if they had been armed with an effective pistol. As to the hollow-point bullet, Cooper estimates that it can add 25 percent to a bullet's stopping power—if it expands. It often doesn't, because a hollow-point bullet requires a narrow range of velocity and target resistance in order to work. A .38 hollow-point may expand in flesh when fired at 850 feet per second from a six-inch barrel. At 600 fps from a two-inch barrel, as Mr. Robinson recommends, it probably won't. Even if it does, 62 percent efficiency is not enough for my liking—not when the .45 automatic round reaches 95 percent by Cooper's studies.
To my mind, Mr. Benjamin slanders the semi-automatic pistol. The Smith & Wesson revolver he recommends holds five rounds; not enough for two or three assailants with a 62 percent effective cartridge. (Worse than that! Using Cooper's formulae I figure 40 percent if the bullet expands, 32 percent if it doesn't.) And there may be more than two or three; one who follows the advice in the rest of the magazine may well be considered a "profiteer" in the event of hard times and could possibly have to face down a lynch mob. In such a case the semi-auto's speed of reloading is the only way to go. While Mr. Benjamin's Chief's Special is a fine handgun, I'd much prefer a .45 automatic.
What other points are there? Recoil? Mr. Benjamin's 19oz. gun recoils at 11.6 feet per second; a 39oz. .45 at 12.1 fps., and the automatic's design absorbs it better. I can conceal a .45 just fine under a bulky jacket, and Star's scaled down Model PD at 7½" by 4-5/8″ should be even better. Competition in the Southwest Combat Pistol League shows the .45 to be just as fast as any revolver and more accurate under combat conditions. And it's just as safe in the hands of a prudent man as a revolver—and no more unsafe in those of a careless one. Oh yes; and you won't need custom stocks to hold onto it.
The .45 automatic equals a snub-nosed .38 in most areas and far surpasses it in the most important one; it can be relied on to save your life with one shot. I recommend it to anyone who needs a handgun.
Isla Vista, CA
Mr. Benjamin replies: The argument over the best weapon to carry must date back to Mr. Oop and his neighbors who undoubtedly bickered over the relative merits of sharp vs. blunt rocks for bashing heads. This fine tradition is maintained by today's shooting enthusiasts.
It is important for our discussion here to remember that my article was written for the person who is not a firearm fancier but who needs a self defense weapon of high reliability that is convenient to carry and easy to use. This weapon will not be exposed to extremes of dirt and abuse. In the most probable civil situation requiring a firearm it will undoubtedly be used by a marginally experienced owner in a surprise encounter with one or two aggressors. Although both Mr. Gillespie and Mr. Birmingham have good points to make regarding weapons, it has been my experience that a high quality off-the-shelf revolver is simply more likely to perform this service when needed than is an equivalent automatic. This doesn't mean that a revolver can't be misused or can't malfunction. It does mean that in actual practice revolvers have been found to foul up somewhat less often than do automatics.
There are other considerations as well. A self defense handgun should be capable of double action firing: i.e., simply pulling the trigger will make it shoot. There are just too many situations where the user may not have time to cock an automatic's hammer or flip off a small safety catch—or will muff the attempt due to fear, cold hands, etc. (This can happen even to an experienced shooter as any honest hunter will testify.) With a revolver such problems are completely avoided. As to double action automatics (such as the S&W 39 or 59) one gets into the complicating situation of having the weapon act and feel differently after the first shot which can throw the shooter off enough to adversely affect performance. Thus we are back to a revolver again as the best weapon given the specified needs and conditions.
Similar considerations apply to the choice of a cartridge although in this case the .38 Special is clearly indicated by the decision to use a small but powerful revolver. The .38 Special is a good defense cartridge. It has more stopping power than the .380; is the equal of the 9mm Parabellum; and is sufficiently accurate for defense shooting. Moreover, small .38 Special revolvers are lightweight and very easy to conceal. There is no question that the .45 ACP (for the Colt automatic) has more stopping power than the .38 but it requires a heavier, larger weapon which is often intimidating to the novice, and as was mentioned previously, is not quite as foolproof to fire as a double action revolver.
Just for the record, I own a .45 automatic which has been modified by Armand Swenson—a top pistolsmith—and it is the finest military handgun one could ask for. I would not hesitate to trust my life to this custom weapon where I could carry it openly without fear of arrest. However, I can not recommend the .45 automatic to the general public as an off-the-shelf personal defense weapon. Without a good gunsmith's attention and some customized parts (such as an oversized safety) it can't deliver top reliability. It can never match the revolver's wider margin for human error in emergency use. Lastly the big .45 automatic is too difficult for most people to conceal at a time when having the ability to defend oneself has become a crime with draconian penalties which will almost certainly be increased in the future.
Of course, the choice of a weapon involves compromise. One would like to carry a .22 derringer which weighs about 5 oz. but in an emergency have a submachine-gun to use. We must all settle somewhere between these extremes. Whatever the reader's choice, learn to handle the weapon well and be assured of the moral right to use it to defend one's life should the need arise. —P.R.B.
While I am part owner and an editor of REASON, I look forward to reading each issue as I hope do all our subscribers. Which is why I want to express my appreciation for one of REASON's features I have nothing to do with. Frankly, "rudebarbs" is almost always the first thing I (and my wife) read. On the whole it is a delight, clever and a refreshing break from the humor of the statist cartoonists reigning everywhere today.
Palo Alto, CA
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".