REASON continues to be far and away the most interesting and informative of the libertarian publications, and Edith Efron's article in the August issue ["The Free Mind and the Free Market"] is one of the best pieces REASON has printed to date.
Miss Efron is a brilliant writer and social analyst, and I hope that more of her work will appear in REASON in the future.
What I particularly enjoyed is her ability to communicate information without insulting the intelligence of her readers, and to instruct without preaching—a skill notably lacking among some prominent libertarians.
Keep up the good work.
Nathaniel Branden, Ph.D.
Los Angeles, CA
Edith Efron apparently should have relied on more than one person for her background information on businessmen for her article "The Free Mind and the Free Market." How does she purport to have knowledge of the motivations behind the actions (or according to her "lack of action") of businessmen concerning their first amendment rights? Ms. Efron has been "of the press" during her working years and cannot know or understand the motivations, requirements, demands or actions of the businessman. Her source of reference seems limited to one man who conducts a school teaching businessmen how to convince the media to correctly report business news. This man may not have been a businessman. This could account for her failure to adequately enlighten us about the businessman's use (or non-use) of his first amendment rights. She correctly describes how difficult it is for the businessman (who has become the scapegoat of the media for all of the ills of the country and the people) to get a fair hearing. I applaud her for that.
When a businessman does attempt to use his first amendment rights, how is he going to exercise them? Through the newspaper? Magazines? Radio? Television? Which all oppose business and the free market? When they refuse to disseminate his ideas, where does he go, then, to exercise his rights?
I am an entrepreneur-businessman. I have written many articles and submitted them to newspapers, magazines, and other publications. Most of them are rejected. The others are altered enough to distort the article. I have sent good articles to REASON and you have not chosen to print them. I have tried, through radio and television, to be heard, with similar discouraging results. I have been unable to exercise my first amendment rights to a satisfactory degree. Few people want to hear what the businessman has to say. Most books written about business are written by college professors, professional writers, or others, who have not really experienced life in the business world.
Next, businessmen (particularly the small ones), in order to survive in their competitive world, must devote the major portion of their time to operating their businesses. They cannot, necessarily, be experts in the written and spoken words. Even with the specialized training Ms. Efron described (and which could only, generally, be subscribed to by people in large business) the bias of the media would be difficult and costly to overcome.
Even though I concur with some of her positions I cannot agree that the businessman has not exercised a great many of his first amendment rights. The businessman, generally, is very smart (he has to be in order to survive). Many of them manage to avoid the efforts of the media, educators and government to subdue them. They have always managed to survive by finding ways of circumventing the efforts of these people to control or abuse them—and they always will. As Ms. Efron mentioned, "no one can control thoughts", and although others can affect the actions that result from thought (she calls it "externalized") they can only control it for awhile because a thinking person will eventually find a way to free himself.
I agree that businessmen, generally, should put forth greater efforts to protect their first amendment rights, but, I submit they are not as subdued as Edith Efron suggests.
Geo. A. Chapman, President
Salt Lake City, UT
DEFENDING THE MEDIA
Dennis J. Chase presents a good case for "Foregrounding the News" [August], but his theme strikes me as very shallow, missing the important elements and failing to find an avenue for a solid and clear analysis of the "problem" of news.
His definition of news as a verified change in the status quo, while having more substance than the simplistic "something new," misses the most important ingredient of news reporting: the market. News reporting doesn't exist in a vacuum, it is a service for sale to the consumer. The most important element of news reporting is satisfying demand. On this count, I find the news media beyond reproach. In a society riddled with government regulation, news reporting remains free of the barriers that regularly frustrate the demand-supply market system. I can't think of a better example of laissez-faire capitalism at work: everyone is free to produce or purchase as much current information as he desires.
Why do our estimates of the news profession and product vary so widely? Because I think Mr. Chase's definition is insufficient. The number of "changes in the status quo that can be independently verified to some degree by a journalist" are infinite!! The fact that a change occurred, or even that it can be verified, is largely irrelevant to the determination of what is news.
A newsman defines "news" (implicitly or explicitly) as current information about matters which will have a significant impact on the general public; more specifically, the news-consuming public he serves. The essence of news is the judgment of impact. For each media and even for each outlet, that judgment is justifiably different. The customers of the Chicago Sun-Times could care less about the minute particulars behind any singular event. Those reading the Wall Street Journal can't do without the same particulars. The mass media (broadcasting networks and national newspapers of general appeal) present events that are in almost every case very remote from the lives of those watching or reading. The proper purpose of such media is not to serve as data banks or even as sources of precise information, it is to offer the consumer a general sense of national and international events and to present interesting and unusual anecdotes about life.
What about news judgment? Good, poor or bad? Almost overwhelmingly, media make excellent judgments of impact. For every government news release printed or broadcast nearly verbatim, there are at least a hundred more that never appear. For every crime report, there are hundreds more that never qualify. For every PR'd event that gets ink or air, there are a hundred more stifled by indifference. How do newsmen make these decisions? Are they truly "out of control and at the mercy of whoever controls the Moment"? Nonsense!
While it's true that newsmen are as susceptible to the argument from authority as any of us, they work pretty consistently on a reasonable basis of judgment. By my definition, a newsman judges the impact and amount of significance of any particular event by considering the amount of effort expended in expressing an idea, or the degree of power which will be dedicated to a statement or assertion, variants of the same nature. When a government bureaucrat speaks, it is unimportant to the news reporter whether he is right, wrong, correct or an utter fool. What is important is that his actions will affect the news consumers (whether they like it or not). When a murder, fire, meeting or rally is held, the determination of whether it is news has nothing to do with the content (facts, particulars, etc.) of the event, only the degree of impact on the reporter's consumers is important. In many cases, the sole criteria is entertainment—an immediate impact which is in high demand (Enquirer, Tattler, etc.).
What about background, depth, investigation and interpretive reporting? The same criteria apply. When a national, regional or local event has, or promises to have, a greatly significant impact on the news consumer (war, blight or fire), then—and only then—do the facts, figures and particulars come into demand. In every case, and for every individual outlet, that judgment is again different—and again fully justified on the basis of an objective criteria.
The news media doesn't need reform, nor is it notably more "biased" than the general public, nor has it failed to fill any valid obligations. What the news media offers is not McLuhan's massage, but information—information about impacts on their consumers. More than any other industry, the media is the market.
Mr. Chase replies: I did contend that news is an "important change or potential change in the status quo that can be independently verified by journalists." This puts veracity in the forefront, and gives journalists an important "gatekeeper" responsibility. I said I had not seen a better definition, and I still haven't, because Westmiller says that news is "information about matters which have a significant impact" on the news consumer. We are still left with the problem I posed (remember?): how to judge impact when the evidence is still in the "foreground" of current events?
But Westmiller doesn't mean "impact" at all. He says news is to be judged by the "amount of effort" or "degree of power" behind a statement, regardless of whether that statement is true or not. Well, now, what do we want, journalists, or messenger-boys for those in power? Do we want to read government news releases, with the latest observations from the chairman, or real news—information which has been verified and upon which we will rely because it is about important events which will or threaten to change our lives?
To sum it up, when a government bureaucrat—or Billy Graham, or whoever—speaks, and says things that are known to be incorrect, it is as if nothing has been said. That way serves libertarianism, journalism, Westmiller, and me. —D.J.C.
It is refreshing to know that REASON does indeed mean what it says about individual rights. The proof is in your editorial on "Defending Tolerance" by Lynn Kinsky [September]. I'm sure most other magazines who are alleged defenders of individual rights will ignore the issue.
I am gay and it has been my experience that few people possess the emotional maturity to take such a reasonable, and therefore, admirable position as Ms. Kinsky does. It is the rational thing to do.
I don't know what percent of the population I represent—but I am here and I am as individual and unique as you are. If an individual's rights become less defensible as a consequence of being gay, then one can only wonder about the motives and integrity of those who profess to defend rights!
Name withheld by request
Please cancel my subscription to REASON. The September editorial is so outrageous, I could read no further.
Homosexuals go beyond the so-called victimless crimes. In my youth I thwarted their aggressions. At sea, when I sailed, there were instances when they tried to molest sleeping seamen and received a deserving beating. In any event I consider them a menace to children and society.
If libertarianism is for dignifying and legitimizing homosexuality, then keep it to yourself and keep your damn magazine out of my mail box.
Staten Island, NY
Cancel my subscription to REASON at once! Your editorial in the Sept. 1975 issue completely turned me off and against libertarianism. I am not the least bit tolerant toward homosexuals and their ilk. They are not sick—they just don't know the meaning of the words "self control." All I can say is that libertarians are nuts! I will stick to the CONSERVATIVE movement where men are men and women are women—and love it!
I wish to clear up some misconceptions that Anne Wortham has about my article, "The Rape of the Black Mind" [January].
First of all, her major assumptions about conclusions I drew in my article are all wrong. Wortham sums up my article: "It is a mistake for blacks to achieve freedom by means of collectivism, but it's not their fault that they've made that choice; the fault lies in psycho-cultural and political reinforcers." This is wholesale misinterpretation of my article and my ideas.
The key to this whole misinterpretation is Wortham's failure to recognize that I never once stated that blacks did not possess volition and were not responsible for their own behavior. In fact, what I attempted to show was how blacks psychologically led themselves into collectivism:
"It was in self-defense that blacks sought to escape the consequences of their blackness…Thus, was the black mind raped."
"The conclusion too often drawn was not that something was wrong with government or with society, but that there was something innately wrong with themselves."
"Seeking subconsciously to obliterate when possible these characteristics which made them so foreign to the cultural norm, they succumbed to temptation."
"In the 1960's, the rise of black awareness brought to the surface many of the emotional ramifications of the premises which many blacks had accepted."
"There can be no doubt that many blacks have suffered psychologically from their refusal to see themselves as individuals."
I think it is apparent that I assumed throughout my article that blacks do, in fact, possess volition and are responsible for their actions. How Wortham could have concluded otherwise escapes me. Perhaps she was confused because I mentioned cultural and political factors—but I mentioned them not as being "to blame" (determining factors), as she asserts, but as factors necessary to explain the choices that so many blacks made. It is not enough to say that blacks possess volition and are responsible for their actions, though this is true. It does not explain why they chose (on the whole) collectivism over individualism—an issue which Wortham completely ignores. It seems that Wortham is only interested in placing blame, not in understanding the situation and how it arose.
As for my use of the title and terminology "The Rape of the Black Mind," I don't see how anyone could seriously object to mere metaphor. My use of the phrase was one of symbol and verbal economy. To rape means to steal, and in that sense many blacks stole their own healthy self-images (through the denial of their blackness as a fact of reality). "The black mind" merely stands for the similar manifestation of this behavior in the minds of many individual blacks. If one objects to "the black mind," then one must object to such phrases as "Man's Rights" to be consistent. While I do not believe in collective minds or collective men, I accept the use of both phrases as literary convention. That Wortham sought some deep philosophical contradiction in my argument from my use of such a term indicates a rather flawed perspective as far as I am concerned.
Nor have I ever espoused, directly or indirectly, the doctrine of determinism which Wortham says my assumptions (in fact, her assumptions about my article) are products of. If I had not believed in free will and individual minds, I would never have written "The Rape of the Black Mind." I suggest that it is a wise policy to read articles before commenting on them!
Susan Love Brown
San Diego, CA
MOVIE CRITIC CRITIC
The review in a recent issue of the current movie Rollerball, by James Carey, reminded me once again that I have long wondered why REASON has devoted valuable editorial space to the second-rate synopses and second-hand opinions of its movie "critic," one Charles Barr.
The only rational defense for including film criticism in a publication with so specialized and literate an audience as REASON seems to have is that some motion pictures bear further scrutiny because their philosophical or political premises (either overt or covert) have a bearing on libertarian issues (either pro or con). (A good example of this approach is the extensive comparison between Chinatown and Death Wish which Barbara Branden wrote for Libertarian Review last summer.) If you can obtain rational, relevant analyses which we Libertarians would not otherwise be able to secure, fine—but please leave the sophomoric maunderings of Mr. Barr to the fan rags, where they would be more at home.
Los Angeles, CA
A short while ago I read an article which stated that income taxes can be avoided entirely since people are not paid in "lawful" money as defined in the Constitution and by federal law. Is there anyone who has had personal experience with this who would be willing to share this experience?
Corte Madera, CA
I enjoyed Charles Curley's June proposal of von Mises and Jefferson gold coins. But the illogical, obsolete English system of weights and measures is (slowly) being phased out, so instead of 1 oz. and ½ oz. sizes, why not use modern units like 25 and 10 grams?
The 1975 Libertarian Party Convention in New York City was for me a totally unique experience. At first when asked to describe it I could not find the words. How do you tell people, who were not there, what it was like to live among individuals committed to the principles of liberty and dedicated to the nobility of the human being? In short I lived, for five days, in a truly civilized society.
Before I came to the convention I had my doubts about the very idea of a libertarian party (probably left over from my objectivist days). No longer do I have such doubts. The quality of those people with whom I came into contact or merely observed was of such a high caliber that even as I write this letter I still find it difficult to believe that so many such people really exist. Their presence convinced me, more than any rhetoric about "now, the time is right", that indeed libertarianism and the Libertarian Party have a chance of transforming America and the world into a free and safe place in which to live.
Although a marvelous experience, the convention was not flawless. For a time it appeared that principle was in danger of being thrown out for the sake of mere political expedience. But then the vigor with which the vast majority of the delegates opposed such moves convinced me that the "machine" will find it very difficult to impose "its" will upon future conventions. Now that I have returned to Missouri I intend to work as hard as I am able to in organizing here and in supporting the national ticket.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".