I must take strong exception to Tibor Machan's "Viewpoint" in the December issue of REASON.
Prof. Machan argues that to impose "the ethics of government on the conduct of private individuals is to confuse the issue very seriously indeed." As illustration, he cites actions taken during the recent Libertarian Party national Convention by the supporters of certain Vice-Presidential candidates, of whom one is a self-admitted gold smuggler and tax-dodger, and the other, a homosexual.
Prof. Machan seems to have the impression that the supporters of these men were arguing that the Presidential candidate, Roger MacBride, should have been ready to accept any running mate elected by the Convention, without regard to that candidate's personal morality, ethics, or legal status. According to Machan, many delegates fell into the error of attempting to require Mr. MacBride to make his private, voluntary activities (i.e., running for President on the LP ticket) conform to certain planks in the LP Platform which prohibit the government from discriminating among persons on the basis of sexual preference (such as homosexuality) or consensual, non-coercive activities (gold smuggling). Further, Machan congratulates MacBride for standing up to the Convention and "for not being bamboozled into the trap of Kantianism, even by some rather formidable adversaries."
I have no quibble with Machan's logic: if all members of the body politic were rational and logically-minded beings, there would be nothing immoral about the LP's nominating, for instance, a racist bigot as its Presidential candidate, so long as that bigot clearly and forcefully opposed all governmentally-imposed forms of racism. However, the electorate does not often differentiate between a candidate's political philosophy and her or his personal preferences. This might appear irrational, but in fact may betray many voters' common sense. For example, the only major party candidate who publicly espouses the libertarian position on racial discrimination is…George Wallace! Yes, old block-the-door George now claims to be against all laws mandating state racism; whether in the form of segregated schools or of forced busing of children. He says that individuals should be permitted to associate with whomever they choose. Well, the logic is right, but I just don't believe it. Can you really picture the old bigot, if elected, fighting as hard for the rights of black individuals—or of long-haired, bearded, libertarians—as of his lily-white, blue-collar supporters?
Since I agree with Prof. Machan's logic, but disagree with the thrust of his commentary regarding the Convention controversy, we must either be reasoning from different premises or else he is arguing a question not relevant to the issues at hand. I think both cases obtain here, as Machan did not attend the convention and as the account given him of the issues is incomplete and distorted.
Among those "formidable adversaries" to which Prof. Machan rather darkly alludes were Massachusetts delegates Robert Nozick and Richard Kenney (and far less formidably, myself). Our delegation spent most of Saturday evening and Sunday morning preceeding the final Vice-Presidential fracas trying to learn and understand Mr. MacBride's motives in rejecting Mr. Trotter as a running mate and in threatening to reject Mr. Vernon as well. And the motivation is indeed crucial. There were two questions uppermost in our minds at that time.…
Most important: was Roger MacBride rejecting (or threatening to reject) Trotter and Vernon for the stated reasons (that having them on the ticket would result in a one-issue campaign)? or was there a reluctance on his part to go before the media, to go before Middle America, and declare unequivocally that these men's lifestyles were, from the libertarian standpoint, entirely moral and just? Was this the beginning of a process of "weasling out" from the hard questions and answers of the radical libertarian philosophy as expressed by the platform of the Party itself? How would Roger reply when asked about his stands on taxation, the CIA, anti-trust laws and, yes, gay rights? The point here is that our political philosophy encompasses such a wide range of outré positions that the media will always have it in their power to make it a one-issue "far-out kook" campaign, should they choose to do so.
Unfortunately, MacBride's nomination acceptance speech had intensified these doubts, rather than alleviating them (see LP News, for a transcript of this speech). MacBride spoke (some said "pandered") at considerable length on the need for decensoring the press, especially the broadcast media. He mentioned a number of steps he would take, if elected, to end government control of the media: executive orders to the Justice Department, repeal of the Equal Time Rule, etc. But nowhere did he enunciate the key libertarian concepts of outright abolition of the FCC, establishment of private property rights in airwaves and complete and total deregulation of all aspects of the broadcasting industry, including cable TV. Were these simply oversights in an honestly written speech? Or was it a failure of nerve, a compromise of principle to ensure more favorable coverage by the reporters he knew would be present? We didn't know. We still don't know. And we would very much like to know the answer.
A second, less crucial, question was one obliquely related to the issue discussed by Professor Machan. It was this: granted that Roger MacBride is indeed not personally bigoted towards individuals who engage in certain types of consensual sexual conduct or black market activities. Nonetheless, there is the issue of acquiescing to bigotry by permitting the fears and prejudices of others (media, middle-class Americans, etc.) to shape one's public behavior. Ignoring party politics for a moment, do we as individuals want to support that sort of attitude in persons whom we elect to carry our message and our ideal to the people of our yet-great nation?
It was to force public answers to these questions that Robert Nozick nominated, Rich Kenney seconded, and the Massachusetts delegates unanimously voted for the candidacy of John Vernon. We were not trying to nominate a trendy or "symbolic" candidate. We were not trying either to embarrass Roger MacBride or to force him to withdraw from the ticket. And we were not necessarily supporting Vernon because we thought him the best of all available candidates (although several of us had been extremely impressed with the man from our discussion with him the previous evening). We supported him in the hope of bringing to a head the crisis of confidence that had developed regarding our Presidential candidate.
Apparently we did not present our case as clearly as we might. Further, although accounts of the actions of the Massachusetts delegates have appeared throughout the libertarian press, none of them fully explain our reasons, and none contain the text of Professor Nozick's nominating speech.
To his credit, Roger MacBride was among the few who apparently fully understood the issues involved, and he responded in a clear and forthright fashion by announcing that he would accept any of the candidates for the nomination. (An interesting side issue: Dr. Machan does not say how he feels about MacBride's change of attitude. Does he condemn him for caving in to the so-called forces of egalitarianism, or does he approve on strictly tactical grounds?) Nozick's challenge, and MacBride's response, broke the crisis and reassured many of the delegates, although it did not satisfy a minority element (not represented within the Massachusetts delegation) which hoped to the end to dump MacBride or force him to withdraw his candidacy, and thus to overturn the free and open choice of MacBride which that minority had been unable to prevent.
I hope that in future Viewpoints Dr. Machan will research his material more thoroughly and argue in full knowledge of the facts. I hope also that he will credit libertarians with a greater measure of intelligence and maturity. And I hope that we can finally lay this whole unhappy issue to rest.
David E. Long
Machan replies: Mr. Long should have read his own letter again before he mailed it to REASON. He would probably have discovered that he admits the central point of my Viewpoint column, namely that those chiding MacBride's rejection of Mr. Trotter and Mr. Vernon don't clearly understand the difference between liberty as a political value and the moral system by reference to which it must be justified. For example, Mr. Long believes that "these men's lifestyles were, from the libertarian standpoint, entirely moral and just." Actually, however, from the libertarian standpoint we have no answer to the question as to whether someone's homosexuality or transportation of gold from one place to another is moral or just—all we know is that it would be immoral to forcibly interfere with such activities or life-styles. (If the gold transportation involved extreme risk, it might be immoral; if the homosexual activities were irresponsible, they could be unjust.) Libertarianism simply says nothing about the morality or justice of lifestyles. If Mr. Long is speaking in these matters for Professor Nozick and others of the Massachusetts LP, I am afraid that at least that segment of the party is guilty of the confusion I identified in my column.
Some less central points need to be made in connection with Mr. Long's letter.
1. My absence from the LPC is an irrelevancy—I wasn't at the Munich Pact either, yet could know enough to appreciate the essentials of the event. Since when must one have experienced everything that one could know?
2. Roger MacBride's motives should have been of concern and tested prior to his nomination, not afterwards. However sincere the concern by then, it smacks to me to have had spite, not constructive purpose mingled with it.
3. Of course I am concerned with the ideas and ideals of my party's nominee: Roger MacBride has said he is a thorough libertarian and I have made the effort to find out that he is also a man of integrity and justice in private endeavors. The fact that he does not blabber about anything and everything to everyone—should he have demanded the privatization of all roads to the press as well?—shows good judgment, not lack of principle. All the truth is not always appropriate, especially not to one's enemies or people with contrary purposes.
4. Mr. Long's concern about morality and justice would be more appropriately demonstrated in avoiding the use of a person "in the hope of bringing to a head the crisis of confidence that had developed regarding our Presidential candidate." To chide MacBride for being a strategist and then admit that Vernon was being supported not "because we thought him the best of all available candidates" belies extreme confusion, at least!
5. I am neither boastful nor humble by nature, but in this instance I must admit to some pride of having clearly spotted the essentials of the issue in my column. Mr. Long's letter—which was approved by some of the parties for whom he speaks in it—is but a small confirmation of this fact. Having said this, I would welcome returning to the main task at hand, namely the struggle for liberty, the issue on which Mr. Long and I, admitting some of our differences and even their utmost importance, can unite. —T.R.M.
TOLERANCE AND POLITICS
I want to express my general concurrence with the line of reasoning in Tibor Machan's December Viewpoint. Two letters published in the same issue are good examples of what Tibor has to say.
I want to state here that I do not and never have thought that Roger MacBride rejected my nomination for Vice-President out of hostility toward homosexuals. His reasoning was tactical—which is not to say that the tactics are necessarily correct for the goals we wish to accomplish. I believe Roger wished to avoid the kinds of reactions from the public which are revealed in the two letters that I mentioned.
I wish Mr. Ganiard's letter could be printed on the front cover of REASON. It clearly delineates the difference between a libertarian and a conservative. This is not to say that to be a libertarian one must love homosexuals, or even respect them or choose to associate with them. But it is absolutely necessary to our philosophy that we at least acknowledge the right of others to live in different life styles from our own, free from persecution.
Which brings me to Mr. Balagurchik's letter. Libertarians do not tolerate the violations of the rights of others by any individual. He refers to homosexual molestations. Of course such action is indefensible. But does the fact that there is a great deal more violation of women and little girls by heterosexual men mean that I must therefore despise all persons of heterosexual orientation? Does Mr. Balagurchik find it more acceptable that men commit sexual assaults against females and not against males?
I hope for the day when individuals will be recognized for their real qualifications in the world, and not according to their sexuality. While the above mentioned letter writers have questioned the "manhood" of homosexuals, I am quick to point out that some of the most renowned and/or respected men in history were homosexual, or at least bi-sexual; George Gordon (Lord Byron), the law giver Solon, Hadrian, Tschaikovsky and a host of others. And while I will not embarrass anyone by mentioning names, there are a multitude of sexually "deviant" persons who are presently making significant contributions to the world, and to America in particular. Do they cease to be men because they at times desire the affection of other men? Or do homosexual mothers cease to be "women" because they prefer the affections of other women? Or do the presidents of the United States who have had homosexual involvements cease to be "men" because of it?
Unfortunately, politically, it is very difficult to challenge the moral viewpoints of one's constituency, at least if you expect them to vote for you. Roger MacBride appreciates this fact. And while I for one wish to change the moral viewpoint of a great many people, it is possible that job may be done more effectively from someplace besides a political campaign.
I want to state here that I have and do endorse Roger MacBride's campaign, and that I expect Roger to do everything he can toward the elimination of laws which directly discriminate against homosexuals. On my part, I will do everything in my power to gain a proper respect and tolerance for homosexuals.
John R. Vernon
Oklahoma City, OK
Tibor Machan: Hooray for you, sir! I'm sure that in the years ahead I'll have many opportunities to say, "…or to paraphrase the libertarian philosopher, Tibor Machan, 'If you choose to differ from others, or happen to be different from most, and still demand total acceptance by those you're different from, you just don't have the backbone to live with your choice or identity.'" Thanks.
Guy W. Riggs
It certainly is reassuring to know that although Tibor Machan did not attend the Libertarian National Convention, and, in fact, is not even a member of the Libertarian Party, he nonetheless is sufficiently interested in our doings to devote one in his series of lecture-sermons on morality ["Viewpoint," December] to our problem last August regarding the selection of a vice presidential nominee. I find Tibor's treatment of the problem confused, however, and on one absolutely crucial point, terribly misleading, so that I would like to offer some comments.
Those of us who were disappointed and angered at Roger MacBride's initial decision to veto, if necessary, the nomination of a gay man as vice president could find no supporters of that decision who were able to show why the obvious analogy—vetoing a Jew or a black because of widespread anti-Semitism or anti-Negro feeling in the electorate—did not hold. But if it did hold, then a party which permitted itself to act as the transmitter and enforcer of social bigotry in this way was surely, we felt, violating the spirit of libertarianism. (Imagine a German Libertarian Party in, say, 1930, refusing to endorse an otherwise qualified Jew for office because this would alienate anti-Semitic voters, and the campaign would then focus on a "single issue"!) Since we believed that the official social attitude towards homosexuality is irrational and oppressive—and there was no one at the convention who was prepared to argue otherwise, least of all Roger himself—we considered it demeaning to ourselves and unjust to gay people to act as accessories in the implementation of that attitude.
Putting it in other terms: to have placed a somewhat increased chance of electoral success above doing the right thing did not strike us as the action of a group of intelligent "realists," but of an association of…Peter Keatings.
Furthermore, Tibor happens to omit from his article a rather important point: namely, that after discussions with the opponents of his original position, Roger changed his mind on the question, and, in an act that must have very few precedents in the record of political conventions, came before the delegates to announce that he would accept as vice presidential nominee anyone they selected! (Tibor should have saved his congratulations for Roger until he'd heard the end of the story.) To my mind, this was the peak experience of the whole Convention, and it confirmed the wisdom of having selected Roger MacBride to represent the libertarian idea in the coming year.
Finally, Tibor states: "If people who choose to differ from others, or who happen to be different from most, still demand total acceptance by those they are different from, they haven't the backbone to live with their choice or identity. Individualists indeed!" Now, just how is this supposed to follow logically? How does it contradict individualism if gay people and those friendly to their cause refuse to have anything to do with a party which makes homosexuality a disqualifying criterion for a candidate? And how does it contradict individualism if one says: if you personally continue to share a mistaken and injurious view of gay love, then my respect for you will suffer accordingly, and there are certain relationships of friendly association that I will refuse to enter into with you? Reason, indeed!
Machan replies: The single point to be made about Prof. Raico's irrelevant and snide first paragraph is that if he took his remarks seriously, he would have to abandon his field of history—or did he attend the Constitutional Convention personally, perhaps even as a delegate? Since when does one need direct experience of something to make a valid comment? As to membership, that is my private affair—I doubt Professor Raico wants me to discuss in public his private life.
The analogy with anti-Semitism, etc., is not obvious, only plausible. Raico's use of it reveals his total failure to appreciate my point in my column, namely that there exists no moral obligation or duty to treat all persons alike concerning the selection of a VP candidate. I did not argue that homosexuals should be excluded, nor that tax-evaders or smugglers should be. My points were directed against those who consider it a categorical imperative to treat all persons as equal concerning all social endeavors. (That this is a theme of many homosexuals can be confirmed by simply going to some "gay" bars and listening to the attempts at "seduction" by way of the "everyone is equal, men and women alike" line of intimidation.)
In Nazi Germany Jews were being executed by the state for simply being Jews. What most homosexuals talk about today is not political liberty but enforced equality. But even in Raico's hypothetical German Libertarian Party it would have been perfectly justified to consider which candidate will achieve the party's goals. The emotional appeal of the case simply can not obliterate that fact.
Raico accuses me of wanting the LP to "transmit and enforce social bigotry" (my emphasis). This is unjustified. It again reveals gross misunderstanding or distortion. I want the LP to be kept free of Kantian drivel.
Finally, I didn't mention MacBride's "change of mind" because (a) it was irrelevant to my point, and (b) he never changed his mind on the issue of whether it is his moral duty to accept any "otherwise qualified" candidate, only on whether having a homosexual on the ticket would be a liability. (That is my understanding.) —T.R.M.
LETTER FROM LONDON
Don't be too impressed by the crisis stories. Dropped from an airplane, and blindfolded, you would think you were in any large, western metropolis, which is London. Oh, there is little innovation here, and much-too-much reverence for the old, but it has been that way for a long time now. It is still to the U.S.A., God Bless Her, that the whole world looks for anything…interesting. No one much cares why, and as long as they are carried along, they never will.
What is instructive is the particular form by which a semi-free market economy is corrupted in the western world. It is not socialism or communism that infects the body politic, stirring revolution or slow rot. That may be Portugal, or Chile, but not Britain or the U.S. No, Britain's free market tradition is going the way of—I can't think of a better word—Corporatism. This is a system whereby the entire country becomes Great Britain Ltd., one corporation, with many divisions, all of which it is the job of the divisional managers and corporate presidents and vice presidents (the political party in power) to operate efficiently in world markets. In this system, the ruling factor is the "balance of payments"—which is Corporatism's name for a country's profit-and-loss balance sheet. All may be sacrificed to this. In this system, wage and price controls, increases and decreases in the money supply, are merely the traditional businessman's strategy to hold down costs, motivate workers, and impress the buyers, sellers and competitors of and to Great Britain Ltd.'s products. In this system, a competing airline to the company's airline (British Airways) may not be allowed to compete too strenuously (by offering cut-rate fares to North America) because, after all, why compete with ourselves? It is a strange—but uniquely western breed—of statism, and one which fits comfortably into liberal and conservative frameworks. Run the country like a business. Call it, the United States of America, Inc. Its symbol? Nelson Rockefeller.
Dennis J. Chase
May I agree with Charles Ziarko ["Letters," December] ? Yes, movie reviews—or "even movie reviews"—should be relevant to the libertarian viewpoint, at least if they appear in REASON. Otherwise, how can we evaluate the reviews, which are themselves evaluations? There should be some starting point, some premise, some principle, some viewpoint on which the reviews are based. If we wanted helter-skelter opinions, we'd read the Willy-Nilly Weekly. But we want libertarian-oriented opinions in REASON.
I agree with Douglas B. Rasmussen, too ["Letters," January]. I have been saying for years that libertarianism is not a complete system, not a religion, not a total code of ethics or morals. It is, however, a rather encompassing ideology, and while there is also no libertarian aesthetics, still motion pictures—especially in recent years—can and do try to send messages. Let your reviewers take note of those messages, and review them.
Rabbi Michael J. Morrison
Sherman Oaks, CA
The piece by Ole-Jacob Hoff [January] on the implications of detente for Norway (and the world in general) was excellent. Perhaps it will be sobering enough to awaken those isolationist and revisionist libertarians from their dogmatic slumbers.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".