USSR AND ANGOLA
Murray Rothbard's column "The Angola Caper" [April] correctly identifies certain key issues in Africa: that most African countries were not really countries, but "administrative creatures of Western Imperialism;" and that if outside hands are kept off, these countries would rapidly disintegrate into their natural tribal units. This would probably be best for all concerned, including black Africans.
However, Mr. Rothbard's conclusion that "there is no rational excuse whatever for American intervention in the African continent," does not take into consideration the strategic importance to the United States of southern Africa, in an increasingly probable global war, and the fact that outside hands are not being kept off of Africa. Stalin's military strategy viewed Africa as the mineral reserve of the West. Today the Russian fleet may be in a position to neutralize these reserves. A naval and air base in Angola greatly enhances Russian capabilities in the South Atlantic. Most of Europe's oil consumption, and 25 percent of her food supplies must pass through this area after rounding the Cape of Good Hope.
While it may be getting late to avoid WW III, one hope lies in blocking the Russians from occupying a position of obvious strategic superiority, since it is only from such a position that they are likely to consider aggression.
It goes without saying that blocking Russia in Africa, while at the same time helping build her military power through trade, is a gross contradiction, as regards American interests.
Stephen A. Zarlenga
New York, NY
Dr. Rothbard replies: Mr. Zarlenga's letter is symptomatic of the curious and unfortunate tendency on the right-wing, not only to revive all the discredited concepts of the Cold War, but to do so in terms that have been technologically and strategically obsolescent for generations. Come, come: must we really go back to the blatherings of Admiral Mahan and his obsession with sea lanes—now, in the age of missiles and nuclear devastation?
If Mr. Zarlenga is right about an "increasingly probable global war," then we'll have a lot more to worry about than the Cape of Good Hope; in fact, we'd all better hie ourselves to a cave, preferably in the South Seas, with our stock of dried beans. The only strategic "position" that Americans, or indeed the human race, need worry about is the invulnerable second strike nuclear capability that the U.S. and the Russians have to overkill the other nation many times over.
It is curious that the people who are worried about the Russians cutting off our access to mineral and other resources are the very same ones who advocate the forcible cutting off of East-West trade. Mr. Zarlenga's reference to "helping build her (Russia's) military power through trade" ignores two centuries of economic science, which demonstrates that both parties benefit from all trade. Is it really necessary to expound the benefits of free trade in a libertarian publication? As for the military buildup, both nations, as I've just noted, already possess nuclear overkill many times over. What we should be concerned with is removing the nuclear sword of Damocles over the human race. —M.N.R.
It was with a bit of shock that I finished Mr. David Bergland's article [April] entitled "The Risks of Tax Resistance." An attorney who intends to represent the Libertarian Party in the coming election should be extremely careful to avoid pitfalls. And he made a few in that article. I will only name two to keep this as short as possible.
He says on page 15 "…making it totally worthless as a tax shelter." He was speaking of the Equity Trust. He had better write another article and define his terms. A sample case—If a husband and wife without a trust had $30,000 in taxable income and paid according to the rates published in the 1975 edition of the IRS code they would have paid $7,880 in taxes. If the same couple had a trust and split income between themselves ($20,000) and the trust ($10,000) they would have paid a total of $6,542 in taxes. Again, if Mr. Bergland thinks a saving of $1,338 is totally worthless, we should have him define his terms.
In the next paragraph on page 15 he states "…the IRS, which takes the position that the equity trust device is invalid." This is incorrect. The IRS takes the position that an incorrectly set up and operated trust is invalid. It is the same as saying that an automobile dealer who sold you a new Cad without an engine did not sell you a valid automobile. That was the case from which the 1975 IRS rulings arose. The trust or trusts had errors of a material nature so naturally they are considered invalid.
In my opinion a candidate who tells half truths that mislead is an invalid vice presidential prospect.
Grass Valley, CA
Mr. Bergland replies: I really wonder if Mr. Wright checked my article over thoroughly before he wrote his letter. If he had, he would have noted that I did make the same point as the first one in his letter, i.e., trusts can be used to "split" income between members of the family and the trust and thereby reduce the overall tax bite. But, do not forget, the trust is a taxpayer also, not a place where you can hide income from the tax collector altogether. Mr. Wright's example seems, by implication, to overlook this point-but perhaps not. Who am I to nitpick? (It is also worth noting that creation of a trust and its administration involve considerable expense. TANSTAAFL.)
As to Mr. Wright's second point, my comments were directed at the so-called "equity trusts" being sold by their promoters as fantastically successful tax avoidance devices. It was this the IRS attacked and did indeed make "totally worthless as a tax shelter." If Mr. Wright doesn't think so, let him buy one of the "equity trust" packages from those who are still peddling them and then see what the ultimate tax consequences are. Mr. Wright apparently could not ascertain from the context of my fairly brief discussion on "equity trusts" that I was not saying the IRS rulings made all trusts invalid. I think it was clear that the discussion was limited to the "equity trust" packages which were the subject of the IRS rulings. Anyone who cares to do so can reread the article and judge for themselves.
Finally, I am considerably affronted by Mr. Wright's accusations regarding misleading half-truths. In response, I suggest that Wright: (1) is deficient in reading comprehension, (2) is ignorant of the admittedly complex tax laws, (3) was looking for an opportunity to take a cheap shot at a Libertarian Party candidate, or (4) all of the above.
I believe the 1976 Libertarian Party Presidential Campaign will be recognized as one of the most significant events in the development of the Libertarian Movement regardless of Mr. Wright's opinions; and I am willing to offer my services on the market as a tax counselor in competition with Mr. Wright anytime so that the purchasers of our respective services can decide which one of us knows his business better. —D.P.B.
LYSANDER SPOONER REVISITED
May I offer the following comments on Professor Fred Miller's "Lysander and Limited Government" appearing in REASON, May 1976?
Spooner has left us a great legacy of political writings and one may find defense of limited-constitutional government in more than just his work No Treason No. VI. However one must keep in mind that Spooner has many great distinctions in the history of political thought. "For one thing, he was undoubtedly the only constitutional lawyer in history to evolve into an individualist anarchist; for another, he became steadily and inexorably more radical as he grew older." Lysander Spooner was the only one of all the host of Lockean natural rights theorists to push the theory to its logical and infinitely radical conclusion: individualist anarchism.
In the final decade of his life, Spooner WAS an individualist anarchist. Consider his 1882 pamphlet regarding Natural Law, or the Science of Justice, which was subtitled: A Treatise on Natural Law, Natural Justice, Natural Rights, Natural Liberty, and Natural Society; Showing that all Legislation Whatsoever is an Absurdity, a Usurpation, and a Crime. Here he argued that no man can rightfully be required to join or support an association whose protection he does not desire.
It is my position that Spooner ultimately came to believe that even a voluntary government (so called—because it would rely only on voluntary contributions) must, of necessity, violate men's rights. Even if one advocates voluntary financing of government, as Mr. Miller does, there still exists an aggressive and criminal feature of all governments: namely, the establishment of a compulsory monopoly of defense services (police, courts, and law code) over some given geographical area. Thus, individual property owners who prefer to subscribe to another defense company within that area are not allowed to do so.
The recognition of this fact is why Spooner became a convert to libertarian anarchism.
SPOONER AS ANARCHIST
Fred Miller Jr.'s article in the May issue is a very unscholarly attempt to link one of the greatest libertarians of all time, Lysander Spooner, to the so-called limited government viewpoint. As a student of radical anarchistic libertarianism, I should like to make the following brief rebuttal.
Mr. Miller admits that he believes that only one government may exist in a given geographical area. In fact, he says that the government may forcibly insist on a monopoly of police and judicial functions. Supposedly, he does reject taxation and inflation as being theft. However, he would not allow any of us the option of contracting for our own defense, unless it is with the State. The latter is from his point of view legitimate. I wonder if he also believes in the Constitution and the legislative process? Spooner, as well as the other individualist anarchists, neither believed in the latter or the former, as can be shown by the very passages that Mr. Miller quotes in support of his contention that Spooner was not an anarchist.
Spooner did say that governments must rely solely on voluntary support. By that statement, taken within the context of everything else he wrote, he meant that not only must they be voluntarily financed, but they must also rest on the individual consent of the governed. A consent, by the way, that may rightfully be withdrawn at any point in time. Also, he said that it must leave the rest of us in peace to pursue our own affairs and contracts. Contracts in harmony with the natural law, can never rightfully be violated. That such contracts may include competing defense functions, disproving any sanction of the State or monopoly, he said in many places in the No Treason works, as well as in his Letter to Grover Cleveland.
To advocate individual consent of the governed is to advocate anarchy as envisioned not only by Lysander Spooner, but also Benjamin Tucker and most of the other individualist anarchists, as well as the modern day anarcho-capitalists. Indeed, it is our viewpoint alone that says that no so-called governments may rightfully do anything that any individual acting alone may not also rightfully do. Also, we say that every individual is solely responsible for his or her acts, for good and bad. Therefore, no one can evade the same by hiding behind any organization or collective. If individuals wish to form associations and call them governments, they may do so if they leave the rest of us alone and if such associations are solely based on the voluntary principle. This is all the anarchist asks.
I would suggest that Mr. Miller dig deeper. Let him read Dr. James J. Martin's Men Against The State. Also, he might read Spooner's Letter to Grover Cleveland for a good beginning. After a little serious reading, he might be capable of writing a responsible and scholarly article on the subject.
Michael A. Nash
Prof. Miller replies: I am gratified to discover that my reading of No Treason #6 is in substantial agreement with that of Mr. Watner, who has himself written a useful study of Spooner. My aim was to provide a full exegesis of this one crucially important essay, which, it seemed to me, had been misrepresented by overenthusiastic readers. I believe that each of Spooner's works must be considered in its own right before broad claims can be established as to his intellectual development, so that I can only say that I am not yet convinced that the doctrines advanced in No Treason No. 6 and Natural Law are fundamentally at variance.
I do not know what standards of scholarship underlie Mr. Nash's characterization of my article as "unscholarly." He ascribes to me vague doctrines which I do not advance in the paper, e.g., "that only one government may exist in a given geographical area," and misstates doctrines which I do advance, e.g., "that the government may forcibly insist on a monopoly of police and judicial functions," omitting the crucial words, "over its citizens." It was also instructive (if disconcerting) to learn that I "would not allow any of us the option of contracting for our own defense, unless it is with the State." But where do I say this in my paper?
Both Nash's and Watner's letters, however, suggest a possible way to clarify the issue that divides us. "Limited government" can refer to either of two things: (1) an association which will not permit any member of a specified group to obtain protection from any other association, or (2) an association which insists that grievances against its clients be brought against them within its own judicial system. I do not think that Spooner (or any consistent libertarian) would advocate (1), since that would violate the right of secession. My point, however, was that Spooner was implicitly committed to (2), and in this his version of libertarianism seems to me preferable to Rothbard's anarcho-capitalist scheme, in which "protection agencies" do not have a monopoly on the sanctioning of enforcement of laws over their own citizens.
Fred D. Miller, Jr.
University of Wisconsin
A reading of the Letters in the April 1976 issue makes one thing clear: libertarianism is growing (in numbers and sophistication) to the point where there now seem to be two factions—the economics-only libertarians, and those also concerned with human beings and their problems.
For instance, several readers criticize you for accepting an ad that says "You can profit from the coming Mideast war." This can be simplified as: "You can profit from war." You apologize for this ad by saying "the point of the book is to make money—not from war, but from…" But the reader criticism was of the actual headline in the ad, not of the book it advertised.
Your answer is cutesy and beside the point.
You say "The point of the book is to make money…from the predictable distortions in the economy caused by…war" (this simplification clarifies the thought; it does not distort). Reader Caldwell says, "…to accept an ad that pushes war profiteering is to push war yourself…" I agree. For if you profit (or profiteer) from war, it is only reasonable to assume you'll want to maintain the condition necessary to your profit-making: war.
You can't have it both ways.
There are other problems.
Harry D. Schultz refers to "ever more liberal (sorry) social security handouts." As a believer in libertarianism, I can and do support the idea of less taxes and less government interference. But: you must address yourself to problems that deal with the essence of liberty (your final goal, as suggested clearly by your name: libertarianism).
For example: Without social security, how do old folks with inadequate financial means get their necessities: adequate food, shelter, clothing, and medical care (not to mention a few amenities that make 'liberty' worthwhile)? Certainly, this is hard to answer within the structure of libertarianism. But that's no reason to avoid dealing with this kind of difficult human problem. Is it possible you simply don't care? Does libertarianism have to be totally without compassion? And what if you don't make it? How will you handle your old age?
Is profit the whole ball of wax in your philosophy?
I find meanness in the spirit of libertarianism, and this troubles me, because there is much in your philosophy and in your values that I do support. Can we not warm up or humanize libertarianism without compromising it? A tough question; one I'm not competent to answer.
Or must we let the old die without liberty?
I hope you try to provide answers to some of these all-too-real—not just theoretical—problems.
And one more thing: It's time you supported your laissez-faire theories with facts. I can't hold my own in a discussion without hard data. Opinion ain't enough, no matter how articulate I happen to be at any given moment.
New York, NY
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".