A couple of days after reading Tibor Machan's "Viewpoint" [August], I happened across an item in The Canberra Times (Australia) entitled "Fraser 'Could Save the World.'" Malcolm Fraser is Australia's current prime minister, and the story was about his meeting in Washington with Ayn Rand. Rand was quoted as saying about Fraser, "I love him—he's courageous and independent. I hope he remains your Prime Minister for many, many years. He could save the world." And most interesting of all: "As a personality and a speaker, he would fit my style. I could fit him as one of my heroes. It's the assurance, the spiritual thing he projects."
Fraser came to Rand's attention when a New York Times story quoted him as saying Rand was his favorite author. On the basis of this story, she wrote him up in her last Letter. Fraser was questioned on this quite extensively by the press here, and he admitted to having read Rand—and Marx and various other people.
Fraser might be best described as a conservative with rhetorical libertarian tendencies. Certainly, in last year's election campaign, some of his speeches sounded like verbatim steals from the Workers Party. However, his record in office does not support his rhetoric. He has increased protection for industry—and promised virtual open-ended government support through tariffs and quotas; he has restored subsidies for farmers. And so on. To his credit he has marginally cut government spending, and is certainly the first Western leader to reverse a country's trend towards socialised medicine. However, on this issue, as many others, he has consistently bowed to union pressures and extensively watered down many hardly radical proposals.
As for saving the world, he is unlikely to save Australia. He has made no move to undercut union power—which is as extensive as Britain's. He has not abolished exchange controls; his foreign policy is all the way with Chairman Mao. In short, whatever his desires, he shows he has no understanding of the tactics that would be necessary to change a political system in a libertarian direction. And his desires are rather suspect too.
On a brief meeting, without doing any research, one could mistake him. He does, after all, stand six-foot-four, has a strong jaw, can use the proper jargon, and does have an aristocratic bearing—reflected in his condescending way of speaking to us mere mortals.
I have noticed a tendency among those libertarians who come from conservatism, who become political but not psychological libertarians, to become very hostile to psychological libertarians in the process. They still claim to be libertarians—but make significant errors of judgment, as Ayn Rand has with Malcolm Fraser.
Tibor Machan's Viewpoint is to be commended for its balance and accuracy. I share Mr. Machan's admiration for Miss Rand's profound contributions to philosophy, as well as his distress at some of her more recent pronouncements.
Despite what some critics of Machan's article may be inclined to presume, the remarks he quoted are neither taken out of context nor are they isolated aberrations. Rather, it is sad but true that Miss Rand has somewhat consistently indulged in inconsistency in her public comments of the last few years.
In 1974, at the same forum at which the cited statements were made, Miss Rand was asked which American politician she admired most or despised the least. She replied, "Henry Jackson." In so doing, she presumably felt that Jackson's anti-Soviet stance outweighed his crypto-Fascist domestic policies, despite the fact that even the former is politically motivated and ill-conceived. Yet she could not grant Mr. Solzhenitsyn, whose own anti-Soviet position is courageous and principled, and whose other, objectionable views he at least does not seek to impose on others.
At other times recently, Miss Rand has bemoaned Beethoven's sense of life as "tragic" (as though he never composed his Third Symphony), and denounced present-day American Indians as "savages."
Thus, Machan's criticisms are neither unfair nor destructive like those of Chambers, Kirk et al., but rather reasonable words from a most reasonable man on the excesses of a brilliant woman.
Anthony J. Squillacioti
I want to thank Tibor Machan for clearing up something which has been bothering me for years; namely, why I'm basically uneasy with Rand even though I realize what a prodigious intellect she has.
In his "Viewpoint" column he made this comment concerning excised portions of We The Living: "Contrary to the implications of those passages, others than the most brilliant, virtuous, and ambitious among us possess individual rights too." That cleared it up for me. In spite of all her words concerning inalienable rights, Miss Rand's actions indicate that even these must be "earned" and if they are not (in her opinion), then, "to the end of the line, buddy."
I admire the sense of justice which shines in Tibor's articles in general and in this one in particular. However, I was somewhat jarred by his comment on some "real losers" who have shoved Rand aside in our era: "Not to mention the libertarian pipsqueaks who fume that Ayn Rand isn't Murray Rothbard!" It just didn't fit and rather detracted because it seemed beneath the dignity of the article.
I'm reminded of the motto on the coat of arms of my mother's side of the family. My grandfather would bring it up when we were unduly annoyed by, well, pipsqueaks: "The eagle does not pursue flies." This motto can be frightfully misused but in this case I think it certainly applies.
Guy W. Riggs
"No individual is free to use violence or the threat of violence if the government has not accorded this right to him."
This statement is to be found in von Mises' Human Action, and it frightened me when I read it there. It is also to be found in Mr. Shenfield's article [August], in his quote from von Mises. We may assume that von Mises agrees with it; he wrote it. I conclude that Shenfield agrees with it; he quotes it to buttress his position.
Governments do not accord rights, the right to use violence, or any other right. "All men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights," as Thomas Jefferson put it, and they delegate certain powers (not rights) to government, for certain ends—i.e. to protect these rights. But "whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it…" by force, if necessary. This theory of government would not work at all if Dr. von Mises' sentence had any truth to it.
As for the abolition of the State, any State whose members or apologists claimed to be able to "accord any right" should be abolished on general principle, for the same reason that one shoots a mad dog.
There is a chain of islands in the world where the government does claim the right to "accord rights." It accords to its subjects (one cannot call them citizens) the right to speak, the right to keep quiet, the right to work, the right not to work, the right to eat, the right not to eat, the right to live, even the right to die. The government there does not fit the description of von Mises' next statement: "The State is essentially an institution for the preservation of peaceful interhuman relations." The chain of islands? The Gulag Archipelago.
If Dr. Shenfield bases his theory of limited government on Dr. von Mises' statement, then it is, at least, back to the drawing board for his theory. The fact that Dr. von Mises made the original statement does not excuse either it or its incorporation in Dr. Shenfield's article. I do not expect an appreciation of the finer points of liberty by Josef Stalin. I do expect it of liberty's alleged champions.
Los Angeles, CA
LEST WE FORGET
Arthur Shenfield's "Must We Abolish the State?" and David Friedman's "The Anarchist Reply" [August] provided interesting remarks concerning a vitally important controversy among libertarians: that of limited government versus anarchism.
The anarchists, however, fail to realize that approximately one quarter of the human race is incapable of participating in the market, at least to any meaningful extent. Approximately one billion humans—there are now about 4 billion humans living—are just not physically, mentally or economically capable of providing for their own needs, one of which is the protection of their rights. I am, of course, speaking of the children.
Can you imagine a one or two year old child having the wherewithal, not to mention the knowledge and experience, to enable him to be able to go to a private protection agency and purchase its services? This is just not possible. And since the anarchists argue that no one can be forced to purchase protection from one of these private agencies, certainly there would be no one who could require a parent, or guardian, to purchase it for himself, he is simply left at the mercy of others. He has no way of protecting his individual rights.
Certainly the anarchists consider children to be human beings—at least I hope so. Therefore, one does not ignore or abandon the children of the world when attempting to devise a rational society. Consequently, since young children, by their nature, are not yet capable of participating in the market, one cannot leave the functions of government to an area, the market, from which a significant segment of the human race is excluded. One is obliged to have a limited government.
The anarchists, in their determined and often illogical attempt to have the market provide all services, have foolishly forgotten the babes of the world. But I have not!
Prof. Thomas Johnson
TRIBULATIONS OVER REALPOLITIK
Among the tribulations of being a political activist is to be advised by well-intentioned, yet inexperienced bystanders. Bob Poole's editorial [August] is an example of such advice and, unfortunately, I disagree with his statements in almost every respect.
To begin with, Poole places an inordinate emphasis on the election of candidates to office. The function of a political party is to influence government, and there are many ways of doing this. Electing candidates is only one of these ways, however major it may seem in a traditional sense. It is entirely unrealistic to suppose that a very recent, very radical minor party such as the Libertarian Party can expect to make immediate headway by electing candidates to office. In local, non-partisan elections and in some state legislative contests it may be possible for libertarian candidates to make it. In Federal elections, minor parties have historically never made a dent—except perhaps as a "spoiler" to shift a plurality one way or another.
Rather than get exercised over the fact that the LP cannot swing the same punch as a major party, we should pay attention to the kinds of things that minor parties can do, namely; educate the public to the existence of a new political view, maintain a visible involvement in community affairs, and support/publicize protest actions such as tax strikes. If pursued seriously, these activities will eventually gain the status of an institution, given time. Once institutionalized, the LP may then have some hope of functioning as a major party. Until then, we have to concentrate on breaking into the consciousness of the average person—and that means a strong educationalist approach.
Now, I can sympathize with editor Poole's fear that the public may shrink from a straightforward presentation of libertarian ideas (although I find this fear hard to reconcile with his earlier conclusion that we have the benefit of a favorable climate of opinion). I, too, have seen persons turned-off…but it had little to do with ideological considerations. Generally, libertarians lose their audience by being too esoteric, misanthropic, or just plain haughty—or a combination thereof. My experience has been that most thoughtful persons are interested and are willing to listen. I have no idea what experiences Poole may have had to come to his conclusion, nor does he make that clear. In any case, we can hardly avoid presenting the entirety of our view, for none of the programmatic approaches can work unless we are prepared to explain why we advocate a given program…and unless we are willing to admit to the implications of such programs. If straightforward educationalist talk is to be shunned, I fail to understand how REASON magazine, itself, proposes to continue. Educationalism is educationalism, whether practiced by a political party or by a magazine.
And, finally, Poole bases his fallen expectations on a wholly premature assessment of libertarian political campaigns to date. With rare exception, the campaigns conducted by the LP have been heterogeneous and maverick affairs, characterized by low funding, low manpower, and little expertise. Rather than look about for the "obstacle" that prevents LP candidates from sweeping to victory, I suggest we simply recognize that insufficient resources is explanation enough for low vote totals…
Santa Barbara, CA
NO TO OPPORTUNISTS
Robert Poole's Editorial on the appropriate direction of the Libertarian Party is in need of a few choice comments.
To date, the success of the LP to organize a national libertarian constituency has been just short of phenomenal. But like all radical ideological movements, the Libertarian Party is beset by the rivalry of what Murray Rothbard has correctly identified as the conflict between "right opportunism" and "left sectarianism". The right opportunist constantly seeks some form of tangible immediate "gain," even at the expense of ideological principle if necessary. The left sectarian on the other hand views any attempt to implement principles in an imperfect world to be nothing short of a "sellout." Any veteran libertarian can immediately recall vivid examples of these two "deviant" tendencies.
One of the great lessons, learned during the great classical liberal revolutions of two centuries past, is the concept of "radical in content, conservative in form". The success of these movements largely rested upon the ability of the leadership to steer a steady course between the two opposing wings of deviation mentioned above. When the classical liberals began discarding their radical content for the appeal of moderation, it was the Marxists who successfully grabbed the banner. To date, the Marxists have successfully implemented the concept of "radical in content, conservative in form," building the required mass movements for their own purposes.…
In considering the successes of the LP's campaigns, those candidates waging a radical, ideological campaign, professionally marketed, have always been the most successful (Fran Youngstein for Mayor of New York, Kay Harroff for Senator in Ohio, Hal Jindrich for California Ed. Superintendent). In contrast, those candidates who have sought to mollify their platforms have proven to be the greatest failures (Ray Cunningham for San Francisco Mayor, etc.). The controversy consists mainly between the right opportunist position of individuals such as Mr. Poole, Woody Jenkins (ironically spotlighted in the same issue of REASON), Joe Cobb, and a few others, and the centrist position of the National LP. Fortunately, the problem of left sectarianism was openly confronted at the New York National Convention last year, and dispersed for the time being…
It is time serious libertarians began maturing into fully effective practitioners of the tried and proven techniques of social change. This does not mean adopting the very strategy which has proven so disastrous in the past (conservatism), but to fully embrace the very best insight into revolution set forth by those social movement leaders of the past, libertarian or not. Any attempt to achieve power through election or otherwise, is absolutely useless unless a massive popular sentiment to dismantle the State already exists (when only anti-politics is "politically expedient").
To date, the National Libertarian Party leadership has demonstrated a commitment to this vital task, and if such a commitment continues, we will succeed despite the well-intentioned but misguided strategy of Mr. Poole.
David J. Theroux
ROOM FOR ALL STRATEGIES
In Mr. Poole's editorial on the Libertarian Party he asserted that LP members should use the LP primarily for electing libertarians to office or leave the party. I disagree not only because I am among those who use the party primarily for educational purposes, but because I don't think it is necessary for the party to appear monolithic in order to elect individuals running on specific close-range programs. Different groups, working within the party, may use both common and unshared means to different libertarian ends.
Stephen C. Boydstun
Robert Poole's "Libertarian Realpolitik" focuses attention on the contradiction of a radical "educational" political party. Libertarian Party leaders tell us the LP can serve an educational purpose because people are more receptive to political arguments during an election. However, the LP carries a burden not shared by other libertarian endeavors: its continued legitimacy depends on getting votes. To get votes, it must (as Mr. Poole suggests) advocate what is already popular, and hence cease being educational.
This dilemma apparently has not dawned on most LP members, because the LP is new enough that the promise of getting votes with a radical platform still appears feasible. If the vote totals don't begin to escalate dramatically, the LP's legitimacy in the eyes of the media and the public will fade. Then, I fear, the LP will be faced with two unpleasant alternatives: (1) becoming pragmatic, as Mr. Poole advocates, or (2) becoming a laughingstock like the Socialist Workers Party.
Frank W. Bubb, III
WORKING FROM WITHIN
I wish to applaud the general thrust of Robert Poole's editorial on "Libertarian Realpolitik." In many respects what he wrote represents a viewpoint I intended to elaborate upon in an upcoming issue of SOUTHERN LIBERTARIAN REVIEW. The rascal has stolen my "thunder".
I strongly agree that it is time for political libertarians to awaken to the fact that while calling for an early and/or substantial abolition of the State is philosophically sound, it is not going to get anyone elected. Ever. It is a counter-productive strategy. If we are going to work within the existing political structure in order to dismantle the Leviathan, we are going to have to recognize some basic truths about how the system works. Mr. Poole makes these points and he makes them well…
The best strategy for libertarians to pursue in politics, as I see it, is to abandon the LP and move into the existing major parties. Fight there to get them and/or their candidates to endorse and implement elements of the libertarian philosophy. In addition, libertarian politicos should work and vote on a non-partisan basis so as to help elect the most libertarian-minded candidates from any serious party to office. A national non-partisan organization designed to support such candidates and to lobby and keep an eye on Congress will have far more positive effect in the long run than the LP.
Of course there are those who, as Samuel Gompers said of the left-wing unionists who hounded him to support establishment of a labor party, "just can't understand politics without a party." I suspect that history and the Movement will eventually leave such individuals far behind.
E. Scott Royce
FABIANISM IN REVERSE
Your editorial, "Libertarian Realpolitik" is a breath of fresh air in a swamp. Libertarian say-so is not matched with do-so. We should study the Fabian program of over a hundred years ago and see how practical people used every man's greed to enslave him in total Socialism. Then, we should reverse the process.
Thomas S. Booz
At the risk of having one of the emerging "consciences of libertarianism" "completely repudiate and abjure" me, I would like to put in a kind word for "war profiteers."
Way back in REASON's January issue there was an ad for a book called You Can Profit From The Coming Mideast War. Those of you who actually read the ad (instead of running shrieking from the mere title, as some people seemed to have done) might remember one of the methods it suggested; speculating on the prospect of higher prices for oil. Oh, the recriminations we heard! "War profiteering," cried Lawrence Miller [August]! "Making money off the deaths and suffering of other people," screamed Joseph Elliot Caldwell [April]! "Flagrant callousness," intoned His Eminence Michael Cardinal Dunn!
"Bullshit," replies Bill Birmingham. Those who followed this book's advice would drive up the price of oil in advance of a prospective Arab oil embargo. By so doing, they would be stimulating increased domestic oil production and storage before the embargo, making its effects much milder and thereby relieving the "suffering of other people." Speculators are the good guys—that's primer economics—even when they are speculating on war induced shortages, and the editors of REASON did us a service by printing an ad that might help us speculate intelligently. Would that someone had tried to profit from the Yom Kippur War of 1973; we might have been spared the gas shortage of 1974 and after.
So that takes care of the "war profiteering" argument, doesn't it? It also takes care of Mr. Miller's fat-headed division of the movement into "two factions—the economics-only libertarians, and those also concerned with human beings and their problems." Judging by the sorry performance of Messrs. Caldwell, Dunn and Miller, we would do better to divide ourselves between those who respect the contributions of economics (whether they are economists themselves or not—I'm not) and those who disdain that discipline and cloak their ignorance with self-indulgent moralizing. It shouldn't take much thought to see which faction has more to offer us. For that matter, the late economist Ludwig von Mises (whose writings show more humanity than those of all our self-righteous trio put together) wrote an economic defense of the "war profiteers" in his Human Action. Anybody care to "repudiate and abjure" him?
What Mises understood was that it is worse than useless to "GIVE A DAMN ABOUT PEOPLE???!!!" if you don't give a damn about facts. Or as Nathaniel Branden (later repudiated and abjured himself) put it: "Emotions are not tools of cognition." I am minded to recall how Dunn once declared that "Libertarianism has almost exhausted the fields of politics and economics." Which is only to be expected, judging by the pitiful, slash-and-burn methods of cultivation he evidences in his April LTE. But if we use the sophisticated methods of Mises and Rothbard, of Stigler and Friedman and Peltzman and Reynolds, these fields should yield us a rich harvest for many years to come.
Santa Barbara, CA
THE SF DECISION
I see you've finally sunk J.J. Pierce's S.F. column. I could say something nasty about the desiccated Randroids who read your magazine, but I won't.
But seriously, a large part of the science fiction that is being printed and reprinted may be said to be friendly to libertarian ideas—a larger part than of any other genre of modern literature or arts. Right-wing individualists (Robert Heinlein, Poul Anderson, H. Beam Piper) or "just individualists" (Jack Vance, Eric Frank Russell, Edgar Pangborn, Damon Knight, Lloyd Biggle, Wallace West) abound in the field.
It is because your readers do not follow science fiction that they need a reviewer, or somebody, to tell them when something is published that rubs libertarians the right way.
I must add that, much as I liked it, Pierce's column did not do the job. He never claimed to be a libertarian, or to review books from a libertarian perspective.
Taras V. Wolansky
MORE ON PIERCE
I enjoy reading science fiction, found Mr. Pierce's column both entertaining and helpful, and vote to reinstate him fully.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".