FREE MARKET LIMITS
In his otherwise excellent article, "Myths of Regulation" [December] Henry Manne tries to prove too much when he claims that you can buy an automobile and "be confident…that you are not being cheated, simply because the market for information is working." Most people know from experience that you very well may be cheated if you shop carelessly or unwisely. This is especially true on a big-ticket item like a car, where the actual price paid depends on the buyer's bargaining ability. The market rewards effort and initiative in gathering information and penalizes lack of same, just as it does in other areas.
Manne's overexuberance is typical of the need many of us seem to feel to prove that the free market works flawlessly. Since in fact the market falls short of perfection, attempts to prove otherwise must fail, often undercutting the whole libertarian position in the process. The point we should be making is that defects in the market are caused by human frailties and stupidities which exist in any social system. What the free market does superbly is to minimize and localize the effects of human errors. Regulation, on the other hand, takes weakness and mediocrity and institutionalizes them.
The only author I have read who makes this point explicitly is David Friedman. I recommend highly his book The Machinery of Freedom.
Redondo Beach, CA
I was very much impressed by the article "Why Not a Libertarian Church" by Richard Wood [December]. For some years now I have been thinking along similar lines. More recently I have made the decision to form such a church.
The only part of this strategy that sits uneasily in my mind is the necessity of calling this libertarian institution a church. The very word church is irretrievably bound to its history and this history is replete with the most horrible examples of coercions, tortures, murders, genocides, and even deliberate destructions of entire civilizations to be found in the history of our species.
However, since religions are deemed to be great only if they have at their core a set of ethical principles obtained from "Divine Law" and since libertarianism is similarly founded on ethical principles derived from "natural law," it is not at all far-fetched that libertarians organize themselves as a church primarily and as a political party secondarily.
Laurens N. Garlington
San Francisco, CA
…AND THE IRS
December, 1975. My phone rang. I was in a hurry, leaving town, and didn't want to involve myself in some pointless conversation. It was Ray Walker. He introduced himself as a libertarian from Nashville visiting Little Rock, and we began to talk. Thirty minutes later, spellbound, I hung up the phone.
That wasn't the last I heard from Ray Walker. Over the months our correspondence accumulated, developing an intimate friendship quickened by my desire to learn from this cultivated man. I wasn't surprised, then, when I received another call from him in July. But this time, the news is not good.
Ray Walker is under the gun—the IRS gun.
Well over a year ago, Ray Walker founded a church in Nashville. His purpose was to examine and discover if he could the moral and philosophical nature of man, as well as to challenge state subsidies to organized religion in the form of tax exemptions.
The IRS says his purpose was to evade taxes. Criminally. And now Ray Walker is faced with the loss of his home and possessions earned over a lifetime…and the loss of his profession, since criminal conviction would deprive him of his notary's seal, indispensable in his profession as a free lance court reporter.
All this, for a principle.
Think about what it's like, when the IRS has you in "for a conference." You're alone. There's no help. No heroics. In our age, they don't allow that. They've learned not to make martyrs. First they try to break you by intimidation and isolation. Alone, afraid, they face you with the ruin of your life. Then they quietly put you on the shelf.
Ray has a good attorney, but good attorneys cost. Lots. By now, without ever having seen the inside of a courtroom, his legal bill is over $2,000. We're not going to make any plaintive appeals for money. No slogans. No merchandising. No packaging. Because, if you help us defend Ray Walker, you're not giving to help him: you're giving to help you…to fight your battle.
Tell Ray Walker he's not alone. Send whatever you can spare to:
RAY WALKER DEFENSE FUND
1772 FAXON AVENUE
MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE 38112
In the unlikely event that the IRS drops its apparent intention to proceed criminally, all money received will go toward the cost of civilly litigating Mr. Walker's case.
Little Rock, AR
LIBERTY AND LICENSE REVISITED
The article entitled "On Liberty—and License" by H. Joachim Maitre [December] completely misses the boat. Maitre's attacks on libertarianism are filled with an unbelievable neglect of any knowledge and/or understanding of Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism and its relationship to libertarianism.
To begin with, Maitre says, "Individual liberty is no end, no virtue, in itself. It is the supreme political principle, but requires demonstration. There can be no doubt today that 'individual liberty!' as the radical libertarians' sole intellectual or philosophical battlecry…will not suffice." This statement shows a complete ignorance of one of the major concepts of Rand's Objectivist philosophy as applied to libertarianism. Liberty is not the cause but the effect. To paraphrase Rand: virtue is the act by which one gains or keeps values. The individuals in a society must possess the virtues of rationality, productiveness, and pride before they can obtain and keep liberty-freedom: exemption from extraneous control.
Maitre also says when referring to the Hare Krishna sect that; "'Schools' run by the Hare Krishna sect are rough and tailored to meet objectively irrational whims" (emphasis mine). How ludicrous, how absurd. There can be no objectively irrational whims. It's a logical contradiction.
In addition, when Maitre is referring to Robert Nozick's "rejection of moral considerations" in his book, Anarchy, State, and Utopia Maitre says, "he certainly seems to embrace some of the amoralism of some of the libertarian movement." While there in fact may be individuals running around referring to themselves as libertarians and having the attributes that Maitre suggests, they are by definition nonlibertarians.
Next, Maitre's quotation of Ernst van den Haag's question, "Suppose parents bring children into the world, but cannot be brought to support them?" Maitre sees this as an irreconcilable problem for the "minimal state" society. However, he neglects to answer, much less ask, the following pertinent questions. What constitutes support? What rights do children have? What rights do parents have regarding their children? How are conflicts of these rights, if any do exist, to be eradicated?
The problem with Maitre's analysis of the parent/child problem that he presents is that not only doesn't he attempt to answer the above questions, thereby defining an objective moral relationship between parents and children; he in fact attempts to attack Nozick's "minimal state" and its relationship to family unit activities based upon a subjective neo-mystical criteria for parent/child relationships.
Lastly and most unbelievably Maitre writes, "The omission (referring to a civil society) might well be the most serious flaw in the thinking of many a libertarian who does not integrate into his system of liberty considerations of virtue and civility." My comment here is that I suggest he read Rand.
In conclusion, I must say that "On Liberty—and License" is something I would have expected to read in some mystic or neo-mystic publication not in REASON.
Michael H. Zeldis
Canoga Park, CA
Having just gone through a battle against a new tax here in New Jersey (we lost, temporarily) I appreciated D.T. Armentano's article against new taxes [December]. May I add a few notes, out of our N.J. experience, to aid both Dr. Armentano in his Connecticut fight, and any others.
The pro-taxers always rely heavily on cheap meaningless slogans, to sell their program, and, unfortunately, much of the battle involves just that—sloganeering. It seems to be all that many can understand. One of the oldest, as Armentano points out right at the beginning of his article, is that an income tax is fair since it's based on "ability to pay." That always sounds good to a lower and mid-middle class audience, and too many anti-taxers answer it with long scholarly economic arguments, which, while correct, usually can't be followed by enough of those people who should be pressuring legislators to vote no. Well, there are a few counter-slogans I've found are helpful. Next time some automaton mouths "ability to pay," say, "But what about ability to work?" "Doesn't taxing by 'ability to pay' cheat those with ability to work?" You can develop it from there. Or, answer, "But what about capacity to consume?" "Why shouldn't someone with six kids pay six times the school bill of somebody with one child; they're consuming six times as much?"
With regard to graduated income taxes, the slogan "The more you work, the more you work for nothing" is most effective. If fully developed in debate, you can show that by graduating taxes, the more a blue-collar worker works, the lower his hourly rate gets.
Finally, let me suggest a general anti-tax slogan "We need tax relief, not tax reform!" It not only tells exactly what's needed, but takes away from pro-taxers that terrible misleading word "reform."
E.O. Matzal, M.D.
We have been very pleased to see the fine publicity resulting from New Jersey's September 1976, anti-tax rally. This gathering of from 15 to 20 thousand people was, as I told the crowd, the largest and angriest taxpayers group to come to Trenton since the Continentals drove the British out!
However, to set the record straight, neither I nor the National Taxpayers Union, New Jersey Chapter, organized the Rally. That was the result of a broad coalition, United Taxpayers of New Jersey, and a handful of dedicated individuals, including especially, my wife, Kathy Greene.
The Rally was followed by another great success: in the most machine-controlled area of the State, Hudson County (where a registered Democrat is "immortal" and "voters" are registered at burnt-out buildings and empty lots!), we were able to reduce the victory margin of our pro-tax Assembly Speaker (whose reward was to run for Congress in a guaranteed district) from that district's usual 50 to 75 thousand votes down to a mere 5,000. All of the pundits consider this a warning of future successes: they are right, we are organizing all over the state, and we expect major political changes here in the next several years. Our next and larger Rally is set for April 16th.
Ralph Fucetola, III
North Arlington, NJ
Many reasonable and substantive libertarian arguments can be made on both sides of the ERA controversy. Too bad David Brudnoy in his anti-ERA column [December] didn't make any for his side. I would like to see both sides intelligently discussed but not in the pompous, pseudo-National Review rhetorical style that Brudnoy affects.
Instead of reasoned argument citing specifics, Brudnoy offers one vague assertion embellished with: 1) Gratuitous name-calling directed toward certain feminist leaders (Whatever one's opinion of them may be, it is irrelevant to the merits of the ERA. Name-calling is simply guilt by association.)
2) Fatuous continents about how he can't bring himself to call a woman speaker "spokeswoman" (I am constantly bewildered at the petulant hostility toward using common-sense, logically precise terms in place of allegedly generic but actually imprecise terms.)
3) Archly patronizing terms like "dear ladies" (oh, pshaw, Mr. Brudnoy, you'd better stop or I'll crash my tea cup over your knee.)
There are men who are sensitive and understanding about feminist issues but Brudnoy is not one of them. REASON would do far better to have women commenting on feminist issues. How about a feminist column occasionally? There are plenty of articulate libertarian-feminist women who'd be glad to contribute.
In the meantime, for those interested in a serious libertarian perspective on feminist issues, the Association of Libertarian Feminists (ALF) has several discussion papers available, including one on the ERA. (Though ALF takes no official stand on the ERA since the membership is divided, the first paper available happens to be pro-ERA. And Joan Kennedy Taylor, the author, does make substantive arguments for her position.)
National Coordinator, ALF
New York, NY
Few things infuriate me more than buying a product with a false label. I feel cheated. Therefore, it is with a certain amount of fury that I am writing this letter. In a libertarian magazine, a contributing editor should be relied upon to reflect a stand in favor of personal liberty. That certainly was my expectation when I subscribed to REASON. In such a light I consider David Brudnoy's December "Viewpoint" to be a breach of warranty.
Let me explain. His column is entitled "Pro Women's Rights: Anti-ERA." Then his first paragraph tells of his "conversion" from being a "champion" of a woman's right to control her own reproduction to the point where he now actively espouses taking that right away from her. The second paragraph begins his diatribe against the Equal Rights Amendment.
Liberty, one might expect, as related to "libertarian" means the legal right to freedom. It is a recognition of certain powers which we may exercise without sanction. The granting of liberty does not grant the power to exercise. It merely recognizes the freedom to do so.
The same principle holds true with a woman's control of her body. Women have always had the power to terminate unwanted pregnancies and millions have done so, many at the cost of their own lives. Only in the last few years, however, have women had the legal right to safe abortions.
I question that anyone who cannot empathically stand in the shoes of a woman pregnant with a possible lifetime responsibility which she did not seek and sought to prevent, anyone who cannot feel with this woman, cannot comprehend the relief and appreciation she feels when she knows she can safely abort this tragedy. Her power over her body has become her right to a life which she, not "mankind" and "governmental laws and regulations," can control in the most important facet of her existence.
If libertarians indeed do believe in freedom from governmental laws and regulations, if libertarians believe in liberty, then surely they must accede that liberty to women afflicted with unbearable pregnancies.
In one of the most important areas of life, Mr. Brudnoy is no libertarian.
The Equal Rights Amendment is another matter. Actually, sexual discrimination both for and against both men and women under the law is in a state of flux. Some is permitted, some not. And cases flood the courts and administrative agencies.
Men actually need the ERA as much as do women, if not more, for they have no more constitutional right not to be discriminated against than do women. Politics are changing, and women are beginning to realize that in many matters they have gotten shortchanged by the law. They are also realizing that they constitute 51.3% of the electorate. It seems to me that thinking men favor the ERA to put to rest the issue of sex discrimination by law and to insure that neither the male minority nor the female majority uses the power of the state to oppress the other.
Libertarians, presumably, believe in liberty. I do, and for that reason I enjoy reading REASON. But if libertarians believe in liberty only for themselves and not for everyone, including women, they should not be surprised that their arguments, as do Mr. Brudnoy's, sound fraudulent.
Salatha Bagley Moore
Some months ago the following letter of mine appeared in the Poughkeepsie Journal. David Brudnoy's December Viewpoint concerning his relationship to the right-to-lifers brought it to mind and, since neither Mr. Mazzello nor any other right-to-lifer saw fit to answer my question, I'd be most grateful if David could take a shot at it.
"Mr. Mazzello has answered yes to my earlier question: If he, a pregnant woman and her doctor were cast adrift on a desert island and he had the only gun, would he really stand guard to prevent an abortion? He also made it clear he would assure the right to life to all members of the island community.
"Now, my next question to Mr. Mazzello: If the mother absolutely insisted upon an abortion and her doctor unconditionally agreed to perform it, just how could you prevent this abortion and still assure the right to life to all members of the community? Put more bluntly, just how could you absolutely prevent this abortion without using your gun to threaten and ultimately shoot either the mother or her doctor?
"And please don't deride these questions by saying they are facetious. I'm simply trying to examine the moral dilemma caused by your conviction that society has the right to force a woman to become a mother against her will."
Guy W. Riggs
The review of John Shy's A People Numerous and Armed in the November Book Issue calls for another letter. Reviewer Marina points out a key point in any discussion of armed forces, by saying, "Washington wanted a standing, regular army…" (p. 39) I add, "Instead of a free country club for the 'better classes.'" (This follows from his discussion of the social composition of the militia, loc. cit.)
The basic flaw in the reasoning of libertarians who hold to the guerrilla-war-militia belief is that guerrillas have never defeated an organized army by themselves; they simply lack the logistics, the equipment, the training, and the organization. (In Cuba, the Batistaite forces had been weakened by corruption.) In my support, I must refer to Robert A. Heinlein ("Free Men," in The Worlds of Robert A. Heinlein).
Yet, a regular army of sufficient strength would be practically an invitation to interventionism, not to mention taxation, militarism, and other less pleasant things. In looking for a real world answer I need not look far. There is one country whose foreign policy Roger MacBride commended as an example for a MacBride administration to follow. Its army is organized on the "nation in arms" principle; every adult male is a soldier. If you haven't guessed, this bastion of militarism is Switzerland.
However, the Swiss model does not as a whole recommend itself, because it is based on conscription. (If you believe in conscription, perhaps you shouldn't be reading this magazine.) Applying libertarian principles and military knowledge to the problem of the defense of the U.S., I have come up with this proposed army structure:
Regular Army: a "core", force of 2-300,000, maintained on a year-round basis, by the Federal government;
National Guard: a force of half a million or so (I can't be more specific, for lack of information and purpose) maintained on the Israeli basis (one weekend a month, one month a year), by the states; and
Organized Militia: maintained by county/city governments on the "weekend a month" basis.
To Keep and Bear Arms, by Bill Davidson, points out the advantages to local governments of such a force as the last in peacetime.
Some will ask, "Couldn't this army be used for aggression and interventionism?" Any serious army could be so used; and as long as socialism and aggression exist, to not be armed is to be dead.
Joseph T. Major
Anti-Israeli slurs have become so commonplace in American media that the item in "Quickies" [December] hardly stands out—except that REASON is, or is supposed to be, a libertarian magazine, while Israel has one of the few societies on earth, and the only one in its part of the world, committed to freedom and individual rights. The Israeli government, like all governments, does its share of the world's nasty business, and it ought to be criticized, like other governments, when it does. Still, the Israeli record of respect for human freedom and dignity may be envied when its enemies, unable to find actual violations of human rights, must resort to the discredited private proposals of a notorious racist to make their "case." Even so, the "case" depends on concealing most of the relevant facts: the fact that Koenig's proposals were first exposed and condemned in an Israeli newspaper published by a powerful political party within the Israeli government; or the fact that subsequent to their publication they were denounced by every responsible Israeli official, and by just about every major political group, in and out of the Israeli government.
In Birmingham's story Koenig is identified as "northern regional director of the Israeli Interior Ministry," without mentioning that this grandiose title describes a no-show patronage job for minor political hacks, controlled by the conservative National Religious Party. As for Koenig's suggestions about the means by which population growth in the Galilee might be slowed down—not detailed by Birmingham—these did not go beyond decriminalizing abortion and eliminating pro-nativist large family subsidies. And then there is Birmingham's snide comment, "What was all that jive about how the Jews made the desert bloom'?" Never mind its connection with a statement implying that Arab (not Jewish) lands in the Galilee were fertile: logic was never the strong point of any attack on Israel, including this one. The fact is that the more densely Arab areas of Israel/Palestine were always fertile—the reason why they were densely settled prior to the arrival of Jewish settlers, and why their owners did not sell the land after the settlers arrived. It was the arid lands and malarial swamps which were available for settlement—the reason why less than 30 percent of the land worked by Jewish farmers in 1948 had been considered arable before their arrival. The Jewish population in the Galilee is mostly non-agricultural, located in cities and industrial settlements. The places where Jews work in agriculture are elsewhere: in former swamps like Kibutz Mishmar Haemek, a quarter of whose original members died from malaria before the swamp was drained; or on former deserts like Yad Mordechai, where a whole new technology of brackish-water agriculture had to be developed before agricultural settlement became possible. The establishment of these settlements remains one of the great heroic achievements of our century, and no amount of Mr. Birmingham's snideness can make it otherwise.
Finally, there is Mr. Birmingham's fatuous comparison of Israeli Arabs to American Indians (Smallpox-infected blankets, etc.). Israeli Arabs are modern, ambitious, well-educated (over half the students at the University of Haifa are Arab), prosperous (with per capita income considerably higher than that of Jews from Arab countries), and to make things more difficult for the occasional Israeli racist like Koenig, they don't look any different from Jews. And Israeli Arab doctors, trained in Israeli medical schools, can diagnose and treat smallpox as well as any in the world.
Adam V. Reed
New York, NY
MR. BIRMINGHAM REPLIES: Peace, Doctor. I only criticized Director Koenig's personal, racist views—any slurs on Israel must be the product of your own uneasy conscience. And it should be uneasy; Koenig was indeed attacked by "every responsible Israeli official" (easy enough: anyone who defends racism is irresponsible) but as of this writing he is still in office. Koenig should be run out of his post, just as Earl Butz was for his racist opinions (and Koenig made racist proposals, to boot), and since he hasn't been, I take a dim view of pro-Israeli puff pieces such as yours. In any event I see nothing for libertarians to admire in a theocratic welfare state, and I hope that when you are feeling better you will agree. W.F.B.