SUBJECTIVE MIND WARP?
Shame on you! Since it is not funny enough to be a parody or satire, I must assume that you presented the article "Subliminal Mind Warp" [January] in all seriousness. I am really surprised that a magazine of your integrity would let the paranoid maunderings of "Lee Victor" become a cover feature. The article relates the entirely subjective experiences of Mr. Victor, and is supported in the introduction by such "yellow-journalism" tactics as to report that "Officials at the experimental facility denied the story." This sort of statement, presented as it is, is the sort of "double-bind" statement usually found in the likes of Fate magazine or the National Enquirer. The implication of the denial is supposed to indicate a conspiracy to conceal the facts. The implication is "either admit it or try to conceal the facts from us, we already know what they are."
Why ultrasonics? Nothing in the article supports the contention that ultrasonics were used to modify Mr. Victor's behavior as opposed to, say, psychoactive drugs in the food or in the air, except Mr. Victor's statements that he could "hear" the sounds. Even supposing that ultrasonics had really been used, under no circumstances would Victor have been able to hear them. The idea that they would emanate from the end of a coaxial cable is absurd. The hearing of strange voices or sounds is a classic clinical symptom of paranoia, and in this case seems to be a lot more likely explanation of Victor's experiences. For that matter, auditory hallucinations are common with many psychoactive drugs. In general, Mr. Victor's claims to have "heard" the ultrasonic sounds are rather strong evidence against the idea that such sounds were the cause of whatever it was that he experienced.
Another possible explanation for the article occurs to my cynical self: might we expect to see advertisements in the near future for "hand-held ultrasonics detectors," perhaps even manufactured by Mr. Victor's company?
I do not know who edited the article, it was not credited. Did the same person conduct the interview? Such a person does not belong on the staff of a magazine that is somewhat proud of an objective viewpoint. If I may quote: "That makes sense; but why would they need to experiment with such emotions as terror and hostility?" The quote is obviously intended to inspire an emotional reaction: "Aha, the bad guys of Government are just doing it to be mean or to develop a weapon." It does not have this kind of force, though, because the question is absurd. Even granting the hypothesis that some government agency has discovered emotion control thru ultrasonic sound, how would they know, for instance, what sounds produced which emotions unless various ones were tried out? Even in a totally well-motivated study, such negative emotions would have to be generated because it would be essential to know exactly the limits of the parameters involved if only to avoid accidental generation of such emotions during later application of the technology. However I may agree that government agencies are seldom well-motivated, the manner of presentation of the position in the article is very poor journalism, including citing Mr. Victor as an authority on such questions as "who" and "why" just (apparently) because he was the victim of a supposed experiment.
Mr. Victor concludes that the whole thing bodes ill because of "the secretive nature of the experiments," which is a classic ploy of conspiracy buffs, even though the main evidence presented for this secrecy is the inability of anyone to come up with any evidence other than his very subjective experiences and some remarks of some other participants in the experiment. I am sure many others will write objecting to this article on technical grounds, and they will mention such things as high-frequency sounds from ventilating systems, etc. I really enjoy REASON, though. Your lapses are excusable so long as they do not reflect changes in policy.
Rev. E. John DeHaven
MR. VICTOR REPLIES: Recent reports, both in the press and in comments from various people, suggest that the high frequency sounds described in my article came not from ultrasonics, but microwaves. Although Rev. E. John DeHaven doubts the described experiment took place to subliminally affect moods, I would bring the attention of other, more open-minded readers to a November 22, 1976 Associated Press report, which appeared in the Washington Star under the headline "Soviets Study Microwaves as Weapon."
The operative passages are: "A newly declassified U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency report says extensive Soviet research into microwaves might lead to methods of causing disoriented human behavior, nerve disorders or even heart attacks…
"'Sounds and possibly even words which appear to be originating intracranially (within the head) can be induced by signal modulation at very low average power densities, the study said. It added that combinations of frequencies and other signal characteristics to produce other neurological effects may be feasible in several years.'
"The report concluded that Soviet research in this area has great potential for development into a system for disorienting or disrupting the behavior patterns of military or diplomatic personnel; it could be used equally as well as an interrogation tool."
I had nothing to gain by writing the article for REASON. On the other hand, I had quite a bit to lose. I stand by the story, and believe that people should be made aware of a potential danger, rather than going about their daily routines convinced that the United States government would never conduct an experiment such as the one I described.—L.V.
Regarding John E. Bailey III's article and your editorial on voluntary education, both excellent [January], one difficulty we must face in getting the government out of the education business is that, at present and for the near future, public schools are such a large part of the market that just abandoning them is likely to be rather chaotic. Supporters of public schools can and will point to the fact that there isn't nearly enough private supply to meet the demand; that teachers and buildings and textbooks (the necessary capital) would be available won't convince such people.
A step we could take, now, toward voluntary education is the voucher system of school financing, advocated for instance by Milton Friedman: the government provides families of school-age children with vouchers good for a certain amount of money when applied toward education, with the amount set at the per-pupil expenditure of the local public schools.
This is not perfect, since it is still tax-supported. It is preferable in that it does not forcibly discourage parents from seeking alternatives to state-run schools. Probably most parents will, at first, send their children to public schools; after all, most people like the things. But for the first time private schools will be in a position to compete with the public schools for other than well-to-do students. They will come to take an ever-larger share of the market.
Needless to say, public resistance to education taxes will not decrease.
Ann Arbor, MI
ROTHBARD ON MACBRIDE
All hail Saint Murray (Rothbard), Great Prophet of the Libertarian Church! [January] Blessed is he, the new Isaiah, for he hath shown unto us One with "virtually superhuman stamina," one who is now proclaimed "Paladin of Liberty," our Saviour, Roger the Great.
And thanks be unto John the Baptist Hospers, who made ready the way and now writes his Epistles to the Chosen People.
Thanks and praise be also unto REASON for giving its space for the scriptures of Holy Murray who shows the "snipers and gripers" the way of damnation sure to come unto them now that Roger is amongst us. Those of little faith shall surely burn forever in the Pools of Red Tape in Fedgov.
But Roger shall lead us out of the valley of collectivism, and with the inspired pen of Blessed Murray, we shall live freely and objectively forever and ever, so help us Ayn Rand. Amen.
Vincent A. Drosdik, III
My sincere congratulations on your latest two issues [December and January]. They have been a welcome improvement over the removed and often dull abstractions of previous issues. Bill Birmingham's "Quickies" column adds a much-needed note of humor and restrained anger.
It was also a great pleasure to see your February cover by Don Wood. I had missed his superb cartoons from the Ozark Mountain Sunbeam and Review of the News. That you have found each other is the best news this month.
One last note: the layout/design of REASON has greatly improved as well. However, it would be a mercy if you would cease using that unrelieved gothic typeface and went over to optima medium or some other equally readable face.
Thanks for a job well done. Keep working—it shows.
Who the hell is Bill Birmingham?
If I wanted to read racist, fascist drivel, would I be reading REASON? Isn't Buckley still publishing?
MR. BIRMINGHAM REPLIES: To answer Radford's questions in reverse order:
1) Which Buckley does he mean? Reid, Jim, and the ever-prolix Bill Buckley have all published something at least once. If he's thinking of the National Review, it is still being published; but by Mr. William A. Rusher, though it should not be scorned on that account.
2) Why not? I want to read Moby Dick, but I read REASON, too.
3) Bill Birmingham is, of course, the well-known scholar, editor, polemicist, master of political economy, raconteur and bon vivant. Only a lad of 22 summers, still there's no one can deny that he possesses a biting wit and wisdom beyond his years—plus a heart as big as all outdoors—which is why the discerning editors of REASON chose him to comment on contemporary affairs each month. He is also a bloody genius, who would surely join MENSA except that the standards for admission are, as Mr. Radford evidences, appallingly lax.—W.F.B.
H. Joachim Maitre's article, "On Liberty & License" [December] causes me to doubt that he has any real understanding of the libertarian philosophy, basing my judgment upon a number of his statements.
Perhaps it would behoove Mr. Maitre to go back and give the Statement of Principles of the Libertarian Party a re-reading, since he has done such a fine job of overlooking not only what is implicit within it, but what is explicit.
"We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose…
If we eliminated the rest of the sentence, it would still be implicit within what I have quoted that if everyone has the right to exercise dominion over his own life, then no one has the right to violate the life, liberty, or fruit of the life-work of another. In the light of this, I am amazed that Mr. Maitre can even suggest the idea that Charles Manson is some sort of libertarian. Manson's life is the very antithesis of that ideal.
Again, what does Mr. Maitre mean when he refers to virtue and civility? We libertarians have stated and defined our regard for both within numerous documents, notably, the Platform of the Libertarian Party. We have stated that every person should be civil enough to keep his nose out of the affairs of other people.
Maitre refers to virtue. How will he define it? If he refers to charity, love, compassion, then we have spoken as well to these ideals: we recognize them as essentially volitional, if they are to exist at all. Can the state call forth, by force, such virtues from its subjects? Not on your life. If they are required by force, then what is evidenced is not virtue, but the submission of slaves.
Mr. Maitre speaks repeatedly of morality. What does he mean? Unless each individual defines his own particular morality, the only alternative is some authoritative definition. What libertarians have said is that beyond the prohibition of the use of force and fraud against others, each individual should be free to choose his own morality, or to adopt the morality of some outside authority, so long as he does not seek to impose that system of morality on others. In the name of what morality does Mr. Maitre speak? He has not defined it.
Is liberty an end in itself? Not in my opinion. But liberty is a necessary means to an end—the pursuit of happiness as each of us see it. And in that light, a libertarian attitude is most definitely a virtue: the libertarian says in effect, "I ask only to be left alone, and I will pay the same respect to every other person."
Maitre says that Nozick "explicitly allows for the equal propriety of every and all life styles that would, of course, be allowed in the minimal state.…Nozick's neglect of calling attention to values other than liberty gives the appearance…that no such concern exists." It seems that what Mr. Maitre is really saying is that he objects to the fact that Nozick does not restate certain values with which Mr. Maitre happens to agree. Again, we have made it abundantly clear that beyond the obligation not to infringe the life, liberty, and property of others, every person should be free to determine his own values in life.
He has accused us rather freely of not giving consideration to values. In a world plagued with intolerance, religious bigotry, bureaucrats, tax collectors, busy-bodies, and war, it seems to me that the ultimate value is non-violence—libertarianism. If that is not what libertarianism is all about, I don't know what is. And if Mr. Maitre is incapable of seeing that, then it seems to me that his perceptions are painfully dim.
I can only conclude that deep beneath Mr. Maitre's article lies smoldering a deep (and perhaps by him unidentified) authoritarianism. He makes repeated references to morality without ever defining whether he is referring to Christian, Buddhist, Athenian, American Indian, or any of a thousand other moralities. It is not the purpose of the libertarian movement to impose authority over the human race.
John R. Vernon
Santa Barbara, CA
Regarding George Swan's "Discord in Utopia" [October] and his "Reply"[January], I've a few choice comments. Firstly: most, though indeed not all, of the "problems" fretted over in "Discord" are not problems at all: there are objective, moral solutions to all the issues raised in the article. This is not to say, however, that these answers have all been discovered, proven, or conclusively demonstrated. An obvious example is the issue of abortion. (Perhaps ironically, on this subject, I recommend most highly George Swan's own "State Imperatives (sic) and Abortion," in the June issue of Option, REASON's Canadian counterpart. Here, Swan presents, via contract theory, a well-organized and cogent (if nevertheless questionable) case against abortion. But for the most part, "Discord" tends to make mountains out of (already solved) molehills. Messrs. Blanchard, Colkitt, and Nash [January] effectively responded to most of "Discord's" dilemmas, and I shan't rehash them here.
Mr. Swan takes Mr. Blanchard to task for his "ambiguity" concerning property rights, and correctly so. I would like to clear up this ambiguity, but first, alas, I must dispatch Swan's resurrection of the hobgoblin of initial ownership. Does the discoverer of a new continent (or the first to land on another planet) own the entire continent or planet; or, at least, does he own it "as far as the eye can see"? Certainly not. He could claim ownership only over the surface perimeter of the land which he actually put to some use and to the corresponding sub-surface land. So much for the question of "how one acquires ownership…" Now we come to Mr. Blanchard's ambiguous "certain elevation and depth." How deep do property rights extend? Hi deep as praxeologically necessary and appropriate. If a valuable and marketable substance or entity is discovered, say, 30,000 feet beneath the surface of my property, do I own it? Certainly I do—who else could logically claim ownership? Now, how high should my property rights extend? As high or as far or in any way as is politically relevant. I care not about the molecules in "my 'air space'" per se, but I certainly do care about violations of my property rights regarding my physical property, my ears, lungs, etc. For example, suppose a high-flying jet sonic-booms my windows to splinters and causes me temporary deafness to boot. Have my rights been violated? You bet they have! (This is assuming, of course, that I have not contracted with the flyer and/or his company to the effect of disavowing their responsibility in such a case as this.)
While perhaps not all "discords in utopia" can be solved by rigorously clarifying and applying property rights, certainly most if not all of Swan's "discords" can be so solved.
Mark Clayton Phillips
Ft. Worth, TX
A comment, to whoever gave it the ax: I'm sorry to see John Pierce's Science Fiction column disappear from your pages. I'm not usually a "Letters to the Editor" writer, but being a science fiction reader, I would like to say that Mr. Pierce has guided me towards a number of books that I might otherwise never have discovered. As a footnote to his last column in the September '76 issue, you mention that he may in the future do guest reviews—I hope to see them soon.
RISKS AND REGULATION
I wish to comment on Henry Manne's "Myths of Regulation" [December]. Dr. Manne's statement that there is not "a single valid argument" for regulating private enterprise seems just a bit sweeping. He did not fully explore the difference between short-term and long-term effects. For example, should the government require the testing of all chemicals before being offered for public consumption? In the long run it is true, as Manne says, that the market will correct its mistakes. But in the short run, consumers could die of cancer from ingesting insufficiently tested substances. The consumer is not forced to buy anything, but in fact most of us just have to buy things on trust. This is in itself not necessarily a case for regulation, but the ethical obligations of both industry and government have to be examined more carefully before we can conclude that there is never any valid argument for government regulations.
Fred E. Foldvary
OPEN FORUM NEEDED
I recently attended the Southern Libertarian Conference in Miami. Throughout the proceedings I was beset with a vague sense that a rich diversity of political, social and ethical ideas was not being encouraged. Now this turn of events, this suppression of divergent views, if it were a reality, would be particularly lamentable for libertarians. Libertarians seek to promote a free marketplace, where any and all goods can be openly purveyed without coercion or harassment from authority. But libertarians, unfortunately, may at times fail to apply this same, passion for liberty to the world of ideas, for there must be a free marketplace in ideas just as much as there is on in all salable goods and services, and for the same reasons.
The Convention seemed to me to be a gathering of the old faithful who religiously propounded the party line. There seemed to be an ominous intolerance for the views of the opposition, often the more traditional conservatives, particularly for those who would suggest that just perhaps there are valid reasons for maintaining American military strength, even though it does spawn a bureaucracy and allow for possible misuse. At one point, one of the audience who took such a position was asked to examine his feelings to ascertain if he really were a true believer in laissez-faire ideology, for if he were truly amongst this chosen few he had better lean to the party line. Well, he was a true believer, but he also happened to hold a view somewhat divergent from the establishment libertarian who was at the podium.
The Libertarian Party should open wide its deliberative processes to the views of all members, moderates to anarchists, and be vigilant against the temptation to become a closed society of self-congratulatory party-liners. "Old timers" in libertarianism must relinquish their proprietary attitudes in order to sensitively and flexibly accommodate and use constructively the diverse ideas of newcomers and party minorities. The open forum where energetic dialoguing is strongly encouraged must be the model of libertarian policy making in order for us to consistently apply our passion for unfettered self-expression to the political sphere.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".