• Surely you've heard of Carter's election-day registration scheme, which seeks to get everybody and his dog to vote? It might not be such a bad idea. Professor Sidney Yerba of Harvard warns: "There will be too many interest groups to support a purely two-party system" if the voter turnout tops 80 percent. Carter also talks of abolishing the electoral college; Alexander Bickel of Yale believes "the monopoly of power enjoyed by the two major parties would not likely survive the demise of the electoral college." And columnist George Will fears the growth of (gasp) "ideological third parties." Which should be good news for America's leading ideological third-party, the Libertarians. Chew on that, George and Sid and Alex!
• Milton Friedman's famous dictum may be overturned in the very near future. Ms. Ellen Leitzer, who heads the American Civil Liberties Union's "reproductive freedom project," says there is "no question" in her mind that sometime in the next few years the so-called "prolife" forces will get themselves a Constitutional amendment outlawing abortions. So there will be such a thing as a free lunch—and dinner and breakfast—if you're a fetus. If you're a woman, of course, you may be the lunch.
• In the National Review (April 15, 1977) Messrs. John Drake and Svend Peterson list the biggest spenders in the House of Representatives, defined as those in the 94th Congress who sponsored or co-sponsored legislation that would have cost more than a total of $400 billion over the next five years. Augustus Hawkins (D-CA), of the infamous Humphrey-Hawkins bill, leads the pack with $510.2 billion. The Dishonorable Stephen Solarz (D-NY) is second with $506.1 billion. Michael Harrington (D-MA) is third with $504.1 billion. Eighty Congressvermin in all are listed; surprisingly, all of them are Democrats. Four years ago (see Trends, December 1974) the Libertarian Task Force rated the Senate on the cost of the bills they voted for and found that Republicans (e.g.: Goldwater, Taft, and Hruska) can squander with the best of them. The reason for the disparity may be that Drake and Peterson only counted the bills that didn't pass—"Big spending bills which are not yet acceptable to majorities in both Houses of Congress"—which implies that Republicans are majoritarian statists while Democrats are elitist ones. Maybe they should swap names.
• It's been ten years now since Israel brought Western Civilization to the benighted masses of the West Bank and points north and south. And how have the masses liked it? Ask the students of the town of Ramallah who on March 9th expressed their gratitude by "blocking the road and throwing stones at cars," according to the Washington Post (March 20). Israeli border police broke up the celebration and chased down 17 students of a U.N.-run teacher's college. "Then they began to hit us with clubs and to kick us," said one student. "They ordered to curse Mohammed, and say 'thank you' after each blow." At Jerusalem's August Victoria hospital, where the 17 (not all of whom had taken part in the demonstration, by the way) were admitted with "broken bones, lacerations, brain concussions, missing teeth and the outward signs of severe beating," the chief of internal medicine "said he had never seen such 'crazy brutality.'" Such incidents may have been what the U.S. State Department had in mind when it recently suggested that the Israelis occasionally suppress demonstrations with "excessive force." But let us be fair; the Post thinks that "the excessive force, the deportation of Arabs in contravention of the Geneva convention, the blowing-up of houses belonging to suspected terrorists and the 'administrative detention' of persons whose crime may be as minor as writing anti-Israeli poetry are the dark side of what is, in many ways, a remarkably tolerant and lenient military occupation." But exactly! You will notice that none of the students were killed. Who says Israel isn't "committed to freedom and individual rights?"
• According to syndicated columnists Evans and Novak, at one time the Carter administration planned to keep its campaign promise to deregulate natural gas by raising the price ceiling to $2.40 per thousand cubic feet, which is about what it costs on the deregulated intra-state market. Naturally this was far too sensible, so the ceiling was dropped to $2.25. Then Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), capo of the House Energy Subcommittee, and Senator Henry "Mr. State" Jackson (D-WA), got wind of this and howled until the ceiling was dropped to $1.75. To make matters worse, the ceiling will now apply to intra-state gas as well. Energy czar James Schlesinger calls this "deregulation with a cap." Some "oil-state Congressmen" interpret this to mean that real deregulation is dead—"probably forever." Get ready to freeze in the dark.
• Where is consciousness-raising when we really need it? According to Redbook, 65 percent of all American women think it's a sin to "cheat" on their income taxes. By comparison, only 75 percent believe it's a sin to cheat on their husbands.
• Dr. Peter Bourne, Carter's advisor on drug abuse, says he may ask the FDA to outlaw barbiturates. Supposedly such drugs account for some 2400 deaths per year from accidents and suicides and there are safer substitutes. Apparently the medical profession doesn't agree; it writes 11 million barbiturate prescriptions a year. But the nation's doctors and the nation's drug consumers cut no ice with Bourne, so there will be tests at the Institute of Medicine and elsewhere until about July, then maybe FDA hearings where lovers of liberty and downers can make their cases. Ironically, High Times reports that Bourne is a strong supporter of decriminalization—of marijuana.
• Great Moments in Political Philosophy, No. 5: On April 19, 1977, the Supreme Court ruled that a teacher may paddle a refractory brat—even without a "pre-paddle hearing." Splitting five to four on this burning issue, the majority held that the Eighth Amendment does not apply to "reasonable but not excessive" corporal punishment for children. However that keen legal mind Justice Byron R. White dissented, writing: "If it is constitutionally impermissible to cut off someone's ear for the commission of murder, it must be unconstitutional to cut off a child's ear for being late to class."
• There's still hope: "Abbott Laboratories is now running a high-pressure campaign for the reinstatement of cyclamates, which were banned in 1969. Abbott's argument; the cyclamates that produced cancers in laboratory rats were tainted with saccharin." (Newsweek, April 4,1977).
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Brickbats".