March 1977 "Quickies" is a little too quick with the Austrian objection to Chicagoite "libertarianism." No one seriously denies that Milton Friedman and friends often eloquently and sincerely advocate what appear in isolation to be libertarian moves. The Austrian claim—against which "Quickies" columnist Birmingham has adduced no evidence—is that Chicago-style economics taken as a whole can justify statism as easily as it can justify freedom. By contrast, the only way Austrian economics can be used to rationalize coercion is to "plug in" a prior moral assumption asserting the evil of production and prosperity.
Adolf Hitler, Karl Marx, and Franklin D. Roosevelt are all on record as advocating "freedom," from one kind of philosophic stance or another. That doesn't mean that I accept them as libertarians. (Or shall we assess logical consistency empirically?) As for the Chicago school's much-vaunted "practicality"—real practicality consists of devising politically workable methods to move from statism to freedom, on net. It is not at all evident that the "seen" benefits of Chicagoite tinkering with State machinery outweigh the unseen costs of introducing new kinds of government. And what makes Birmingham think that politicians will buy proposals that do reduce their power, simply because an economist puts them forth? Ideas such as privatization can be tactical tools, but not the main force for putting the heat on the power elite, which only a moral argument can provide.
William D. Burt
Contra Chicago School
William Birmingham's recent "Austrian"-baiting [March] is a typical example of the unfortunate ignorance so many libertarians have about the "Chicago" School of economics, as well as their ideology in general.
About 10 years ago, when the modern libertarian movement was just beginning to appear as a new political element, we libertarians sought any and everyone who sympathized with the ideals of the free society. Since then, we have matured in our ideology, sorting out our ideas in our arguments so as to strengthen inroads we now are making in academia and society in general. However, many libertarians seem to remain in the back-slapping era, oblivious to the fact that many of the ideas of those advocating freedom are either sophomoric, illogical, or irrelevant to the ideology of liberty.
The hard fact of the matter concerning the Chicago School is that as Chicago economists, they cannot prove whether the free society and free market is productive, virtuous, efficient, just, desirable, or anything at all! Many Chicagoans may have libertarian views on any or all matters, but these views cannot come from their unswerving devotion to orthodox, positivist, Neo-Classical economics. In fact such economists as Friedman make it clear that their political perspective comes from Hayek, not the practice of Neo-classicism.
To many of us, the "Chicago School" appeared to be the only ballgame in town if you wanted to study free market economics. I have since come to recognize that "Chicago" economics is really nothing at all. The term "Chicago" economics was coined to merely describe a group of individuals within the established Neo-classical corpus (same school as Samuelson, Tobin, Wallich, etc.) who happen to hold quasi-free market political views. The economics as such is no different, and certainly no more "freemarket" than is that of the most determined interventionist Neo-classicist.
Within recent years, the Austrian school has been experiencing an incredible and magnificent rate of growth, as we are witnessing the collapse of the Neoclassical paradigm. For those of us seriously interested in studying political economy, the works of Mises, Hayek, Kirzner, Lachmann, Rothbard, and a host of younger economists offer the most promising road to mastering the science of economics as well as combatting the arguments for economic and political statism. The major libertarian think tanks (Institute for Humane Studies, Center for Libertarian Studies, Cato Institute, etc.) all recognize this fact and are very active in accelerating the Austrian movement. Those libertarians who continue to trumpet the merits of the "Chicago School" are doing themselves, economic science, and the libertarian movement a great mis-service.
As libertarians, we should warmly embrace all those seeking the free society, but that doesn't mean that we should likewise embrace their rationale for such a society, their mode of living in such a society, or any particular professional practice of theirs, unless it forcefully and scientifically contributes to our understanding of the ideology of libertarianism. "Chicago" economics completely fails to do so.
Graduate School of Business
University of Chicago
Mr. Birmingham replies: It would be nice to get attacked for what I actually write instead of what others choose to read into it. I didn't question "the" Austrian objection to the Chicago school (in fact, they have several), but the claims of "some Austrian economists" that a Chicagoite cannot be a libertarian. I MEAN WHAT I SAY! I proved my point by producing two libertarian Chicagoites—and neither Mr. Burt nor Mr. Name-Withheld even tried to criticize their libertarian credentials. So what's their beef?
Dr. Thomas Szasz holds that mental illness is a "myth"; Dr. Nathaniel Branden disagrees. Both are impeccably libertarian. You can find both atheist libertarians and Christian libertarians, libertarians who believe in free will and those who don't, libertarians who are immersed in political activity and those who shun it. Do I have to belabor the issue? In all the disciplines that touch on the libertarian worldview, there are many positions you can take without invalidating the essential position of the noninitiation of force. Most people realize this, and are kind enough not to question the libertarian credentials of those who disagree with them on method. But when we argue positive economics vs. the a priori method—Chicagoite economics vs. Austrian economics—some Austrians whip out the long knives. Why? It can't be ideological purity; until recently, as I understand it, most Austrians were mere laissez-faire liberals. (Ludwig von Mises claimed that the opponent of conscription was "an abettor of those aiming at the enslavement of all." Milton Friedman opposed the draft and, from his position on the Gates Commission, helped to end it. One up for the Dark Lord.) It would be uncharitable to suggest that these people use character assassination to get the support they can't get by genteel persuasion. I, of course, just ooze charity. But how else can we explain it?
Enough. Messrs. Burt and N-W misunderstood me; their letters are really beside the point. It was not my intention to "Austrian-bait"—I have nothing against Austrian economics and want to learn more about it—I just don't want them to try to read their opponents out of the libertarian movement. One last point: our anonymous friend from Chicago seems to be saying that Paul Samuelson and Milton Friedman hold the same economic views. If he's really that dumb I don't blame him for not wanting his name known.
Congratulations for printing Ralph Raico's "On Tory Blind Spots" [March].
It was a welcome change from the usual conservatarianism of your magazine.
Charles A. Jeffress
Whose Blind Spots?
Ralph Raico's article "On Tory Blind Spots" quite properly attacks the Tories for their faults, but reveals a few of Raico's own blind spots. He quotes Lenin, of all people, in defense of the anarchists. The quote itself is apt, but it comes from the mouth of a man who established a regime which killed a lot more than 13 million people, and which "lived according to the belief that the peoples of Russia came and went in generations whose only meaning was to die in extending the Imperial (in this case, Soviet) domains to the ends of the earth."
I wish Raico would recognize imperialism wherever it appears—such as in the government of North Vietnam, which, after murdering a considerable number of peasants in its forced collectivization program, decided to extend its domain, if not to the ends of the earth, at least to the ends of Indochina. So more North Vietnamese peasants (not to mention the inhabitants of the invaded countries) were sent to die. At this point our own government stumbled into the war.
As for the New Left, it doesn't act much better. I think the number of real pacifists or isolationists, whose opinions I could respect, in the misnamed "antiwar movement" was small. Most of the articulate spokesmen were not so much against the war as on the other side. They would have preferred our government to become more totalitarian, in the manner of North Vietnam and China, rather than less totalitarian and more libertarian. How many men burned their draft cards simply because they opposed the draft as such? Many of them favored universal service!
We can learn from the old anarchists, but the New Left, like the Tories, has nothing to offer. If we want our contemporaries to teach us, we'll have to teach ourselves.
Robert S. Pfeiffer
San Diego, CA
Mr. Raico replies: I am at a loss as to why my modest article should be made into a sounding board for Mr. Pfeiffer's anti-Communism. I myself am now, and have been ever since I first became politically aware, many years ago, an anti-Communist. When manifesting it is to the point—for instance, in a brief review I did for REASON a while ago on David Caute's The Fellow-Travelers—then I do so. But I fail to see why every mention or citation of Lenin must include some reference to the horrors of the Soviet regime. Actually, though, if Mr. Pfeiffer will reconsider the passage, he may detect a latent irony (intended) in quoting Lenin as complaining of mass atrocities.
Why does my not writing about Communist imperialism show that I do not recognize it? I was pointing out blind spots in the Tory view of things, and blindness to Communist imperialism is not typically one of them. For that matter, neither did I make any mention of Roman, Assyrian, or Nazi imperialism.
The "New Left" may mean many different things. I think that the social analyses of Marcuse or the Stalinist wing of the later SDS, for instance, are largely junk, while those of Ivan Illich, Carl Oglesby, and Paul Goodman are frequently enlightening. And I believe that there are many more possibilities for productive alliances and interactions with leftists and liberals than most libertarians customarily acknowledge. For an informative and nuanced analysis of the New Left, by the way, REASON readers may refer back to an essay-review by Bill Evers on "Recent Books on the New Left," in the August 1975 issue.
Meat-Axe vs. Bribes
I found Abraham Kalish's "Buying off Bureaucrats" [April] an exercise in futility. Indeed, I find the whole idea of bribing civil servants in order to "reduce bureaucracies" more than a little silly.
There are several questions which remain unanswered here. If the government employee unions of which Mr. Kalish speaks are as powerful and influential as he alleges—powerful enough to kill any scheme that would reduce their powers and numbers—why should they endorse and cooperate with a program that would do just that? The bribe—or the salary differential between a private job and a government job—is no fabulous inducement. Why should union bosses and the rank and file take that bait when they can have their fabulous salaries and the power to demand and get more? Why should they accept employment in private industry and business, where they would have no power and little chance of gathering any?
Who would pay for a program that would "buy off' bureaucrats? Mr. Kalish justifies such a program as the best way to ease the hardships of transferring from public employment to private employment, as a means of softening the economic blow for everyone around. But would there be an economic blow? Would personal and corporate income taxes decrease automatically with the phasing out of each and every bureaucracy or agency? If not, where is the sense of implementing such a scheme in the first place? Who would hire these people anyway? Would taxes really decrease in step with expenditures?
Further, why should I, a private employee all my life, care about whether or not the transition for all these poor disenfranchised souls and their dependents is gradual and painless? The "lifestyles" implied by all those mortgages and automobile payments Mr. Kalish makes mention of are simply not my concern, and nor are the financial bases of the businesses and banks and insurance companies whose incomes are derived from our civil servant class.
True, there would be moaning and the gnashing of teeth if the "meat-axe" approach were used in thinning the ranks of the civil servants, and the prices of goods and labor in those cities with a high proportion of civil servants would drop and there would be much discomfort only for those benefiting from fat bureaucracies. Not a significant drop, to be sure, but enough of one to permit savings thus incurred to go into capital that would in turn go into new productive enterprises. I favor the "meat-axe" approach; I never in my life pledged to guarantee the "lifestyles" or retirement plans of anyone. These are things entered into in the past with my money but without my knowledge, consent or benefit. They are not my obligations, and no one has the right to ask me to help prevent either the government or these civil servants from facing the consequences of their actions.
A Sunset Law, if ever enacted, may or may not contribute to the rebirth of freedom in this country. In practice, it would at best only be patchwork. What is needed is the application of reason, and that means radical ideas, which would mean Constitutional amendments limiting and defining the role of government.
Forest Hills, NY
Mr. Kalish replies: I appreciate the intense feelings expressed in Edward Cline's letter. History, however, shows that whenever any group attains considerable political or economic power, it is wisest to offer a compromise solution to the conflicting interests.
Thus, especially if one came from a large state, it seemed illogical and unjust for a small state like Rhode Island to be given the same number of U.S. Senators as New York or Pennsylvania. To get the small states to adopt the Constitution, however, it was necessary to offer them this compromise. Call it a bribe if you wish.
In the first months of the War Between the States, President Lincoln, following the precedent of the British Empire, proposed paying about one billion dollars to the Southern slaveowners and thus ending slavery. But Wendell Phillips and other abolitionists insisted that the way to end slavery was to hang all the Southern slaveowners. Lincoln's compromise plan was not adopted. The Civil War cost $8 billion dollars and one million casualties. Will we learn from history?
Bravo to Anne Wortham for her article on "A Black Writer's View of Roots" in the April issue. A very perceptive and stimulating view it was indeed.
Though Bob Gover [April] praises Castaneda's Journey for proving the don Juan tetralogy to be fiction, he finds plenty of faults in my book. Having himself interviewed "over a hundred witchdoctors," Gover taunts me with "lazy legwork" for failing to corner the notoriously elusive Castaneda. "A wage-earning journalist," he says, "would have been laughed all the way to the unemployment office" for giving up after only two rebuffs. Quite so. National Enquirer (March 22) for example featured poor old William Powell pleading: "I don't want the world to know that I'm deaf, housebound and helpless.…I don't want to tell everyone that I have diabetes.…I don't want to talk about it now." Had I been one of National Enquirer's go-getters, instead of "striking a scholarly stance" and relying on "the leg work and interviews of others," I should undoubtedly have lain in wait at Castaneda's beach house and interrogated him there—perforce at gunpoint, since he is not a feeble 84 like the reclusive movie idol but a vigorous 51.
I don't suppose Gover held a gun on his witchdoctors, but if he had I wonder how much faith he would put in their statements. I doubt any of his informants had written four books and talked to six interviewers either. A witchdoctor or anthrofictioneer who couldn't get his ideas across in 1000 pages and six interviews would hardly deserve to be interviewed again. So much for silly objections.
On the serious side, Gover hopes international discord will decrease as Westerners learn to appreciate the animistic belief systems of pre-literate societies. Though anthropologists have striven to promote such appreciation, Gover takes a dim view of their endeavor. Pagan beliefs, he says, can embrace modern science—detecting voices of gods in theories of relativity or quanta—but science cannot accommodate pagan beliefs. Though witchdoctors and scientists both construe the world through theory, Gover rates the pagan theory higher, judging it more inclusive.
Gover's unsound epistemological hierarchy fails to comprehend: the capacity of any theory to subsume any other if terms can be redefined, the historic progress from compact animism to discursive rationalism, the versatility of science, and the differences among anthropologists, some of whom are neither materialists nor ethnocentrics. Scientists can penetrate pagan beliefs at least as well as witchdoctors can fathom science. Gover's impatience with their slow discursive unfolding of compact animism may drive him to gather new data in the field, but it does not justify selling science short.
Since legitimate anthropologists have not yet carried us as far "into the shamanic mind" as Gover wants to go, he is grateful for Castaneda's new genre, which "unites" the pagan and scientific belief systems, thereby accomplishing "far more than tons of actual fieldnotes have accomplished." In contrast, I believe Castaneda's "fiction disguised as anthropology" confounds two readily distinguishable points of view, thereby confusing the reader. The "shamanic mind" into which Castaneda carries us is a blatant fake, comprising tidbits from the ethnography Gover disdains, borrowed occult and mystical notions, and paraphrased philosophical propositions. Don Juan's wisdom rings true by striking familiar chords. He is a house-shaman, especially domesticated to serve the bookish seeker. I admit he's lovable, but so was Uncle Tom.
Castaneda's anthrofiction did reach millions of fans who had never read a word of anthropology, but the accomplishment was self-limiting. Though don Juan sharpened appetites for knowledge, Castenada's pretense of factual reporting forestalled his directing the reader to the ethnographic, religious, and philosophical sources that had given birth to don Juan. In Castaneda's Journey l try to bridge that gap. The authentic sound of shamans can be heard, for example, in Maria Sabina and Her Mazatec Mushroom Velada; it can be read in Barbara Myerhoffs delightful Peyote Hunt. In those two books lives the true don Juan, if anywhere. Without Castaneda's hoax I might never have heard of them.
With all his tricks, Castaneda has taught me many things I am glad to know. Imagining I am belittling Castaneda, Gover chides me for comparing him to the Amerindian Trickster. On the contrary, I thereby recognize his significance and worth. Whether living inside the myth crediting CarlosApprentice and don Juan sorcerer, or outside it admiring the cleverness and dedication of their inventor, we grasp Castaneda best as a culture hero, Carlos-Coyote, the Seer or Rogue who Teaches.
Richard de Mille
Santa Barbara, CA
Mr. Gover replies: "Scientists can penetrate pagan beliefs at least as well as witchdoctors can fathom science," says de Mille. So rather than review his review of my review of his review of Castaneda's books, I will deal with just that one point. For it is the heart of the agony.
De Mille's statement demonstrates the sort of pompous ignorance that hampers us in today's world of emerging African and Latin American nations. Our culture educates us to suppose that the truths of science are truer because they are newer. If that is so, the mental capacities of Western man have enjoyed a mutational leap during the past 200 years, and there is no evidence that such a leap has occurred.
From the pagan perspective, intelligence is a rather constant quality of human consciousness. Like energy, it is neither decreased nor increased but merely worked in ever-changing patterns.
To fathom science, it is necessary to learn the basic beliefs of science—its theories, principles, hypotheses, etc.—and how they apply to our physical reality. Science deals with the material side of our shared reality, with what's "out there" external to the experiencing observer.
To penetrate pagan beliefs, on the other hand, personal experience of pagan gods is needed. Pagan gods are universal forces, primary qualities of the energy science tells us is all at various rates of vibration. Except that from the pagan perspective, these qualities of energy are alive and responsive to human intention. Any scientist who even attempted to document personal experience of a pagan god would be judged unfit for science by his peers.
Zulu on the Potomac
I would like to tell you how very stimulating I found your April issue. How amazing to discover that the solution to the defects in the belief system of Western science may well be found in the African/native American pagan belief system. If only now this insight could be put to use for the betterment of mankind. Considering that one of the mental giants mentioned in the Gover article was singlehandedly able to reconcile the corpuscular theory with the wave theory, what might not occur if a whole cartload of such sages were put under the same roof? Might it not be possible to set up a think tank for this purpose at some idyllic location near the very centers of government, known perhaps as "The Zulu on the Potomac" (or "The Zu" for short)? If furnished with the proper scientific equipment (rags, bones, hanks of hair and the like), one may be sure these distinguished gentlemen would lose no time in solving the complex problems which now plague our civilization. The problem of cheap and abundant sources of energy would no doubt be disposed of very quickly, let us say within a week. Devising the means of interplanetary travel might require more time, a month let us say. A task so complex as bringing immortality to the human race might take as long as a year (taking into account lunch breaks).
Given the prejudices inherent in our present Western belief system, funding would no doubt pose a problem. However, once again Mr. Gover has pointed us to a solution. If only Dr. Castaneda could be persuaded to prepare a fictitious account of some awesome technological achievements produced by these sages, and then publish it as a factual account, surely endowments would not be long in forthcoming. In the past we have been reluctant to employ such means, mainly because we were scared of getting caught, but now, as Mr. Gover has so brilliantly demonstrated, we need have no such qualms, since it can be shown that the path of duplicity is precisely the path which needs to be followed if one is to circumvent the bungling superstitions of our present backward belief system. I would also like to nominate Professor Machan as the PR man for the institute, for who better than he has shown us how both philosophy and science have their common origins in common sense (rather than rationality, as is commonly supposed)? And what better choice for our emissary to the planets than the eminent Dr. Timothy Leary, who is probably better prepared for this task than any other living human?
What is a magazine with the title REASON doing publishing the current [April] interview with the butterfly man Timothy Leary? The next step is to change your title to "Irrationality," and your party to "Learyaliens." Up, up and away.…