Abortion and the First Amendment
Ms. Combs' article on abortion [May] suffers from the introduction of numerous extraneous issues, but her main point is evidently that legal prohibition of abortion enforces particular religious views, thereby violating First Amendment separation of church and state.
She does not seem to realize, however, that any legal system must define the scope of its application—that is, specify to whom its provisions apply. And the courts must decide whether the specifications are met in particular cases.
The decision as to whether unborn babies should or should not be considered legal persons entitled to the protection of the laws is thus inescapable. In either case, legal status is conferred upon the ethical belief of one group at the expense of the other. Law cannot escape this fact.
So the assertion that one definition of "legal person" (which includes the unborn) violates the First Amendment but another (which excludes the unborn) does not is utterly fallacious. The First Amendment simply has nothing to do with this case.
Abortion and Rights
I must say Ms. Combs' article [May] made little sense to me. Her trotting out the old horse that women will have abortions, anyway, so why have a law, is ludicrous on the face of it. People commit murder every day, too, often with no regard for the penalty, even if the penalty is death. Does that mean we should get rid of homicide statutes?
The abortion issue revolves around two different standards on what is a human being. The abortionist (properly) argues a human being cannot exist dependent on another human being. A fetus that cannot live independently of its mother is not human so cannot be murdered. This is what the Supreme Court found in striking down the abortion statutes.
The anti-abortionist (properly) argues the fetus is as much a human being (though not as much of a human being) as an independent adult, based on genetic character. The sperm or egg are not human because, genetically, they do not possess human characteristics.
Finally, murder is a crime that entails volition. If I'm blinded and run over a person in my car, I have not murdered him; if I drive out of my way to run him down, then I have. If a woman loses a fetus by a natural act arising out of genetic or physical deformity, it isn't murder; if she willfully aborts and the genetic standard is correct, then it is.
Which standard is correct must be determined by philosophical analysis. Furthermore, it is essential that analysis be consistent. How many pro-abortionists would support legislation allowing a mother to abandon an infant to its fate? Yet, that is what one is arguing if one supports abortion for any other purpose than to preserve the life of the mother (a different standard is extant, there).
The doctrine of natural rights derives out of the nature of man, and part of that nature is that the females of the species bear the young. Precisely what that means is not clear to me, yet; however, I would caution libertarians in approaching this issue. It requires investigation, not emotional discourse.
Robert B. Crim
The attacks on John Hospers [June] range from reasoned arguments to scathing attacks on working for the Libertarian Party since "…the only reward is the fraudulent currency of moral satisfaction."
I proudly state that I worked on the presidential election campaign of John Hospers in 1972, received not one penny of compensation, and feel amply rewarded and not in the least cheated in receiving the large measure of moral satisfaction which came my way.
To speculate about the probability of electing a Libertarian Party presidential candidate, and to further speculate what he might do once in the Oval Office goes farther afield than is necessary to prove a point.
Please consider three simple questions:
1. Do you believe that the more libertarians there are in the country, the better our prospects to be freer?
2. Do you believe that the Libertarian Party has exposed libertarianism to many people?
3. Do you believe that the Libertarian Party has exposed libertarianism to more persons than has any other vehicle? More than all other vehicles combined?
I answer in the affirmative to all three questions. If you reply yes to only the first two questions, that supplies the total justification for the Libertarian Party. Where the people go from there, which of the many avenues of libertarianism they travel after that first exposure, how they react on some of the fine differences in philosophy—all of these do not in the least negate that they are where they are and are thinking what they are thinking because of, or at least partially because of, the Libertarian Party.
John Hospers had the guts to throw his heart and head and capital into spreading the word of a movement he believes in. How quickly we forget!
David Suits [Letters, June] is one of many non-Party libertarians who attacks the LP on the grounds that it is anti-libertarian to seek or hold political office, no matter what you do with it. I don't think this reasoning can stand a close examination.
Political office-holding by libertarians can be viewed as a simple matter of self-defense. As long as the system is such that a given office will exist and will be occupied by someone, there is nothing immoral about trying to occupy it yourself in order to insure that it will not be used to violate your rights. All a libertarian politician need do to remain a libertarian is to refrain from using the office coercively. We would like to see him or her roll back the power of the whole structure, but that simply is not always possible.
Suits also implies that if one joins the government, one shares its moral guilt. Nonsense. The government is not a single, monolithic institution; it is composed of individuals, each of whom must be judged for his or her own contribution to freedom or slavery. Is the FBI agent who solves a kidnapping to be equated with the Federal marshal who seizes personal property to satisfy IRS judgments?
None of the above is to say that the LP is above criticism. I believe that it is an idea whose time won't be here for many years, if ever. It wastes time, energy and money on activities of no intrinsic worth (such as signature-gathering). But right now, it's the only game in town; no other group effectively gathers and focuses libertarian efforts. And I repeat, there is nothing immoral about its goals.
If someone were to have told me two months ago that I'd be writing a letter to REASON supporting Dr. John Hospers, I would have dismissed that person as a raving lunatic. Yet, here I am, a radical libertarian, defending Dr. Hospers on the points he made in the June REASON regarding transition from the present statist society to a free society.
Yes, I still consider myself a radical libertarian, and yes, I still favor abolishing the state with all deliberate speed. But I am realistic enough to understand the need for a number of intermediate steps along the way. To go from today's system, with its massive state apparatus, to anarchy overnight would be impossible logistically. To attempt to do so would lead to chaos and would quite likely result in the installation of a dictatorship of some sort.
There are ways of making the transition in an orderly and peaceful way, and these have been discussed by libertarians who seriously think about the consequences of their actions. I will not spell them out here because I may be using them next year in a campaign for Congress. But transition programs are under consideration by many people in the movement who recognize that they are needed.
C. William George
In his letter [June], Dr. Hospers suggested that victims of the social security swindle could be compensated without relying on tax money. Sell government assets, he says, and use the proceeds to meet government obligations. And, he adds, we might also use such funds to finance the president and Congress during the interim while a libertarian government is withering away. That sure sounds good, except for one little problem: there isn't enough money. In his 1971 book Libertarianism, Dr. Hospers recommends sale of government assets, but he notes that the proceeds probably wouldn't even be enough to cover the national debt, which was only $400 billion back then. That's probably still true.
A closer look at the numbers reveals this: The Federal government owns some 750 million acres (according to Action for Americans, the Liberty Amendment book). If these lands were sold at an average price somewhere between $100 to $1000 per acre, that would bring in from $75 to $750 billion. The government owns other assets in addition, like post office trucks, building, and machinery, etc. How much would all this come to? Action for Americans mentions a 1962 government inventory that puts a value on all Federal assets at $300 billion. The figure will be higher now due to new acquisitions and inflation over the last 15 years, but a reasonable present figure is probably something less than $1 trillion.
What do we see on the liability side? Jerome F. Smith's article "Here Comes Hyperinflation!" gives figures for government liabilities from the National Taxpayers Union. The national debt alone is now $620 billion and there are many hundreds of billions of other liabilities not included in the national debt. The figure for social security obligations alone is given as $2.7 trillion!
We must conclude that, even if all government assets were sold (and I'm all for that), the proceeds would just about pay off the national debt with nothing left over for social security victims or other claimants. Even if the government were to default on the national debt and pay out all proceeds to social security recipients, even then it could pay less than half, maybe only a third, of what it has promised to pay. If social security victims are to be fully compensated, as Dr. Hospers so fervidly desires, the money has to come from new taxation or the printing press. There are no other options.
Congratulations on your June financial issue. It's the best financial issue you and the rest of the REASON team have ever put out! Many of the articles in there are extremely interesting, and your team must surely have put a lot of hard work into it. It shows! Congratulations again to you and all the rest of the good folks at REASON.
John V. Kamin
Bryant As Ally?
My sincerest apologies to Anita Bryant and my sincerest thanks to Bill Birmingham [June]. I blush to think that I let the "normal" news sources give me the impression that Anita was a religious nut out to burn gays on the stake. I heave a sigh of relief that I have a reliable source like Bill (God help him if the report ain't so!) to set me straight.
And I'll take the cue from Bill and ask: where were the gay libertarians? Good Lord, what a tremendous opportunity was lost! Can you imagine the good publicity the gay libertarians would have received if they had come out in support of Ms. Bryant, strictly because of her proper stand on civil rights?
Guy W. Riggs
Protecting Gay Rights
Your Quickies columnist [June] asks "Where are the gay libertarians? This was in connection with a paragraph reporting the enactment of a civil-rights type of sexual preference law in Miami. As a member of the gay chapter of the Libertarian Party I would like to report, here I am. But I can speak only for myself, not for the group.
Personally, I think the homosexual problem would best be solved by abolishing the laws punishing this variation, and that is all. I do not favor further enactment of civil-rights type laws. That's the way I see the solution today. But I have my fingers crossed. Just abolishing the punishment part of the code might not give any relief. And I think herein lies a flaw in the Libertarian Party philosophy.
The anarchy segment seems to think utopia can be reached by wiping out all except a handful of laws, say three or four. That's all we would need to stamp out fraud, protect the rights of the individual, stop all foreign enemies and clean up domestic subversives. I don't agree. I suspect it will take just as many laws as we've got now to get a working libertarian system going. There will have to be just as many courts, policemen and judges. The regulation of human beings has never been simple since homo sapiens appeared on earth.
For example in the Miami mess. If I saw a sign, "Apartment for Rent," wouldn't I, as an individual, feel I had a right to move in provided I obeyed all the laws of this country? (I'm assuming Miami will have abolished punishment of homosexuals.) What if every house in Miami had a sign, "For rent, except to homosexuals"?
Personally, I think my best bet would be to show the citizens of Miami that I can be admirable and a good renter and still be homosexual. But what if the majority of the citizens of Miami don't want to be shown? What if there should be a religious movement (or some sort of morals movement) afoot in Miami, one that had carefully divorced itself from the government in such a way that it could not come under the anarchists' disapproval, and it was death on homosexuals? I doubt if I would get the apartment.
We are now living in an era when homosexuality is more or less tolerated. At present the majority of this country is afraid to whack down on a minority. But what would happen if all our civil rights laws, from the Bill of Rights on down, were discarded. I can remember only a few years back when times were much less tolerant.
So I think the Miami problem will not be easily resolved. And I think the Libertarian Party has a lot of thinking to do about what it will take to protect the rights of the individual.
Archism vs. Anarchism
Dr. Machan's summary of the archist/anarchist debate [May] was unclear; let me explain where I found his reasoning somewhat less than exact.
1. Dr. Machan's evaluation of the philosophic rigor of those on opposite sides of the archist fence is confusing—Dr. Rothbard's "defense agency" notion is "muddled," but Paul Beaird's "Reply to Roy Childs," certainly the most muddled work to appear in this long debate, is "an especially telling case" against Roy's brilliant "Open Letter to Ayn Rand." For Machan, a Randian philosopher, to applaud Beaird's article is surprising, as Beaird's complaint against competing defense agencies is that they include the imposition on a man of a form of justice to which he never consented. Beaird thinks it's a violation of a man's rights to try him under a system of justice which he has not previously accepted. Surely this goes against the Randian contention that justice is an objective, reality-based principle, no more depending upon acceptance for its validity than, say, the law of universal gravitation.
2. We find Dr. Rothbard places taxation within the definition of government, thereby "getting to anarchism by the fallacy of pleading his case." Actually, Rothbard defines government as a monopoly of coercion and taxation, monopoly of coercion being the key issue (witness Murray's moral outrage at Nozick's ultraminimal state, which monopolizes coercion but doesn't tax); taxation is not the only thing anarchists find wrong with government.
3. But if Rothbard gets to anarchy by overdefining government, then Machan derives the State by underdefining it. He doesn't define "governmental jurisdiction." There seems to be only two choices: either it refers to some fixed geographical area, or it is the sum total (potentially constantly changing) of the justly owned property of the government's customers.
If the former, what justifies the claim that those within the area "who wish to abstain from receiving service remain legally isolated (meaning?) or build other agencies outside the jurisdiction of the agencies (shouldn't that be agency?) established in one community"? If the property is morally theirs, why must they submit or get out?
If Machan chooses the second definition, what has been solved? How do the problems arising between competing defense agencies differ from what, under his conception, would be called warring governments? Two individuals conflict—if they subscribe to different defense agencies, society trembles, but if they merely reside within the jurisdiction of different governments, peace and harmony reign? Machan might claim that under his system any conflict necessarily occurs under the sole jurisdiction of one government; but, in an anarchist scheme, any conflict will necessarily occur on someone's property. Where the conflict occurs either will or will not be relevant to the issue of justice; if it is, why can't anarchist legal agencies take proper cognizance of this fact?
4. Machan's claim that agencies competing in the service of rights-protection within one homogeneous area necessarily lead to rights-violation bespeaks either lack of sufficient grounding in economics, or, at least, lack of clarity in failing to support this potentially profound claim with sufficient evidence and argument to mandate rational persuasion.
It might be replied that one can hardly go into detail in a short article (no more, in fact, than in a short letter to the editor), and so Dr. Machan should not be taken to task for not explaining all in a mere page. But I found none of the issues mentioned above covered any better in Machan's book (which, in other respects, is quite good).
Dr. Machan replies: I am not at all persuaded that Mr. Levatter has raised any issues that will show my comments to have been unclear, even if some of his questions should be answered. As to #1, I had a particular point of Mr. Beaird's reply in mind, where he overcomes the only substance of Childs's essay, concerning whether judicial procedures are anti-individualist. (Incidentally, I am not now, have never been, and will not be a Randian philosopher, whatever on earth that means.) Concerning #2, Rothbard just could not sustain his objection to government simply on grounds that "government is a monopoly of coercion," since Rothbard cannot morally object to monopolies per se, only to coercive monopolies, which governments, as I characterize them, certainly need not be. #3 I have answered in Human Rights and Human Liberties and will not do so here simply because Mr. Levatter doesn't get the argument. There is nothing mysterious about the possibility that some kinds of contractual relations require specialized ways of entering, staying within, and breaking them. As to whether, re #4, I lack sufficient grounding in economics, Mr. Levatter carefully avoids explaining why this might be so. I will not guess for him and just report that he is wrong. Also, let's be careful about one thing—my own and Rothbard's position aren't that different, so problems of distinguishing them are inherent. —T.R.M.
Congratulations on your publication, REASON. I noticed your recent listing in Standard Rate & Data Service and I'm taking the liberty of writing to you regarding the Savings Bonds Program.
The U.S. Savings Bonds Program offers a unique opportunity for citizens to save for personal security while investing in America's future. Our sales have reached all-time highs. The success of the program is due primarily to the volunteer efforts of people in all media who have helped to make it the greatest thrift program in the world.
I'm sure you are familiar with our public service filler ads. They are created by Leo Burnett Advertising Agency through the Advertising Council and have wide support from the magazine industry as well as other media.
With your permission, I would like to place your publication on our monthly mailing list to receive various size proofs for offset printing. We hope you will be able to publish Savings Bonds ads as often as space permits, as a valuable contribution to the Bond Program.
Please let me know if there are any questions or if I can be of assistance in any way possible.
Sales Executive, U.S. Savings Bond Div.
Dept. of the Treasury New York, NY
Mr. Poole replies: I'm afraid you don't understand what a libertarian magazine is all about. We, like our readers, believe that at least 90 percent of what the Federal government is doing is illegitimate, and that none of it should be financed by taxes taken from people without their individual, voluntary consent. That includes taxes used to pay off government bond holders.
In addition, our readers are a good bit more sophisticated than the average beer-guzzling, TV-watching non-thinker. Were they to see ads urging them to buy savings bonds in our publication, we would lose a great deal of our credibility with them. They are interested in protecting themselves against inflation, not in being victimized by it.
Please spare us the trouble of discarding your monthly mailings, and save the taxpayers the postage expense. —R.P.
Joseph Major's letter [March] regarding a libertarian military makes a number of interesting points. I believe he is basically correct when he states that "Guerillas have never defeated an organized army by themselves; they simply lack the logistics, the equipment, the training and the organization." If those things are supplied to them, however, I believe that a guerilla-militia can defeat a regular army.
The Swiss militia, backed up by the logistics, the equipment, etc. of the Swiss military system, defeated the most formidable military machine in Europe in the early 1940's: Nazi Germany. The Germans' decision not to invade Switzerland was a direct result of the Swiss' well-publicized intentions in the event of an invasion and the German estimates of the Swiss military's ability to back them up. Germany would have been able to capture Switzerland, but their casualties would have been extremely heavy (one estimate places them high enough to have lost the war in Russia) and the Swiss would have long since destroyed everything that would have made the country worth capturing. (Having Switzerland would have greatly facilitated transportation through central Europe, but the Swiss would have destroyed every pass and tunnel through the Alps in the first minutes of an invasion—and still will.) Furthermore, with every male Swiss armed and trained in guerilla tactics, it would have been very costly to hold.
I agree with Mr. Majors that a libertarian government should not base any kind of a military system on conscription. It would be necessary to offer good pay and a good time (the latter especially in the case of a volunteer militia). I would like to propose an additional incentive (for lack of a better word) based on Swiss and other European history: that participation (historically it was the ownership of arms) be a condition of the franchise. Now before everyone gets all upset, please remember that as libertarians we are not necessarily democrats. In a libertarian country the important thing is not who votes, but what is subject to the vote. If the government has no power to violate individual rights, and the citizens are armed, those who cannot or do not vote are in no danger from those who can. I would be interested in hearing reader reaction to this proposal.
Mr. Major's recommendations for the U.S. military under a libertarian government are right on! They are similar in principle to some made in 1975 by Charles Lyall, then Party Leader of the Libertarian Party of Canada. His recommendations were contained in a position paper prepared for the party. This paper was published in the July-August 1975 issue of Libertarian Option. Mr. Lyall covers subjects ranging from the theory of why countries get attacked, to the use of nuclear and chemical-biological weapons to the effects on the crime rate of an armed citizenry. Anyone interested should write Libertarian Option, Box 5159 STN. A, Toronto, Ontario M5W 1N5 Canada. Cover price is $1.10.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".