REASON's New Design
I just received the July issue of REASON in the mail. Love its new appearance! The new typeface and artwork give it a real classy look. Three cheers for Don Wood!
Can't Please Everyone
Your new art director has changed the appearance of REASON. In a word: CLUTTERED. If possible, please rehire your old AD or obtain a reasonable facsimile. The new runtogetherformating won't help the cause.
Thomas J. Crowe
San Bernardino, CA
Foreign Policy Realism
I agree with most of what R.J. Rummel said in REASON's July issue. Although I haven't verified "that within a year the Soviets will have a first strike capability" and other such details, it would seem that only a blind fool could not realize that the Soviets seek world domination. All the research one needs to do is to check out his memory for most of his life on this subject; for myself, beginning with Hungary and ending with Africa.
It is interesting to wonder why such a supposedly highly intelligent group, such as the Libertarian Party, could have succumbed to its 1975 foreign policy of nonintervention. The poorly conducted Vietnam War is an obvious reason. Another reason, no so obvious, could be psychological or political expediency. Perhaps many individual libertarians felt a social need to be a part of the mainstream of avante-garde intellectuals (who just happen to be leftists). Or perhaps they thought they could sway some leftist votes in the direction of the LP (Von Hoffman, et al.).
Another reason could be epistemological. Libertarians of Objectivist persuasion have a tendency not to see facts which don't fit their theories; they are relatively strict a priorists, whether they define themselves as such or not.
We are going to have to support not-so-free countries whether we like it or not. The thing to do, however, is to set up some kind of hierarchy of support. Those countries which want our future support must become more and more libertarian. The more support they want, the more libertarian they must become. Those countries which want our immediate support should be worth something to us in terms of material goods we need.
San Francisco, CA
If your subscribers wished to read ingenuous articles such as "Wishful Thinking Is No Defense" in your July 1977 issue they would do better to buy Time or Newsweek for then they would receive lovely color photos with their tripe.
Los Angeles, CA
Contra Defense Issue
I was exceedingly disappointed to receive your July issue. I realise that the libertarian movement is coming of age but I do not see that as a reason for the abandonment of libertarian principles. Your issue on defense, to my mind, was not libertarian at all, excepting the one article by Ted Galen Carpenter, merely pointing to a possible political change counter to libertarian interests.
Your article by Ravenal was mis-titled "a libertarian approach to defense." I realize that Ravenal is a big name and that to an extent he agrees with libertarianism. I disagree that his position on defense can be strictly interpreted as libertarian. He argues for the reduction of defense spending, on its own ground a compelling one. But merely because libertarians advocate less defense spending and the Libertarian Party advocates nonintervention does not automatically mean that someone who also argues similarly can be regarded as a libertarian.
Your article by Eric Mack, "Permissible Defense," which no doubt was intended as a challenge to libertarian sacred cows, degenerated into a flabby argument that could only lead me to the conclusion that one could argue anything from libertarianism.
But the worst article of all was "Wishful Thinking Is No Defense" by R.J. Rummel. In a sense, the fact that he wished to write an anti-libertarian article at all is an indication that libertarianism is beginning to be taken seriously by the political mainstream. However, not seriously enough if Rummel was the best opponent we could get. He did not take libertarian arguments seriously, or attempt to rebut them. Rather, his whole tone was, "Hey, guys, I think you're great. But you really gotta face reality, baby!" His argument that the failure of the United States to stem the Soviet advance would mean the gradual Finlandization of the rest of the world fails to come to grips with two fundamental propositions. Firstly, the effects of current U.S. policies. Just to give one example, you no doubt remember the famous Burma Road, the air-lift over the Himalayas to Chiang Kai-Shek's regime, opened by American and British soldiers with great loss of life. You may not know that a regular consignment on every plane, space being at a very high premium, was American-supplied banknotes to fuel the devastating Chinese inflation, one of the fundamental causes, aside from the ineptness and corruption of Chiang Kai-Shek's regime, for the success of the communists in China. Today, the United States is doing the same thing for the whole world via the IMF. The second libertarian position which not only did Rummel fail to meet but you failed to include in a "libertarian" issue on defense is perhaps libertarianism's most potent argument: namely that freedom is the best form of defense. The economic effects of a free United States on the rest of the world would do much more to protect Europe, South Korea or any other part of the so-called free world from Soviet aggression than any number of American boys in uniform.
R.J. Rummel's "Wishful Thinking Is No Defense" [July] should be rebutted by as many libertarians as possible for his understanding of foreign policy issues is distorted, and, what's worse, his recommendations are downright pernicious.
Prof. Rummel states that the "bed rock American national interest is the support of liberty wherever it exists, and whenever it is under threat," and further that we should have the "capacity to meet Communist threats wherever they occur and whatever their nature." Notice that Rummel does not define what this "support" is supposed to entail (financial? military? moral?), or whether he believes we should use this "capacity" of ours, but presumably if we are able and willing to support those allegedly threatened by Communism and to meet those threats, this will have to amount to a policy of massive interventionism. Is Rummel even dimly aware of the consequences of such a policy? Is it a libertarian position to support a foreign policy that would lead (and in fact in the past had led) to increased militarism, widespread slaughter of innocents, and the likelihood of America getting involved in another war?
Perhaps Rummel does not favor such (a return to) massive interventionism, but his account of recent American foreign policy strongly suggests he does. One of his arguments for his alleged "realistic" foreign policy is that American power protects existing freedoms abroad and that it if is withdrawn "mass slaughter and slavery follow." He uses Cambodia and Vietnam as two examples, but in fact they demonstrate virtually the opposite of what Mr. Rummel thinks they do.
Cambodia was a relatively peaceful country under Prince Sihanouk until 1969. A few thousand Communists struggled ineffectively against the government. Then the evil Nixon began secretly bombing the eastern portion of the country used by the North Vietnamese. They responded by moving deeper into Cambodia. In March 1970 Sihanouk left for Moscow and Peking to see if they would hold the Vietnamese back. While he was away, Lon Nol overthrew the government. While opposition to Lon Nol began to move the country toward civil war, Nixon began a full scale war against Cambodia (violating his promise merely to clean out the North Vietnamese "sanctuaries") which resulted in the dropping of 400,000 tons of bombs on a peasant country with no advanced weaponry and the death of 500,000 Cambodians—the proportional equivalent of 15 million Americans. Naturally this all served to strengthen the numbers and ferociousness of the Communist (Khmer Rouge) insurgents. Their intensity combined with the U.S. support of the unpopular Lon Nol regime predictably led to their triumph when the U.S. finally left the decimated country.
In short, it was American policy which led to the triumph of the Khmer Rouge Communists. Without our intervention they never would have succeeded. If Cambodia is one of Mr. Rummel's examples of how the U.S. maintains existing freedoms abroad which collapse when we withdraw then we must conclude his ideas are morally blind and historically ridiculous. If it is "realism" to support such a policy then three cheers for utopianism!
To add insult to injury, Rummel claims a proper libertarian foreign policy would strive for nuclear superiority so as to increase the probability of nuclear peace, and further, that it would stop trade with the Soviet Union. As for the first claim, we should strive to abolish nuclear weapons, because they are instruments of mass destruction which cannot be used in a libertarian (legitimately defensive) manner. Trying to outdo the Soviet Union will only lead them, as it has so many times in the past, to try to outdo us, thus perpetuating the irrational arms race. This is what [is] supposed to bring us nuclear peace? Will Rummel feel secure knowing we can wipe out all the Soviets 100 times while they can only wipe us out 80 times?
As for the second claim, hasn't Rummel ever heard of the libertarian principle of free trade? If we can't trade with the Soviets, will we be allowed to trade with Chile, China, Argentina, Poland, Uganda, or any other dictatorship for that matter? If we are prohibited from trading with evil countries we will end up losing most of our foreign trade. That's a libertarian foreign policy?
Libertarians must reject the siren-call of Prof. Rummel. His arguments for his positions are so poor that I hope that no libertarian—at least no rational libertarian—will be seduced by them.
Prof. Rummel replies: 1. I do not call for direct American intervention in Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, China, or elsewhere where communists have taken over the State and eliminated opposition. That is begging a nuclear war. I do assert, however, that we should help, outside these barbed wire borders, those whose freedoms are threatened by communist aggression or subversion.
2. Mr. Shapiro asks if it is libertarian to support a foreign policy that would lead to increased militarism, widespread slaughter of innocents, and the likelihood of another war. Of course not. Thus, I recommend a more realistic policy. For, if we ignore the attacks of aggressive totalitarianism on freedom elsewhere, we ourselves eventually will be attacked at home. WE shall face an eventual transitional militarism at home, the death of millions, and finally, a communist victory. If it be "massive interventionism" to protect against this, so be it.
3. Cambodia and Vietnam do not argue against my policy, but rather for its implementation with careful attention to the interrelationships between politics and war. The lesson learned is that America cannot fight a protracted limited war against communists, and can aid those threatened only when we can achieve a rapid military conclusion—that we should use our military forces toward that end. Otherwise, many will die to no avail while we weaken ourselves.
4. The point that we can already kill the Soviets 100 (or 50 or 10) times over with our nuclear weapons, the workhorse argument against increasing our strategic forces, is dangerously fallacious. What counts is not how many weapons in stock before a war, but what remains after an enemy attacks (we had an invulnerable Pacific fleet before Pearl Harbor). And Soviet strength is such that they should soon have the ability to destroy most of our nuclear weapons and easily survive any retaliation we could launch. Not overkill, but underkill is our problem.
5. Mr. Shapiro does not believe that U.S. nuclear superiority or an "arms race" would preserve the peace. He is wrong. The belief that arms breed war seems commonsensical. So is the perception that the sun goes around the earth. Of course, if a major power totally disarms it can escape war. The price is domination. Presuming Mr. Shapiro is not recommending surrender, the question is what relative balance of arms between enemies best maintains peace and freedom. The historical and scientific evidence argue that in confrontation between a status quo and revolutionary state, as we have now with the US and USSR, peace is preserved when the status quo power maintains a dominance in power. The situation most conducive to war exists when the revolutionary state is overtaking the other in power—precisely what is happening now. If current military and political trends continue, we will be faced with either nuclear war or global communist victory—I see no middle way.
6. As for free trade, I argue for no law prohibiting trade with or private loans to communist countries; or against serving in their armed forces, for that matter. I do vigorously oppose, however, the American government giving communist countries economic aid, special trade arrangements, or loans. As for private trade, those who are upset by companies selling to the Soviet Union goods that help their war machine or repression should use voluntary boycotts, protests, stock holder meetings, and exposure to persuade. Not government coercion.
In sum, we are now fighting World War III. The issue is libertarian freedoms versus absolute subjugation to the State. Diametrically opposed ideologies are confronting each other; yet too many professing freedom are unaware of the battles.
Never could so many lose so much to so few. —R.J.R.
Hey, guys, let's be a little more careful in our book reviews, all right? I'll admit that we don't share metaphysical presuppositions, but if your reviewer [July] wants to impugn my scholarly integrity ("a professional historian has written a book on the occult without having done one iota of original research on the subject"), he should be more careful.
Your reviewer doesn't like my conclusions. Fair enough. But why refute my references to spontaneous human combustion by saying that such references are invalid because they appear in "a pulp paperback," True, and True Detective? If we were to rely on the conventional press for our appreciation of the works of Mises, or our understanding of World War II revisionism, we would be very limited. The reviewer seems to think that if The New York Times doesn't have it in the index, it isn't possible.
He refers to Klass' study of the supposedly phony incidents of spontaneous human combustion, but the review cites three cases that I did not rely on. The key case, investigated by an anthropologist at the University of Pennsylvania, on which I based much of my admitted speculation, was not refuted. Why pick out three "refuted" cases to expose my poor scholarship when I never used these cases in making my case?
Again, I relied very heavily on the research of Arigo, the incredible "surgeon with the rusty knife" who operated on 2 million people in a 20-year period. Not one word of refutation from the reviewer, only the impugning of my source, Puharich. Then he refers to another book which casts doubt, not on Arigo, but on the healers in the Philippines, whose stories I was careful to admit are not nearly so reliable, though not all fraudulent all of the time.
What really astounds me is the reviewer's criticism of my conclusion "that the Third World has embraced socialism because it is in bondage to the Devil." I happen to believe that this is a partial explanation, but the chapter in question was based on the writings of Helmut Schoeck, whose book Envy is a classic and was introduced to me by Murray Rothbard, and the crucially important findings of P.T. Bauer, which he argues most forcefully in his Dissent on Development (Harvard University Press, 1972). What is so wrong with relying on men like these, even if I didn't do my own original research? If they offer evidence that explains the economic backwardness of the Third World in terms of the widespread fear of witchcraft and the almost universal belief in malevolent occult phenomena, why should I fail to use their findings? Is citing a secondary source the sign of academic incompetence?
Readers of REASON will not like the book. But to conclude the book review with an attack on a chapter that first appeared in The Freeman, and to use rebuttals of facts that I either didn't use or de-emphasized, does appear a bit ridiculous. None Dare Call It Witchcraft is a semi-popular book aimed at a popular market and published by a conservative press. It is not a work of primary scholarship, nor was it intended to be. With the title it bears, no one (save your reviewer) could conclude that it was aimed at the university press market. I tried to make a few bucks with a popular book on a popular topic. Big deal.
Anyone who thinks I didn't adhere to the accepted canons of modern university research is correct. This doesn't necessarily invalidate the book. And a reviewer who is stick-man prone in his arguments isn't the one to tell readers that I lack academic competence and integrity. My potboiler book is a lot better than your potboiler review.
And, just for the record, it was a lot more profitable.
Business As Ally?
Though much of Thomas Hazlett's article [July] is correct and insightful, one of its main points needs examination and further discussion.
He accepts willingly the idea that business (any size) is at war with government, a point that's possibly true of some businesses. But then even more willingly he accepts the idea that business is capable of fighting effectively for business freedom. And that's a point supportable neither in logic nor in historical fact.
Though some businesses, I'm sure, fight like the devil to keep various government minions at bay, it seems to me essential to a clear understanding of capitalism that business is not the element which benefits from it. Businesses, in fact, are punished—or at least, disciplined—by the free enterprise system. Only consumers benefit.
Expecting businesses, therefore, to defend the barriers seems to me to be unproductive. We would not ask a fox to guard the chickens. And we should not ask businessmen to assure market competition.
If ever we're to keep what economic freedom we still have, or roll back the smothering blanket of controls, we'll have to expect to do it as consumers, not as businessmen.
James E. Foy
Response from Mobil
Thank you for your recent letter and the article from REASON discussing Mobil's series of messages on economic policy.
Mr. Hazlett's views seem to differ from ours more in degree than in principle. He would like, I gather, to see a return to a laissez-faire economy that has not existed in this country for decades; we believe such a hope is futile, and not necessarily in the interests of most Americans.
There are abuses in government regulation, in taxation, and in the burgeoning bureaucracy—as Mobil has often pointed out in its advertising. But, it seems to us, the practical solution is to correct the abuses, not to try to dismantle the whole system. That system, after all, is an outgrowth of the democratic process. There is a need for some regulation, for a Social Security System, and for services that only the government can feasibly perform. The constructive approach, we believe, is to reduce the government's role to those areas where free enterprise cannot function effectively. An "all-or-nothing" approach is simply not practical.
I appreciate your interest in our messages, and thank you again for writing.
William P. Tavoulareas
President, Mobil Oil Corp.
New York, NY
Money and the Fed
Obviously, David H. Rogers, the reviewer of Martin Larson's book The Federal Reserve…[June] is an economist and not a banker. Any informed banker (and there are not too many left) knows that the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 empowers the Fed to create "money" credits by means of a mere bookkeeping entry. These "money" credits are offered to the U.S. government in exchange for interest-bearing securities. The "money" credits may then be exchanged for pieces of paper called Federal Reserve Notes which cost about one cent each to produce. The Fed, however, continues to receive the interest from the securities. It is easy to see why Mr. Rogers is confused. Many others, both in and out of banking, are also confused. But why is Mr. Rogers so incredulous that the U.S. government sells its securities to the Fed for, what is, in effect, nothing? Is Mr. Rogers not aware that apparently irrational behavior from the U.S. government is what three generations of Americans have come to expect?
The real benefit of the Federal Reserve scheme, however, accrues to those money managers who have unlimited access to the Fed's volumes of information. Mr. Rogers could be wealthy beyond his imagination if he had access ahead of other investors to Fed plans for the money supply, Fed and other central bank intervention in currency exchange rates, Fed economic pronouncements which often influence securities prices, etc. Anyone privy to this information in advance of the public (such as the Fed's decision makers, whoever they are) could multiply his assets fifty to a hundredfold within 12 months.
The Federal Reserve is a confidence man's dream.
Gabor A. Burns
San Francisco, CA
Mr. Rogers replies: Mr. Burns' main comment, that the Federal Reserve can "create money" by bookkeeping procedures, is true, but totally irrelevant. My review chastised Larson for claiming on several occasions that member banks (commercial banks that are members of the Federal Reserve System, of which there are about 5,800) have this same money-creating ability—which they do not. Apparently, confusion on this point is not limited to Larson; Mr. Burns displays a healthy dose of it himself.
As for Mr. Burns' other comments, I should note that typically the Federal Reserve does not buy securities directly from the Treasury; instead, it purchases "seasoned" issues from banks, private individuals, etc. Also, the Federal Reserve System's profits, derived primarily from interest on Treasury securities, are returned virtually in total to the Treasury each year.
Unquestionably, advance knowledge of Federal Open Market Committee directives, etc., could be very lucrative. However, I am unaware of any instance in which insiders at the Fed have used such knowledge for personal gain. Mr. Burns' intimation that Fed "money managers" are the real beneficiaries of the Fed's existence, is merely an undocumented ad hominem. —D.H.R.
Your article on conscription [July] should be reprinted on pulp and distributed at all high schools in the United States. Much as the Jehovah's Witnesses, Black Panther Party, and U.S. Labor Party print for mass circulation, so there should exist a readily available, cheap libertarian newspaper, with special subjects distributed to related locations (schools, businesses, concerts, etc.).
I would also make another suggestion while I'm at it. I happened to obtain a copy of the 1974 Libertarian Party Platform, adopted in convention, and have been trying unsuccessfully to obtain more copies. All the blather and printed material we put out is not of much use unless this platform becomes known in its formal state to many people. Therefore, I humbly suggest that when the new platform is solidified after the convention in July, it be printed on the middle pages of every libertarian publication every month, so that subscribers could pull it out and give a copy to someone new every month. Should be no longer than four page sides so as to make Xeroxing easy as well.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".