Whigs vs. Tories
I had not intended to reply to Ralph Raico's diatribe, "On Tory Blind Spots," [March] since its tone of personal abuse appeared to me to disqualify it from reasoned debate.
However, since others have now [July Letters] been moved to comment upon it, I think that it would be well for me to say that, as anyone with understanding of the term could easily see from my "Must We Abolish the State?" [August 1976], I am not a Tory. Obviously Mr. Raico does not know the difference between a Tory and a Whig.
Nevertheless let me hasten to say that I do not mean to suggest that there is no merit in Toryism. If it were not possible to be a Whig, then I should choose, with some regret, to be a Tory.
Bryant on Schools
Please note, re Robert Sirico's article [September], page 21, third paragraph; starting with "Ah, the touchy subjects of schools," you have raised the point of the primary reason I ever became involved with the Dade County Ordinance…a point that "gay" activists avoid at all cost and a point that has not been told despite my efforts.
The Dade County Ordinance made it mandatory that private and religious schools hire a known practicing homosexual. That's right…the Catholic schools, the Protestant schools, and the Hebrew academies…would have to have hired a homosexual who could stand up and proclaim his homosexuality, declare it as an acceptable alternate even though that religious school taught that it was a sin. This, we felt here in Dade County, was a denial of our religious freedom. It was for this reason, 27 of the 31 rabbis in Dade County voted for repeal, along with the overwhelming majority of blacks, Cubans, Protestants and Catholics. This despite Dade County being one of the most liberal in the United States.
Our religious leaders were repeatedly told by the "gay" leaders that "gay" teachers were going to apply to teach in their religious schools when they won the referendum. My pastor was told by one of the leaders "when we win, your church school is the first one we're coming after."
You might be interested to know that at the court house "gay" leaders declared that there "was no discrimination in Dade County, we just want to show you where we're at"—and at a later meeting "we want to become role models for your children."
Who cares what a homosexual does in the privacy of his bedroom? I couldn't care less, but I do care, especially when it comes to becoming a role model for my children.
Anita Bryant Green
I want to chide Guy Riggs directly concerning his letter [September] re Anita Bryant:
Hey, dummy, did it ever occur to you that the info supplied by Bill Birmingham in his June Quickie was a bit dated? Did you take the trouble to learn what Anita had done by the time you wrote your shoot-from-the-hip letter? Yeah, I know. Your political activity has gotten you into a shoot-from-the-hip habit, but put on the brakes, man. REASON readers deserve better than that.
Just a little digging on your part would have revealed that Anita's preliminary moves had evolved into an effort to depict homosexuals as being less than human (even though she said she "loved" them), and that this had thoroughly polarized the situation into Good Us and Bad Them. Do you really think a group of gay libertarians siding with Anita because of "her proper stand on civil rights" would have gotten good publicity? Publicity, sure, but "good" publicity?
Well, the next time you feel the urge to exhort the troops to storm the barricades, why not go out ahead of time and take a good look at them there barricades, yourself?
Guy W. Riggs
Davis Keeler suggests that the limited liability of corporations does not depend on State sanction. If that were true, I assume he would not object to the repeal of incorporation laws. However, it is not true. I quote Dr. George Getz from his text Business Law:
"A corporation, unlike a partnership, is a creation of the State. Legally it exists separate and apart from its stockholders. It may conduct business only after obtaining a charter from the State."
Mr. Keeler's hangups about "people's capitalism" versus the Rockefellers, du Ponts and Rothschilds sound more like Time or Newsweek than REASON. The fact is that without limited-liability laws anyone could still invest by purchasing private liability insurance, perhaps under a group plan. In any event, let the investor beware, just as any banker would. A silent partner is still a partner, and still responsible for his dividend of the debts.
Norman Betros, Jr.
Cold Spring, NY
Mr. Keeler replies: I appreciate the opportunity Mr. Betros has given me to clear up a couple of points. A shareholder simply is not a partner. A partner is a person with certain rights and powers, arising from his contractual undertaking, such as the power to bind other partners or to direct agents of the firm. A shareholder has no such rights. His only right is, generally speaking, to vote with other shareholders to change the management of the firm if he is dissatisfied with their actions.
The shareholder lacks the right or power to control the acts of corporate agents which would make him morally responsible for their actions. That is the case in a nutshell. This is why private parties were able by private contract, without State action, to create firms with the attribute of "limited" liability. The advent of general incorporation laws did not permit them to make such arrangements—they already had that right—it merely regulated the means of doing so, much as a land conveyance act formalizes the exercise of the right to sell land. Were such laws repealed they would still have that right. Limited liability does not depend on corporation law. See, Warren, Corporate Advantages Without Incorporation (1929).
As for the shorthand expression that a corporation is a creature of the State, this is a relic of that time (generally before 1835) when corporate charters tended to be grants of State monopoly or special privilege. It simply no longer represents legal reality. See, e.g., Adolf A. Berle, Cases & Materials on Corporate Finance (1930), p. 43; Berle & Warren, Cases & Materials on the Law of Business Organization (1948), p. 2; Cary, Cases & Materials on Corporations (4th ed.), p. 1.
Surely Mr. Betros does not object to a shareholder's nonliability for corporate debts. If the creditor wants such liability he is free to try to get it in the market. Persons lending money or making major extensions of credit to small firms regularly demand personal liability from shareholders—and get it. That's how a free market works.
There is no question that a silent partner is still a partner and a shareholder is responsible for his debts. But the fact remains that a shareholder is not a partner and the corporation's debts are not his. —D.E.K.
Petr Beckmann's article "The Great Plutonium Scare," [September] omits any discussion of the difficulty of decontaminating areas doused with plutonium. According to government documents, if just 4.4 pounds (two kilos) of particulate PuO2 were released in a city, everyone 1000 feet downwind could expect to get cancer, and there would be a one percent increase in the cancer rate even 40 miles downwind. A government radiological operations student's manual warns, "The ubiquitous nature of such contamination…absolutely defies description." Over eight months were needed to completely clean up a 15-gram plutonium spill at Oak Ridge in 1959, at a cost of over $100,000.
Thus terrorists would not have to build a bomb, or even steal plutonium, if they could simply disperse it into the air. Given the fact that supposedly well guarded radioactive isotopes have been stolen fairly frequently, basing our energy supply on plutonium is not an act of reason.
L. Douglas DeNike, Ph.D.
Los Angeles, CA
Dr. Beckman replies: Even if the figures were correct (which they aren't), the alleged deaths would take place between 15 and 40 years later. (By that time a one percent increase in the cancer rate, now at 16.8 percent in the United States, would require some very sophisticated statistical methods to indicate its probable cause.) Only an utterly incompetent band of terrorists would choose such a difficult and ineffective way of terrorizing.
Among the alternatives that nuclear power can eventually replace are hydroelectric dams, whose potential for terrorism leaves the anti-nuclear security advocates singularly unconcerned. It is incomparably easier to blow up such a dam, which could, in six places in the United States, cause more than 100,000 deaths each—not in 15 to 40 years, but immediately. And there are even grimmer possibilities.
Dr. DeNike's optimism of hoping that terrorists would be so laughably inept is interesting, but unrealistic. —P.B.
Dr. Beckmann's attack on the Ford Foundation's latest report was both thorough and convincing. There was only one thing wrong: since the Ford Foundation avoided the real issues, the rebuttal managed to avoid the real issues in equal measure.
The Ford Foundation accepts the government's figures for uranium reserves and resources and says, in effect, there is enough uranium for the Light Water Reactor program, so the breeder program should be delayed. Beckmann says the uranium may not last much longer than the rest of the century, but that reprocessing must be practiced and the residue of U235 in the spent fuel recycled.
The most recent ERDA estimates of uranium reserves, including ores so deficient in uranium that they are not being mined or processed now, is 780,000 short tons. A reasonable estimate of fuel consumption is that a standard 1000 Megawatt reactor (without recycle or mixed plutonium oxide fuel) will require approximately 230 s.t./yr. Thus if all the reserves are found and utilized (unlikely), fuel sufficient to supply 3,400 reactors for one year is potentially available. If each unit has a 40-year lifetime, the maximum number to be built should not exceed 85. If you want to use a 30-year economic life, then the number increases to about 115 standard units.
The important datum, ignored both by the Report and by Dr. Beckmann, is that by the end of 1982 the higher of these two numbers will represent the plants in being. The lower number will be reached by 1980. Moreover, all of the generating stations that go on line in 1982 are already under construction! Thus all of the domestic reserves have been spoken for and any nuclear fueled station that goes on line after 1982 (and some of these are in the early stages of construction) will not have any source of domestic uranium in view! We would do better to resume building electric generating stations predicated on the use of natural gas! So the first step in a rational energy policy (besides decontrol of oil and gas) would be to call a halt to the construction of any light water reactor scheduled to go on line after 1983.
As to the breeder reactor, Dr. Beckmann's arguments, while necessary, are insufficient. Breeder technology is far from proven. The materials problems, in large part, are unsolved. We don't know the long-term alterations that will be produced on the materials of which the LMFBR's will be built, changes produced by prolonged exposure to high densities of neutron flux. Theoretically, the breeder reactor may be as important as Dr. Beckmann asserts. But this implies that a breeding ratio of more than unity will be produced—so that more fuel will be produced (after reprocessing) than was consumed. So far there has been no data published nor have there been claims, that the French reactor, the Russian reactor, or any reactor has achieved a breeding ratio in excess of unity.
So Dr. Beckmann is urging us to put most of our expectations for electric power in future years on 1) the LWR program that lacks an adequate fuel supply and 2) a promising but unproven technology. I submit that this is an unreliable, radical procedure based mostly on theoretical physics and hope.
As to the reliability of theoretical physics in the real world of power generation, we have the repeated, public claims of ERDA officials like Douglas Bauer and others like Dr. Hans Bethe or Dr. Ralph Lapp that a LWR should produce 32 or 33 million kilowatt-hours or more per short ton of uranium. However, the testimony of NRC witnesses under oath in the Gulf States Utilities River Bend reactors hearings before the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board in 1976 placed operating data from a number of new, large, operating reactors into the record: the best fuel batches produced 22 million Kwh/s.t. as compared to the 32 million Kwh/s.t. predicted by the physicists. The poorest produced, possibly, 10 or 11 million! Theory and practice are disappointingly far apart.
The only rational conclusions to be reached are:
1) Any LWR scheduled to go on stream after 1983 should be redesigned for use of coal.
2) While experiments with breeder reactors should be continued, no reliance should be placed on the LMFBR as a serious source of electric energy in the foreseeable (20-30 years) future.
3) A little more respect for the facts, and less theoretical constructs would be most welcome from both the Ford Foundation and Dr. Beckmann.
4) The bulk of our future electric power supply will be generated by the burning of coal or there will be no electric power.
Raphael G. Kazmann
Professor of Civil Engineering
Louisiana State University
Dr. Beckman replies: Uranium reserves: ERDA's estimates go up and down with the latest fashion, but reserve prediction is basically guesswork. (The proven US oil reserves have never been more than an 11 years' supply—which is what they are now.) The real point is that a reserve never runs out; its price increases until it becomes uneconomic. Since in nuclear power generation fuel costs are a minor fraction of the total cost, it is nowhere near as sensitive to fuel prices as fossil-fired power, and can well afford another doubling of the uranium price.
Technology: The breeder is proven—in France and Russia on line, in other countries by demonstration. There has been plenty of trouble, as with all new technology, but it has almost invariably arisen in the sodium/water heat exchanger, not in the nuclear part.
Breeding ratio: The French Superphenix is designed for a breeding ratio of 1.4; the ratio is adjustable and in the presently running Phenix it is held near one because there is plenty of plutonium from orthodox reactors, and there are disincentives for producing additional plutonium for storage. But even if the breeding ratio drops to 80 percent, it is an 80 percent energy saving; the breeding ratio of coal is zero.
Discrepancy between theory and practice: If Prof. Kazmann's pessimism is justified (which I doubt), he is saying that the plutonium breeder's domestic energy supply will not last 1,000 years, but only three centuries.
Finally, my main interest in the breeder is rooted in the issue of anti-technology and de-industrialization promoted by the statist scare-mongers; a truly free economy would soon determine the optimum ratio of nuclear to coal without legislation, regimentation, or regulation, and the debate about that ratio would be entirely superfluous. —P.B.
Are Rights Natural?
The case against natural rights appearing in the September issue suffers from several flaws and errors. Goodson and Longinotti (GL) ably and swiftly demolish the general arguments for natural rights that have recently been set forth by Rand, Machan, et al., and then declare that, ergo, there are no natural (human) rights. That is like refuting a faulty proof of the Pythagorean theorem and then crying, "Aha! I have refuted trigonometry!" Nay, not at all. He has merely disproven one faulty argument, and not the basic theorem or law itself.
Then GL trot out other "problems" in natural rights theory. They say that an objective standard of morality implies that rights cannot conflict. That is false. Like gravity, rights are not fixed measurements but can be greater or lesser, stronger or weaker. A greater right can override a lesser one, just as the gravity of a large mass can overpower that of a small one, even though gravity itself is a non-arbitrary constant. Example: a woman with a baby is alone in the wilderness for a short time. Baby cries and wants to feed. Does the mother's right to control her body give her the right to refuse her breasts' milk to the infant? No, because the baby's right to live overrides the mother's right to control the products of her body.
Similar arguments can be presented for GL's "problem" of punishment. The right of self-defense can override the criminal's right to life and freedom, to some extent. The other "problems" of abortion, etc., can also be handled adequately by natural rights, given more space than allowed in a letter like this.
As GL realized, natural rights arise from a rational and objective standard of morality. GL have done a fine and needed service to the cause of libertarian philosophy in smashing the usual dubious arguments for natural rights, the line that man's nature requires or obliges him to use his reason. Nonsense! For thousands of years some men have been able to live simply by plucking the available bananas and coconuts from the trees around them—hardly a refined use of reason. Do Rand, Machan, et al. consider a lazy man's living from the land (without stealing from other men) as morally wrong? You see the problem.
Fortunately an objective, rational ethic can be derived and constructed and it has been done. All it takes is the correct premises. Unfortunately an adequate presentation of such an ethic would require more space than normally allowed in a letter. But most libertarians would agree that without such an ethic the whole concept of liberty degenerates into utilitarianism (that freedom is merely desirable), which then has to compete with arguments that socialism is desirable to some people too, and it becomes a matter for arbitrary majority vote rather than a principle of right or wrong.
If there is no objective morality, where do GL get their goals of a "creative society" "wherein men live by productivity?" Why not rather a goal of a theocratic state devoted to a certain religion, or communism? Just as physical engineering needs a science, governmental "engineering" (whether of a state or anarchistic organizations) needs an ethic to give it goals or principles of justice. You cannot generalize man from all of nature, just as you cannot generalize biology from physics blindly. Atoms do not feel pain, but animals do. Animals are neither good nor evil, but man certainly is!
Goodson and Longinotti reply: It is true that revealing the faults of a derivation does not, in itself, disprove the conclusion. If, however, application of the conclusion also leads to contradictions (as the "law" of natural rights does), the theory may properly be described as inaccurate.
Mr. Foldvary destroys the fabric of natural rights in attempting to mend it. He posits that rights can be "stronger or weaker," depending on the situation. But the principal characteristic of "natural" rights is that they depend on man's "nature" (i.e. innate characteristics), and are thus independent of external circumstances. And we find his example of the mother and infant less than persuading. In a situation of scarcity where only one can survive, why choose the infant? In fact, many animal species, including primitive humans (the Shoshoni, Australian Aborigines, Caribou Eskimo), regularly practice infanticide as a means of improving their chances for survival.
Without debating the merits of utilitarianism, or whether liberty "degenerates" into it without natural rights, it must be pointed out that the degree of psychological discomfort a truth may cause does not affect its validity. The 16th century Church maintained that the earth could not possibly go around the sun, since man's place at anywhere but the center of the universe was unthinkable.
Regarding the reason for our goals, we aspire to a productive society simply because it would benefit us most. Mr. Foldvary states that an objective ethic has been derived for natural rights, but he conveniently avoids revealing any details. If that ethic shares the assumptions of Mr. Foldvary, then it denies that man is an animal, downplays man's rational capability, and asserts that rights are variable. Maintaining that natural rights can be established on such a foundation is like saying that one can prove that an animal called a unicorn does exist, but it has no legs or horn, and is made of stone. —J.A.G. and D.M.L.
A mild admonishment to Mr. Birmingham [September] for repeating the ancient Stalinist fake that Karl Ernst burned the Reichstag in Berlin in January, 1933. Ernst's letter "confessing" to this act was fabricated by Willi Muenzenberg's Red fakery factory in Paris, and was edited in Moscow by Georgii Dimitrov, Stalin's No. 1 Comintern agent, prior to publication in 1934. I recommend Fritz Tobias's book The Reichstag Fire (1963) for a fairly recent expose of the various baths of Soviet bilge on this event to which the world was subjected, much of which has not rubbed off even now.
James J. Martin
Palmer Lake, CO
Re the September issue of REASON:
• Tibor Machan, "Smears on Liberty"
• Edith Efron, "Spotlight"
• Peter Breggin, "Why We Consent to Oppression
• Goodson and Longinotti, "Those 'Natural' Rights Aren't"
This is the beginning of the "broad world outlook" Efron speaks of. Do give us more.…
Scientific Method Illogical?
Robert Schaeffer defends his "objective scientific truth" in his essay in your August issue. Perhaps Mr. Schaeffer is aware of a refutation of the contention that the scientific method is quite illogical in that it involves committing the fallacy of asserting the consequent. If so, would he please provide me with a sorites—or at least a syllogism—demonstrating that the scientific method is logical?
John W. Robbins
Mr. Sheaffer replies: I am not quite certain that I fully understand Mr. Robbins' question; permit me to attempt to reformulate the question, and answer it as best I can. Some philosophers, chiefly those who champion Scripture over science, have contended that the scientific method is grounded upon the logical fallacy of "affirming the consequent:" i.e., a theory implies a certain observational result; the result is duly observed; our fallacious conclusion is that the theory is true. (Syllogistically: A implies B; B; therefore A.) This is indeed a formal logical fallacy.
It does not, however, describe or in any way pertain to the scientific method, which is empirical, not analytic, in its foundation. This is the distinction between science and mathematics. The theories of science do not lay claim to absolute certainty, as do the theorems of mathematics: if they did, Mr. Robbins' criticism would indeed be valid. No scientific theory ever achieves the status of fixed and unalterable truth. Newton stands in danger of being refuted every time an apple works itself loose from its tree. It is widely believed, however, that the probability of such an event is vanishingly small.
Mr. Robbins' request to see syllogistic proof "that the scientific method is logical" is of course based upon this misunderstanding: the confusion of logical proof with empirical deduction. One cannot prove syllogistically that the sun will rise tomorrow. The scientific method is a self-correcting process which has shown itself capable of successively more accurate approximations to the universe of observed phenomena. It is nothing other than the free market for ideas. If anyone has discovered a more reliable means of obtaining public knowledge about the objective universe in which we all must live, I should be most interested to know about it. —R.S.
Mr. Robert Sheaffer stated that the active debunkers of "pseudo-science" are for the most part amateurs and almost none of them professional scientists. As a point of information to your readers a group called the ZETETIC was formed to "investigate" (debunk) the pseudoscience prevalent today. Among members are Isaac Asimov and B.F. Skinner. (Wouldn't it be nice to have a debate between Koestler and Skinner on this subject in REASON.) The Zetetic's address: The Zetetic, 923 Kensington Ave., Buffalo, NY.
San Francisco, CA
In examining the tools available to build freedom, I find that most members of Libertarian groups are unable and unwilling to go out and speak their thoughts. Since we get little space in the media, and need to find and influence thousands who can be reached by voice, refusing to learn to speak effectively is a form of cowardice and treason.
How do you qualify yourself in a relatively short time to go out and speak, to be heard and understood? You join Toastmasters. It is an international organization in which members in clubs provide audiences in order to practice on each other. They follow organized programs that build their competence, yet the most important single thing is practice, evaluated by your peers. Numerous Dale Carnegie graduates join TM just to be able to practice, once they've gotten the treatment in theory.
Remember that all the great men of history got there by word of mouth, their own. Until you can be heard effectively, your life is wasted. If you are faced by fear, these clubs have simple ways to overcome it, so go, and let them handle the rest.
Freedom depends on what each of us does. If most of us sit home and keep our mouths shut, we won't be very effective. Take over Toastmasters, and step out into the ranks of the verbal warriors. We need every voice we can get.
Thomas S. Booz
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".