Need for Proof
While the article on the saccharin ban by David Levy (October) was highly informative with regard to the methodology of cancer research, it should have pursued the question further. Levy argues (correctly I might add) that the conclusion of the saccharin study is fallacious because the pigs are assumed to have wings. However rather than argue whether the pigs' wings are real or merely paper (i.e. poor methodology), we should argue the existence of the wings. I have seen no evidence for wings—real or paper. Science (July 22, 1977, p. 320) prints a table of the results of the Canadian study. Although the table is incomplete (it fails to mention the number of animals with no tumors), it does, nevertheless, strongly suggest no statistical significance between the control and experimental animals. May I suggest we quit arguing whether the wings are real or paper, and demand to see the complete data and the statistical tests employed to analyze this data.
Furthermore, I should like to know why the scientific community has been so silent with regard to the statistics involved. The table in Science was printed in July and as yet (Oct. 31, 1977) I have seen no letters to Science questioning the statistical results of the experiment.
John T. Loftus
Witch Doctors, Revisited
Jeffrey St. John's insight into the evils of government regulated socialized medical care ("Washington Witch Doctors," October) is equalled by his ignorance of so-called witch doctors. If he took the time to investigate those priest/doctors who deal with their patient's minds and/or spirits as well as their physical beings, I'm sure he would find more allies for his anti-socialism cause than he can find in his homeland per capita.
I have devoted years to the study of "witch doctors" and their methods, their beliefs, and how they apply them. Jeffrey St. John's statement that witch doctors derive their power from "this triple role" (physician, magician and priest) is simply untrue. Nor is it accurate to say, "In a primitive society, treatment by the witch doctors results in a high mortality rate." I realize that most Westerners think that this is the case, but this is because Western scholars have "objective" evidence rather than firsthand experience of the subject. Even Mr. St. John must realize that Western scholars find what they look for and usually look for what they are expected by their peers and financial backers to find.
In Bahia, Brazil—nicknamed "Voodoo Rome"—you do not pay a "witch doctor" (Macumbero) unless you have evidence that his services have improved you, and then you pay him what you think he is worth balanced off by what you can afford. Certainly such an arrangement is far more libertarian than the traditional AMA doctor-patient arrangement, socialized or otherwise.
No so-called witch doctor I ever encountered held power by his role. Rather, his power is derived from his demonstrated ability to heal sickness and end misfortune. Anyone can set up shop as a "witch doctor" in such countries as Haiti and Brazil, but only those with proven abilities can make a living.
Mr. St. John's otherwise fine article is marred by his ignorance of "witch doctors," their powers and methods. His notions of what "witch doctors" are derive from a culture which went to extraordinary lengths to stamp out paganism, both in pre-Christianized Europe and in other parts of the world. In fact many modern Houngons, Macumberos, Shangoists, Santeros, etc., share the libertarian ideals.
Santa Barbara, CA
Response to Anita Bryant
I'd like to thank Anita Bryant [Letters, December] for pointing out the obvious oversight of my article ["A Day Without Property Rights Is Like a Day without Sunshine," September]. I failed to report that the proposed Dade County ordinance would have affected all private (including religious) schools had it survived the referendum. The reason the ordinance did not include public schools is that the Dade County Metropolitan Commission has jurisdiction only over the county; the public school system in Florida is governed on the state level.
As I pointed out in my article, had the ordinance passed, it would have certainly been a violation of the property, association, as well as the religious rights of all the citizens of Dade County, gay and non-gay alike.
Bryant's closing paragraph in effect says that while she does not morally sanction homosexual acts nor want gay individuals as role models for her children, she does not think anyone should dictate to homosexuals what they can or cannot do in the privacy of their bedrooms.
This being the case, I invite Ms. Bryant to join with me in the campaign to repeal the laws that presently exist in Florida making it a felony to engage in certain types of private, consensual sexual behavior on the part of homosexuals, bisexuals, and heterosexuals. Such an effort would be an opportunity both to clear up the impression given by her previous campaign that she wished to make use of the government to outlaw the existence of homosexuals, and also to extend to all of the people in Florida the freedom to choose their own personal life-styles (as morally reprehensible as she may personally find them to be).
As a homosexual, I have attempted to remain rational and consistent throughout the Dade County controversy by supporting the repeal of the Metropolitan Commission's attempt to obfuscate the rights of its citizens. Will Ms. Bryant also be consistent with her professed belief that it is none of anyone's business what people do in their bedrooms?
Los Angeles, CA
Petr Beckmann is the answer to the "energy crisis"! I enjoyed the two articles by him I have read in REASON. I hope you will continue to consult him on matters relating to the "energy crisis" and I hope to see his articles often in the future.
Richard L. Craig
I can't believe Murray Rothbard's recent attack on REASON re: Michael Keerma's article on Quebec (July). If anything, I found Keerma's article to be a model of restraint. All I can say is that it's a good thing I didn't write that report or poor Murray would have had a cardiac arrest.
The truth of the matter is that Quebec separation does not represent the decentralization of power that many foreign observers tend to view it as, but to the contrary a concentration of state power. We are witnessing the birth of an oppressive neo-nazi regime. Yes, nazi is the proper adjective—fanatically nationalistic, racist and socialist (hardly cause for rejoicing amongst libertarians).
Levesque has already indicated his intent to nationalize the insurance industries and financial institutions, not to mention the press and electronic media. Moreover, his extensive legislation, all aimed at promoting the supremacy of the French people, has resulted in a mass exodus of English and non-French Canadian immigrants out of the province to Ontario.
If the demagogues have their way this situation may well degenerate into a Northern Ireland type conflict…sorry fella—no libertarian enclave but another Cuba—pity.
At last, Joe Paul Barnett (Letters, November) presents the strongest argument for isolationism—that the threat of Soviet aggression is real, but isolationism is our best defense. I'd like to mention these additional points:
1) Most US foreign commitments lessen US security rather than strengthen it. Our main threat is from Soviet strategic nuclear weapons and the primary defense against them is US strategic nuclear weapons, mostly US based. Conventional US forces stationed overseas do not add anything to our security. In fact, they weaken our strategic position in two ways: they are a drain on US resources that could better be used for other purposes, and they threaten to involve the US in purely local conflicts that are no threat to US interests, as in Vietnam and Korea.
2) There is a fine libertarian principle that those who benefit from a service should be the ones who pay for it. So how can we justify asking US taxpayers to pay for the defense of Europeans and others? We've picked up the tab long enough. It's too much to expect them to pay for our defense for a while, but at least it's long past time that they started to pay their own bills. Our allies are no longer the bombed out paupers they were in the late 1940's; many are just about as wealthy as the United States. While some might argue for giving alms to the poor, it's ludicrous for us to be making charitable contributions to the rich.
3) Lately, we hear a lot about how hard it is for some US industries to meet the competition of foreign goods from Japan, Germany, and elsewhere. Their competitive advantage arises, in part, from the United States paying for their defense. The United States is rather like a businessman who, for some peculiar reason, pays some of his competitor's costs, and then gets upset because his competitor is able to undersell him. If Japan and other allies had to pay for their own defense, which would probably mean they would want to develop their own nuclear arsenal, they would have to increase taxes on their industry, which would increase its costs. Meanwhile, US defense costs would decline by the amount we save by not paying for these other nations' defense, and tax relief could be passed on to US industry. Their costs would rise, ours would decline. The competitive position of US industry would be improved and there would be no need for government interference with free trade.
It is slightly astounding to read Professor Rummel's inept reply to Danny Shapiro's critical letter [October]. I say this for several reasons:
First, Rummel declares the issue to be "libertarian freedoms versus absolute subjugation to the state. Diametrically opposed ideologies are confronting each other.…" It can hardly be said that the American government of the past decade has been on friendly terms with libertarian freedoms…or that there are any ultimate differences between the likes of Carter and the likes of Breszhnev. It is only an issue of which will get us first: the White House or the Kremlin? Time after time in the history of this country, the government has used the issue of national security as a lever for the expansion of its own control.
Second, it is just as much nonsense for Rummel to bleed over the prospective fate of "those whose freedoms are threatened by communist aggression or subversion." It was my experience to attend a large university whose student body included many foreign students, from Taiwan, Iran, the Philippines, Vietnam, etc. The highest point of their political conscience was opposed to the brutally severe repression of their own "anticommunist" governments.
Third, Rummel's policy boils down to "War is inevitable, so let's fight it sooner when we can win, rather than later when we would lose." In other words, he has no appreciation for the fact that there are other ways to contend with the Soviets: espionage, assassination, sabotage, economic sanctions, and sophisticated propaganda. Time and time again, the Soviet dissidents have proclaimed the presence of a volatile reformatory movement in the Soviet Union, given international encouragement.
Fourth, Rummel entirely evades Shapiro's criticism of atomic weapons as weapons of mass murder—which they are, unquestionably, so long as we speak in terms of nuclear retaliative strikes. Provided we give up the development of ICBM's in favor of a highly-advanced ABM and satellite-observations system, there would be no threat involved in abolishing nuclear weapons from national armories.
Fifth, Rummel does not understand that the Soviet government is no more revolutionary in psychology than our own government. The Soviets are realists who do not believe in leaving anything to chance—and who are slightly paranoid about foreign invaders, given their history. They are perfectly willing to wait however long it takes for the US government to drop into their hands like a ripe plum, hastening the process by an occasional display of fangs and claws. We may need to tangle with them, but the most likely prospect is in the course of a terribly severe conventional war. Imminent nuclear destruction is too insane a policy for the Soviets to follow, even.
And, as Mark Tier points out, the most effective strategy of all would be for a liberated United States to align the world economy with laissez-faire. With the economic strength of freedom, any people will have greater industrial and moral strength to defend themselves. This point Rummel relegates to a side issue.
In fairness to Rummel, libertarians should have no illusions about the very serious need to keep our powder dry, as it were. Peace is best guarded by those who can win the swiftest fight. Unfortunately, we can never be secure from the threat of tyranny, unless we are first secure in our own lands and people.
There has been considerable negative comment among the rank and file regarding your ad in the November issue for NLW featuring the nude of Wendy McElroy.
Many seemed to think it was in poor taste. But I don't suppose you were promoting cannibalism.
One person thought it was profoundly sexist. I don't know. Given the dead look in her eyes, I would say you've done a "reasonable" job of stimulating the necrophiliacs.
And while the advertising revenues must have been welcome, in the not-too-distant future, I'll wager that your business acumen will prove to be as lacking as your ability to establish standards and maintain intellectual integrity in philosophical and political areas.
Allow me to take this opportunity to add an outraged male voice to the feminist protests you have no doubt received as a result of the New Libertarian Weekly ad.
In a magazine which purports to uphold the ideals of human freedom and dignity which are the foundation of the libertarian movement, it seems totally inappropriate to find such a blatant example of mass-media sexism. I think highly enough of REASON to write this one off to grossly poor judgment. As for New Libertarian Enterprises, I feel a formal retraction/apology for their ad is in order.
San Jose, CA
An error was made in typesetting my review, "Marxism Uber Alles (November). On page 35, left side, it reads: "My answer is that if one believes that change does not mean progress, one does not have a moral guise for the hatred and aggression that have been channeled against existing society that results from a secularized morality." I had said: "My answer is that if one believes that change does not mean progress, one does not have a moral guise for the hatred and aggression that have been channeled against existing society since the Enlightenment. On the other hand, if one believes progress results from change, there is a legitimate outlet for the natural aggression against existing society that results from a secularized morality."
Thanks for bringing this correction to the attention of your readers.
Love of Liberty
In the July issue of Libertarian Forum, Murray Rothbard has let forth with a ringing pronouncement that the "key question" of the day is whether or not one hates the State.
Those libertarians whose writings do not seethe with anti-Statist rhetoric are belittled as "amoralist utilitarians" and "plonky conservatives," while such quasi-libertarians as Mike Royko and Nicholas Von Hoffman are lauded for their "pervasive hatred of the State, of all politicians, bureaucrats, and their clients."
I understand what Murray is trying to say. It is that the degree of passion one shows in one's commitment to "the cause" is more important than which side of an ideological hairline one cleaves to.
So far, so good. It is not surprising that Murray should take the side of the ravers—and I mean this with no disrespect, being one myself a fair portion of the time—but I feel that several of his contentions are misplaced.
More specifically, I will submit that the touchstone which distinguishes the True Brethren (and Sistren) from the amoralists and plonks is not hatred of the State, but love of liberty. And this is not as trivial a difference as it might seem.
In a way, it seems odd that I should have to point this out. Our "movement," after all, is identified—by us and by others—as Libertarian (pro-liberty), and not simply as anti-State. The reason for this is that there are lots of anti-Statists in the world (e.g. Royko, Von Hoffman, et. al.) and not all of them share our goals—even in a general sense.
The communists, when they are out of power, are self-proclaimed anti-statists; they will rant as passionately as any libertarian about causing the State to "wither away." But that doesn't mean that they are our philosophical soulmates. The same point can be made about leaders of religious sects in communist-ruled countries, certain black militants, and a whole panoply of bomb-throwers and hijackers. All may use antistatist rhetoric—and they may even be sincere in their hatred for the State, at least in its present form. But that doesn't mean that they're our comrades in the battle for individual liberty. We must not fall into the trap of valuing rhetoric over philosophy.
Hopefully, I have made my point. It may seem like nit-picking to some, but it is my firm belief that our success in the marketplace of ideas will depend largely on how we package our product. And it is to this end that I have made these observations.
David F. Nolan
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".