Panama and Force
It seems to me all the writers of your "Great Canal Debate" [January] missed the main point. If libertarianism means anything, it means the renunciation of force, except in self-defense.
No reasonable person would deny we took the Canal Zone by force (or at least, the threat of force). We can maintain it only by increasing use of force; unless the natives are given their proper share in its operation. Growing violence, damage and expense are what we can expect if we do not renounce our authoritarian and meddlesome view. The arguments of those who claim it will be used to attack us are ridiculous. President Kennedy proved that in the case of Cuba.
Liberty is growing in the world. You can't stop it by hypothetical arguments.
John E. Erb
The editor replies: If libertarianism means anything, Mr. Erb, it means that only individuals can be held accountable for actions, not collectives. "We" did not take (or buy) anything in Panama—or at least I didn't. And it's not at all clear what you mean by giving the natives "their proper share," if Mr. Ernsberger is correct in stating 99 percent of the land was unowned at the time the Canal was built.—R.P.
I found Don Ernsberger's article on the Panama Canal (January] quite edifying.
Ernsberger believes that the moral owners of the Canal are American taxpayers, and of course he is right. He therefore concludes that because of this, "defense of absolute American control over the canal is a necessity." Now, I did not know that US government control of property was the best way to ensure taxpayer ownership. I always thought the last thing taxpayers really owned was government property. However, Ernsberger's patriotic fervor was infectious; I am now convinced that "the interests of the true owners would best be served by control remaining in the hands of the US government.
So stimulating was this new-found faith in "America" that I immediately sought to extend the principle. The United States, I thought, has spent billions of dollars of taxpayers' money defending and revitalizing European governments. While some Rothbardian cranks may suggest ending our involvement there, don't our taxpayers have a property right in Europe? After all, these taxpayers "shouldered the costs" of the Marshall Plan and World War II in exactly the same way they paid for the Canal. Obviously, to borrow Ernsberger's ringing phrase, "absolute American control over Europe is a necessity."
But let's not stop there. Just think of all the puppet governments in Asia, South America, and Africa that simply would not exist without tax money from the United States! Think of all the roads they built, the dams they constructed—all with our money. Surely, the "interests of the true owners" of that money would best be served by us political and military control of foreign governments! Today Panama, tomorrow the world! We will never get our money's worth if we turn control over to local dictators.
And, if military defense of the Canal—or the rest of the world—against the unjust demands of its inhabitants costs five times our initial coerced investment there, so what? Defense of individual rights is at stake.
Ernsberger's article is a caricature of libertarian theory. With "property rights" theorists like this, who needs socialists?
In "Panama: The Great Canal Debate" [January], writers Don Ernsberger, William Marina, Craig Roberts, and Hans F. Sennholz all ignore the most compelling reason of all for nonratification of the proposed canal treaties, i.e., the economics and consequence thereof on us the taxpayers of the United States.
The treaties call for an annual increase of from two or three million dollars to something over seventy million plus an outright gift of property, supplies, and in-place improvements worth billions. This will not benefit the Panamanian people. Even those who are presently employees of the Canal Company would likely suffer wage reductions. Dictator Omar Torrijos will use this money to pay off foreign bankers who have made unsecured loans in the past.
Nowhere do the aforementioned writers give us facts such as that Panama owes $2.7 billion to fifty-one international banks, debt service alone amounting to 40 percent of Panama's annual budget. This money simply cannot be paid back by a near-bankrupt government without help of the US taxpayer. So, the issue is nothing more than a scheme to repay bad loans and bail out the bankers at our expense.
All too frequently of late we learn that loan officers have made unsecured loans to numerous nations with the expectation that if there is a default all they have to do is start a propaganda campaign to get sufficient sentiment and popular support to have the parent government bail them out. Only as recently as the first week of this year, NBC TV News reported while President Carter was in Poland, that that nation was badly overextended in loans to international bankers and would beg for a bailout from, guess who! American taxpayers, of course.
How these bankers operate and gain covert control of nations is well explained by Count Egon Caesar Corti in his book The Rise of the House of Rothschild. I do not imply that the Rothschilds are presently alone in this game or even at the roots of it. I simply say that bankers today are using the identical formula as was used by the bankers of Europe at least as far back as the 19th century. Since national entities are unable to put up collateral, the bankers will gladly make unsecured loans for a partnership status in running the country, the effect of which is to "stabilize" the ruling regime (which is usually a left-wing or right-wing dictatorship already) and bleed the populace of the products of their labor.
Duron L. Smith
It's hard to go against Dr. Szasz's brilliant reasoning ["Drug Prohibition," January] but how do you treat the shifting of the economic consequences of a self-chosen lifestyle onto someone else?
The smoker, drinker and junkie create societal costs even if we abolished the bureaucracies who deal with them. Medical costs are very high yet when you look at the people who disproportionately "load up" the system you will find cigarette induced cardio-vascular problems. A drunken driver drives up insurance costs. Emergency wards are full of people stabbed and shot in dope quarrels and so on. Ditto with large families (many politicians have large families you will note). They create costs in real money shifted on to others.
Step two would be to find some way to separate the "public welfare" definition of tax disbursements and let each lifestyle devotee pay for the economic consequences of his preferences.
Pacific Palisades, CA
The editor replies: The fundamental choice is between individual liberty—with its attendant social and economic "costs"—and an all-powerful State. As Mr. Charney correctly points out, if drugs can be prohibited because some people will use them irresponsibly, sex must also be prohibited because some people will have more children than they can responsibly afford to raise. Freedom isn't "free," to repeat an old cliche. —R.P.
Your December mention of the Packwood-Moynihan bill for providing massive federal aid to parochial and private elementary and secondary schools, as well as to colleges of all sorts, through tuition reimbursement grants and income tax credits, failed to mention certain problems with this proposed legislation.
First of all, as applied to sectarian elementary and secondary schools, the bill is clearly unconstitutional, as the Supreme Court ruled in a New York case in 1973. The Supreme Court has consistently held that government may not provide financial support for denominational elementary and secondary schools, even indirectly under the so-called "child benefit theory."
Secondly, the Packwood-Moynihan bill, by providing federal subsidies for the proliferation of ideology oriented private schools, would in the long run undermine economies of scale in education, rendering education less efficient and more costly.
Further, the Packwood-Moynihan bill would stimulate fragmentation of education along sectarian, ideological, class, ethnic, and other lines. The resulting strains on the fabric of our society would be disastrous.
The country needs the Packwood-Moynihan bill the way Northern Ireland needs another religious civil war.
Educational Relations Director
Americans United for Separation of Church and State
Silver Spring, MD
The editor replies: Mr. Doerr errs in describing the Packwood-Moynihan bill as providing grants and subsidies to schools. It does no such thing! It provides tax relief to people who utilize private schools—an entirely different action, and one that is highly likely to be found constitutional. If the diversity produced by free competition among schools is "fragmentation" and "strains," then let's hear it for fragmentation and strains. Nobody seems to complain about such fragmentation in the food or clothing business. —R.P.
Assuming no one had reason to be interested in the American Liberty League at this time, I was surprised to see the article by David A. Pietrusza in your January issue.
I was considerably interested in the challenge of the League at the time of its activities, and still retain several of its pamphlets. Not only was the League correct in its warning of departure from basic American principles, but we are reaping the harvest today in our present chaos.
Why its demise? Mr. Pietrusza evidences only the political surface. Today we have the long range manipulation and motivation of events. While not directly bearing on discrediting the League, these go back to 1897 when Andrew Carnegie advised his fellow capitalists to adopt the socialist philosophy in their interest. Which has had the ramifications of a penetrating evolution of corporate global economic exploitation, and a multi-corporate empire, in which the entity of the United States and free enterprise, its philosophy, mean nothing. The citizen today has no party, no defense, to rectify the political "sellout" in the evolutionary decline in intellect, education, literature, law, and morality.
AMA and the State
In the January Trends you gleefully pull the tail of the AMA, seemingly starting with the premise that anything they are for, we must be against. They are against physician advertising: so we should be for it.
To document their evil-doing, you report that they encourage strict admissions to medical schools. Of course they do! And so do I. And, probably, so do you. Or would you prefer to have your operation done by Denny Dimwit?
You also charge that they support strict licensing requirements. Well, what's the alternative? Supporting lax requirements, or none at all? A license may not be a guarantee of excellence, but at least it is an impartial attempt to establish competency.
I object most strenuously to your use of cant jargon like "cartelize the industry." What in blazes are you talking about? This semantic smog, generally arising from some federal bureaucrat, tries to obscure the fact that medicine is a profession, not an industry.
And your charge that the AMA is "thoroughly in league with the State" is the most vapid of arguments. If they are so cozy, why are they getting sued in federal court?
Advertising is an expense. It may be justified if it allows a business to sell more products, and thus operate at a smaller margin of profit. But it is just here that it is important to remember that medicine is not a business, not an industry, not a cartel. Even if the doctor's service is seen as analogous to a product, most doctors are not in a position to supply very much more of that service/product. Advertising will not create more doctors, nor more time, nor more expertise, nor more caring about patients. In a word, it is not going to produce better health care.
And if you think it is going to produce cheaper health care, your so-called "victory for the free market," then I, and perhaps other readers, would like to know how this is going to happen.
Will housewives search for physicians like they shop the weekly produce specials, going to this doctor/supermarket this week and another the next? Commercials nowadays not only boost their own products, but run down the competition. Is that where it's at?
Do you, dear friend—you, personally—believe what you hear and read in commercial advertising? Just tell us how that garbage is going to reduce costs and achieve that great victory in the free market.
Finally, if you believe that there should be more doctors, I suggest that this is a further argument, not related to the FTC action. And I further suggest that it would encourage more bright, young people to go into medicine if you could get the government out of it.
James McNeese, M.D.
La Grange, IL
The editor replies: The efforts of the AMA to enforce, by law, their version of medical orthodoxy must be objectionable to defenders of freedom, even if the motivations of many of its members are benevolent. If we are to have a free society, chiropractors, osteopaths, holistic healers, midwives, and shamans must all be allowed the freedom to practice—so long as they do not defraud their customers by making false claims. The AMA has every right to set high standards for medical schools that choose to accept them—but not to use the law to shut down all other schools. Likewise, the AMA may expel members who violate its own rules by advertising, but has no business getting those rules enacted into laws. The only way to find out whether advertising will lead to lower average costs for medical care (as it does in virtually every other business, including the provision of eyeglasses and dentures) is to allow the market to operate and see what happens.—R.P.
Son of One
The revised Criminal Code Reform Act of 1977 (SB 1437) recently passed in the US Senate. This legislation is no great improvement over last year's outrageous SB 1. Legislators have nicknamed it "Son of One" for good reason. In theory the bill is a reorganization and clarification of existing federal laws, but in reality the range of possible offenses and causes for being apprehended have been greatly expanded.
From my analysis, the most crucial part of 1437 is Subchapter B of Chapter 36: "Offenders with Mental Disease or Defect," for a person accused of any of the misdemeanors or felonies defined elsewhere in the bill could be classified as just such an offender, and thus be subject to its provisions. Moreover, the term "alleged" has been omitted from a connection with the word "offender" in both the title and the body of this subchapter, thereby effectually negating the concept of presumption of innocence. Subchapter B is actually a rewriting of Chapter 13, section 4244 et seq., "Mental Defectives," of the present US Code, mandating not only care and custody, but treatment at virtually all stages of incarceration.
The opening section §3611, deals with "Determination of Mental Competency to Stand Trial." As in the present US Code, no punches are pulled. The "attorney for the government" may, at any point in the trial up to the time of sentencing, file a motion that the defendant undergo what might be termed a "competency hearing," if he appears to be "suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent…to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist in his defense."
If the court grants the motion (do you think it wouldn't?), the defendant may be held up to 45 days for observation prior to the hearing. At the hearing itself he is to be represented by counsel, may subpoena witnesses on his behalf, and confront and cross-examine witnesses. It seems strange that he is permitted these rights to prove his competency to stand trial, while he is being denied the right to a trial itself. It would appear that he must prove himself innocent of two charges: that of the actual crime, and that of insanity. Since failure in either case results in confinement, I regard both as charges.
If the defendant "fails" the hearing, with the judge deciding he may not stand trial, he is committed to the tender custody of the Attorney General who shall hospitalize him for treatment in what is termed a "suitable facility." There he must remain up to four months, with a possible two month extension, if more treatment is deemed necessary. At the end of six months, if he has not "improved," he may be recommitted for an indefinite period until the director of the "facility" says he may stand trial, or his release in any case will not pose a serious threat to the body or property of another person. Now that is not why he was hospitalized in the first place. It was because he was judged to be unable to understand trial proceedings. Potential dangerousness was not an issue. Suddenly it is.
A few legalistic placebos have been prescribed as amendments to placate those people who still express concern about such old-fashioned notions as individual liberties, and who actually believe that the right to a fair trial, with the defendant presumed innocent until proven guilty, is of far greater value than the "right to treatment." According to §3616-j, there will be regulations governing the use of psychosurgery, electric shock treatment, and drug treatment. "…no such procedures shall be permitted without the informed consent of the person, or [and here's the catch] if such consent is not possible the informed consent of a guardian or other person appointed to represent the interests of the person committed…" Now wait a minute—just who is to determine whether a person is able to give "informed consent?" It doesn't say. Presumably it will be some impartial party such as a state psychiatrist or the director of the "suitable facility."
Bear in mind that all this confinement and treatment can apply to those not even tried and convicted. It is worse yet for those who are tried, but found "not guilty by reason of insanity." They may be held indefinitely, with fewer hearings and reviews, far beyond the limit of the original sentence.
SB 1437 in entirety is a mare's nest of laws, new legal concepts and categories, with vast powers given to the federal government. But even if it were not, if it were simply the codification of existing laws, Chapter 36, Subheading B alone would justify its defeat. A strong central state is bad enough—but a therapeutic one is and will be unbearable.
Sarah E. Foster
Sherman Oaks, CA
Dr. Szasz makes some excellent points in "Drug Prohibition" [January] but unfortunately he makes a statement that supports one of the persistent myths concerning drugs. He states that it is possible for narcotics to cause death by deliberate suicide and accidental overdose. This supports the popular belief that people die of heroin overdose.
The Consumers Union book Licit and Illicit Drugs devotes a chapter to the heroin overdose question. Their conclusion is that probably none of the deaths attributed to overdose were in fact caused by overdose.
Most "overdose" deaths are characterized by massive pulmonary edema—liquid in the lungs. This is caused by a combination of ingredients. Alcohol in the bloodstream, plus an injection of morphine or heroin does it. Barbiturates plus a "fix" is a lethal combination. Other combinations are probable.
This information has been medical knowledge for years. It has been kept secret by the popular media, and by continued use of "overdose" in the press and on death certificates. How many people have died unnecessarily?
If I might combine the Woody Jenkins [December] and Michael Emerling views, it would seem that the libertarians should subdivide into three groups: one left; one right and one pure. The left wing should be captained by Jenkins. The right wing should have a convention and select a leader. The fuselage is in good hands.
"Cross dressing" (turn coat?) and infiltration (fifth columnization) may seem like dirty business but until the body politic withers away, we must use all semantic means available to undermine the popular myths of the masses. Everyone has been mislabeled Republicans and Democrats as well as politicians who change their stripes while in office. I believe Senator Goldwater is wrong in his view that all Republicans should be elected to office regardless of their views and/or record and then worked on after they hold office. I would suggest the opposite as more reasonable. That is, each philosophy should find cohorts and fellow travelers of any stripe who are electable (or already in office). Once elected these libertarians-at-heart should be kept on the straight and true libertarian path.
In politics, if a race is being fought between a socialist Democrat, a socialist Republican, a socialist Communist, a socialist Liberal, and a socialist Socialist all of whom are opposed by a libertarian-Libertarian, the socialist philosophy (even if all other factors are equal) has a five-sixths chance of winning.
Santa Barbara, CA
Shortage vs. Surplus
In the October "Trends," the explanation of the effects of minimum wage laws was backwards.
You reported, "Economists have long pointed out that laws requiring payment of a minimum wage are another form of price control, and therefore produce the expected consequences: shortages…a minimum price for labor creates a shortage of jobs.…"
True, minimum wage laws are a form of price control and we should expect like consequences. But contrary to your remarks, price controls cause either shortages or surpluses: a price fixed below the free market (maximum price) creates a shortage, and a price fixed above the free market (minimum price) creates a surplus. Minimum wages are a form of the latter.
Minimum wage laws fix labor prices above the free market rate. Hence, a surplus of labor results for which there is no demand. Minimum wages don't create a shortage of jobs. There is always work to be done! They create a surplus of labor which is priced out of the labor market.
No doubt all of this is quite obvious to you now that you are reminded of it. I just couldn't let this one slip by.
CORRECTION: The editors wish to apologize for and clear the record on several errors in Professor Yeager's book review in the February issue. On page 44, column 3, line 43, circulatory should be circularity; on page 45, column 1, last line, and column 2, line 7, complimentary and complimentarity should be complementary and complementarity. In addition, the sentence "But this is a rather epigrammatic and easily refuted statement" (page 45, column 1, lines 22-24) was inserted by the editors and should not be attributed to the author of the review.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".