Non-zoning Opportunities

As a native Texan and two year resident of Houston, I was very happy to see your article on our fair, non-zoned city [February]. I moved to Houston for various reasons and zoning was not a consideration. Being indoctrinated by growing up in a zoned city, I had no idea that a city could survive without zoning. It took only a short time to realize the amount of freedom that is afforded the resident of Houston compared to a resident of my former home city.

My partner and I have always dreamed of owning a bookstore, but never had enough money to invest in it. We now own a bookstore, mainly because of non-zoned Houston. The store is in the front room of our house and by placing it there we saved the huge costs of finding commercial property, not to mention utilities, that would have been necessary in our former home city. Our store is doing well and numerous customers tell us how much they like shopping in a small business such as ours compared to a corporate store where they feel no response from a corporation to their individuality. Houston provides us with a choice. With no zoning Houston helps encourage small businesses and their growth, which I believe is a strong factor in Houston's amazing and continuing economic growth. Houston also creates an atmosphere where major corporations and small businesses can live side by side and compete fairly with the consumer deciding where he wants to shop, not the city planners.

My partner and I are by no means well-off. We are lower to middle income people who work an average of 11 hours a day at outside jobs and our store in order to shape our future. And we love doing it. But only in Houston were we able to have this opportunity.

Ken Cyr
Houston, TX

Zoning and Speculators

Three cheers for Houston ["Houston Defies the Planners…and Thrives" February] and its non-use of zoning. I just know it has to be a dynamic, creative city.

I have always considered zoning a program of legitimizing what already has made obvious economic sense, and that is why cities always have to make new general plans every few years. Zoning doesn't really control anything, but it does make certain people richer when they can get the zoning changed when they happen to own the property in question. As soon as the density or use is increased, the land value climbs overnight, and often those who are selling the changed zoning also have a vested interest in getting the change made on their schedule.

I'm a firm believer that land speculation is detrimental to society in general, and cities in particular; zoning is a speculator's tool. It takes from the society without the concomitant productivity, and a natural inflation force continues unabated.

Clay Berling
Berkeley, CA

Weapons Choices

Robert Poole's editorial "Weapons Choice and Lesser Evils" [January] concerning the neutron bomb is a valuable contribution to better understanding of what a proper libertarian defense policy should be.

Poole's clear, factual, and logical presentation contrasts sharply with the nonsense cited by Bill Birmingham in "Brickbats" (same issue). Birmingham quotes Council on Foreign Relations fellow Alton Frye who advocates purchasing "conventional munitions" instead of neutron bombs. Birmingham then makes the incredible assertion that conventional weapons "wouldn't harm civilian lives or property." Where has Birmingham been? The fact is "conventional" munitions kill just as dead and can eliminate property just the same as unconventional ones. Surely, there must be some vet he knows from Nam or Korea or someplace who could explain the killing power and destructiveness of non-nuclear devices. Or maybe he could be persuaded to watch some old war movies!

And just who will be the ones to man and pay for the people required to effectively launch the "100,000 precision-guided conventional munitions" he seems to prefer to neutron warheads? Do we reinstitute the draft to provide the tens of thousands of missile crewmen and technicians in the field and the hundreds of thousands of support personnel required? Or do we just pass out one "conventional munition" per family living along the Iron Curtain to fight off the 27,200 communist main battle tanks now facing them? (Also add twice that number of other armored fighting vehicles and self-propelled artillery under Red control in Europe.)

Unfortunately, Birmingham's ignorance of military affairs is not unique but rather endemic among libertarians. I for one am sick and tired of knee-jerk liberals, congenital idiots, and one-dimensional libertarian pseudo-intellectuals masquerading as authorities on matters they know nothing about and have no willingness to investigate.

If Birmingham does not fit into any of the above mentioned categories, then he should read more of Bob Poole's editorials and less CFR-New York Times crap.

Tony Haenni
State Chairman
LP of Missouri

Vital Question

I thought the interview with William Simon [February] was excellent. If he's sold all his stocks, it would be interesting, helpful, and perhaps vital guidance to know where a man of his experience and perception reinvested his money.

Earl Asbury
Colorado Springs, CO

The editor replies: We would like to know, too, Mr. Asbury! —R.P.

Republicans vs. Freedom

I was surprised to find William Simon such an enthusiast for the free market [February]. However, I find hard to swallow his statement declaring the Republican Party the espouser of "the philosophies of freedom and free enterprise," implying libertarians are on the same track. In that case let me off at the next stop.

The Republican Party, in an attempt to save itself, is claiming now that they've been black and individual freedom lovers all along. How cute! Surely Mr. Simon doesn't expect me to believe that the Democrats alone are responsible for the condition of our monetary unit. Individual freedom is not possible when the monetary system is being abused by the government. He talks of not ignoring history and then ignores 5000 years of history to tell me that inflation has nothing to do with gold. Five thousands years of history has shown that the State cannot be entrusted with the power to print money for the simple reason that to get elected you have to please the people. To please the people you have to print more money. Eventually the money is worthless. If it was not for the rapid expansion of technology in this century and the fact that we won World Wars I and II, and that now we have the rest of the world hooked on the dollar and they must support it, the dollar would have been worthless long ago.

Granted, Republicans have had a restraining effect on spending, and considering the inescapability of a tremendous depression when spending is brought under control, they cannot be faulted too much for not wanting to appear to be the cause of this. It would be sure suicide for their party. However, let's not forget their definition of "free enterprise." The biggies are "free" to operate with no competition and fix prices as long as the campaign contributions keep coming in. Sure they cut taxes, but they get it back in the form of campaign contributions, etc. No, I don't think the Republican Party is the answer.

Until the people realize that government is not the answer, there is not much hope for a libertarian president. You're like a cockroach selling Raid—nobody trusts you.

Mike Hall
Bonita Springs, FL

Government vs. Charity

I have one question to ask William Simon. In what, otherwise, was an outstanding interview, why does he say it is "obvious" that the government has a responsibility to help those people who cannot help themselves? It's not obvious to me at all. Why not use private enterprise like Jerry Lewis, the Salvation Army, Goodwill, the Red Cross or even Sister Hazel's Mission to do the job?

George Elmore
Gainesville, FL


I'm tiring of your interviews of milktoasts for free enterprise such as William Simon.

I don't recall him ever trying to dissuade the press—back during the grand Nixon/Ford days—from referring to him as the "Energy Czar." Where is his devotion to free enterprise when he concedes (in your interview) the basic welfare-state principle that government should "take care of those people who can't help themselves"? And I strongly suspect his position on the Libertarian Party. In comparing the Republicans and the Libertarians, how anyone could say "The Republicans, in my judgment, come closest to espousing the philosophies of freedom and free enterprise" is beyond me. At least he credits the LP for being "on the same track." Roger MacBride stated in a November, 1976 Honolulu interview that it was William Simon, of the Republican Administration, who was responsible for denying MacBride the usual presidential candidate secret service protection. Simon and his associates were playing with his life, he said, "and I resent it."

On the bright side, William Simon is an articulate and knowledgeable individual who is capable of excellent defenses on behalf of some aspects of free enterprise. Libertarians need all the help they can get and if possible should not alienate themselves from the arena of respectable discussion by resorting to ad hominem attacks and petty yellow journalism just to show the world how pure they are. It was a great interview if only for the exposure it gave us to the heavy world of pragmatic politics.

Mark Coleman
Honolulu, HI

Action Protest

Your editorial on the Bakke case [February], like the Bakke case itself, ignores another quota system that the government has imposed especially on universities, affirmative action employment. Obviously this is not simply a case of private businesses exercising their right to select employees on whatever basis they wish. Wouldn't any white, male, high-level executive who really believed in affirmative action step down or stand aside so that a woman or "minority group person" could have his job? This would be the ultimate affirmative action. As it is, affirmative action is only another absurdity that has been enlarged beyond argument by the government.

At first, I sent back those "anonymous" affirmative action data cards with my name and address and a note saying that the requested data were irrelevant. However, the machinery is sure to include a mechanism for dealing with that type of non-cooperation; so now I simply check the square that says, "I'm black!" and return the card. This only upsets the statistics a bit; but if enough opponents of quota systems did the same, perhaps Affirmative Action would choke on bogus black applicants. Even those not actually looking for a job might prefer this line of protest to writing letters to congressmen, etc.

Thomas R. Lawrence
Natick, MA

Mission Impossible

I was well pleased with Tibor Machan's editorial in the February issue. So many people condemn the Supreme Court Justices instead of recognizing the impossibility of their job.

Richard Foy
Redondo Beach, CA

Machan replies: I don't believe members of the Supreme Court have been innocent, but the statist provisions of the US Constitution do make it legally possible for statist legislation to receive court approval. Bakke vs. University of California is just one case where the court must cope I with the chickens coming home to roost. —T.R.M.

Farms As Private Property

As one who has perhaps contributed more than his share of tub-thumping rhetoric on the subject of private property, I would like to offer the observation that the article "Imperial Valley Ripoff" by Craig Roberts [February] is an utter and complete stinker.

The object of Dr. Roberts' raving is Interior Secretary Andrus who, spurred on by a recent Federal Appeals Court ruling, is enforcing the provisions of the Reclamation Act of 1902. This Act put Uncle Sam in the dam-building business in the West in the name of "reclamation" of potentially valuable agricultural lands then too arid to be of much use.

Under the Reclamation Act the government proposed to sell water to local water districts, but with certain conditions: "No right to the use of water for land in private ownership shall be sold for a tract exceeding 160 acres to any one landowner unless he be an actual bona fide resident on such land, or occupant thereof residing in the neighborhood of such land…" The act also forbade commutation of the residence requirement by cash buyout. The act was based on the Jeffersonian principle of the desirability of a multitude of independent family farms, as opposed to a small number of absentee-owned corporation farms.

Once the water started to flow (at subsidized rates), the Imperial Valley and other irrigated areas became very profitable. Accordingly, the big operators made every effort to circumvent the clear words of the statute, which remain on the books today. While I do not necessarily agree with Secretary Andrus' plan for complying with the law, I commend him for trying to enforce it after 70 years of tortured administrative interpretations designed to vitiate the will of Congress.

America's freedoms depend, in the last analysis, on the preservation of a widespread distribution of private property. That is what Congress sought to achieve in 1902 in making tax-subsidized water available for irrigation. While the Reclamation Act itself might not have been sound policy, the family farm requirement was a sound provision of the Act. It sought to extend private property ownership, not concentrate it in a few hands. If the "internationally known" Dr. Roberts had looked into this a little further, I don't see how he could have escaped the same conclusion.

John McClaughry
Concord, VT

Dr. Roberts replies: John McClaughry's argument is that "America's freedoms depend, in the last analysis, on the preservation of a widespread distribution of private property," and that this justifies and requires the State to confiscate and redistribute private property. Mr. McClaughry's argument does serve to make it clear that it is not just property rights in Imperial Valley that are threatened, but property rights everywhere the government decides that property holdings above some arbitrary number fixed by government are in "excess."

I would like to document just how poorly informed Mr. McClaughry is. In his view the federal court ruling and the Interior Secretary are trying to stop "70 years of tortured administrative interpretations designed to vitiate the will of Congress." The fact is that the Congress has not considered its will vitiated. Although not the most brilliant collection of people, the Congress has over the years contained enough intelligence to realize that the various revolutions in agricultural technology have rendered the 160 acre farm irrelevant. And the Congress, of course, realizes that its reasons for federal water projects have nothing to do with principles of "Jeffersonian democracy."

Mr. McClaughry is also totally mistaken in his belief that Imperial Valley consists of a few absentee landowners holding large concentrations of property and getting richer from tax-subsidized water. Imperial Valley consists primarily of owner occupied and owner managed family farms. Only about 10 percent of the land is in the hands of "agribusiness."

The Imperial Valley court case was not brought by a Congress trying to enforce its will, but by a group which wants to redistribute wealth from Imperial Valley farmers to its members. The latter are people who want to go play at being self-sufficient on small family farms, but who don't want to do so badly enough to pay the market price of the land. The Interior Secretary obliged them by issuing bureaucratic edicts requiring "excess acreage" to be sold at lottery at a price not to include the value of the irrigation—that is, the land is to be sold not at its market and mortgaged value as productive farm land but at the value of barren desert land. If the market price is, say, $2000 per acre and the fixed lottery price is, say, $400 per acre, there is a massive redistribution of wealth from the present owners to the prospective owners. It is this massive wealth redistribution that lets the prospective new owners overrule the market allocation of resources and employ, at no cost to themselves, valuable resources in highly inefficient ways. If people wish to employ valuable resources in the pursuit of romantic atavistic dreams, they are free to do so if they themselves are willing to bear the economic loss. But in Imperial Valley the loss is being borne by those who are being dispossessed and by those who hold their mortgages.

This is the way the situation stood when my article was written. In the meantime the Interior Secretary discovered that it was his imperialistic edicts that were vitiating the will of the Congress, and at the moment the process of dispossession has been slowed. The ultimate outcome is unclear. Unlike Mr. McClaughry, the statists in the Congress realize that the real concentrations of land holdings, as well as other property holdings, lie outside of Imperial Valley. Today the family farms of Imperial Valley. Tomorrow the world.

One last point. The restrictions were never considered by anyone to apply to Imperial Valley. The property owners there had private water rights which they surrrendered when they joined the federal water system. —C.R.


Just a short note to let you know how very much I have enjoyed the movie reviews by John Hospers. He writes with such clarity and sensitivity that I know after reading a review whether or not I want to see the movie. This is unusual for me, as I usually don't put much stock in others' opinions as to what I may or may not enjoy in the arts. His review of Julia [February] prompted me to write this note. I had seen the movie and his review of it brought back all the emotions I had felt while watching it. Thanks John Hospers, thanks REASON!

Maxine Brenner
Calabasas, CA

Cost-Benefit Inadequate

In his article "Deregulation Is a Moral Issue" [March] Tibor Machan is correct in that supporters of government regulation will not be dissuaded by cost-benefit studies. Libertarians must not rely solely on the efficiency argument in opposing government regulation. People must be made aware that government regulation violates our rights.

For if you argue against coercive government regulations by stating only that they are costly and inefficient, others can easily get the impression that you would approve of the coercive regulations if they were more efficient. Pressure groups and individuals, looking after their own self interest, will see no reason not to advocate those government programs which benefit them directly if the cost is the only argument against government programs, for the cost will fall on others. For example, the excessive cost of government subsidy will not dissuade those groups who are receiving the subsidy and those who feel it is their duty to provide the subsidy.

Bob Murphy
Pittsburgh, PA

Rights and Ownership

In his essay critical of Rothbardian self-ownership [March], George Mavrodes makes several errors which I would like to briefly comment on. First, moral ownership is simply a bundle of rights to use of a thing inhering in a person. If one has full rights to use of a thing (one's body, a car, etc.), then one owns it. Mr. Mavrodes attempts to escape this assignment of ownership by claiming that one may have a right to use of a thing without any corresponding ownership. The example he brings up is the "right" of a pilot to use an orange roof as a landmark regardless of the wishes of the owner. If Mr. Mavrodes establishes this to be a right, then Rothbardian self-ownership is in error.

In fact, the pilot has no right to the use of the roof in the Rothbardian sense, for he has no right to constrain the owners from painting it any other color or destroying it. The right in this cases is the right to move one's eyes as one chooses. This right is a part of one's self-ownership. With respect to someone else's roof, one has no right in the absense of a contract transferring such a right, in which case one is a partial owner of the roof, at least with respect to certain of its attributes.

Mr. Mavrodes claims that a right to ownership entails the right to transfer this ownership, and therefore the right to transfer ownership of one's self to another party. This does not follow, however, as one cannot alienate one's will from oneself. The fact that one cannot divorce self from will has the same ontological basis as the fact that one cannot both have and not have an attribute at the same time and in the same respect. Hence, one may sign a "contract" which claims to obligate oneself to bodily or mental service (as distinct from the transfer of other goods) but it is, by the very nature of being, unenforceable and hence null and void.

Tom G. Palmer
Annapolis, MD

Value of Age

The Finnish President, just reelected, is 77 years old. Three cheers!

Our society's spurious and ill advised infatuation with feckless youth should have the rug pulled out from under it.

For centuries, civilizations and cultures, age has been venerated and respected. It still is amongst the so-called "uncivilized" peoples of our world—indigenous tribes that we believe to be so primitive that it is our duty to destroy their cultural heritage and superimpose our precarious and poisonous society upon it. But these peoples have the right basic concepts. They believe in family identity, loyalty, rules, obedience—and reverence for age and experience.

We, the pseudo-civilized, mock maturity. We educate people to consider themselves 'old' as soon as their brains are full of knowledge and experience. We retire people compulsorily in their 50's or early 60's, the prime of life. We believe all things are possible for someone who is young and zesty enough. Twenty or 30 years old? The world is at your feet. Fifty or 60 (horrors) or older? Forget it, Grand Dad.

Well, it's about time we challenge this socialistic ethic of "making way for younger people." It's welfare state balderdash that will bring our society to its knees unless we snap out of it. We repeat mistakes if we remove people who have been around since a prior cycle. I say: keep working, keep involved and active 'til you drop dead. And to hell with fallacious thoughts of retirement and a sunset period of geriatric contentment.

Harry D. Schultz, KHC

Energy Efficiency

I suppose it is bad enough for such as Barry Commoner to give instructions on thermodynamics, but it is even worse for the critical Dr. Beckmann to stretch overstatement into mistruth by way of pressing a point [November].

Beckmann asserts that "the average light-water reactor has an efficiency very close to the average coal-fired plant." I marvel at this news. In the course of graduate study in energy conversion, I learned that coal-fired plants have a Carnot (ideal) efficiency of almost 80 percent…of which about 40 percent is realized. Nuclear heat sources, however, must operate at cycle peak temperatures low enough to prevent core meltdown. This limitation gives a nuclear Carnot efficiency of about 70 percent…of which only some 32 percent is realized. The net effect of these realized efficiencies is that nuclear plants reject 13 percent more waste heat into the environment than coal-fired plants of the same generating capacity. Furthermore, the application of advanced technology to coal-fired plants (e.g., MHD topping cycles) can yield realized efficiencies near 60-70 percent—whereas nuclear power plants seem pretty much limited to their present level of 30-35 percent. I might also add that such schemes involve sophisticated methods of refining combustion gases of impurities as a necessary step of the process, and that the mining of coal poses less of an environmental hazard than the mining of radioactive ores.

It is generally recognized among power engineers that nuclear reactors are not as thermodynamically efficient as coal-fired plants, in either an ideal or real sense. The economic attractiveness of nuclear power proceeds uniquely from its subsidized status as a government brainchild. In further consideration of the as-yet-unsolved problem of radioactive waste disposal, the ill-publicized accidents and close shaves already experienced with reactors, the vulnerability of nuclear plants to terrorist sabotage, and the emerging requirement for draconian national security measures by the government, I cannot understand why any libertarian would act the champion for nuclear power. It seems that Dr. Beckmann's fatal fascination with nuclear technology makes him unwilling to advise us of its dangerous consequences.

Mike Dunn
Carpinteria, CA

Dr. Beckmann replies: The efficiency of the average light-water reactor is 31 percent, that of the average fossil-to-electricity conversion (1974) is 32.53 percent, so that the heat rejection is about the same.

The best coal-fired plants achieve an efficiency of about 41 percent, the high-temperature-gas-reactor 39 percent, which is again very close. The world record for efficiency in thermal electricity generation is 51 percent and is held by the French Phenix, a plutonium breeder.

MHD is a technology in its infancy, which has not yet held up for more than a few hundred hours.

Mr. Dunn's statement that the mining of coal poses less of an environmental hazard than the mining of radioactive ores is false: For the same electric energy produced from the fuel, coal is more than 10 times more hazardous for accidental deaths and injuries, 50 times more hazardous for industrial diseases, and 5,000 times environmentally more damaging in terms of land disrupted by mining, see [1] for details.

His remaining statements are equally reckless. Radioactive waste disposal being an unsolved problem is a hoax often repeated, but a hoax nevertheless, see [2]. Government subsidy was not at issue; even so, the nuclear industry is no more subsidized than other energy industries, and far less than coal.

If Mr. Dunn had done his homework of comparing "dangerous consequences" of all sources of electric power instead of letting himself be scared by the nuclear bogey alone, he would find that sabotaging a nuclear plant is not only incomparably more difficult, but also far less lethal than blowing up one of the several hydroelectric dams above US cities; he would also find a toll of about 30,000 deaths per year in the United States due to fossil-fired and hydro-power, and that nuclear power can significantly reduce that toll. —P.B.

[1] P. Beckmann: The Health Hazards of Not Going Nuclear, Golem Press (Box 1342, Boulder, CO 80306), 1976.

[2] B.L. Cohen: "The Disposal of Radioactive Wastes from Nuclear Fission Reactors," Scientific American, June 1977.