Questioning Tax Limits
The article "How to Draw the Line on Taxes" by Rickenbacker and Uhler [June] may have isolated the "flaw" in our system—irresistible pressures brought to bear on legislators to vote for new spending programs. However, their contention that they have considered "all" the alternative methods of correcting that flaw isn't without a flaw.
The authors' statement that the political process should decide the priorities of political spending seems to imply, contrary to their probable intention, that many of today's governmental activities are "legitimate" constitutionally. Since they are not, how will even a constitutional tax limit solve this very basic problem? Further, exactly (repeat, EXACTLY) what is the limit and what would prevent our legislators from establishing a high priority for further restrictions on individual freedoms at the expense of national defense, for example? This question is no more illogical than asking what is to stop our legislators from establishing a 100 percent tax—both actions lead in the same direction, to abolish the Constitution!
Many of the insights into the general problem of the extensive growth of government which are cited in the article would indicate that the constitutionally mandated tax limit is just as likely to be bastardized as has been the "commerce" clause in the existing Constitution. Who will be the Solomon to write the amendment so that it will meet all requirements and yet leave no possible loopholes? In Wisconsin, for example, as perhaps is the case in other states, issuance of bonds has in effect extended spending without currently raising taxes—but the result will be either to default on debts or raise taxes later! Further, considering all the indirect, hidden, or wide variety of taxes, as well as inflation through government control of money, how can this complex issue be resolved with a "tax limit" amendment which is at the same time understandable by the public and not conducive to manipulation?
I believe the answer lies in our having legitimatized the function of state and federal legislators as being a "career" with all its attendant characteristics. "Career" functionaries in all activities seem to me all too disposed to make decisions in their own best interest—a trait quite admirable in one's private affairs, but devastating when dealing with other people's lives, property, and freedom! Wouldn't this factor suggest that while the citizens of this country still have the power of the ballot box, they have the power to relieve each and every legislator of the "pressures" which he claims as his excuse? Vote every (repeat, EVERY) incumbent out of office…each term, until such a limitation is also a constitutional requirement; that is, a limitation of one term in any one elective office!
There is a supplementary requirement for constitutional amendment which the citizens of this country should seriously consider to assure more representative legislators! Limit campaign contributions to the individuals with residence in the legislative district. This would not only favor the candidate most desired by the constituency, but would have the additional advantage of putting a natural and automatic limit on campaign spending for all contenders for any office for any given election.…
Kurt H. Schiffleger
Your recent "Brickbat" on Palestinian terrorism and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon [June] points out, correctly, that morally equivalent acts are often condemned when done by private individuals but approved of when done by States. In the particular case cited, however, the acts of the Palestinians and the Israelis are not morally equivalent, and would be judged differently even if both were private.
What the Israelis did was to attack Palestinian guerrillas who were making war on the Israelis and hence (if one accepts the pro-Israeli interpretation of the very debatable property rights situation in Israel) coercing them. In the process the Israelis destroyed the lives and property of a large number of innocent bystanders. What the Palestinian terrorists did was to deliberately attack innocent bystanders, in the belief that doing so would discourage the Israeli soldiers (whose wives, children, and friends were being attacked) from continuing to fight the Palestinians, and hence (if one accepts the pro-Palestinian interpretation of the very debatable property rights situation in Israel) stop the Israeli soldiers from coercing the Palestinians.
Whether one should regard either, neither, or both actions as morally legitimate is a difficult question, depending both on which side one believes to be enforcing, or more nearly enforcing, legitimate rights, and on what one believes about the rights of innocent bystanders. But there is surely a morally relevant difference between shooting at a man who is hiding in a crowd and shooting at you, with the knowledge that you are quite likely to hit an innocent bystander, and dealing with the same man by seizing his wife and children and killing them off one by one until he surrenders.
As to the final reference to "those sectarians who only oppose the initiation of force when it is done by the goyim," that is what is known as an ad hominem argument—it translates as "anyone who disagrees with the argument I have just made is a Jewish bigot." I suppose I could have found someone with a different name to sign this letter, but that would mean accepting Mr. Birmingham's implication that arguments ought to be judged according to who makes them.
Bill Birmingham's "Brickbats" had an unfortunate anti-Semitic aroma in the June issue. If this was unintentional, he ought to clean it up. If it was intentional, REASON has something to clean up.
The essence of libertarianism is that people should not have their lives unduly interfered with by others. To this end is government's primary justification for being. Whether it's PLO, Red Brigades, or Rhodesian terrorists, government's function is to protect its citizens against those who would interfere violently. The Israelis have tried with more modest means to protect their citizens from PLO criminals. Obviously, those means were inadequate. They are therefore justified in using whatever steps they deem necessary to protect Israeli citizens from such unwarranted interference in their rights to live in peace.
Eugene L. Notkin
The editor replies: We sincerely regret any implication of anti-Semitism some readers may have deduced from the commentary on PLO-Israeli conflict. Reasonable people can, indeed, differ over issues as complex as those in the Middle East, without any sort of ethnic or religious prejudice being involved. As long as he's being critical, reader Notkin might wish to reconsider his view that the Israeli government is "justified in using whatever steps they deem necessary" to protect its citizens. That kind of thinking smacks disturbingly of "the end justifies the means," and I think we all know where that can lead. —R.P.
Term vs. Whole Life
I read David Lloyd Sutton's article on Life Insurance [June] with much interest. I am sorry to say that I am in total disagreement with his opinions and reasoning.
I personally sell Annual Renewable Term for most of the real needs out there. This "natural" premium is what all life insurance companies use to cover the "net amount at risk" in their whole life policies. If it is good enough for the insurance companies to cover what they have at risk out there, then it is good enough for our risks also.
There are so many errors in Mr. Sutton's article that I cannot afford to take the time to expose them all…however, it should be pointed out that the "cash value" element in a whole life policy draws very low interest and the insurance company can refuse to honor a policy loan for up to six months if they want to.
Most people buy life insurance to protect their loved ones against loss of income if premature death occurs. Or it is used to cover debts and key men in business enterprises. Term insurance works well for this purpose.
Whole life works well in the older ages if still needed, for last expenses, estate shrinkage, etc., or in very small amounts at any age.
The job of a professional insurance agent is to place the interest of his client ahead of his commission earned on the higher priced whole life plans…a task not too easy for most life insurance agents to accomplish.
John C. Hodde
I couldn't quite swallow the laudatory analysis of the work of Samuel Yochelson and Stanton Samenow in "Trends" [June]. While I'm no apologist for the standard liberal programs of "rehabilitation" or the social/metaphysical theories which underpin them, I see some very real dangers in future programs which may be based on simplistic acceptance of the conclusions of The Criminal Personality.
Yochelson and Samenow specifically advocate forcibly breaking down an "offender's" personality and his or her conception of him- or herself, and substituting a personality approved by the jailers. This is particularly scary because no distinction is made between real criminals and social heretics, who, as we all know and should never forget, now comprise a large percentage of the prison/parole/probation population.
I see little likelihood that the work of Yochelson and Samenow will lead to an enlightened, rights-oriented recasting of our penal systems. Rather, I see a great probability that it will deliver to the State sophisticated tools and methods of mind control, along with a host of nice-sounding excuses to use them. Forcible intervention, not against, but into, a person's personality is a methodology far better suited to punishing free thinking than to controlling crime, and that is just how I, for one, would expect it to be used. This should be strongly suggested to libertarians by the use of terms like "thinking errors" to describe the "cause" of crime.
I have little doubt that Yochelson and Samenow, as well as the heads of the statist agencies which funded their research and provided them with "subjects," would disapprove of my personality and label me as a "sociopath" whose mind ought to be restructured. Before touting The Criminal Personality as a remedy for liberal foolishness, I urge all libertarians to re-read 1984 and think twice.
Patrick L. Lilly
Colorado Springs, CO
The editor replies: Mr. Lilly has made a good point. The treatment method advocated by Yochelson and Samenow, like psychosurgery, should be used only with the informed consent of the subject. —R.P.
Abortion and Contraception
The abortion/anti-abortion debate [April] presents some difficult problems. Hospers has said that ethical dilemmas will occur in our libertarian future and that their solutions will not be clear cut.
Is the ovum, from the moment it is fertilized, to be granted the full rights and privileges of an adult because of its human potential? I am still working on that problem with my children.
When do we become human? When does abortion become murder? I do not know. The problem I would like to deal with is somewhat more tangible.
Conception takes place in the fallopian tubes. The fertilized ovum then takes 2-3 days to travel to the uterus where implantation takes place. The IUD (coil) is an abortion device. IT DOES NOT PREVENT CONCEPTION. IT PREVENTS IMPLANTATION OF THE FERTILIZED OVUM INTO THE UTERINE WALL.
Therefore, to prevent all abortions IUDs must be outlawed.
Today's IUDs are made so that they are visible on X-rays. Will the radiologist who sees an IUD on film be required to report this finding to the "proper authorities" (the internal security police, perhaps?) If he fails to make his report will he then be charged as an accessory to the crime? Accessory to murder? To abortion? To wearing an IUD?
A market in polyethylene IUDs which would not show up on X-rays is easily forseen.
While this problem may lack the intellectual appeal of a fight for individual rights, the concept of trying to deal with a black market in radio-lucent IUDs in a libertarian society staggers me. Physical examinations at airports and bus terminals? Argh!
My Friends of Liberty, keep up the good work.
Jay Salwen, M.D.
In his February editorial, Tibor Machan reflected on the "Real Problem" with the Bakke case before the Supreme Court. He concluded that "(g)iven most people's conception of the function of government…the justices of the Supreme Court…cannot possibly render a correct decision." Indeed they cannot as there is no morally legitimate basis for the State in the business of education for any reason. The problem with Dr. Machan's thesis is not that he is wrong in principle but that he waffles on the legal mandating of racial, ethnic and sexual quotas.…
He says, "There is nothing ipso facto wrong with trying to help the underprivileged, but there may be something unwise about changing the functions of a medical school, law school…to achieving that end… rather than to teaching its field of specialty to the most qualified applicants." Further on he asserts that applying "the criterion of (statistical) need on the part of some racial group…at times…may have merit." We disagree. In the present context of the widespread use of quotas, these statements suggest a moral ambivalence on the question of equal opportunity founded on individual merit.…We assert that the willingness to deal forthrightly with "hard" issues is all necessary for the integrity of a philosophical position.
The outcome of Bakke is not insignificant.…It is strange, for example, that Dr. Machan, an ardent minimal statist, fails to identify and examine the constitutional and legal tools available for our defense, i.e., the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th Amendment and Section 703(j) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.…
Contrary to Machan's equivocations on preferential racial (or ethnic or sexual) treatment in college admissions, we hold that quotas ("goals and timetables") or preferential treatment instituted by law are an abomination to a meritocratic and capitalistic social order and constitute a vicious injustice against individuals in disfavored categories. If we are to be forced to pay for education and public works, then access to these facilities must be available to those who have been forced to pay. Indeed, State tax-financed "services" are always arbitrary and coercive, but at least within a constitutionalist State we can fight to prevent the system from further biting the hand which slaves for it.…Education, experience, and other examinable abilities, have been greatly downgraded in significance by judicial and administrative decree. The landmark case of Griggs v. Duke Power (1971), and succeeding regulatory doctrines by the Equal (sic) Employment Opportunity Commission, have made any reasonable employment examination in private firms with more than 25 employees legally impossible.…
Contrary, then to Dr. Machan's conclusion that the Supreme Court "cannot possibly render a correct decision," we think it is important to cite that they can and should render a constitutionally proper decision, i.e., that quotas are against the law of the land and against any objectively founded code of ethics.
Richard R. Slomon
Executive Director, MERIT
Machan replies: First, either the Court can or cannot render a correct decision, contrary to Mr. Slomon's letter. Second, MERIT may disagree, but there are clear cases when the criterion of (statistical) need could guide either private or public policy—e.g., the police could focus on the steady higher crime rate in some district and assign greater protection as a result, and one might choose to favor a group of recently deported Rumanians in hiring at one's firm as a matter of generosity. Third, while the outcome of Bakke is indeed not insignificant, the case is so confused that a general legal or moral argument focusing on it alone cannot be made one way or another. The constitutional case in support of Bakke is extremely hazy, mainly because of the interstate commerce clause and the generally accepted provision of national police power that has lent support to so-called social legislation since the early 1800's. Therefore, Mr. Slomon is wrong to assert that "quotas are against the law of the land." Due process has, for the better part of the 20th century, been treated procedurally, not substantively, so (except for some free speech, assembly, and press cases, though by no means all) the 14th Amendment and other constitutional provisions just cannot be consistently raised in the Bakke case (or any other). Finally, Mr. Slomon and MERIT may be assured that I am not a waffler on any moral issues. I simply recognize complexities and don't paint an easy picture where none can honestly be painted. (Also, I am not a minimal or any kind of statist. I defend the moral appropriateness of a certain version of constitutional government but not of any State, i.e., of some organic entity over and above the citizens of a country.) —T.R.M.
Thanks for the Spotlight essay about Dr. George C. Roche, III [April].
Since some of the article dealt with Dr. Roche's Senate campaign, I thought your readers should know the reasons for his withdrawal as a Senate candidate. His letter to his supporters stated, in part:
At the time of withdrawal from the campaign, I announced that I was doing so for reasons of health. Some people cannot seem to accept that reason, apparently believing that front-running candidates simply do not withdraw from political races.
But the facts are clear. I could never have successfully completed this campaign in my present physical condition. The rigors of campaigning are simply too great. The fight we faced demanded a healthy, full-time candidate.
My physician told me to choose and I have chosen.
The campaign may be over for me, but all of those who aided my candidacy have produced some major benefits even in this short period. I immediately became a front runner for the Senate seat, serving notice on the Republican Party and other potential candidates that they can win if they adopt a highly principled stand. My strength as a candidate was based upon the belief that we are overtaxed, overregulated and suffering from an excess of big government in our lives. The support which my campaign attracted can serve as a reminder that most citizens, in Michigan and across America, still value their private institutions and their freedom.
I would appreciate your bringing this information to the attention of your readers.
May I suggest a possibly productive use for the many acronyms and agency titles our government has provided for us? Let's use them in lieu of those old, time-honored scatological and sexual references in common usage and considered by many to be too raw for polite society (cf. "expletive deleted").
Perhaps a couple of examples would help. When one smites one's thumb with a hammer, one might blurt, "OSHA!" This sounds a lot like what one might say anyway. Or, if straining mightily at some herculean task and/or in great pain, one might grit, "Internal! Revenue! Service!"
These expletives could and should be used with reckless abandon. After all, they are not considered obscene except by readers of REASON and by others similarly enlightened. Perhaps by such usage we might "dirty up" these expletives in the so-called popular mind and even impart some subliminal libertarianism.
Just What the Doctor Ordered
What's your secret, or not so secret, proclivity? Do you, perhaps, enjoy reading "obscene" books or looking at certain types of pictures? If SB 1437 (now HR 6869) is passed by the House of Representatives and signed into law, you'll actually need a doctor's prescription for "receipt of such material."
Under Section 1842 it will be an offense to "disseminate obscene material" not only to minors, but to "commercially disseminate" it to any person. "Commercially disseminate" includes nonprofit dissemination if mass communication is used as a means of distribution.
However, don't worry. It's all OK if you are able to demonstrate (proof is up to you—it's what is termed an "affirmative defense") that you are "a person associated with an institution of higher learning"…conducting research into this subject area; or—get this—you can demonstrate that you are "a person whose receipt of such material was authorized in writing by a licensed psychiatrist, psychologist, or medical practitioner." (Sec. 1842-d-2) Would you believe it?
"Hey, Doc—I need a sex fix. How about writing me a prescription for Joy of Sex or Hustler? Please, Doc, I'm desperate."
Well, in my case I'd request Playgirl.
Sarah E. Foster
Sherman Oaks, CA
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".