Attributing Atrocities "Spiritual Horror" [August] was not only well written and informative, but also encouraging—the latter because it appeared in a magazine devoted to individual liberty. Many voices within the libertarian camp seem to fall into the "Andrew Young complex" which is to argue that Communist regimes are constitutionally incapable of committing worse atrocities than a non-communist regime. The extreme in this line of argument is that all atrocities committed by Communist regimes are, directly or indirectly, attributable to policies of the US government, possibly fashioned at the behest of US big business.
Some governments would kill everyone associated with REASON magazine, while others do not. Those who are guided primarily by self-interest should find a distinction of interest, no matter how many other policies they find objectionable.
Robert A. Schadler
The Intercollegiate Review
Minorities and the State By printing the adapted version of Walter Williams's Policy Review article ["The New Jim Crow Laws," August] the editors of REASON have saved a lot of work for those of us who have been passing photocopies of the original article around. Thank you!
Williams's first-rate analysis of the effects of statist public policy on minorities does two things: it provides facts that underscore the position taken by Edith Efron in her last Viewpoint column that a libertarian triumph is not imminent; and it confirms my belief that the best friends minorities have today are the middle-class tax rebels.
Cultism Edith Efron is right in calling attention to the phenomenon of libertarian cultism [Viewpoint, August]. She gives me the impression, though, of condemning cults without attempting to understand their psychological roots and emotional functions. This is unfortunate since cult phenomena are undercutting the effectiveness of libertarianism and promoting statism here and abroad.
Libertarian theory has completed only half its job; it has effectively proven its case about the nature of the State. It has not, however, shed any light on the development of the State, Oppenheimer's conquest theory notwithstanding. (Is there any evidence for it?)
I can only briefly sum up what I discuss more fully elsewhere (recently in Individual Liberty, and in the Sept. 1976 REASON) but the State exists for a reason. It serves a function in human society. That function is emotional and psychological, and so the State is closely related to myth, magic and religion. Merely to point out that libertarianism, too, is a cult, as Ms. Efron has done, solves nothing because we know very little about cults in general. Therefore when one presents itself in a libertarian setting, we are susceptible to it.
It is possible to believe the right thing for the wrong reason, and this is the problem the libertarian optimists, as Ms. Efron calls them, have. The remedy is to learn more about the irrational side of man's nature. Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Ernst Cassirer, Silvano Arieti, Claude Levi-Strauss and Heinz Kohut have all made their contribution. It is high time libertarians became acquainted with their work.
Quebec Libertarian I nearly fell off my chair upon opening the July 78 issue. I can't believe it; there exists another French-Canadian who shares my views, Pierre Lemieux. In eight years, I had met only one! He said it all, exactly what I had come to conclude and I have nearly nothing to add but these are small details and not the purpose of this letter.
Do you really know what it is not to be able to exchange ideas, share, talk about and discuss them in French with your friends? What can you say when you are told that all the books you refer to are in English and that they do not want to learn or do not want or care to read in English? As Pierre Lemieux wrote so well, there is no libertarian tradition in Quebec. The moon is closer than liberty. So if you want to exchange and get the feel of your ideas, you go where they are, to the English minority in Quebec. Minority used both ways: the English are in minority in Quebec and the English libertarians even more! Libertarian ideas coming from the English will and do have problems considering the context and the present mood. It can get quite lonely for a French-speaking one. I know.
I sincerely hope Pierre Lemieux can reach more French-Canadians and I wish him well. How I wish I had known about him before leaving!
Case for Optimism Edith Efron's libertarian "realism" [August] is no more supportable than the optimistic hype she attacks. She simply asserts its validity, in a manner reminiscent of those people who run around proclaiming the second coming of John Galt.
According to Ms. Efron's model of social change, a majority in the American colonies must have been pro-independence before the American revolution could have been won. There must have been a pro-communist consensus in 1917 Russia. There must have been a popular demand for free enterprise in order for the postwar German economic "miracle" to occur. But her analysis misses two insights. First, these societies were not "run" by majority rule-and neither is today's America. In each case, social change was accomplished by a small cadre—a cult, Efron would say—who knew where they were going. And indeed, today's America is being transformed into a totalitarian society by a cohesive elite whose vision operates far beyond the reach of any consensus.
Efron would reply that the majority hold principles and ideas which grant tacit permission to this elite. So they do. They also hold principles which grant tacit permission to libertarians. The truth is that the "majority's" beliefs are a contradictory mess, and they exert little effect upon the course of history. Efron's suggestion to the contrary is but a backhanded way of paying homage to one of the great tools of oppression—the myth of democracy.
Second, Efron has confused the logical priority of education with chronological priority. Often we find in the history of social change that people "go all the way" when they discover the logical implications of earlier actions. What started out as resistance to a stamp act in colonial America blossomed into a full-scale revolution, and the process of education was implicit in the famous rally, "If this be treason, make the most of it!" Specific political progress can be made even without widespread adherence to libertarian beliefs, and these political gains can through their secondary effects put libertarianism on an exponential growth curve—for the logical implications of this political philosophy are unusually profound.
William D. Burt
Purgation Edith Efron [August] has wisely & appropriately chosen your publication for her crusade to purge the movement of hippies, supporters of Women's & Gay Lib, and those who believe that the right to take drugs is more important than the right to make an unlimited amount of money. I will do my part by purging myself, since I am All Of The Above, and thus I will not renew my subscription when it runs out. In case you are interested, the last straw was your all-male abortion panel.
Arthur D Hlavaty
New Rochelle, NY
Ultimate Solution While everybody is drunk with success on Proposition 13 and thinking of next putting the Federal income tax out of its misery, let's do better than that. Let's go whole hog and get rid of Federal taxes completely. There is even a way to do it without having to cut any programs.
Presently Washington takes its tons of flesh in three ways. (1) Through taxes, direct and hidden—especially hidden, like taxing industry instead of people. Or, since politicians always spend it faster than they dare to lay on taxpayers, even concealed in the price of goods, (2) through borrowing—which old well is running more and more dry, since it's harder and harder to find anybody with brains enough to have money who would lend it to the government. Which leaves them still in the hole, but there's still a way out, since they control the money, so they merely (3) make some more: inflation.
The answer is simple. (1) Eliminate taxes, a compulsory thing in the land of the free. (2) Let them borrow till they're blue in the face, if anybody will lend, because that's voluntary. (3) Then let them get the rest by out-and-out, no-bones-about-it, honest inflation.
For one thing, this would resolve all the high winds about what causes inflation, and make crystal clear who's doing it.
Of course if they did that, the rest of us would quit using money made of air and go to something solid, like gold certificates. But those who demand government money can have all they demand, and everybody will be happy.
Robert A. Leggett IV
Gold Clarifications In reference to your June article, The Promise and Perils of Gold Clauses, I would like to clarify and comment on a statement attributed to me. It was in fact made by Senator Jesse Helms in the Congressional Record, January 10, 1977.
My bill, if approved, will make enforceable, gold clause contracts entered into after the enactment of the bill. It is intended to stand neutral with regard to the enforceability of gold clause obligations issued in the past. It has come to my attention that there is at least one case pending in the courts which could require gold clause bonds issued before the 1933 resolution, be paid in gold.
There were approximately $200 billion of gold clause obligations outstanding affected by the 1933 resolution. Today there remain only $1 billion outstanding, of which $700 million is in investment grade corporate bonds and $300 million is in government bonds. These bonds clearly require interest and principal be paid in "gold coin of the United States," which is defined by Statute at $20.67 per fine troy ounce. Obviously, if the court enforces the contract after a 45-year hiatus, there will be some windfall profits for a few speculators who will be heavily taxed by the IRS. But it will primarily return, to tens of thousands of long-term bond investors, the original capital value invested. Isn't this the purpose of a gold clause?
In closing, I find the remarks of a legislative assistant asserting what the judicial branch may or may not rule to be incongruous, and the statement referring to the least-expensive Gold Deposit Certificate is inaccurately reported. The Bank of Nova Scotia charges a sales commission of ¼ of one percent, which is considerably cheaper than the Deak certificate.
R. Alexander Ellison
False Analogy I am appalled at the ignorance and illogicalness evidenced by Thomas S. Szasz in just a few sentences on page 10 of the July issue.
I agree with the point he is trying to make, but I must protest the manner in which he attempts to make it. Of course it is absurd that the law allows us to put some known harmful substances in our bodies and at the same time imposes outrageous penalties if we choose to use illegal drugs.
What I object to is the comparison between alcoholism and Judaism as well as the implication that alcoholism is a moral issue.
For your information, Mr. Szasz: (1) Alcoholism is a disease (it even has been known to strike priests and rabbis). (2) Judaism is a religion. (3) No one has ever gotten high on ham (Jewish or otherwise). (4) No one has ever committed a violent crime or been involved in an auto accident as the result of having eaten ham.
Next time, Mr. Szasz, please try to make more logical comparisons. It is of no value to simply be right. We must be convincingly so.
Highland Park, CA
Double Standard? The horror in Cambodia [August] induces one to wonder where B'nai B'rith is these days. I heard so much after "Holocaust" from them and others that there should never be another like it, yet they ignore this one going right on under their noses. At least it is public enough to be readily seen.
Did they mean there should never be another holocaust just for Jews? If so, that seems rather primitive.
They should be shouting from the hilltops, and are silent. Thus they condone what they pretend to detest.
Thomas S. Booz
Plain Terrorism Begging Dr. Friedman's pardon, but I do not believe for a moment that those who defend Israeli atrocities are "Jewish bigots" [Letters, September]. I merely suggested them as an obvious source of such defenders; if Dr. Friedman wishes to try on the shoe and loudly announce that it fits, that is his problem.
I'm afraid that I cannot be impressed by Dr. Friedman's tortured "distinction." Shooting innocent bystanders is plainly the initiation of force,…and one needs no exotic moral standard to condemn Israel's conduct in Lebanon. If a policeman gets into a shootout in a crowded shopping center and kills an innocent bystander he is going to be in big trouble, even today. If he sprays the crowd with machine-gun fire to get his assailant he'll be convicted of murder—and I daresay even Dr. Friedman would approve. What, then, are we to make of the Israeli practice of cluster-bombing refugee camps, which they did at Rashidiye and elsewhere? Even the Jerusalem Post's Hirsch Goodman was appalled: "The Israeli army," he charged, "once renowned for its Davidian finesse, was used as a huge stamping Goliath, hitting with all its might at places from which the terrorists had already fled." Up to 2,000 Arab civilians were slaughtered by such tactics. Israel admits to killing some 300 civilians; even that absurdly low figure is still more than all the Israelis ever killed by the PLO—by Israel's own figures! If that isn't "terrorism," sir, what is?…
Colorado Springs, CO
Feminist Knowledge Your reply to the libertarian feminist letter [July, p. 8] shows you have confused equal treatment on account of sex, with special knowledge due to being the person on the firing line.
Women are better qualified to speak on issues of rape and abortion because they have a first-hand knowledge, and can therefore bring a unique viewpoint to the debate.
Earlier debates on the subject, back in the '60s, in which Catholic bishops and male medical doctors and legislators were the only ones speaking, in which it was a scandal when a woman, who was affected at first-hand by this, got onto the floor and demanded the right to speak, produced a lot of hot air and dithering that was probably very intellectually refined, but which totally missed the point. Only when women started speaking openly of their experiences and recommendations, did the debates become relevant.
Quite frankly, I would not consider a panel of whites to be qualified to speak with any relevance or depth on the ill-effects of apartheid, except as interested observers. With the best will in the world, they simply do not know where the shoe pinches, having never worn it. Likewise I agree with the feminists; men simply do not know where this particular shoe pinches.
Kudos! Congratulations on your superb debunking ["African Deception," July] of Tad Szulc's great West German missile conspiracy theory, and on a generally very attractive and interesting issue.
Keep up the good work.
Steven K. Beckner
Talking about Monopoly… I consider the discussion between Paul Craig Roberts and Bill Birmingham [Letters, July] extraneous to the main point, which is: What policy is in the best interest of food production in the Imperial Valley? My test, in answering this question, would be the long-run interest of the consumer rather than the social justice of "land monopoly."
As a former Kern County farmer and Brawley teacher, I consider "government water" a fait accompli, unworthy of further quibble—like the federal gifts of lands to the railroads. However questionable the principle, it is done. As for any future such projects, I submit that the real danger of social injustice lies elsewhere. Government, itself, is the land monopolist beyond compare.
To dispossess the large operators of our inland valleys of their "excess land" amounts to the same thing as divesting General Motors of, say, Chevrolet and Pontiac. Perhaps there are those who would like to see the latter occurrence, but it doesn't make much sense and isn't likely to happen soon. And large-scale farming has made America the breadbasket of the world. The 160, or even a 640, acre limitation makes no sense any more. There is some top limit to economy of scale; but, the way technology changes, it is best to leave that to the market. To make it personal: we were glad to sell our 120 acres to a large operator when neither we, nor lessees, could make a go of it.…
Charles R. La Dow
San Diego, CA
Another Side of Life I am glad to see an article on insurance ["Are you Wasting Money on Life Insurance?" June], though I'm surprised that, considering the attack on "Buy Term, Invest The Difference (BTID)," you did not present the other side; there are merits to both whole life and term insurance programs that should be presented.…
There is only one kind of insurance, and that is term, with increasing "natural" premiums. All other forms of insurance are contrived from the original pooling concept as described by Mr. Sutton at the beginning of the article. Level term, decreasing term, and all the other kinds of term insurance sold, have premiums actuarily adjusted to compensate for the special features.
Cash value insurance is a BTID scheme, too, because it promises to pay you during the term (insurance) and when you reach the end of the term (investment). These are normally called Endowment Policies (ordinary or whole life insurance endows at age 100). Mr. Sutton's Figure 3 demonstrates this concept.
I have found, like Mr. Sutton, that participating (dividend paying) policies have a better chance of equalling or bettering the cost of term policies over the long run (20+ years), but I am disappointed with his use of two outmoded concepts in an article purportedly to be for consumers. These are the ideas that you "win" only if you die with a term insurance policy, and that subtracting cash value from total premiums paid to get a "net cost" (this method of determining cost completely disregards time-use of money and has been discredited in the insurance industry in favor of "interest adjusted cost"). My comments are as follows:
Insurance is an expense, plain and simple. You don't "win" by dying, any more than you win by living. You put your money in the pool along with everyone else and if you live, you obviously haven't lost, but those who do die, leave their survivors some means to take care of the responsibilities the deceased left behind. The concept of insurance as a gambling contract is no way for an experienced professional to relate the idea of insurance to a consumer.
To say a person who pays in $16,776 of premium ($139.80 per month) and gets back $17,085 at the end of that period has made a return of $309 and his insurance "hasn't cost a penny," completely ignores the basic principles of money and credit. The interest adjusted method assumes that other uses would have been found for that $139.80 each month that would have yielded 4%after tax (industry standard) in money or goods and services. This assumption would make $139.80 per month worth $20,585.50 after ten years, and $51,274.91 after 20 years. That is not to say that the policy Mr. Sutton presented is not one of the less-expensive policies available. But to present the outmoded "net cost" method in an article to consumers is an abrogation of his professional responsibilities.
In general, I agree with Mr. Sutton's assessment of BTID: that, as a concept for the undisciplined investor, it can be destructive; the forced saving of cash value insurance with a cost-competitive mutual company can be rewarding. There are, however, poorly managed mutual companies and disciplined investors. We must be careful not to give consumers empty security in the form of cliches, platitudes and government regulation, but to teach them how to get the real facts for themselves.
Robert B. Loeffler