Socialism Thrives My copy of the July REASON reached me here only in October, after a long chase across the Atlantic and back. But I must write at once, however belatedly, and very sadly, to insist that, though it would indeed be encouraging had there been a British Retreat from Socialism [Trends], in fact there has not.
Certainly large majorities even of regular Labour voters have told pollsters that they want no more nationalization, no more state monopolies. But this is of no significance so long as they remain ready to support the Labour Party despite its constitutional commitment to ultimate total socialism. Certainly too we have seen few new and open socialist measures since Mr. Callaghan succeeded Harold Wilson. But your source should have noticed that this has been a period during which, mainly as a result of the fiercely socialist policies of the immediately previous period, the country has been in hock to the International Monetary Fund. It has also been a period in which the Labour Party has not had a parliamentary majority.
In this same Callaghan period the hard-line socialist ultras have further strengthened their hold on the Party's National Executive, which must have a large say in what will go into the election manifestos, and on the party locals, which choose the parliamentary candidates. And Callaghan himself has already promised that the programme will include both a wealth tax and still more legal privileges for the Party's labour union paymasters. Also one must not ignore, as almost all commentators do, that by simply leaving taxes on capital and income at their present inordinate and confiscatory levels the Callaghan regime is all the time taking silent but very substantial steps towards the socialist goal of total state ownership and control of the economy.
Finally, two assertions in this sunshine story are not just misleading, but plain false. First, it is not true that Labour "lowered to zero the threshold for payment of income taxes." There always have been and still are "personal allowances," as well as marriage and children's allowances, which ensure that everyone has some—though not much—income which is not liable to taxes. Second, it is not true that Callaghan "has orchestrated the defeat of the party's left wing on such issues as nationalization of banks and insurance policies." He did try. But he was overwhelmingly defeated, and the left easily got the two-thirds majorities needed to include the proposals in Labour's Programme 1976, which is and remains party policy. If as is most likely they win five more years in a 1979 election, Ingsa could well be fully established, on schedule, by 1984.
University of California at San Diego (visiting)
Strike-Out It seems to me that Bill Birmingham of Brickbats fame will go to any length and engage in the most absurd mental gymnastics in order to vilify Israel.
In a previous issue [June] he used near obscene language when he criticized Israel's action against Arab terrorists in Lebanon after about 50 Israeli citizens had been murdered on the Haifa-Tel Aviv highway by these "freedom fighters." Perhaps somebody might remind him that the United States took similar action against the Mexican bandit Pancho Villa after he committed lawless acts of similar kind on United States territory.
Mr. Birmingham distorts General George Keegan's remarks [September]. General Keegan said that the US had gotten a thousand dollars for every dollar it had given to Israel. Birmingham translates that figure into cold cash. A nine-year old would recognize General Keegan's expression as a simile. He meant, of course, that the US is getting a bargain by having Israel check Soviet expansionism in the Middle East and by providing US intelligence with extremely valuable information. I am referring especially to captured Soviet military hardware.
Please keep the contents of REASON on an acceptable intellectual level. Your readers are not morons.
Fred S. Poll
Upper Darby, PA
Tax Compromise I cannot remain mute about your use of the phrase "tax revolt" [November] in referring to Proposition 13 and similar measures resulting from it. Your choice of the words "tax revolt" does nothing to inspire much faith in your views of taxation, and rather serves instead to mask the crucial point which should and is not being made. That point is that taxation is, by every definition of the word, theft and nothing short of it. To take or seize property from its rightful owner without the owner's consent and/or against his will is to steal, an act which we call theft.
Now, how do you justify the use of the words "tax revolt" in that light? To insist that a thief take less from you than he had planned to is hardly a "revolt"! Such terminology implies that it is just that we are and should be slaves of the State, but that we are granted the option to complain a little now and then just to make things appear "fair." Personally, I am not impressed with California's pathetic plea that they should merely have less stolen from them. This is not revolt! This is not rebellion! This is nothing less than compromise. Gentlemen, we will have a genuine Tax Revolt when enough individuals declare total independence of the State and its institutions and refuse to pay anything at all, except of course for those services which are necessary to them in their judgment!
Gary S. Rea
Oklahoma City, OK
Good Show Just a note to express my appreciation of Tibor Machan's editorial "Left-Wing Bias on Human Rights" [September]. It is a fine piece!
George I. Mavrodes
Ann Arbor, MI
Elitists All? Much as I admire the gallant crusade of Petr Beckmann to expose the follies of the socialists, anti-nukes, and assorted eco-freaks over the years, I must take respectful dissent at the main thrust of his article "Economics as if SOME People Mattered [October].
Certainly all the folly and stupidity that Beckmann attacks can be found in the "small is beautiful" movement. What Beckmann fails to understand; however, is that within that same movement there are thousands of budding libertarians. Space will not permit a full exposition of this point, but I offer the following two examples.
Steve Baer, one of the nation's most respected solar pioneers, recently wrote a piece on Carter's energy policy (sic) in the journal RAIN. The article is an all-out attack on the existence of the Department of Energy or a national energy policy. Says Baer, "We do not need a Department of Energy. We do not need laws governing everything from the car you drive to the windows in your house.…Foolish people will waste their money on inefficient cars and badly built houses. Isn't that their business?"
"If you don't want to buy what Exxon sells, you don't have to," Baer continues. "But try this simple experiment: explain to the Internal Revenue Service that you aren't going to pay the portion of your tax money that goes to the Department of Energy. Government agents will come and take away your property. I know. I tried it during the Viet Nam War."
"Leave people alone with enough wealth after they pay their taxes," Baer says, "and they will invent, develop, trade with each other and do a good job of solving their own problems."
Another example is Leopold Kohr, the real mentor of E.F. Schumacher and perhaps the earliest prophet of the "small is beautiful" idea. Anyone who thinks Kohr is some kind of fuzzy-headed elitist socialist should read his superb essay "Property and Freedom" in Samuel Blumenfeld, ed., Property in a Humane Economy (Open Court, 1974), an anthology sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies.
There is, in the alternative energy/decentralized society/"small is beautiful" movement, a strong and growing libertarian undercurrent which should be welcomed and encouraged. Beckmann indiscriminately reads the whole movement out of the human race. The article is characteristically entertaining, but a very poor foundation for fruitful thinking on the subject.
Irresponsible Murray Rothbard's Viewpoint on the tax revolt [September] underscored a theme which may well put an untimely end to the very movement he seeks to promote. I refer to the eagerness of many would- be tax reformers to eschew an image of ("craven," "pusillanimous," "mealy-mouthed") responsibility.
A good deal of the power of statism flows from an irrational belief that elected officials are wiser, more judicious, more responsible than the feckless electorate.…We are now at a critical juncture in the development of a popular willingness to consider alternatives to the State. It is a precarious moment, for millions of people are turning inward to challenge the statist myths which have been transmitted to them through coercive institutions and generations of forebears as misled and confused as themselves. At this fragile turning point, we need nothing less than for Rothbard to gallop on stage and proclaim that the myths were right—responsibility is a State monopoly; we're tax rebels, and tax rebels have no use for responsibility!
Sure, it's great fun to bounce around the campaign trail spouting anti-government slogans off the top of your head and talking (as did Jarvis) of ramming hot rods up politicians' butts. Bravo! But do you think no one will notice when you skip town the day after the election?
In California, as elsewhere, local government has monopolized a wide range of activities—from lighting streets to extinguishing fires—which can rightly be termed essential to society. Libertarians can demonstrate how these services can and should be shifted to the voluntary sector. But I have news for you: most people don't know this—they've never even thought about it!
The State of California has responded to Prop. 13 by transferring $4 billion (so far) from the state treasury to continue financing local government at existing levels. The official line is, "When the state money runs out, you'll lose your street lights, your fire departments, and all your other essential services." If we don't demonstrate how the transition to private programs should be made, there's a good chance people will become frightened enough to repeal Prop. 13 within the next two years.
But who'll be doing this demonstrating? Not Rothbard. Not Jarvis. That's behaving responsibly, and you know how we tax rebels feel about that. On to Oregon, Michigan, and Washington, D.C.! More elections! More tax cuts! More hot rods up butts!
Irresponsible rhetoric is irresponsible rhetoric. When the people start looking around and seeing that the tax revolt is not only led by irresponsible crackpots, but that some of its leading theorists expressly reject the concept of responsibility, how do you think they'll respond? And who do you think will have the last laugh as the tide of tax revolt starts to recede?
Contra Cotta Taxpayers Association
Transition In response to Mr. Hildebrand's letter [August] regarding the flat-rate income tax, I must say that he does not understand…that it is intended only as a transition to a structure whereby governments would offer services for a price—to be voluntarily utilized or not by the taxpayer. The adoption of a flat-rate income tax or some other such simple device would lead to the destruction of governments as we now know them. This would be the inevitable result of eliminating those social proposals in the Tax Code from a revenue-collection device utilized by government so that these items could be debated separately. Interestingly enough, the Socialist Worker's Party representative has indicated that the Tax Code is O.K.
As things are presently, tax codes are adopted unanimously as a package without any opportunity for debate on separate sections. This game is an intentional one. As Mr. Hildebrand correctly stated, "one federal dollar is completely indistinguishable from all others." That is precisely the point, isn't it? Mr. Hildebrand is obviously not dealing in the real world.
Regarding the flat-rate income tax, he has not recognized that it is an attempt to avoid violent revolution and yet still obtain the goals of having a non-interventionist government—which is the libertarian goal.
Sheldon R. Waxman, J.D.
"Protection" The Power to Tax is the Power to Destroy. Michael Silver's "Regulations That Are Killing Us" [October] leads me to: The Prerogative to Protect becomes the Power to Destroy.
Days Creek, OR
"Free Socialism" As one who used to believe in capitalist economics and who now fervently champions the cause of free socialism, I appreciate the very fair-minded article "The Mailed Fist Vs. The Invisible Hand" by William Chadwick [September].
I can understand very well Mr. Chadwick's mixed feelings about the anarcho-socialist assault on inheritance and on the concept of private property in general. It took me a very long time to realize that private property combined with the use of wage labor was the coercive monopolization of the means of life backed to the hilt by government. So when we revolutionary anarchists call for the "expropriation of the expropriators," we are only acting in collective self-defense against the class of thieves and knaves. We acknowledge the fact that the earth is a common heritage, all wealth is social, and thus if the production of values cannot be justly fragmented and divided then the distribution of these products must also be socialized by the worker-consumer associations for the benefit of all.
Actually, Karl Marx's alleged communism is really a system of state-capitalism. Communism in the true, and therefore libertarian, sense of the term is a system of equality of condition based on diverse needs. Genuine socialism cannot admit of any wage systems nor of any hierarchical pyramid of power or wealth. We can truly say that by very definition, it can never exist with any form of government as we know it.
Free socialists wish to replace the relations of private property with what is sometimes called "usufruct." To use and make fruitful but not to "own." What we as individuals cannot use we can only waste. To gain by using or exploiting the labors of other men and women is to initiate coercion. Under capitalism those others are legally free but not free in fact because they must by nature of man-made property laws sell themselves to that class of persons who, thanks to the State, monopolize every nook and cranny of the earth. The State taxes, but so also do the landlords and capitalists. They seize and hog the bountiful table of life that by moral right belongs to us all.
Those of us who are libertarian socialists can take heart that the Spanish CNT (National Confederation of Workers) is now undergoing a massive resurgence. Free socialism reflected in revolutionary anarcho-syndicalism is still a mighty current that may indeed one day sweep the world. Oh for an earth on fire with liberty, equality, fraternity, that grand trinity of which is anarchism!
Michael A. Nash
Bright Light Thank you very much for an extremely interesting and well-written magazine. It's encouraging to receive REASON each month and feel that, at least in the States, something positive is happening. Here in Norway the whole system is moving towards a mixture of the cooperative state and socialism—it resembles a kind of tribal war between a multitude of pressure-groups, each claiming that their "needs" are so important that they must be filled by the State. I will just mention some of the latest developments in this battle for stolen money—everything done with the pretext of helping the weak and poor, and to create security for the Norwegian worker.
Very recently the association of actors demanded that all Norwegian theaters should double the number of actors and that they should be guaranteed one year leave with pay every second year. Most of Norway's 150 newspapers are subsidized by the state because the parliament wants to "preserve the great diversity in the Norwegian press." We have a law that compels a farmer to work on his farm in person, or it will be expropriated and sold to his neighbors. If you want to buy a telephone (sorry, you can't buy it, you have to rent it), you have to pay around $600.00 and wait up to five years before you get it. All radio and TV is administered by a state monopoly, which sends the "correct" programs, not what the people want to have, but what they "ought" to have.
These are just some samples from the welfare state of Norway. If you read Atlas Shrugged and Norwegian newspapers at the same time, you will find that the Norwegian statists—of all colors—haven't missed a single law or measure in their attempt to control all human activity. Americans have a tendency to look to Sweden to see the horrors of statism; I think that Norway is a much "better" example. You may ask, if this is right, why isn't Norway shrugging? Until now we (i.e., the State) have had the oil-money to pay for all errors and waste, but even that isn't enough. Last month all prices and wages were fixed for a period of one and a half years. The next should be a resolution against the law of gravity—passed unanimously by the parliament.
On this background REASON appears as a bright light in the dark, which pinpoints the statists' fear of change, freedom of the mind, and reason.
Congratulations with your 10-year anniversary.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".