He Was There?

Careful study of "Shooting Down the Conspiracy Theory" [May] leads inescapably to the conclusion that Kennedy was assassinated by William Marina.

Leonard Rubin
New York, NY

No Friend of Ours

I note that Nicholas von Hoffman is scheduled to address Libertarians at their Southland convention in September on the subject of "Politics: Why It Ain't Cream That Rises to the Top." I've just read his kiss-off to Simon's Time for Truth in the July 19 New York Review of Books, and a better example of bitch egalitarianism would be hard to find. The confusion of the so-called libertarian philosophy would be amusing if it weren't so serious an example of why capitalism and pragmatism mixed is another sorry rationalization of those who fear reason. Was Mr. Simon invited to speak?

Newton Baird
Georgetown, CA

Energy Reasoning

Yesterday I was told that a gasoline service station in my area that has been selling gas on an "appointment only" basis is being ordered by the Department of Energy to stop that odious practice. Such an order by the DOE doesn't seem rational to me. How can "they" prefer gas lines out in the streets to those on a list? Do they really want people to have to sit and wait in their cars, with motors idling and air conditioners on for hours, while the cars, most with tanks 50 percent full, inch past the pumps to "top off"?

I am not particularly committed to the idea of gasoline by appointment, but it does seem a good alternative for those persons who are able to plan ahead. Other methods are available for those who "need" gas "right now." What annoys me is the assumption that there is only one "fair" way to sell gasoline and that it should be decided by government. Is this the United States of America, the "Land of the Free and Home of the Brave"?

We have citizens' lobby groups to fight the government on taxes, for the elderly, for and against compulsory unionism, etc.; why not a group committed to getting the government out of the petroleum business? Is it possible that price against supply would be sufficient to allocate the petroleum, and equitably at that? How about some editorials, analysis, articles. Help! Help! Somehow we have to rescue sanity from the Department of Energy.

Peter V. Locke
Metairie, LA

The Editors Reply: As this letter was received, REASON's September issue, with Robert Poole's Editorial "Energy and Power," had just gone to press. Over the years, REASON has published quite a few analyses of the energy situation: D.T. Armentano's "Petroleum, Politics, and Prices," June 1974; P.C. Roberts and N. Van Cott's "Bureaucratic Conspiracy and the Energy Crisis," Dec. 1974; R.W. Johnson's "The Energy Crisis—And How to Solve It," May 1975; Murray Weidenbaum's "Fuel for Bureaucrats—or People?" Oct. 1976; Alan Reynolds's "Energy Crisis: Made in Washington," Mar. 1977. If "they" had been listening to REASON, there would not be a 1979 chapter in what is one continuing energy "crisis."

Moral of the Story

In their recent article "The Cost of Conscription" [Aug.], Field and Boudreaux carefully note that, besides the economic arguments they will offer, there are decisive moral arguments against conscription. Fine. Except for the suggestion that some economic arguments by themselves are decisive. Unfortunately, this is not the case—especially since there are always some economists around eager to indicate how the introduction of a bit of freedom can make a fundamentally coercive system cost-effective.

Consider, as a nice illustration of this point, this Field and Boudreaux argument: "Under an all-volunteer system, individuals with the poorest alternatives (the lowest opportunity cost) tend to be the ones who volunteer. Thus, the nation obtains military manpower at the least cost in sacrificed private output. With a draft, individuals would be forced by a set of arbitrary rules to join the military. Many of these individuals would have very high opportunity costs.…Consequently, the cost of obtaining the same amount of military personnel, in terms of lost private-sector output, would inevitably be much higher."

But surely, then, it can be pointed out that the way to solve this "social cost" problem is to have a draft but allow people to buy their way out of it. All draftees are to be offered freedom not to serve in exchange for the difference between what they earn if they don't serve and what their military pay would have been. (We have an illustration of the Coase theorem that an efficient allocation of "resources" will be reached no matter what the initial "assignment" of rights if payoffs are allowed, that is, as long as people are allowed to buy themselves back from the military.) The military could then use the funds derived from these ransom payments for nonpersonnel expenditures. Efficiency is restored and a meat-ax can be taken to the recruitment budget!

Objections to this refurbished draft scheme or more sophisticated variations upon it can only be moral. They must be objections to the distribution of burdens that the schemes involve or (and much better) objections to the violations of rights inherent in conscription and taxation.

Eric Mack
New Orleans, LA

No One Should Speak for Corporatism

Robert Bork has difficulty determining "Who Will Speak for Capitalism?" [July] because he makes the same mistake as the general public in equating capitalism with corporatism. This is precisely the reason why so many people can't stomach "capitalism"; to them it means corporate irresponsibility. Irresponsibility, a necessary characteristic of large corporations (and it's clear Bork wasn't writing about small ones), is a key concept in understanding why capitalism qua corporatism is so often attacked and so seldom defended.

The rise of corporatism meant the end of a recognizable person or persons who owned the productive resources. Public ownership (i.e., stock issuance) is contrary to private ownership (the essence of capitalism) in more than just semantics. Corporatism meant an end to the vast rewards reaped by a few innovators and entrepreneurs, but it also meant one couldn't come looking for a specific person if something went wrong, if a product was defective. In a word, corporations breed irresponsibility, and people are quite aware of this.

The PCB debacle in Michigan is a good example. The chemical corporation that sold the fire-retardant chemical mismarked as animal-feed supplement ceased to exist as an entity with a convenient stock transfer. People affected by the chemical had no one to take out their anger on except "capitalism." Instead of being able to "black the eye" of the owner of the company involved, capitalism earned the black eye. If a real live person had owned the company, instead of anonymous stockholders represented by a faceless board of directors, he/she couldn't have dissolved away by little more than a name change. It's no wonder that big business people won't defend capitalism qua capitalism. They would then have to accept responsibility for what their corporations do.…

It also is no wonder that the general public despises what they see as capitalism when "defenders" such as Bork openly accept the equation of capitalism with corporatism. People hate big business (not, it should be noted, the small, owner-controlled companies of true capitalists) for the same reason they hate big government—it literally is out of control. Nobody is minding the shop. Nobody owns it, nobody runs it, nobody is responsible.

Freedom requires responsibility. Corporations make responsibility impossible. The trend is toward corporations being owned by corporations that are owned by corporations, ad infinitum. Freedom has been and will continue to be the biggest victim of capitalism as corporation.

Rev. Christopher Brockman
Dryden, MI

"Mormon" Facts

I am disappointed with the July article entitled "Man vs. State" by Gary M. King. It is a piece of inaccurate, slanted trash.

Mr. King directs much energy into attacks on the "Mormon" Church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) and its membership. King has no less than seven mentions of "Mormons" in his article: His facts are inaccurate concerning plural marriage and the "Mormon" church. The concept was first introduced in 1843, not 1847; and in 1890, not 1896, an end to the contracting of plural marriage was announced by the then current president. At no time was it practiced by more than 2 percent of the male membership, and it was not widespread nor popular, as King's article implies. The figure that 50,000 individuals are still practicing it in Utah and that there is an "underground polygamist 'Mormon' paper" are untrue.

In addition, King implies that 90 percent of Summit County, Utah, residents are "Mormon" with racial attitudes similar to the late John Singer, a known racial bigot. Where does King get these figures?

The final question is—What's the point of Mr. King's article? He certainly didn't make any points for the cause of private education with this poorly written, slanderous article directed toward trying to make a hero out of a misguided man who attempted to live outside both civic and ethical codes. Nor was Mr. King a responsible journalist to make snide comments on the "Mormon" church and its membership, an organization that is well known and respected for its ability to take care of its membership without federal or state contact or handouts.

Judy K. Pruden
Copper Center, AK