Military Needs Since when have economic reasons been the basis for decisions of the Congress and others pertaining to the military needs of the nation? I am referring to the article by Field and Boudreaux on "The Cost of Conscription" [August].
Need, based on enemy capabilities primarily and other lesser factors, provides the basis for decisions relative to the military! It has ever been thus and it will continue to be so.
At the moment, Russia's capability of overrunning Western Europe before the US could effectively oppose such a move is the basis for considering restoration of the draft or institution of some form of national service. Economy has absolutely no bearing on the matter.
Why don't "economists" leave military matters to the military planners and other government officials concerned and stick to writing about the economy. Those who have spent a lifetime in the military realize fully that the most important "what if" by far is the one that relates to being defeated in war because the nation was more concerned by other matters than military capability. Once the United States has lost to the USSR in an all-out war, there will be no freedom anywhere in the world for a very long period of time!!! What will it matter then whether the draft or a form of national service was approved by the government or not?
Further, can Messrs. Field or Boudreaux tell us how we can make decisions based on morality as long as we have avowed enemies in the world who pay no attention whatsoever to morality in reaching their decisions?
San Antonio, TX
Prof. Field replies: To take away freedom in order to defend freedom has always been a favorite maneuver of the statist. Colonel Clinkscales' argument could be used to justify drafting individuals into civilian posts considered vital to the national defense. It could be used to justify drafting food and equipment for use in national defense. It could be used to justify planning the entire economy for the purpose of national defense. It could be used to justify suppression of all dissent aimed at reducing military spending and military control of the economy. In short, it could be used to justify turning the United States into the Soviet Union in order to save the United States from the Soviet Union.
FAA Heard From I work for the Federal Aviation Administration. Not in aircraft inspection but in electronics, which shares the same perception and feeling for the FAA's efforts to ensure safety for the flying public.
First of all, for my entire 21 years with the FAA I have chafed over and disagreed with the charge we got from somewhere to "promote" aviation. It's like having the policeman directing traffic on the corner also responsible to "promote" automobile travel. It's none of his business.
Aside from that, in the FAA we spend 50 percent of our time attaining 98 percent reliability of our electronic systems. We spend the other 50 percent of our time struggling it up to 99 or 99.5 percent. (Reliability doesn't mean they are unreliable the other half or one percent of the time they are being used; it's more a measure of continuous availability.)
If ensuring safety were turned over to the private sector as you urged [August] a better system might well evolve. Like you, I too have a deep faith in that principle. But I'll guarantee you there will always be aircraft accidents. There will always be things falling through the cracks. No human being or human system can check every nut and bolt every instant and anticipate every physical weak spot or what is going to break first. There will never be 100 percent reliability!
And anyway, freedom doesn't operate that way. We trade 50,000 lives a year and hundreds of thousands of injuries on the highways for a certain freedom and flexibility and convenience of travel. Your Naderish crying applied to automobiles would have us lumbering at 5 mph down the highways in padded tanks costing about a million dollars each. Sure there would be practically no traffic deaths. But at what price?
This "carnage" you describe is still perhaps 100 times as safe as the "carnage" on our roads. How come you multiply air safety so much over automobile safety?
Sure there are things wrong. Probably as much as anything because government, by its very nature, cannot respond to the checks and balances of a free market. But you do disservice to the subject to even hint that FAA people are not trying or are sloughing things off or are lazy or just interested in "covering our tails" all the time. Even worse, the slur that the FAA "has a worse reputation for incompetence, sloth, foot-dragging and confusion" than any other bureaucracy is ludicrous. The FAA has attracted the most competent and brightest group of people of probably any of the bureaucracies. You'd be hard-pressed to find their equal let alone their superior in government.
If our failures are anything it is through being subject to the socialistic solution, not in sloth and incompetence. You degrade the argument and your status as a defender of the right by attacking people instead of principle.
Raeo L. Passey
Mr. Poole replies: My comments about the competence of the FAA as an organization were based on the views of many long-time observers of the aviation industry, many of whom have testified to that effect before Congress. Undoubtedly there are competent individuals within the FAA, but the bureaucratic structure within which they work cannot help but reduce their effectiveness. Aviation is still safer than highway travel and, yes, a fully private system would not be perfect. My point was simply that we have the ability to create a better system than what we're now stuck with, if only we can muster the political will.
NR on Target? I have read van den Haag's attack and Rothbard's rebuttal [September], and it pains me to conclude that van den Haag's piece was the more impressive. His only major distortion was to imply that Rothbard is the official spokesman for the libertarian movement, instead of "merely" our most prolific and influential theorist.
In criticizing Rothbard, van den Haag landed some telling blows at the center of the anarcho-capitalist paradigm which need to be answered. His analogy between individuals and nations particularly struck me, since for years I have used that same analogy to dispel the argument that defense agencies would stage street fights every time their clients disagreed.
"The line between the agencies' customers' property would be like a national boundary," I'd say. "Do Canada and the United States go to war whenever an American picks the pocket of a visiting Canadian?" Van den Haag turned that argument around on me, by claiming that each individual would in effect be a sovereign nation. As a result, peace between individuals would be as shaky as international peace is today. Regrettably, few countries live together as amicably as we do with Canada.
Defense agencies wouldn't fight because it's bad for business? Well, points out van den Haag, not all agencies will be rational economic calculators. A pack of red-neck vigilante "volunteers" could trample a lot of people's rights before anyone could economically justify the cost of stopping them.
With the above arguments, van den Haag challenged Rothbard on his own terms, in honest debate. To be sure, he also tried to tar the movement with some of the outright silliness that has come from our ranks, but I thought he let us off rather easily there. Walter Block, who has pinned the mantle of heroism on everyone from drug pushers to litterers, wasn't even mentioned.
In comparison, Rothbard's rebuttal was weak and shrill. Instead of refuting the arguments mentioned above, he merely listed van den Haag's lapses into unsupported hyperbole. At the end, Rothbard resorted to distortion (van den Haag never claimed Rothbard's ideas were Stalinist, only that his professed tactics bear an ironic resemblance to Stalin's) and finally to outright ad hominem (van den Haag was "Richard Nixon's last defender").
REASON readers: if you value your objectivity, I urge you to find the June 8 issue of National Review in your local library (unless, God forbid, you subscribe to the thing), read the article, and judge for yourselves.
Taft History In his article, "Anti-Communist? Yes. Cold Warrior? No." [July], McMenamin presented an inexcusably false portrait of the foreign policy views of the late Sen. Robert Taft.
1. McMenamin cites Taft's vote against NATO, leaving the reader to conclude that it was based primarily upon the fear that NATO might unduly, provoke Stalin. Carefully left out was the following, which I quote from Taft:" As for the North Atlantic Treaty Pact, few realize that this treaty obligates us for the next twenty years to assist any nation which is attacked by any other nation, even another member of the Pact. It is simply an old-fashioned military alliance. I did favor a clear declaration to Russia that, if she attacked any of these nations, they would find themselves at war with the United States. That would have left us a free hand to act in our best interests at that time, and would have had the same effect as the Atlantic Pact in deterring Russia from starting a war." ("Foreign Policy Statement" of April 24, 1952)
2. McMenamin cites Taft's characterization of Truman's sending troops to Korea without congressional approval as a "brazen disregard for law." Taft said this because he believed in a strict construction of the Constitution. Conveniently left out is the fact that Taft actually demanded more energetic prosecution of the Korean War than did Truman, that he supported MacArthur against Truman, that he recommended diversionary attacks against the Chinese mainland by Nationalist Chinese troops from Formosa, and that he blamed Truman and Acheson for leaving Korea outside of America's defense perimeter, thereby inviting Stalin's aggression.
3. McMenamin tries to show that Taft's anti-Communism was less militant than Truman's. Actually, the reverse is the case. Taft accused Truman of appeasing Communism in Asia: "The Far Eastern Division of the State Department was inspired, to say the least, by strong prejudice in favor of Chinese Communists, and that seems to have been shared by Secretary Acheson himself. General Marshall was sent to China to insist that Chiang Kai-shek take Communists into his cabinet, and he did his best to force that result." (4 Foreign Policy for Americans, 1951, p. 56)
4. McMenamin states that Taft "showed surprising appreciation for (FDR's) Yalta Axioms." If this is so, why did Taft repeatedly say he deplored the secret diplomacy of FDR, regarding it as deceitful and unconstitutional? And why did he speak out against the terms of the Yalta and Teheran agreements, saying that Soviet Russia was conceded far more than she would have won through force of arms?
5. McMenamin coaxes the facts to allow the ignorant reader to conclude that Taft was not what New Left antihistorians call a "cold warrior." It would take a very subtle application of Hegelian logic indeed to reconcile this with Taft's seven recommendations for basic strategy. "1. The creation of powerful American armed forces. 2. Economic aid to countries where such aid will enable anti-Communist countries to resist the growth of Communism from within. 3. Arms aid to countries where such aid will enable antiCommunist governments to resist aggression from without or armed Communist forces within. 4. Warnings to Soviet Russia or its satellites that armed aggression beyond certain lines or against certain countries will be regarded by the United States as a cause for our going to war. 5. The sending of American troops to a country threatened by attack from Russia or its satellites (European army) or where the attack has already occurred (Korea). 6. An ideological war against Communism in the minds of men. 7. An underground war of infiltration in Iron Curtain countries." (4 Foreign Policy for Americans, p. 66).…
6. McMenamin is able to do all this because in the 26 years since Taft's death a new generation has grown up, abysmally ignorant of history. The truth is that Taft was appalled by FDR and felt that his foreign policy might have needlessly gotten us into war; he didn't think that America was one of Hitler's targets. After WW II, Taft favored a return to normalcy and an avoidance of entangling alliances. His approach was scholarly, and it took him some time to see that "Russia is far more a threat to the security of the United States than Hitler in Germany ever was." (A Foreign Policy for Americans, p. 60)
Robert Taft was an honorable man. To depict him as a proto-Rothbardian addlepate is to do an injustice to his memory. For a magazine which calls itself REASON not to repudiate the McMenamin article is to commit a crime against history—perhaps against freedom itself.
Mr. McMenamin replies: Freisen's basic charge that I presented "an inexcusably false portrait" of Taft's foreign policy is belied by the fact that over one-third of my article was devoted to dissect quotes by Taft. Moreover, his specific charges either (a) are historically inaccurate or (b) fail to support his position.
NATO. Taft didn't oppose NATO because he "feared" provoking Stalin and the Taft quote on NATO in the essay hardly suggests that. The Taft quote on NATO in Freisen's letter is not substantively different from that in the essay. Taft believed in a "free hand," not formal alliances, and never precluded warnings to potential aggressors.
Korea. (1) Taft said in January of 1951 that if he had been President when North Korea attacked, he "would have stayed out" and when asked what he would do now, he said he "would get out and fall back to a defensible position in Japan and Formosa." (2) Taft also suggested in January 1951 a "full scale diversion action" by Chiang Kai-shek in Korea or South China to relieve pressure on American troops who had been pushed back below the 38th parallel by the massive Chinese intervention. Coupled with his desire to withdraw American troops, it was consistent with his position on assistance within our capability: "Our people…cannot send armies to block a Communist advance in every far corner of the world." (3) As for MacArthur, Taft believed that Truman had "every right" to dismiss him. (4) Taft did blame Truman and Acheson for the Korean War. "A Truman War," he called it, "useless and expensive…the net result (being)…the destruction of the very country which we undertook to defend." I believe he was right.
Taft's Anticommunism. Taft criticizing Truman's foreign policy towards Nationalist China and accurately accusing the State Department of a "strong prejudice in favor of Chinese Communists" hardly makes Taft a more militant "anti-communist" than Truman. Militant anti-Trumanism is more like it and indeed characterized many of Taft's foreign policy positions. But then Truman was so wrong so often, this is not surprising.
The Yalta Axioms. "Appreciation" hardly implies approval. "Sensitive awareness" is what I had in mind when I used the word. I found it surprising because FDR deliberately hid his cynical, balance-of-power foreign policy behind a flood of Wilsonian rhetoric. Taft speaking out against the Yalta and Teheran agreements and FDR's secret diplomacy is one thing. Taft recognizing that the Russians "have not moved beyond the line of occupation given them in substance at Yalta" is entirely another. In one, he opposes FDR; in the other, he simply admits (i.e., "appreciates") that the Russians only took what we gave them.
Taft as Cold Warrior. Points 1-6 from the Taft quote in Friesen's number 5 were all covered in the article (See e.g., pp. 37-38 for points 1-5 and p. 39 for point 6) and add nothing new. Taft was not a hard core isolationist and did favor assisting friendly nations under strict conditions. Taft's call for "powerful American armed forces," however, was limited strictly to air and naval forces and not a huge standing army permanently stationed throughout the world. All this hardly qualifies Taft as a cold warrior. As for point 7 (an underground war of infiltration), Taft was merely responding in a limited way to what he perceived as similar tactics by the USSR:
Another method pursued by Soviet Russia is probably justified for us today under all the circumstances, although certainly it is not in accordance with American tradition and is no part of a permanent foreign policy. The Russians…send secret agents into foreign countries…[to] infiltrate every kind of organization which has some influence on the people.…This suggests…that we could do the same thing in the iron-curtain satellite countries. (emphasis added)
He did not consider a response in kind by the US to be provocative. This, too, hardly qualifies Taft as a cold warrior.…
The "Truth." Taft was appalled by FDR's foreign policy and with good reason. And there was no "might have" about it. Taft believed that FDR's foreign policy deliberately and needlessly led us into war. As for Taft taking "some time" to recognize that the USSR was more of a threat than Hitler, it took him about as long as it took the Russians to develop (a) the atomic bomb and (b) the capability to deliver it to targets in this country—an ability Germany never possessed. Recognizing reality does not make Taft a cold warrior.
Taft's Memory. Robert Taft was an honorable man. He was also a wise and remarkably far-sighted man. As Nicholas von Hoffman wrote in The Washington Post in 1971: "Taft was right, right on every question all the way from inflation to the terrible demoralization of troops.…[Taft's policies were] a way to defend the country without destroying it, a way to be part of the world without running it." Von Hoffman, Murray Rothbard and others like them honor Taft's memory for the right reasons. So do I.
Freeing Union Fees That news item on page 17 in the August issue concerning the return of union fees used for political purposes is really exciting. I and I'm sure many other readers would like to know if and how other union employees can force their unions to return dues spent for political goals.
Of course, the political effects of ending unions' coercive support of statist yoyos and of statist laws is huge. Please follow up on this very promising issue.
William J. Zelko, Jr.
Saddle River, NJ
Editor's reply: Interested readers should contact the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, 8316 Arlington Blvd., Fairfax, VA 22038.
Public vs. Government I enjoyed reading your August article "Shrinking Government" except for the repeated use of the word public to mean government. Instead of falling into semantic traps set by statists, libertarians should speak of government sector vs. public sector, and in general avoid terms that suggest an identity between government and citizens. Libertarians should correct people who use we to mean government as in "we should do something about that." New York City is a place; it's the government of NYC that has a fiscal crisis. Let's turn the tables on the statists.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".