I gather that the Brickbats column is supposed to be a place for satiric jibes at the follies of the world, but I truly do not understand the recent dig [Oct.] at the Coast Guard's methods of search-and-rescue.
Hazlett mentions the recently developed method of using pigeons to visually scan for the orange color of flotation vests, a task at which they are approximately twice as effective as human observers. For some reason, this method is presented as something trivial, useful only to rescue "drunken yachtsmen" and interesting only insofar as a comparison might be drawn between the intelligence of a pigeon and the mentalities of congress persons.
If Hazlett thinks that the task of searching for persons lost at sea is really no more than a subject for cracking jokes, that is his privilege. However, if the time should come that he finds himself thrown overboard at sea in bad weather, or adrift in the aftermath of an airplane crash, I suspect he would be damned glad that pigeons, instead of human beings, were looking for him.
Federal Way, WA
I don't find Robert Ringer's discussion [Sept.] of smoking as a victimless crime entirely satisfactory. If another person smokes around me (whether tobacco or marijuana), I will be exposed to carcinogenic and psychoactive substances; if I do not consent to this exposure, then I am not just being "bothered"; I am being subjected to aggression, just as by any other form of air pollution. Ringer's reference to "privately owned establishments" does not dispose of this objection, in the absence of a theory of how much say an owner has in making coercive behavior allowable on his property. I suggest the following series of criteria:
1. On any property, private or governmental, if all those affected consent and the owner's use of the property is not interfered with, an otherwise coercive act is permissible.
2. On government property, smoking and other coercive behavior is otherwise impermissible; the government, whose business is preventing coercion, may not make acceptance of coercion a condition of using its property.
3. On private property access to which is by specific invitation only, the owner may set whatever rules he chooses.
4. On private property to which the general public has access, the owner may also set whatever rules he chooses but must specifically make sure that all those entering are aware of the rules (such as by posting announcements at entries—for example, he may allow smoking, but must post "smoking permitted" signs). If special rules are not announced, any coercive act gives grounds for legal action against the owner and also against the coercer.
Many smokers (not all) show a chronic disregard for the rights of nonsmokers to breathe unpolluted air. I, for one, have suffered throat and eye irritation, nausea, and headaches, not to mention the discomfort of being surrounded by foul odors, from such people; and I am nowhere near the upper limits of normal human sensitivity. I support the right of others to smoke, and I expect them to respect my rights to breathe clean air. The assumption by smokers of an unconditional right to smoke under any circumstances, and the knee-jerk defense of that claim in the name of freedom by some (not all) libertarians, reflect an insensitivity to the rights of nonsmokers such as myself, which I find both repugnant and illibertarian.
William H. Stoddard
Chula Vista, CA
Here's an idea for libertarians: Rather than fielding candidates (or sending sheep to slaughter), embrace the idea of James U. Blanchard, III (also the idea of J. Edgar Hoover): Set a number-one objective and spare no effort until it is completed.
For example, we are all being bled white by the fiction of "capital gains" that the taxing agencies hold as fact. (A truckload of sand will "appreciate" 100 percent in five years given a 12 percent money growth rate.) A "Truth in Capital Gains" law would factor the depreciation of the dollar before factoring the capital gains.
After we have shown leadership and success, the libertarians should come up with a full slate of candidates selected from the workers who completed the projects that gained the Libertarian Party fame and notoriety.
Santa Barbara, CA
This is to commend your editorial on energy and power [Sept.].
I was born in 1901. I first heard of the "energy crisis" in 1923: Dr. George Ashley, state geologist of Pennsylvania, gave a talk at Lehigh University in which he said that the oil and gas of our country would begin to taper off in about 25 years. He hit it right on the nose, since we first began to import oil in 1948. All during those years, I received the reports of the Bureau of Mines, telling what they were doing to gasify the western coal as well as extract oil from shale. I submit that if government had never meddled in the energy question we would have had oil and gas pouring out of our ears through existing lines, and the "energy crisis" would never have been heard of.
John E. Erb
Let's Be Reasonable
In his Viewpoint column in October, James Dale Davidson advocates relating to certain other people by way of fear. I think there is a better way of relating to others—it's called reason.
Monterey Park, CA
Let me make a suggestion concerning your letter asking people to renew their subscriptions. You "apologize for having to raise prices," but REASON, of all people, should be more descriptive and accurate. You are not raising prices. You are simply accepting the fact that the government-controlled product called money has decreased in value.
If all price-change notices were stated in this manner, it would serve to emphasize that the fault is not the manufacturer nor the retailer who is doing the changing: it is the federal government. They and they alone have made it necessary to keep changing the numbers on the prices.
To put it another way: anybody who does not change the numbers on his prices is accepting an ever-reducing value for his product. The price I place on my product is simply a comparison of my value with that of the government-controlled product called money.
Re: honest politician in Lucifer's Lexicon by L.A. Rollins in the August issue. Another golden-oldie version is: "An honest politician is one who, once bought, stays bought."
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".