Solar Corrections

In general, my article "Solar Myths and Solar Facts" (Jan.) was well edited, but there are some places where correct statements have been changed to wrong ones. At the end of page 25 my original "There would be formidable problems simply obtaining the 240 volts AC that most 150-ampere households have now in three-wire systems" has been changed to read: "It is even far beyond the present state of the art simply to obtain the 240 volts AC that most 150-ampere households have now in three-wire systems."

It is by no means even "beyond" the state of the art, let alone "far beyond" to do this. It's just expensive and not very reliable.

The other point is the addition of the solar costs including the 55 percent tax credit. I don't think the numbers are correct. First of all, this is a credit only when one has state income tax to pay, which for a lot of people is rather negligible, at least compared to the federal tax. But aside from that (the carry-forward provisions beyond 1981 might make the credit realizable), I get the following result:

Assuming no federal credit to subtract from the state credit, 0.55 x $3,500 is a $1,925 credit. This is realized, however, when the next return is filed and when the state accepts it. So I assume that there will be one year of 12% interest on the full amount, or $3,920, from which we get to deduct only the $1,925, leaving $1,995 as the actual cost to be financed over the remaining 9 years. The 9-year cost of capital is thus $3,537. The total comes out $5,707 rather than $4,974, making solar still the more expensive alternative over propane.

Actually, it is probably academic anyway, since one must in practice install both systems in order to have back-up hot water for those several days in a row of no sun. Most county building codes do in fact require the back-up system, where the subject is addressed at all.

But other than that the edited article reads very well.

R.W. Johnson
Ben Lomond, CA

Plugging into Solar

Congratulations are due to R.W. Johnson for his first-class exposé [Jan.] on the solar energy mythology that is currently in vogue. Having been involved in solar energy research for several years, I can testify in support of many of his arguments, as can most of the academic professionals with whom I have worked.

Today's "sun-worshippers" should be openly condemned for the cruel hoax which they are attempting to perpetrate on the people. Unfortunately, we do not yet have the technology to extract static charges from the air à la John Galt, nor can we economically "plug into solar" at this point in time.

It is equally ridiculous to suggest that solar energy is necessarily "safe." In this respect, many of the current approaches to solar cell design, application, and manufacture present significant obstacles which must be overcome before cost-effective utilization can develop.

Without question, solar energy of some kind has a place in our present and in our future. Decisions regarding how, what kind, and where are best resolved through the rigors of the marketplace.

In the interim, it is sheer fantasy to suggest that the electricity generated by photovoltaics will be able to match the current density in the three-pole transformer of a nuclear plant in the foreseeable future.

Christopher Witzky
New Fairfield, CT

New View of UFW

"Who's Bankrolling the UFW?" by Patty Newman (Nov.) is an excellent article. It was shocking news to me—and probably to many other readers who have no way of knowing about such activities. All we see of Cesar Chavez and his UFW is what we see on TV.

I think it deserves wider readership. Why don't you bring it to the attention of "60 Minutes?" They could do a TV show about this and get it to the attention of millions of viewers.

Patty Newman deserves great credit for her efforts to get this information into print.

Dorothea H. Webber
Denver, CO

Sell Nevada Against Inflation

David Stevens of Enon, Ohio, speaks against the budget-balancing amendment to the Constitution [Letters, Dec.]. He claims that the Fed can still buy corporate paper to put us into inflation. He misses the point.

Your congressman votes for deficits. The Treasury has to borrow to pay the bills. It drains the money market, pushing up interest rates. This would cause unemployment, depression, as private job-makers are driven out to let the Treasury fill its requirements.

The Federal Reserve replenishes the supply by buying federal obligations. It has no money to buy with so it prints what it needs, issuing credit on the government's dishonored credit.

Without deficits, in a balanced budget, there is no reason for the Fed to buy any paper. In fact it is irrational to suppose that it would. Thus no inflation.

Consider this proposal: Work to force the federal government to sell enough of its property to balance the budget in any year. We'd halt inflation, which destroys 10 times the amount of deficit. The western states, looking toward freeing federally owned lands, should support the idea. It has some problems, but none as bad as the tenfold destruction without a balanced budget.

Thomas S. Booz
Plantation, FL

Clint Eastwood, Libertarian

Regarding the movie "Escape from Alcatraz," [Movies, Dec.] I would like to make some comments. I consider this movie to make two important libertarian points. First of all, the character Eastwood plays is quite competent at controlling his own fate. Secondly, he primarily uses his brains to do so.

I think many of Eastwood's characters show libertarian traits. Considering the lack of libertarian ideas in Hollywood films, Clint deserves a few points.

John P. Wagner
Galion, OH

Nongovernment Inquiries

I have mixed feelings about Murray Rothbard's disavowal of issues for libertarians other than government [Viewpoint, Dec.]. On the one hand, I am just as opposed as Rothbard is to having a single position on matters of culture or lifestyle defined as the Correct Libertarian View. On the other hand, it seems to me that there are issues of this kind with which libertarians should concern themselves, simply for the sake of liberty.

In the first place, there are many institutions, practices, and beliefs which depend on the intervention of the State (or on other forms of force) to support them. Take away that intervention, and they would disappear, or at least become less common. This does not just mean the organization of businesses and labor unions. Present law only recognizes one type of marriage relationship, one in which a single woman gives a single man a life interest (amounting to an easement type of property right) in her sexual and reproductive capacities, in exchange for his promise to support her. Even if such contracts could be valid under libertarian law (Rothbard rejects them in Man, Economy, and State), a system in which terms of marriage or other relations between sexual partners were freely negotiable would have a variety of practices very different from those now accepted. The suburban life style has been propped up artificially by zoning laws, special income tax deductions favoring homeowners against renters, government subsidy to automobile transportation, and the like. Adolescent unrest exists partly because of child-labor and minimum-wage laws denying people under 18 economic independence, statutory rape and related laws denying them sexual freedom, parental custody laws denying them the right to set up their own households at their own expense, and many other laws.…Compulsory education laws and comprehensive schooling have forced many adolescents who would be happier learning a skill through apprenticeship, or working, into schools, where they have no real challenges and must invent challenges through ritual defiance of adults, which have no meaning. Just changing these institutions would radically alter American society; yet there are many other practices which would also have to change once the State stopped forcing them on people, or subsidizing them.

Further, there are changes which would be, not products, but prerequisites of any widespread movement toward freedom. So long as people are psychologically ready to accept authoritarian morality, envy, resentment, punitiveness, and the sorts of ideological and personal mystification which the Marxists call "false consciousness," they are not likely to accept libertarian values. Indeed, most of the institutions which depend on the State for support are in turn potent supporters of the State.…Beyond this, people who are willing to let authorities, whether religious, moral, psychiatric, or familial, control their own lives, seldom have any objection to such authoritarian control being extended to other people.…Thus, the elimination of authoritarian values (through such proper means as criticism, artistic and religious expression of new values, and personal example) is almost surely a precondition of any lasting libertarianism; and this would be a radical change in American society as well.

To sum up, the political system does not exist in isolation. It both affects and is affected by other parts of human existence. To change it presupposes changes elsewhere, and generates further changes. It should not be assumed that such changes would match those supported by current intellectual fashions; but serious inquiry into these issues is entirely appropriate to libertarianism—inquiry, not prescription.

William H. Stoddard
Chula Vista, CA

Rights Questions

In the December REASON, Alan Gewirth was reported as having said unborn children have limited rights. "If these rights conflict with those of an adult normal human being, the latter, whose capacities for purposive and voluntary action are far greater, take precedence." ("Resurrecting Rights," Jeffrey Paul). Paul thought Gewirth's analysis was "incisive" but didn't explain what Gewirth meant by "limited rights" or what are the particular rights of pregnant women and unborn children. Does libertarianism hold that some have greater rights than others? Do "less than normal" adults such as the retarded or infirm have a less than normal right not to be killed? The reader is left to wonder.

Doris Gordon
Wheaton, MD