Unreasonable Interpretation?

I find it difficult to believe the name of your magazine is REASON, for no reasonable individual could possibly put the construction that Mr. Machan managed to put upon my remarks in TV Guide (Editorial, May).

The question put to me was: "Do you handle someone who may have something to hide, any differently from a Baryshnikov or a Horowitz?" Wouldn't you? If you believed you knew the facts behind a murder or a theft or an egregiously immoral act, and you had the chance to confront the alleged perpetrator on television, wouldn't you handle him in a fashion utterly different from that you'd use in profiling an artist? If Machan believes that because I mentioned "businessman" in my answer that signifies I am anti-business, he is more paranoid than any reasonable person has a right to be.

Come off it! Like you, I'm the beneficiary of the system under which we live and prosper. I revere it, appreciate it, and revel in the chance, the freedom it gives me, to criticize or question when the system sometimes goes awry.

Mike Wallace
CBS News
New York

Mr Machan replies: No doubt I indulged in a bit of hyperbole at Mr. Wallace's expense. Yet one would have to strain to put a benign construction on his comment. He immediately assumed that "someone with something to hide" must mean people in business. Why the kid gloves for university life, science, and the arts? The visibility and obvious profit-seeking behavior of business make it a convenient target in a climate of an ethics of self-sacrifice. This hides the more subtle evils perpetrated by members of other institutions. Mr. Wallace and 60 Minutes ought to take on some more difficult tasks than revealing what caters to popular envy, namely, the occasional misdeeds of those explicitly set on earning money. As to Mr. Wallace being "the beneficiary of the system," surely he doesn't expect this to prove anything. Jane Fonda, Ed Asner, Michael Douglas, and countless others are unabashedly anticapitalist yet flourish through the system. Even Ralph Nader would amount to little without the system. It is actions that speak loud and clear here, not mere assurances!

Nader Needs It

Dandy editorial in the May issue, Mr. Machan. Boy, you sure hit the nail on the head. Hope old Nader reads it! Keep up the good work!

R. Mathews
Sedona, AZ

Unglue the FDA

The cover and story on body glue (May) is a good example of what is wrong with our government. Enclosed is my letter to President Carter suggesting action he should take.

Thanks for REASON—I enjoy it.

Willis H. Hall
Detroit, MI

Dear Mr. President:
You are properly concerned about the lives and welfare of 50 Americans held in our Embassy in Iran. Their detention and your concern is a matter covered by news, radio, and television each day.

But what are you doing about the Americans who have died and others who will die in the months ahead because of the long continued failure of the Food and Drug Administration to approve the licensure of cyanoacrylate?

Ask your staff to obtain for you a copy of the May issue of REASON. The front cover and the story on pages 20 to 27 detail the incredible record of the Food and Drug Administration in this matter. You have been shocked by many things the government bureaucracy does or fails to do, but I believe you will agree that this case wins the "Idiots' Award."

You seek the approval and support of our European allies in connection with some of our problems. They have authorized the use of this lifesaving product for 10 years.

You have a problem in connection with the unlawful detention of the 50 Americans in Iran. Some suggest the use of a naval blockade—but you have no such problem in connection with aiding the larger lifesaving of Americans at home. No battleships—no blockade of Washington.

I respectfully suggest you get the head man of the FDA on the phone and advise him, "Approve the license within 5 days or your resignation will be accepted."

Keep Politics Out of It

I have just read in the May issue ("The Human Value of Sex") how homosexuality and bisexuality "generally do reflect a detour or blockage on the pathway to full maturity as an adult human being.…" So much for libertarianism. I am cancelling my membership in all libertarian organizations, discontinuing subscriptions to all libertarian publications, and stopping payment on a check to the Ed Clark campaign.

Thank you for opening my eyes. A political system or philosophy is only as good as those people who partake in it. If bigots run the show, their policies will reflect bigotry. Libertarianism is no different. The fact that this outrageous article could appear in a libertarian publication is proof of this.

See to it that your filthy Nazi newsletter no longer finds its way into my mailbox. I already get enough junk mail and other mind pollution as it is.

David Freece
St. Clair Shores, MI

The editors reply: We thought we didn't need to explain to our readers the difference between stating a psychological/biological conclusion about sexuality and making a political or even social judgment about the matter. If it is true that homosexuals and bisexuals are not fully mature human beings, this has absolutely no implications for treating such persons any differently from their fellow citizens, and it needn't even have any social implications—for example, whether one should invite such a person into one's home. There are all kinds of failures of the fullest human development possible, from missing one toe to not having read Shakespeare. But Shakespeare haters need not become outraged at our suggesting it—we'll defend to the death your right to miss out on the experience.

Who Gets to Own Alaska?

Chuck House's article, "Who Gets to Destroy Alaska?" (Apr.) presents a facet of the controversy over Alaska's lands that is not often seen in the lower 48. As in any political battle, the issue is being fought among those who have the high stakes that are required to devote time and money to present their case.

The consumer/taxpayer who usually ends up paying the bill is busy looking after his own affairs. The news media and the politicians seldom pay attention to those few on the sidelines who do see what is going on and try to speak out.

The article expresses many Alaskans' fears of changes that may be wrought by the National Park Service. Yet it is disappointing, because House only hints at the basic issue when he says that the Alaskans are "quick to dispute the premise that only land 'protected' by the federal government will survive destruction." He offers no alternative to federal "protection." Instead, it appears that Alaskans equate "freedom" with their habit of using the federal lands of Alaska as they please.

Ninety percent or more of the lands of Alaska are still owned by the federal government. Federal ownership means that decisions on how the lands are to be used will be political decisions, made in Washington.

Since political decisions are most influenced by those who can give the impression of exerting the greatest pressure, and since political pressure depends in part on head counts, and since Alaska has well below one half of one percent of the total population of the United States, you can be sure that Alaskans will have little to say about how Alaskan lands are managed so long as they are owned by the federal government…

A decision to turn federally owned lands over to private owners would be a political decision in itself, of course, but one which has a greater chance of success. If the question of public vs. private ownership of lands (and all other resources) were brought out in the open and honestly studied and discussed, more people in this country would realize that the outcome of the debate will affect their right to own a home or to build one on the vacant lot they may have purchased. Then Alaskans might well have greater support from the outside.

C. R. Batten
Sacramento, CA

March On!

I was very impressed by the March issue. The articles on radiation by Cohen and Brucer were straight to the point. The biggest surprise was the SALT article by Ron Paul. This is the first clear presentation I've seen of the underlying reasons for the drive to curb foreign intervention by the U.S. The article reminded me of the line from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: Rules? In a knife fight?!

Rudebarbs was another good one. I had never seen the strip before; it's a knockout. May your presses never stop.

J. H. Phillips
Austin, TX

Underground GNP

I found your Trends item (Mar.) on the growth of the underground economy in the United States encouraging, but have difficulty with numbers of such magnitude. Turning to the World Almanac for help, I discovered that $500 billion gives the underground economy a Gross National Product roughly that of France and twice that of Great Britain.

Perhaps libertarians, agorists, and anti-government allies should reevaluate our allocation of money. The most efficient use of our resources in the development of a free nation might be to purchase England!

Seriously, this information in your March issue, considered along with your statistics on government beneficiaries in April (Trends), portend the future of the State-controlled economy. J. Neil Schulman's prediction in Alongside Night of the countereconomy all but starving the government out of existence as soon as 1999 now seems quite realistic.

Ron Chusid
Des Moines, IA

Land Use for the Landed Gentry

As one who led the successful fight to defeat a state land-use plan in Vermont, I can testify to the accuracy of Jim Davidson's remarks (Viewpoint, Apr.) on land-use control schemes as a device to suppress the undesirable lower class.

On one occasion during the Vermont battle an extremely wealthy environmentalist, a financial mainstay of the land-use control forces, wrote letters to the editor advocating strict zoning as a birth control device, arguing that if poor families were unable to find small lots on which to build houses, they would limit their family size and live elsewhere—presumably in tenements.

On another occasion a prominent legislator said, in a debate with me at Dartmouth College, that farmland was so priceless a resource that it had to be kept in production at all costs. "And what if the old farmer and his wife want to sell out and retire to Florida?" I inquired. His reply: "Then we'll get rid of them and put somebody else in there who will keep on farming!" This forceful response left a number of Dartmouth students, ardent environmentalists all, visibly shaken.

On another occasion I was asked to present the case against the state land-use plan—which would have put the State in control of every single foot of the state—before the most rabidly socialist student body in the state (if not the U.S.), that of Goddard College. I pointed out how Quechee Lakes, a high-toned corporate development, had made its peace with the environmental controllers and was continuing to build fancy houses on $60,000 lots. Then I cited regulations and statements of the environmental controllers making it perfectly clear that the target of their controls was not big corporate developments but people who wanted to build nontraditional and unsightly yurts and zomes and paint them purple—not to mention lower-income working families. I could tell there was going to be a long debate on this subject after I left. A month later, the socialist third party in Vermont came out with its platform. It condemned the state land-use plan as a ripoff for the rich and the big corporations and a threat to the poor people of the state. God bless 'em!

The drive for land-use control has little or nothing to do with protecting the environment. That is merely an excuse. The real reason is to centralize power in the State, there to be exercised to the advantage of the ruling class. The controllers cannot tolerate diversity, freedom of choice, and worst of all, independence among the lower classes. Fortunately, 700 farmers and mechanics crowded a high school gym for a legislative hearing in Montpelier in 1974 and dealt that movement a death blow. May the citizens of other states emulate our example.

John McClaughry
Concord, VT

To the Founders' Defense

As a former participant at one of Cato Institute's summer seminars, I must take issue with John W. Harding's criticism of Cato's "Founding Fathers" ad in REASON. The fact is that, between the strains of "Cato Uber Alles" and Ed Crane's outstanding Peter Keating imitation, the student is presented with a seminar comparable with the best graduate schools in the country. I challenge Mr. Harding to attend Leonard Liggio's lectures on American foreign policy and maintain the claim that he is not listening to one of the builders of an authentic libertarian foundation. It is true, of course, that Cato would do well to add speakers from other sources such as the Reason Foundation. On the other hand, everyone didn't make it to the constitutional convention either—and of those who did, surely Mr. Harding does not entertain the schoolboy notion that all were heroic in stature? But as to the main lure of the advertisement—Cato's "Founding Fathers' Convention" does concern itself with person-to-person contact between individual seminar participants and "big name" speakers as claimed.

Philip E. Jacobson
Fayetteville, NC

Neier Naughties

Linda Abrams's otherwise capable review of Aryeh Neier's Defending My Enemy (Apr.) left the reader with the impression that Neier, and the national ACLU during his directorship, had maintained a rather consistent defense of First Amendment freedoms from a libertarian viewpoint.

First, we should notice that at no time during the days the Nazis wanted to march in Skokie did the ACLU point out that the conflict arose from the Nazis' plan to use public property supported by Skokie's Jewish taxpayers. The entire crisis could have been prevented had the Nazis been voluntarily persuaded to use a private rental location for their obnoxious gathering. But the ACLU wasn't interested in such a libertarian solution.

Second, according to "Why the ACLU Defends Free Speech for Racists and Totalitarians," the Union took the case of the Nazis because they objected to the town of Skokie passing a group libel law to prohibit anti-Semitic expression. Certainly no libertarian would sanction any group libel law, since such government power could be used to silence any group of citizens who are critical of any other group.…

Third, in addition to numerous other contradictions and inconsistencies reviewed in my book The ACLU on Trial, Neier wrote in his Dossier: The Secret Files They Keep on You that he wants to "destroy the dossiers"; that is, he wants to destroy all personal record information held by all public agencies, regardless of its use in pending or future investigations, and all dossier files held by private organizations (p. 192)! One wonders if this would include the extensive personal case records at ACLU headquarters in New York? Neier completely fails to distinguish between the wrongful misuse of information to harm people and the mere collection of public record material which harms no one. He would use force to deprive me of my right to collect such information. He even finds attractive (p. 198) a law that would make it illegal for employers to use convict arrest records as a basis for refusing to hire prospective employees!

Finally, in his more recently published Crime and Punishment: A Radical Solution, Neier affirms his support for the ACLU's position advocating totalitarian federal gun controls. On p. 65 he says, "I favor outright prohibition of all private ownership of guns. All guns. This proposition seems to me as sensible as prohibiting private ownership of nuclear weapons." If that were not incredible enough, he closes his argument on p. 71 by saying, "Elsewhere in this book, I propose that the state do less. Here, I want the state to do more. I want the state to take away people's guns." Exactly the sort of thing that was done in the Nazi Germany from which Neier was fortunate so early in his life to escape.

I trust that such an impressive and articulate libertarian as Ms. Abrams would not wish to be associated with such views or convey to her readers a favorable impression of their source.

William H. McIlhany
Newport Beach, CA