Housing Problems "Housing: Tangled in Red Tape" (Oct.) is an excellent analysis of some of the problems we are faced with. It is an article that should be published in every media, so that the public can begin to understand why housing is so expensive and why developers are more and more reluctant to risk capital these days. The ultimate here, of course, is less housing, serious shortages, and then the threat of more and more government control.
Donald E. Van Curler
Ann Arbor, MI
Building sans Permit I want to express my appreciation for the quality article on building codes in the October issue. It struck some very responsive chords.
Since spring of 1977, mostly by way of avocation and to provide for myself a house that would be pleasant to inhabit during a New Hampshire winter, I have slowly been building a structure fitted specifically to its site and to my own lifestyle. Even now, although I had hoped to have it ready for this coming winter, it is far from completion. I pick away at it as time permits: perhaps a full three days per week.
Early this year while in a Selectmen's meeting where I was challenging an absurd change in my tax assessment, the question about my building without a permit was raised. I admitted fully to doing so, and also that I put up and take down structures quite often without anyone's say-so.
So the inspector has been up and the local health officer and a Cease and Desist Order has been issued and next our officials will have to establish that I am in violation of that order before going to Superior Court for an injunction. Even then they will have a problem establishing a violation, and so it goes. I am hoping that the very difficulty of anyone's being able to ascertain from the boundaries of the property whether or not the house even exists, let alone whether I'm building it, will stand in favor of my being free to build it.
There is no doubt, though, that I want this case to go to court. I think I have here an issue sufficiently clear in its aspect as an incursion upon personal freedom that I can gain some politically useful coverage from it. New Hampshire, as you may know, sports the motto "Live Free Or Die," although no one seems to take much notice of the daily travesties upon it. In fact, no one was much aware what our state motto was until the Vietnam War protests began and the motto emerged on license plates with a very lugubrious intent.
Thanks again for the ammunition you have provided. I hope that by the time I go to court (?) there will be some more favorable precedents to cite.
Avery R. Johnson
Foreign Policy Overhaul Congratulations on the editorial raising the foreign policy issue. If there is one area requiring a major overhaul in libertarian thinking, it is this one. Libertarian thought has been dominated until now by the Rothbard-revisionist-isolationist school, which in my estimation is totally misguided and naive, to say the least. This, more or less, seems to be the official policy of the Libertarian Party. It ignores the reality of international power politics and attempts to whitewash the role of the Soviet Union as a justification for its utopian thesis.
Clearly, the interest of the United States as a society, as well as the individual interests of American citizens, extend beyond our own borders. Somewhere between the revisionist-isolationist head-in- the-sand policy and the militaristic big-spending hysteria of most conservatives, libertarians can find common ground in a sane, responsible position that recognizes current realities.
I hope that you will extend this debate in the pages of REASON.
Cos Cob, CT
A Call to Reason Your editorial "A Call to Sanity on Foreign Affairs" (Oct.) states precisely one of the most serious—if not the most serious—problems facing not only this country but the entire world. It is a problem now being largely ignored.
As you point out, its solution requires the attention of our best brains in military science, economics, geopolitics, history, and many other disciplines. It is the sort of problem that should have been under study long ago by the Mont Pelerin Society. But, as a close observer of that society for many years, I feel sure that the society will not make such a study.
Perhaps the Hoover Institution could be persuaded to undertake it. But here again, you may run into a conjuncture of the "military-industrial-financial-foundation complex" (to expand Eisenhower's characterization).
Do you think that REASON magazine, with appropriate financial and secretariat backing, might be able to set up a conference of top minds on this problem—their deliberations and conclusions to be published, perhaps in a special issue of your magazine? There is nothing brilliantly original in this suggestion, and you yourself, no doubt, may have often entertained such an idea. Yet your editorial articulates what has long been in my mind, and I think it is significant that, to my knowledge, no one else has expressed the concern you have for a reasonable consideration of this critical problem.
Private Solutions October has traditionally been a month for trick-or-treat, but your October issue gave us both.
The "trick" may have been unintentional—after all, you have reason to believe that what is printed in Science magazine bears some relation to science. Julian Simon's piece (cited in Trends) was at best misleading, and Science is still getting letters from scientists about the unreliability of Mr. Simon's "facts." Your readers certainly deserve something better.
Fortunately, they got it, in "Confessions of an Environmentalist." Here's a point of view I'd like to see libertarians pay more attention to—the environmental problems are real, but the federal government is not going to solve them. It is, as usual, up to us.
It is not particularly comforting to realize that our water supply is in the same hands as our building codes; that long before we had a Department of Energy, this country had six million windmills in private hands; that it is not the Department of Agriculture which is teaching farmers how to prevent another dust bowl, but Robert Rodale.
There is a wealth of material out there (and here in Washington!) about what private citizens and private groups are doing to improve the environment and precious little written about what the federal government is doing—and subsidizing with our money—to make things worse. Even one such article—like Lawrence Dodge's—is a real treat. Thank you.
New Environmentalism I enjoyed Lawrence B. Dodge's article, "Confessions of an Environmentalist" (Oct.). Reading it moves me to call your attention to a little book which, in a mere 108 pages, powerfully corroborates what Dodge said. The book is: Earth Day Reconsidered, edited by John Baden and published by The Heritage Foundation, Washington, D.C. I particularly recommend Chapter 11 to Mr. Dodge—and, indeed, to all your readers.
Charles H. Chandler
On Bandow on Reagan I know my friend Doug Bandow ("How Right is Reagan?" Nov.) is an attorney and free-lance writer as he is identified following his more-than-fair assuagement of claimed Reagan/Republican schizophrenia. But REASON inexcusably declined to inform its readers that he is also an employee of the Reagan/Bush campaign committee who was, incidentally, on the day the November REASON appeared, busily manufacturing excuses about repeated Reagan waffling for the Wall Street Journal, saying that "there are political and budgetary realities" that would argue against Reagan support for repeal of the "windfall profits tax." Doug and Martin Anderson make it clear that the Reagan administration would, after all, relish the opportunity to get its hands on the loot (WSJ, 10/16/80).
This group's "potential for advancing liberty" by plying a supposedly amenable Reagan is strictly illusory, and REASON is missing the boat by acting as accomplice in this sort of backsliding.
Jule R. Herbert, Jr.
Treasurer, Clark for President Committee
Rational Thrill I'm impressed! First the excellent articles on the radiation hysteria in the March issue, then the look at threshold "arguments" by Bell in the July issue, and the excellent article on Three Mile Island by Adam Reed in August have convinced me that REASON is the best magazine to consult for an objective look at energy.
Add to this the masterfully written articles on medical certification, education, economics, politics, and philosophy, and the result is even better. Then the final touch is the humor of Rudebarbs as well as the Brickbats section.
The exposé of Barry Commoner's energy mythology (Nov.) couldn't have come at a better time. It's a real thrill to have a rational alternative to the clutter of slick newsmags with their cliché captions and color photographs. Keep 'em coming!
Cato Contentions Robert Chitester's comments, as reported to Patrick Cox in October's Spotlight column, are highly misleading. First, Mr. Chitester was not in residence at the 1978 Stanford program past the middle of the week, and foreign policy issues are scheduled at the very end of the program. Therefore, it is not clear how Chitester can have complaints about something he never participated in. Further, according to the evaluation form he returned to us, he attended only four of the 20 lectures. I personally recall that Bob spent most of his first few days on the telephone outside the lecture hall and did not display any particular enthusiasm for attending the lectures.
Further, I cannot accept his contention that no one would discuss his foreign policy positions. Cato-sponsored discussions are open and participants are free to discuss anything they wish. We do try, usually without success, to focus each day's discussion group on topics covered that day. This would explain why the group leaders may have been unresponsive to Chitester's questions, since the foreign policy groups were only meeting later in the week.
Finally, in a written communication to us, Bob expressed his fear that libertarianism is a "closed set of principles." The translation of that remark is simple: "Why won't you give up these principles so persons with other ideas can be libertarians too?" Bob's comment that he is comfortable with libertarianism, but uncomfortable with Cato, is contrary to his earlier communications with us, and contrary to logic. All becomes clear, however, when one understands that Chitester is a conservative, not a libertarian, and therein lies his "problem." In any case, Chitester's criticisms of the Cato seminars are unconvincing because he is not a libertarian and was not in attendance.
Robert L. Formaini
The Cato Institute
San Francisco, CA
Mr. Chitester replies: I attended a Rothbard lecture on foreign policy. I raised serious issues in the following discussion sessions. After two to three minutes, most Cato "libertarians" walked away. Finally, my points were dismissed, not answered, with an aloof, "You'll never understand; you haven't the basic commitment."
Why are Mr. Formaini and others so sensitive about challenges to their foreign policy positions? Why are my criticisms dismissed because I did not attend further meetings? Was there a change in position? Did George Washington become something other than a "dumb boob"? Did Jefferson regain favor despite his "sell out"? Was Lincoln no longer characterized as a "monster"? Did a "relaxed" attitude toward the Soviet Union change? Not from what I understand.
What troubles me is the "utopian" framework of Cato's "libertarianism." You're either a "born-again" unthinking disciple, or you're "conservative." I am a libertarian. I favor freedom to the greatest degree possible, particularly freedom of discourse and intellectual inquiry. On that score, Cato seems rather authoritarian.
Hayek has been one of Cato's heroes, but I assume he's now a war-mongering conservative because he suggested we bomb Tehran. Perhaps his experience with the Nazis and his conviction that Socialism and Fascism are one leads him to irrational views. Someone, including a few of us libertarians, had better be ready to defend our freedom if all of us are to have the opportunity to attempt to preserve it.
Political Alternatives There was much ado in your November issue about Mr. Clark "taking incredibly watered-down stands and creating deliberate misimpressions about the Libertarian Party positions on a whole gamut of issues" in order to get media attention (comments of David F. Nolan). There were also some questions as to the legitimacy of political campaigns in general from a libertarian viewpoint in "Ed Clark: Another Kind of Candidate." Those comments would lead me to believe that we should (1) not campaign or (2) not try to win (if it means sacrificing our principles). If we do not try to change the course of the country by political means, we are left either to do nothing but bitch or to rise up in arms against the government. I object to both of those courses of action.
I believe the only viable method to develop a libertarian society is to play within the rules. To try to change everything at once would be a disaster. Take the most critical issues and push them. Save the rest for philosophical debate. Even FDR's brand of socialism wasn't established in one term, much less four. It is nice to be pure, but it is also nice to be successful.
Reviews Reviewed I don't recall that I was surveyed (see Editor's Notes, Nov.), but I fit the pattern: a well-educated, prosperous male who makes investments, orders by mail, and reads books on political economy and how to perform various sports and hobbies.
I depart from the pattern when it comes to reviews of books and movies, both of which I urge you to expand. Because I read no fiction and attend no movies, I depend on reviews for information on these two manifestations of current culture. I particularly enjoy John Hospers on the movies.
Robert C. Lea, Jr.
How Many Pilots? In regard to your item "How Many Pilots?" (Trends, Oct.), the lay public might tend to be confused by the "conclusive evidence" of the Boeing study that two-crew airplanes were involved in fewer accidents than three-crew airplanes.
On the face of it, Boeing's conclusion is accurate. Since there are probably at least two to three times as many three-crew airplanes in operation as two-crew airplanes, however, that statistic is not surprising. What are overlooked are the statistics on "crew-related" accidents. (Boeing's study included all accidents; for example, injuries to deplaning passengers.) Since we are concerned with the relative safety of three-crew airplanes vs. two-crew airplanes, is it not logical to concern ourselves only with statistics on "crew-related" accidents?
When we achieve such separation of wheat from chaff, a completely different picture emerges. When only cockpit crew related accidents are considered, the three-crew aircraft show up clearly safer. Covering a decade of experience, the crew-related accident rate (per million departures) was 1.57 on the three-crew Boeing 727 as opposed to 2.10 on the two-crew Douglas DC-9. Additionally, other FAA data show that crew violations of Federal Aviation Regulations are twice as high on the DC-9 as on the B-727. These violations averaged, per 100,000 departures, 1.8 for the DC-9 as opposed to 0.9 on the B-727.
It is not surprising that Boeing would use self-serving statistics; after all, they are trying to sell two-crew airplanes to receptive airline management. But there are many of us in the "business" who are not fooled by such smoke-screen tactics. In 15 years of flying for a major airline, I have experienced countless situations where safety would have been seriously compromised were it not for the third crewmember. Speaking as one who makes his living operating aircraft, I will never be convinced that two-crew airplanes can be as safe as three-crew airplanes. It is high time that the public, the government, the aircraft manufacturers, and the airlines recognize that fact.
Lest these comments be construed as reflecting the opinions of the airline for which I fly, please delete my airline affiliation following my name.
Michael E. Anderson
Less-Government Attempt Your readers might like to know about an effort in Apache Junction, Arizona to disincorporate. It is meeting with enormous official delaying tactics. Although most politicians talk of "less government," when the people take direct steps to achieve it, their real feelings come forth. Elected officials and office-seekers from all over the state have come to speak in favor of keeping the city government. The two county attorneys involved have rendered conflicting opinions on the statutory requirements (both opinions are so vague as to be meaningless).
As of this date almost twice as many people have signed a disincorporation petition as voted in favor of incorporation two years ago. In spite of the obvious sentiment of the people, we have been met with charges of "rumor-mongering, defrauding, bamboozling, scare-tactics, etc." The official opinion of the city officials and their supporters is that we are just a bunch of troublemakers.
The real reason for a great deal of the fear among politicians from other areas of the state is the knowledge that success here in AJ will lead to similar movements in other cities and towns. We know of three other communities who are just waiting to see how we fare before embarking on the same course.
We have had to retain an attorney to file suit to get some understandable, rational interpretation of the law. Our opponents are using tax dollars to fight us; we are relying strictly on voluntary contributions. I urge any of your readers who are interested in abolishing an entire level of government to send what they can to the Disincorporation Committee, 1484 West Apache Trail, Apache Junction, AZ 85220.
Robert M. Dugger
Apache Junction, AZ
Freedom Is Freedom Michael Monson's "The Dirty Little Secret behind Our Drug Laws" (Nov.) was perhaps the high point of a superb issue. Years ago many libertarians thought that the drug issue should be the last thing we talk about. But considering its ability to illuminate our concern for liberty, and the practical aspects such as crime, it really ought to be one of the first.
Monson is on point when he compares drug prohibition to persecution of Jews in Germany. Some people will think this is absurd on its face; that is the result of their failure to look at the full context. Why should drug-law advocates grant the right to religious freedom, but not pharmacological freedom? This is an a priori distinction that people make without thinking. They surely can't argue that drugs are dangerous, but religions are not. Loads of people have killed and been killed over religion. I suspect that fewer have died in drug-related ways.
As Monson notes, the real issue here is liberty, period. But the side issues—the motives of prohibition and the myth of addiction—are interesting and strengthening elements in the case for abolition of the monster state.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".