A response to Robert Poole's threefold policy for reindustrialization (Editorial, Nov.), libertarian style:
"End inflation by restoring sound money and prohibiting federal deficits." To establish a stable dollar abruptly would be as unfair to the recent borrowers of presumably constantly depreciating money as inflation was to the lenders of presumably constant valued money. It would bring on mass bankruptcy, the "cleansing effect" so deeply desired in much of the hard-money camp. Hardly a reindustrialization program! I feel the dollar's rate of depreciation should be reduced slowly over a period of many years. Such a policy would restore equity to financial transactions. If constitutionally guaranteed, this policy would restore predictability and confidence to the dollar. Of course, people would still feel the need for stable money, for an unchanging yardstick of value. Perhaps the federal government could conduct any new business in a new monetary unit with no built-in inflation, a unit whose currency would be convertible to gold at a constitutionally guaranteed exchange rate. There would be no reason to prohibit federal deficits.
"Abolish all taxes on savings and investment income." It is unfair and illogical to discriminate between earnings from interest, dividends, or capital gains (with inflation accounted for) and earnings from wages or salaries. A better plan is to shelter, at least partly, income from any source while it is being held for savings or investment.
"Reestablish free competition—that means no subsidies or bailouts, no restraints on closings or relocations." Right! But free competition also means no price control. Rate regulation of investor-owned enterprises and below-market pricing for those collectively owned have caused their physical and financial deterioration along with an emphasis on uneconomic consumption.
William K. McLennan
Santa Barbara, CA
Libertarian Diversity of Means
I was pleased to see how your formulation of the "correct response to tyranny" (Dec.) disposes of the false dichotomy often posed by people who are "for" or "against" libertarian political activity or specific approaches to communicating libertarian ideals. You say that the solution is for "individuals to make the personal effort to figure out how to combat (tyranny) and to do so on whatever front they have the best opportunity" (emphasis added).
How wrongly has this minor matter of personal opportunity been ignored! For each of us brings different abilities, interests, and energies to the fight, and only fools turn away those whose approaches differ. To the extent that our personal peculiarities position us differently in the battle for a free and just society, each of us should exploit our targets of opportunity.
None of this gainsays the fact that, to the extent we are similarly situated—for example, as contributors or volunteers to political campaigns—we all face a similar problem in judging, for instance, whether to vote for a Libertarian or other candidate for president. This is not the kind of decision which rests upon personal history or abilities, but rather upon the efficacy of two alternative means to a chosen end. To use another example, we all must evaluate political action per se against the merely educational alternatives.
In this context, I have argued often that in general there is "one best way" to accomplish political change in the direction of a free society, which is the Libertarian Party. You can also find me arguing for general support of particular agendas for that party. But it is sad that those who disagree over such matters as a party agenda too often are not satisfied to address our common interest in these matters, but feel impelled to attack others for interests and approaches not held in common.
Time, like other economic factors, is scarce, and we are compelled by the lack of it to focus our individual resources somewhere. No one can fight on all fronts at once, and allocation of personal effort need not always possess a rationale obvious to others. Let us remember that the next time we hasten to take the measure of someone else's commitment.
William D. Burt
Libertarian National Committee
Here's to Competition
In your Trends column (Oct.) you speak of two court victories which will speed the arrival of cable television to viewers anxious to look at alternatives to the FCC's three-channel oligopoly in commercial television. One of these decisions ruled that the protection of copyrights to local shows is illegal; that is, if a local station had purchased exclusive rights to air a particular program in Cleveland, a cable operator could pick up the show's signal from another market and show it to Clevelanders without paying for the privilege.
How this could be hailed as a "victory" by any advocate of the private enterprise system remains a deep, dark mystery. Strict enforcement of property rights is essential for such an arrangement; this court decision represents another in a long series of legal interpretations where the private marketplace is being overruled by regulators operating on a theoretical misunderstanding of the requirements necessary for true market competition.
By the way, I think REASON should definitely run lots of articles attacking the "New Celibacy" and pay the notoriously witty author of Brickbats (what a terrible name for such a wonderful column) more than everyone else in the magazine combined, for I'm sure that he remains the only reason people buy REASON, and I hear rumors that he may be considering his alternatives.
Los Angeles, CA
Mr. Poole replies: The reason the FCC's distant signal and syndicated exclusivity rules were adopted in 1972 was to compensate for the lack of a copyright law covering cable-TV systems. Such a law was passed in 1976 and took effect in 1978. Consequently, the argument raised by Mr. Hazlett is beside the point.
Ve Guess Ve Goofed
Regarding a letter from M. Benesh and an editor's sarcastic reply (Nov.) on the Van Norman Dam break: In the early days of radio there was a comedian, whose name I cannot recollect, who had this comeback: "Vas you dere, Sharlie?" Evidently M. Benesh "vas" and Reed, his sources [Science], and REASON's editors "vasn't."
After reading in your magazine that the reservoir had been empty before the earthquake, I wondered whether my memory was faulty and phoned a friend, a former employee of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Verification was immediately forthcoming with the loan of two issues of Intake, the house organ of the DWP, February and March 1971. If the dam was empty, why did hundreds of DWP employees work day and night to avert a disaster? If the dam was empty, how could the concrete lining break away and slide under the water?
To close, next time consult someone who "vas dere."
Bruce K. Bell's thesis that trespass is functional as a legal and political principle only if it results in harm emasculates property rights. The perpetrators of chauvinistic government, religion, and other autocratic institutions have long excused their de facto trespass on people's lives and other property by asserting that they were doing them no harm but in fact helping them.
If my natural right to self-ownership is inalienable—as any libertarian must aver—then I can justifiably tell anyone to keep his/her hands or rays off my body for any reason I want or for no reason at all. This principle must be operable until the person who wishes to lay hands or rays on my body can prove by some reasonable standard that his/her hands/rays will have no effect on me, thereby making my property right irrelevant to his/her activity, or until I freely give permission for him/her to "cross" my property. Neither has happened thus far in relation to nuclear power production in general and low-level radiation in particular.
I have just read Tibor Machan's editorial, "A Call to Sanity on Foreign Affairs" (Oct.). Well spoken! I am glad that he openly advocates an effective defense of the United States, and I agree with his balanced argumentation towards that conclusion.
Of course, my agreement is part egoism, since I live in a small country on the fringe of a totalitarian empire, in comparison with which welfare-statist Norway looks shiningly libertarian, just, and decent. Norway is now the only democratic and independent country left with a border in common with the Soviet Union, and that fact owes a great deal to NATO, the United States, and our own defense effort. These are realities which I cannot overlook, even if they do not tally with the logic of some of my libertarian friends in the United States, who make me feel like a heel. Machan made me feel better.
There's no question about it—I am cursed with bad timing. I once pitched an idea to the story editor of the television series Maude in which Maude is threatened by a rapist but uses reason and intelligence to foil her would-be attacker and successfully defend herself. The story editor's cold response: "There's nothing funny about rape." A few years later Edith Bunker…well, we all know what almost happened to her.
Now I find out that I've been beaten to the punch on my proposed secession novel by Nathaniel Benchley with his Sweet Anarchy, deliciously reviewed by David Brudnoy (Sept.). (And I didn't even have Benchley's advantage of being privy to the goings-on in Nantucket.) I am just ungracious enough to delight in Mr. Brudnoy's assessment of Benchley's work as "crummy." A sweeter word was never applied to the work of a faster writer. I take heart, and a clean sheet of typing paper…
North Hollywood, CA
In his review of Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson, John Chamberlain concludes with a question, referring to the $4 trillion of Social Security liabilities not yet funded: "How are we ever going to get out of that box?" It's simple enough, but not easy.
The pretense is that Social Security is insurance. It is not. It merely rips off from present workers to overpay former workers, in order to build a federal government empire. This nation is being bankrupted by such measures.
The need is to approach current workers to band together to eliminate the burdens of Social Security, pay off existing debts, and modify the system merely to pay doles to fit desperate needs that cannot otherwise be handled. The appeal has to be to existing recipients' patriotism, pride, and fear of inflation. If they continue to insist on getting their handouts, they will continue to force up inflation, which will destroy the savings that make it possible for most of us to live above the primitive level of those on SS.
The change would give back to people whatever they have put into the system (minus what they may have received), plus interest at rates current over the years of "investment," perhaps plus an allowance for inflation. Once they were repaid, there'd be no more.
Medicare should be amended so that every dollar paid out by the government above what the beneficiaries pay in should be a lien against their estates. This would develop a substantial incentive to use it only in dire emergencies in order to leave an estate to the grandchildren. Today, many are flagrantly abusing the system. Many would have no estate to deter their continued overuse, but still there are enough who have something to hand on to make a substantial reduction in existing demand for medical services. That in turn would tend to reduce medical costs as supply continued while demand dropped.
There are enough working people voting to have a tremendous effect on politicians torn between getting union support and losing the votes of the senile socialists. The latter have a ninth of the population but only a third of them are sufficiently organized to be effective, even if all agree. The unions have around 22 percent of the population, and if the workers themselves can be induced to get rid of SS by this program, they'd induce their leaders to agree and soon put it through Congress. And those union people who want more jobs for their members should realize that if all retirement funds had to be invested in enterprise, there would be new trillions to build companies and jobs beyond anything in the past.
Thomas S. Booz
Drugs and Diet
Mr. Monson's article about the US drug laws was quite interesting. But it seems that nobody goes to the basic thing, and certainly not any American.
The urge to drink alcohol, or to take the more "weak" drugs depends upon the general diet. If the food is not properly balanced (I am a biochemist, but I tell you to throw your biochem textbooks out the window), the person will get a yen for alcohol, and if the food is still weaker, then he will get a yen for drugs. It has been said, rightly so, that if a person's diet could be controlled, for six months, the controller could either make a drunk out of man or, if he were a drunk, could make a teetotaler out of him. Likewise, the wrong diet will predispose a person to taking drugs, and the effect of that diet on the personality will be stronger than most laws.
It is hard to tell an American that food has any effect on the personality, as their minds are so imbued with false philosophies—Malthus, Pasteur, and Liebig—that they will neither listen to reason nor observe what is around them.
Harold N. Simpson
Learning about Freedom
I had the opportunity recently to read an issue of your publication, and I enjoyed it immensely.
I share your libertarian viewpoints, not only because as an incarcerated individual my awareness of liberty deprivations has increased, but also because I can see a great need for the average citizen to become aware of stifling encroachments upon his personal freedoms. After my release, I desire to take a more active stand on individual rights than I have in the past.
I would greatly appreciate it if you could print my letter in your magazine. I would like to correspond with others who share your viewpoints, to increase my awareness and knowledge of the problems and solutions to these problems regarding personal liberties.
Thank you for your assistance, and please continue your fine work in your magazine.