â€¢ We're inaugurating a new feature this monthâ€"another column aimed at giving you directly useful information. No doubt some of you have seen Durk Pearson on television. His appearances on the Merv Griffin show result in hundreds of thousands of letters; he's become the most popular guest in the show's history. To those of you who've never seen it, though, a word of explanation is in order. Durk is a scientist, but unlike most such people, he knows how to communicate highly technical matters in straightforward, down-to-earth language. He and his research partner, Sandy Shaw, consult with high-technology companies, advise science fiction movie producers, and conduct their own research on the effects of nutrition and drugs on human intelligence and longevity. This work, in particular, brings them squarely up against the often ridiculous regulations of the FDA. A big part of Durk's TV appeal seems to be his readiness to speak his mind about this sort of thingâ€"and to tell people how to help themselves, despite the FDA's over-protectiveness.
I've known Durk and Sandy for more than 10 years. Durk graduated from MIT the year before I did. We thought up the idea for the column on their recent speaking trip to Santa Barbara, where they were guests at the Reason Foundation. We're calling the column "Health and Welfare." It's about time people took over responsibility for these areas, and that's what the column will help you to do. I hope you like it.
â€¢ One of the Reason Foundation's aims is to advance the state of the art regarding how a truly free society would function. Some of today's areas of great conflictâ€"water rights, fishing rights, pollution, seabed mining, use of electromagnetic frequenciesâ€"are fields where property rights have never been recognized. Could such rights be established? Would doing so provide good solutions? What legal and political barriers stand in the way? Those questions were the subject of two days of intensive brainstorming in Santa Barbara last November 21 and 22, as the Reason Foundation hosted a Liberty Fund colloquium on the extension of property rights. Our Educational Programs Director, philosopher Tibor Machan, and I took turns leading the discussion sessions. Contributing ideas and insights were legal experts Norman Karlin, Davis Keeler, and Manuel Klausner, along with economists Robert Bish, Robert Deacon, David Fractor, Delworth Gardner, Paul Heyne, and Richard Stroup. Another philosopher, Eric Mack, and several technologically oriented thinkersâ€"Joseph Martino, Gerry Sauer, and Charles Treesâ€"rounded out the program. Since the purpose of a colloquium is brainstorming, no formal output was produced. But exciting ideas were developed and useful information exchanged. Everyone agreed that property rights can be extended to these new areas, and the prospects for doing so appear good in several of them.
â€¢ You may recall our story on tritium last Marchâ€"an example of radiation hysteria over an Arizona watch dial factory that used tritium, an extremely weak beta emitter, to make glow-in-the-dark dials and read-outs. I thought you'd be amused by another such incident, as reported in Aviation Week (Nov. 24). It turns out that Europe's hottest jet fighter, the Panavia Tornado, had to be grounded in Germany so that tritium readout devices could be removed from the cockpit panels. West Germany has a law forbidding "beta bombardment" of people, the Luftwaffe discovered. The British and Italian air forces, which also fly the Tornado, were reported "combing the law books" of their countries to see if they, too, would have to ground their planes.
â€¢ Just in case you don't get enough Robert Poole each month in REASON, you may soon be able to hear me on radioâ€"along with Jim Davidson of the National Taxpayers Union, Richard Wilcke of the Council for a Competitive Economy, Tom Bethell of Harper's, Bob Hessen of the Hoover Institution, Ed Feulner of the Heritage Foundation, and George Gilder of ICEPS. The program is a radio commentary series produced by ICEPSâ€"the International Center for Economic Policy Studies in New York, a free-market-oriented think tank. The series, called "As a Matter of Fact," had 200 stations signed up as of the first of the year.
â€¢ Ben Rogge died on Nov. 16. Rogge introduced me to the term libertarian via the pages of the Freeman back in the 1960s. Formerly dean of Wabash College, he had been Distinguished Professor of Political Economy there since 1964. His works include Can Capitalism Survive? published last year.