In Black and White There is something infinitely offensive about the last line of the December Spotlight feature by Patrick Cox. After citing the marvelous efforts of Leon Louw and the Free Market Foundation in South Africa, Cox ends with "I have been wondering…How hard is it to get South African citizenship?"
Perhaps the offensiveness lies in the display of naiveté in the belief that the deeply ingrained statism and racism of South Africa is about to be swept away. More likely, it lies in the fact that Cox automatically adopts the perspective of a potential white citizen of South Africa. For, exciting as Louw's successes may be, they certainly would not inspire any black observer to start to think longingly about immigration to South Africa. It is this unthinking identification with the state of things for South African whites that undercuts Cox's official concern for all of the innocent victims of the South African regime.
New Orleans, LA
A Plea for the Melting Pot As a new subscriber to REASON, I was astonished at the naiveté displayed by Murray Rothbard in his Viewpoint column (Dec.). In the first place, despite his obviously compassionate nature, he must be aware that overpopulation has become the major problem of the world, and the United States is no longer the wide-open expanse of unpopulated terrain that it once was, and hence can no longer support waves of immigrants. In the second place, many of these immigrants come from cultures which advocate and practice the mindless spawning of hordes of children for whom they see no means of support. These are the people who are aiding in the destruction of the ecology of their own countries, as witness the desertification of immense areas of Africa. For the sake of its own survival, the United States cannot afford to become a dumping ground for such irresponsibility. And yet, not so long ago the President of Mexico cynically remarked that Mexico's overpopulation and the subsequent wetbacking of millions of Mexicans to America was America's problem, not Mexico's.
Furthermore, Rothbard speaks of the immigrants "blending into the American population." Such a view has been anathema to American liberals since Johnson's Great Society began. The melting pot concept, which really built up a strong nation from its early immigrants, has become a dirty word. A multicultural society has been urged and supported—and even enforced—by HEW and other government agents for more than a decade, to the detriment of general literacy (thanks to "bilingual-bicultural education" among other factors) and with an increase in divisiveness along cultural lines. More than all others, Hispanics have been vociferously and even violently opposed to assimilation into mainstream America.…Some time ago I sat in a conference of teachers in New Mexico and witnessed one militant chicano teacher after another stand up and loudly proclaim that he or she was not American and would not subscribe to the American culture. After more than a century of living within the bounds of the United States, many New Mexicans still abjure the English language. Any anthropologist or linguist can tell you that primary loyalty goes with what is regarded as the primary language. Lenin taught that an effective way to divide and conquer a country was to exploit its cultural differences.
An immigrant does not have to turn violently upon his former culture and reject it totally—our Oriental citizens have proved this point—but he should certainly pledge total allegiance to his new homeland and forswear any cultural habits or attitudes which might be detrimental to his adopted society.…
Nuclear Power in Sweden In "Who Caused Three Mile Island?" (Aug.) you state that operation of nuclear power plants is a government monopoly in all countries except the United States, Canada, and West Germany. Believe it or not, Sweden should be added to the list.
Right now four companies in Sweden are operating a total of eight reactors (four more are under construction). One of the companies is 100 percent government-owned (Vattenfall), one is majority-owned by the first 100 percent government-owned company, but companies listed on the Stockholm stock exchange have a significant minority equity, as has the City of Stockholm. The third company is listed itself on the Stockholm stock exchange (I really should have bought stock a couple of years ago; the company is, thanks to their nuclear power plants, one of the most profitable in the country). This company, Sydkraft, also owns a significant minority share in the fourth company OKG. The rest of OKG is owned by companies listed on the Stockholm stock exchange and some other big companies. OKG was the first company to take a commercial nuclear power plant into operation in Sweden in 1971. Accumulated profits of this plant have been just tremendous.
Carl G. Holm
Van Norman Dam, Again After your excellent analysis of the nondisaster at Three Mile Island (Aug.), involving hundreds of nondeaths, thousands of noninjuries, millions of Federal Reserve Units' worth of nondamage, and the consumption of trillions of cubic feet of precious and irreplaceable Hot Air by the news media, I was startled by your remarks about the Van Norman Reservoir incident in Los Angeles due to the 1971 earthquake.…The Van Norman Dam did not "break." All that happened in fact were some partial cracks in the facing. The dam did not "happen to be empty." In fact, it happened to be full. When the damtenders noticed the surface damage, they promptly began to sluice-off the water, eventually emptying, or nearly-emptying, the reservoir.
Had that not been done, and had the cracks progressed to a total rupture the failure would not have "killed between 50,000 and 100,000 people." Over a large area downstream, everybody had been evacuated and, if the dam had failed, it would have damaged empty houses and have killed the odd looter.
For those who fret about practical impossibilities, had the Van Norman Dam failed immediately upon the earthquake, perhaps 50 to 100 people would have been killed, and a thousand times as many inconvenienced. That's a function of topography and hydrodynamics. Only those who lived in the natural wash, or barranca, or arroyo, were in any danger, and people who build houses in such places ought to be killed before they hurt themselves or somebody else.
The Van Norman Dam episode was a media event, with telecopters swooping low for shots of the surface cracks and minicam crews obtaining statements of Grave Concern by Our Public Officials. The only serious damage in the 1971 quake was the fatal collapse of a government hospital. The Van Norman Dam was as far from a catastrophic failure as the Three Mile Island reactor was from melting its way to China.
Moral: The power of political propaganda is so great that even those engaged in debunking it fall into it.
Advice: Shush-up the Van Norman nondisaster. If Johnny Gofman hears about it, he'll try to ban water.
Nuclear Confusion Guccione's letter to the editor on nuclear insurance costs (Nov.) has provided hours of perplexity and conversation for me. I still cannot figure out whether Bethe's figures are quoted accurately in the letter and Guccione is intending to expose specious reasoning of a nuclear advocate or whether there are several typographical errors that confused the numbers that Guccione was presenting as reasonable alternative to the Price-Anderson "solution."
The way it is printed, it looks as if Bethe said that there is one chance in a thousand years for a nuclear accident happening, and since there are 100 nuclear power plants, this makes one chance in 100,000 years. Actually, if there is one chance in 1,000 at one plant, the chance of an accident at one of 100 plants would be one in ten years. Therefore, I wondered if perhaps those two numbers had been reversed and he actually intended to say that the accident at one plant is one in 100,000 years, so that the risk for 100 plants would be one in 1,000 years. This would make sense out of the statement that the risk for one year would be 10 million dollars if the cost of an accident would be 10 billion, because obviously 10 million dollars is 1/1,000 of 10 billion dollars. Although he does not so state, I believe he then intended this 10 million dollars to be split among the 100 companies so that each company would be paying $100,000 annual premium. This might make sense of the whole pyramid of calculations.
Would you kindly publish a clarification as to: 1) what the correct intended figures were and 2) why only property liability is taken into account when, if automobile insurance is any worthwhile analogy, the major cost of insurance will be human liability. Even if we presume a successful evacuation prior to the big bang, there would at least be living expenses, and reimbursement for the psychological trauma of having your home vaporized and your life disrupted. Remember that since the Buffalo Creek disaster there is now legal precedent for liability for psychological trauma as well as physical injury, and I suspect that any jury would be rather generous with psychological victims of nuclear power plant accident. Two other questions: Do the figures take inflation into account? And what about the administrative costs, which must surely be greater for a government administered program than for a privately administered one.?
On another topic, I would like to add my voice to those of Joseph Martino, Christopher Graves, and others who believe in the compatibility and even complementarity of Libertarianism and Christian ideals. A set of beliefs should be judged by its core principles, not by the misguided excesses of some of the professed adherents.
L. Eugene Arnold
Gold vs. Spending The "economists" who want to return to the gold standard (Trends, Nov.), claiming that it will benefit us, first have to figure out how to halt the printing of waste-paper money. As long as that is continued, people will buy away the gold leaving only the junk, per Say's Law ("Bad money drives out good"). When they can stop the money-printing, a stabilized currency will do everything the gold standard does.
They are trying to do magic without a wand. The problem is not money. It is massive spending that drains the economy. Cut government spending, and balancing the money will be easy.
Thomas S. Booz
Ed Clark and the Soviets In addition to supporting certain statist measures such as the Equal Rights Amendment and the Environmental Protection Agency, this year's Libertarian Party presidential candidate, Ed Clark (Nov.), also failed to put forth a consistent Libertarian position in the area of foreign policy and defense. For example, he supported the SALT treaties with the USSR and, after that, a nuclear test ban treaty. Based on the history of past dealings with the Soviets, I do not see how a real Libertarian can advocate that we make treaties with this gang in the Kremlin. Ed Clark should know better.
If you are powerful enough to enforce the terms of the treaty which you want kept, then you don't need a treaty. If you are not strong enough to enforce the provisions that you want upheld, then a piece of paper signed with our sworn enemies will not make them observe the agreement. Treaties with the Soviet Union are not likely to reduce nuclear arsenals (unfortunately) nor stop nuclear weapon proliferation. It would be nice if it were that simple. Signing a treaty with an enemy who is not trustworthy is false security and represents a decidedly false remedy to the awesome problem of the threat of global war and annihilation. Peace through strength is the rational alternative.
Los Alamitos, CA
Back to Basics? When will REASON provide us with a writer on education who understands the relationship between and the application of freedom to learning? Why do you continue to subject your readers to the conservative, authoritarian, chauvinistic views of Louis Segesvary? His review of Postman's Teaching As A Conserving Activity (Dec.) reveals once more that he holds such concepts and practices as curricula which "reflect the students' needs and interests," "student directed education," and schooling which is concerned with the "whole child" as being responsible for "vast numbers of educationally impaired young people." Conversely, he apparently approves of "more traditional forms of education" which will condition students for "survival in our society" and which "prepares them to be competent and productive members of society."
Traditional education, especially public education, has always had as its principal goal the socialization of the individual to render him/her useful to, or at least not a challenge to, society (i.e., those in power). The object has been to create look-alike, sound-alike nonthinkers who won't rock the boat. The "back to basics" that Segesvary implicitly supports is nothing more than a euphemism for control over young minds by a power structure (government and/or academic) that sees only heads to be filled with what it considers to be of value. It does not see individuals who are to be helped to develop as individuals.
The new education that Segesvary so despises is a strawman; it never happened in public schools (and in most private schools) for several reasons: 1) It was never tried at all except in a few isolated instances; 2) It was not applied by people who understood its nature or were trained to implement it; and, 3) Applications were temporary and inconsistent.
What has happened by and large—and Segesvary sees this as being student-centered—is that educators and their teacher-goons have replaced one model of student conformity with another. The only real change in education in the last twenty years or so has been in rising expectations and consequent disillusionment. The disillusionment has not been that freedom hasn't worked, except in the minds of chauvinists like Segesvary, but that it hasn't been tried. The solution to falling performance levels in education is not a return to traditional authoritarianism for the benefit of the power structure. The solution is to actually deliver student-centered, whole-child assistance to learning, to allow minds and bodies to develop free and freely. This almost certainly can't be done in public schools; maybe it can't be done in schools at all. For sure it can't be done by a back-to-basics, teacher-as-god approach.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".