Turning the Tables on 1984 Congratulations are due Sylvia Sanders ("Data Privacy: What Washington Doesn't Want You to Know," Jan.) for a very lucid analysis of the recent progress in cryptology. (The NSA probably wishes she had encrypted it and thrown away the key.)
According to Lambda magazine (Fourth Quarter, 1980), Professor Rivest now has in hand a custom integrated circuit, fabricated by Hewlett-Packard, which implements the NSA public-key cryptosystem. Data can be transmitted at 1200 baud using a 512 bit key. With current technology and the best known factoring algorithm, it would take a computer over 2 million years (6.7 x 1019 operations at one microsecond each) to break such a code. By interleaving two chips to achieve 2400 baud, digitally compressed voices can be encoded. Or the hybrid method of transmitting DES keys can be employed, since the federal Data Encryption Standard seems secure even against the NSA if multiple encryptions are performed using separate keys.
These facts ought to have a sobering impact on computerphobes. For years antitechnologists have warned that computers and electronic spying would turn 1984 into reality. Suddenly it appears they'll have the opposite effect of making the individual totally secure against government intrusion.
Off-the-shelf hardware already exists (for less than the price of an auto) capable of encrypting all personal records and communications. The decryption key, locked in a person's mind, is then protected by the Fifth Amendment or a "convenient" but highly plausible lapse of memory. It may even be protected against drugs and torture, since a disorganized mind won't easily recall a long string of pseudorandom numbers.
The new cryptology vividly demonstrates the awesome power of an idea. A handful of electronic engineers invented a radical new concept for digital data communications, applied an apparently unrelated curiosity from theoretical mathematics, and published a couple of scientific papers—and overnight turned the Nation Security Agency, along with every other intelligence agency on earth, into a thrashing and dying dinosaur.
This knowledge is now too widely dispersed to be suppressed. For the first time in history the crucial spheres of information and communications are passing beyond the control of government supremacists. It's a quiet revolution that I believe will profoundly advance the cause of individual liberty.
Simi Valley, CA
A Great January! I was very impressed with the thoroughness and accuracy of Sylvia Sanders's article on data privacy (Jan.) It is inevitable that with so complex an issue, a writer will let some strings stay loose; I found only one in her article. I think the conclusion of the Data Encryption Swindle episode may interest your readers.
In the July 1979 issue of IEEE Spectrum, less than two years after the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence assured the American public that the "Data Encryption Standard" would provide security for at least 5–10 years, Martin E. Hellman demonstrated a method for breaking the DES which, by using precomputed tables, required only $10 worth of computer time (at 1979 prices—about $3 today) per message. While the precomputation of the tables would require about three years' worth of computer time on a $5-million computer, the NSA has over a dozen such machines and could have put the tables together in three months.
The Walter Parchomenko article ("Reporting on Soviet Dissent," Jan.) was also interesting and provided a wealth of information seldom found in American media. Yet, while it is true that the Russian government's attempts to portray all dissent in their empire as inspired by "antinational cosmopolite-zionist elements," which is official jargon for "Jews," are unwittingly helped by the emphasis on the Jews among the dissidents portrayed in American newspapers, the reason for this emphasis is no dark mystery. The press, like other private services, responds to the market—and American Jews have made it clear, through letters flooding editorial offices whenever Jewish protests in the Soviet Empire were not adequately reported, that such protests interested them, as the newspapers' readers and advertisers. Unfortunately, the only groups who have let their interest be known to newspaper editors have been Jews, and, more recently—from about the time of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's arrival in this country—the Russians. The silence of the Baptists and the Catholics, their failure to tell the media that they want to hear more about their persecuted brethren in the Great Soviet Prison, has been scandalous—especially in view of the fact that both groups are more numerous than Jews and many of their members more influential.…
Adam V. Reed
La Jolla, CA
Contract and Constitution It is unfortunate that Professor Siegan's excellent article "The Decline and Fall of Economic Freedom" (Jan.) could not have quoted in its entirety Justice Sutherland's dissent in the Parrish case. The dissent not only expounded constitutional constancy, but made very clear that the majority's decision completely emasculated the principle of freedom of contract, which still had some viability in 1937. Perhaps Professor Siegan's book will be effective in belatedly directing some deserved attention to the judicial talents of both Justices Sutherland and MacReynolds.
While freedom of contract has long since been abandoned as a serious argument against even the most outrageous government regulations, Justice Sutherland's poignant reference to the plaintiff in the Adkins case, who lost her job because of a minimum wage law, could be repeated millions of times today. Those of us who still think freedom of contract (not involving the initiation of force or fraud on others) is a basic human right can only despair that it was not spelled out in the Constitution along with the specified basic freedoms.
William L. Krayer
Courtly Compulsion In "Bearing Witness: Should You Be Forced?" (Feb.), Davis Keeler calls for an important revision of the Sixth Amendment. Referring to the Farber case, where a reporter went to jail for refusing to obey a court order to turn over copies of his notes to the defendant in a criminal case, Keeler unhesitatingly finds for the reporter: "Positive obligations arise only from individual action; the unfortunate straits of another cannot create them."
I beg to differ with Mr. Keeler on libertarian grounds. My argument is simple. When a man is held on a criminal charge, he is compelled to go on trial whether he wants to or not. His fate is in the hands of judge and jury who will determine whether he is to lose all or a portion of his rights. Since, by libertarian theory, every citizen owns an undivided interest in government, the court is the agent of all citizens who are within its jurisdiction. No such citizen, therefore, is a neutral party. Now, since the court is the citizen's agent, the man on trial has the right to demand that any citizen who is likely to have information regarding his innocence step forward if the courts have the right to put him on trial. The reluctant accused, therefore, has the right to take that information by legal force from a recalcitrant reporter.
Nor would this equality of right disappear if people simply matriculated into various anarchic communities. Suppose a group of people got together and hired a private police force. To be sure, they could write a contract to exclude subpoena rights altogether. But what happens when an outsider enters its jurisdiction and is accused of committing a serious crime—an outsider who does not have an affiliate police force to represent him? Presumably the outsider is a human being and is so entitled to a fair trial. Again, the issue comes forth: if the private police force has the right to hold the outsider, doesn't the outsider, by the principle of reciprocity, also have the right to hold reluctant insiders?
Whence come the difficulties? They come from the fact that retaliation, a negative concept, has positive implications: it is sometimes necessary to forcibly detain suspects. Another difficulty comes from the fact that the issue transcends representative government, i.e., that it could also take place in a state of nature. Since the accused must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise, his rights are the reciprocal of theirs; under similar circumstances, he would have the right to hold his captors captive, which is why the whole process should be condensed and organized into laws. And if there be any among his captors who know something which might free him, they have no right to refrain from revealing it—"unfortunate straits of another" indeed! Reciprocity is the genus, of which retaliation is the species; do ut des, the law of nature.
Peter F. Erickson
Mr. Keeler replies: To begin with, we should note that Erickson implicitly accepts my proposition that there is no general obligation to testify, but rather he claims there is a special obligation arising from the citizen's relationship to the State. I take it that foreigners or anarchists (and perhaps outlaws) would not be obligated to give testimony, as the State is not their agent.
My response to Erickson is as straightforward as his criticism: I deny that the State is my agent. If I made the State my agent, then Erickson's argument would have force, at least in some cases. In some cases, some persons may have made the State their agent for some purposes. But this is a special, contractual relationship whose extent and obligations can only be determined by examining the particular events. There is no overarching libertarian theory of the State which requires it as a general obligation of persons.
Erickson raises some other matters when he discusses arrest and detention. As a libertarian I do not see the justification for arresting and detaining a presumably innocent person. This should come after conviction, not before. If the accused does not care to be present for his trial, this does not trouble me greatly.
In short, Erickson sees an implied contract of agency which I say is a fiction. You can imply all sorts of contracts to generate all sorts of rights and obligations. I simply maintain that such claims are, as a general matter, counterfactual. There is some truth to the old saw that implied contracts aren't worth the paper they aren't written on.
Housing Hell I read your article on building codes (Oct.) with great interest. We are presently embroiled in the very thing you described. We have been fighting for four years to get a building permit for one house on 17 acres of land. Our local planning and zoning dictators have told us we'll never get a permit if they can prevent it. They say our land was illegally split some years ago (before we bought it) and that we should have never bought it in the first place. There are neighbors all around our land (with houses) and even a subdivision adjoining our land to the south. They find some justification for it all but none for us.
My husband served in the Air Force for 24 years—flying over Cambodia and Vietnam before the bombing ended. He was fighting for the rights for freedom—which he soon discovered he didn't have.
Another couple here in the area has 10 acres of land which they bought to build a home on. There was a mobile home on the land when they bought it and they are living in the mobile home. They started building without a permit, and the county has sued them and is trying to make them tear their house down. They will go bankrupt if they can't finish the house and move into it. They've already lost one appeal in county court. They will be thrown into jail if they move into the house.
Our legislators are presently in session, and some of us are trying to get a bill passed to repeal land use planning. Our dear governor, however, feels we need the federal money that will be taken away if he allows the bill to go through, so he will veto it again this year like last year, I'm sure.
When I read your article, it gave me chills to think this socialism is so widespread.
Sowell vs. Jensen I am very much in Thomas Sowell's intellectual debt for instruction in numerous areas, not least by his thoroughly superb Knowledge and Decisions. Nevertheless, I take issue with his perception of Arthur Jensen's arguments concerning race and IQ (Interview, Dec.).
First: Jensen certainly does not "start with the premise that there is a unique black IQ which has a unique genetic explanation"; a grosser misreading of Jensen is hard to imagine. For even among white ethnic and social groups there are large mean differences in IQ (e.g., between Jews and WASPs, or between high and low socio-economic status (SES) groups), and many of these are as large as that between blacks and whites. There is nothing that suggests the black/white mean IQ difference is of a different nature from that of the numerous mean IQ inequalities among white/white groups. Nor is there anything that particularly distinguishes the intellect or "teachability" of a black from a white of similar IQ. Intelligence, as measured by IQ, is clearly of the same essence among the races, not of distinct essences, and this fact is amply evident in Jensen's writings.
Second: I have read Tom Sowell's published report concerning the historical rise in mean IQ of various immigrant ethnic groups pari passu, or nearly so, with their rise in SES.…It is not true that "most" of these groups showed a rise in IQ corresponding to their elevation in SES. Most of them showed no such rise and required special pleading in order to fit them into the paradigm. And for the one or two groups that did seem to show such a rise, the data were extremely questionable with regard both to the adequacy of the IQ measure used in the pioneering days of IQ testing and to the representativeness of the respective longitudinal samples. None of the data offered would convincingly exclude the alternative hypothesis that mean IQ is in fact quite stable over the decades.
Third: The statement, "Blacks have not risen [in IQ] relative to the national average, because blacks have not risen that much economically during this period of time" posits a direction of causation—that conventional economic success precedes and determines measured IQ—that flatly contradicts the solid evidence we have from heritability studies among whites on this point. This evidence, which is drawn from contemporary American and European white groups tested under uniform conditions and hence is more reliable than historical studies, shows conclusively that for these societies all existing environmental variation (which includes SES inequalities) account for at most only some 30 percent of general IQ differences (i.e., variance) among whites. It is impossible for the measured heritability of IQ among whites to be this high at the same time that the large, environmentally determined increments in IQ claimed by Tom Sowell for 20th-century white immigrant groups have been taking place. One or the other body of data is flawed. This is not the place to decide this question, but for the record, my reading of the evidence favors the "hereditarian" position.
In closing, let it be noted that Arthur Jensen is, in Hayek's term, a "methodological individualist," who tirelessly and emphatically advocates that persons should be evaluated solely in terms of their individual abilities and achievements, not in terms of their group membership, and who believes further that the "macro" statistics of any group (such as its average income, relative representation at ascending levels of any hierarchy, etc.) should be the dependent outcome of the just treatment of its component members. He is, in addition, an admirer of the work of Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman. In these respects, he is a libertarian, and an ally.
William R. Havender
Falwell's Folly Jerry Falwell's problem is that he and his Righteous Right are not Christians. Christianity is a relationship between God and those individuals who love Him. There is no way that such people can work to impose their views on others at the point of a gun, which is what government does. If he wants to halt abortion, under Christ's rules, he has to go out among the young and teach them the stupidity of adultery. Then when the babies arrive out of wedlock anyhow, he should be the first in line to help them grow in a world that is particularly savage to such mavericks. He does neither.
Christ said He suffers among us in the bodies of the hungry, thirsty, sick, jailed, and we serve or deny Him there, are blessed or damned accordingly. He says this is like unto loving God, a part of worship. Falwell and his predecessors perverted that into claiming that he and the others are saved merely because they accept Christ, a vastly egomanic humanization that dooms all of them, according the the original facts, to eternal misery.…
Thomas S. Booz
A Rave for Refugees Murray Rothbard's Viewpoint column on Cuban immigrants in the December issue of REASON was excellent. I had used those same arguments in my campaign for Congress on the Libertarian Party ballot. I was surprised to read in conservative, liberal, and even socialist thought the great fear of the refugees entering into this country.
I will not become one of the many fearful concerning the refugees, I welcome them to our shores and expect that they will be better freedom fighters than many of the residents of this country.
Bruce A. Smith
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".