Addiction Convictions You are brave to take a stand for decriminalization of heroin (Editorial, Oct.). Many people who are addicted to caffeine, tobacco, or alcohol will condemn your opinion. Yet many of them, particularly the nicotine and alcohol addicts, would break the law to feed their habits.
Several years ago a heroin addict worked in our plant. Other than an inoffensive facial tic attributed by others to his condition, he was no different than anyone else, and a good employee. Unfortunately, he could not afford to control his habit on our wages—indeed, I could not—and he quit.
I hope your editorial is successful in making some of the right people aware of the problem. It is a shame that the law makes criminals out of people, either by their addiction or the price it forces upon that addiction.
Fort Worth, TX
Say What? In pointing out Thomas S. Booz's "gross error" in attributing the phrase "bad money drives out good" to J.B. Say, D.B. Christensen himself (Sept.) makes a very common but even more serious error. J.B. Say did not state that "supply creates its own demand." I believe that these words were never used by any economist before Keynes wrongly blamed them on Say (in 1936). But Keynes's influence was so great (through the unfortunate dominance of Harvard and Cambridge in the teaching of economics in the '30s) that Keynes's words have been almost universally used by virtually every writer who has mentioned Say subsequently.
Actually Say knew that an increase in the supply of peanuts did not increase the demand for peanuts. His "law" (which in my judgment is the most important law in economics) says that the production of any additional thing is always a contribution to the source of demand for all other (noncompeting) things. (See my A Rehabilitation of Say's Law, Ohio University Press, 1974.)
Fetal Rights in Question As a member of that radical (but calm) minority in the prochoice camp who would allow infanticide, please allow me to mention that the right of compensation for disablement, which Roger Bissell ("A Calm Look at Abortion Arguments," Sept.) used to justify a "right" to child support, is an example of the right to restitution, that is, an attempt to restore a victim as nearly as possible to his condition before his rights were violated. Even aside from the circularity of this line of argument, which requires that the victim already had rights before they were violated, it would seem that the remedy for any such violation in the case of bringing a helpless child/victim into the world would not be to support the child until it reached adulthood but to return it to its former state—nonexistence.
Bissell's point is well taken, that the abortion controversy revolves around the definition of a human being for ethical purposes, but merely quoting and interpreting Miss Rand's definition does not finally settle the issue, at least for those of us who suspect that she and her interpreters may, after all, be only fallible mortals. The question of what is a human being strikes at the roots of natural law doctrine, and one must examine those roots to deal with it.…
[Natural rights] were devised by judges in the English courts of common pleas, over the course of centuries. Their main goal was to keep the peace among men of equal power, at least, equal in the sense of Thomas Hobbes, in that "the weakest has strength to kill the strongest.…" No group has been accorded what we now regard as the natural human rights without demonstrating that it will fight for them (like the American colonists) or getting someone who was already enfranchised to adopt their cause (as the Union soldiers of the Civil War adopted the cause of the slaves).…
Natural rights were so named because they can be thought of in the same way as the self-enforcing natural laws of science. So, surely as two massive bodies will be attracted to each other as described by the law of gravitation, so too will a race of "rational animals" tend toward the full exercise of the maximum mutually consistent freedom of action, as described by the doctrine of natural rights.
To attempt to apply the doctrine of natural rights to fetuses as if they were substantially the same as adults, which Bissell does, is utterly inappropriate. It is like doing gunnery on the assumption that a feather is substantially the same as a lead slug and leads to equally ridiculous results.…
In most discussions about abortion, including the article by Roger Bissell (Sept.), arguments are made about how soon the fetus can be removed from the woman and still live, or at what point the fetal brain has a certain amount of activity, etc. But what is missing from the abortion discussion is the fact that the fetus has a parasitic relationship with the woman. Bissell mentions this briefly.
But his attempted analogy of fetal reliance upon the woman and infant reliance upon someone else is erroneous. Certainly an infant requires support to survive, but that support can come from anyone and is transferable. In the case of a fetus, the support must come from the woman carrying it. She can't transfer the support to anyone else.
The fetus is inside the woman. An infant is not. The fetus is physically connected to and biologically dependent on the woman. An infant isn't inside anyone and isn't biologically dependent on any unique person. Clearly the parasitic relationship of the fetus with the woman is not the same as an infant's dependence on other people.
Bissell wrote a great deal about defining when the fetus, while it is still in the woman, becomes a human being. He mentions, correctly, that the distinguishing characteristic of a human being from other animals is its rational faculty. This is probably why there is a search for a certain level of fetal brain activity, to determine when it becomes a human being with associated rights.
But in this context, one has to keep in mind that rights are conditions of existence required by man's nature for his proper survival qua man. What is forgotten is the "qua man" part of the concept. Obviously, "qua man" doesn't include an organism living inside a woman. It doesn't include a non-air-breathing organism. It doesn't include an organism that is a physical parasite.
Even though in its later stages the fetus has a high level of brain activity and carries out a number of body functions, and even though it can be removed and still be kept alive, it is still inside the woman. The fetus is still a fetus, a parasite, a non-human being qua human being.
The biological and physiological dependence on the woman make the fetus a parasite in the full sense of the word. As such, the woman has biological primacy over the fetus. By biological primacy is meant that if the host (woman) dies, then the parasite (fetus) dies also.
Only at birth is this relationship severed. Until then, the biological primacy gives the woman primacy from the standpoint of rights.…This means that the woman has all rights; the fetus has none.
John H. Davis
I applaud the editorial by Marty Zupan and the article by Roger Bissell (Sept.) for their sane and rational approach to the abortion issue. Both are quite right to argue that emotionalism and religion should not be decisive in the abortion debate. I have no political objection to either emotion or religion "fueling one's resolve" on an issue, but in the end rational analysis must decide the question. It is in this spirit of rationality that I wish to direct a few critical comments toward Mr. Bissell's argument.
The heart of the argument concerns the possession of a rational faculty, which he claims is present after the 28th week. It is at and after this point that undifferentiated sensory awareness turns into the ability to "distinguish objects of perception." Bissell does not argue, however, that 28-week-old fetuses actually perform a primitive sort of concept formation (which one might normally take as evidence of rationality), but rather that conceptualizing is dependent upon and necessarily connected with perceptual awareness. Thus "rationality" must be extended to include both the conceptual and perceptual process.
I would agree that a valid concept of rationality includes both perception and conception. It does not follow from this, however, that one ability without the other is therefore rationality, simply because it is a necessary component of rationality. Animals seem to possess the power of perceptual discrimination without conceptual ability, and we accord them no rights. Thus, Bissell needs an argument which shows that we are entitled to call something a rational being even if it displays no evidence of conceptualization.…
Perhaps Bissell would want to respond that it is the very same faculty that offers perceptual discrimination at the 28th week and later provides "full" conceptual rationality. It is not clear to me, though, how this response would help. Either anything done by this faculty is rational because we have designated this the "rational faculty" (which just pushes the question to what criteria are essential for calling this the rational faculty), or we have a more sophisticated version of a potentiality argument. In this connection, Aristotle distinguishes between first and second grades of actuality. On the first grade all the powers for an activity are present but not yet operating. The second grade is where those powers are actually being exercised. Thus this "rational faculty" in the 28th week may be on the second grade of actuality with respect to perception, but on the first with respect to conceptualization. (Notice that the quote from Purpura says "begin(s)" to develop.) Is being on the first grade of actuality sufficient to establish the presence of rationality? If so, we have a potentiality argument; and it is worth noting that some Aristotelian scholars have claimed that this first grade of actuality is present in the zygote, because all the genetic material for development is contained there.…
Although I am not convinced by Bissell's argument, I wish to make it clear that in my view his article was a solid piece of philosophizing. Indeed, it was better than a lot of the nonsense I have read on this issue by my "professional" colleagues.
Douglas Den Uyl
Mr. Bissell replies: Mr. Lenker attempts to categorize my disability model of child support as a form of restitution theory, which it isn't. Compensation for disability is a wider concept. While becoming disabled by someone's actions does not necessarily involve a violation of one's rights, being denied by that person the support one needs to overcome that disablement and live independently is.
Whether you are a rational being who is caused by someone to become disabled or a disabled being (such as a fetus) who is caused by someone to become rational, the same principle applies. The person who is in fad responsible for a disabled rational being's state of inability to care for itself should be held morally and legally responsible for that being's support.
To correct Mr. Lenker's oversimplification: I apply the doctrine of natural rights to fetuses because they are substantially the same as disabled adults whose condition was caused by another human being. I see nothing sacred or morally superior about disabled adult human beings. If they have the right to have their disablement remedied by the person who caused it, why shouldn't children, infants, and fetuses receive the same consideration?
Nor is my view circular. Children do acquire their rights before those rights can be violated. A fetus develops to the point of being human, at which point it acquires the right to life and support. Then its mother, by opting for an unnecessary abortion, violates its rights. (Prior to this, there are no rights for abortion to violate.)
Mr. Davis challenges my analogy between the dependent status of fetuses and infants. While it's true, however, that an infant's support "can come from anyone," the crucial fact is that it must come from some one, otherwise it will die. What if its mother can't find anyone else willing to provide its support? In such a case, the infant's reliance, its "biological dependence" upon its mother is in fact as total as when it is "just" a fetus.
If such an unwilling mother exercises the "church-step option" or the "dumpster gambit" with her baby, would Mr. Davis let her off the moral and legal hook? If so, then in my opinion there is a serious defect in his view of children's rights. If not, then why is he unwilling to extend the same protection to near-term fetuses?
Mr. Davis also places great emphasis on the fetus being "still inside the woman." Presumably, then, killing a seven-month "preemie" is murder, while killing a much better developed 8 1/2-month fetus (by medical intervention) is not. This is another serious inconsistency in Mr. Davis's position.
I'm just not convinced that it's legitimate to refer to the normal biological processes of reproduction, which necessarily involve two members of the same species, as "parasitism." From Mr. Davis's own definition of "biological primacy," it is clear that a late-term fetus is not a parasite. The proof? Some women die in childbirth, while their fetuses are born, some of them later becoming parents to their own…parasites?! No, children!
Finally, as much as I share Mr. Den Uyl's appreciation for the power of traditional Aristotelian analysis of potentialities and actualities, I see clear limits to its usefulness. In particular, I think that his attempt to apply it to man's rational faculty—which has more than one essential characteristic—only confuses the matter. For this reason, I prefer to avoid talk about "first and second grades of actualization" until the concepts are better developed than they are at present.
Instead, here is my answer to Mr. Den Uyl's request. The essential criterion for a faculty to be a functioning rational faculty is that it must be both (1) able to perform a function which is one of its defining characteristics (namely, perception) and (2) able to develop further so that there is a reasonable presumption that it will later be able to perform the function which is its other defining characteristic (namely, conceptualization).
This is the standard by which I maintain that a normal post-28-week fetus is a human being, while a pre-28-week fetus is not. For the time being, at least, it seems to be the most Aristotelian—that is, logical and factual—standard we have.
Low-Power Lowdown In "Low Power to the People" (Aug.), Robert Docters speaks of a "limitless" radio spectrum. This is astonishing, and anyone with the slightest knowledge of the field knows better. Certainly, low-power stations have promise, but let's not exaggerate.
You describe his qualifications at the end of the article as including "an FCC third class license with broadcast endorsement," with the implication to your readers that this lends weight to his statements about radio. Maybe you'd better look up the FCC regulations and see exactly what the above license means. I'm surprised you didn't do it before citing it.
As to your magazine itself: it is one of the few things I read immediately upon receipt. You do a great job (well, except for the article cited above!).
Rinehart S. Potts
Mr. Docters replies: Mr. Potts objects to my statement that the range of frequencies in the broadcast (not "radio") spectrum is limitless. (To be sure: by definition the radio spectrum is limited to the spectrum lying between 10,000 and 100,000,000,000 cycles per second.) Assuming Mr. Potts disagreed with my statement, as the statement was actually printed, I am at a loss to understand his objection, because it is certainly theoretically possible to broadcast at any given cycle per second. If Mr. Potts was taking objection to an idea that we might some day be able to use a limitless expanse of spectrum for broadcast, he may well be correct—but that was not the point I was making. I was only saying that there is no scarcity of spectrum because we could expand the use of higher frequencies through new technology to meet any increases in demand which might materialize.
In 1918 the useful portion of the spectrum appeared to extend only to 1.5 MHz. By 1945 it was extended to 40 GHz, and today it is thought that regions stretching as high as 1,000,000 GHz are usable. Though signal attenuation and other physical characteristics of high-frequency broadcast pose some difficulties for continued exploitation of the higher spectrum, it is thought these difficulties can be overcome. In addition, more intensive use of lower spectrum is becoming more feasible.
By inference, Mr. Potts correctly observes that the third class license is a meaningless credential, similar to a CB license. However, I do not possess merely a third class license. Had Mr. Potts looked up what a third class license with broadcast endorsement means, he would have discovered that this license (now being phased out) is something different from a present-day third class license. I did not mean to present my third class license as an awesome document. However, to get the broadcast endorsement one had to pass an exam which required familiarity with various frequency allocations, broadcast tolerances, and wave propagation. Perhaps Mr. Potts read more into the statement than was intended.
Homeowners, Unite! I read Theodore J. Gage's article, "Getting Street-Wise in St. Louis" (Aug.), with considerable interest. I am chairman of the City of McGrath (Alaska) Planning Commission.
As chairman and as private citizen, I have headed off at least two attempts to institute zoning. I have also been instrumental in getting the concept of restrictive covenants used instead of zoning and have led a campaign to educate people about the desirability of a homeowners' association. Although I have not met with much success in getting ahold of people who know more than I do about such associations for help in formulating them, I feel that homeowners' associations provide the key to locking out efforts by petty bureaucrats to institute the cruelest hoax of all: zoning.
Gordon E. Castanza
Have NIRE, Will Travel? Regarding your August article on how Donald Selwyn is being mistreated by authorities in New Jersey, why not get a crew together, find a more receptive state, and help him move out? If there isn't a state in this nation, Mexico and some of the Caribbean islands welcome any enterprise; and when people who need help are sufficiently in need, they'll find ways to get there.
Thomas S. Booz
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".