Fascism à la CED
Justin Raimondo's "Inside the CED" (Feb.) should be mailed to all the subscribers of Mother Jones and its ilk. For several years now in my Principles of Economics classes I have used the concept of economic democracy as a modern-day example of fascist thinking. The CED, like all "leftist" groups, criticizes "the separation of ownership from control in capitalist corporations." However, their clever solution is to maintain private ownership, but with public control. Tom and Jane, Benito and Adolf would be proud.
University of Colorado
The long-term threat to individual liberty posed by the programs of the Campaign for Economic Democracy is not widely recognized. Thanks for your cover story (Feb.).
Regarding the CED's proposal for a "split-roll" property tax: its purpose is not to lower the tax on residential property. Its purpose is to increase taxes—a 75-percent increase in the tax rate on income-producing property. Since all costs of doing business must be passed on to customers, so will these higher taxes (just another cost of doing business). Thus this CED program guarantees both larger government and higher rents.
Mill Valley, CA
Tom Hayden sounds like a Nazi to me. Contrary to popular belief, the Nazis were not a party of the right. Their name is a contraction of National Socialism.
The dispute in Germany before World War II was between the socialists and communists, with the socialists winning. Hitler modeled his concentration camps on Stalin's. The only difference between Stalin's Russia and Hitler's Germany was that, instead of taking over all property in Germany, Hitler controlled it. He was just as totalitarian as Stalin.…
Harriet S. Nelson
While peppered with many flashes of insight, on the whole Laurence Beilenson and Kevin Lynch's "Should We Spill Blood over Oil?" (Feb.) seems to me a bit sad. That's partly because of its conclusion ("Far better to take the bus"), which offers a very sickly vision of the future, but mainly because of its perspective on oil storage. "Americans" (meaning the federal government) "can insulate themselves by stockpiling…" write the authors. Yes, indeed; but why on earth bring the government into all this?
Rather, the Pentagon should wholly disengage from the Persian Gulf, thus showing the Russians that we mean peace and the oil companies that they have no taxpayer-funded umbrella. That would equally well remove the threat of world war but would properly leave to free, competitive enterprises the task of deciding how to stand on their own feet. One solution would be for them to stockpile oil; but being experts with their own money at stake, we can be confident that they will find a better one if it exists.
Is REASON laissez-faire or not?
The editors reply: As the article said, to achieve security against a Middle East oil cutoff, Americans need to stockpile, "whether in government or private reserves." While the focus of the article was on the futility of the Reagan administration's stance, the reference to private reserves was meant to remind people that this need not be a government function. It is indeed unfortunate that government has preempted private efforts in this area.
Five years ago I was a speaker at a conference on cooperation and competition in education. At the time I was astonished at how far "left" my views regarding the great need for cooperation as a motive system within the educational system seemed to be.…
I am now starting a book on the balance between cooperation and competition throughout our social structures and recently have been buoyed by much of what I've read in REASON. However, in your February Letters column you rebut M.W. Ecker by saying that those who choose one lifestyle should not be coerced into subsidizing those who choose another. Perhaps coercion by government regulation is not the answer, but unless we want to start commuting to our farms (thereby compounding our urban problems) we have to hope some will choose "country life."
Free-market forces appear too slow to redress the (temporary?) imbalances that make one section of our society implausibly rewarded (witness the increasingly distorted incomes of health practitioners). Certainly this is not sufficient reason to abandon free-market practices, but they can be buttressed with a little help from "state" intervention. How much help? Well, we've always had to pay someone else to do what we didn't want to or couldn't do. Direct payment for certain performances, rather than contradictory subsidies (for example, subsidized water to grow crops that the farmer receives a subsidy to plow under), is an interventionist solution that still can work. Payments can go to the producer, transporter, merchandiser, or even the buyer of a given item without rewarding sloppy practices.
Walnut Creek, CA
The editors reply: As a supposed instance of a free-market phenomenon, Mr. Hourany's example of the business of health care is ill-chosen. One need only look at how the professional societies, with state sanctioning, control the supply of health care by carefully restricting the availability of health-care education—to say nothing of the partnership between the societies and the state in licensing dentists, physicians, etc.—to understand why such professionals appear to be "implausibly rewarded."
And, in any case, who is to judge when a reward is implausible? In a free society, people pay for goods and services because they want or need them; so traders are rewarded according to how relatively valuable or desirable their goods and services are to those who choose to buy them.
Mr. Hourany observes, correctly, that most of us are both unable and unwilling to do everything required for living as we do. So we trade with others in order to have things done and provided for us. But we can distinguish this type of obligation—call it natural necessity—from that which is imposed upon us by social institutions wielding force or the threat of force. Yet it is the latter—that is, institutional command based on coercive power—to which Mr. Hourany refers and which he offers as a basis for further institutional coercion. That we have suffered coercion at the hands of the state in the past is no argument for putting up with it or allowing more of it in a different form.
In the Letters column of your February issue, a Mr. Michael Ecker made the point that laissez-faire capitalism may be all right, but it would never provide mail service to rural areas. My residence being 42 miles from the nearest market center, that thought has also bothered me, but no more—not since United Parcel Service came to Montana a few years ago.
On any given day here one may encounter the brown panel trucks of UPS busting snow drifts on sections of rural roads and on private lanes miles beyond the last rural mailbox, sometimes for the purpose of delivering a single parcel to a remote ranch.
This penetration of rural Montana by a private delivery system tells me something: that multipurpose local delivery networks might well evolve in remote areas if private contractors could merge revenues from several sources—mail, perishables, farm machinery parts, parcels from UPS, Greyhound, freight and air carriers, etc.
In Montana, the retirement of the railroads from local markets and the increase in private transportation costs attributable to energy tend to contribute to further isolation of our rural areas. It is indeed ironic that "free" mail service is part of the problem, because revenues from carrying the mail are not available to any would-be multipurpose delivery contractors.
Robert T. Stevens, Jr.
Tibor Machan's essay, "The Corruption of Ideas" (Feb.), is written with fine, limpid style. I am reminded a bit of Hume in his leisurely combining of the highly controversial and the complacently good-humored, the philosophical and the down-to-earth or, as Hume calls it, "the popular." I am referring, of course, to Hume in the Essays. It is all very effective.
Though I disagree with Machan on the ultimate source of rights and freedom, I do agree that the words for these things are to be used sparingly and even niggardly, as opposed to the "corrupters," who misuse the power contained in them for ulterior purposes. I hope he will in a subsequent essay point out the pernicious but hidden consequences that flow from such misuses (for example, "pigs' rights") and just how and why these are misuses—but, of course, in the same low-keyed style of "The Corruption of Ideas."
One Vote for Direct Democracy
I was disturbed by the statement in Tibor Machan's article, "The Corruption of Ideas" (Feb.), that "constitutional democracy whereby the violation of people's rights is not open to a vote is far more valuable than wholesale democracy." If we understand the term "wholesale democracy" to mean direct democratic rule by the majority—as opposed to representative democracy—the problem with the statement is that wholesale democracy has many features favorable to a free society. What was Proposition 13 but wholesale democracy? It is difficult to think that people would easily vote themselves into slavery or vote in the socialistic schemes and militaristic policies that have been imposed upon us. There is something to be said for direct democracy.
The moment a constitution limits wholesale democracy, the people can no longer protect themselves within the system against the ensuing problems. Sure, they can vote for representatives; but the subsequent lobbyists and special-interest groups become almost impossible to counter. The saying, "Rockefeller owned the best legislature money could buy," is not without foundation; and the situation which it represented—privilege for a few powerful and influential individuals—could not have arisen from a wholesale democracy. Can one imagine old John D. bribing everyone in the United States—paying, say, $5 a vote ($30 nowadays, given inflation) on a referendum, so that he could then exploit all of them…?
A constitution is no guarantee against the violation of rights. It can itself incorporate and demand the violation of rights, such as taxation to fund the government.…It can be amended, interpreted, ignored. It is a piece of paper. What matters are the ideas held by the people, not the structure of government.…
Hans G. Shroeder
Forest Grove, PA
Mr. Machan replies: But "wholesale democracy" should not be understood as "direct democracy." Whether people vote directly on issues or vote for representatives who then vote on issues is an interesting issue but not the one I was focusing on. Wholesale democracy means that everything, or at least far too many things, are open to vote, in contrast to a system wherein certain things—in particular, people's rights—are not open to majority decision. How can voting, whether direct or indirect, be limited in this way? That is the purpose of a constitution. Of course, specifying such principles in a constitution does not guarantee against abuse and corruption; still, it is better than leaving them hidden.
As to Proposition 13, as far as I am concerned, that was a move that can only be justified once the provisions of a given constitution have deteriorated to the point of no return. No, I do not think voting on other people's incomes and holdings is a good thing—but sometimes it may be the only thing left.
South African Schooling
Your August 1981 issue (page 6) corrects a minor error in your April Trends column, which reported on private enterprise setting up the first private high school for blacks in South Africa. Actually, there are and have always been many private (nongovernment) black (or mixed) high schools in South Africa in various forms, such as conventional schools, charity schools, mission schools, and correspondence schools. Indeed, I frequently make the point that the high black literacy rates in southern Africa (compared with the rest of Africa) are thanks to the relative and simultaneous absence of government schooling and controls over private education until the 1956 black education "reform."
I do not detract in any way from the unusually impressive new school of which you wrote and on which I am well informed, having been one of the invited guests at its opening and having followed its progress with keen interest. Regrettably, pseudo-liberal demands for "free and compulsory" (like a jail sentence) black schooling are due to be met by government, at the expense of private education in its many, varied, and practical forms.
Norwood, South Africa
Richard N. Mitchell's "A Little R and R" (Language, Jan.) suffers from its own criticisms. As aptly illustrated in John Ruskin's quote, language truly communicates when presented accurately, clearly, powerfully, and with rhythmical order. Also given is (I must assume, for it is out of context) an educational grant's submitted report on its findings. Unfortunately, Mitchell freely adds his own commentary to his analyses.
Before introducing the statement that generically disturbs him, Mitchell deviates from the article's supposed structural analysis to one of educational criticism. Such statements of his as "practitioners of modern educationism, who consult only each other" and "the salaries of swarms of administrators and professors of imaginary subjects" poisons the well before he raises his first tangible evidence, the excerpt.
By Mitchell's own quotation of Ruskin, the reader may assume that a statement is powerful by its simplicity and its rhythmic order. An extrapolation of Ruskin's quote may be that well-placed declarative sentences in tight paragraphs weave accurate, clear, powerful, and rhythmically ordered critiques. In a word, terse. Discussions of ignoramuses, twits, and dupes is emotionally intense but is not logically terse. In fact, his emotional intensity is especially noticeable by glancing at the page: the brazen overuse of italics.
I must conclude that Mitchell is a deceiver himself, as he charges of educators: masquerading an informal critique that appeals to the emotions as a terse, formal critique appealing to reason.
Stephen B. Hodgkins
The Order of Disorder
Your Language column makes inspired use of the insight that logic encourages freedom while illogic leads us to follow socialism. Richard N. Mitchell is especially brilliant ("A Little R and R," Jan.) in choosing a passage from educationese rather than politicspeak and relying on readers to see the connection.
He fails, however, to define the hierarchy under direct ridicule: a teacher has been to college, an educator has a masters degree, and an educationist (the farthest Mitchell dares go) boasts a you-know-what. I have hung around the university too long and know also the dread educationalist, the prof of 'em all.
New York, NY
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".