Do the Figures Hold Water?
In William Tucker's generally excellent article on California water resources ("Billions Down the Drain," June), he states that drip irrigation uses only one percent of the water used in surface-flow irrigation. This is a 99 percent saving and seems just too good to be true. Therefore this second look. There have been a number of independent experiments with drip irrigation of cotton in Arizona and California during the past two years. And based on acre-inches of water used per bale produced in each case, drip irrigation averaged about 34 percent as much water as traditional surface irrigation.
Los Altos, CA
The editors reply: The source for this figure was "The California Water System: Another Round of Expansion?" by Richard Walker and Michael Storper, published in Public Affairs Report (Apr. 1979), a bulletin of the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. On page 6 the authors of this analysis write: "Some 82 percent of California's irrigation is by gravity methods, chiefly open-ditch, which use much more water than other techniques. For example, sprinkler irrigation uses only 18 percent as much water as open-ditch (gravity) and drip irrigation only one percent as much." The California Department of Water Resources Bulletin 198, pp. 42–45, is cited as the source.
Agricultural economist Del Gardner, however, tells us that these figures represent the volume of agricultural-use water in California by type of method. That is, one percent of California's agricultural water is used in drip systems. Gardner estimates that drip irrigation can increase the efficiency of water use by 20–30 percent.
In his article on cable TV franchising (July), Thomas Hazlett points out that the current premise for regarding cable TV as a "natural" monopoly is that cable-layers must "chip at our streets and staple our poles and apply to local governments for permission to do same." His error is in dismissing that point as "trivial." Property is property, and since local governments own streets and utility poles (and drainage culverts), their power to dictate cable programming content, and the number of cable market participants, rests in their inherent power to regulate access to those streets and poles for cable-laying purposes—or any other purposes. Any private lessor of cable-laying rights would have similar power.
The essential difference between the government as lessor of cable rights and a hypothetical private lessor is that the private lessor would be less likely actively to exercise that power. Political considerations of "The Community" would be meaningless to him; cable-lease royalties, and the practical considerations involved in cable laying, would be all he would care about.
The solution to this quite non-"trivial" problem, then, is to privatize the "public ways," a course of action which already has many other arguments to recommend it. When one has to ask permission to use government property to conduct his business, whatever business that is, he's asking for trouble—as much trouble as that government sees fit to make. That is the inherent danger of government ownership of any means of production, distribution, or exchange—or any land other than that required for a minimal number of police headquarters, military bases, and courthouses.
Terry A. Hurlbut, III
In "Free the Falklands" (Editorial, July), Manuel Klausner omits a portion of Falkland history that further strengthens the British claim. As recounted in The Encyclopedia Britannica (1964), "The Falklands were discovered by the English navigator John Davis (Davys) in the 'Desire' in 1592 and two years later Sir Richard Hawkins sailed along their northern shore.…In 1766 the French settlement was withdrawn under pressure from Spain, which later (1770) ejected the British party—an action that brought the two countries to the brink of war. Port Egmont was restored to Britain in 1771 but was voluntarily abandoned three years later. In 1829 the Republic of Buenos Aires, which claimed to have inherited the rights of Spain, sent Louis Vernet to develop a colony in its name; he made some progress but in 1831 was rash enough to seize three U.S. sealing vessels and this brought down a U.S. corvette, the 'Lexington', which 'laid waste the settlement and proclaimed the islands free of all governance.' In 1833 Great Britain, which had never renounced its claims to sovereignty, resumed official occupation."
Thus, it would seem that Argentine claims were not subrogated by the British in 1833, since the United States had declared them a free territory, nullifying all previous claims, and the present British claim would stem from a right by occupation in 1833. The Argentinians seem to have done nothing to reassert their claim from the time of the visit of the Lexington to the resettlement by the British in 1833, so it seems that past history is again being rewritten to justify present actions.
St. Petersburg, FL
Perspective on El Salvador
I hold Murray Rothbard in the highest regard for his academic contributions to free-enterprise economics, but reading his column "Yankee Stay Home" (Viewpoint, June), it is obvious to those such as I, who have lived and worked in Latin America, and in particular El Salvador, that Mr. Rothbard does not possess firsthand experience to justify his position. Consider the following:
1. He states that "it is massive repression over many years that has finally solidified the great bulk of Salvadorans behind the guerrillas." This is ridiculous on two counts. From personal experience living in El Salvador, I can attest that the guerrillas are hated by all but a small percentage of Salvadorans (4–5 percent). While the people are extremely susceptible to benefit-corruption by the false promises of socialism, the terrorist acts of the guerrillas have alienated everyone by their indiscriminate destruction of the economic means of both poor and rich.
Additionally, the so-called right-wing dictators are not of the right but uniformly of the left, always buying popularity from the people with socialist benefits paid for by taxation and inflation. The only repression the general populace sees is the increase of socialistic regulations and controls. The only direct repression is felt by a small percentage of people, almost exclusively of a type further to the left than the socialist dictator. Interestingly enough, the typical strong-man military leader allows more individual freedom to the people than the typical Marxist. The dictator is only watching out for small power groups who would knife him in the back, while the Marxist dictator has an ideological motive to restrict freedom as a threat to his brand of elitist control.
2. Mr. Rothbard makes several slurring references to the "farce" of trying to show that Latin American troubles are caused only by a handful of "agitators." He further states that whatever aid has come from Nicaragua has been "minuscule" compared with the massive flow of arms, materiel, and advisors from the US government. There is no debate among the populace in Central America as to the source of the explosives, weapons, and manpower of the communist guerrillas. Anyone trying to establish credibility with the civil war argument would be laughed out of El Salvador or correctly labeled as prorevolutionary left. Further, trying to compare the efficient supply chain of the Cuban and Nicaraguan communists to the bluntly ignorant aid techniques of the United States' limited war strategy is like comparing fighter aircraft to blimps. The size being greater on one side (though it is clearly not if you count the military buildup inside Nicaragua itself) does not help to determine who is the initial aggressor, by any means.
3. Rothbard claims that the "peasantry is suffering under a 'feudal' land system," that their ancestors had their land "stolen from them by the government and handed to the ancestors of the present landlords." This is sheer nonsense without any more historical basis for action than the US experience of pioneering the lands of roving bands of American Indians. While it is true that some initial injustice did occur to original natives in both countries, the historical precedent is so far back that few would advocate a US land confiscation based upon the original Indian claims. The injustices would be greater, since none of the original people are involved. Furthermore, the previous large landowners in El Salvador poured millions into the development of their lands, just as American entrepreneurs have done. It is not now the asset of the Central American peasant any more than the Florida Seminole Indians own all of the Florida citrus crops.
The so-called agrarian reform in El Salvador was nothing short of a destructive confiscation of free property and the consequential enslavement of the previous farm workers as underpaid employees of state-owned and -operated farms. The major casualty of the agrarian and banking confiscations was the Salvadoran economy, whose investment capital immediately disappeared through the dual effects of fear of further confiscation and government theft of banking dollar reserves.
In conclusion, I assert that Mr. Rothbard's final arguments attempting to deny any relationship between Moscow's leadership and the Latin American Marxists are not only lacking in evidence but irrelevant to justifying our concern or lack of concern for the affairs of Central America. As long as all Marxists continue to exhibit a hostility toward the free exercise of economic and personal liberty, they are all enemies of liberty-minded individuals—no matter who gives the orders.
Joel M. Skousen
I was astounded that Peter Schwartz, "Women's Worth" (July), seemed to consider himself such an authority on the women's movement. An advocate, he definitely isn't! In fact, he sounds like he is left over from Women's Suffrage days.
Mr. Schwartz appeared to be saying that the position of secretary is not a successful one and therefore demeaning! Any position that is done well, with pride and satisfaction, is successful. Doesn't he realize that it is all in the title, anyhow? A man in the same position would be an "office assistant" of sorts, not a secretary. Men were once secretaries, exclusively. Why do you suppose they gave it up? And of course, if a man in one office was an assistant as compared to a female in the adjoining office being a secretary, you had better believe there would be a disparity in pay, even if both did precisely the same job.
Many secretaries carry a great deal of responsibility, and many not only enjoy that type of work but have proven themselves to be invaluable to a company.
Patricia C. McAbee
South Boston, VA
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".