Cable's Thin Line
The political picture of cable TV is in some respects even worse than the one Tom Hazlett so accurately tuned in to ("The Viewer Is the Loser," July). Even with two successive "good" FCC chairpeople, cable is still saddled with company ownership restrictions, as well as a rule that a system must carry the signals of all stations within 35 miles.
Ownership of cable's right-of-way by government isn't their only foot in the door. New York State has power over cable even where no "public right of way" is used; this power will probably be used to prevent the Co-Op City housing development from being wired separately, as one company wants to. (New York City doesn't want the "cream skimmed" off the Bronx, just as Indianapolis wants its apartment dwellers to subsidize other subscribers.) Meanwhile, the state forbids private landlords from excluding cable if a tenant wants it.
Cable companies have a thin line to tread in not having control over what's on their public access channels, while having to comply with libel and obscenity laws. Further problems come from the religionist right in the form of agitation for antipornography laws.
But there's also hope. There are parts of the country where cable operates unfranchised, subject only to FCC regulation and the general run of business taxation and regulation. Systems in these areas can serve as shining examples of how well people can be served in the absence of state and local meddling.
Women and Watching
Bravo for Peter Schwartz's article "Women's Worth" (July). I hope to see more articles in your magazine firmly rooted in fundamental philosophy.
Bravo also for your exposé of cable TV franchising. I've been waiting for cable TV on my street for three years, and it is wonderful to know that I can look forward to watching Hartford City Council meetings on cable as recompense for my inconvenience.
"Women's Worth" Writer Worries
I'd like to express my strong objection to the manner in which my article, "Women's Worth" (July), was edited. When you asked for permission to reprint the article from the Intellectual Activist I agreed—on the assumption that only very minor editing, if any, would be done (other than simple cutting to meet space requirements). It was, after all, you who came to me, saying how good the article was. Instead, you made quite a few editing changes, several of which I definitely take issue with. There are two changes in particular that I want to cite, as they result in a misrepresentation of my views.
The first involves a complete reversal of meaning. The article argues that the entire concept of "sexism" is invalid—because it packages together both justified and unjustified discriminations based on gender. The article then states, as originally written, "We should add that, unlike sexism, the concept of racism is clearly valid" (because there are virtually no rational distinctions to be made on the basis of race). Your editor, however, changed the word valid to invalid, thus rendering the whole point ins comprehensible.
The second editing change involves a more fundamental issue. Your editor repeatedly watered down the article's theme. The article attacks the essential ideas of feminism—not, as your editor took upon himself to decide, merely of some feminists. Where it states that feminists don't want the onus of freedom, your editor changed that to "many feminists.…" Where it says that the philosophy of feminists is anti-individualistic and egalitarian, your editor substituted "most feminists.…" The "essential error of the women's movement" is not the same as "… much of the women's movement." Feminists—not "many feminists"—favor the erasing of any distinction between rational and irrational sexual discrimination.
The main purpose of the article is to demonstrate why the philosophy of feminism—and, therefore, of those who label themselves feminists—is fundamentally antagonistic to the principles of individualism. I realize that libertarians find feminism compatible with—even representative of—libertarianism, which may be why your editor felt the need to modify the categorical criticisms of feminism. If so, I suggest he write his own article on the subject but not distort the meaning of mine.
New York, NY
The editors reply: We apologize to Mr. Schwartz for a typesetting and proofreading error that resulted in the word invalid appearing where he had said valid. We do, however, stand by our editorial judgment that feminism is not essentially anti-individualist and egalitarian. Furthermore, we know consistent, rational individualist feminists who would be justly offended if we neglected our editorial duties in this matter. We took Mr. Schwartz's article to be a valuable discussion of the contradictions inherent in the notion of comparable worth and in assumptions underlying most feminist rhetoric.
Women's Work Force
Regarding "Women's Worth" (July), I feel concern that a philosophy long centered on individual rights should be used to gloss over discrimination and chauvinism. Peter Schwartz is right. The government has no right to shove a mandatory interpretation of the comparative worth of unrelated occupations down our throats. The noose would only tighten around our expiring "free economy." But our free economy is made up of more than captains of industry and others who have found an eco-niche in the new technocracy. There are workers, many of them female, who have forgotten that true power resides not in the government but in themselves. They can bargain collectively; they can boycott; they can strike—these are noncoercive direct actions which have a legitimate role in a laissez-faire arena. When it makes good sense, why not organize?
Skilled, white, American men did just that during the Golden Age. They did not extend economic power to women, unfortunately, or to blacks, coolies, children, or new immigrants. As trade unionists gained leverage in the Progressive era, they used "protectionist" legislation to keep "undesirables" out of the skilled work force, creating a subcaste of the chronically unskilled and underpaid.…
Skilled women were cut off from the mainstream of the work force by "ghettoized" jobs defined as a logical extension of woman's work. Interestingly enough, these job ghettoes flourish most strongly today in the public sector (teaching, civil service, libraries), or in those industries where government regulation is particularly strong (insurance, banking, mega-corporations). Women's economic progress has been minimal under the aegis of paternalistic state protection.
Unfortunately, Schwartz uses his concern for individual rights to justify the status quo, but why should women and minorities who stand outside the organized work force slake their thirst for economic gain with trickle-down Reaganomics? They should be (and often are) exploring nonviolent, nonstatist means of wielding force in the marketplace. Why shouldn't they band together for mutual support?…
New Canaan, CT
I read your interesting article on IRAs ("How Do You Spell Relief? I-R-A," June). The Investment Company Institute can supply a wide range of information on mutual funds—both load and no-load funds. There is no charge for any of this information, which includes our list of no-load funds that is bigger than that published by the No-Load Association. If any of your readers want material on mutual funds, we would be happy to send it to them.
Investment Company Institute
1775 K St. NW
Washington, DC 20006
On the Facts Track
The piece on the New York subways ("Unload the Subways," May) was an. excellent piece of reasoning, but a few facts are in error.
Mr. Samuel says that we could have had subways as early as 1860. I find this strange, as the first electric trolley system was in Richmond, Virginia, in 1888! This system was Frank Sprague's and was the first successful system in the world. In Germany, Dr. Siemens had an experimental line a year earlier.
In the reference to Ft. Worth, Mr. Poole is just slightly in error. Five St. Louis cars were ordered, but not from St. Louis Car Co. (which is not in existence any longer), but from Washington, D.C., where a modern, well-maintained trolley system, privately owned for profit, had just been condemned and ordered removed by an act of Congress! The system had no overhead wires, was modern, and showed a profit. But our congressmen thought electric traction was "old-fashioned," and they passed an ordinance against it. It was consequently ripped up, cut up, and freeways built. Five of these cars went to Ft. Worth where they were converted into double-ended operation and to this day still perform admirably, even though they were built 40 years ago!
Pols and Pilferers
In Brickbats (July) you printed the quotation: "Small crooks go to jail. Big crooks go to Congress." I'd like to expound on that.
During 50 years as a wage earner, I saved all I could to provide for my family's old-age security. However, deficit-spending, vote-buying politicians have stolen half of my life savings in the past 10 years alone! What they haven't stolen from the elderly generation of thrifty Americans, they have charged to their grandchildren. For the present generation of working Americans, they have destroyed the incentive to save for the future. Liberal(?) politicians are worse criminals than bank robbers. "There ought to be a law!"
Elections vs. Amendments
James Dale Davidson's observation (Viewpoint, July) that the Libertarian Party is struggling against tremendously powerful established interests is not a new insight. His observation that political outcomes are largely determined by selfish behavior is certainly true.
But isn't it obvious to Davidson that the overall effect of government today is contrary to the self-interest of most Americans? Persistent inflation, high and increasing taxes, pervasive government regulation, the threat of nuclear war, jail sentences for nonregistrants and marijuana smokers—are these in the self-interest of Americans? The American economy and our prospects for freedom and prosperity are literally being destroyed by the government. Current government policies work against the interests of most people and for the interests of a powerful few.
Libertarian Party supporters don't believe that the job of explaining who really wins and loses from government policies, and then getting people to vote for Libertarians, is an easy job. But we do believe that winning substantial public support through the political process is the best, if not the only, way to roll back big government in America.…
It is naive to believe, as Davidson apparently does, that we can skip the arduous step of gaining public support for libertarian views and simply roll back the state by amending the state's own charter—the Constitution. Does Davidson really believe that the established powers and interests in America would allow Supreme Court judges, appointed by big-government Republicans or Democrats, to significantly weaken the government?…
REASON would presumably not wish to give ammunition to the regulators, yet it publishes Health & Welfare each month. Self-experimenters Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw evidently cannot be held responsible for their advice, for they make claims no physician would dare voice: "[Vasopressin] had no side effects" ("Sex Play," July).
Vasopressin, also known as antidiuretic hormone, can constrict the coronary arteries (which supply the heart), raise the blood pressure, and even cause gangrene. It helps the body regulate salt and water balance, preventing the kidney from diluting the urine. An excess causes water intoxication with mental dullness, drowsiness, and eventually convulsions and coma. Because of this danger, patients with diabetes insipidus (who lack this hormone) are encouraged to use the minimum effective dose. Pearson and Shaw mention no similar caution when recommending the drug for its alleged value in increasing intelligence and enhancing orgasm.
Bromocriptine, a useful drug in Parkinson's disease, certain types of infertility, and pituitary tumors, is suggested to increase libido and possibly to thwart the "aging clock." However, its long-term safety is unproved. Already, adverse effects on the lungs and pleura have appeared.
The assumption that increasing the intake of precursors and cofactors will increase a metabolic product is not necessarily correct. The body inhibits the manufacture of many substances for its own protection, for example, histamine, which Pearson and Shaw would like to stimulate in order to heighten their sexual enjoyment. This noxious substance is normally made as a response to injury or stress. It causes pain and itching, secretion of acid by the stomach, and contraction of the smooth muscle of the gut and bronchi. The last may be a serious problem for the asthmatic. An antihistamine is one of the ingredients in most over-the-counter cold and allergy remedies.…
Jane M. Orient, M.D.
The editors reply: We recognize that Durk and Sandy subscribe to an unorthodox approach to health and well-being. We think they explain this well in their May column, "Conflicting Medical Worldviews." Obviously, we are not in a position to read the material in the field they are dealing in and thus to verify what they are saying in their columns. But we take seriously their own admonition that people should not take their word for it but should do their own reading and evaluation. Space does not permit our publishing their list of references for each month's column, but this is always made available to readers who send in a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Durk and Sandy make it available so that people can more easily take responsibility for their own well-being.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".