Letters

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Earthly Emendations

In his article, "Inheriting the Earth" (Nov.), Joseph Martino argues that a property seller has, in effect, an affirmative duty to inform a prospective buyer that he has used it for toxic waste disposal; otherwise, the seller is guilty of "fraud and deception." It is also clear from what Martino says that he is not, for example, talking about a case in which the seller has falsely answered a direct inquiry from the buyer concerning what the land has been used for.

Such a position requires the seller to be a mindreader if the buyer does not initiate the discussion of what he considers important about the property. For instance, an oil prospector might like to know that the seller has already recovered most of the oil and has removed his drilling operation. An organic farmer might want to know that inorganic fertilizers and pesticides have been used there for decades. And a religious congregation might think twice about erecting a church where a brothel once did a roaring business.

But unless these prospective buyers directly question the seller about the things they (not Martino or others) consider significant, and the seller knowingly answers falsely, it is very difficult (if not impossible) to argue that fraud or deception has taken place. Rather, the buyer, in agreeing to the purchase, has decided that whatever information the seller has provided is sufficient for him, so that, morally and practically, there is no need to place a positive obligation upon the seller. Moreover, matters of this kind could be handled, for example, by bonded or insured independent agencies that take soil samples, etc., and certify (on pain of damage suits) that the property meets certain standards.

Martino also argues beautifully that present owners of land adjacent to land used for "impermanent" toxic waste storage "have a legitimate grievance in the present" (his emphasis).…But, for instance, starting a coal mine would raise the value of adjacent property for building a steel mill but would decrease it for residential purposes. Thus, the emphasis here should be placed on the possible direct harm to adjacent property (and possibly the owner's health), not, as Martino puts it, on "a diminution of the value of potentially affected property." With this correction, I agree with his argument.

Finally, I would add that such weaknesses point more to the complexities that confront all free-market thinkers when dealing with so-called externalities of the free market, so I also applaud Martino for making a valuable contribution to this effort.

Bruce K. Bell
Santa Monica, CA

Remedial Remedy

As a school psychologist who deals with children's learning problems on a daily basis, I have some concerns about Samuel Blumenfeld's excellent article about the so-called look-say approach to reading instruction ("The Victims of 'Dick and Jane,'" Oct.).

Different reading programs "load on" different cognitive traits. No one trait is distributed evenly throughout a population. For example, highly phonetic reading programs require a child to have a certain level of auditory discrimination. This is the ability to discriminate among similar sounds—th vs. ph, th vs. f, ss vs. sh, sh vs. th, etc. Yet, for any given population of primary-school children, all with normal hearing acuity, there is going to be a considerable range of ability for auditory discrimination. No claim is made here that children with the lowest levels of auditory discrimination will be unable to learn reading by a purely phonetic approach; they will just learn more slowly than their classmates and will thus be identified as "remedial."

In schools where the "look-say" approach is exclusively used, a similar problem is seen, albeit greater for the concerns that Mr. Blumenfeld so eloquently describes.…The look-say method requires better-than-average visual discrimination, figure-ground perception of spatial relationships, and especially visual memory and association. Better than average means that half of any given population is going to fall short of the minimum requirements for success with the look-say method; no wonder we have a fiasco. However, for a considerable number of children, the "look-say" method is a better way to teach primary reading, because adequate auditory discrimination is not yet in place.

I suggest, then, that the problem lies in the entire notion that there must be one best way to teach something to everyone.…Therein lies my criticism of Mr. Blumenfeld's otherwise excellent article. He focuses our attention on one method of reading and points to that as the reason Americans are becoming steadily more illiterate. Instead, I think the problem is germane to the entire notion of a school system that must serve "everyone." As soon as a school system opts for one or another exclusive approach to reading instruction, it necessarily condemns a portion of its students to remedial status. Only a variety of schools, with a variety of reading approaches, can teach the greatest number to read. Most REASON readers would agree that only the free market can or ever will achieve this end.

Stephen G. Barone
Platteville, WI

The Freedom To Take a Walk

As residents of Communist Bloc countries know first-hand, the right to migrate is a sacred individual right, even though the authorities proscribe it. But that's Communism, one might say: It can't happen here. Oh yeah? Clemson University's Richard B. McKenzie has noted rising official constraints on American firms to relocate in the United States.

And now Jim Murray details in "Football Slaves" (Oct.) the ruling of left-minded grey-beards in the California Supreme Court to allow Oakland to invoke eminent domain and sue to keep the Raiders from moving to Los Angeles.

For now, though, it's the Los Angeles Raiders. Still, leftward thinking pushes on, to the detriment of liberty. Ludwig von Mises observed in his Planning for Freedom: "There is no other alternative to totalitarian slavery than liberty. There is no other planning for freedom and general welfare than to let the market system work. There is no other means to attain full employment, rising real wage rates and a high standard of living for the common man than private initiative and free enterprise."

William H. Peterson
University of Tennessee
Chattanooga, TN

Feminism Fatale

It isn't often that I disagree with carefully edited REASON. And as a general rule I do not like splitting hairs.

But your editorial response to author Peter Schwartz's letter is not fully valid. I believe that you have failed to differ between the individual and the (Feminist) Movement.

Mr. Schwartz is correct in pointing out that the Feminist Movement is collectivistic and anti-individual in fundamental philosophic approach. It is difficult for me as an individualist to understand how anyone who fully accepts the principles of individualism as expressed in REASON finds it rational to work within special-interest groups proclaiming narrow goals, such as the Feminist Movement. I know their rationale (and they need not write me a letter in explanation), but that still does not alter the fact of their confused association within the group.

Philosophically, individualism must, by its nature, deal with singular and certainly gender-free goals. That there is some irrational discrimination between individuals that ideally should be eliminated is obvious. But given the current state of the individual versus the collectivistic, breakdown into special-interest groupings is divisive and nonproductive. All individuals who pursue the primary philosophic goal through a special-interest approach must assume responsibility for the overall principles making up the basic premises of the group. If a special-interest group is fundamentally collectivistic in its goal, then there is an obvious contradiction with individualism which the individual must face. To me this would seem to be a serious contradiction in principles and an acceptable point of criticism.

Philip K. Goldman
Goleta, CA

The editors reply: The problem with Mr. Goldman's position is that there is no such thing as a monolithic "Feminist Movement." There are feminists who are collectivists and there are others who are individualists (such as the members of the Association of Libertarian Feminists). To be an individualist feminist is not a contradiction in terms; it means simply being an individualist who has special concerns about the problems faced by women in today's society.

Health Comeback

The editors provided a fine reply to the letter from Jane M. Orient, M.D. (Oct.), who had objections to some of the contents of our July 1982 column, "Sex Play." We would like to add a few comments of our own.

The severe side effects cited by Orient for the hormone vasopressin can in fact occur but have not been observed in the use of Diapid® nasal spray. In some pituitary tumors, huge quantities of vasopressin are released, and it is under these conditions, often involving 100–1,000 times the usual doses of Diapid® taken by patients with diabetes insipidus, that the dire consequences cited by Orient can take place. The Physician's Desk Reference (1981 edition) says, "With clinical use of Diapid (lypressin) Nasal Spray, adverse reactions have been infrequent and mild." The doses capable of improving memory and learning (or intensifying and prolonging orgasms) are even smaller than doses typically used by diabetes insipidus patients.

There is nothing "alleged" about the intelligence-increasing effects of synthetic versions of vasopressin. In addition to quite a number of animal experiments, there have been several double-blind placebo-controlled human clinical trials that have all demonstrated these effects. These studies have shown no alterations of electrolyte-water balance, water retention, urine volume, or blood pressure in the doses required to produce these effects.

With respect to the possible long-term adverse effects of bromocriptine, we never suggested that this or any nutrient or drug was perfectly safe. In our book, Life Extension: a Practical Scientific Approach, we repeatedly stress, as we have in our series of columns, the importance of having regular clinical tests, particularly complete differential blood cell count and liver and kidney function. The adverse effects on lungs and pleura referred to by Orient are probably secondary to the renal damage that has been observed at very high doses. In our column, we did not mention specific doses, but the small doses we discuss in our book have not been reported to produce serious adverse physiological effects. There is an extensive European literature on the long-term human use of bromocriptine in Parkinson's disease at over 10 times the dose suggested in Life Extension. Bromocriptine is now FDA-approved for use in Parkinson's disease, at a long-term, relatively high-dose application.

Histamine, like many other substances produced by the body, has different functions and effects under different conditions. For example, "this noxious substance" is necessary for cell division. Whether Orient likes it or not, histamine release is also necessary for orgasm to occur. The use of small doses of niacin to produce a release of histamine is not a threat to health, as Orient's letter suggests. Some people find it uncomfortable, but it is not dangerous. Long-term use of much higher niacin doses than are required to produce this effect can indeed cause ulcers in some sensitive individuals. Study of a standard pharmacology reference such as Goodman and Gillman's The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics, or even The Physician's Desk Reference (merely a collection of FDA-approved package inserts), would reveal that a common side effect of antihistamines is impairment of sexual function.

Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw
Palos Verdes, CA

Monetary Dissident

I am heartened and encouraged to hear about Henry Mark Holzer's new book, Government's Money Monopoly (reviewed in June). I sit in jail today, facing 3½ years or more in a federal prison, precisely because I oppose the government's monopoly power "to coin money." Taxation is theft. That alone should be sufficient cause to bring one to resist, but it was knowledge of the monetary fraud imposed upon myself and all Americans, through the government's monopoly power, which prompted me to take a public stand by refusing to pay any more income taxes. I sought to resist two evils with one blow; I cut them off at the pocketbook, because their money was no good!…

Mr. Holzer's book is particularly important, because he has cut through the deceptions and focuses on exactly the right issues. Many are confusedly seeking merely to restore the gold standard. The root cause of monetary chaos today is not that we abandoned the gold standard but that we ever allowed government to tell us in the first place what money is. Once a government possesses such powers, it will inevitably debase the currency, as history has amply demonstrated, even if it starts out with a relatively sound money.…

Timothy A. Dove
Anchorage, AK

Elgin and the Turks

If Lord Elgin wanted to save the Parthenon freizes from the invading Turks in 1810 (Brickbats, Oct.), he should have gotten there sooner. The Turks invaded in 1455 and stayed till 1822, except for a Venetian invasion that took Athens in 1687, when the powder stored in the Parthenon exploded during a mortar bombardment.

John Haillee
Florence, SC

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