Prudent Privatization

Congratulations on your excellent article ("Cops, Inc.") in the November issue on commercial police services. People often think that police protection is the one municipal service that cannot possibly be privatized. You have documented the fact that it is indeed possible, that it is being done, and that citizens receive the same level and quality of police services at substantially lower cost. As more and more taxpayers and elected officials become more aware of the advantages of prudent privatization, the trend will surely grow, to the benefit of all.

E.S. Savas
Assistant Secretary
Department of Housing
and Urban Development

Going After the Big Guns

I don't know what justification is used by the government so as to store helium for possible use by future generations, nor has Joseph Martino told us ("Inheriting the Earth," Nov.). But why should Martino, in his otherwise excellent article, use such a trivial example of government directing our tax dollars for some "insurance" investment? Why not look at where the really big bucks are going—toward national "defense"? Building a mighty arsenal for some possible future war against the Red Menace—at the risk of wrecking the domestic economy and precipitating war—can also be seen as an "exercise in coercion," lessening our freedom to use our hard-earned wealth! Which is more onerous to the taxpayer: saving helium, or building planes, ships, tanks, bombs, etc.?

Also, I know of no evidence that "most futurists" favor limiting freedom to increase the welfare of future generations. Can Martino supply any? Otherwise, it is a superficial "straw man" argument that glosses over the reality of multiple political positions on multiple axes of contention.

Michael Marien
Lafayette, NY

Mr. Martino replies: Defense does take more money than does helium conservation, but the latter is a better example for two reasons. First, defense provides some benefit in the present as well as the future. Helium conservation is an absolutely pure example of present sacrifice for future benefits. Second, there is indeed waste in defense, in the sense that we are buying some things which would be worthless even if we had a war. Helium conservation is not wasteful in this sense, because if helium becomes scarce, conservation will have been useful. The point is that even if helium conservation turns out to be a good thing, it is an activity inappropriate for government. Private speculators should be risking their own money, instead of the government risking the money of all of us. Defense, on the other hand, is one of the few legitimate functions of government.

Antiaging Debate

We have a few comments about Lowell Ponte's "review" of Life Extension: A Practical Scientific Approach (Dec.).

1. It was not a review of the book but an emotional personal attack on us. Ponte did not attempt to analyze the technical contents of the book.

2. Throughout the "review," illogical comparisons are made, for example, comparing intervention in aging processes with intervention by leftist social planners in free markets. In one insidious comparison, Ponte mentions the use of LSD in the 1960s and then immediately points out that Hydergine®, an antiaging prescription drug discussed throughout the book, is an ergot derivative like LSD. Not mentioned is the fact that Hydergine® is very different in its effects; for example, it is nonhallucinogenic and does not produce a "trip." This is yet another attempt to discredit us by insinuation.

3. The article is patently false in claiming that we have "never been employed to research this field [biological gerontology] in any scientific or major academic institution." In fact, over the past 10 years, our major source of income has been as paid scientific consultants, with much of this work being in the field of aging research. We have focused on commercial research and development; hence, we have not published in scientific journals. In the past few years, we have suggested or designed experiments for other biological gerontologists that will eventually be published. One of these showed that Hydergine® is a powerful antioxidant, explaining many of its unusual brain-protecting effects.

The data concerning these collaborations and our paid work in aging research have been sent to REASON. In order to protect our privacy and that of the corporations involved, we cannot permit these data to be published. We have received many thousands of letters from desperately sick people, some of whom have admitted hiring detectives to try to find us. Some of our consulting customers have been subjected to similar harassment.

4. The fact that our work has not been published in peer-reviewed journals does not mean that it has not been subjected to peer review. The grants (nongovernmental) we receive involve review of our scientific proposals by selection committees composed of reputable and well-known scientists in the field of biological gerontology. For example, our 1976 proposal to investigate the possible life-extending effects of growth hormone-releasing agents was reviewed by a number of scientists, including Dr. C.H. Li, the discoverer of growth hormone and its structure. Dr. Li was highly enthusiastic about our proposed scientific study.

5. We have distributed over 100 copies of our book to biological gerontologists, including those scientists who developed the major theories of aging under active investigation today. There has been considerable interest in our thinking and very little criticism from these men and women familiar with work in the field. Every time we attend a scientific conference or exchange of ideas with our scientific colleagues, we are being subjected to a review by our peers. Every time we supply samples of our blood and urine to one of our colleagues, our approach is being subjected to scrutiny by our peers. However, we are not subjected to a formal peer committee's censorship.

6. Finally, we are not impressed that Ponte is a staff science writer for Reader's Digest. We do not consider that publication a reliable source for scientific information and ideas. We are very surprised that REASON considered this an adequate credential to review a technical book.

Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw
Palos Verdes, CA

Liberal, Humanistic

As an enthusiastic subscriber to your magazine, I am deeply shocked and wounded by Mr. David Brudnoy's article "The Missionary's Position on Sex" (Dec.). The entire article is blatantly anti-Biblical, anti-Christian, and pro-homosexual. It clearly belongs in the annals of liberal, humanistic publications.

I have been placing REASON in my waiting room, but this article makes it necessary for me to cancel my subscription post-haste. I feel that you have made a grave and fatal error, and unless I am badly misinformed, this will not be the only cancellation you will receive.

Charles H. Howard, M.D.
Richardson, TX

Count Us Out

For a magazine called REASON you are guilty of publishing a very unreasonable article. I am referring to the article on sexual aberration by David Brudnoy.

I do not approve of many of the positions taken by the Moral Majority, and I am certainly against statements made by extremists such as the Rev. Dan Fore. However, the number of these kind of extremists constitutes less than one percent of the population and therefore carry no weight. This article is in extremely bad taste and smells to high heaven; it should never have been printed in a magazine with a title like yours. The sexual deviates, only about five percent of the population, are blowing up their grievances way out of proportion, and the "straights" are getting tired of hearing about it.

My wife and I object to having this trash in our home. Please cancel my subscription.

Jon E. Morse
Mt. Shasta, CA

Of Carburetors and Christians

In the short time I have been reading REASON, I have, until the December issue, found the articles remarkably consistent with the magazine title; that is, reason, in contradistinction to emotion, guided the articles' authors. To use portions of the final paragraph of the December article on racism, every effort was made to "extricate" facts "from…emotive language" so that a "dispassionate analysis" could be made. Then, with a turn of the page, one leaves this superb article and discovers, in Brudnoy's article on the New Right, something as out of place as an article on carburetor rebuilding.

I will hasten to add that I am not offended by the subject matter. I believe that the political actions of the Moral Majority, and others similar, are worthy of attention and analysis. But, please, spare us the pages of quotes linked only by name calling and innuendo.

Instead, for instance, a little effort would have revealed a degradation of teaching quality and effort by fundamentalist Christian preachers, in the last 50 years, which has left the average lay Christian with so weak an understanding of hamartiology that sexual sin is about the only sin he can consistently recognize. His preacher (who, odds are, is probably quite fat—a sin clearly condemned by the Word of God) finds that the condemnation of sexual sins is "safe" for him and thus ignores the others.…

I would welcome another article on the same subject, but please, find someone more appropriate than a Brudnoy.

W.H. Shope
San Gabriel, CA