I was moved to tears by Steven Beckner's Money column, "IRA Alert," in the February issue. In his second paragraph, Steve tells us about "Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and Keogh plans (which can be funded for 1982 up until April 15, 1983, if the accounts were established in 1982)." When I first read this, I interpreted the second parenthetic remark to refer to both IRAs and Keogh plans. Of course, it does not. IRAs can be established up until April 15, 1983, to defer income taxes on 1982 income. I hope none of your readers think they've missed the boat on IRAs.
James M. Sime
East Hartford, CT
The editor's reply: We acknowledge the error and apologize both to our readers and to Mr. Beckner, whose original column included no such misinformation. Unaware that the law had been changed since last year, we added the parenthetical remark. Next time we'll remember that not two but three things are certain: death and taxes and changes in the tax laws.
"The Turkey Ballot" by Robert Bakhaus (Feb.) was good, but it should have made one point more clearly than it did. There are two possible reasons for not voting for any of the candidates for a particular office in an election: both candidates seem equally well qualified, or both candidates seem unacceptable. I suspect that when most people don't vote, they expect that they will like whichever person is elected well enough. So the Turkey (Nobody) vote selects out the particularly bad candidates.
Ralph M. Lake
The article "Double Dealing" was interesting mostly because I did not expect to see socialist rhetoric in REASON. When a person states that you must give up free trade because the real-world situation demands it, then that person obviously does not believe in the theory of freedom. Either it works in practice, or the theory is wrong.…
There has never existed true political freedom in the United States. Articles such as this, which promote the idea that "we" should do something to prevent the individual from conducting his own business as he determines, make me fear for ever having political freedom.…
Juliana Pilon's excellent article on the conflict between US and Soviet technology sales and national security omitted a point of law which I hasten to add. If we define freedom as freedom from coercion, we cannot turn around and legalize the intentional receipt of stolen goods or goods produced through the involuntary servitude of noncriminals and call that "free" trade. Our Constitution reflects this logic by outlawing slavery and defining treason as "adhering to (the United States') enemies, giving them aid and comfort."
Although a trade embargo is arguably legal and has even been supported by that defender of the free market Ayn Rand, other alternatives also exist.…The simple removal of government protection of contracts, loans, and assets owned by corporations engaged in double dealing would cause them to face the stark realities inherent in doing business with thugs.
Juliana Pilon's "Double Dealing" addresses the important question whether a government that is supposed to be devoted to freedom and free trade may forbid private firms from engaging in trade that significantly strengthens threats to our freedoms. As Pilon realizes, it is a hard call to say when, in effect, militarily useful trade with a potential enemy counts as so threatening to individuals' rights that their agents may legitimately prohibit that trade.
May I suggest a practical end-run around this hard theoretical question? This end-run is based on the very fact systematically emphasized in Pilon's essay, namely, that the US firms that sell the goods most clearly useful to the Soviet military are, typically, the very same firms that hold enormous defense contracts with the US government.
It is clearly within the rights of any potential purchaser of goods to stipulate as a condition of its purchase agreements that those from whom it buys not engage in business with specified third parties. The US government, then, may simply say to a firm that the benefit of a government contract will be withheld unless that firm agrees not to sell specified militarily useful products to the Soviets. Such a strategy would not need the sort of rigorous justification required by the forcible suppression of trade.…
Department of Philosophy
New Orleans, LA
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".