Nonzoning Made Simple
Congratulations on "They Built Their Own Highway…" by Thomas Hazlett (Nov.). His defense of nonzoning in Houston is good economics and good ethics. And how that man can write! I've never seen the economics of externalities, public goods, and free riders explained with such ease and with such beautiful irreverence. Hazlett leaves only one question unanswered: How did he survive graduate school?
David R. Henderson
Senior Staff Economist
Council of Economic Advisers
Traffic and Zoning
Thomas Hazlett's article does an excellent job of covering most of the major issues in the zoning/no-zoning debate. However, Hazlett seems to conclude that Houston's traffic congestion is just the price that must be paid for an unzoned city. In reality, the cause of Houston's traffic congestion is the city's failure to price the use of a scarce resource—the roads during the rush hour.
Of course more intense use of land puts a heavier demand on the arterials, but a heavy demand will not result in overuse if the price reflects the demand. Just as there is never "enough" free parking downtown, there will never be "enough" street capacity in densely developed cities during rush hours unless a fee for use is imposed. (Most REASON readers are probably familiar with Hong Kong's experiment in road pricing.)
With a road-pricing system that keeps traffic flowing, builders would have to consider the cost of access to their developments as affecting the value of their developments. As areas became more built up,…builders would probably find it advantageous to provide bus or rail service to their developments.
Coupled with realistic pricing of parking spaces on all streets, road pricing and no zoning would result in a congestion-free city that used its land to the greatest benefit. Although private ownership of all streets might result in their most efficient use, there is no reason why the present owner, which happens to be the city of Houston, cannot at least attempt to price the use of its paved real estate to reflect its value.
Paul D. Gruen
Department of Regional Planning
Los Angeles County, California
Besting the Soviet Bear
Jack Wheeler's article "How to Dismantle the Soviet Empire" (Nov.) has got to be the most common-sense approach to stopping the Russians' expansionist plans that has come along in a long time. He and you should be congratulated on its publication.
W. Elmer Seaman, Jr.
REASON gets better and better. I particularly enjoyed "How to Dismantle the Soviet Empire."
Heilsbronn, West Germany
"How to Dismantle the Soviet Empire" should be read by every member of Congress and the president.
Mona C. Jacob
South Windham, ME
Uncle Sam, Where Are You?
Jack Wheeler's article was much appreciated. It is the first of its kind that I have seen, one centered on proaction versus reaction. It seems as if the United States has always operated with a "band-aid" strategy, one that entails following the USSR around attempting to clean up what they dirty. Our recent presence in Grenada is indicative.
If indeed Mr. Wheeler's suggestions were implemented, and the consequences were as expected, the implications would be a landmark in human history. To think of all our energies over the decades that have been directed toward peace and coexistence with this superpower! How would we focus that same energy in other directions (what to do without a fencing partner)?
One question does sit uneasy: Mr. Wheeler's several-point plan appears so obvious, why has our government not taken this approach?
M. Scott Hunziker
Pompano Beach, FL
…At Diplomatic Receptions
Jack Wheeler's article on dismantling the Soviet Empire illustrates a powerful approach that, regrettably, the people who manage our foreign policy basically reject, if indeed they even recognize it as an alternative. While executive secretary of the Cabinet Council on Food and Agriculture at the White House in 1981, I personally generated an initiative aimed at subtly strengthening the private-property agricultural sector in Poland. How this initiative was defeated within the bureaucracy, despite President Reagan's personal support, is a long, occasionally comical, but ultimately tragic story.
The point it made, however, is that our government has practically no capacity to relate to people, here or abroad. In domestic matters, people are beneficiaries or cases or eligibles, who qualify for subsidies and live in units. In foreign policy, it is not too much of an exaggeration to say that for the US government, there is no such thing as people—there are only other governments. We are a government, and we deal with, counter, parry, thwart, threaten, support, or bully other governments. And thus, to take a truly horrible case, the Reagan administration votes to seat Pol Pot's murderous Kampuchea regime in the United Nations, because somebody has to be the government everywhere, and we didn't like North Vietnam's puppet alternative.
I am firmly of the opinion that this government, under whatever president, cannot generate a pro-people foreign policy that penetrates the veil of national governments. This is called "interfering in internal affairs" and makes for undesirable chilliness at diplomatic receptions. It will have to be done through private bodies, although tax dollars could possibly be used to support the activity, as USAID supports Appropriate Technologies International, or as the CIA supports various enterprises abroad. An alternative I am now willing to consider would be to contract the functions of our State Department to private enterprise, although I shudder to think who might be choosing among the various bids.
Jack Wheeler's article is a valuable contribution to understanding the evils of socialist systems and the weakness of the social as well as the economic foundations of the Soviet Union. While providing a long-needed reminder of the multinational character of the Soviet states, it is possible that he understated the problem. The excellent map that accompanied the article was a political map indicating the different soviet republics, but the largest republic geographically, the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic, stretching from the Baltic to the Bering Sea and the Pacific Ocean, itself is a multinational republic with most of its territory east of the Ural Mountains composed of Asian peoples…
The multinational character of the Soviet empire has become much more significant in recent years. In the past, groups were European, or Christian. But today the great population growth in the Soviet Union is among the non-European populations, mostly Turkic and Mongol, who are Islamic. These Central Asian peoples not only are heirs to historic centers of civilization in the Islamic world, but they are living in the Russian sun belt, where better climate makes for agricultural growth and preferred living locations. The Soviets were very clever in winning control of Central Asia against Enver Pasha and the Pan-Turkish movement. (Enver Pasha, half-Turkish, half-Albanian, led the Young Turk movement of 1908 to modernize Turkey. As leader of the Union Liberale, Enver purged the army of old officers and as minister of war in World War I organized the Turkish campaigns against Russia and the Commonwealth invasion at Gallipoli. After the war he served with the anti-Bolsheviks in Central Asia, where he was killed by the Soviets in 1922.)
The Soviets recognized the growing importance of the Russian Moslems, and the shift from a pro-Israel to a pro-Palestinian policy over 30 years ago was due to a Soviet desire not to give grounds for anti-Soviet feeling among the Moslem populations of Central Asia. Any programs to emphasize the strategies that Jack Wheeler suggests will require a re-evaluation of American attitudes toward Islam. As has been the case since 1917, the Soviets have been successful because they have been willing to invest time and energy in understanding the ideas and events that dominate in various parts of the world, while American politicians and opinion makers will not bother to do so.
Institute for Humane Studies
Menlo Park, CA
Abetting Without Aiding
Relevant to Jack Wheeler's provocative piece on how the Soviet Union might be brought to its knees, Jeane Kirkpatrick, US ambassador to the UN, made some comments in an interview in the November Encounter:
I am certainly not the kind of moral purist who believes that we should play dead when confronted with aggressive dictatorships. Nor am I a pacifist. I believe that democracies have not only the right but the obligation to defend themselves—to defend freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly—and I don't believe it is necessary for us to wait until we are nearly dead to respond to force with force.…
But I do think that we haven't the right vis-a-vis other people, people who live under totalitarian regimes or are occupied by a totalitarian power, to encourage them to active resistance if we are ourselves unwilling actively to support them in that resistance. We have…the moral obligation to support them if they choose to resist…but we haven't the moral right to urge them to assume terrible, life-and-death risks from which we are not prepared to deliver them.
Ambassador Kirkpatrick has, I think, a point that Mr. Wheeler should address.
Tibor R. Machan
Mr. Wheeler replies: Mr. Liggio is quite correct in pointing out the necessity of a change in American attitudes toward Islam. For those interested further in this subject, I highly recommend Alexandre Bennigsen and Marie Broxup's The Islamic Threat to the Soviet State, just published by St. Martin's Press, and The Journal of the Society for Central Asian Studies, edited by Enders Wimbush at Oxford. The July 1983 issue contains the papers delivered at the society's recent conference, "The Russian and Soviet Experience with Muslim Guerrilla Warfare."
Jeane Kirkpatrick's point is well taken. The trick is to provide anti-Soviet resistance movements with the appropriate level and type of support. That is why I advocate that Redeye antiaircraft missiles be given to the Afghan Mujaheddin and training in sophisticated subversion techniques be provided for Soviet ethnic dissidents—not the other way around. What more does Dr. Machan want?
As for Mr. Beilenson's letter in the January issue, I suggest that giving the Soviets the sheer hard-ball choice of disarmament or dismemberment antiquates problems of "treaty traps." And remember, if the Soviet Union disarms, the Soviet Union dissolves. Forcing the Kremlin to disarm is one of the surest paths to achieving more freedom for the peoples under its sway.
New Technologies, Old Debates
I was flabbergasted to read in Craig Smith's December review of Ithiel de Sola Pool's book Technologies of Freedom that "the Founding Fathers considered freedom of expression so important to political liberty that they refused to pass any laws abridging freedom of the press." On the contrary, under the administration of Founding Father John Adams, the ruling Federalists (forerunners of Franklin D. Roosevelt's neo-fascist New Deal Democrats) in 1798 passed the Sedition Act. This law made it a crime to speak or write against the president or Congress "with intent to defame" or to bring them "into contempt or disrepute"—sins so vague that any criticism of the government could be judged criminal by the government.
The Federalists used this law in partisan war against the rival Jeffersonian party. Twenty-five men, including one member of Congress and 10 Jeffersonian editors and journalists, were arrested for such "sedition" and 10 were convicted and, as historian Samuel Eliot Morison writes in The Oxford History of the American People, "were silenced by heavy fines or jail sentences."
But as Morison comments, "The American Revolution was too near in 1798 for an American government to punish opinion with impunity." Thomas Jefferson prompted the states of Kentucky and Virginia to declare the Sedition Act null and void within their borders, and controversy over the law helped Jefferson win election to the Presidency in 1800, which he called "the Revolution of 1800." Jefferson celebrated victory by terminating the Sedition Act and dispatching a US warship to Europe to bring back radical pamphleteer Tom Paine.
Jefferson believed, by the way, that every free society needs a new revolution every 20 years to renew its liberties.…
Mr. Smith replies: The sentence that Mr. Ponte draws out of my review clearly refers to the time surrounding the adoption of the Constitution and the first 10 amendments to it, 1787–91. During that period, and given the history of British oppression of the press, it is clear that the Founders were of a mind to protect freedom of expression.
Mr. Ponte points to a period seven years later, when the Federalist party used the issue of Jacobin subversion to try to strengthen their hold on the reins of power. The Alien and Sedition Acts passed the Senate easily because it was controlled by Hamiltonians. However, the debate in the House was heated, and the acts came very close to defeat. President Adams, if one reads his correspondence, disagreed with Hamilton on the necessity of the acts.
In an upcoming book, I spend a chapter on this episode and compare the tactics of the Hamiltonians with those used by Woodrow Wilson's attorney general during World War I and by Joseph McCarthy in 1954. Even with the First Amendment in place, we must be ever vigilant to guard our freedoms. Mr. Ponte deserves credit for bringing that to our attention.
Freedom of Expression Foundation
In the November Brickbats, Mark Crane mentions a contempt-of-court charge for not standing in court. Should any of your readers experience a similar situation, the legal precedent is US v. Snider 502 F2d 645 (1974): "Refusal to rise for a judge is not punishable." It comes under the First Amendment's freedom of speech. The purpose of standing was to show respect for the authority of the court. If you don't have respect, you can't be forced to show it.
Road to Socialism?
I like the article "Forest Socialism" in the December issue; I wish I could say the same thing about "The Right Road" (Further & More) in the same issue, but I can't. The former piece makes a rational case against publicly owned timberland; the latter applauds the passage of a bond issue to build still more publicly owned roads. The fact that in this case the new highways are supposed to be toll roads does not justify them; I fail to see a substantive difference between charging for permission to drive a car on a public highway and charging for permission to cut trees in a public forest. Why not apply the same ultimate test of the market to both public roads and public forests (along with government-owned railways, nonmilitary airports, and non-naval seaports, as well)? Put them on the auction block, and let freedom take its course.