Unmasking the New Fascism
I wish to congratulate you on another outstanding book issue (Dec.). I particularly liked Rasmussen's review of George Will's Statecraft as Soulcraft. Will is now unmasked as the authoritarian that he is. I am sure that many viewers will take Will's journalistic pronouncements with more skepticism now that we know more about his hidden agenda.
Robert Reich's book about the newest version of economic fascism (The Next American Frontier) has brought up a threat to our economic freedom that needs greater investigation. With the Campaign for Economic Democracy and the unanimity among Democratic presidential candidates, I hope that REASON will devote more energy to unmasking this threat. I am sure that whichever Demo-clone is nominated, the media will soon be bombarded with propaganda in favor of this new fascism.
Putting Money on the Market
Steve Beckner (Money, Dec.) argues that the dollar is "overvalued" by 30 percent, but past money growth will eventually be inflationary "regardless of what happens to velocity." That is, the dollar is too valuable, and there are too many of these valuable dollars. As a result, he concludes that monetarists are right, and the foreign-exchange and commodity markets are wrong. Having observed the forecasts of both monetarists and markets over the years, it seems rather risky to bet against the markets.
The value of any "supply" of fiat money is essentially a matter of opinion. If confidence in dollars again deteriorates, then we will observe a speculative flight out of dollars and into gold. In that case, the Fed should tighten, but not simply because of an economist's forecast.
The nominal increase in gross federal debt (the "deficit") is a common symptom of unpredictable money but obviously does not by itself determine the markets' perception of the value of the "money supply."
Buying Immigrants' Votes
I wonder if Julian Simon (Spotlight, Jan.), whose works I haven't yet read, considers the effects of immigration on foreign aid and intervention? For example, our costs of supporting and defending Israel are becoming astronomical, may, indeed, result in nuclear holocaust, and are clearly and directly the result of politicians buying the Jewish vote to sustain themselves in office.
Horace D. McCowan, Jr.
Flying Through More Hot Air
I have just finished reading "Flying Through Hot Air" (Editorial, Dec.), and find myself in 100 percent agreement with the facts and conclusions it presents.
I am taking the liberty of making copies of that editorial and will send one to Henry A. Duffy, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, and post the rest on various ALPA bulletin boards throughout United Air Lines' domiciles. I think the propaganda being put out by ALPA these last few months, which is nothing less than a wholesale assault on the concept of a free marketplace, needs to be countered whenever possible and exposed for the collection of lies and distortions that it really is.…
Robert J. Boser
Pilot, United Air Lines
Hermosa Beach, CA
Socialists in Capitalists' Clothing
Readers should treat with great caution Arthur Seldon's extraordinary presentation of Britain's Social Democratic Party as an emerging "market oriented" force in British politics ("God Save the Market!" Oct.). There is a world of difference between the SDP as a party committed (as it is) to an efficient and competitive private sector within the confines of the mixed-economy welfare state and as a party group with a bona fide commitment to a free-market economy.
While Seldon is right to point up divisions within the SDP leadership on the paternalism-individualism spectrum, he is wrong to seek to present Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Shirley Williams, and William Rodgers as former socialists who have turned their backs on their Labour Party past. Indeed, to cite two examples: Shirley Williams reiterated a year after the creation of the SDP that the Labour Manifestos of 1970, 1974, and 1979 presented "aims and policies" she believed in and that the SDP "are the inheritors of the old Labour Party" (Daily Telegraph, November 25, 1982); David Owen, in a November 1980 BBC radio interview at the time when the SDP was being formed, in response to the question, "Do you call yourself a socialist?" said, "Yes, I do."
While the SDP has effectively repudiated the present Labour Party commitment to a full-blooded command economy, their commitment to a statist approach nonetheless remains. It is indeed highly desirable for Britain to have more than one party committed to a competitive free-enterprise economy, but such a desire should not blind us to the reality of the SDP approach. This new party does indeed seek a healthy private sector, but only within the framework of a largely statist economy. As Mr. Jo Grimond, the former leader of the Liberal Party, reminded us in October 1981: "The Liberal-Social Democratic Alliance…looks too much like a half-way house on the old road of state socialism."
I'm Ready to Deal—If the Politicians Are
I'm an elderly retired Social Security recipient, paid in from square one. I'm not mad at Jim Davidson for his remarks in "Weep Not for the Wizened" (Viewpoint, Oct.). Someone should speak out. I feel the elected politicians of the '30s made a contract with us which we accepted in ignorance and good faith. I would be more than happy to give mine up, contingent upon being rewarded with balanced budgets and a hard-money sound currency.
My greatest fear is that my savings for old age will melt to nothing while my wife and I are still alive and helpless. I'd be interested in knowing how many other SS recipients would agree to this. The elderly indigent would, of course, continue on the payroll.
Daniel T. Connolly
Turning Train Tracks Into Toll Roads?
Reviewer Peter Samuel ("Derailing the Regulators," Jan., p. 62) gives short shrift to the idea of turning the railroads into toll roads, possibly because author Daniel Overbey proposes having government do the job.
Overbey's concept has been discussed for years within the railroad industry and was last seriously proposed as an alternative to "passing lanes," and the different "users" have seriously conflicting needs. Some trains run on fast, rigid schedules while others can barely crawl. Managing these schedule conflicts is a sensitive job, which the most progressive railroads now entrust to computer-aided dispatchers whose jobs resemble air traffic controllers'. One cannot entrust this management, at either a policy or practical level, to government's ham-fisted approach.
But Samuel's review would have done a far better job of indicating the economic benefits of railroad deregulation if he had only asked whether private initiative will bring about railroad toll roads. Arrangements for the joint use of track have been in use for decades and, strangely, are virtually unregulated where they are voluntary.
Deregulation of railroads' right to abandon their own trackage has led to a real upsurge in new and proposed joint-use contracts in recent years, and deregulation of railroad-shipper contracts has led to greater implementation of trains owned by shippers or third parties and merely hauled as a unit by railroad crews.
I think the industry's attitude is one of opposition to government intervention, even when tied to proposed federal "rail trust funds." Yet a great many railroad people harbor a belief that substantial economic open access to railroad routes will come in time with the substitution of deregulated, innovative marketing for the old common-carrier concept of "all things to all customers."
William D. Burt
The Data of Conquest
Before the fantastic idea that "an estimated 250 million people have been murdered in the Soviet Union" ("You Can't Have Marx Without Stalin," by Tibor Machan, Oct.) becomes part of the received faith, the record should be set straight. In reply to a reader's puzzled inquiry in the January issue, Tibor Machan repeats his claim, mentioning as his authority for that figure the historian Robert Conquest. For some reason, he does not cite any book or page, however.
Conquest is indeed a noted scholar of Soviet history. In his excellent The Great Terror: Stalin's Purge of the Thirties (Macmillan, 1968), he does the calculation Professor Machan is evidently referring to. In his "Appendix A: Casualty Figures," on page 533, Conquest writes: "Thus we get a figure of 20 million dead, which is almost certainly too low and might require an increase of 50 per cent or so, as the debit balance of the Stalin regime for twenty-three years." That would cover the years 1930 to 1953, which include the collectivization, the purges, and the heyday of the Gulag.
Where does Professor Machan suggest that the other 230 or so million murders—the equivalent of an Auschwitz a year for each of 66 years—are to be found? And if his authority is Robert Conquest, what is the book and page?
State University College
Mr. Machan replies: When I received the letter to the editor to which I replied in the January issue, I was in Switzerland for an extended period and had no access to Conquest's The Great Terror. My recollection was that when I learned of his figures and estimates, I checked them out thoroughly to see whether they were plausible and came to the conclusion that they were. But the figure I checked out was not 250 but 25 million. As I considered the 250-million figure from memory, I had in mind the entire Sino-Soviet sphere; and if one keeps in mind the various wars, labor camps, purges, etc., within that sphere, that figure no longer seems too out of the question. Nevertheless, my original article did use the figure 250 million for the Soviet Union alone, and that was wrong (as based on Conquest's estimate).
Frankly, however, nothing in my essay hinged a great deal on whether 25 or 250 million human beings have been murdered in the name of Marxism/Leninism, and I still cannot convince myself that the difference is significant for purposes of understanding so many intellectuals' enduring attraction, at least in the abstract, to a system with such results. I apologize, though, for having misled anyone concerning the precise historical data.
Religion and Rationality
A comment on Jerome Tuccille's review of Isaac Asimov's The Roving Mind (Dec.): I agree with Asimov when he says, "To surrender to ignorance and call it God has always been premature.…" However, once that point is made, I suspect many reasonable people would agree that not all of religious belief is deified ignorance, nor is every religious decision premature.
As C.S. Lewis notes, atheistic materialism is vulnerable, too: if there is no creator and everything is only accidental, then the comments of an atheist, from their roots up, can claim only accidental resemblances to meaning. Why believe anyone who begins by saying, "I am really meaningless, but I am rational and correct!"
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." It is also a good counterbalance to minds that are brilliant but would seek to "impose Draconian controls over just about everything" aside from themselves, as Tuccille suggests of Asimov. If we feel there is no God, we might be tempted to suspect we are the highest authority of any kind and might excessively impose our ideas, good and bad, on others as a misguided public service—or in simple egotism. It should be noted that religion sometimes makes a similar mistake. Reason and religion should remain in friendly association—alone they may become heartless or brainless.
As a Christian, I hope that more people will exercise both reason and faith, saying, "I have the Word of God, but I may be in error on occasion and must act thoughtfully and after considering other viewpoints."