The Health Hazards Of Government

Edith Efron's "Behind the Cancer Terror" (May) overlooked one of the biggest causes of cancer in our society—one that, fortunately, can be quickly eliminated by bold government action.

Consider this syllogism: scientific research has established that stress potentiates and in some instances "causes" cancer. One of the biggest causes of stress in our society is government—its oppressive taxes, secret police, intrusive regulations, and the like. Therefore, government causes cancer.

As Efron noted, certain scientists and government regulators have sought to ban chemicals judged hypothetically able to cause cancer only in the single most susceptible person in our nation. Would any scientist deny the possibility that stress caused by, say, the Internal Revenue Service has caused cancer in susceptible taxpayers? How many will die 30 or 40 years hence because of the stress the IRS causes today? Does an environment polluted with government-caused stress react synergistically with otherwise-harmless chemicals to cause cancer?

Until science better understands the subtle links between government and stress and cancer, the only prudent and responsible policy is for government health agencies to impose rules forbidding all stress-causing activities by all government tax, police, and regulatory agencies. Surely those who have long and loud professed concern with public health and well-being will agree, will take up the "Stop Government-caused Cancer" banner, and will support lawsuits by millions of cancer victims against our stressful government. It's time the scientific community acknowledged that the bigger government gets, the more hazardous it is to our health.

Lowell Ponte
Carlsbad, CA

Ideas, Not Dollars the Ultimate Defense

Congratulations on your April editorial ("Defending Everyone?") wondering why—and how—the Pentagon is committed to defend more than 40 nations strung around the globe. It reminds me of Henry Hazlitt's classic of the late 1940s Will Dollars Save the World? published by the Foundation for Economic Education. I don't mean to minimize the need for national defense but you and Hazlitt are correct—neither dollars nor guns will save the world. But ideas can, for, as Richard Weaver reminded us, they do have consequences.

William H. Peterson
University of Tennessee
Chattanooga, TN

Water, Not Walls for Mideast Peace

I was glad to see that REASON had the editorial courage to publish a controversial proposal such as Sam Cohen's "Wall Against War" (March)—even if it is questionable on technical, military, economic, political, and moral grounds.

Technically, it is difficult to understand how Cohen's radiation barrier could be made to work as described: innocuous to bystanders 3,000 feet distant, but instant death to aggressors at point-blank range. Militarily, it seems that a barrier of this sort would be only marginally effective: incapable of impeding air attacks, but substantially impeding (if not precluding) the Israelis' heretofore highly successful strategy of counteroffensive action. Economically, it is difficult to believe Cohen: a complex of multiple underground reactors; radiochemical processing, treatment, and disposal facilities; several thousand miles of leakproof piping; and over 2,000 square miles of modern Maginot Line, but constructed for "roughly several billion dollars."

Even more significant, perhaps, are the political and moral shortcomings of Cohen's wall. Politically, he would treat the symptoms of a problem (warfare) without bothering to deal with the problem itself (conflicting territorial claims). The willingness of Arab nations to aggress against Israel does not stem from their misperception of Israel as a weak nation. Indeed, Israel has demonstrated the contrary fact consistently over the past 30 years. How can the presence of a new barrier deter the Arabs from aggression, when its most likely effect will be to intensify their discontent over territory they feel is being unjustly withheld from them? And morally, Cohen's proposal takes for granted the notion of irremediable racial conflict and seeks only to perpetuate the animosity between Israel and its neighbors by erecting a deadly fence between them.

Is there no solution that would attempt to reconcile the Arabs and the Jews by an appeal to their mutual interests? One of the greatest needs, and most prized resources, of the Arab nations is fresh water. The discontent over land stems partly from the scarcity of this commodity. Instead of developing a massive atomic technology to produce millions of gallons per day of radioactive poison, why couldn't Israel instead apply that technology to the large-scale desalinization of seawater, wherewith the Arab lands may be made to bloom? Surely, the Arabs would welcome such a miracle and would be reluctant to raise arms against such beneficence. But this path to peace would require a policy based on reconciliation with and respect for the lives of one's enemies—a path that, of all paths, should surely harmonize with the Hebrew faith.

Michael J. Dunn
Auburn, WA

Fine Reading

From Jack Wheeler's article on Angola to Steve Beckner's Money column, REASON's April issue is the best ever. A copy should be in every home and office in the United States.

Writers Julian Simon, Charles Kelly, Nathaniel Branden, James Davidson, Steve Beckner, and William H. Meckling were all in top form with lots of important information and ideas on what has happened to the Republic and its people.

Since I am an old man who started to school in 1909, I have a small bone to pick with Mr. Meckling in spite of his very fine article ("American Capitalism at Sunset"), with which I am in complete agreement, except for what seems to me his overemphasis of "democracy." When I began school (to get the day started) we were taught a patriotic song which ended, more or less, "and for the Republic for which it stands…" For quite some time after I left that little school, "the Republic" still stood for our bit of America. I've read the Constitution several times lately and the word democracy is not to be found. "The Republic" is everywhere.

For some time I've been wondering why "the Republic" was dropped and we became a democracy, and if this change had any influence over the downfall of our once great Republic. After all, the House is, and has been for much too long, preponderantly Democratic—which is probably beside the point, since both Democrats and Republicans seem equally dedicated to the proposition of robbing the productive to pay the nonproductive.

John H. Yaple
Ranchos de Taos, NM

Spencer Misunderstood

I thoroughly enjoyed Nathaniel Branden's "The Self-Fulfilling Polity" (April), but his view of Herbert Spencer's defense of capitalism was off the mark.

Spencer's law of equal freedom—"that every man has freedom to do all that he wills, provided he infringes not the equal freedom of any other man"—is the central point of his philosophy, as magnificently expressed in Social Statics, The Man vs. the State, and part four of The Ethics. Spencer's defense of laissez-faire capitalism is clearly founded in the ethics of individualism and voluntarism. What Branden mistakenly identifies as Spencer's purpose—that is, the improvement of the species, etc.—is not Spencer's reason for approving freedom; it is, rather, a natural consequence of the operation of freedom.

Branden's view of Spencer sounds more like a view derived from the reading of critics of Spencer rather than a reading of the works of Spencer—clearly a mistake.

Robert Slomovitz
Plainview, NY

The Medical Marketplace

Regarding the Trends report on the doctor supply in the March issue ("The Market Resuscitates," page 18): The growing supply of doctors in the United States is indeed driving down the price of medicine. Despite the bah-humbuggers who refuse to acknowledge the positive effects of a competitive marketplace, the cost of many standard medical procedures—including birth-delivery, cancer-detection tests, vasectomies, and many other routine surgeries—is declining.

Still, there are representatives of many medical associations who insist the growth in the number of doctors should be restricted. We can only speculate what would have happened 10 years ago had it been decided that we have an "oversupply" of lawyers, and policies had been adopted to dramatically curtail their numbers. Access to legal assistance would still be limited. Legal advice would have remained a luxury. And a simple divorce might still cost $5,000.

Becci M. Breining
National Center for Policy Analysis
Dallas, TX

Cheers to Davidson

One for the road to you for publishing Jim Davidson's April Viewpoint column. He gives a good description of America that many in our pragmatic culture have ignored. Davidson's optimism is very much the 19th-century optimism of capitalist glory.

But Davidson ignores altruism as a motive for many and so is led to think people want tyranny because of benefits. The unhappy truth is that the desire to sacrifice oneself, so insidiously influential, leads people to obey a collectivist government.

It's an unusually well-written piece, and I say this despite being stoned and ready to leave for my favorite bistro, hear some good rock music, and have one for the road.

Stephen Grossman
New Bedford, MA

Want Competitive TV? Remove Entry Barriers

Joseph Martino's discussion of the challenge that direct broadcast satellite (DBS) television presents to broadcasting regulation ("Signal Victory for the First Amendment?" March) was highly informative. However, DBS, cable television, and other technological advances do not eliminate the problem of scarcity in the broadcasting industry—they just help us cope with it better. The broadcasting spectrum will continue to be limited for the foreseeable future.

Sadly, Martino's assessment of the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) direction under Mark Fowler's chairmanship is misguided. The most important element of economic deregulation is the relaxation of entry restrictions. The Fowler FCC's key test came when it considered creating slots for 400 to 700 new radio stations by reducing the spacing in the AM band from 10 kilohertz to 9, as recommended by the Carter administration's FCC and most experts. Fowler and his colleagues declined the opportunity by a vote of four to two.

An FCC that really wanted to deregulate broadcasting would refuse to abolish archaic rules except as part of a package deal that would reduce entry restrictions on a firm schedule. The current commission's policy of eliminating rules that inconvenience broadcasters, without extracting a price, will only prolong the life of broadcast regulation, enable broadcasters to continue to collect monopoly rents, and delay the arrival of a truly competitive market. The viewing public is the loser.

John V. Buffington
University of Delaware
Newark, DE

True Security Through Stability

I was pleased to read Daniel T. Connolly's letter "I'm Ready to Deal—If the Politicians Are" (March). I, too, am a retired Social Security recipient and share Mr. Connolly's concern. Those of us in this group, I would think, would be well advised to eschew ever-increasing demands on the Social Security system in favor of setting an example for government restraint, thereby stabilizing our economic balance. Whereas the American Association of Retired Persons is constantly striving for ever increasing SS benefits and Medicare payments, the National Alliance of Senior Citizens takes a contrary view that retirees are better served by sound fiscal policies and government economy.

I.W. Tucker
Louisville, KY

Communism, American-Style

Upon reading Prof. James Payne's treatise on basic economics ("When the Rich Get Richer," February), I was reminded just how far we have strayed from these principles in this, "the land of the free and the home of the brave…"

Listen to the current crop of presidential aspirants—each is boasting that he can manage our economy better than anyone. Can you imagine the climate in which any American politician is brazenly talking about managing our economy? And for these claims he will be the beneficiary of our endearment?

Have capitalism and free enterprise fallen into such disrepute in America that politicians stalking the highest office in the land use as their main theme one of managing our economy? Good grief! We expend billions for defense against Russian communism to be replaced by what—our own brand of communism? I tell you it's mind boggling.

D. Rothenbuecher
Houma, LA

Privatization—Not So New

I was happy to see that Cincinnati got some recognition for its cost-cutting efforts in your March issue ("Consumer Activists, Meet Privatization," page 17).

I must note that this effort in Cincinnati is not a new one and not one that can be attributed to a response to the current municipal fad, "privatization." Cincinnati has a long history of contracting for services as well as a long history of always looking for better ways to deliver services to its citizens. My suggestions, while new, are not all that unexpected in Cincinnati. I would suggest that those who are interested in seeing how a city continues to experiment and improve delivery of its services, come and visit Cincinnati. We have a few buildings which we might be interested in selling since we determined they could be put to better use in the private market—so bring your checkbook.

Peter Strauss
City Councilman
Cincinnati, OH

Rationality and Atheism

George Anderson's letter (March, page 11) is a veritable pretzel of double-talk and strained mental contortions.

When he states, "I suspect many reasonable people would agree that not all of religious belief is deified ignorance," Mr. Anderson presumes too much. How many reasonable people has he asked? Is he capable of recognizing reasonable people? Reasonable people are those who have applied their reasoning powers to religion and have recognized it for "deified ignorance"; they are not those who suspend their reasoning powers when it comes to religion.

If one scratches the surface of any atheist who says, "I am really meaningless," one finds a political fanatic, usually fascist, socialist, or communist. Atheists who stand up to scratching are only too aware of their meaning; they rely on themselves, not a supernatural power, to see to their survival by encouraging trade rather than war, by fine-tuning technology to prevent or reverse injuries to the environment, by educating their children how to think (not what to think), so that progress can continue to be made toward a better life for all people.

"If we feel there is no god, we might be tempted to suspect we are the highest authority of any kind." Atheists, because of having applied their reason consistently, know exactly where they fit in nature and in the universe; they are constantly watching for new discoveries to attain ever better knowledge. Unlike Christians, atheists feel secure in the knowledge that there is no higher authority than reason.…

"'I have the Word of God, but I may be in error.'" Need I quote more? What use is "the word of God" if one can still be in error? Why not rely on reason in the first place? At least when reason makes a mistake, reason eventually corrects itself. The word of God has no such built-in safety feature.

I wonder why Mr. Anderson reads REASON. I should think he would be appalled, disgusted, and turned off by most of the articles printed in the magazine—occasional (paid) religious advertising ("The original McGuffey's Readers…were Christian") notwithstanding.

Elke M. Mikaelian
Albuquerque, NM