Keep 'em Coming
If James Bovard's article "JFK's Baby at 25: Alive and Bumbling" (May) is an example of what we can expect from the Reason Foundation Investigative Journalism Fund, I would just like to say…keep up the excellent work!
Jeffery D. Purtee
Rotten to the Corps?
Writer James Bovard did the Peace Corps and the more than 120,000 Americans who have served since 1961 a great disservice in his article "JFK's Baby at 25: Alive and Bumbling." Bovard's predisposed bias toward the agency and the woefully narrow scope of his research have resulted in a skewed and inaccurate portrait of the Peace Corps as "overrated," "arrogant," "a cruel joke," "incompetent," "fundamentally flawed," and a "fraud." Obviously, there is nothing that can be done to change Bovard's mind about the Peace Corps, but I hope your readers recognize that so much of the story left untold is positive and worthy of the support of the American public.
Like any other 25-year-old, the Peace Corps has not attained perfection. But we are learning from our past and are striving to be even more effective in the future. Anyone can quote from past documents (most Bovard cited were 15 to 25 years out of date) on the agency's unsuccessful programs, and anyone can find Volunteers to comment on negative experiences overseas. But it takes an extraordinary individual to ignore the testimony of 95 percent of Volunteers who say they would do it all over again if they could, and to disregard the voluminous praise—from ambassadors, host country officials, villagers, and even Americans—for the work of the Peace Corps.
I welcome the serious reader to consider the entire scope of information and commentary on the Peace Corps and to evaluate the agency's effectiveness on its own merits. It will become evident that the Peace Corps is not quite so far from the ideals of its mission as Bovard would have the readers of REASON believe.
Hugh L. O'Neill
Director, Office of Public Affairs
Abortion and Child Abuse: A Dubious Connection
Allan C. Carlson's "Family Abuse" (May) was interesting and to the point, but I found one paragraph most puzzling, that on Philip Ney's findings concerning abortion rates in Canadian provinces and child abuse. The author states: "[Ney] showed that those Canadian provinces with the highest and most rapidly rising rates of legal abortion were also the provinces with the highest and most rapidly rising rates of child abuse. In contrast, provinces with low abortion rates had low, even declining, levels of child abuse." I couldn't find Ney's article, so I'm writing for clarification.
Given the phrasing, I was at loss to tell whether abortion was legal in some Canadian provinces (high abortion rates, high child abuse) and illegal in others (low rates, low child abuse). If, as I suspect, abortion is legal in both "high" and "low" provinces, then the conclusive nonsense about abortion leading to "diminished restraints on [parental] rage" and other evils purportedly leading to child abuse is typical anti-abortion flimflam. After all, would it not then be equally valid to claim that the legal right to choose abortions in the low-abortion, low-child abuse provinces was responsible for the declining abuse rates there? In addition, if the provinces with low abortion rates do not have abortion on demand, then unless Ney's study corrects for the movement of women from one province to another for legalized abortions, the conclusions are meaningless, for the rates between provinces will be skewed by the migration of women for legalized abortions.
Paul A. Smith
Mr. Carlson replies: Rather than answer Mr. Smith's letter and its many questions, let me simply provide the article's full citation so that he and other readers may decide on its merits: Philip Ney, "Relationship Between Abortion and Child Abuse," Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 24 (1979), pp. 610–20.
Real Conservatives Don't Start Wars—or Do They?
Bill Kauffman's May editorial, "Real Conservatives Don't Start Wars," ignores the most important and persuasive feature of neo-interventionism. "If the Russians wish to don the imperialist mantle, let them," you say. Well, wake up, Bill—they already have. Neo-interventionism proposes to aid popular uprisings in the overextended Soviet empire, in order to spread democracy. By all means let Europe and Japan pay for themselves—they can. But how do you expect the Nicaraguans to throw off their oppressors? Why shouldn't the United States help those who are struggling to be free? Once again "libertarians" have shown themselves to be more interested in saving a few dollars than in (someone else's) liberty.
James J. O'Meara
Freedom's Not for the Faint of Heart
Warren M. Salomon's May column, "Taxing and Trivial Pursuits," proposes paying more tax than is expected to guarantee freedom from harassment by the IRS. He suggests freedom can be purchased in this manner—I wonder if he would give the same advice to someone being pressed for protection money by the Mob? We would all have British accents if his attitude had been adopted by the Founding Fathers.
America has a history of individuals willing to sacrifice for freedom. Freedom was earned with hard work and is maintained by vigilance; it was not purchased by the fainthearted who were afraid to challenge their government when it overstepped its bounds. Salomon doesn't understand real freedom after his years of "study and law practice." Apparently real freedom is only a "trivial pursuit" to lawyers.
The Buck Stops Here
As a long-time fan of financial writer Harry Browne's How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World, I acknowledge the pragmatism of the advice offered in Warren M. Salomon's "Taxing and Trivial Pursuits." Except for one thing: like any other commodity, the more people are willing to buy freedom, the more expensive it's going to become. It's a debt I cannot pass along to my children in good conscience.
Philip E. Dethowicz
It's Time to Stand Tall
I just finished reading Warren M. Salomon's May column, "Taxing and Trivial Pursuits." At first I thought he was a fool, but then at the end of the column I see he calls himself a "tax specialist" and attorney. Salomon starts his column by lamenting that we were "once the freest people on Earth" but now things are different. As totally incredible as it sounds, he advises his readers to pay perhaps "a bit more" in taxes, but this way you can avoid the audit. My goodness, I thought Neville Chamberlain was dead. Appeasement for the sake of expeditiousness is how we got into the tax mess that we have. People need to stop bending over for the government, and instead they need to stand tall and challenge every damn thing that it does. The first requirement of a United States citizen should be thorough knowledge of the United States Constitution, and all governmental challenges should be based on that document. There is nothing wrong with a Fifth Amendment return. Indeed, if 5 to 10 million more of them were filed each year, perhaps we would make the IRS more aware of the existence of that amendment.
As for Warren's Wonderful Warranty, this sounds as if he's having a love affair with IRS Commissioner Roscoe Egger. If you are still filing a 1040, and you have the time to waste trying to understand the most obscure and purposefully confusing tax code on Earth, my advice is to deduct absolutely everything possible and to charge for licking the stamp that goes on the envelope. Our tax system will never be reformed unless the citizens force reform, and this means active citizen involvement. Now if you really want to surrender freedom in the 21st century, take Wonderful Warren's advice: keep your mouth shut, don't itemize, and climb into the cattle car, boy.
Mr. Salomon replies: My May column wasn't written about the income tax in toto. The income tax qua income tax is a wretched abomination, hated by all rational individuals, and everything I write is within that context. What I was writing about was how we behave at the margin. Freedom is no trivial pursuit, but taking great risks for a dollar or two might be. In other words, if you're filing a tax return, get it behind you once and for all, so you can concentrate on significant matters.
So Long, Herb
I continue to await each issue of REASON with excitement, and May was no disappointment. Not only was there Marty Zupan's heartwarming Up Front piece about letters to the editor, but there were also the hard-hitting investigative reports about government threats to the family, free speech, and international common sense. But most enjoyable, for me anyway, was David M. Brown's excellent critique of Burger King's "Herb" schlock. Burger King has scrapped their campaign now because Herb wasn't selling enough hamburgers. Thank God.
David M. Brown
What's an Ideological Misfit to Do?
There has never been any doubt in my mind about the pervasiveness of authoritarian liberal ideas at colleges and universities in the United States. The prestigious Yale University is merely one example, as Lucy Braun pointed out in her April article, "God and Woman at Yale." Ms. Braun is fortunate. She had the time, the money, and the desire to clarify and develop her own ideas. For some "ideological misfits" (like myself) the suffering is more intense. There are professors that award grades based on the acceptance of biased conclusions. Students who constantly question and scrutinize the things presented to them find themselves with little time to do other important things. Their peers even scoff at challenges to the status quo. Worse yet, many are inexperienced or inadequately prepared to counter the views of a (usually tenured) professor.
When the choice in such a situation is dropping out of college, transferring to another school, or putting the mind in neutral to get the credential, it's no wonder students learn early in their college years to conform to the wishes of their teachers.
Joseph W. Nelson, Jr.
Private Doesn't Make Perfect
Thank you for your mention of American Renaissance School in your April Trends department ("More Pols, Parents Choose Educational Choice"). By the next century, Americans will look at the idea of universal public schooling as they look at the idea of slavery today—as a tragic aberration of our system of individual rights. Opening up the school industry to the vision and productive power of capitalists will lead to vast improvements we can only guess at now.
We must remember, however, that problems with education go much deeper than politics; they are philosophical. Most private-school educators went to the same universities and teachers' colleges as did the public-school ones. They all believe in things like "social adjustment," "self-expression," "values clarification," "discussion-group learning," etc. The label private is not an assurance of quality. As the school industry becomes privatized, the better schools will flourish, and the inferior ones will close. This weeding out may occur quickly, but not overnight. In the meantime, buyer beware.
President, American Renaissance School
White Plains, NY
Freedom on the Road
In your May issue (Letters), reader Tim Jewett claims that he's all for freedom but asks "who wants to be free to reverberate around the inside of his car during the milliseconds following its collision?" Apparently millions of Americans do, because the federal government had to strong-arm the states into passing a law to force the use of seatbelts. And since no state is yet claiming 100 percent compliance, it would appear that millions of people like the idea of "reverberating" so much that they are willing to break the law to do it! And that old worn-out cliché that driving is a privilege granted to us children by Mommy and Daddy State is pure twaddle! It's the kind of statement that goes well with a smug little smile and a knowing wink. Freedom of movement is a basic right and the primary mode of transportation is the automobile. As for Jewett's statement that stringent state licensing and control confer some sort of immunity from criticism "based on arguments involving individual liberty"—it's a joke, right? The author was really H.L. Mencken, wasn't he? Or does he work for the Justice Department? Where do I apply for my walking license? It's a jungle out there all right, not because of "psychopathic "drivers"—it's because of all those "freedom-loving" Americans.
A Long Overdue Letter
I'm just writing to let you know that every month your magazine informs me, enlightens me, prods me to rethink issues, reaffirms my deeply held values, delights me, amuses me, and bemuses me. And I have no bone to pick. About a year and a half ago I was a "brand new subscriber, full of enthusiasm for REASON." I was so enthusiastic that I was going to sit down and write you a letter. But I never got around to it. Then I read Marty Zupan's Up Front column in the May issue, and it broke my heart. Really. I visualized you working month after month, putting out and putting out, and getting back so little feedback and recognition. So I decided to sit down and write that long overdue letter, from this formerly new, but still enthusiastic, subscriber. Your excellently written magazine has shown me a perspective on the issues of our time that I never knew existed, although I always felt uncomfortable with all of the other positions and instinctively felt that there had to be a "better way" of some vague form. I enjoy it immensely and devour it every month as soon as it comes in the mail, even though I don't always agree with everything in it. Thanks for existing, and keep up the good work.