Draft Dodging Is Defenseless

"Duty, Honor, Country—But No Draft" (Oct.) is pure drivel. What could the author, who evaded the draft, possibly know about duty, honor, and country?

He cites Daniel Webster to imply that the draft may be unconstitutional. But the Constitution has always contained ample authority for such. It also shows that compulsory military service and individual liberty are not contradictory ideas but form two parts of one social contract.

History shows that almost all societies have required military service of adult males. This seems to be a natural law older than mankind. Animals, including the higher primates, exhibit behavior consistent with the principle that all able-bodied males must give their support when the group is engaged in violence. Failure to do so is considered disgraceful and grounds for expulsion, even among a troop of baboons.

Todd, having refused to serve his country, now asks that his son be excused from future national service. He suggests that mercenaries be hired to relieve the lad of any need to learn how to defend himself or his country.

This "logic of the heart" is more lunatic than libertarian. Dereliction of duty promotes injustice, not personal freedom.

Hugh A. McDonald
Kearny, NJ

Let's Buy Our Defense with Votes

Since subscribing to REASON a couple of years ago, I have come to expect articles which are logical, freedom-oriented, and unemotional. Todd's article fails to meet these criteria.

His question, though, is a good one. What can we pay a volunteer soldier for putting his body "between our loved homes and the war's desolation"? No money can really pay for that. We need a higher coinage.

National defense is one of the few government functions which cannot be privatized. How can free loading be prevented or minimized?

I suggest that people concerned with this problem, Greg Todd among them, buy a copy of Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein. In it, Heinlein concludes that the only payment important enough for a volunteer soldier is the right to vote. His future society is run only by veterans. To vote or run for any elective office, you must have volunteered and successfully completed a tour of military duty. Anyone who volunteers must be taken and given some sort of duty. Getting out of an enlistment is easy, but if you drop out, you can't get back in.

When I read this novel, I was struck by the pure libertarian beauty of the idea. I have never been in the military, but if this system were to be instituted, I would go, old age and high blood pressure notwithstanding.

J. Thomas Baylor
San Diego, CA

Rent Control Does Help Somebody

The other beneficiaries of rent control ("Berkeley's Radical Slumlords," Oct.), other than middle-class people who spend their savings from such controls on gourmet food and stereos, are the retailers who sell gourmet food and stereos and the landlords who rent uncontrolled nonresidential buildings to those retailers.

Great article in a great issue!

Doug Thorburn
Van Nuys, CA

Shooting Down Rent Control

Jeff Riggenbach quotes Assar Lindbeck as saying saying that "next to bombing, rent control seems in many cases to be the most efficient technique so far known for destroying cities." It reminded me of a conversation I had with a Palestinian student from Beirut. Rent control there, especially in the commercial districts, had effectively transferred ownership to the tenants. He claimed that it was not unheard of for a landlord to pay the artillery units of one faction or another to train their guns on the landlord's own property. In this way he could at least regain ownership of the land. Perhaps Lindbeck should rethink his ranking of city-destroying mechanisms.

David Kreutzer
Harrisonburg, VA

Fundamentalists Need Schooling in Education

In "A Textbook Case of Coercion" (Editorial, Oct.), Virginia Postrel makes some valid points about taxation and conformity in the public schools. Unfortunately she seems to blur the distinction between beliefs and facts. Fundamentalists may choose to believe in gods, ghosts, goblins, or whatever they like. That is their right, but it doesn't make the belief itself right.

What we're trying to do in schools is teach children facts and how (not what) to think. It is not the purpose of a school to teach children whatever parents think. The result of that reasoning is columnist Cal Thomas's recent claim on the television show Crossfire that if a majority of parents think the earth is flat, that's what the schools should teach. Society should not control a child's mind, but neither should parents.

Fundamentalism, "creation science" (one of the most oxymoronic phrases ever coined), and flat-earthism have nothing to do with education. They are an indoctrination in ignorance which has no place in public schools or any school worthy of the name.

Dennis McManus
Attleboro, MA

The State of Education

I wish to amplify a vital issue that Virginia Postrel only hinted at. Ms. Postrel concludes, somewhat broadly, that the lawsuit "may mark the beginning of the end of the myth of public education." I certainly hope so. Watching this trial unfold in a nearby courtroom has convinced me that public education is but one among many alternatives.

Things have changed radically since public school systems were established, and so, therefore, must our thinking about education. Education is a service, and I'd be surprised if the state were the most efficient provider of that service. Releasing taxpayers from the burden of supporting public education is just the first step toward less-intrusive state government and more freedom for individual families—yes, even Mrs. Frost's.

Glen Feighery
Kingsport, TN

Equal Time for "The Equalizer"

James Robbins completely misreads The Equalizer in his letter (Aug.–Sept.). The episode he cites deals with terror tactics, not profits. No libertarian would countenance arson, threats on life, or blackmail—which, to my mind, is nothing more than psychological coercion—for any motive.

Most episodes in this show weigh heavily against the state. Recall that it is a government agency McCall left, one that quite regularly invades his purview and that of his clients. Add to that fact the next: McCall's work is private, as much his as anyone's profession. Therefore, he may charge as much as he wishes for his services. Certain references in more than one episode imply that McCall is amply compensated. The comfortable lifestyle he lives is mute evidence of that fact.

The Equalizer demands one's full concentration, week by week, to receive its full impact. Every detail must be arranged and placed just so to solve the puzzle that is Robert McCall. It is no accident that one of the finest actors currently working portrays that role.

Far from being "an Ellsworth Toohey with spunk," McCall most reminds me of one of Ayn Rand's compelling characters from Atlas Shrugged, Ragnar Danneskjold. McCall, like Danneskjold, is a man willing to fight for justice. Unless he fights, he considers himself part and parcel of the evil he despises.

D.J. Baker
Cincinnati, OH

I Didn't Beat 'Em—or Join 'Em

I would like to clarify a few points in Andy Cline's article about me ("Meet Laird Wilcox," July).

First of all, I've never been a member of the Communist Party, the Ku Klux Klan, or any "neo-Nazi" organization. For my purposes, which were to get to know these people and understand their motives, it was not necessary to join their groups. We just hung around together, talked over dinner or coffee, and so on. Where possible I leveled with them about my interests. Otherwise I just went along with their script and let them form their own conclusions about me.

Also, I didn't become a right-winger after I dropped out of the radical student movement in 1966. I simply stopped being an automatic leftist ideologue, which can make one look and feel like a right-winger in the climate that prevailed then. Some of my views have changed over the years, but the process has been evolutionary and not the product of any conversion. I'm quite liberal on many issues, such as criminal justice, civil liberties, and unions; and conservative on others, such as national defense, economics, and social policy. I see myself as an anti-ideological iconoclast and a freethinker.

My experiences with the radical left of the '60s included witnessing their fanatical hatred toward whatever or whomever they perceived as right-wing. My curiosity compelled me to find out what these horrible right-wingers were really like. Some of them were just as nutty as the radicals, but most were normal, concerned people who, in retrospect, had a clearer view on many of the issues than their detractors. More importantly, they were human beings, which leftists sought to deny.

The "threat" from obvious political extremists in the United States is very small. Few people listen to the shrieking Klansman, the drooling leftist goon, or the jackbooted Jewish Defense League thug. Much more dangerous are the authoritarians of the mainstream left and right, whose designs on our civil liberties are much more acceptable to a public increasingly conditioned to value security over freedom. Censorship, "antihate" legislation, abuse by police agencies and the IRS, victimless crimes, harassment of political dissidents, and the attack on individual rights by sacred-cow special-interest groups are the real threat today—much more than any screwball exhibitionists.

Laird Wilcox
Kansas City, MO

We have received an outpouring of letters in response to Henry Mark Holzer's Viewpoint in the October issue ("The Sodomy Solution: Repeal, Not Appeal"). Watch for them in an expanded Letters department in the January issue. —Eds.