Not Everyone Has Enlisted
Regarding Dale Gieringer's article, "Inside the DEA" (Dec.), it's nice to hear some truth once in a while. And by the way, vis-a-vis the comparison of alcohol and cocaine, a neuropathic drug by any other name is still a neuropathic drug, in powder form, liquid form, or vapor form.
Cyrus J. Stow, DDS
Are You Guys on Drugs, Or What?
Is Dale Gieringer simply stupid, sick, or trying to improve drug pushers' image? His contention that no individual rights are abridged, no murder victims or battered bodies to be found, and no stolen property or crime victims arising from drug-law violations is a gross misrepresentation of the truth. All along the way, the paths of drug producers and pushers are strewn with victims of all sorts, not limited to the above. There are also those who are deprived of healthy, meaningful, productive lives by their reason-sapping, debilitating, dehumanizing drug habit.
Perhaps the point about DEA misdeeds is well taken and needs to be dealt with, but the DEA story is otherwise beyond REASON. Sensationalism must be tempered with truth, a quality lacking here.
John A. Tabor
Down on the Drug Farm
I have the perfect solution to the "drug epidemic." Since the law of supply and demand has completely swamped the Drug Enforcement Administration, we should turn the problem over to the Department of Agriculture. With Agriculture in charge of production and distribution, drug prices would drop, producers would go out of business in droves, and the majority of the country's drug supply would end up in government storage. In fact, with the addition of a few billions in subsidies, the U.S. could actually become a drug exporting country.
Ascetics No Skeptics of Socialism's Dialectics
I enjoyed Robert Hessen's critique of socialism ("Socialism: Reports of Its Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated," Dec.), but he overlooked one thing. While many socialist sympathizers, like Jane Fonda, live high on the hog, the most dogmatic and fanatical socialists are not interested in money and live in self-imposed poverty, like Marx and Mao. They think that asceticism is noble and virtuous, otherwise they wouldn't practice it. And believing that it is virtuous, they want everyone to live the same way.
This is why socialists never get discouraged if their ideology doesn't "work" (that is, doesn't produce prosperity). They never wanted it to "work." As long as socialism mandates self-sacrifice and forestalls prosperity, its most zealous advocates will keep proclaiming it a "success."
The Inequality of Political Theories
Robert Hessen's article on the premature news of the death of socialism (Dec.) should have started with what it ended with: "the socialist ideal of equality." And in all fairness, it should have included the capitalist ideal of equality "that all men are created equal," which is institutionalized in our Declaration of Independence and which our affirmative-action programs attempt to make a reality.
I agree wholeheartedly with Hessen that "the socialist ideal of equality must be confronted head-on, not evaded." However, I must point out that this confrontation is meaningless and ineffective without concomitantly confronting, not evading, our capitalist ideal of equality as embodied in the Declaration of Independence. Let's stop fooling ourselves and hit both ideals with what they have strangely never been hit before: the incontrovertible fact that whether voluntary or involuntary, economic equality among unequally productive individuals can be achieved only through the unjust system whereby a portion of the higher output of the more productive is taken away from them and given to the less productive. Ironically, by Marxian definition, this system makes the less productive the exploiting appropriators of the labor of the more productive.
New York, NY
Do Baboons Do It?
If the "logic of the heart" of Greg Todd regarding the draft displeases Hugh McDonald (Letters, Dec.), perhaps some plain old logic might suffice? "Compulsory military service and individual liberty are not contradictory ideas," says McDonald. The word compulsory indicates coercion, whereas liberty indicates no coercion: and without going through the whole syllogistic process, McDonald's conclusion basically reads: "coercion = no coercion," which in logic is a contradiction.
McDonald's second argument makes a tremendous leap from an observation,
"History shows that almost all societies have required military service of adult males," to the conclusion,
"This seems to be a natural law," backed by the analogy,
"Even baboons do it."
Let's assume the observation is correct and that "History shows…" was included, not to appeal to authority (the argumentum ad verecundiam fallacy in logic), but simply to state what McDonald believes to be so. The argument then is:
All societies require military service.
We are a society.
Therefore we should require military service.
This, known as argumentum ad populum, or the "bandwagon" fallacy, is commonly refuted by parents with the "If everyone jumps off the bridge…" analogy.
Finally, the baboon analogy. Baboons do not send their teenagers halfway around the planet to save the wildebeests from the cheetahs. On the other hand, humans have been known to voluntarily fight when their own individual rights are threatened (witness the American Revolution).
Fortunately, humans also have a capability that can undercut war and undermine nationalistic sentiments of duty and honor: the ability to trade. It's mainly when society (that is, the state) intervenes, that exchange of bullets is substituted for exchange of products.
(Although I don't presume this to give me any authority, it may interest some readers that I am a Vietnam veteran.)
All's Fair in the Drug War?
To respond to Bill Kauffman's absurd piece on the military drug raids in Bolivia ("Join the Army, Be a Narc," Editorial, Dec.): My heart really bleeds for these "peasant" coca pickers. This is their just desert for helping to export poison to America. Our lives and our children's lives take priority over the incomes of Bolivians and Jamaicans. Rep. Hartnett's assessment is on target: the drug menace is a bigger real threat to the nation than nuclear or chemical warfare.
What is so bad about protecting ourselves? We are not "furthering our own ends"—we are saving our own skins. Are you blind? You act as if these people are smuggling in popcorn or something.
Sun Valley, CA
What Bassianus Could Teach the Drug Warriors
Bill Kauffrnan's editorial dredged up thoughts of Septimius Severus—Roman emperor, 193–211—who advised his sons, Bassianus (a.k.a. Caracalla) and Geta, to "keep the soldiers contented and do not trouble yourselves about the rest. With them [the soldiers] you can repulse the barbarians and repress the people." Jefferson, Madison, Patrick Henry, and a host of their compatriots knew their ancient history, thus their opposition to standing armies in times of peace.
Incidentally, the use of the word barbarians in the emperor's instruction is ironic, to say the least. During the expedition into the Caledonia mountains in Britain, Bassianus tried, unsuccessfully, to assassinate his father and later stabbed his brother to death while the latter was in his mother's arms.
Royer G. Warren
Not Eye to Eye with CDI
Much as I would like to believe the theme of "Red Dawn or Red Dusk?" (Trends, Dec.), it is as well to keep the salt-shaker handy when people start to pooh-pooh the "alleged Soviet threat" as it is when they speak of a "tide of red."
I am sure you are aware that the Center for Defense Information, whose study was reported in the Trends item, is felt by many to have, shall we say, a leftward inclination (see, for example, Time, Sept. 1, 1986, p. 23). Reports with such an orientation can be expected to minimize, or even deny the existence of, any threat from the Communist bloc. The report you have cited is consistent with this orientation.
Which is not to say that the report is untrue, so far as the facts in it are concerned. But facts are subject to selection as well as interpretation. In this matter, as in all such situations, it pays to consider the source.
Charles H. Chandler
I must strenuously object to "L.A. Dreamin'" in the December Upfront section. Ms. Postrel's rash statements about Los Angeles can serve no purpose but to bring more people to this already crowded city. As an outsider and a newcomer, she is only partially excused.
Please, if in the future you find you must write about cities, write about someplace else. The last thing we need is to start people wondering why they are content to live wherever it is they live when they could just as well be living in Southern California.
Los Angeles, CA