Aid to "Freedom Fighters"? The Debate Goes On

I must say that I enjoyed the four-way debate on the Reagan Doctrine between Messrs. Layne, Carpenter, Beilenson, and Wheeler (June). I personally believe that taxes are basically immoral and our government should not be in the business of selling arms or giving handouts to other countries or groups of individuals. Mr. Wheeler advocates the use of other people's money (taxes) in his crusade against the Soviet Union. It apparently does not concern him that some taxpayers (probably the majority) would not approve of this.

If people like Mr. Wheeler wish to help the so-called freedom fighters in Nicaragua, let them take the financial risk by donating their own hard-earned dollars to the cause. I, for one, would prefer that they and our government leave their hands off mine. I feel that I am a better judge of what my money should be used for.

Thomas H. Hazard
Cortland, NY

Having several people discuss a major question is an excellent idea. I hope REASON will use that format more often. However, in the discussion of the Reagan Doctrine, where were the libertarians?

Where is there any understanding that most of the more than 150 "sovereign" governments of the world's countries are outrageous and hardly worth the powder to blow them all to hell? What real red- blooded libertarian would be happy with the present governments of El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, or Mexico (with that of Costa Rica barely tolerable) about which Wheeler is so concerned? He says nothing is worse than Nicaragua? In what world does he live? How about Paraguay or Chile?

There are better ways to empty that Marxist rhetoric of all content than the violent means of which Beilenson and Wheeler are so fond. Apparently they have little faith in the politics and economics they say they believe in. Or are the socialists correct after all—that there is no way capitalism can raise the level of living of the hundreds of millions in the Third World, and therefore arms must be used?

Not only has a military policy failed to turn Nicaraguans against the FSLN, it has merely shown that the capitalist U.S. government will act just as Comrade Lenin said it would, it has harmed constitutional government in the U.S.A., and it aids and abets the militarization of our political climate.

There are greater dangers to worry about than a Kremlin-directed international Commie subversion plot. The militarism fostered by the governments of the U.S., France, Israel, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Ethiopia, and welcomed by so many governments in black Africa, the better to keep their people in line, is a far greater menace precisely because it comes clothed in the rhetoric of patriotism and "hanging tough," rather than as a foreign "red menace."

Laurence G. Wolf
Cincinnati, OH

Concerning the discussion of the Reagan Doctrine, there are two amazing phenomena in the American foreign-policy ideology that I would like to point out.

American intellectuals, who completely failed to work out a philosophy of a foreign policy, have this cute way of worrying, "Will they like us?" It sounds like a teen-aged girl saying, "I saw this really cute guy yesterday—I wonder if he likes me?" Well, frankly, my dear…it doesn't matter. We do not need other nations to like us, we need them to do business with us. If we do good business, they will like us. But anyone who targets the United States must know that he stands a chance of being badly hit by us. Self-defense is what the government is for—and nothing else, probably.

Since I come originally from Poland, I can observe the American view of the Soviet Union with a special curiosity. Americans are subconsciously aware of the fact that the long-term goals of the Soviet Union require the destruction of the United States—and Americans seem to be quite paranoid about that, not knowing what to do.

Now the second thought. Notice how the Soviet rulers always assume that other countries are flexible and can be changed at will, while the Soviet Union remains the constant factor. And notice how it is exactly the opposite for the United States. Well…why? I have my answer, but I would like to hear other ones.

Krzysztof Ostaszewski
Louisville, KY

Thanks for the fine debate on the Reagan Doctrine. I'll wager that a lot of us who were sitting on the fence have landed on solid ground.

Conrad Speeder
Redwood City, CA

Why No Hooray for ERA

Joan Kennedy Taylor's article on the late Equal Rights Amendment ("Remember the Ladies," May) gives rather short shrift to conservative opposition to ERA, overlooking the peril the ERA posed to the right of private association. Everyone agreed that ERA applied to government or "state action." Everyone agreed that it did not apply to purely private action or association. Unfortunately, there was little agreement about where the boundary line should be drawn.

For instance: an organization's exemption from taxation is a legislatively granted privilege. Under existing constitutional law (the Bob Jones University case) the Supreme Court has held that the tax exemption, and the deductibility of contributions, could not be accorded to a private school which disallowed interracial dating. Could such privileges, under the ERA, be conferred upon a college that confined its student body to one sex only? To a church which disallows women in its priesthood?

Another example: under ERA, could a state issue a liquor license to an American Legion post, whose membership is disproportionately of one sex? The feminist movement scornfully rejected "separate but equal," so the existence of a women's auxiliary with equal drinking privileges could not be advanced as a defense. Nor could token female veteran membership, since the organization (necessarily) exhibits a clear case of "disparate impact" and a longstanding pattern of male predominance.

These were not simply conservative bugaboos. The militant feminists repeatedly declared that such things as single-sex colleges and discriminating churches and license holders could not be allowed to exist beyond the reach of ERA. Adoption of ERA would have struck a mortal blow at the right of citizens to associate together peaceably without government intrusion.

John McClaughry
Concord, VT

The Equal Rights Amendment as last proposed had three sections. Joan Kennedy Taylor apparently spoke only to Section 1: "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex." It's hard to disagree with the intent of that section. And Section 3 merely specified that the amendment would take effect "two years after the date of ratification."

In my opinion—apparently shared by growing numbers of people alarmed by any change that, in Taylor's words, would expand the power of government—the proposed amendment contained an obvious trap as Section 2: "The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article."

Taylor's assertion that the article "would invalidate laws, not create them" seems not only to ignore but to contradict Section 2, which I suspect rightly scared off a lot of conservatives and libertarians. I think it likely that the amendment would have been adopted had not this loaded midsection been included, and I'm wondering who so cunningly implanted it.

William B. Root
San Diego, CA

Does Freedom Follow the Facts?

Professor Friedman can't be serious ("Where Are We on the Road to Liberty?," June). I guess he contends that the climate of opinion has shifted in favor of capitalism not because of ideas or arguments (even his own) but because of facts, raw datum all by itself. The facts, however, demonstrate that a favorable intellectual culture is a necessary precondition to any social change. Where was "the extraordinary force of factual evidence" during the Great Depression? While America suffered 30 percent unemployment, it also suffered what Eugene Lyons aptly termed the "Red Decade."

The examples could be multiplied indefinitely, but I will content myself with two pieces of advice: (1) Until or unless the right of an individual to pursue a profit is regarded as an ethical absolute, some form of collectivism or socialism is inevitable, even if the free market enjoys a consensus regarding its practicality. (2) Do yourself the favor and read Leonard Peikoff's Ominous Parallels, whatever nonsense REASON has published about it (Review, Feb. 1983).

J.S. Valliant
Del Mar, CA

Milton Friedman's article tackles the depressing fact that the astounding change in the climate of opinion and ideas doesn't translate into what he calls "the world of practice" (which I take to mean political practice). However, it does translate into economic practice, into a steadily growing "underground" economy in most countries. I see some hope in that fact, not only because it means people are quietly rebelling against government, but because it means they are giving up faith in it. The latter may be more important in the long run.

Professor Antonio Martino of Rome University has made the point that the more the underground economy grows, the more difficult political dirigisme becomes. The Italian Bureau of Statistics got furious with him when he said their figures were silly if they did not take the underground economy into account—which they couldn't, since they did not officially admit its existence. They do now, but since they cannot know the precise scope of it, the politicians are becoming aware that their "planning" is mere guesswork. In Scandinavia, economic practice is getting more and more Italian, which means that these extremely homogeneous countries are getting more and more difficult to govern.

What happens is, as Milton Friedman says, that people vote for their own benefit. But next, they descend into the underground economy and pull the rug out from under the politicians by acting economically contrary to the policies they have voted for. Illogical as this behavior may seem, it is perfectly "rational"—in both instances they are acting in their own self-interest.

Where this will all end, I do not know. I share Milton Friedman's long-term optimism, except that the time lag is such that before the prediction comes true, we may all be dead.

Ole-Jacob Hoff
Tjolme, Norway

Privatization Proposal Could Fly

I read with considerable interest the item "How to Unsnarl Air Traffic Jams" (Trends, April). Your proposal of an organization patterned after Aeronautical Radio Inc. (ARINC) is eminently workable and would, almost by definition, provide a higher level of service while being more cost effective than the existing arrangement.

The inevitable comments about short-cutting safety-related costs are completely unfounded. ARINC owns and operates the high-frequency radio facilities that carry operational and air traffic control communications in the U.S. Flight Information Regions outside the continental United States. This vast area covers much of the Pacific as well as key sections of the north and south Atlantic.

A pilot flying in one of those areas (even a military pilot in routine situations) receives ATC instructions from a radio operator employed by ARINC. No short cuts are taken, and numerous redundant and backup systems are employed, as well as creative techniques to ensure end-to-end integrity of the communications. On the other hand, scrupulous attention is paid to costs.

The key factor, I believe, is that management is responsible in a real and immediate sense to the users of the systems ARINC implements and operates. The major users are, in most cases, also the stockholders. Aeronautical Radio works; an organization you describe, if patterned closely after ARINC, would also work, providing superior service at lower cost.

Jonathan M. Wineberg
Rolle, Switzerland

Mr. Wineberg is the former director of message services and senior director of data services for Aeronautical Radio Inc. —Eds.

Local Pols Step in Where Angels Fear to Tread

Your June Brickbats contained a segment on the ridiculous snowplowing incident in Fairfax County, Virginia. This county is a perfect example of local government run amok, especially when it comes to zoning.

Cases that haven't made the newspapers include churches denied building permits because they would be an increased burden to busy roads. Some churches have been allowed to build on the condition that they don't have their weeknight men's meetings. Their religious activities are restricted to those things that the county zoning board deems legitimate ministries.

That's right, an unelected board is now determining what the "ministry" of the church includes. Churches have been threatened with seizure if they actually bring in people off the streets to feed them. Horrors. In another case, a church is operating a Christian school without a special-use permit. They are under constant attack and have retained counsel.

Craig C. Markva
Springfield, VA

Heir-Finding: Get Rich Slow

Thank you, Mark Skousen, for your column on get-rich schemes (Investments, May). I bought one of those books last year and actually started finding heirs to unclaimed property. Two thousand dollars an hour? Hah! Although I am about to make a little more, I have so far only put $279 in the bank as a result of heir-finding.

An operative of an investigative company that buys the state of California's list ($500) told me that they regularly find that any account on that list worth more than $7,000 is recovered shortly after the list is published and before the investigative company can get in on it. If the amount is unclaimed property rather than an estate left through a will, California prohibits investigators from charging more than 10 percent of the amount.

Figure it out. It usually takes more than an hour to find and contact an owner of unclaimed property, and it takes the state two months to process the claim. Add to this the reality that you have no way of knowing whether you are searching for someone who has already gotten their money recovered or who is unfindable and has no heirs. I have revised my expectation of how much I can make an hour.

Miles Fowler-White
El Cerrito, CA