Civil Rights and Wrongs
It was with great interest that I read "From Dependency to Dignity" (November). As someone from a poor rural background who has had the opportunity to take advantage of economic freedom and choice, I cannot imagine where I would be today if the economic barriers referred to in that article had been placed in my way. I also cannot imagine my esteem level if some of those opportunities had been given to me in order to meet a quota.
The author, Clint Bolick, states very clearly and succinctly (for a lawyer) that which we all know is true but do not have the honesty or political fortitude to admit. I sincerely hope Mr. Bolick can successfully implement his ideas before we are once again faced with race riots like those of the 1960s.
Bruce W. Dewald
In George Orwell's novel 1984, Newspeak was the authorities' verbal device of transforming generally understood terms into perverse or even opposite meanings. One Newspeak of our times is the term "civil rights."
Laws that prohibit discrimination in private market dealings on grounds deemed irrelevant are called gains for civil rights. Such laws are in fact an abrogation of the longest-established civil rights, namely, the rights of contract and association.
Such laws are similar in principle to the Nazi laws which told German citizens they must discriminate against Jews. For if it's proper for a government to tell citizens whom they must not discriminate against, it's proper to tell them whom they must discriminate against as well.
Rules on hiring quotas and affirmative action presume to tell employers whom they must discriminate against. Clint Bolick's article mentioned none of this.
Robert T. LeBert
What flubbery is Bill Kauffman's editorial ("One Democrat to the Rest: Come Home," November) proposing to return the Democratic Party to rationality! The Party was taken over for socialism by FDR in 1932. The primary problem is that he set up the bribes so that many continue to vote for more government, more tyranny, more waste, and more handouts. As you've noted previously, since 1976 a majority of the population gets some kind of subsidy, and you don't really believe that they'll give it all up, do you? The original Democratic Party was conservative, prudent, restricted in what it embraced. Sure, there are tiny fractions, "scattered patches," of what once was the standard, but the rest of the party supports a program of enslaving everyone for their best interests in Fabian fashion. Many have moved over into nonpartisan politics or the Republican Party, but those provide no great alternative. Rather than pretend that it is possible to convert the most profitable criminal conspiracy in our history into an eleemosynary institution, let Kauffman find a way to induce another party to pick up the ancient and discarded inheritance.
Thomas S. Booz
Bill Kauffman's editorial shows a weakness of libertarianism. He wants us to "slash corporate welfare…the $20 billion space-station boondoggle" and "ask Wisconsin's Sen. William Proxmire if a Democrat can win on a populist antispending platform."
Proxmire wins because he buys votes with our taxes. NASA has no facilities in Wisconsin—the Dairy State. Proxmire is noted for his ridicule of space exploration—and his support of farm (particularly dairy) subsidies. Frankly, the United States needs fewer "populists" like the antispace Proxmires and Mondales who fight for more government and less science.
There is plenty to criticize at NASA. For example, its management is bloated, stifling, and shortsighted—a common failing today in both the public and private sectors. But let's consider fixing NASA—not totally dismantling it. Remember, the Soviet Union leads in the development of this vital frontier. It would be truly ironic if the totalitarian USSR became the wave of the future because the United States abandoned space to satisfy some erring theoreticians.
Charles J. Divine
Are Voters Rational?
Thank you for David Henderson's survey of public choice theories and theorists ("James Buchanan & Co.," November). I do have a (semi-rhetorical) question. If "rational voters…choose to be ignorant about government policies," why do "half the voters…want to eliminate the bureau altogether"? Even if "the bureau" (any bureau) produces "approximately twice the optimal level of output," how would that many voters learn that much about what a bureau was up to? Is the answer that voters aren't rational? But "rational" here means merely not studious. A voter may know irrationally much about government without knowing specifically that some bureau is overproducing. The voters most likely to know about the bureau are those significantly helped or hurt by it. Any bureau will (as I understand pure public choice) aim to concentrate its help on people who will know the bureau is helping them, while spreading its harm thinly enough so that its victims will be unaware of the harm or will not find corrective action worthwhile. Hence it is unlikely that half the voters familiar with a bureau will want to eliminate it.
Wondering about Wildavsky
Aaron Wildavsky's "Zeroing in on Peace" (October) contained much to applaud. I couldn't agree more fully with his statement that "obtaining domestic support for foreign policy ought to be the first, not the last, consideration." He is also right on target with his observation that smaller total numbers of missiles would make the Strategic Defense Initiative both more important and more feasible.
But he leaves some important questions unanswered. For one, if the British and French nuclear forces are to decrease the Soviet Union's ability to attack the United States, under what circumstances are the British and French supposed to use these forces? After the USSR has launched a first strike and the birds are long gone? What if the British and French missiles are "taken out" (whether by missiles or Spetsnaz forces) at the same time? For another, Wildavsky suggests negotiating a build-down of Soviet conventional forces. Fine—but using what for leverage?
Nevertheless, the article contained many valuable and thought-provoking ideas. I hope that we may hear more from Wildavsky, taking into account questions such as these.
Charles H. Chandler
Aaron Wildavsky comes to the right conclusion about the INF Treaty for the wrong reasons. Yes, the zero-option is a good idea, and cuts in strategic arms might be also—but not because nuclear deterrence alone can or should protect us.
The Soviets, as their evolving nuclear doctrine makes clear, now believe that conventional wars could be fought without recourse to nuclear weapons. "Zapping America first," as Dr. Wildavsky puts it, is not the preferred Soviet strategy, and this makes his opposition to a build-up of conventional forces to accompany nuclear disarmament both misguided and dangerous.
If we are ever to contemplate truly significant reductions in nuclear arms, the West must wean itself of its dependence on those nuclear weapons and acquire the capability to fight and win a conventional war in Europe or elsewhere. Such a course is the only credible means to deter Warsaw Pact conventional adventurism; reliance on a few nuclear warheads will no longer suffice.
Dr. Wildavsky's suggestion that British and French nuclear forces be given a true counterforce capability against the Soviet arsenal is truly ludicrous. For political and economic reasons, those two nations would never be able to take such a step. And one can only tremble at the reaction to such a move in Moscow—the current historic opportunity for arms control would be lost in a mutual dash to acquire new weapons, and the Soviet leaders might even consider a preemptive attack to prevent a total reversal of the correlation of forces.
Fortunately, most leaders of the Western Alliance seem to understand the true requirements for peace relatively well. Wildavsky's minimal deterrent, "nearer to zero," notion is interesting but significantly out of touch with the military and political realities in Europe today.
Michael J. Mazarr
Ethics and Public Policy Center
"Bittersweet Success" (October) is itself a bittersweet success. It is a finely tuned demonstration of a more general proposition, that the less productive tend to resent the more productive. Whether used to explain anti-American resentment abroad or interracial resentment in metropolitan areas, the general proposition seems to be valid, though controversial. Perhaps to show that the argument is not used merely to sanction discrimination against the "disadvantaged" racial groups, REASON should run an article showing intraracial strife developed on the same basis. I believe there' are many such instances in this country. The most common is likely to be in communities in which a racial minority beats back racial discrimination by being productive and then resents a migration into the community of members of the same racial minority who do not have a productivity ethic.
Michael B. Huston
San Marcos, TX
Letter Carrier Bites Back
Leo Miletich has compiled quite a list of postal service blunders in his article "Mail Madness" (November), stretching back to 1775. However, before we laugh away the service's reputation, please remember that currently the service employs over 600,000 employees and handles millions of pieces of mail every day. We try to do the best job we can to handle this volume promptly and accurately.
When delivery is no easy task we carriers still try to do our best. The day after a freakish snowstorm hit New York State on October 4 with such fury that several counties were declared a disaster area, the majority of our customers received their mail. To do this we postal employees worked with no lights, heat, or water in the post office, and we delivered around fallen trees, over snapped wires, and through snowbanks mixed with broken transformers.
I believe we are doing the best we can, Mr. Miletich, to handle and deliver the mail, and perhaps we can suggest to you and your readers that for continued efficient service please mail your Christmas correspondence early this year.
Rural Route Carrier
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".