Same Time, Same Station
T.A. Heppenheimer ("The Space Station Nobody Wants," Feb.) leaves out three important factors in his clear and rational explanation of the political and bureaucratic reasons why the space station shouldn't (or won't) be built: the past, the future, and the American people.
Calvin Coolidge is reported to have inquired when asked to fund America's first Army airplanes, "Why not buy one and let the pilots take turns flying it?" Gen. Billy Mitchell was cashiered for declaring his superiors irresponsible for the same kind of short-sighted political-expedient reasoning attributed by Heppenheimer's article to the administrators of NASA and government officers whose decisions influence development of space by Americans. But when the pressures of war compelled the bureaucrats to take a second seat to the engineers and entrepreneurs, American air power won World War II and has been the controlling factor in all military and commercial endeavor since.
Letting the USSR or anyone else have the controlling presence in space is like being able to build the best ships in the world but refusing to go to sea. It is abdication of world power. In the next century, military, economic, and thus political control will belong to the nation or other organization which controls the "high ground" of space.
In the USSR, the people do not have to be persuaded or "sold" the program in order for it to be pursued. In America, representatives are elected by championing that which moves the people emotionally. No matter how good our unmanned scientific and military space equipment is, Americans will be moved only by Americans working in space, in TV-broadcast competition, and making money doing it. The permanent presence of an American space station may be of questionable relative value to scientists and soldiers, but it is the best way to hold the interest of the public and also the best base of opportunity for small entrepreneurial access to space. When that becomes affordable, not even Mr. Heppenheimer will have trouble finding people with use for it.
James Nathan Post
Las Cruces, NM
Back in 1977, when Tom Heppenheimer's book on space colonies was published, I heard from his literary agent a story that reflects great credit on the author. According to the story, he turned down a much more lucrative publication opportunity because it would have involved some sensationalist hokum.
So what is Tom doing on your pages, amid put-down visions of the space station that range from juvenile to pathological? I hope that what I suspect is true: that he got snookered by your staff, and had no foreknowledge of the cartoons.
There is no denying, though, that the tenor of the cover cartoon is in keeping with the article's perceptions of President Reagan: a cowboy of vacuous intellect, attracted to space for a child's reasons. That is especially distressing because it comes from an author who has heaped praise on John Kennedy for his "leadership and vision" in sending men to the moon. There is nothing on record to indicate that Kennedy ever saw the moon shot as anything but a publicity stunt to upstage the Russians.
By contrast, Reagan seems to have grasped the main point: that space is a strategic place to be, a physical frontier that is going to be settled. His responsiveness to the "Isabella and Columbus" analogy speaks volumes: the vision that appeals to him is the space colonists' own. If it were true that the space station had no political support outside the President's own—though this is an exaggeration—that would speak all the more for the man's genuine leadership quality.
The space station, though, does have a constituency beyond "NASA's corporate clients," and Tom Heppenheimer of all people ought to know who we are: exactly those who take space colonies seriously. If this is not the most populous constituency in the land, it is at least a determined and capable one and deserves better than to be tarred with the implication of venal motivations.
White Plains, NY
W.C. Fields once asked, "You ever do some boondoggling?" Maybe he was thinking prophetically of NASA. Seriously, the issue really is one of coercive (tax) funding versus commercial space development, and not just the space station.
Kenneth H. Fleischer
Los Angeles, CA
New Robber Barons
Bravo! to Sarah Foster for her exposé of the "redevelopment" scam operating in Hollywood ("Invasion of the City Snatchers," Jan.). Ten years ago, I was involved in the opposition to a similar redevelopment effort in Santa Barbara. The agency had designated 900 acres of one of the nation's most genteel, most elegant, most beautiful downtown areas as "blight"—mostly in secret from the community at large. Though I do not know the eventual fate of that effort, I am still infuriated at the agency's elitist arrogance, self-serving mendacity, and hypocritical cordiality—traits all too well depicted in Foster's article. I hope this awakens your readers to the new robber barons in our midst.
Michael J. Dunn
DeBorkery, Rights, and Wrong
The best summary of the deBorkery was by the "Sledge Hammer!" TV show. There was portrayed a criminal rampage conducted by an android robot named BORC who was described as "perfect except for one detail: He had no sense of right and wrong." BORC eventually destroyed himself by trying to follow two masters simultaneously in opposite directions.
Mark S. Pulliam and Mark W. Smith ("Beyond Bork," Feb.) are wrong to say "We are no more secure from tyranny if the judges are activist…libertarians." The only liberty endangered thereby would be that "most important liberty" proffered by the essayists: "the right of democratic self-government." Democracy is government of self by others, and others by self, not self-government.
If a statute or constitution said, "Indians must be slaughtered," I'd welcome a judge's ruling that "slaughtered" meant "left alone." And I don't care whether the judge finds that meaning in the original intent of the legislators, in contemporary language, or wherever. I'm for lying and cheating if it'll advance liberty.
It's easy to see that U.S. courts are not independent of the rest of the government; where do judges' paychecks come from? The political nature of courts is just as evident. Judges issue opinions. When the bench is divided, they vote. Under the robes, naked politics.
Fearing loss of "the rule of law," some would transfer respect for liberty to respect for a constitution. Then one day the procedurally correct death camp warden drags away the children who have been taught to respect police.
Messrs. Pulliam and Smith make the same mistake the forefathers hoped the 9th Amendment would prevent. The Supreme Court does not have to "invent" rights that are not denied by the Constitution. The people have them until they are denied by the Court's "interpretation," in lieu of enforcement, of the Constitution.
Tibor Machan's and Stephen Macedo's views on the correct role of the Constitution are understandably appealing, especially to libertarians who, as a rule, enjoy highly philosophical discussions of ethics and rights theory. But I fear that this appeal is more the product of rhetorical excess than of sound reasoning.
Machan and Macedo each criticize Judge Bork for denying that the Constitution is more than a legal document. These two scholars, in contrast to Bork, see the Constitution more as an open document on which to inscribe political and ethical principles. But the Constitution is "merely a legal document." The purpose of the Constitution is to create a national government with certain powers and, most importantly, to restrain the scope and reach of the national government so that it does not exercise any but these certain powers. The role of the federal judiciary is to enforce the Constitution as a legal document. The judiciary should not use this document as a scratch pad for notes taken during never-ending debates on morality and ethics.
Machan and Macedo fall into the alluring trap of modeling the judiciary as a sort of grand forum for scholarly debate about, and enforcement of, ethical principles—with the Constitution as the scratch pad whose contents change whenever the momentum of the debate changes. If "our" side is currently winning this debate in the chambers of the Supreme Court, fine: We have a free hand in trying to restructure society to our liking.
But what happens when our side is losing the debate (for example, the Warren Court era)? It is precisely at such times that the Constitution as a legal document is most valuable: legal documents are immune to the fickle fads of the intelligentsia's political and ethical philosophy. Unfortunately, the problem during the era of the Warren and Burger courts was that the status of the Constitution as a legal document was undermined. Instead, the Constitution was used—illegitimately—as a license to impose on the citizenry a particular set of ethical norms.
Judicial restraint as advocated by Bork may not lead to a perfect world, but considering the likely alternatives—again, I offer the Warren Court as an example—I trust that my freedoms are in least danger when the judiciary behaves according to Judge Bork's prescription.
Wildavsky Gets the Last Word
I appreciate the letters of approbation and complaint (Dec. and Jan.) but would like to respond to them: Jon Basil Utley writes of the "first law of war, to win without fighting" (Dec.). The Soviet missiles were put in to intimidate. I hardly see how taking them out improves their ability to threaten.
Besides, it takes two to capitulate. If the Europeans do not engage in preemptive surrender, the point is, the Soviet Union will not risk attacking them because that would risk nuclear war without the benefit of eliminating the United States, the only power that can control Soviet behavior. Whether or not some Soviets profess a belief in winning a conventional war, therefore, a main force attack against Western Europe would be still more irrational than a surprise nuclear attack on the United States.
Discovery of hidden Soviet missiles would represent a great danger to the Soviet Union, because it could expect to lose the ensuing arms race. If discovery was met by capitulation, that aim could better be achieved by surrender now.
At the last four decades' rate, Soviet conquest of small nations is going to take an awfully long time. In any event, like imperialists of old, they have yet to gain a prize that brings in more than it costs. Given the nature of socialist systems, if the Soviets cannot win a war in half an hour, they won't win at all. Strangely enough, it is free peoples and free economies who have what it takes to prevail in the long run.
"The most decisive mark of the prosperity of any country is the increase of the number of its inhabitants." That's a quote from The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith. Ever since I read that, I've been thinking about what it implies for popular attitudes toward immigration and population growth. That's why I was interested in Tyler Cowen's article, "Bedroom Call to Arms" (Feb.).
I must assume Adam Smith would accept a modification of his theory: "Given an equal degree of individual freedom, the most decisive mark…" or "Given a certain minimum degree of individual freedom, the most decisive mark…" The theory then could remain consistent with the fact that total fertility rates (TFRs) are highest in the Third World where prosperity appears lacking.
I'll bet old Adam is right on the money. It was Adam Smith, after all, who taught us that people create their own wealth, so more people (modified by freedom) should equal more wealth. But are varying TFRs in different countries a function of varying degrees of freedom? Does increasing prosperity slowly decrease freedom and, therefore, lower TFRs, or is procreation a form of emigration by which a part of us escapes from an impoverished past to a prosperous future?
David E. Gallaher
Tyler Cowen most clearly identified the motives of the underpopulationists when he mentioned that Nazi Germany was ardently pro-natalist in government policy. The reason most pro-natalists are negative toward immigration is that immigrants to the United States do not represent the blue-eyed, blond-haired ethnic classes of northern Europe in sufficient numbers to please those people who are concerned about Western (read: white) values. I have spent a number of years studying the literature of white racists, and their major complaint is that their tribe does not place enough value on their race to out-multiply the non-Aryans.
I do not know if the Robertson campaign people are cynically appealing to this group by their pro-natalist position or whether they actually believe that a native-born American is better than a foreign-born one. However, I do know that the white-tribalist motive of some pro-natalists is too real (and too dangerous) to be glossed over or ignored.
Frederick G. Schantz
How to Lend a Hand
I was pleased to read about the Trickle Up Program (Spotlight, Feb.). The Leets deserve applause for their innovative and insightful tactics for promoting self-sufficiency among the poor. A similar group, Accion International, employs an even more radical tactic: the small-business loan. They make market-rate loans to individuals or small enterprises who have no other source of help. Their default rate is lower than the banks who would never consider such "poor risks." Your readers can contact A.I. at 1385 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02139.
Editor's note: Readers may contact the Trickle Up Program at 54 Riverside Drive, PHE, New York, NY 10024.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".