We're in Trouble Now
The table of contents in the April issue listed the article "Courting Danger" on page 22. It actually appeared on page 20. This is clearly an actionable product defect.
It cost me extra time to flip backwards and find the start of the article. This extra page-flipping also put me at greater risk of a paper cut from reading REASON this month. Finally, of course, the mental anguish involved should yield me few million dollars.
I'd probably sue you, if I could stand to be in the same room as a lawyer.
P.S. Thanks for yet another interesting and enjoyable article.
Where's the Beef?
There are times when I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Your April issue provides such a moment. Three excellent articles cover the liability crisis, the World Bank, and Arthur Kantrowitz.
And then there is the review "Engine of Destruction or Engine of Creation?" Yes, under normal circumstances, capitalism brilliantly creates new jobs in new industries that—as a by-product—destroy old industries. The early auto industry shows this process at work and its human benefits.
But there is a peculiar nature to too many of today's "sunrise" industries. As Peter Huber points out ("Courting Danger"), growing litigation actively harms the United States. We are not getting better products or better services. We do get less choice, poorer quality, and higher prices. And, not incidentally, our lives become poorer.
Let me make a personal observation. I am a computer analyst in New Jersey—a success in a success state. If the "sunrise" industries truly benefit, why do we in New Jersey not see real improvement in our lives? Instead we see housing shortages, transportation difficulties, and prices outstripping even our quite-elevated earnings.
Capitalism offers real solutions to our problems. But first, let's stop defending irrational, ineffective economic growth caused by nonsense such as the litigation explosion.
Charles J. Divine
The article on pork-barrel science ("Political Science: Pork Invades the Lab," March) was right on the money. Our department (Computer Engineering) recently accepted a $15-million non-peer-reviewed grant from the EDA, a fact that as a Dartmouth faculty member I find both repugnant and embarrassing. The time has come for universities to realize that science operates best as a market process: institutions freely competing with one another provide the best way for society to separate good research from bad. When it comes to federal funding, the scientists are going to have to learn to "just say no."
What's Good for Addicts
Virginia I. Postrel's column "Are Addicts Sickorbad?" (Feb.) shows how flawed our coverage of people different from ourselves can be when we try to make universal answers when there are none.
A market approach is in general more suitable than a medical approach, especially for the 24 out of 25 people who have tried cocaine without becoming "full-blown" addicts. The 25th person, however, needs the medical approach. Ms. Postrel's article does not talk of competing alternatives but of one answer to the problem of addiction whether it works for all people or not.
I expected an alternative to the sick-or-bad model, but all I saw was the bad model—people not making moral choices. Some of our greatest men and women have been addicts of one form or another.
It is interesting to note that the most successful addiction program, AA, is governed according to individualistic principles. There are no formal leaders or structure. Membership and dues are strictly voluntary. The group is supported at the individual level, new groups form up readily whenever a need arises, and old groups die whenever they no longer serve their purpose.
No matter which approach works best for each individual, we should concentrate on getting government out of the picture, where it does not belong. The medical approach is just a subset of the market approach, and there is a place for both.
John Cralley Shaw
Give Him Liberty (and REASON)
Regarding the letter from a reader who says he has been a subscriber for "about a year now" and is not going to renew his subscription when it expires ("Does the Punishment Fit the Crime?" March): To balance it off, please renew mine when it expires. Whether I agree or disagree with the opinions expressed on legalization of drugs, it is refreshing to hear opinions contrary to those of the common herd of thundering editorialists. I personally favor the decriminalization of cigarette smoking, too, which will no doubt horrify the surgeon general who prances around in his phony vice-admiral's uniform, complete with baggage tags over the left breast pocket of his sailor suit.
We have come to the inevitable changing of the gods of our American society, where the Great God of Safety has usurped the rightful position of the Goddess of Liberty as our national symbol. "Safety" or "the public safety" is a collectivist concept, while "liberty" is an individualist concept. Safety requires the armed police state's minions to enforce its sumptuary laws. Liberty requires no such armed intervention by the state. Whether the two can "peacefully coexist" for long, I doubt very much.
In my previous letter commenting on Ted Carpenter's observations in REASON (Apr.), I pointed out that "extended deterrence," based on the entire strength of U.S. strategic forces, had been supplanted by "flexible response," based on intermediate levels of escalation to defend NATO from Soviet aggression. Carpenter flatly denies this to be true. A statement by Gen. John R. Galvin, Supreme Allied Commander of Europe, recently published in Armed Forces Journal International substantiates my contention in every particular: NATO has recognized for the past two decades that simple extended deterrence was bankrupt because it was not credible. I submit that the single person responsible for NATO joint wartime command—including the decision of when and how to employ nuclear weapons—is a more definitive authority on the reality of current doctrine than either ambassadors or foreign observers who have no such responsibility.
One other point bears correction. Carpenter draws a false dichotomy between the policy goals of defending Americans and, as an ally, of defending NATO populations. In fact, space-based strategic defenses and transfer of ground-based defense technology can achieve both objectives as a direct result of their inherent capabilities. This is even more relevant, considering that the nuclear threat to NATO now arises from newly deployed Soviet SS-25 ICBMs, which are replacing the now-superfluous (and conveniently banned) SS-20 intermediate range missiles.
Strategic defense can be applied to increase deterrence, defend both the United Sates and NATO, and inhibit nuclear escalation. I do not understand why Mr. Carpenter believes it is wrong to extend these benefits to the other members of the free world—particularly when it need involve no additional expense on our part.
Michael J. Dunn
Better Red Than Homeless?
I read with interest the Brickbat item (April) which noted that Soviet citizens may now purchase their apartments from the state. You suggested the top price of $16,200 might intimidate Soviet buyers, though, since most of them earn around $325 a month.
A quick calculation shows that the Soviets aren't doing too badly. In Orange County, California, where I live, the average cost of a home is over $220,000—well out of reach of the average American. The fact is that the average Soviet buyer will find homebuying easier than all but the few who make $4,000 or more a month in Orange County.
The editors reply: Of course, in Orange County we can avail ourselves of the capitalist invention of a mortgage.
Martin Morse Wooster's Magazines column in April ("Blood and Democratic Guts") is the most entertaining article I recall ever reading in REASON. Encore!