"Ultimately I am in favor of neither a women's movement nor a men's movement but a gender transition movement." Does this quote come from Cathy Young's article? ("Man Troubles," July) Is it part of her criticism of Warren Farrell and the entire masculist movement? No. You might be surprised to find that it comes from Dr. Farrell himself and his book, The Myth of Male Power. Young suggests that masculism is merely an attempt to "outshout and out-whine" feminism and that "the ultimate lesson we have still to learn is that most gender issues are women's and men's issues (her emphasis).
What Ms. Young clearly fails to realize is that masculism has learned precisely this lesson and that, in fact, this is the lesson it hopes to teach others. As a masculist, I was heartened by the fact that Ms. Young seemed to get so many of her facts straight, whether she was discussing biases against men in the judicial system or biases against boys in school. But I was deeply saddened by the fact that she doesn't seem to understand the underlying philosophy of masculism at all—a philosophy which, I believe, is wholly consistent with her own.
Congratulations on having the courage to publish an article on gender issues which doesn't conform to the politically correct misandric genre.
We do wonder, however, why you chose a woman, even one as bright as Ms. Young, to "make sense of the men's movement." She is eminently qualified to make sense of the women's movement, but not necessarily of the men's. We rather prefer to define it ourselves.
Simply put, the legitimate element of the men's movement may be defined as the effort to obtain equal rights and equal dignity for the male gender. Young's article criticizes men for complaining about "victimhood." That's like exhorting a fellow being beat up to quit complaining. She might not be so quick to dismiss men as whiners if her government's standard policy were to evict her at her husband's whim, wrench her children from her, coercively collect alimony support from her, and jail her for refusal to submit.
Not only is such fascism undemocratic, but one might expect the ubiquitous government takeover of the rights and responsibilities of husbands and fathers, as well as massive redistribution of wealth, to be of strong concern to libertarians. Although Warren Farrell is a more legitimate representative of the men's movement than Robert Bly and other mythopoetics, Ms. Young mistakes high-profile writers and liberal organizers for the real theorists of the men's movement. The Liberator, a publication of the Men's Defense Association, has been defending the interests of men since 1968. Other, even usually more liberal, men would have been equally qualified to "make sense of the men's movement."
Richard F. Doyle
Men's Defense Association
Forest Lake, MN
Ms. Young replies: Mr. Seeman feels that if I could only understand "the underlying philosophy of masculism," I would see that it is "wholly consistent" with mine. If masculism means that both women and men should be free to make life choices based on their individual abilities and preferences rather than gender, that is indeed my philosophy. I also appreciate masculist insights into some gender-specific male disadvantages, at least in our feminist (postfeminist?) age. Yes, men can be subjected to burdensome expectations; but if the philosophy of masculism is that being expected to be strong, logical, active, and independent is just as crippling as being expected to be weak, passive, illogical, and dependent, it is not a philosophy I would embrace.
Warren Farrell may "ultimately" favor a "gender transition" movement, but he also insists that it must be preceded by a men's movement sufficiently strong to balance the women's movement. Discussing whether it would be "fair" to go from feminism to gender transition and skip the masculist stage is an interesting intellectual exercise, but the practical danger is that a political men's movement will try to rival the current women's movement in victim rhetoric, shrillness, and distortions.
For evidence of this, one need only look at Mr. Doyle, whose complaints about my article are a mirror image of classic radical feminist tactics—including his distress that an article about the movement has been assigned to a writer of the wrong sex. Since the September 1994 issue of Mr. Doyle's publication, The Liberator, features among its slogans the old German proverb, "Never believe a woman, not even a dead one," I am not surprised by his reaction; I would like only to point out that 1) the article on the men's movement was my idea, and it's not my fault that no male author proposed such an article first and 2) Mr. Doyle's maleness has never precluded him from making pronouncements about feminism. Mr. Doyle also faithfully imitates another standard feminist ploy—that of countering charges of whining or a victim mentality by saying, "But we're only calling attention to all the terrible things that happen to us!" Calling attention to real inequities is one thing; calling men an oppressed class and comparing their status, as The Liberator does on its front page, to that of slaves in the antebellum South is something else altogether.
Moreover, Mr. Doyle is not entirely forthcoming when he defines his agenda as "equal rights." In The Liberator, he repeatedly endorses a very different goal—"the restoration of patriarchy—tempered with "chivalry," he generously adds. And the current issue features an article whose author candidly states that he would like to see O.J. Simpson "go free, perhaps on a technicality, even if he did the deed," and get custody of his children. Why? Because many feminists supported Jean Harris, who shot her philandering lover, as a victim of "emotional abuse." Could there be a more perfect example of destructive tit-for-tat? The author also expresses his belief that "many men [secretly?] feel the same way." If Mr. Doyle's brand of masculism did not exist, Andrea Dworkin would have had to invent it.
Ethan Nadelmann ("Mind Alteration," July) neglects an important aspect in legalizing drugs: He works and so would the people who currently commit property crimes to obtain drugs if that were their most viable option. It's been contended that coolies were willing to pull rickshaws for 14 hours a day primarily to afford opium afterwards.
We must emphasize the economic benefits of legalization since it has been demonstrated that libertarian imperatives are irrelevant to the majority of voters. Current data are useful in macroeconomics but aren't meaningful to the average person. If columnists/economists such as Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell put the benefits in terms that people could readily perceive, e.g., net savings in federal, state, and local taxes for a hypothetical owner of a $100,000 home in Broward County, Florida, earning $35,000 a year, perhaps we could gain sufficient support.
Changing welfare by providing benefits in kind, e.g., housing, issuing credit cards for purchases, making direct payments for utilities, and minimizing cash-in-hand would result in little money for drugs and a strong incentive to earn it if we rigorously prosecute property crimes. Pardoning those jailed solely for drug offenses would provide the necessary prison space and probably result in a marked decrease in confinement costs. One long-term effect would be to instill a work ethic where it's currently nonexistent.
As this country has all but given up on free markets, it would be up to the government to keep drug costs down to the point where even someone with a 500-pound gorilla on his back could feed it for a reasonable amount, perhaps $10 a day.
Deerfield Beach, FL
It is sad that Ethan Nadelmann does not understand the underlying moral reason for drug prohibition to be lifted: A person's body is his or her property, to do with as he or she wishes. As such, the prohibition of certain drugs is itself a violation of personal property rights. When he questions the libertarian's emphasis on property rights he legitimizes the government's drug prohibitions. He also sanctions government restrictions on personal speech and privacy—both of which are simply different forms of property.
The problems caused by prohibition are not simply practical. They are ethical as well. Property rights are the basis for the entire U.S. Constitution. By allowing our government to violate the rights that Americans have in physical property, we have opened the door to violations of personal property rights—and to the crime that such transgressions prompt.
Michael C. Betts
If the positions and philosophy espoused by Ethan Nadelmann are the "cutting edge" of rational drug policy discussion, we are indeed doomed to long-term carnage in the name of prohibition. For a person supposedly dedicated to individual liberty and common sense, Mr. Nadelmann's philosophy is entirely too inconsistent, filled with the caveats and personal biases that, if implemented, would lead to even more irrational policy.
Even as he advocates fundamental freedom to make personal choices, he claims that a free market (even in cigarettes!) without the government playing an inhibitory role is "not a desirable thing." Like a true statist, he endorses the idea of government "encouraging people to act in their own interests"—which, of course, can be defined not by each individual, but by Ethan Nadelmann and Big Brother. In other words, while I have a perfect (or at least recognizable) right to smoke, it is perfectly legitimate for the government to use my money to try to discourage me from doing so!
Even more nonsensical is the idea that drugs should be sold by mail but not on the open market. The basic fact that Mr. Nadelmann evades is that government has no legitimate business in the drugs arena. He seems to be trying to inch along the path of regulation, with bureaucrats deciding what drugs people can possess and use, in what quantity, and in what places. This policy is the same as prohibition, except that the individual decisions made by the bureaucrats might be less extreme than the decisions that are currently in force.
Saying that people have a right as long as it is exercised in an acceptable way is to say that they don't have that right at all. The whole point of a right is that it cannot be revoked or infringed on by the state. If it can be, it is not a right, but a privilege or a whim. This is not to say that government does not have a legitimate role in responding to actions done under the influence—because at that point, the rights of others may be implicated. However, until that point, no amount of academic jargon can finesse the issue. As Ayn Rand wrote, "The fundamental question is, 'Is man free?' All the rest is practical application."
I greatly respect Mr. Nadelmann's candor and admire his willingness to admit that he has not considered every nuance of the issue. However, unless and until he begins to build upon a more solid philosophical foundation, his argument will continue to dissolve into confusion, uncertainty, and inconsistency. Because he is in a position to be heard, I hope that his message will develop into a consistent, rational call for an absolute end to prohibition, and an unqualified endorsement of individual rights and liberties.
T. Anthony Rowls
Mr. Nadelmann replies: Debates with libertarians are always fun and interesting. Since I spend much of my time debating and addressing the 98 percent of Americans who prefer more punitive and prohibitionist policies than I do, it is refreshing to think about the issues raised by those who want less restrictive policies.
I am familiar with, and even sympathetic to, the criticisms raised in the letters, including both those that view any government restriction on property or self-regarding behavior as unethical and those that view the regulations I favor as a slippery slope toward Big Brother. I do believe that individual freedom needs to be accorded far greater due in our laws than is currently the case—but I also believe that democratically elected governments can and should play modest roles in advancing public health. Politically, we have little choice but to work with reform-minded prohibitionists in advocating and designing compromise policies that remove the worst aspects of drug prohibition. And intellectually, I find it difficult to imagine a libertarian approach to drug control surviving the inevitable pressures to protect children and mentally disabled adults from unrestricted drug availability.
Let me take this opportunity to point out one other area of dispute between libertarians and those, such as myself, who are more civil libertarian in our preferences. I believe strongly in a right of privacy and bodily integrity and favor laws that would severely restrict the power of employers, both private and government, to test their employees' urine, blood, hair, and skin for the presence of drugs. Many libertarians, by contrast, believe that freedom of contract is the more important right—one that includes the right of powerful government and corporate employers to subject citizens to virtually any conditions, including invasive testing of bodily fluids. There is, I believe, no way of finessing this conflict of fundamental rights. Libertarians have no choice but to choose which rights they want government to elevate over others.