L. Neil Smith's

Number 5, February, 1996.

Letters to the Editors

Beyond the Grincy

Lous James' article "Beyond the Grinch..." was right on the mark! I have never felt it was right to lie to kids, even about Santa Claus. I never taught the Santa Claus myth to my own son. When he asked me about it, I first used evasions: "I'm Santa Claus!" (True, since I buy the presents.) When he finally forced a straight answer out of me, I simply told him that it was all pretend, just a fun little fantasy everyone indulges in around Christmas time, and mentioned that it had been inspired by a real person (Saint Nicholas) who lived a long time ago. His reaction: he thanked me for telling him the truth about Santa Claus.

Kevin S. Van Horn          | Uncle Sam needs YOU!
vanhorn@architext.com | But not vice versa.

Browne Mud In Eyes of "The Libertarian Enterprise"

         In your January 1996 issue, Jim Davidson, in his article "Why Don't We Fly?", asks who benefits from transportation regulations. I was shocked to discover after reading your last two issues that his answer was not "Harry Browne."
         I'm glad you and your writers so zealously defend your ideals, and that you call for answers on questions of principle and seek to expose improprieties and unLibertarian thought in the race for the Presidential nomination. However, I am beginning to be a bit dizzy -- sick, actually -- from the negative spin you are applying to Browne's ideas. I have several examples to address.
         One is just a headline: "Harry Browne Lawsuit Rejected by Arizona Judge." Other than the fact that Browne didn't file the lawsuit, you didn't give any evidence that Browne even knew about the lawsuit, and the lawsuit wasn't about Harry Browne, that's a fine headline that will get you a "B" in muckraking journalism and an "A" in smear campaign politics.
         Next, allow me to quote from "Must Future Generations Honor Washington's Extortion Futures?" by Vin Suprynowicz:
         "Anyway, let's try to picture such a sale... the minimum bid? Tens of thousands of acres; billions of dollars? Imagine fourth-generation American ranchers, logger and miners standing by in their plaid shirts and workboots, tears streaming down their cheeks, as bidders talking on cellular phones to their bosses in Kuwait, Tokyo and Zurich snap up those huge parcels, handing eviction notices to families who have worked those lands for 100 years."
         Suprynowicz is arguing against Browne's proposal to sell federal lands. Of course, his argument above is totally based on pity. And its assumptions are false as well: in the paragraph before, he mentions how lands were efficiently distributed in the early 1800s in much smaller parcels through homesteading. But let's not let logic stop us from taking a slam at Harry Browne!
         Instead, Suprynowicz offers this answer to government debt: repudiate it! No one should own these "Extortion Futures," as he calls them; they are immoral and illegal, and for investors in them, well, SOL. Never mind that most of them are not held by individuals, but by banks, mutual funds, and those evil foreign investors. Never mind that they are held in funds that many of the investors have no control over and cannot opt out of. No, the honorable and principled libertarian government cannot honor these obligations, or even pay back the principal; instead, we must repudiate them because they were transacted immorally. (Can you hear the cries for slave reparations, and the chants of American Indians livid over the expropriation of their land far in the distance? These were immoral government actions, too).
         Let's try to picture such a repudiation. The announcement is made; immediately there is a financial panic. Millions of elderly people, their savings invested in "safe, government-backed" mutual funds or employer pension plans, see a substantial part wiped out and make frantic plans to stock up on cat food. Commerical banks see a panicked run, Great Depression style -- a storm they're ill-prepared to calm because they've just had much of their assets erased, too. Many close, and depositors' savings vanish. Many foreign investors lose their investments, and their trust in and respect for America, as the country's credit rating and desirability as a trading partner go down the tubes. Other nations -- trading partners and allies -- see the repudiation of debt as a sign of weakness and sit back to observe the chaos.
         And chaos it would be, make no mistake. Browne, and other Libertarians who are attacked on grounds of principle, are ridiculed for trying to come up with a plan to get America from a corrupt, unhealthy, debt-ridden, over-regulated nation to a minarchist/anarchist Libertarian society. Meanwhile, the attackers, from their perch of principle, loft bombs at those who think it is important and moral to ease the transition and to work in terms of what appears possible. In fact, offering a plan that calls for short-term reductions in government -- but not its immediate and complete elimination -- is prima facie evidence of lack of principle to a significant minority in the LP.
         Curiously, though, the political plan often advanced by self-described principled Libertarians is...no plan at all. Put on the ruby slippers, click your heels three times and say "I want to be free," and it will happen! In fact, Suprynowicz tries to draw a parallel between not having a plan and the vision of the Founding Fathers:
         "To criticize a Libertarian presidential candidate today -- a real one, like Mr. Browne's leading opponent, national jury rights spokesman, four-time state party chairman, and former U.S. Senate candidate Rick Tompkins of Arizona -- for not having any "Liberty Tax Plan" of his own, is like ridiculing Messrs. Washington, Adams, and Jefferson for asserting that we would have no new king. After all, didn't everyone have a king?"
         Suprynowicz manages to distort the idea that a much less onerous (and temporary) tax, part of a package to make a gradual, controlled transition from America 1996 to America, the Land of Liberty, into a "Liberty Tax Plan." But when one's plan is to repudiate the debt -- no plan at all, really, the equivalent of dropping a forty-megaton financial bomb on Wall Street -- and one offers no other constructive vision of how to implement a libertarian society, that is brilliant! -- "the mark of a Libertarian presidential candidate today -- a real one, like...Rick Tompkins."
         I have one more item. It's from Suprynowicz again, from his article "Can the Federal Government 'Sell Off the Lands'?" In reference to selling federal lands and assets -- after Libertarians are elected -- he says that doing so would just encourage our (newly elected Libertarian) "kleptocrats" to keep running up massive debts because they will think "Heck, our successors can always seize the steel and oil industries, and sell those off. Why worry?" This implies that Browne's plan to sell federal assets (some of which, like the Western lands, Suprynowicz correctly points out may be state or county, not federal, assets) is on the same moral level as Suprynowicz' idea of seizing private industry. Why honestly evaluate ideas and propose your own, when it's so much easier (and more fun!) to attack them? Tar and feathers, anyone?
         These attacks would be much more palatable if they were accompanied by positive solutions, constructive criticisms that would help to demolish or modify ideas the staff of The Libertarian Enterprise feels are unLibertarian, or a statement of Rick Tompkins' proposals to accomplish the Libertarian agenda. But I hear nothing positive from Tompkins' supporters, nor from Tompkins himself, except for an excerpt of a speech that caused quite a stir on the e-mail list Libernet-d about the evils of license plates.
         If the main ideas of the Tompkins campaign are to abolish license plates and to repudiate the debt, I don't think I'm interested. Of course, this is the same sort of unproductive comment I've been blasting in this letter. But until I see anything positive from the Tompkins campaign, this is all I can say.

Dan Cosley (cause@coil.com)
This message, plus 70 cents, will get you a cup of coffee.

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