L. Neil Smith's
Number 209, February 3, 2003


[Letters to the editor are welcome on any and all subjects. To ensure their acceptance, please try to keep them under 500 words. Sign your letter in the text body with your name and e-mail address as you wish them to appear.]

Letter from Carl Bussjaeger

Letter from Kent Van Cleave

Letter from Virginia Warren

Letter from James Grace

Letter from Patrick Martin


Why in the name of GOD was Officer Johnson not arrested?

Better to direct that to samizdat@gbronline.com (moi).


Beats the blasted heck outa me. When was the last time you saw a cop arrested for assaulting someone "under color of law"?

The usual "punishment" is paid vacation. Perhaps we should be happy that this psychopath was required to work desk duty. (But I'm not happy.)

Carl Bussjaeger [samizdat@grbonline.com]


A number of writers pointed out that Brian Gross misunderstood or mischaracterized the ZAP, which prohibits initiation of force rather than harm. Yet harm is not irrelevant, and it may help to point out how it typically results from the initiation or threat of force in situations where that may not be apparent.

Taking the example of effects on insurance premiums that has already illustrated points on both sides, let's consider what the contributing causal elements are. On the one hand is the very salient behavior of someone engaging in dangerous activity. Add to that the natural interest insurance companies have in restricting coverage for (and/or raising premiums for) such activity, and you might think that's the whole picture. One's actions appear on this view to have a rather direct influence on insurance rates for others, and thus visit harm unjustly on others.

What's missing from this view is the intervention of government, using (TA-DA!) the threat of force. Not just anyone can offer insurance on their own terms to all willing customers. No, if you try that the government will rain on your parade in a big way. In order to get their permission to issue insurance, you must agree to all manner of conditions concerning what you will cover and how you'll manage your risk pool -- conditions that seriously screw up the market forces that otherwise would give us an unlimited range of possible insurance coverages at rates dictated only by what the market will bear.

The consumer, then, becomes the victim of government's meddling in the insurance market. They can't buy a policy whose premiums aren't dependent on the irresponsible behaviors of other customers in some arbitrary risk class (which is different from the legitimate creation of risk pools according to criteria acceptable to the clientele). When their rates go up, allegedly because dangerous behavior is on the rise among the company's clients, it is primarily because they were never able to choose a company that wouldn't punish everyone for the failings of the few.

For example, if a rash of motorcycle accidents involving helmetless riders causes companies to increase auto insurance rates for all their customers, you are "collaterally" harmed primarily by the fact that you couldn't dissociate your own insurance from that of those who undertake greater risks.

The case is even more pronounced for medical insurance, for companies are forced to participate in the socialization of medical care -- again, thanks to the heavy hand of government. If nobody could expect more than cursory emergency care (something that could readily be funded by charities without requiring free treatment -- involuntary servitude -- on the part of hospitals) before their care becomes contingent on their personal ability to pay (or raise voluntary support from others), then there would not only be a greater incentive for them to avoid risky behavior, but also a free and natural dissociation between their bad choices and the welfare of innocent parties.

"Follow the money" is a good rule of thumb in politics; similarly, "follow the force" works very well when looking for the root causes of harm.

Kent Van Cleave [kvc@tima.com]


In "A Fan's Review of Star Trek: Nemesis", William Stone III says, quite correctly, that most popular entertainment is so bogged down in boring, irrational statist assumptions that it is hard to enjoy. One exception he mentions by name is the late, lamented Fox show Firefly -- presumably cancelled by the same geniuses who cancelled Futurama, but that's a rant for another day. There is one other excellent and emphatically anti-statist SF show on television that I know of, the wonderful (and also cancelled, of course) Farscape. If you've never seen Farscape, Mr. Stone, do yourself a favor and check it out.

Your in SF geekdom,
Virginia Warren, Montgomery AL [Virginia.Warren@Gunter.AF.mil]


Hi John:

There are two websites the TLE readers should keep an eye on:


They are both run by a guy name Alex Jones who is obsessed with the New World Order.

Think of the two websites as a sort of Drudge Report for the paranoid. This does not mean that he should be dismissed as he provides links to stories carried in the mainstream press that sound like they're straight out of the X-Files.

Such as:

"US Had a Key Role in Arms Buildup: Trade on Chemical Arms Allowed Despite their Use on Kurds"

[long link]

And on and on

Take care,

James J Odle [jjo1@cox.net]


Dear Sir:

A small point of linguistic misinformation seem to be spreading in libertarian circles. In an article of January 27, William Stone, III mentions that "Homeland Security" is the literal translation of the full name of the Soviet KGB. The acronym KGB stands for (in rough transliteration) Komitet Gosudarstvennikh Bezopastnosti - the Committee of State Security. Stalin-era precursors were variously known as the NKVD and MVD: the Peoples Commissariat (NK) or more civilized-sounding Ministry (M) of Internal Affairs (VD). Nothing that I know of in Soviet history quite corresponds to the closest verbatim match of, say, "the Ministry of Internal Security". However, a rose by any other name...

Yours sincerely,

James Grace [jamesmgrace@earthlink.net]


Almighty Ruler of the all
Whose power extends to great and small,
Who guides the stars with steadfast law,
Whose least creation fills with awe;
Oh, grant Thy mercy and Thy grace
To those who venture into space.

Patrick Martin [warhawke@wideopenwest.com]
See my work in The Libertarian Enterprise;


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