A Reviewer's Notebook - 1975/4

It’s been a long time since Richard Cornuelle wrote his Reclaiming the American Dream, a glowing book which made the voluntaristic society seem an immediate possibility. Things haven’t quite turned out as Mr. Cornuelle would have wished. Inflation and voluntarism don’t go together. Private schools struggle while the State, in response to the educational lobby, pours out the money for "aid" to public education. And now, with a recession or a depression or whatever you want to call it fastening itself upon us, the cry is for millions of "public service" jobs to be paid for by our children’s children.

Nevertheless, the idea that people can combine in adversity to solve their own problems without running to Big Brother State for support will not die. The United States Jaycees Foundation has sponsored a book, Uplift: What People Themselves Can Do (Olympus Publishing Co., Salt Lake City, Utah ), which shows a hundred different self-help projects in successful action. There has been some government start-up money in a few of the projects, but, as the evidence clearly shows, the organizations that have depended on their own money-raising efforts have been the healthiest.

For example, Joseph R. Spoonster, who started a Vocational Development Center for the Handicapped in Akron, Ohio, without government backing, is explicit about the value of bringing free enterprise principles to the business of teaching trades to people with disabilities. When the local community council refused him a grant in 1964, Mr. Spoonster and his wife cashed in their insurance policies and retirement funds to get their center going. It was, Mr. Spoonster says, "the best thing that could have happened to us. It was tough at the time, but it forced us away from the traditional conservative methods of meeting human needs."

The Spoonsters went ahead to hire the best possible instructors and proceeded to obtain contracts with firms and government agencies to employ the center’s graduates. The center also took on subcontracted jobs for major industrial companies in the Akron area. Eventually the Spoonsters got a grant for expansion from HEW, which spoils the self-help story a bit. But the expansion program is now self-supporting, operating on earned income, and the Spoonsters are now working with a committee from Canada to establish the first private rehabilitation center north of the U. S. border. They also hope to expand to Brazil.

The "social gospel" church has recently gotten a bad name among libertarians by its habit of endorsing State charities paid for by tax money seized from unwilling contributors. The "social gospel" has also been entirely too complaisant about handing out money to African guerrilla groups whose idea of promoting freedom is to murder the opposition. With governments everywhere doing good by force, the older view of charity as something that comes voluntarily from the heart doesn’t have too many vocal defenders these days. Without fanfare, however, there are still a lot of church groups whose primary commitment seems to be in helping to get self-help projects started.

In Webster, South Dakota, for example, a cooperative called Tract Handcrafts, Inc., has grossed more than $650,000.00 in a couple of years from patchwork quilts which have been promoted as far east as Lord and Taylor’s in New York. The German, Russian, Scandinavian and Sioux Indian quilt patterns that reflect local heritages in northeastern South Dakota have great sales value in some 350 department stores around the country. The quilt-making cooperative depended at first on borrowed or donated sewing machines. But a drive by five churches provided $19,000.00 for the cooperative in six months, and the American Lutheran Church made an additional grant of $20,000.00.

Church organizations helped start Fine Vines, a black self-help corporation that makes blue jeans in Greenville, Mississippi. The Antioch Missionary Baptist Church was the first member of a Self Help Action Center which has formed hundreds of food-buying clubs that deal directly with farmers in the northern Illinois area. Working on principles that are as old as the Rochdale movement in England, the Self Help Action Center clubs buy food directly from farmers who bring their produce to the parking lot of the Antioch Missionary Church in Chicago for distribution that avoids all sorts of packaging expenses.

Again, it was the church that raised $10,000.00 for the Reverend Albert Williams to start an integrated shopping center in a riot-cursed urban "wasteland" in Menlo Park, California. An "ecumenical" ministry organized the farmers of the so-called boot-heel of Missouri to raise soybeans at a profit in one of the worst poverty pockets in the country. The Collegiate Reformed Dutch Church of New York gave space for the Break Free Lower East Side Preparatory School, which has been turning high-school drop-outs into "college material." And in Phoenix, Arizona, the Lutheran church helped an organization called PUSH (People United for Self-Help) get into the business of raising food for its members and for outside sale.

In Milwaukee a group named SWEAT (no acronym, it means what it says) started making playground equipment from used car and truck tires, bolting them together in pyramids and other odd shapes for children to climb over or crawl through. The venture began in the backyard of one of the workers. The city building inspector didn’t like what was going on and promptly issued a cease and desist order. So SWEAT moved into another backyard. Three more backyards and three more cease and desist orders later, the operation finally managed to move into a legal manufacturing facility. Now SWEAT is on its way to financial independence, offering its unique product in five midwestern states and even nationally.

Says Mary Anne McNulty, the group’s president: "It [SWEAT] is something that has been created out of nothing but the easy discards of our country — discarded telephone poles, discarded tires —by discarded people who wouldn’t settle for being discarded."

The federal and state governments have performed best when, after a limited funding, they get off the backs of people in self-help projects. Too much money dulls the edge not only of husbandry but of the keenness needed to find a place in the market. In Berea, Kentucky, a woodworking cooperative was funded to the tune of $50,000.00. "But," says William McClure, the man who started the idea, "it ended up with the money in two or three people’s pockets… They was making $10,000.00-$15,000.00 a year and we was getting $1.69 an hour, mostly…. running back and forth to see if they had anything for us to do." Later, starting up again without funds, the woodcarving cooperative became a success. Says Charles Wesley of the woodcarvers’ office, "We were better off not to have government funds… it all ends up in a lot of overhead without support."

Richard Cornuelle would approve. His "dream" is not dead.


4 ANARCHY, STATE, AND UTOPIA by Robert Nozick. (New York: Basic Books, 1974), 367 pp. $12.95.

Reviewed by Roger Donway

Writers who purport to give us the basic justification of a free society deserve special scrutiny. Because they are, in essence, inviting us to rest all of liberty on their reasoning, we must know especially the worth of their arguments. It is not enough that they decide for freedom, or that they throw off useful insights along the way. Too often, we have seen a statist premise or concession convert our enemy’s enemy into our enemy’s best friend.

Professor Robert Nozick’s book, Anarchy, State, and Utopia, invites such consideration, for he has undertaken nothing less than to justify the minimal state, and to show that government should have only the function of protecting its citizens’ rights. We may note that it is gratifying to discover a Harvard philosophy professor who is anxious to concoct original arguments for liberty; and gratifying again to see him make telling points against certain Leftist theories, including the theories of his collectivist-minded colleague, John Rawls. But we must not, in our pleasure, fail to ask how well he has defended freedom.

Professor Nozick, then, begins his defense with the anarchists’ question: why should we have any state at all? And he answers by arguing, first, that in a state of nature there would be strong motives for instituting government; and second, that men could come out of a state of nature, setting up a minimal government, without violating anyone’s rights. He then tries to demonstrate that any extension of government beyond the minimum would violate rights. And in a final section, on utopia, he urges that a free society is inspiring as well as just.

The most striking element in this may be Nozick’s decision to justify free government by playing the anarchists’ game. Advocates of freedom have generally believed that the question of anarchy need never and should never come up. It is worthwhile to ask why Nozick thinks he must raise it; and how he fares, having done so.

Nozick’s reason appears simple and plausible: "The fundamental question of political philosophy, one that precedes questions about how the state should be organized, is whether there should be any state at all." This is true enough. Yet the question which precedes political philosophy does not ask whether there should be a monopoly over force; each man must have that, to be able to count on controlling his life. The generative question, rather, is how men can live together, if each has such a monopoly. And the historical answer, perhaps the only one, is government: an institution which commands a monopoly on force, and which is the common agent of its citizens.

Nor is it merely unnecessary to play the anarchists’ game; it is also concessive. In Nozick’s case, his speculations about an elaborate market for force implicitly concede that a free market does not presume protection of rights, and that long-range planning— control of one’s life — can exist where force is exercised at the discretion of others. Both assumptions make a dangerous beginning for a defense of freedom.

Professor Nozick’s troubles extend equally to his explanation of rights. He begins with the "intuition" that whatever goal we may be seeking, certain means of accomplishing it are ruled out. It is not that they don’t work; it is just that they are forbidden.

Nozick decides that the best explanation for this feature of ethics is that people cannot be treated wholly as means; and this in turn, he says, implies something like the Lockean system of human rights.

There are several disturbing features about this proposal, not the least of which is resting human liberty on Professor Nozick’s intuition. There is, besides, Nozick’s ingenuous announcement that he is not going to say whether the ban on force is absolute; or, if it is not, in what cases the ban may be lifted.

Even more importantly, though, Nozick has explicitly adopted an unhappy notion which crops up from time to time: that rights are a kind of unnatural restraint on our pursuit of values. It is as if to say: we would, of course, engage in murder and rapine as part of the good life, but as it happens these perfectly natural and effective means of achieving happiness are denied us. This is to give force a far better reputation than it deserves.

Force is not an effective means of seeking values, nor even an ineffective means; it is simply the abandonment of value-seeking. Many people recognize that in trying to obtain values by coercion one foists off on another the task of creating one’s values. Many also recognize that in using force one abrogates the other person’s judgment and control. The two points can also be brought together: that to pursue values by force is to surrender the task of creating values to a powerless man.

Finally, there is a larger objection against Anarchy, State, and Utopia, and it is suggested by the two already discussed. Professor Nozick’s thesis, I am afraid, will become a victim of his method. Contemporary philosophy seems to insist that the most urgent possible conclusion should be grounded on the most irrelevant possible fact. Thus, rights are grounded on Professor Nozick’s moral intuitions, and free government on the conceivable workings of an anarchist market. A well-touted defense of liberty, done in this style, is ideally suited to become a major reason for dismissing liberty as irrelevant to human concerns.


EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW NOW ABOUT GOLD AND SILVER edited by Louis Caribini (New Rochelle, N. Y.: Arlington House, 1974) 176 pages, $8.95.

Reviewed by Robert Vichas

Perhaps not everything, but here are plenty of facts, history, and details to aid any prudent investor in financial planning. Now that Americans can once more, after 41 years, legally own gold bullion (for how long no one can predict) petite markets for gold and silver coins and mini-bars of these enchanting metals may become as strong as horseradish.

An umbrella will go up when it rains, but a period of sunshine will bring on its collapse; and with rainmakers in Washington first seeding clouds of doom and then withdrawing from rain-dance activities, the timid, over-extended buyer may find himself whipsawed unless he has a solid grasp of long-term fundamentals.

The editor has clustered an impressive covey of writers, analysts, consultants, and economists, whose combined talents and expertise would be welcomed on any board of investment advisors, provided, of course, that the investors favor long-term purchases of gold and silver.

Caribini has wedged into one volume interviews originally conducted for the Gold & Silver Newsletter. In nontechnical language, nine experts deal with: the role of gold and silver in past, present, and probable future monetary systems; the possibilities of continuing inflation and total collapse of paper currency systems; how to invest in selected foreign currencies; the industrial uses of silver and gold; and the prospect of further recession — or will it be really tagged a depression?

Exactly what are future prospects for silver? How high will the price of gold fly? Can anyone with limited funds procure protection against a fatigued dollar? Suppose monetary collapse doesn’t occur, what then? Who loses? While no book can provide daily investment advice, this interestingly written collection should find its way into any basic library on the subject.

For example, economic aspects and industrial markets for silver are covered in three separate interviews with Charles Stahl, publisher of Green’s Commodity Market Comments, Philip Lindstrom, investment manager of Hecla Mining, and Wallace Hanson, contributing editor to Popular Photography.

Mr. Stahl reviews basic uses of silver and lesser known technological applicability. Did you know that silver is sometimes employed as dry lubricant, fungicide, and bactericide? And, oh yes, even rainmakers seed clouds with it —clouds that produce rain, not gloom. As they say, "Every cloud must have its silver lining."

On production matters, Mr. Lindstrom, who during 31 years has worked as mining engineer, geologist, mine operator, and investment analyst for Hecla Mining Company, conveys the real message on costs of bringing a new mine into operation — if one is found (given odds of 1,000-to-1 of not discovering a good ore body) — and some basic problems of keeping one profitably producing.

On industrial absorption of silver production, Mr. Hanson answers important questions: Is silver essential in photography? What are the prospects of developing substitute processes? No investor should neglect the answers contained in these three interviews.

Demand for these precious metals pivots partially on industrial consumption. The intriguing question focuses on monetary conditions now, next year, after the next election, and in the next decade. Professor Murray Rothbard, who has spent nearly 30 years studying business cycles, panics, depressions, and what government has been doing to our money for 200 years, reveals his findings and sees three important parallels between 1929 and today.

Similarly, Dana Thomas, associate editor of Barron’s, offers some important clues by comparing our present situation with recent experiences of Germany, China, and others. To the question — What do you see as a reliable hedge? — this financial writer replies without hedging.

Of course, Dr. Franz Pick, publisher of World Currency Report, tells us like it was, is, and will be (usually before the interviewer has completed his question). With an economy of words, Dr. Pick devastates Wall Street’s sacred cows.

Another investment advisor, Thomas J. Holt, divulges how to gauge the amount of stock speculation with a simple technical device. He also speaks of gold price potential in a depression. For a bonus, Mr. Holt supplies an eyewitness account of runaway inflation in China and relates what happened to fortunes of gold and silver owners there.

Again for those concerned with technical aspects of gold production, Dr. Paul Henshaw, president of Homestake, discloses why gold production is dropping, in spite of record high prices. Finally, the last two stars in this exciting cast, Hans Weber, managing director of Foreign Commerce Bank in Zurich, and Harry Browne of recent bestseller fame, offer advice on hedging assets and fashioning a portfolio geared to different investor needs.

For pleasant, informative reading, Caribini has compiled a volume that should pre-empt any evening of television. For the serious student, 18 pages of bibliography could keep one away from the tube for a month or two.


CEREMONIAL CHEMISTRY: The Ritual Persecution of Drugs, Addicts and Pushers by Thomas Szasz (Garden City, New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1974) 243 pp., $6.95.

Reviewed by Ralph Raico

This book differs from similar books in the area by subjecting to examination, not victims, but the oppressors; the violators of individual rights, rather than those whose rights are violated. That is, it explores the social process by which some people are deprived of their rights by those who have something to gain from that deprivation. In regard to drugs — the subject of the present work — the ones who have most to gain are, clearly, the government’s growing (and increasingly costly) psychiatric and social-work bureaucracy, which preys on the fears it induces in a gullible public.

The position Szasz sets forth on the issue of drugs is, in my opinion, the genuine libertarian one: "anything that’s peaceful." People have a right to trade in any commodity, he maintains, including drugs, so long as no one else’s rights are thereby infringed. Why this — otherwise known as the simple system of natural liberty — should ever have become a problem is the main subject of Szasz’s rich book.

In the course of examining this question, the author continues his probing of what may be termed the "secret history" of plots against individual freedom—bringing to light little-known but highly significant episodes that have accumulated over time to form a system of oppression (he did this brilliantly once before, in The Manufacture of Madness). Who, for instance, will not find it, well, suggestive that the trade-union leader Samuel Gompers helped create the image of "Chinese opium fiend" as part of his ruthless campaign to exclude Chinese laborers from the United States?

Szasz is in no way recommending the use of any drug, but simply the right of adults to consume whatever they wish and can afford (he is against heroin-"maintenance" programs, too). We are not dealing here with a Timothy Leary (to anyone who knows Szasz, the very juxtaposition of the two names has to bring a smile)! Quite the contrary. In clarifying the current confusion on the subject of drugs, Szasz is entering the lists for some rather "old-fashioned" ideas: namely, that there is no "addiction," there is temptation (which people either withstand, and so grow stronger, or give in to, and so lead that kind of life); that human beings must be viewed as possessing free will, and not as bundles of automatic impulses (which means they are responsible for their actions); that the business of government is to protect the life, liberty, and property of its citizens from forcible invasion, and nothing else; that when the government strays beyond this, it itself tends to create the very problems it then harasses and taxes the people to solve.

It is gratifying but hardly surprising that, at the end of this book, Szasz explicitly identifies his own standpoint with that of "Mill, von Mises, the free market economists and their libertarian followers." "While countless men say they love liberty," he asserts, "clearly only those who, by virtue of their actions fall into [this] category mean it. The others merely want to replace a hated oppressor by a loved one — having usually themselves in mind for the job." And it is nice to be reminded that the great Mises explicitly attacked prohibitions on the sale of opium and morphine, although he viewed them as "dangerous, habit-forming drugs," on the grounds that "if one abolishes man’s freedom to determine his own consumption, one takes all freedoms away" (Human Action, pp. 728-729). Szasz underscores Mises’ point throughout this penetrating, consistently well-written and exciting book. 

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