Number 163, March 4, 2002
Chuck Jones, RIP

[Letters to the editor are welcome on any and all subjects. To ensure their acceptance, please try to keep them under 500 words.]

Letter from Bill Bunn

Letter from Alobar

Letter from Dennis Kabaczy

Letter from jeff colonnesi

Letter from E.J. Totty

Letter from Jackson Lawless

Letter from Richard

Letter from Paul Birch

Bruce Elmore <rbelmore@attbi.com> wrote:

Why is it that Libertarians are so willing to violate the Non- initiation of Aggression Principle when it comes to infants who haven't yet passed through the vaginal canal?

Just wondering about the logical inconsitency, that's all.

Granting that abortion is the initiation of force, this need not be the end of the discussion.

Is it the proper scope of the criminal law to deter or punish all wrongdoing? Do we want a criminal law that will protect a fetus from such abuses as the mother putting alcohol or caffeine into the placenta? That will protect a child from spanking?

Perhaps we want a criminal law that focuses on maintaining the public peace and an honest market. Can we ask for more without setting our feet on a slippery slope where everybody is invited to demand criminalization of all behavior which they perceive as violating somebody's rights?

Can you logically justify criminalizing an initiation of force against a newly fertilized human egg, while not criminalizing initiation of force against, say, an intelligent chimpanzee or dolphin? Or even against a clam? Or is "initiation of force" a magical phrase that means just whatever you wish it to mean? Or is protection of humans, but not others, not a logical position, but merely a prejudice on which you will insist?

Bill Bunn [billbunn@free-market.net]

Mr. Bastard: Funny you should ask. As far as i'm concerned, it begins when the fetus has the capability to survive on it's own, without artificial aid. Before that, it is technically a parasite, and as such, has no rights of it's own. I think that moment should be at least as easy to pin down as "conception." A tapeworm invading my body, whether or not i "risked" it being there by eating steak tartare, is toast as soon as i find out about it. If it jumps out of my colon and starts living on it's own, i'll choose to leave it be. Mr. Hutchinson, i do realize this is a sticky subject for pretty much all of the usa. We probably won't change each others' minds on the subject, but i appreciate a calm, reasoned discourse on any controversial matter. Hope you and mr. Trinward don't mind me adding my perspective.

I do believe you have hit the nail on the head with this one, Mr.Bastard! Let me tell of a personal experience to illustrate:

I had some friends 15 or so years ago. The wife was carrying a baby. She went into labor way too early. She was rushed to the hospital & she gave birth to a twisted little thing which could never make it as a live human being. The mother & father were given no choice in the matter. The hospital flew the twisted fetus to a special hospital & it was put into a special incubator. My girlfriend & I went to "visit" the fetus. I could tell with one look that if the fetus lived, it would never grow up right. Well, the fetus eventually turned into a baby & was taken home, where it needed almost 24 hours of care by the parents. They depleated their entire savings while caring for the baby because neither of them could work. It was a full-time 24 hour job. After several months, the baby finally died. The emotional & economic impact on the parents was horrific.

Had the fetus just been allowed to die, they would have mourned the baby which died before they got to know it, but they would have had little personal attachment to it as a living being. But after struggling to keep the baby alive for months, talking to it, coo-ing over it, and trying to encourage it to live, their emotional attachment was far greater, and the eventual loss of the baby far worse.

Had they proceeded with the extra-ordinary care voluntarily, I may have thought them silly, but would have felt it was their right to do so. That the state intervened & forced the parents to keep the fetus alive is (IMO) a great injustice.

So I am very much behind Mr.Bastard's definition of when life begins.

But I am not so lenient with regards tapeworms or other parasites, as Mr.Bastard. Whether a parasite can live on its own or not, once it parasitizes me against my will, the tapeworm (or other parasite) has earned the death sentence -- even if it jumps out my butt & wants to live without being a parasite. Now, I may (in the interest of curiosity &/or fostering evolution) keep the critter alive, but whether I do so is a matter of my largesse &/or my curiosity over the evolving species.

Alobar [Alobar@bellsouth.net]

Mr. Birch says in his letter in TLE #162:

... You can forcibly prevent your toddler drinking poison because you are inflicting no net harm; the loss of utility, which is real, consequent upon your use of coercion, is more than outweighed by the prevention of the loss of utility consequent upon drinking poison. Your action would still be justified, on the same grounds, even if the person involved were a grown-up; your action entails a net benefit, not harm. ..."

If I understand this portion of your letter correctly, you would forcibly prevent someone from committing suicide. Would you consider your actions justified, if the adult involved was terminally ill, and/or suffering from intractable pain, and considered his or her quality of life unacceptable?

One of the most wonderful aspects of the Libertarian philosophy, is the understanding that as long as the person involved in any particular activity is not harming another, no one has the right to interfere. When one becomes (for lack of better terminology) a competent adult, is still open to debate, as evidenced by other letters in issue #162.

If one chooses to end his/her life in a manner that will harm no one else, you have no right to use force to stop them. Disagree with them, beg them, bribe them, fine. Regardless of how you "feel" (and only you are responsible for your feelings) you still have no right to interfere with the use of force. Remember, suicide, under certain circumstances, is a highly honored tradition in some cultures.

Dennis Kabaczy [dkabaczy265428MI@comcast.net]

Richard McGrath wrote (in part):

I believe there should be a law stating at what age a contract becomes binding on an individual - the age of sovereign adulthood. Voting rights would be attached to this. But the age at which sexual activity is allowed, alcohol may be drunk, or a firearm may be used by a minor should be the decision of the adults responsible for that child.

Myself, I favor the idea of a MAXIMUM age which a person can be considered a child. This would be the age at which parents could, legaly and morally, tell the child to leave and have no more responsibility for the child ... regardless of how the child felt about it. It would also be the maximum age which a parent could be held responsible for a crime commited by a minor child. It would also be, by default, the age at which a parent could no longer claim any control over the childs actions or make decisions for them without thier consent. Probably the age sould be somewhere between 16 and 21. Personally, I favor 18.

There is the arguement that some people are mature enough to be responsible for themselves at an earlier age than others. Which is easily solved by putting some simple action in place by which a child can voluntarily take on the mantel of adulthood. Something like signing a public document that confirms that they understand and are willing to live by the non aggression principle, are willing to provide for themselves, and are willing to take responsibility for their own actions. After they signed this, they would be entitled to all the rights of an adult, as well as all the responsibilities.

I know Michigan used to do something similar regarding education. At any time after 16, a child could sign a document that stated they were taking responsibility for their own education. After they did, the school was not permitted to inform their parents of anything related to their education, and the student could sign themselves out of class, sign their own permission slips, ect. The parents could also not be held accountable for truency violations (though I don't know if the child was still covered under those laws).

Best regards,

jeff colonnesi [jcolonne@flash.net]

Dear John,

I think I am going to scream. Well, on second thought, maybe not. Rather, I'm going to get real pissed and file a complaint.

Here's the scenario:

It's 0230 (that's 2:30am in the morning, and I have been up for several hours. Actually since about 1400, (2:00pm), and since I don't usually awaken until about 1300 (1:00pm) on a daily basis -- due to my working hours at my place of employment.

Now, I was merely adjusting my phone on the wall, from one location to another, when that damned receiver fell off of the damned cradle a few times.

So, guess what? Then next thing I know, I get a phone call. Guess who it's from? Yep! Those nice people at (you guessed it!!!) 911.

The man at the other end of the line wants to know if everything is 'A-okay' (not his words, mine).

So, I tell him yeah, I was in the process of moving the phone from one location to another. He asks me my address, and my name, and I provide. So he tells me okay, he'll tell the officers that everything is hunky dory.


10 minutes later, and I mean ten minutes later, as I'm just getting ready to jump into the shower, the knock on the door followed by the door bell is the next event.

Two cops show up at my door step, wanting to come into my abode.

I deny.

They assert.

I demand a search warrant.

They assert the power of probable cause, and demand to enter to ascertain that no ill adventure is about.

I am informed that they will run over me in the process to gain entry.

What's a body to do?

If I would have stood in their way -- or simply shut the door, they would have arrested me on a charge of interfering with a valid function of police authority to investigate a possible criminal activity. That would have far reaching implications in the particularly 'felonious' sense, should I have put up resistance.

This matter is untenable at best. They entered my abode, under threat of attacking me, and arresting me for failure to surrender to police authority.

I don't have all the money in the world to defend against this matter.

So, call me outnumbered.

What really pisses me off is that bloody damned 911 system is what caused this to happen to begin with.

I have knocked the phone off the wall several times, and no cop showed up at the door - in the day time. Why, I'd like to know did it happen only at night?

How did I manage to knock the phone off the hook before (you ask)?

It had been installed in a previous arrangement of my office furniture, and simply turning from one position to another, my elbow would hit the receiver.

So, call me clumsy.

Not ONCE in the several years have the cops come to my door for having knocked the phone off the hook. Why now?

Why at that late hour?

For those whom are interested, the incident report is: DD02021884, for the date of 2/26/2001, for the Everett, Washington, Police department.

I am going to press this matter for all it's worth. I'll probably spend a lot of money for nothing, but this damned 911 system crap is gonna end.

If I want to knock the bloody phone off the wall several times a day for the fun of it, the cops should have no reason to investigate, and further, they should not be allowed to enter my premises to look for anything, merely that they 'think' there is a problem.

Probable cause is one thing, but a phone being knocked off of a receiver is, well, a phone being knocked off of a receiver, and nothing else.

What the hell would have happened if I had kept the phone by my bed (which I don't), and had knocked it off of the receiver in my sleep? Well, jeez, imagine to my surprise if my burglar alarm went off, and I went into mode 3 (maximum alert, and armed to the teeth with a large caliber firearm, and waited with hesitated breath, for the next noise to happen and took careful aim -- no matter who the hell was in the hallway outside the bedroom?

I don't listen to voices, I don't care what they are saying. If you are in my house, after I hit the rack for the night (Navy slang for bunk), and you are about, you can yell cop all you want.

When I see your evil butt, you are my target of opportunity -- period, and I am going to fill it with as much jacketed lead as I might, until all movement stops.

The only saving grace is to get the hell out of my house, and wait on the front stoop.

Nothing else is satisfactory.


I merely quickly responded to the knock at the door, without recalling the arm in the bedside holster. Remember: I still had two knives on my person.

I lapsed: I should have carried the prime arm with me to the door.

I looked out the side window to see who was there, and saw 'the cops'.

They might well have been thugs dressed as cops. They might have been listening to the cop shop radio, and have taken a clue. How would I know?

I presumed.

Aside from this, while cop #1 was searching my residence, cop #2 was asking me some interesting questions. Like for instance, "Why do you carry so many weapons?"

My own definition of 'weapon' is something which has 'been' used as such, and not an article which 'could' be used as such.

So, basically, a firearm, or a knife, could NOT be described as a 'weapon', unless they had been used as such. Black's Law Dictionary supports me on this, at least partially.

Well, actually, I carry at least three knives, and he was eyeing my holster, which happened to be empty at the time, as I had placed my carry arm in a holster in the bedside holster. He also saw the knife on my belt, and the clip knife in my pocket

I merely quickly responded to the knock at the door, without recalling the arm in the bedside holster. Remember: I still had two knives on my person.

I lapsed: I should have carried the prime arm with me to the door.

I looked out the side window to see who was there, and saw 'the cops'.

They might well have been thugs dressed as cops. They might have been listening to the cop shop radio, and have taken a clue.

At any rate, I asked cop#2 why he had so many arms. He replied that he had only his firearm.

I was amazed. Really, I was. Only one arm? I asked. I looked him dead in the eye, and asked the question of what happens if . . .?

He looked a bit nervous.

I then informed him of the necessity of having at least one firearm, and one knife.

Maybe it sunk in, maybe it didn't.

I think it did.

Reasonable men do reasonable things.

Unreasonable men have no idea of what reason is.

The incident was a real leaning experience. Stay tuned.

In Liberty,

E.J. Totty [echeghlon@seanet.com]

I believe a few simple changes to L. Neil Smith's definition of a libertarian would eliminate the dissension and controversy that seem to surround it. The changes I suggest are not original; they have been used by others in older definitions. With the changes incorporated, Mr. Smith's definition would appear as such:

A libertarian is a person who believes that no one has the right to initiate the threat of or the use of force against another human being, or to advocate or delegate its initiation, to achieve personal, social, or political goals. A libertarian also exercizes self-reliance and accepts responsibility for their actions. Those who act consistently with these principles are libertarians whether they realize it or not. Those who fail to act consistently with them are not libertarians, regardless of what they may claim.

The first of the three key differences is the absence of the phrase "under any circumstances". It's missing, obviously, because there are many circumstances that legitimately necessitate the use of force.

The second diff refers to using force to "achieve personal, social, or political goals". Personal goals covers real criminal activity, "real" meaning any criminal act that produces at least one clearly defined victim. Social and political goals refer to the activities of lawmakers and bureaucrats, mainly the passage of laws and regulations that turn peaceful people into criminals (victimless crime laws). Drug laws are one popular example among many.

The final diff is the inclusion of the libertarian philosophy of self- reliance and personal responsibility. Even libertarians may sometimes need a hand, but we neither ask for nor expect a handout. If we choose a course of action that results in negative consequences, we accept our failure to properly plan or predict the outcome, pay whatever price the consequences carry, and (hopefully) learn from the mistake.

The best definition of libertarianism should not only inform, it should attract newcomers. These three differences I suggest are the heart and soul of libertarian belief. They, more than anything else, are what distinguish us from all other political philosophies and ideologies. If we really wish to encourage others to join us, let's at least give them an accurate, unambiguous definition of who and what we are.

Jackson Lawless [jacksonlawless@subdimension.com]


In Mr. Hutchinson's recent letter to the editor, he berated a previous writer for 'word capitalization'.

To wit: "This argument seems to rely on the force of word capitalization. ..."

I'd like to inform Mr. Hutchinson, QUITE clearly, that those of us using text-based email software quite COMMONLY use capitalization of a SINGLE word here and there as a replacement for ITALICS; which of course are not available to us in such a setting.

I.e., ALL UPPER CASE -IS- SHOUTING, and would be as rude and argument -- negating as Mr. H. implies. But a SINGLE word cap'ed should be interpreted by all as simply 'italic', i.e. emphasis.

Other common forms of this, include -this- one (snuck in above), and *this* one, and /this/ one.

- - -

Joel Simon's article was great. ( National ID: I Just Can't Do It - Part 2)

What really resonated with me though, was the very last sentence...a question:

Okay, here's the bottom line and then I'll shut up. Everybody's got something he just can't do, and this is mine. I see this national ID thing as an inevitability, and I don't think I can bring myself to comply with it. I try to bend with the law, but if I bend this far I'll break. The time is at hand to either close your mouth and get in line, or - do what? I don't know what to do.

Yes! My feeling as well. I just don't know what the hell to do. We all have 'lives', and always face the choice of either letting one more offense slide; or standing up, then watching our life be completely trashed and crushed.

This one would take a true mass protest. I mean a million people saying no. A hundred, or even a thousand, just won't stop it I don't think.

If they had to actually imprison a million of us though...BIG disruption, big hit to the economy, big notice taken by all...

That just might be enough to start a serious backlash. Work stoppages, people staying home, a growing wave of more refusals to get the ID, etc.

Heck, maybe we'd get lucky, and the first hundred would be enough to trigger 900 more to refuse; and that would be enough to trigger 90,000 to refuse, and...and the million we need would happen. But if not, those first 100 pay an awful price.

I just don't know what to do.

Richard [metal@fullwave.com]


Kent van Cleave's attempt to settle the immigration debate is, regrettably, flawed. The fundamental error in his analysis is that he considers public or government land to be unowned, and therefore not subject to trespass. It isn't. Such land is jointly owned by the public (although the precise nature of the title may often be cloudy). To all intents and purposes each country is the property of its own citizens, and it is those people who have the right to determine the grounds under which outsiders shall be permitted to enter it. In previously choosing to make some of the territory "public", they were assuredly not choosing to make it the "common heritage of mankind", nor to surrender their joint rights over it.

To find the best libertarian solution to the issue is not trivial, but it is not to be found by trampling on the rights of the general public (however ill-defined they may currently be). I hope to be able to provide a complete and viable solution in an upcoming essay; for the time being, I will merely indicate that the right of citizenship is a valuable piece of property which ought to be purchased at market rates by (or for) prospective citizens, including the newly born. Those who want to live in a country, or encourage others to do so, should appropriately compensate those existing citizens who do not want them there.

Paul Birch [paul@paulbirch.net]

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