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1776 to 1984 Part I

by John Hospers

In 1776 there was a libertarian revolution in America. It occurred under an unusual concatenation of circumstances.

Intelligent and dedicated men, educated in classics and history, imbued with ideals of freedom because they all knew tyranny first-hand, gathered together to form a new nation. The constitution they devised was unique in history.

Although it provided for protection against individuals doing violence to one another, it provided primarily for protection against the abuses of government itself. Its main aim was to check the violation of the rights of citizens by their government. The tragedy of history, they knew, was that governments, which were supposed to protect human beings from violations of their rights, turned out to be the chief violators of rights–taxing, plundering, and enslaving. It was to be a severely limited government. Bind the government with the chains of the Constitution.

When these men talked about freedom, they meant freedom from oppression, freedom from tyranny, freedom of speech and peaceable assembly, freedom of the press, freedom from confiscation of property, freedom from arbitrary search. They wanted to make the decisions governing their own lives, rather than have officials in government make those decisions for them; they wanted their actions to result from their own choices, not from the choices of others. They wanted to institute a republic (not a democracy) whereby each person would be free to do anything except interfere with the equal freedom of others. And this, after all, is the essence of libertarianism.

It was these political freedoms that they had in mind in developing an American Constitution. They did not primarily have in mind economic freedom, the freedom of production and trade. Nevertheless, with government explicitly restricted in what it could do, it was not permitted to enact measures to prevent enterprising people from improving their own lot; and this they proceeded to do with such speed that within a century America was already the wealthiest nation in the world.

This did not result from its supply of natural resources – many other nations, still mired in poverty had far more – it resulted from the release of human energy, which freedom made possible.

At the beginning, the standard of living in America, as everywhere else in the world, was unimaginably low by today’s standards. George Washington never heard of calories or vitamins, he lived on meats and starches through every winter. He never saw a glass of orange juice, his diet was so deficient that he lost his hair and teeth at an early age. His clothes were uncomfortable and unhygienic. He traveled on foot, on horseback, or in a springless carriage. His house had no toilet or bathtub, no furnace or heating stove, no light except sun and candles. What was his standard of living? It was so high that for a hundred years not one American in ten thousand aspired to it.

The Revolution began here, in living conditions hardly changed since Nebuchadnezzar reined. Two centuries ago, here in this country, men carried men on their shoulders, as coolies still do in China. American women still cooked over open fires, as women had cooked since before history began, and as more than two thirds of the women on this earth are still cooking.

In 1850 in New York state every woman made her household’s soap and candles. Oil was always in this earth; men discovered it when Babylon was young; Romans knew it and saw it burning; no European had ever made kerosene. American women still spun thread and wove cloth with the spindle and the loom that were older than Egypt. Older than Egypt, the water-wheel and the millstone still ground the grain that American farms still cut with the knife and threshed with the flail that are as old as history. In one century, three generations, human energy has created an entirely new world.

What did the new-found freedom achieve? More than two thousand years ago, the Greeks knew the principle of the steam engine, but they lacked the technology to develop it. In Germany in 1704 a steamboat ran on the river Elbe, but the boatmen saw it as a threat to their livelihood, and they burned it; the inventor died in exile. So steamboats were developed in England, but there too they were under government control. The British government controlled their manufacture, sale, and use. The controls were sufficiently severe to make the manufacture unprofitable and the future uncertain. So it fell to America to develop the steam engine, and that is where it was done. Of course, the same attempts were made in America as elsewhere. Operators of sailing ships in New England demanded government protection against this new intruder, which would soon destroy their sailing-ship industry.

But there was a difference. In America any laws to control the steamships and protect the sailing ships were unconstitutional. Soon steamships were going up and down the Hudson, then the Great Lakes, and finally the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. Then they started to cross the Atlantic. They were fast, cheap, efficient — and they captured the world’s sea trade. Soon steamships were found in virtually every world port, carrying cargo faster and more reliably than any sailing ship had ever done. The uncontrolled American economy had achieved this. The controlled British economy had produced inferior ships. England was desperate. Parliament debated the issue hotly; it was now a matter of survival. “What had created the clipper ships? Not the American Government.

Not protection, but lack of protection. What made the British marine second-rate? Safety, shelter, protection under the British Navigation Acts. In 1849 the British Government repealed the Navigation Acts and opened British ports to the world.” (Lane, The Discovery
of Freedom, p. 238.)

“American clipper ships opened the British ports to free trade. Half a century of American smuggling and rebellion and costly ineffectual blockades, seven years of war in America, and the loss of the thirteen colonies; and all the sound and sensible arguments of English liberals and economists, could not break down the British planned economy. American clipper ships did it.

“They were the final blow that brought down that whole planned structure. The great English reform movement of the 19th century consisted wholly in repealing laws. There was nothing constructive in it; it was wholly destructive. It was a destruction of Government’s
interference with human affairs, a destruction of the so-called “protection” that is actually a restriction of the exercise of natural human rights.

“In that mid-19th-century period of the greatest individual freedom that Englishmen have ever known, they made the prosperity and power of the British Empire during Victoria’s long and peaceful reign.

“And to that freedom, and prosperity, and power, and peace; the American clipper ship contributed more than any other one thing.” (Lane, The Discovery of Freedom; p. 239.)

America’s political freedom made possible its economic freedom, and the economic freedom made possible a prosperity never before seen on this earth. In the years 1870-1890 the American standard of living doubled: that is, you could obtain twice as much for a dollar in 1890
as in 1870. And even so, the material standard of living was low by today’s standards.

In 1900 there was a $40-a-month mechanic, working 10 hours a day, six days a week, tinkering nights and Sundays in the woodshed behind his little rented house — no bathtub, no running water, no light but a kerosene lamp — in a far, cheap suburb of Detroit. Even Henry Ford did not imagine that his invention would change the face of the world.

There were no cars, no highways, no radios or planes, no movies, no tall buildings, no electric lights, no toothpaste, not many toothbrushes, no soda fountains, no bottled soft drinks, no hot-dog stands, no high schools, no low shoes, no safety razors or shaving cream, no green vegetables in the winter, and none in cans, no bakers’ bread or cakes or doughnuts, no dime stores, no supermarkets. An orange was a Christmas treat, in prosperous families. There was no central heating, and only the very prosperous had bathtubs; they were tin or zinc, encased in mahogany in the homes of the very rich. The rich too, had gaslights.

But the automobile changed all of American life, and life all over the world. The era of covered wagons and horses and buggies was over. The civilization that we know today, which we all take for granted, was in progress.

But when Mrs. Lane described this progress, she issued a warning: “Do you assume that this new world cannot vanish? This world that your grandfather could not imagine and that your children now take for granted. do you think that your grandchildren must surely inherit it?

“Do you imagine that the planes cannot be grounded, the factories close, the radio be silent and the telephone dead and the cars rust and the trains stop? Do you suppose that darkness and cold and hunger and disease, that have never before been so defeated and that are now defeated only on this small part of the earth, can never again break in upon all human beings? Do not be so short-sighted.

“The energies of living individuals must constantly create these defenses of human life and these extensions of human powers.

“Relinquish the free use of individual energies, and these defenses must vanish as the Roman galleys vanished.

This whole modern world must disappear completely.

Every effect ceases when its cause no longer operates.

“This whole modern civilization, that is not yet a century old, that is not yet established on any large part of the earth, can cease to exist.

“It must cease to exist, if individual Americans forget the fact of individual liberty, and abandon the exercise of individual self-control and individual responsibility that creates this civilization.

“Young Americans who had known nothing but this new world, naturally take it for granted. They see a great deal that is wrong in it; they can very easily imagine a better world. So can any honest person. The eternal hope of humankind is in the eternal human desire to make this world better than it is.

“But when they imagine that a control can exist which can be used over individuals to make a better world according to someone’s plan, they are falling into an ancient delusion–a delusion from which most persons on this earth have never wakened.”  — Continue –>

1776 to 1984 Part III

by John Hospers

Yet it is probable that the Orwellian vision of the world will never be completed. A world of governments headed by ruthless and despotic men, a world of rebellious subject populations who had to be kept in line through terror – that was a familiar world to Orwell.

Big Brother controls through fear, and through constant intrusion – such as watching television eyes in every home. It was the world of indoctrination and coercion.

But what if despots need not have rebellious populations?

What if people can be conditioned through drugs, surgery, selective breeding, and recombinant DNA, to be passive vessels of Big Brother? Not rebelling against him but being fully cooperative with him, either through early conditioning or (more promisingly) through selective breeding so as to eliminate the active and independent minds who are the greatest potential for rebellion among his subjects. Then the threat to Big Brother would evaporate and methods of torture and terror would no longer be necessary.

If a world totalitarian state would come to pass, it will not be on the Orwell model. It will be, instead, on the model of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Huxley’s Controller “saw that total control should start at conception.

In hatcheries made possible by reproductive biology, embryos were molded to order by genetic means to become humans of certain types. The level of intelligence was controlled by manipulating the amount of oxygen given the foetuses. Future sewer workers, who needed few brains, were mass produced on low levels of oxygen.

Persons were induced to love their assigned status and the regime by the use of neo-Pavlovian conditioning techniques, by sleep teaching, and by a wondrous ‘soma’ drug. Most of the techniques Huxley fantasized for the distant future are already becoming available…” (Vance
Packard, The People Changers, p. 5)

The rise of technology has been far more rapid than Orwell could have suspected, and it has taken forms that he could not have predicted — technology that would be worse than frightening if placed in the hands of any government. Some of these brave new world fantasies have already become reality, and others are easily within the range of present technology, should the decision be made to go ahead with them.

Already there are devices for pacifying troublesome people and dissenters: for a time brain operations such as pre-frontal lobotomies were popular, but now thorazine and other drugs are used because they are cheaper and can be used on a day-to-day basis. People can be kept under surveillance by locking transmitters to their bodies (Packard, p. 4). Sub-humans can be treated for doing menial work and as a source of spare parts for human bodies.

The ancient Stoics used to say, “Surrender everything you have to, except your will. People may injure your body, but do not let them injure your spirit. Even if you are sick or in pain, this need not affect you; keep intact your inviolable will.” Heroic words, these.
But modern technology has made it possible to break the will. Tortures can be inflicted such as virtually no one can resist. And anyway various forms of truth-serum can be forcibly injected so that you cannot help revealing the truth under their influence no matter how much you may try to hide it. The will itself can be broken.

But a much simpler way than all this has come into view. We can re-shape people so that they will not want to resist; we are becoming capable of genetic engineering that will produce whatever kind of people the rulers want.

Maya Pines, in her book The Brain Changers, writes, “In France, where generations of peasant women have painstakingly force-fed geese by hand (to fatten their lives for good foie gras), surgeons have begun to take over the job, performing a delicate operation on the geese’s hypothalamus to knock out their centers of satiety.

This makes the geese eat incessantly–as of their own free will–damaging their insides and consuming almost as much as when they were stuffed by hand. To top it all, a drug company is now developing a chemical that could be injected directly into the animals’ brains to produce the same effect in only a few minutes, at negligible cost.” She adds, “There is something particularly revolting about these self-stuffing geese. Surely the American scientists who investigated the brain mechanisms responsible for appetite and satiety could not foresee such applications of their work. It makes one wonder how our own brains may be changed some day, and for whose benefit. What may all this research do to human beings?” (p. 231-2)

Peace-loving rats that grew up in a laboratory have been turned instantly into killers by injecting certain drugs into the aggression center of their brains. The transmitter acetylcholine caused the release of aggression.

In other rats, the scientists inserted tiny hollow tubes into the rats’ brains; then they put in a few drops of carbachol, the rats pounced on the mice and killed them with a single hard bite on the back of their necks–their first murder. Then the scientists found chemicals that would turn off these killer attacks.

Methylatropine caused the wild rats to suddenly become pacifists, walking to the mice, sniffing them, but doing nothing else. Dr. Douglas Smith (p. 104, Pines) said that similar “pharmacological prevention” could control aggressive behavior in human beings, as in Clockwork Orange.

B.F. Skinner, describing behavior engineering some years ago, said, “We have the technology for installing any (human) behavior we want.” (Packard, The People Changers, p. 4) And a University of Michigan psychologist, James V. McConnell, proposed, “We should reshape our society so that we all would be trained from birth to do what society wants us to do.” The techniques are here; there are plenty of scientists who, to get government grants, would gladly do anything the government says. The apparatus is in place; it would require only a change in government to put it into practice.

Peter Beckman wrote, “Orwell’s 1984 will not come true.

“The West is not moving toward 1984 because it is moving toward Brave New World. In George Orwell’s fascinating vision (1948), men are coerced into a society of slaves; in Aldous Huxley’s unforgettable novel (1932) they are conditioned into it.”

“In a recent speech, a German journalist noted the failure of Soviet propaganda: ‘I guarantee you that there are no communists under 40 in East Germany; the only communists are in the West.’ To which this (ex-Czechoslovak) writer will add a guarantee that there are no communists under 40 anywhere in Eastern Europe, and probably very few, if any, in the U.S.S.R. itself.


“Because the 1984 type of brainwashing does not work. Nobody is so stupid as to believe that the American imperialists will kill widows and orphans for profit – nobody, that is, who is force-fed such nonsense. Why, then, can large segments of the population in the West be made to believe that the evil corporations, driven by lust for profits, will give cancer to anybody in sight (including themselves, apparently), as well as future generations?

“Not, we submit, because of the rantings of the Jane Fondas and Caldicotts. They are themselves too 1984-ish to have lasting effect; they probably just give most people the creeps. But in Brave New World, people ‘planned’ for work in urban factories are, in childhood, shown pictures of flowers and the countryside and they are given electric shocks. No need to coerce them into city living when they grow up: they hate the country quite ‘naturally.’

“So why do millions in America regard ‘profit’ and ‘capitalism’ as dirty words? Why do they distrust science and technology? Why will they let fraudulent charlatans frighten them out of their wits with witch’s brew concocted from scientific vocabulary?

“Because they have been conditioned; not by Marx’s Capital, but by NBC’s Colombo, in which every businessman – subtly and unobtrusively – is a fool, a crook, or both, as he is in virtually any other TV series” (see Benjamin Stein, The View From Sunset Boulevard, Basic Books, 1978). (And the average American now spends only more time working and sleeping than in front of the conditioning tube). We lack, the space to give a million other examples from the printed media, the movies, school textbooks, college courses, and every other conceivable channel of communication where the conditioning spices are added subtly, but persistently. — Continue –>

1776 to 1984 Part IV

by John Hospers

But how plausible in this picture of the Brave New World? There are now hundreds of books and articles demonstrating the superiority of the free-market, as well as books such as Ayn Rand’s espousing their philosophy of liberty.

Almost no such books existed a generation ago. A rising tide of Americans is now aware that government, not the market, is the cause of inflation, depression and poverty. These people, no longer children of Roosevelt’s new deal, are waiting in the wings, even in Washington, to reverse the course of the American economy, to remove the ball and chain of big government which still consumes the days and years of our lives.

Even the academicians who have thus far turned to the government and defended it in return for favors to them, may come to realize that the Russian revolution which they have viewed so favorably is passé and that the real revolution, the revolution of 1776, of individual rights has taken place in their own land, unseen and unacknowledged by them.

The use of force by one government after another did not stop the clipper ships. In the end, they won the day and the wielders of governmental power had to go along or stagnate and die. In the same way, the soil of 1984, unlike the soil of say 1954, has been prepared for an outbreak of freedom which can pull even the welfare statists kicking and screaming into the 21st century and that is where we libertarians come in.

We are the intellectual spearheads of the coming renaissance of liberty. Just as the intellectual influence of the Fabians propelled Britain into socialism a century ago, so the intellectual influence of libertarians can turn Britain, and indeed the world, back to individual liberty because now the soil has been prepared.

The consequences of socialism in practice are increasingly plain for anyone with eyes to see. “It’s the essence of man,” said Aristotle, “to make decisions.

His own decisions, not those made for him by others.” To implement this simple but profound truth and to apply it over and over again, in its countless manifestations in our individual and social lives; that is our libertarian mission. Surely, it’s the noblest of goals and I see no good reason why we should not be able to achieve it.

Thank you very much.

I delivered this speech, “1776 and 1984” to the Society for Individual Liberty in London in the early summer of 1984 before a huge audience and cheering crowds. It was given in l984, and I prepared it for that event months ahead. The fact that the speech was referencing l984 itself, seems to have made it more impressive. I delivered it twice, in the morning and evening. Afterwards, I went to the London opera.

Those were the days!
John Hospers, June 2008
Copyright © 2008 by John Hospers. All Rights Reserved. (all cited quotes property of quote’s source)

Remarks on the Occasion of the Founding of the California Libertarian Party

by John Hospers

One of the problems to be solved in producing human clones is dramatized by the comparative size of the fetus vis-a-vis the tadpole. The life support system required by theHomo sapiens embryo is infinitely more complex. This difficulty can be nicely sidestepped (until the technology and hardware catch up) by using surrogate mothers to carry the test tube-conceived baby while it develops.

Recently, in a German academic journal, Doctor Shettles reported that he took a nearly mature egg from its follicle in the ovary of a donor woman, matured it in vitro, fertilized it with sperm, grew it in a culture for five days to the blastocyst stage, and then implanted it in the uterus of a second woman.

The menstrual cycles of the two women had already been synchronized to insure a hospitable reception for the transplanted embryo. [9]

The orphan embryo planted itself on the lining of the uterus of the stepmother and grew successfully and normally for several days. Then Doctor Shettles removed it surgically: the point of his test was not to produce a term baby, but to determine whether implantation would occur under artificial circumstances. Now no one doubts that such a baby is possible.

The British team (which many scientists believe to be more advanced than the Americans) led by Doctor Patrick Steptoe of Oldham General Hospital, Lancanshire, and Doctor R. G. Edwards of Cambridge University “hope to accomplish implantation and subsequent growth into a normal baby within the coming year.”[ 103 It is quite possible that by the time this article is published, a hospital-supplied nanny is already nursing the first test tube-conceived infant.

Once the doctors have perfected the techniques of growing a test tube baby to maturity in a surrogate mother, the final step-the coup de maitre-will be to insert an adult diploid nucleus into a human ovum and simultaneously to remove the maternal haploid nucleus. While this step is a little more delicate than nuclei transplants into enucleated frog eggs, generically it is the Same operation. And it is too logical a move to be delayed much longer.

Fit the parts of the puzzle together: nucleus transplant, test tube growth to blastocyst and uterus implant-the result is clonal man.

The knowledge attained enroute to producing a clonal man will have many beneficial offshoots.

Women who long to bear children, but could not do so before for a variety of medical reasons can be impregnated by embryo implant. Likewise, women who want children, but desire to be free of the pain and burdens of natural childbirth, can look forward to watch’ing their offspring develop completely in vitro. “If I can carry a baby all the way through to birth in vitro,“ says an American scientist who wants his anonymity protected, “I certainly plan to do it-although, obviously, I‘m not going to succeed on the first attempt, or even the twentieth.” [111]

Applied to pathology, the engineering know-how necessary to clone a man could wipe out more than fifty sex-I inked hereditary diseases. Mongolism, schizophrenia, diabetes, dwarfism, muscular dystrophy and perhaps even cancer could become things of the past. Genetic engineering will soon make such conveniences as sex selection in offspring a trivial matter. More complex refinements in physiognomy and physiology via hybrid breeding are sure to follow. An Eugenic Age is just around the corner.


The potentialities of genetic engineering are truly fantastic. Although the genotype necessary to duplicate Homo sapiens is present in every cell of the body, the cell selected to trigger the reproduction can be “modified“ to grow into a specific part of the body rather than the entire form. Uncontrolled, this ”modification” as it occurs by accident in nature can precipitate a sub-human freak or a severe birth defect. Under scientific management, the result can be human parts-farming: the methodical production of precious organs such as eyes, hands, livers, hearts, and lungs. Such organs would be identical genetically to the cell-donor’s organs. Grown from nuclei lifted from the donor’s body (preferably from the particular organ desired), these farmed parts could be used for medical replacement in the case of damage or old age. There would be no fear of transplant “rejection” since the organs, for all intent and purpose, would indeed be the patient’s very own.

The ultimate step in genetic “farming” will be the production of an android-clone. [121] An android-clone is the donor’s identical twin born without the humanizing portions of the brain’s cortex-: the product of a sort of “reverse eugenics”.

Androids will become immensely valuable in prolonging the lifetime of Homo sapiens; they are the ideal depositories for human brains whose bodies have become decrepit. Since an android-clone is not human, the adoption of its body by a human will not present the moral, legal and medical problems that using someone else’s body would.

Even before we can produce android-clones, it will become tempting to try brain or head transplants.

Two headlines which appeared as long ago as 1967 are particularly noteworthy: [131]

“The Dead Body and the Living Brain,” LOOK, November 28, 1967.

Professor Robert White, Director, Department of Neurosurgery at Cleveland Metropolitan General Hospital: ‘I. . .we can transfer the head of a man ‘onto the trunk of another man.. . I only know that today we could keep Einstein’s brain alive and make it function normally… the only way to transfer the brain of a man to another man is to transfer the entire head . . . I could cool the head and keep it alive while the body is dying, and free the arteries, and feed it blood through the T cannula, and then separate the head. It can be accomplished now with existing techniques. . . .”

“Debakey Sees Brain Transfers,” NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, December 13, 1967.

It is possible that doctors of the future will be able to transplant not only hearts from one person to another, but also a heart-and-lung system and even the brain, Dr. Michael E. DeBakey, the noted acting to remove a roadblock to organ transplants heart surgeon, said last night.

The brain transplant is inevitable. It dawns upon one writer as a revelation, which he describes as: “The awareness that we mortals can literally graft ourselves onto the corpus Dei, become, by transplantation, the right arm of God, become immortals.”

Conti nu i ng , he proclaims: “… I’ve seen a vision of a dreamed-of Eden where men, immortal and forever young, soar on angels’ wings. And I’ve found the key to the gate  of the garden, genetic engineering…  reproduce  by controlled cloning.” [141]

For another imaginative description of the operation that will, in time, bring the end of death by old age, see Robert A. Heinlein’s l WILL FEAR NO EVIL:  “Johann Sebastian Bach Smith was immensely rich-and very old. His mind was keen, but his body was worn out. So surgeons transplanted his brain into a new body.” [151]

Heinlein’s fictional operation was consummated between two individuals of identical blood type and Rh factor; it will be a simpler operation between a man and his clone.

Since the brain is mostly an electrochemical storehouse, the supporting flesh is little more than an inert superstructure. The brain’s lifetime, and therefore the lifetime ‘of the human being it represents, is potentially infinite, provided the supply-train of blood vessels and bodily functions are renewed and/or kept healthy. It would be judicious, naturally, to transplant the brain before its aging host causes senility through an inability to provide proper care. [161]

In anticipation of the time when such operations are possible, stories have increased that the wealthy (e.g. Howard Hughes) plan to use cryogenics to maintain their bodies for future revitalization.[17]

And at least one state has anticipated some of the legal problems:

“Maryland Defining Death” CHICAGO DAlL Y NEWS, February 9, 1972.

Annapolis, MD (AP) The House of Delegates, in Maryland, sent to the Senate Tuesday a bill that would add a legal definition of death to state law.

The bill defining death as the absence of any spontaneous brain activity stirred the longest House debate of the current session.

The Search for Ligatures

In order to unravel and understand the complexities of the brain, scientists in a number of laboratories are separating and reconstructing the living brain tissue of animals. After taking tissue from the fetus of, say, an unborn mouse, researchers coax the individual cells apart with the help of enzymes and then put the separated cells into a growth-sustaining solution. Carefully incubated, the mix displays an extraordinary activity as the brain cells rejoin and organize themselves into the same pattern as the original tissue.

Neurobiologist Nicholas Seeds of the University of Colorado has been able to completely “reconstruct” the brain cells of mice. In his experiments, the cells in the test tube mature and form synapses, the vital cell-to-cell connections that transmit messages through the brain and the rest of the nervous system.

The material also appears to develop the myelin “insulation” that covers part of the cell in order to protect the messages from interference from other nearby cells. [181]

The work of such men as Doctor Seeds will make the brain surgeons’ job of central nervous system fusion in related transplant operations easier by supplying the cellular “glue” to connect foreign spinal cords to patients or the “wallpaper” to seal the violated anachnoid, dura mater and pia mater.


On still another front, Doctor Sidney Fox, Director of the Institute of Molecular Evolution at the University of Miami, is close to making a living cell out of raw chemicals. He has already been successful in creating amino acids and growing spheroids that act in many ways like animal cells.

Doctor Rohlfing, a biologist at the University of South Carolina, has created a type of protein that demonstrates enzymatic activity. Doctor Marvin Caruthers, a chemist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has assembled chemical compounds which resemble our genetic codes.

This January at the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Philadelphia, Doctor James F. Danielli, Director of the Center for Theoretical Biology at the State University of New York at Buffalo, announced that he had successfully transferred the nuclei from one species of amoeba to another to get a brand new life form of one-celled animal. Doctor Danielli said that “the ability to synthesize new cells may eventually be used for making new species of animals and possibly even new societies of man…” He continued, “We are now at a stage in which the general strategy and tactics for artificial synthesis are being developed.”

Questioned further, Doctor Danielli insisted that there were good reasons to suppose that artificial synthesis can give us organisms which will be more effective than existing organisms; for example, he said, it may be possible to create a living entity from human brain cells which could be used to help men think. [191]


What will be the political framework for the continued development of genetic engineering: 1984, BRAVE NEW WORLD, or a libertarian ATLANTIS?

Current trends are certainly not encouraging. With socialized medicine becoming a greater and greater possibility in this country, with Medicare and Medicaid, with research more and more influenced by government grants, the chance that free enterprise will get a sustaining foothold in the cultivation of applied genetic engineering is an “ify” proposition. Will the Welfare State see that in order to guarantee everyone a minimum standard-of-living, the Government must be the only institution to determine who can live and who can die?

The federal government is incessantly at work prying into the prerogatives of free men. Walter E. Mondale (D-Minn.) has suggested that the United States set up a National Commission on Health, Science, and Society. This bureaucrat’s delight would be charged with “making substantive prescriptions, after one year’s study, about the biological policy of the human species.”

During his committee’s hearings on recent biological breakthroughs, Senator Ribicoff revealed the thoughts of his colleagues by asking Doctors Kornberg and Lederberg, “Do you see this [genetic engineering] leading to a master race?”

According to one reporter, Harvard’s James “DoubleHelix” Watson warned the same congressional committee that “all hell will break loose” in the wake of embryo transplants. Dr. Watson urged the politicans to establish a commission to consider the ramifications of test tube conceptions and nuclei transplants and possibly even to “take steps quickly” to make them illegal. The British authorities have already set up such a commission-one designed to consider the “ethical, medical, social and legal implications of using fetuses and fetal material for research.” [201]

Dr. Watson’s approach is typical of today’s academicians. Calling on the Government for a solution, he rejects with disdain the possibility that a free market could cope with the problem:

“This is a matter far too important to be left solely in the hands of the scientific and medical communities. The belief that surrogate mothers and clonal babies are inevitable because science always moves forward, an attitude expressed to me recently by a scientific colleague, represents a form of laissez-faire nonsense dismally reminiscent of the creed that American business, if left to itself, will solve everybody’s problems.”[21]

Others of the intellectual elite are adopting a similar Dosition. Late last year the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation called together “knowledgeable scientists and thinkers of the Western world” to consider “the ethics of new technologies in beginning life.” They struggled with such questions as “who should be born” and what actions government should take to regulate “engineered” births. So much for noblesse oblige.

Of course the conservative legions are not to be preempted. Most laymen are familiar with the traditional Roman Catholic position on artificial conception and contraception techniques as typified by Pope Paul VI’S encyclical Humanae Vitae (On the Regulation of Birth) July 25, 1968. Upon the occasion of Dr. Shettles’ attendance at the International Fertility Conference in Italy in 1954, Pope Pius XI I condemned all scientists who would “take the Lord’s work into their own hands.” Monsignor Vallanic, the Vatican press officer, referred to current forms of genetic manipulation as “immoral acts and absolutely illicit.” Will theologians be able to harass doctors and biologists like they once did Galileo? Are those of us young enough to benefit from the advances brought about by genetists to be left wanting, victims of shamanists and clerics with caveman epistemologies?

Not all traditionalists are to be found in the church.

A “Motion and Brief Amicus Curiae” submitted to the United States Supreme Court for the October 1971 term was signed by hundreds of physicians, medical school professors, obstetricians, gynecologists and fetologists. By their brief these men and women sought to place before the Court “the scientific evidence of the humanity of the unborn so that the Court may know and understand that the unborn are developing human persons who need the protection of the law as do adults.” [221]

The prescribed bromide is always the same: government control. Voices for freedom are seldom heard, even though some “experts” seem to sense the awful dichotomy of a statist approach. Dr. Watson has noted that, social and moral problems notwithstanding, “of even greater concern would be the potentialities for misuse by an inhumane totalitarian government.”[23] As Ayn Rand has mentioned, “Collectivist planners have dreamed for a long time of creating an ideal society by means of eugenics-by breeding men into various castes physiologically able to perform only one specific function.” [241]


The foremost philosophical problem presented by the new biology is semantical: what is a human being?

The reason that abortion causes such consternation among laymen is that their personal philosophies are not rigorous enough to define the term human. They assume that the words human and Homo sapiens are synonymous. The search for the beginning of humanity is therefore reduced to a timing of the moment the egg and sperm unite; thus the layman argues that to kill an embryo or fetus is murder.

Because his premise is wrong, his conclusion is wrong.

Humanity per se is based on cognitive abilities. A philosophy of reason will define a human being as life which demonstrates self-awareness, volition and rationality. Thus, it should be recognised that not all men are human. The severely mentally retarded, victims of lobotomies, the fetus, blastocysts, androids, etc. are not human and therefore obtain no human rights. Furthermore, it is this writer’s conclusion that all nonhuman animal life is available for exploitation as private property. [251] Rational man should have no qualms about accepting a heart transplant, eating a beef steak, aborting an embryo, cloning a twin, or engineering himself a new set of lungs.

With regard to the specific question of humanity in Homo sapiens infants, much is already known. Fetal development, according to the new science of perinatology, is looked upon as continuous through the first year succeeding birth. The actual removal of the child from the mother is an independent variable unrelated to the infant’s humanity. In fact, there is little evidence that termination of an infant’s life in the first few months following extraction from the womb could be looked upon as murder. Recent studies suggest that cognitive development does not begin until the age of nine months. [26] Such experiments are inconclusive however. The Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget has argued that during a period up to 18 months after birth the infant knows the world only in terms of his sensory impressions and motor activities. [27] It would seem, in either case, to be more “inhumane” to kill an adult chimpanzee than a new born baby since the chimpanzee has greater mental awareness. Murder cannot logically apply to a life form with less mental power than a primate.

It certainly follows that the practice of abortion is not immoral. And it is furthermore conclusive that experiments with fetal material and the engineering of nonthinking Homo sapiens tissues are not immoral. Such activities, are, in fact, amoral.

The corollary to the axiom that not all Homo sapiens are human is, of course, that not all humans are necessarily Homo sapiens. There seems no reason to maintain that we will not discover, one day, other human life forms with which mankind could communicate and trade.

Unfortunately, the advent of a free market of genetic ideas and products is threatened by a common inability to distinguish between the trader and the traded: a symptom of the semantical obfuscation characteristic of today’s culture.

As Dr. Thomas S. Szasz has said, “In language and logic we are the prisoners of our premises, just as in politics and law we are the prisoners of our rulers. Hence we had better pick them well.” [28]


Thinking persons should be cognizant of the many rewards and pitfalls inherent in continued radical biological research. A clear definition of humanity in terms of mental acuity, rather than physical appearance, should be encouraged. And libertarians should continue to defend as absolute the prerogative of humans to conduct their own lives independent of societal norms, whether that conduct involves euthanasia, suicide, abortion, organ transplant, or ownership of genetic material.

Countless practical benefits will accrue to mankind if genetic engineering is allowed to proliferate, but none so dramatic and meaningful as the promise of perpetual life. To the libertarian-objectivist, the focal point of all existence is the individual, his life, and his own rational self-interest. Nothing could be so profound to rational men than the possibility of significantly lengthening their life spans as a reward for, or as a function of, their rationality.

If a full-body transplant costs, say, $50,000.00 and becomes necessary on or about the seventieth birthday, it should become a less arduous task to convince people to stop smoking, or drinking, or otherwise waging war on their present bodies. To shorten the mean lifetime of the first body would have dire financial consequences, given the time it takes to accumulate this amount of capital.

Likewise, the incentive for developing a rational philosophical framework, including a psychology of self-esteem, will be magnified. Few could ignore the relative f uti I ity of transplanting a short-circuited, malfunctioning brain into any body, however healthy. Particularly not the mortgage institutions, which will be arranging the loans necessary to finance major transplants. An inability to demonstrate potential productivity over the decades succeeding a brain transplant will severely hamper the task of borrowing upon that future.

Mental and physical health, which once meant the difference between 60 and 70 years, tomorrow might mean the difference between 60 and 1,000 years!

John Maynard Keynes said that “In the long run we are all dead.” Perhaps libertarian theorists have underestimated the impact of this supposition on the decisions that men make in an economic context.

The fact that death has always ended the game of life, for the winner as well as for the loser equally (if not equally, at least eventually) must have influenced the great majority of men.

If men could live for hundreds or thousands of years, rather than for tens of years, new levels of intellectual sophistication would undoubtedly be achieved. History tells us the industrial revolution could not begin until man had increased his mean lifetime to the point where abstract thoughts and goals had the chance to be formed and realized. With lifetime orders of magnitude greater than those possible today, perhaps people will learn that the result of any irrationality, whether in the form of alcoholism, existentialism, or socialism, is simply death, a premature and unnecessary death at that.

Perhaps the trauma of another quantum jump in mean lifetimes will be the necessary catharsis and catalysis to precipitate laissez faire capitalism and a second, more virile, industrial revolution.

Whether my predictions materialize or not, it should be increasingly obvious that a philosophy of reason is needed to meet the test of present day living, and that it is the only orientation able to readily absorb the ever developing spectrum of scientific discovery.

Men without a well-integrated, rational sense-of-life are susceptible to Toffler’s FUTURE SHOCK and, tragically, to the only political form compatible with the shock-produced feelings of inferiority and doubt: dictatorship.

Fortunately for us neither dictatorship nor death is inevitable. While it is true that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have been the scourge of days gone by, that conquest, famine, war and death rode rampant then and have stubbornly reappeared in recent years, they must not be considered perpetual parts of man’s destiny. Rationality, when allowed to flourish, can stymie these equestrians.

So when you hear men sigh euphemistically that “nothing is certain but death and taxes,” tell them that with the knowledge made available in the twentieth century, we have the opportunity to make both death and taxes voluntary institutions!


[1] Thomas King and Robert Briggs, “Transplantation of living nuclei from blastula cells into enucleated frogs eggs,” in THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES, May 1952, p.38.

[2] Gurdon, et al, “Sexual mature individuals of Xenopus laevis from the transplantation of single somatic nuclei,” NATURE, ~01. 182, pp.64-65.

[3] J. 6. Gurdon, “Adult frogs derived from the nuclei of single somatic cells,” DEVELOPMENTAL BIOLOGY (1962), p.4.

[4] For some of the ideas of this well known genetist, see Joshua Lederberg, “Biological future of man” in MAN AND HIS FUTURE (Ciba Foundation Volume, London 1963).

[5] Paul Ramsey, FABRICATED MAN, The Ethics of Genetic Control (Yale University, 1970) p.65.

[6] “Cloning: the ethical question,” SCIENCE DIGEST, August 1971.

[7] Willima Gaylin, “We have the awful knowledge to make exact copies of human beings,” NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE, 5 March, 1972.

[8] David M. Rorvik, “The test tube baby is coming, Taking life in our own hands,” LOOK, 18 May, 1971, p. 83.

Article as it appeared in Reason, August 1972, pp. 5-9

Impressions of Soviet Russia, 1971

Break Free Vote HospersBy John Hospers

In September 1971 I spent several weeks in the Soviet Union, about equally in European Russia and Asiatic Russia. Flying westward out of Anchorage, Alaska, nine hours by jet over the Bering Sea, the Pacific Ocean, Hokkaido (sweeping far around the forbidden missile-laden coast near Vladivostok), our group deplaned at Khabarovsk in the Soviet Far East; then another jet ride (via Aeroflot, the one and only Soviet airline, from this point on) took us two thousand miles westward to a stay of several days at lrkutsk in the heart of the Siberian forest, and Lake Baikal, hardly seen by outsiders in 50 years; then another five hours by jet took us just north of the Afghanistan border, to the Soviet republic of Uzbekistan, and several exciting days at Tashkent and Samarkand, steeped in history from Alexander the Great to Tamerlaine and Genghis Khan and still Moslem centers today; then another six jet-hours westward to the Black Sea port of Sochi, with day-long rides to Lake Ritsa high in the Caucasus; then a thousand-mile flight to Moscow for three and a half days there, and still another flight from Moscow to Leningrad for a stay of similar length, before returning via Alaska Airlines from Leningrad over the north pole back to Anchorage.


We were permitted to see only cities staffed by the lntourist guides, and in fact every day of the entire tour was prearranged. But within each city, everyone was free to move as he wished: to walk anywhere, talk with anyone, visit anywhere except in people’s homes. Pictures could be taken of anything except airports, roads and railroads, bridges, military installations, and slums; and no pictures were permitted to be taken while in flight. (I took over 600 pictures while in Russia.) Communication was limited, of course, by the fact that most natives speak only Russian while very few of the American tourists do; so most of the interchange occurred through the intermediary of lntourist guides and via those members of the tour who spoke Russian.

To an observer like myself, espousing a libertarian philosophy and expecting perhaps a too-simple exemplification of the consequences of totalitarianism, there were a number of surprises, especially surprises favorable to the Soviet Union.

The land is vast: when we landed at Khabarovsk, we were more than five thousand miles east of Moscow, yet in the same country; it is also varied and beautiful, from the scenic birch forests along Lake Baikal to the semi-desert beauty of Samarkand and its incomparable mosques (finer, I am told, than anywhere else in the Moslem world), to the Caucasus along the Black Sea (the Black Sea is clean and comparatively unpolluted, and the mountainous country alongside it is astonishingly like western Colorado), to the eye-filling splendor of the great eighteenth-century city, Leningrad (a trip through the world’s largest and greatest art museum, The Hermitage, is alone worth a trip to Russia). Russians constantly ask visitors with unconcealed pride what they think of their motherland, and it would take an eye dead to beauty to be less than glowing in his account of the unending variety of Russian landscape just as would be true of the United States, whose topography it so much resembles.


There is virtually no violent crime in the Soviet Union..One can walk alone at any hour of the night in the streets of any Russian city in perfect safety. (Members of our tour group did so in every city.) If one exhibits any surprise at this, one is asked, “Does this mean that the things we are told about American cities are true?” One seldom sees any uniformed policemen either, other than traffic officers; but on one occasion, when a Russian from another province got drunk in the Hotel Tashkent and insulted guests and broke a window, policemen were called in, who first tried to reason with him and then took him to the police station and treated him on the whole much more benevolently than the average American policeman would have done. (The secret police are a different story, of course. But they were nowhere in evidence, at least to tourists.)

Nor is there a drug problem in Soviet Russia: the penalty for possession is very severe (I was told that it averages about twenty years), and the penalty for “drug-pushing” is death. Persons of “hippie-type” appearance are not even permitted to enter.


Though the people are dressed in baggy and ill-fitting clothes (by American standards), they do not suffer in this respect. Doubtless they have fewer clothes, but visitors who were in Russia as little as half a dozen years ago report an enormous change for the better; women who were then dressed in burlap are now clad in tasteful plain and flowered dresses. And the ever-present Russian boots are of better quality than any manufactured in the States. In spite of mass production, clothing is expensive: a man’s suit costs about 75 roubles in the shops, (the rouble has about the same value as the dollar), and $75 is about average for a man’s suit in the United States; but the average wage is slightly under 100 roubles a month.

But when Khrushchev opened the country to consumer goods, there was a great improvement in quantity and quality of clothing available-for which change, along with destalinization, Russians hold Khrushchev in higher regard than any other Soviet leader.

The food and drink accorded tourists is bountiful indeed. A typical meal consists of an appetizer- caviar, slices of pork and beef, tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers, and other vegetables, all ripe and delicious; soup-of the many varieties of borscht found throughout Russia, each one seems more delicious than any other, the soup is incomparable; then the main course if one still has room left-meat and cooked vegetables, perhaps spiced beef, or shashlik, or any of a number of native dishes varying with the region; then dessert-the melons are finer and sweeter than any we had found in the United

States, and the ice cream is creamy to a degree unexperienced in the United States for at least 15 years; then tea or coffee-the latter was particularly delicious, with a full-bodied toasty flavor as if regular coffee had been combined with Turkish (most of us couldn’t endure the American coffee when we boarded Alaska Airlines at Leningrad).

Water is not much used at meals in Russia, but the water in every city visited was not only safe but de I i c i ou s.

At every meal except breakfast there are three glasses: a large one for the national drink, a slightly carbonated combination of pear juice, apple juice, and berry or other juices, which would put Coca-cola out of business if it were sold in America; a slightly smaller glass for wine or champagne (the Russian champagne compares favorably with anything made in the States); and a still smaller glass for vodka, served straight (and it can easily be drunk so, being much smoother than its American counterpart). One gets the impression that everyone is constantly eating and drinking. Though this is not the case, it does appear that most people eat quite well, and this in spite of the fact that the state stores in which they must wait in line for food are to American senses dark, gloomy, smelly, and monotonous. And indeed not all food comes from government-controlled sources: the one major bit of Russian free enterprise is the privately owned agricultural plots which many farmers have, from which almost half the entire

Russian agricultural produce is harvested. The Great Market at Samarkand, for example, contains such an alluring variety of fruits and vegetables stretching almost as far as the eye can see, that one would think its contents alone would keep half of Russia fed-and since transportation is very inexpensive in the Soviet Union, many farmers take a plane, with their produce on it, to other parts of Russia and sell it there, still making a profit in spite of the costs of transportation and residence in another city. Most

Russians can remember starvation among their families or townspeople, but now they tell visitors with pride, “In countries bordering on us [India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc.1 people are still dying of hunger in the streets; we have no hunger in Soviet Russia.”


Some aspects of Russian technology are also very impressive. We traveled many thousands of miles on Soviet jets and even propellor planes throughout the length of Asiatic and European Russia, and though their planes are not built for comfort to American standards, they are certainly as safe; and according to American pilots I later talked to, they are better built, last longer, and operate at least as safely as American planes; Russia has most of the world’s titanium, which is light and strong and much used in Russian planes, and their jet fuel is much better, as Alaska Airlines pilots discovered when they refueled with Soviet fuel. (Pilot safety standards are also high: for example, the Soviet pilot has a physical examination before each flight.) Every Soviet jet is built like a bomber and could be converted to military use in a few minutes. Their heavy-duty machinery, farm equipment, and ships (especially the hydrofoils), guns, cutlery, all compare favorably with ours, both for durability and for ingenuity of design. The Moscow subway is a feat of technology, beauty, and efficiency that is breath-taking, particularly if one has been on subways in New York or London or Paris.

The resources and the technical know-how are there: there are just certain areas into which they (i.e., the bureaucrats in charge) choose not to channel their best efforts. All over Soviet Russia, in every city one finds the same pale beige-colored apartment buildings, endlessly and monotonously repeated- apparently inexpensive to build and perhaps functional (one doesn’t know for sure-citizens are seldom permitted to have non-Russians in their homes), but all constructed in an extremely slovenly manner: the builders could take many lessons in stonemasonry, plumbing, and electric wiring. If a tenant is not himself a handyman in these arts, he is often simply out of luck. And for apartments in these buildings one must wait for months or years.

We were in the best hotels Russia has to offer, yet the plumbing and heating facilities (except in Moscow and Leningrad) left much to be desired; and in the Hotel Samarkand, nine months completed, two out of six elevators were still working, the masonry was unbelievably badly done, and there were few rooms in which every electrical connection could be made to function.

The busses and street-cars are of excellent quality, again durable, functional, very solidly made. So are the cars, though very few citizens can afford to have them. It is one way of keeping the citizen dependent on government: a car would give him a measure of independence and privacy, so cars are priced virtually out of range. Busses and street-cars by contrast are cheap, sometimes free, and almost everyone is consigned by virtue of his economic status to using them. But along with the high degree of technology is a slovenly system of distribution.

One Siberian car-owner told me that repair facilities are few and far between and that new parts have to be ordered from Moscow, more than two thousand miles away, and often take several months to arrive, then one often finds that the wrong part has been sent and one must wait several more months for the right one to arrive. Apparently the Soviet bureaucracy is not particularly interested in whether car- owners are given prompt and efficient service.


Medical service on the whole is excellent (and free to the patient) by the testimony of American physicians I have talked with and of American tourists on the trip who landed in the hospital with dysentery. Soviet doctors, most of whom are women, are very solicitous for one’s welfare and want one to be hospitalized even for complaints which in America would be considered too trivial.

There was nothing but praise for the cleanliness of the hospitals and for the personal care given the tourist. By all reports, Soviet dental service is far from excellent; still, most people have fillings rather than cavities, but the fillings are made of stainless steel, which is inoffensive when the teeth are not visible, but give a (to say the least) peculiar appearance to such teeth as are visible when the person opens his mouth.


But it was not the food or the technology but the people themselves that was most impressive. Russia has much of the flavor of a pioneer society-in many respects like the America of a century or more ago. Its people are on the whole hardy, healthy, ruddy-faced, and free of cant or ultra-sophistication; its virtues are those of the frontier. The friendliness is genuine, the warmth infectious, the curiosity and the wish to please both seemingly boundless. There is a kind of moral integrity about the people one meets there which seems largely to have disappeared from American society but can be remembered as characterizing one’s parents or grandparents. (The combination of this strain of puritanism with State- inculcated atheism is a curious one, but the two coexist throughout R ussia. )

One has the feeling, with many Russians one meets, that one could entrust one’s life to them without fear of being betrayed, so strongly is the basic warmth and vitality of the people communicated to one. Loss or theft of articles in a suitcase is virtually unknown. A curious pride accompanies the sense of honor: one tourist offered a Russian an American cigaret; the Russian accepted, offering the American a Russian cigaret in return; the American, having tasted Russian cigarets before and found them too strong, declined; whereupon the Russian took the

American cigaret and trampled it under foot.

Another interesting item is that no tipping is expected (no matter what the amount of service) in Russia; not only is it not expected, it is refused if offered. A small gift, say a ball-point pen, may be accepted with thanks, but nothing more.

A strong streak of puritanism is certainly present.

One member of the tour group had a copy of PLAYBOY in his suitcase; it was confiscated by the Russian customs authorities as pornography. ”No pornography in Russia,” was the curt but n$t unfriendly announcement. Even in the 100 heat in Tashkent, if any tourist, male or female, wears walking shorts on the street (Russians never do), he is castigated by members of the local citizenry whose Russian may not be understood but whose gestures and indignant manner certainly are. Love stories on the stage and in the movies are invariably ”proper,” more or less like those in American movies until about 10 years ago. Sexual relations outside of marriage are frowned upon, and the friendliness toward foreigners is sometimes mixed with the very genuine fear that one might be ”morally corrupted” by them. A lady in our group took care to leave a copy of a magazine of the BETTER HOMESAND GARDENS variety in every hotel room she left, so that the chambermaid could see what luxury Americans were accustomed to; but it is possible that the chambermaid was less impressed by the luxury exhibitied than by the moral “looseness” depicted in the actions and facial expressions of the people.


Wonderful people, and a lousy political-economic system-that is the paradox of Russia that strikes the observer coming from the outside. And it is the domination of every human life by government that most hits one between the eyes as he surveys the facts of day-to-day Russign life. It strikes the outside observer, of course, more than the Russian citizen who has never known anything else; but even these, particularly the young, are restless and often anxious to rid themselves of the yoke. A male tourist who knew Russian met a female Russian who took him to her apartment (“unspeakably awful,” he later said, describing the apartment, which she said was one of the better ones). “The walls have ears,” she told him, “one never knows which of your neighbors is employed by the secret police to spy on you. Please, as we leave, don’t speak any English or give away your nationality, or I’ll be in trouble.” She had never known anything other than a totalitarian nation filled with spies, but she longed for something else, as many of the youth of Russia do. I should add that the signs of government control were much greater in European than in Asiatic Russia, where people would blithely say “we don’t take the party line so seriously out here” and “we’re too far away from the center of things for them to bother much about.” But the system is still with them: even in Irkutsk, no one may own his own shop or hire his own employees.

“In America, if many people wanted coffee at 6 0′ clock in the morning, they would get it,” I said to the lntourist guide in Irkutsk, as we waited early in the morning at the hotel for the busses to take us to breakfast at the airport.

“What if no one wanted to get up at that time?” said the lntourist guide.

“Then no one would get coffee. But to make money, someone would get up and prepare it. And if the owner of the coffee shop didn’t want to do it himself, he would hire someone else to do it.”

“But that would be exploitation-one person using the services of another. And exploitation does not exist in Soviet Russia!”

“How is it exploitation,” I countered, “if the employee willingly takes on the job? Maybe he’d like to make some extra money-at any rate, if he’s willing and the employer is willing to give the wage, why not? It’s voluntary exchange on both sides.” But the talk about voluntary exchange made no impression at all; perhaps it was not even understood. “A person may use things in nature, but not the labor of other human beings,” she said. “If he does, that is exploitation.”

“Does it make no difference if he uses them willingly? If one man wants the work in exchange for the money and the other man wants the money in exchange for the work? Why do you call such a thing exploitation?” But it was hopeless; one could not penetrate the veil of words. I thought of the insanity of a system in which a man is prohibited from hiring anyone else to do a job, while the government is not prohibited from moving whoever it wants anywhere it wants for whatever purposes it wants. Only when the government does it, is it not called “exploitation .”


In truth, the principal fact about Soviet Russia which stands out for any observer who looks even a little behind the appearances is the omnipresence, and the omnipotence, of government. The State is the sole owner of land (except the private garden plots); no one may buy land, one can only rent it from the State. The State is the sole owner of houses: in fact, no houses for individual families have been built in Russia for years; there are only apartments, in the badly constructed apartment buildings already described. And if a family (not an individual-individuals must live with their parents) wants to live in one, they put their names on a waiting list until an apartment is assigned them by the government. No one may hire anyone else for a job: the State is the sole employer; even the taxicab driver is paid a monthly wage by the State, and the entire amount of the fares which he picks up must be returned to the State. (Which explains why there is a considerable black market in taxicabs). The State determines all wages in all categories (strikes for higher wages are illegal); the pay for plumbers is the same throughout Russia, and the same for physicians, engineers, street sweepers, hotel cham-bermaids, etc.; except pay is 20% higher in the Soviet Far East, presumably in atonement for the distance from Moscow. Though one may be placed by his government supervisory comm ittee in a higher pay bracket for zeal in his work, he can never escape from his sole employer: if he wants to be a concert violinist, he must receive government approval (he may not chance it on his own); if they don’t want to pay him to practice, he must hold down another job, whatever job they assign him; and even in old age he cannot escape the government; he is not permitted sufficient income during his work years to save enough to make him independent, since the government dictates what pay workers in his classification shall receive it is always low by American standards; and no matter how enterprising one is, no rags-to- riches story can come true in Soviet Russia.

A product is not available unless the government decides to manufacture it: ball-point pens and chewing gum are not produced in the Soviet Union, and are in constant demand from tourists-I took a plentiful supply of both with me. And its consumption can be controlled by a simple government decree changing its price: in order to decrease the consumption of alcohol, the Soviet government last year doubled its price to consumers (though not to tourists), thus in effect prohibiting many people from using it at all. And even among products that are available, they can be sold only through State stores, which on the whole are quite horrible: in these stores you take what you can get, if the supply is not exhausted before you get there, and since no one profits by your purchase (which would be “profiteering”), there is no one who cares whether or not you get what you want or are satisfied with your purchase. You stand in line and wait (much as Americans do in the Department of Motor Vehicles), hoping that those paid by the government to serve you will do so and will not have run out of their supply before you are at the head of the line.


Don’t the people mind this extreme regimentation?

Some do, and speak openly about it, incurring great risk of being forcibly stopped by their government.

Others do, and say nothing, fearing these very consequences. But still others-and these seem to constitute the majority-do not mind it at all that much; they have never lived under any other system; and they know no other-even those who remember the days of the Czars can remember no time (for there was none) when Russia had any kind of participatory democracy. They readily admit some defects in their system: for example, they know very well that from time to time someone disappears and is never heard from again and that when this happens they had better not inquire too deeply what happened to him. They know that there is a secret police, but their principal feeling about it seems to be more one of relief that it is much less in evidence than in the days of Stalin rather than discomfort because there is such a thing at all (indeed, they seem to believe that some of its activities are necessary). They seem convinced that what they have, in spite of its defects, is ever so much better than what

Russia had before, and that they should support it, not only because they have to, but because theyhave a good thing going and don’t want to see it fail.

In fact, Russian citizens who are acclaimed as heroes in the United States, such as the writer Solzhenitsyn, for having the courage to rebel against the system, are not viewed in that light by the ordinary Soviet citizen. The Russians who mentioned these “rebels” to us (and no one did without first being asked) expressed the view, whose sincerity one had no reason to doubt, that these men may be well-intentioned but that they were after all enemies of Russia, for they were doing and saying things against the State, and that the State was their only chance for such continued improvement as they have had since Stalin and especially through Khrushchev, whom they all admired (and who died while I was in Russia).


Russians have all kinds of misconceptions (and a few correct conceptions) of life in the United States.

They believe, reflecting propaganda they have been taught, that the United States is a vicious totalitarian state, where people may be materially prosperous but are not permitted to express themselves, and particularly not any friendly feelings toward Russia.

They are told, and believe, that United States is a center of cruel economic exploitation, with some people fabulously rich and others starving in the streets. Their misconceptions of capitalism are endless.

They note their own achievements with pride. “Did you see the dam and power plant at Bratsk?” they ask when they find one has been to Siberia, “the largest in the world, bigger than any of yours.” And: “Do you know that all medical and dental help is free in Russia? and hospitals too? They are really very good.”


But the thing that overshadows the lives of Soviet citizens more than anything else, and justifies the present regime in their eyes in spite of defects that are apparent to them, is the war-the invasion by Hitler’s troops in 1941, the soldiers who devastated the countryside and were at the outskirts of Moscow before they were repelled. The scorched-earth policy that was practiced left not a building standing or a living thing alive; it would be as if the United States were invaded from the East Coast to the Mississippi River, with nothing left standing-and they have rebuilt it all, the houses, the trees and farms, the dams and power stations, at a terrible cost to themselves. They invariably point with pride to this enormous achievment. But the scars remain; 20 million Russians lost their lives in the Nazi holocaust, and those who are still alive who participated in it, and those who grew up as children during this era, are absolutely determined that nothing like this horror shall ever overtake them again.


Those to whom I could speak frankly were acutely frightened about the peril of China: they spoke of the five thousand miles of common border with China, with Siberian Russia underpopulated and China vastly overpopulated and with a yen to expand. Some of them had heard bad things about Americans, though they showed no trace of hostility once they talked with us, and they tended to attribute some of the bad reports to propaganda. But they did not in the same way dismiss the Chinese- this situation was as real to them as the facts of geography; and they were frankly scared stiff. Ivividly recall the first afternoon on Soviet soil, when after a fantastic noon dinner in Khabarovsk in the Soviet Far East, we were taken for a long boat ride on the Amur River. We had been already shown the city of Khabarovsk, of half a million people, entirely rebuilt after the civil war of 1921 (between the White and Red armies), and now, when a member of the tour group asked why we did not go further down the river, a Russian officer replied, pointing, “There are the hills of China.” The tone of his voice spoke volumes about the direction of his fears. If I were a Russian citizen today, I might well think it reasonable to favor a preventive strike against the Chinese atomic arsenal; failing this, many believe that ultimate conflict between them is inevitable.


There were two things I missed most during my stay in Soviet Russia, though it was some time after I was there before I realized that they were the things I missed the most. One of them was the absence of news: for two and a half weeks I knew nothing of what was going on in the world. The news in PRAVDA is of course highly filtered and slanted, and few Americans can read Russian. The only English-language newspaper available in Russia is a Communist rag printed in London and flown in, containing very little news of any kind. And then it occurred to me that this is one way, perhaps the chief way, in which the Soviet government brain-washes or conditions its citizens: not through the omnipresence of police as much as through the isolation of its citizens. They are never permitted to receive uncensored news of the outside world; day after day, year after year, their impressions of what goes on in the world are filterd through the Soviet government. This would have a deadly effect in the course of time, even on those who try to guard carefully against this very effect.

The other thing, and this I confess I missed even more, was bright lights (and all that the absence of bright lights signified). It was some time before I realized what was so sorely missing in Russian cities; but when I flew into Moscow at night, and in all that vast city the one thing most conspicuous from the air was the large red star in Red Square, it came home to me that there were no bright lights anywhere in Russia. Street lights, yes; occasional apartments where people were up late; very little more. Were there no amusements at all? Yes, there were some; every city has its circus (the circus is very popular in Russia): every city has movie theaters, not much illuminated from the outside (they don’t need to advertise-the government operates them all and there is no competition), just a few bulbs and the sign ”Kyno” indicating that the theater is there, and sometimes a few still pictures from the current movie; and for the rest-not a deathly silence (though there is little noise in the streets), but a deathly darkness where in America there would have been oceans of light. There are no billboards, except those with Lenin’s face pictured on them (and these are everywhere); no advertising-after all, no need for it, no profit can be made from it-you get only what the government store carries, and the government store carries only what the government factory produces, and if you want consumer goods at all you have to take these things whether they are of good quality or not, whether they are the style or size you want or not. When I came to realize what billboards and bright lights signified-economic freedom-I came to miss these things more than anything else, for their absence symbolized more than any other single thing what was wrong with Soviet Russia. A great land, tremendous resources, wonderful people-but no freedom of occupation, no freedom of residence, no freedom to rise in life; no, not even freedom of amusement, nothing to make life the least bit novel and exciting and dramatic. A tremendous beehive, with everyone working, and because of the immense labor, tremendous accomplishments in spite of the insane economic system; but the quality of life-drab, workaday: not in one’s wildest dreams would one describe Russia as a “fun” place.

It is the drabness of life that stands out in the impression of Americans at the spectacle of life in Russia.


The work ethic is indeed dominant in Russia, more even than in Germany or any European nation, for the work is unrelieved by any chance for escape. And the work required, even after the ravages of war have been repaired, is still tremendous, because of the unimaginable waste involved in their economic system. The streets and parks are clean, because thousands of old people each morning sweep the streets and sidewalks by hand with janitors’ brooms – “busy work” for those who would be paid a pittance by the state whether they worked or not, so “let them work.” It would surely have been cheaper to use automation. In every hotel, women are employed around the clock to dispense and collect keys, three for every floor in the building (three eight-hour shifts)-immense amounts of man-hours used and largely wasted, which must necessarily pull down the standard of living of everyone, since they all have to pay in taxes for the activities of these countless bits of busy-work. The amount of work going on in Russia is heroic and staggering. As a consequence the material aspect of life is bearable where it was not before. But aside from helping to achieve some material comforts, what is it all for?

Toward what end do the bees cooperate in the beehive? Do they labor and sacrifice in order to bring into being another generation of laborers and sacrificial creatures Iike themselves? What do they get out of life as individuals? It is such questions as these that concern the libertarian observer as he ponders the quality of life in the Soviet Union in 1971.

As to the state of mind and intentions of the men who are at the head of the Soviet government, no amount of traveling in the country and talking with the people provides the slightest clue; those in charge keep their plans a secret even from their own people. Whether their intentions are peaceful or aggressive, whether he will be a cog in peace or a pawn in war, is something that the Soviet citizen, to whom his government is not responsible, does not know and over which he has nothing to say. In this respect Russia is, as Winston Churchill said, a mystery wrapped inside an enigma.

As appeared in “Reason,” January 1972, pp. 5-12