essays

Jul 1, 1977

Credo

“In a world of cynics and pessimists, we are optimists: we believe that Liberty is a standard to which all can repair.”

CREDO

Libertarian Review is a journal of opinion. Like any such journal, LR has a point of view. But where LR differs from other journals lies in what that point of view consists of, what values it finds important to champion and uphold. Ours is a deep and abiding commitment to individual Liberty and to the growing Libertarian movement which seeks to make such Liberty a reality in our time. Such commitment is particularly important today, when all opposing political forces have made their decisions in favor of growing state power, differing only about details.

LR opposes statism, whether of the Left or of the Right. LR supports individual Liberty across the board, on matters of economic freedom and civil liberties, on issues of foreign and domestic policy, not caring whether we are perceived as “Left” on some issues, or “Right” on others. For the plain truth is that Libertarians are neither Left nor Right, but a new political movement with roots in a rich ancient tradition of opposition to tyranny and state power. We are a political movement whose commitment to a consistent set of principles lifts it out of that dull, gray morass which is the contemporary political spectrum.

We believe that in the modern world, there is simply no excuse for the ways in which governments habitually treat human beings. Holding firmly to the principle that Liberty is the highest political end, there is today scarcely a political policy or trend to which we would not object.

For the twentieth Century has been and continues to be the century of the State, a century where State coercion and violence of every form have become disgustingly commonplace. Every conceivable form of statism has been tried during this century: Fascism, Communism, Social Democracy, the Corporate State, Feudalism, and naked military dictatorships. None of them has in the long run brought anything other than human misery and degradation to the world. None of them has been able to exist for a minute without the most flagrant violations of human rights.

It is our conviction that all this is both unjust and unnecessary. In a world of cynics and pessimists, we are optimists: we believe that Liberty is a standard to which all can repair. In a world of timid opportunists, each trying to fine-tune the system for their own benefit, we are radicals who believe that coercion, aggression and tyranny ought to be swept away. In a world where selective indignation has become a high art, we shall not be afraid to oppose the injustices of the Left and the Right alike. In a world where older radicals have simply become exhausted, having witnessed the terrible failure of their ideals, having nothing new to say, we are just beginning.

Our doctrine of Libertarianism begins with the principle of inviolable individualism, with the view that all human beings are the sole legitimate owners of their own lives, free to do whatever they wish, so long as they do not use violence, aggression or fraud against the person or justly held property of others. We believe a basic humanism demands that we champion and defend a social system which fully respects the natural individuality and diversity of human beings, a society based on the twin axioms of self-ownership and non-aggression, a society wherein all social relationships are voluntary and uncoerced, where no one may force anyone else to obey him. Every human life should be regarded as an end-in-itself, never merely as a means. The only way to implement these principles is through a structure of voluntary social relations, resting on consent and agreement, reason and persuasion, where no one is subjugated to the will of another.

Thus, in objecting to the politics of our age, LR proposes to offer an alternative which is both consistent and non-dogmatic. We shall not be content to stay on the level of abstractions and glittering generalities, however. Our guiding principle will be that set down by Murray Rothbard in his classic journal, Left and Right: “General principles remain cloudy verbiage if they are not made systematic and applied to specific problems; and responses to such problems must stay hopelessly confused if they remain ad hoc and unsubsumed under guiding principle.”

At a time when other ideologies are floundering, when Liberalism is decaying, Socialism in retreat, Communism ever more openly despised, and Conservatism ever more accepting of the status quo, Libertarians are just beginning to fight for their ideals. At a time when Liberals, Conservatives, and even once-radical Socialists are openly denouncing “ideologies” as such, calling upon one and all to abandon failing principle and to uphold pragmatism, LRturns its back on such intellectual despair. It is not ideology which has failed us, it is statist ideology. Thus LR proudly upholds an ideology of liberty. It isthat which has been missing from the contemporary world, and which the Libertarian movement proposes to bring to public awareness. It is that to whichLibertarian Review is dedicated.

THE SACCHARIN CAPER

When the FDA announced on March 9th that it was going to ban saccharin, the last artificial sweetener available on the market, it set off the largest public outcry in its history. And well it should have, for the saccharin ban is the latest in a series of petty tyrannies for which the FDA and other regulatory agencies have become famous.

The FDA announced its ban in response to the findings of a study sponsored by the Canadian Government. 100 rats were fed a diet containing 5% saccharin; another 100 rats were fed the same diet, without saccharin. Of the 100 rats fed the saccharin diet, 3 developed cases of bladder tumors; in addition, 100 of the offspring of the saccharin-fed rats were placed on the same diet, and 14 of them developed such tumors. This supposedly triggered the “Delaney Clause,” a portion of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act which states that “no additive shall be deemed to be safe if it is found after appropriate tests to induce cancer in man or animal.” The FDA was forced to act. Or so it said.

In fact, everything about the saccharin ban is fishy, from the test to the reasoning behind the Delaney Clause.

First, the amounts of saccharin fed to the rats were the equivalent of a human being consuming over 800 cans of diet soda a day over the course of a lifetime. Similar amounts of a host of other substances would prove far more toxic and harmful.

Secondly, the tests were not even conclusive. While 3 rats of the first generation developed tumors, it is not often reported that 2 of the rats not fed saccharin also developed tumors. The real evidence comes in the second generation when 14 our of 100 offspring of the saccharin-fed rats also developed bladder tumors. But what about the offspring of the other group, fed the saccharin-free diet? They were not tested. So the only direct comparison which can be made is between the 3 rats with tumors of the first generation of saccharin-fed rats, and the 2 rats fed no saccharin. Moreover, according to some sources, 30 other tests have shown saccharin to be harmless; Japanese and German tests have not confirmed the findings of the Canadian government study. This is pretty flimsy evidence on which to base the destruction of a multi-billion dollar industry. But that has never bothered anyone in power.

But the real issue, the real objection to the saccharin ban, is deeper. What the FDA is trying to foist upon us is not merely a saccharin ban, but a particular ethical philosophy, namely that everyone should be forced to minimize risks, at the point of a gun.

There is no justification for this totalitarian position whatever. Why is minimizing those risks given such a role in our values and our lives? Why is the miniscule risk of cancer a sufficient reason to deprive the American people of their pleasures and their freedom of choice? It is nothing less than an attempt by doctors and bureaucrats to shackle us with the trappings of that “therapeutic State” which Thomas Szasz has so forcefully warned us against.

Moreover, the saccharin ban is the result of the odd, literalist bureaucratic type of mind which can only operate by focusing on one aspect of a thing, ripping it our of context and ignoring the complexity of the risks and choices which permeate all of human life. If we are not to be allowed to take the miniscule risk that something we consume might someday harm us, what far greater, more immediate, risks are to be forbidden to us as well? Shall we be allowed to cross the street, to fly in a plane, to chance a risky operation, or do anything else which is a thousand times more risky than imbibing a diet soda? Is the danger of dying from cancer by drinking Tab greater than that faced by someone who is overweight or diabetic deprived of dietetic foods? Moreover, why should the State, that horrible engine of destruction, be allowed to determine what risks we can take in our daily lives? Why on earth should we take itshand-wringing seriously?

The Libertarian solution to the saccharin caper cuts through to the heart of the matter, slicing through the obfuscations and double-talk. We believe that everyone owns his or her own body and life, and should be allowed to assume whatever risks they wish. The responsibility for their lives and choices is theirs, and should not be seized by the State and its medical elite.

The only tolerable concern of government in this case is with prohibiting fraud, which means that it should ensure correct labeling of products. It should then sit back and learn to respect the freedom of choice of the American people.

The freedom to consume whatever one chooses, whether saccharin or marijuana, cyclamates or rat poison, and to accept responsibility for the consequences, is a basic human right. The government has no more right to regulate what substances a person chooses to put in his body than what ideas he chooses to put in his mind.

The saccharin ban, in short, ought to be junked, along with the bans on cyclamates, laetrile, and everything else. If such toleration of risk-taking makes the meddlers in the FDA and elsewhere squirm, so be it. That’s the happy price we pay for individual liberty.