Letters to The Ethical Spectacle

Spectacle Letters Column Guidelines. If you write to me about something you read in the Spectacle, I will assume the letter is for publication. If it is not, please tell me, and I will respect that. If you want the letter published, but without your name attached, I will do so. I will not include your email address unless you ask me to. This is in response to many of you who have expressed concern that spammers are finding your email address here. Flames are an exception. They will be published in full, with name and email address. I have actually had people follow up on a published flame by complaining that they thought they were insulting my ancestry privately. Nope, sorry.







Dear Jonathan:

Re: Into Thin Air Review--1998

A brilliant review.

"The clients were encouraged to be passive and depend entirely on the guides. When most of the guides died on the mountain, a Hobbesian state of nature ensued: the war of all against all. Krakauer has rewritten Lord of the Flies."

You nailed it.

Best regards

Theodore P. Savas

Dear Mr. Wallace:

It’s been reported that Congress’ popularity is below the President’s. The public is clearly frustrated with do-nothing lawmakers, those Democrats who came to power in 2006 and have little to show for it.

One can understand the public’s frustration, having enjoyed seven years of leadership by men of action. Whatever complaints one may have, the Republican team has acted. They’ve started a war under false pretences that kills Americans daily, a war with no end in sight. They’ve gutted environmental legislation, and stymied America’s participation in any plan to reduce global warming. They’ve reduced government funding for education and healthcare, in the face of public support for these priorities. They’ve fired federal prosecutors who were unwilling to bring false charges against the President’s political opponents. They’ve made sure that billion-dollar rebuild-Iraq contracts have gone chiefly to Republican donors. They’ve snuck behind our backs and used Executive Signing Statements and congressional recesses to enact unpopular laws and appoint unpopular officials.

Yes, under the Republicans we’ve seen lots of action. Not a bunch of bureaucratic do-nothings, that’s for sure. Now what’s with this new Democrat bunch that recently took over?. They’ve busied themselves with trying to line up votes, argue their case with members of the opposing party – that whole boring process – what’s it called again? Oh yeah. Democracy. Something we haven’t seen much of since the turn of the century.

Unlike the President, Congress can’t enact legislation without votes. Senator Reid and Congresswoman Pelosi can’t prevent staff members from testifying truthfully or stymie embarrassing reports the way the President can. They can’t wait for the President to go home for the weekend, then enact laws to their liking, or fire officials for showing insufficient party loyalty. Democrat congressional leaders can only wait for enough Republicans to show some backbone and go against their party on matters in which the public agrees with the Democrats. Democrats can build a strong enough case for the common good, and hope sense prevails. The reason why this process seems so unfamiliar to us is that we’ve been living under a leader who shares the public’s distaste for democracy’s small steps. The President, of course, is a real leader, and has never let the democratic process stand in his way.

Kelly Greenland

Hi Johnathan,

Subject article Natural Rights Don't Exist appeared in the results of a Google search on an unrelated subject.

I read through said article completely, and briefly viewed the spectacle.org website.

While I agree with the overall thrust of the site, and applaud your impartiality on submitted articles, I disagree with your views set forth in said article.

The view set forth in said article is a view supporting mob rule, or, if you will, true democracy, an ideology that the desires of the many should outweigh the desires of the few, and it's logical extension, that the desires of a few in authority should outweigh the desires of many not in authority.

I have some questions:

1. What if a legislated desire of the many... or a few in power... proves over time to be harmful to the few... and the many?

2. What if a legislated desire of the many... or a few in power... proves over time to be motivated by greed, and not be in the best interest of all?

3. What is the fundamental difference between Russia and America... government-wise?

The view expressed in said article embodies a "My way is better than your way." style of thinking. It is the fundamental thinking of mob rule and tyrannical government.

The view expressed in said article was displayed by the Third Reich in legislation that oppressed and ultimately resulted in the destruction of massive numbers of one ethnicity. Nearly everyone... in power... at the time thought said legislation was best for the nation.

I could cite numerous other historical records where legislation thought "best" by the many... or a few in power... ultimately caused great harm to all, and in some cases brought entire nations to collapse.

Rights are not the issue. Respect is the issue.

Those who framed the Declaration of Independence and the federal Constitution intended to create a nation where equal respect for each citizen is guaranteed.

Declaration in the DOI of equal unalienable rights for every citizen is the only practical way of guaranteeing equal respect for every citizen. There is no other practical way to accomplish that.

Declaring in your article that natural rights don't exist is declaring that respect for each citizen should not exist.

Where does that thinking lead?

a) Class societies, with oppression of lower classses.

b) Oppression of those with less power by those with more power.

c) Oppression of those with less money by those with more money.

d) Oppression of those with less political clout by those with more political clout.

That is what we see in Russia... and are beginning to see in America.

It is caused by people with less respect for others than themselves.


George Kelley

George is committing the classic and rather interesting fallacy that something--God or natural rights--MUST exist because the alternative is too awful to contemplate. This is a bit like saying that faster than light travel MUST exist because the idea of never being able to visit other galaxies is too damn sad.

Dear Jonathan:

I cannot argue with anyone who says there is no God if they come to that conclusion because of Auschwitz. We who were not there cannot imagine.

I can however say that old ideas, simple and stupid , died in Auschwitz. Christians believe that the Holocaust was not the choice of God but the act of men; that God has revealed truth and light in Jesus Christ but we reject it. The holocaust happened because, as St. John writes, people had a choice between God and Sin yet "...men preferred darkness to light.".

God allowed men to do as they would. Men who despised God behaved as the godless of the Bible: savagely and with no repect for life. The murder of millions did not occur because it was inevitable. It occurred because people refused to live as God calls us. We still do.

How can anyone defend the human race after Auschwitz? God needs no defence. He did not torture the innocent nor gas the millions; neither did God kill the one. A wayward and sick human species did the one thing it is good at. We rejected Grace and behaved as graceless monsters. We assumed the role for which only God is fit. We declared a whole People inhuman and unworthy of life.

Without trivializing the murder of six million we can see Auschwitz as the clarion call for the reality of God. Look what happens when men deny God and worship hate.

Auschwitz may have been the ultimate result of godlessness; the consequence of evil.

The Reverend Phelan Scanlon

The problem I have with the argument from free will is that technology has already become so powerful that a single individual can press a button effectively ending life on earth. God therefore in His blind devotion to human free will has elevated the will of this single individual over the collective will of the billions of others who want to live. A benign God involved with humans and desiring their freedom could have created an almost endless series of other systems which would have permitted and promoted freedom without permitting one human to destroy the entire species, every other life form and the planet.

Dear Mr. Wallace:

well even i haven't read all off your Auschwitz alphabet i think that is great work.

about the third pathway i believed that you were going to create a game as you have written.

i am a greek 34 yo.and i am reading about ww2 and it's concequences if i can help by translating,giving any information that i have,please let me know

Costas Ioanou

Dear Jonathan:

You're good [not morally of course, but good like tov-- delightful]; the best I have so far read for 62 years (my personal opinion of course and I have often been told how wrong I am on all sorts of things) and you are honest and clear.

I intend to continue reading your writings as a source for inspiration.

I especially found God vs. God most helpful. You have given me a new avenue in which to wonder and wander in new thoughts and hope.

(The Rev. [hey-- it's just a title like The Hon .]) Joel Watson

Hi Jonathan,

I stumbled upon your web site while looking for the story about the scorpion and frog. I just wanted to thank you for giving me an opportunity to read and think. It's rare that I have been so engrossed in reading a website.



Dear Mr. Wallace:

According to Wikipedia {the free encyclopedia} "recycling is the reprocessing of materials into new products. Recycling generally prevents the waste of potentially useful materials, reduces the consumption of raw materials and reduces energy usage, and hence greenhouse gas emissions, compared to virgin production." The recent discussion concerning global warming has focused primarily on alternative sources of fuel for the purpose of transportation. However, another very important pro-environment tool is recycling. The effort needs to involve more than the consumer and the government. It needs to involve those who sell {and profit} from those products that can be recycled. For example, the manufactures of bottles and cans along with the producers of what's sold inside them as well as the grocery stores that distribute them must take on a greater economic role in the process of recycling. The voluntary "blue bag at the curb" approach is a good start but it relies primarily on the altruism of the consumer.

The question is: does the consumer bear sole responsibility for what happens to a can or bottle that contains the product used? or should some of that responsibility be borne by those who profit from its' use? Are these responsibilities being borne already and are they equitable? Some time ago bottlers would charge a five-cent "deposit" on a bottle to be "refunded" when the consumer returned the bottle. It would seem that this concept could be reoperationalized for a whole host of products. The consumer could clean the bottle or can, return it to the grocery story for a "refund" and the grocery store would return it to the producer then to the manufacturer etcetera each receiving a "refund" along the way. When all parties involved have an economic incentive to participate, recycling will make a much larger contribution towards preserving the environment.

Joe Bialek