Letters to The Ethical Spectacle

In 1981, I decided to take a job in New york City because I couldn't get one in Paris. I'd been out of the city four years and hadn't wanted to come back. I told myself that I'd return for a short while, until I could get a good job abroad. That was a quarter-century ago.

In the years since, I never lost the desire to be elsewhere. Things happened: I had clients here, then a wife who didn't want to leave. Parents got sick. I helped found a company and ran it. Every time I turned around, I had another tie to New York.

I was twenty-seven when I came back here. Now, at age 52, the last of my ties to the city just broke. My wife and I will move away in the next few months. It doesn't seem like 25 years; I think I spent a lot of it dreaming. Now, in the time I have left, I would like to explore, break with the old, have some different types of adventures.

Jonathan Wallace jw@bway.net

Hi Jonathan,

I just read your essay Why I Am Not A Libertarian. I've struggled similarly with trying to define a proper political philosophy. Libertarianism is the best match with my overall beliefs and theory of government, but because of my disagreements with the libertarian platform I'll only admit to being "libertarian leaning", and feel a need to disclaim the "nutty stuff". I think there are *many* people in this category.

We need a viable alternative to the Libertarian party - and you've begun to sketch its outlines.

The next step would be to define what such a party should be (as opposed to defining it mostly by what it is not). Have you ever tried to coalesce your observations into a coherent political philosophy? You've identified many shortcommings of a pure lassiez-faire approach in terms of its ability to deliver on the greater economic and social good; for many generally sound principles of libertarianism, there's an exception. This would seem to argue that new fundamental principles are needed. Ones that are in better harmony with those parts of the social contract that have proven to have lasting value. But what are the new principles?

Stuff I'd want:

Absolute ownership of self for adults (sex, drugs, rock-n-roll, euthanasia). Implies no "victimless" crimes. A compromise on when a fetus obtains human rights (not conception, but not the day of birth either) A minimal safety net for the poor and for children Stronger enforcement of *real* crimes: fraud, violence, and neglect of children Enforcement of standards of product information, disclosure, truthfulness. Commons related: Enforcement of environmental regulations (pollution credits, etc.) Government funded infrastructure projects - only in cases where they "make sense" and can't be provided by the market. Privatization of any government activity that can reasonably be accomplished outside of government (air traffic control, postal service)

A bunch of these things are subjec to slippery slope problems, so we need a mechanism to decide "how much" is allowed.

I don't know what to do with laws on discrimination - e.g. "no X's allowed". I agree that the free market doesn't solve this problem (via economic disincentives). It would be damaging to society to allow this damaging, divisive behavior. On the other hand, the an establishment like "hooters" might equally cause offense and be banned on the same principle. We've somehow reached a working compromise, yet I don't see any consistent principal at work. Not sure how to fix this. My inclination would be err in the direction of under-regulation rather than over-regulation.

Anyway, let me know when the new party forms. I want to vote *for* something someday.


Mr. Wallace,

Regarding Art and Packaging -- it is as much a pleasure to read your articles and thoughts on literature and poetry as it is to read your articles and thoughts on politics, ethics, civilization, and history with regard to events like the Holocaust. I have little doubt that literature and art occupy as much space and importance -- even, or especially, today -- as politics, ethics, morality, and the analysis thereof. Keep writing, and keep being heard.

Best regards,

David Song

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Regarding An Auschwitz Alphabet--

I've been researching my family tree for over ten years my great grandfather immigrated to the us from germany around 1890. He spelling of his surname has changed several times it ended up being rickamer- I've found over 200 ways to spell it. My grandfather told me that his family stoped speaking their native language of german even in their home. I found your site through jewishgen.org wich led me to missingidentity.net out of all of their links I ended up at your site. I was fortunate enough to travel to germany, austria and the czech republic in '95. The last stop on our tour was Munic, our chaperones changed our itenery and the group spent the afternoon in the city. I comendered a chaperone, and we found our way to Dauchau. It was hard for me to grasp the enormity, while I was there I was overwhemled with a feeling that i can describe as consuming, insasable, desperation- it was sufforcating. I was amazed when we were shown shindlers list my junior year of highschool- My classmates made jokes and were talking and srewing around so loudly that I couldn't hear I stood up and told them to shut their mouths or leave- I recall hearing comments that the holocaust was propaganda and It didn't happen. I don't understand why or how people choose those beliefs. How can the US government and the department of education continute to teach a cirriculm that was constructed by individuals who were wearing blinders. You can pick up any history book in any school. I know how much I was taught about the founding of this country, the slaughter, of american indians. Our founding fathers, and the great men who built this country did so by murder, I was taught much much more about the Terrible Nazi's. the news tells us that sadam husane might as well be the devil incarnate- We stood still and did nothing while he gased many people to death- How is that so different that the US giving blankets infected with smallpocks. my 16 year old neice knows hitler used gas to kill Jews but she didn't know that prior to WWII we were admistering gas to end the lives of criminals sentanced to death. I thank you for the understanding and insight i gained from reading your work. It leaves me with a lot to contimplate. As to your consideration about adding The Third path- I do not know how you will be able to achieve this- I do know that If you construct it in a way that it is used to teach- but if you do I think that it will be a valuable way to teach future generations. The horror that is portrayed in todays video games and movies is vewed by too many people that do not realize the real horror that our parents, grand parents some how survived. people have the ability to watch war in real time. I couldn't believe that I was watching the gulf war I believe that it is totaly irresponsible to show this images to society-

I thank you, and I apologise for rambling on- I appreciate you.


Dear Mr. Wallace:

I too am a middle aged Jewish man living in relative comfort in northern California. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. I knew little of the Holocaust until I was 10 and saw Eichmann on trial in Jerusalem. He looked like a watchmaker or bookkeeper..certainly not one of the SS architects of the Final Solution. When I was a bit older I saw the films of the liberation of the Bergen Belsen camp in Germany and the 1000's of unburied corpses bulldozed into pits by the liberating British. It was surreal and quite macabre. I realized but for geographical fate my family would have most likely perished in Nazi occupied Europe and I never would have been born.

With the advent of computers it's easier to find information instantaneously. How the Germans could so diligently eradicate whole populations of people with such zeal in the middle of the 20th century still amazes me. An educated, cultured nation in the middle of Europe gets transfixed by a neurotic demagogue and his henchmen and unleashes a reign of terror unmatched in human annals. Incredible.

I became an agnostic long ago, most likely from reading about the Holocaust. Where was the God of the Hebrews? Where was God to protect the children and the pious? Nowhere. Hard questions to answer.

I visited Germany as a youth... a bad mistake. I have vowed never to set foot on German soil again. I know the people there today aren't responsible for the sins of their fathers, but I still feel an obligation to the millions of murdered to stay away.

I also wished that the atomic bomb could have been used on Germany and that most of it be laid waste. I know that's vengeful thinking...but it's a form what ye sow ye shall reap mentality.

In any case, the vibrant Jewish communities of Europe are gone never to return. There is a pitiful remnant of Jewry in Poland, Lithuania, Germany and other countries that were centers of Jewish life for centuries.

Thanks for your "primer" and good luck in the future....

Steve, from San Jose, Calfornia