The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Saturday, January 18, 2003


Today is Saturday, which is the day that the San Jose Mercury News publishes letters to the editor from children -- as young as 9 today. (The precious wisdom from a person born in 1993: "STAY away from drugs. If you see your friends smoking, please tell them that that is not the right thing to do, and that lots of people die from smoking. If that doesn't stop them, ask their parents to see if they can ask a doctor if he or she has a way to help. Smoking and drugs aren't right to do, so don't do them.")

Here is a letter from someone who is 17, which I think is old enough to know better:


CRITICS have portrayed the BART extension to San Jose as a fanciful project that doesn't really serve people.

I am a college-bound, high school senior. For personal and political reasons, I do not drive and am very dependent on the public transit system. Critics says that since a BART extension would not serve the entirety of San Jose, and many people would have to transfer from buses and light rail, it would be ineffective. As a public transit user, I know that it is unreasonable to expect ``point A to point B'' service.

I hope to go to Berkeley in the fall. Were there a BART extension, it would be much easier for me to visit my family or even commute. Even if the BART plans go through, the project won't be completed until after I graduate, but it would be good to know that others like me would not be forced to drive in this world controlled by the automobile and oil industries.

Miriam Lueck, 17
Silver Creek High School
San Jose


I like how Miriam informs us, "I don't drive for political and personal reasons." Well okay then -- we'll be happy to spend a billion dollars catering to your weird little whims! Maybe I should get in on this action -- "I don't work for political and personal reasons, can the State of California pay my mortgage?"

Miriam believes that the world is "controlled by the automobile and oil industries." I'd rate this around the 30th or 40th percentile of nastiness in conspiracy theories. Not as benign as believing in aliens, but certainly not as bad as complaining about how Jews control the media. I've never seen anyone say flat out that auto/oil interests control the world, but many car-haters probably believe it.

Obviously I could spend a lot of time mocking Lueck. (I will note, in passing, that Nigeria's civil war prevented Shell from pumping oil for many years. Some control!) But I'd rather use the occasion to segue into a discussion of libertarian politics -- namely, what role and powers corporations will have when the state is scaled back.

Many people who are not so ... Kuecky ... do think that the auto and oil industries do have a lot of power in today's world. They also worry that if government were curtailed or eliminated, these and other corporations would become too powerful.

People who hold these opinions are missing out on who has the real power -- the consumers. Oil and car companies are rich and pervasive because the automobile is ubiquitous and vital, an essential possession for hundreds of millions of people. General Motors is influential only for as long as it can deliver what people want; if it goes off on some kind of power trip, it will lose its customers and die.

James Donald says that in anarcho-capitalism, "the customer shall rule." This is a powerful slogan, and I'd like to see other libertarians using it.


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