Letters to the Editor

(March 29, 2004)


Regarding articles on Zimbabwe published on Swans

To the Editor:

Just got finished reading ALL the articles I was able to find on your site having to do with Zimbabwe. I spent 50 of my 53 years living in Rhodesia/Zimbawe/Zambia/South Africa and Mozambique. The last three I have spent here in the United States. My comment/question is this...Surely these articles are not written about the Zimbabwe where I was born and raised? There must be another! Have any of [the] writers actually BEEN to Zim? What a load of dung you have here.

Steve Simms
Some town, some state, USA - March 10, 2004

[Ed. We sent the following e-mail to Mr. Simms:
"Thank you for your e-mail. Could you please let me know the city/state where you live so that we can include it in our Letters to the Editor?
Baffour Ankomah has indeed gone to Zimbabwe."]


Regarding Gilles d'Aymery's & Jan Baughman's Ralph Nader: If Not Now, When?

To the Editor:

Terrific commentary... Couldn't agree with you more wholeheartedly... Isn't it good to have an intelligent near-left in the Democratic Party in the person of Howard Dean without whom the Democrats would define themselves entirely differently. If only Ralph Nader would just disappear... I would be a supporter of a third party candidate who had important new issues to elucidate or, better yet, have a chance of splitting the vote three ways, but this run by Nader is just his vanity... Too bad... We had, as you know, a really interesting candidate for mayor in San Francisco from the Green Party (Matt Gonzalez). We need more of his kind in national politics. But until we do, for heaven's sake, let's elect a good Democrat with heart, soul and mind -- and what a woman as a wife! -- that could make us proud to be an American again. It would be a whole new epoch: one that might last a while (or his like kind).

Thank you for the learned and piercing commentaries of you and your colleagues that keep me informed and engaged.

Marsha O'Bannon
San Francisco, California, USA - March 14, 2004


Regarding Phil Rockstroh's A Poison Pen Letter To Our Apostle Of Perpetual Psychosis, Brother Mel Gibson

To the Editor:

The Passion has stirred up Jewish hatred once again. When we discover the heart of the problem we are in a position to come upon a permanent solution. My commitment to a hate free world is total. I'm willing to do whatever I can. I believe there is a solution that will end this irrational hatred once and for all. I was raised Christian and my husband was raised Jewish. The Jews have been unjustly accused of killing Christ for over 2000 years and this insanity keeps resurfacing and being inflamed. We need to ask some obvious questions, so the whole ridiculous idea of blaming anyone for Jesus' death be seen as preposterous -- questions like:

1. If Jesus is God, how can he be murdered?
2. If Jesus can be killed, doesn't that make him vulnerable and thereby not a savior?
3. Is it reasonable to seek revenge today for a crime that was committed 2000 years ago?
4. If there's to be punishment for Jesus' death, wouldn't that be God's business? Wouldn't God, who is all powerful, be able to handle that one, dole out justice where appropriate...?
5. There are those who believe that God willed Jesus' death. If that were so, what are they blaming the Jews for?
6. Christianity teaches that salvation lies in believing that Jesus' death atones for sin. If you follow that (il)logic, shouldn't they be thanking those who put him on the cross?

I have written a book entitled "Not Guilty." It's about how we all thought we were guilty for crimes we never committed. We all hired the wrong attorney-ego. Ego wants us guilty so it can survive at our expense. Part of its strategy is to project that guilt outside by blaming someone else so you are off the hook. Christians who feel guilty for any reason, (it does not have to be for Jesus' death; it can be for being unfaithful to one's spouse, or for corruption in the workplace...)project that guilt out onto their Jewish brothers and make them Christ killers. In that act they think their guilt is assuaged and that someone else is going to suffer the consequences for their actions. The fact is, projecting guilt is how you keep it. Nothing has changed in 2000 years because by blaming the Jews, the problem has not been solved, but rather has been exacerbated. The solution of course is to lead a life of purity so one doesn't feel guilty and subsequently feel the need to accuse someone else falsely to assuage that guilt. Ego survives by coercing us into acting in ways that make us feel guilty and then keep that guilt by seeing someone else as the guilty party. Ego is a vampire that feeds on guilt. As long as anyone is guilty, it doesn't matter whether falsely accused or not, ego survives.

[...] In my book, I attempt to make a case for how the problem is ego and the solution is seeing it for what it is -- nothing.

If interested, you can read "Not Guilty" on my website. I pray constantly for the end of suffering for all humanity, both the victims as well as the victimizers. We have all fallen victim to ego's clutches and it is from ego that we must seek salvation, not each other. I am available to offer lectures and workshop on world peace. I am supported by a non-profit organization and which covers my travel expenses. There is no charge for my offering.

Peace and love

Yaani Drucker
Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, USA - March 15, 2004


Regarding Manuel García's Oil, Population And Global Warming

[Ed. This is an e-mail exchange between the author and Mr. David J. Theroux, the Founder and President of the The Independent Institute. The correspondence took place March 16-22, 2004. It is reproduced by permission.]

Dear Manuel,

Thanks for advising me of your article, but I believe that you are mistaken on a number of matters.

1. When I received my B.S. in mechanical engineering from UCB (1973), Hubbert gave the commencement address complete with a slide presentation on his predictions. However, despite your claims, his predictions (as well as those by Ehrlich and others) have since been shown to have been wrong as enormous quantities of oil reserves have been discovered since his prediction of peaking out. In addition, known fossil fuel supplies other than oil are vast, including coal, shale oil, and natural gas. The prospects for depleting such supplies in the knowable future are remote.

Of course, there are indeed finite resources in fossil fuels as there are of any energy source or commodity. All earthly energy sources are simply reconfigurations of solar energy derived from the Sun, itself also a source of finite energy. Moreover, energy and matter themselves are not exactly in short supply on Earth or elsewhere, and conversions to usable energy forms will no doubt continue based on existing technological and economic factors.

2. The claims over population growth simply do not fit the data. Fertility rates in Europe, much of Asia, North America and elsewhere continue to decline, and this process continues to spread as standards of living rise around the world. Population doom-saying based on Malthusian formulas is simply wrong. In addition, it is a fallacy to believe that population growth itself is bad. Somehow, there is the view that if someone has more chickens or cattle, he/she is wealthier, but if one has more children, they are necessarily poorer. This simplistic notion is also wrong.

See Population Growth: Disaster or Blessing? by Peter T. Bauer :

Population is only a problem depending upon other factors, especially whether individuals are free to make their own choices regarding the acquisition, use and exchange of property (including the right of any woman to own her own body and reproductive functions).

3. Your predictions over global warming are also wrong as has been show in numerous recent studies. The climate models repeatedly do not bear out with actual measurements of temperature change. Michael Mann's work is just not good science.

See New Perspectives in Climate Change: What the EPA Isn't Telling Us (scroll down to PDF file):

4. There is a growing number of scholars who have had the courage to point out the fallacies in so much of what is popularly and politically considered "science." However, the "limits to growth" paradigm continues to hold sway with many intelligent and sincere people who do not understand the economics of the "tragedy of the commons," affording interest groups easy prey for their pet schemes to use government power for their own vested purposes.

Here also is a selection of additional publications in this regard:

A Poverty of Reason: Sustainable Development and Economic Growth, by Wilfred Beckerman:

After Kyoto: A Global Scramble for Advantage by Bruce Yandle:

Environmental Colonialism: "Saving" Africa from Africans by Robert H. Nelson:

The Ivory Bandwagon: International Transmission of Interest-Group Politics by William H. Kaempfer and Anton D. Lowenberg:

Doomsday Every Day: Sustainable Economics, Sustainable Tyranny by Jacqueline R. Kasun:

Endangered Species Act: Who's Saving What?, by Randy T. Simmons:

Fixing the Endangered Species Act by Randy T. Simmons:

The Environmental Propaganda Agency by Craig S. Marxsen:

Free Riders and Collective Action Revisited by Richard L. Stroup:

Regulation by Litigation: Diesel Engine Emission Control By Bruce Yandle and Andrew P. Morriss:

Wolf Recovery, Political Ecology and Endangered Species by Charles Kay:

To Drill or Not to Drill: Let the Environmentalists Decide by Dwight R. Lee:

Thanks again for sharing your article with me.

Best regards,


David J. Theroux
Founder and President
The Independent Institute
Oakland, California, USA
Dear David,

Thank you for your reply. I'm glad my article found a reader. I'm sure time will prove what mistakes I have and haven't made.

I reported the figures of oil reserves stated in the references, by what I view as unbiased, knowledgeable experts. These figures are for oil. I agree there is a vast amount of coal in the ground, but this source of energy is not very environmentally benign (the getting or the using of it -- why we went to oil in the first place). The articles I relied on about oil reserves are also quite recent, and would include the "enormous" quantities that have been found since Hubbert's day. So, I believe my reporting of the quantitative argument of the finiteness of oil is accurate (given the data).

I actually wrote a small computer program to plot and compare all these curves, but was restricted to a purely text format for my presentation to a general readership. The curves tell the story at a glance.

I used actual data up to the present (2000) and projections - clearly stated - beyond that. Again these are not "my" projections, but those of authorities I consider knowledgeable and unbiased: oil analysts (e.g., WRI), the US Census Bureau, and the UN Environment Programme (which NOAA refers to as the leading authority for global warming data).

For example, on population, I clearly state that the rate of population growth is diminishing after 1990 (since I am reporting what I can see on a US Census Bureau curve of actual data), however, the population does grow. Also, the US Census Bureau gives a range of predictions for future growth (there is no presentation showing a population decrease). I also stated that I took the "middle" option; the "high" is quite impressively higher, and the "low" is not that dramatically lower over the time period I describe. Again, the numbers I use "are" the data (to the present), and reflect the most balanced "predictions" reflecting the best predictive knowledge available, so I don't think they are "wrong" objectively, though they are doubtless "wrong" politically among any number of people.

I did not make any Malthusian population disaster claims beyond stating what the projected populations would be. My point is that Americans will be 4.5% of a more crowded world, with a naturally larger appetite for natural resources. Whether or how we tackle the issue of accommodating this demand is a matter of speculative political discussion, which is where I imagine we actually disagree. I don't think there is any actual quantitative error in my article, but I freely grant there can be many interpretive divergences.

Finally, I realize you may see me as an advocate for "limiting growth," which your institute champions. I don't think that is my thrust. I question the meaning of what has been ascribed to the concept of "growth," based on an oil-fueled prosperity - doing things the old way (at most tinkering a bit around the fundamental concept of energy-intensive capitalism). I, too, understand from my earlier engineering education (B.S. Mech Engr. '72) that mass, energy and power can be used in different and quite innovative and environmentally benign ways to animate a drastically revised social, economic and technological structure which provides great benefit -- growth as you call it -- for Americans and the rest of the world. This is the point of my articles. I take up the issue of policy choices facing Americans, given the closing of the oil era, in a future article (at SWANS.com) called "Election 2016: The Issues."

I'm sure neither of us is likely to be "convinced" by the other's articles, but I am pleased that you found mine worthy of review and comment. Thank you very much for your response.

Manuel García
Dear Manuel,

Thanks so much for your further note. I greatly appreciate your sharing with me your further comments on these matters.

You might keep in mind that just 300 years ago, the North American continent sustained about 200,000 people at a subsistence level. If we were to extrapolate from the known reserves of energy resources then, we would no doubt have made dire predictions.

Yet today, the same region sustains well over 1,000 times this number of people. The difference here is the degree of technology and the freedom of individuals to make there own choices regarding physical resources. The same is true today worldwide.

Best regards,

Dear David,

I assume you refer to the North American colonists as the 200,000 people of 1704.

There were of course many more Native Americans, perhaps up to 3 million north of the Rio Grande (including Canada) in 1700. One of the consequences of the growth of the colonial population was the demise of the native one. The estimated 6 million natives of 1500 north of the Rio Grande (1) were reduced to 400,000 in 1900 (250,000 in the USA.). Since 1900, native populations have grown, so that today they are at about 30% of what they were in 1500 (they were about 10% in 1900). For the entire Western Hemisphere (North, Central and South America) the population loss between 1500 and 1980 was about 50 million (2). "Growth" on the American model is not seen universally as something positive to emulate. I take up the issue of policy choices that include benefit to populations excluded in prior American growth, in another article I hope SWANS.com publishes, "Which Holocaust Matters?"

I agree on your general point about the importance of technology (to assist in people's lives) and the importance of freedom of choice regarding many things including use of resources. The key here is what arrangements are made for the implementation of these freedoms, since all of everyone's choices are interlinked. One man's constraint is another's freedom.


[1] Native population north of the Rio Grande in 1492 is estimated between 4 and 7 million (modern estimates), and the span of estimates is 1 million to 18 million.

[2] Western Hemisphere population in 1492 is estimated between 72 million and 113 million. The 1980 native population in the Western Hemisphere was 28 million, so a 50 million drop is a reasonable characterization.
Dear Manuel,

I fully share your view of the truly tragic treatment of natives in North (and South) America as a result of colonial conquests. Such invasions refused to respect the property rights of resident people.

However, my point remains that for the estimated 3 million who lived prior to European arrival lived at near subsistence levels, while with the same amount of natural resources, today 1,000 times this many live at an astounding higher standard of living and life-span.

As for distinguishing among choices, as discussed in the many studies I gave you as links, property rights resolve the problems created by "tragedy of the commons."

Best regards,



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Published March 29, 2004
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