Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, brilliant laissez-faire economist of 18th-century France, said that interventions by the government to protect consumers “would be like wanting it to provide cushions for all the children who might fall.” If he were alive today, wouldn’t he be amused to learn that a sober (?) New Jersey legislature (Cultural Revolutions, March 1993), in mandating helmets for all children riding bicycles, finally took him literally instead of mistaking his words for simple ridicule?

        —Morgan Reynolds
Department of Economics
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX

On ‘Walt Whitman and P.C.’

I was appalled to read of A.S. Ash’s “humanizing” of Walt Whitman’s poetry (Liberal Arts, March 1993) and perhaps even astounded that Ash left the poet’s last name intact instead of changing it to “Whitperson.” Who is this Ash, anyway? He/she/it has not “edited” but rather tampered with a work of art, in the name of political correctness. Whitman, regardless of how one feels about his poetry, wrote in his own unique voice—and that voice, like the voice of any poet, deserves to be heard the way it was originally presented, not just for artistic integrity but for historical accuracy.

A self-styled “humanist,” Ash apparently has no grasp of what poetry entails or expresses. Poets choose their words not solely for meaning but for sound and rhythm as well. For Ash to replace any poet’s words “where appropriate” (and here one must ask: appropriate to whom and by what criterion?) is plainly absurd. One can just imagine Ash as a music editor, reharmonizing the “incorrect” parallel fifths of a Beethoven composition, or maybe as a museum curator, recoloring various faces in Leonardo’s “The Last Supper” for the sake of achieving ethnic balance.

More idiotic still is Ash’s introduction of “humanist personal pronouns” into Whitman’s work “in cases where distinction of gender is ambiguous, irrelevant, or misleading.” The pronouns who, whose, and whom (rendered “humanistically” by Ash as hu, hus, and hum) do not convey, and have never conveyed, any kind of gender distinction, so what is Ash’s point in making these ridiculous substitutions? Ash has merely replaced the traditional spellings with phonetic spellings, and not very good ones at that.

Ash has the aesthetic sensibility of a mule and the linguistic scholarship of a hinny—animals that, fittingly enough, are almost always neuter. P.C. means political correctness, but in Ash’s case these letters might also stand for philosophical cowardice and philological cretinism.

        —Louis B. Delpino
Philadelphia, PA

On ‘Ancestry and History’

As Czeslaw Milosz has written, “The true enemy of man is generalization.” In his March 1993 column (“Capture the Flag, Part I“) John Shelton Reed writes: “As Eugene Genovese, characteristically gallant, observed during an exchange on the subject at a recent meeting of the American Studies Association, no one .should be required to spit on his ancestors’ graves.”

Well if not required to spit on their ancestors’ graves then shouldn’t they be encouraged to do so if their ancestors are people like Lenin, Stalin, and other communist monsters, or if their ancestors are Hitler or the Auschwitz camp commandant? I’m talking about the genocidists of the 20th century, the people about whom Ralph Raico was talking in the same March issue. Professor Genovese may be “characteristically gallant,” but if Professor Reed quotes him correctly he’s being—uncharacteristically—morally obtuse.

        —Arnold Beichman
Hoover Institution
Stanford, CA