In response to:
Yes, Minister from the December 2, 1993 issue
To the Editors:
In reviewing a book in a way which is sure to infuriate at least some people, it’s sensible to avoid minor slips. Ryan’s review of The Downing Street Years failed to follow this rule [NYR, December 6, 1993]. Galtieri was an Admiral. Ian MacGregor although he was in the United States at the time he was hired was British. Finally, Hobbes was not a devout believer in anything we would now recognize as laissez faire.
Karl Eller Professor of Economics and Political Science
The University of Arizona
Alan Ryan replies:
Gordon Tullock’s principle is a sound one, and Admiral Galtieri is a fair cop; the Scotchness of Ian MacGregor I never meant to impugn, only to suggest it was odd to hire the boss of British Steel and British Coal from an American merchant bank. As to Hobbes, I stand where I stood; he anticipates Bentham in insisting that property is the gift of government, but that the best way to promote prosperity is generally to let the citizenry get on with making a living uninterfered with. This is so far from being a “minor slip” that I would in fact want to reiterate that the combination of strong state and laissez faire is intellectually defensible and really does tie Mrs. Thatcher (as she then was) to the greatest of English political thinkers. The howler—no minor lapse this—that I lament is over the death of Chatham: he suffered several mental collapses, but never committed suicide. I have taken a vow not to venture into the eighteenth century without the Dictionary of National Biography to hand. My thanks to several observant critics.
January 13, 1994