Tue, Mar 1, 1994

L. Jane Richards
2925 South 7th St. West
Missoula, MT 59801-2021

Dear Ms Richards:

My thanks for your patient and courteous conversation on the phone. I enclose my open letter, which summarizes my view on many of these issues, and my letter to Ms Tisdale, which goes into some detail on the financial calculations. I also enclose my posting reporting (among other things) on our conversation, both so that you can correct me if I misstated your position, and so that you can see the proposition for which Their Majesties of the Middle cite you as the authority. Incidentally, someone posted this morning that he had checked the (hand) folding cost at a local shop, and it was $20/1000. For 23,000 copies, that comes to $460. Postage for the extra ounce comes to about $5300.

A few further points with regard to the 1992 request for comment on required membership.

1. You note that only two percent of the membership responded. If the Board's attitude is "only 300 people wrote in, 84% were against, but that tells us nothing" why in the world should anyone bother to write in? One more letter moves it from 300 to 301, which will still be ignored.

2. It was the Board that set up that particular way of soliciting the membership's opinion. When you liked the result--as when a majority approved of membership for fighters--you cited it as support for your actions. You now seem to be saying that, having set up a mechanism for learning what the membership thinks, you will ignore it whenever you don't like the result.

3. Not only did the Board ask to get a response in this form, it has announced in the past that it will refuse other forms of response--specifically that it will not accept petitions or (I think) form letters or letters with multiple signatures. This puts you in the somewhat odd position of saying that you will only accept responses from those who care enough to write individual letters--and then saying that such responses tell you nothing. You are also in the position of being unwilling to listen to anyone who does not care enough to write an individual letter, but then answering those individual letters with form letters. At least, three people so far have, to my knowledge, gotten identical letters from Ms Tisdale--although none of the letters identified itself as a form letter.

4. In fact, the 1992 response is quite informative. The fact that it is not a random sample makes it hazardous to deduce, say, that opposition is between 80% and 88%. But it would take a very biased sample to get 84% opposition from a population that was really in favor of the measure. Do you have any reason to believe that such bias exists--that people who care enough to write letters are much more likely to be on one side than the other? In my experience, both sides feel strongly. If you have no such reason, then 84% against is the best available estimate of membership feeling, and the claim that the membership is for the proposal, although logically possible, is very unlikely.

As I remember, the comments accompanying the poll were substantially biased in favor of the proposal. Indeed, I think I remember an apologetic comment on this from whoever was running it at the time the results were published. So that suggests that the best guess is probably more than 84% opposition.

In Service to the Society

David Friedman
309 Mitchell St.
Ithaca, N.Y. 14850
1 607 273-7168
(Visiting Professor, Cornell Law School)
(Cariadoc of the Bow, KSCA, OL, OP, Duke)

encl: Public Letter, Letter to V. Tisdale, My posting