- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Smoke ‘em (outside), if you got ‘em

I’m responding to an article by S.A. Miller, “Smoking ban worries workers” (Metropolitan, Monday).

This article has lopsided reporting. Plenty of nonsmokers, such as myself, welcome the smoking ban and will go out more often in Montgomery County. In fact, I cross the border from the District to frequent establishments in Montgomery to enjoy dining and entertainment without jeopardizing my health.

It’s time to face the facts, as many other countries, states, counties and cities have done: Secondhand smoke kills and causes disease.

If a country (Ireland) can make the decision that it is better to protect the health of workers and customers than worry about the bottom line, then you know it must be really bad. Besides, if the economic declines were true, why would jurisdictions continue to go smoke-free? Because people are important, not money.

DEBRA KUBECKA

Washington

‘Undecided’ voters lose a member

“Kerryspeak” (Editorial, yesterday) was very valuable for me. Because I am going to be a first-time voter in the 2004 election, I needed some confirmation about the “flip-flopping” of Sen. John Kerry.

Most of the evidence of his flip-flopping has been from the 1990s, and I did not feel comfortable with that as a reason not to vote for Mr. Kerry. Considering his most recent flip-flop, though, I have made up my mind to vote for President Bush.

Though both candidates have strong and weak points, I don’t want a president who has a history of saying one thing and then doing the opposite. Mr. Bush did tell the American people that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and he was wrong. I wish he would just admit that the intelligence he had was incorrect and that he was wrong with that assumption.

I think the average American just wants a president who is honest and will try to do what is in the best interests, foreign and domestic, of the country.

MARK KIRBY

Louisville, Ky.

Funding the Pentagon 9/11 memorial

Regarding “Pentagon 9/11 memorial delayed” (Page 1, Tuesday): This story erroneously states that I said the total amount the Pentagon Memorial Fund has raised so far is $972,000. In fact, the fund has raised more than $1 million. The story also brings up concerns that are unfounded and misleading.

The Pentagon Memorial Fund’s objective from the beginning has been to create a memorial that will serve as a permanent place of remembrance, reflection and renewal. We have chosen a beautiful and moving design through a national competition, a construction partner has been selected, and we will be debuting the Pentagon Memorial Fund’s Web site shortly.

FundingthePentagon Memorial completely through private sources is an ambitious undertaking. Our initial “quiet phase” of fund-raising has been very successful in raising more than $1 million before the kickoff of our public fund-raising effort. We will be counting on the generosity and support of thousands of Americans, locally and nationally, to make the memorial a reality for all of us.

We hope The Washington Times will help us publicize our efforts and encourage support for this tangible tribute to our community’s loss and our country’s enduring spirit.

JAMES LAYCHAK

President

Pentagon Memorial Fund

Washington

Free trade as good as new

Paul Craig Roberts’ latest attempt to educate on comparative advantage (“Missing case for free trade,” Commentary, Saturday) derives more from biblical than economic text. He would do well to take the protectionist beam from his own eye before seeking to exorcise the mote of free trade from the libertarian lens.

Concern about our inability to maintain a relative cost advantage at producing enough goods to fuel the mutual siphon mechanism of comparative advantage ignores the reality that value adding starts rather than ends with the manufacturing process. Advantages are more complex than simply looking at the cost of production factors such as labor. Savvy on the demand and delivery side adds value just as much.

Thus, advantage is often gained by placing oneself physically or metaphorically along the routes of trade. This accounts for the economic success of those dwelling along the Silk Road; the sailors, explorers and road builders of Western civilization; the homesteaders along the great Mississippi; all Americans reached by the explosion of rail and road transit; and finally, to Mr. Roberts’ apparent chagrin, all those possessing an entry ramp to the information superhighway. Of course, trade routes change, but this begs repositioning, not protectionism.

That is just what’s happening overseas, where nations make wonks as well as widgets. Bemoaning the increasing levels of technological sophistication in the Asian labor pool sounds the note of populist rhetoric.

Mr. Roberts’ preference for a static comparative advantage in which only “lesser” jobs are exported to plentiful labor markets asks for a return to economic colonialism just as opportunities of the free market finally are opening up to closed societies where a dearth of property rights and other civil liberties have constrained economic success for millennia.

Mr. Roberts is right that rhetoric can create a political liability out of these economic dynamics. He is patently wrong, however, that comparative advantage has played itself out on the world stage. America’s advantage has grown to be its ability to create value in the security, packaging and delivery of economic goods and interests — a unique talent facilitated by our commercial culture and political freedoms, much less easily duplicated by Pacific Rim copycats.

If this advantage eventually is eroded and not replaced, our trading partners may find little on which to spend money; they will stop shipping goods to us, and we will make more here. Isn’t that what Mr. Roberts wants?

He advances no argument as to why we should be less able to rise to the challenge of renewing our manufacturing capacity than we were to reconfiguring our industrial base upon entering World War II or the computer revolution. So, why doesn’t he just clam up and wait? Of course, he might be waiting quite some time along with those who perennially prove wrong in predictions of imminent world famine and environmental Armageddon. Our economic ingenuity has consistently outpaced a century of assurances that America’s commercial comeuppance is just around the corner.

BRIAN BISHOP

Exeter, R.I.

Missiles speak louder than words

Discussing President Chen Shui-bian’s narrow election victory in “A virtual tie in Taiwan” (Commentary, yesterday), Dale McFeatters urges Mr. Chen to “co-opt his opponent’s platform,” which “advocates expanding ties to China — travel, trade, investment.”

In order to foster better relations with China, Mr. Chen has not merely promoted closer economic and cultural ties — he recently advocated creating a demilitarized zone in the Taiwan Strait and called for talks with Chinese leaders.

China’s refusals to dismantle its 500 missiles aimed at Taiwan and to deal realistically with Taiwan’s de facto independence are the main causes of “uncertainty” in the region — not Mr. Chen’s assertions of Taiwan’s sovereignty.

LORNA HAHN

Executive director

Association on Third World Affairs

Washington

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