Friday, May 14, 2004

Have no fear

Several wrongheaded assumptions underlie Paul Craig Roberts’ near-neurotic fear that the United States is becoming a Third World economy (“Economic bouquets … and barbs,” Commentary, Wednesday). Perhaps most wrongheaded is his assumption that the world’s stock of capital — machines, factories, research and development laboratories — is fixed. That Mr. Roberts makes this assumption is evidenced by his worry that capital invested abroad means less investment at home.

For America to become a Third World country, not only would capital have to flee the United States, but new investment here would have to dry up.

America’s record capital-account surplus suggests that such drying up isn’t happening. More fundamentally, as long as America retains the rule of law, stable money, secure private property rights and other institutions that investors find attractive, there is no reason to believe the U.S. economy will suffer a shortage of capital.


Chairman, Department of Economics

George Mason University


Who needs incentives?

Since when is it necessary to provide teachers with incentives to teach? In the column “Mothers teach better; student cost lower,” (Home-schooling today, Life, Monday), the writer says mothers have built-in incentives to teach well, but she also makes comments that indicate she thinks monetary incentives based on student achievement would improve teaching in public schools.

As a retired teacher, administrator and university professor, I am insulted by the state’s attempt to bribe teachers to teach our children “better.” In fact, all teachers should be insulted and outraged by this latest legislative absurdity.

Teaching isn’t an industrial assembly-line position in which the more pieces you finish, the more you earn. The whole honorable point of becoming a teacher is that you want to plant a positive educational foundation and a love for learning into each student you teach and then to increase each child’s knowledge in ongoing increments so he or she may move toward a successful future. Furthermore, if the state would provide professional teachers with a professional salary, there would be no need to complement the salary with incentives for additional teacher income. The whole idea of incentives for teachers is ludicrous.

Legislators and educational administrators had better review their priorities and educational reality before giving teachers an incentive program. It’s irresponsible and inappropriate thinking, and it sends a negative message about the honorable field of teaching. If we want to start an incentive program, perhaps we should start one by giving legislators incentives for each intelligent proposal they come up with.


Driftwood, Texas

Limbaugh and the law

About your Sunday editorial “Aiming for Rush”: Possession of drugs in the quantities Mr. Limbaugh admitted possessing is a felony in Florida. Mr. Limbaugh should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, just as he has promoted in the past when condemning others. The old adage about glass houses applies here; Mr. Limbaugh ought to stand ready to have his windows smashed.


Oakhurst, Calif.


I’m writing about your thoughtful editorial “Aiming for Rush.” I would like to add that in the eyes of the law, Rush Limbaugh is a drug dealer.

Though Mr. Limbaugh probably never sold any drugs to anybody, if he possessed or purchased a certain amount of drugs, in the eyes of the law, he is automatically considered to be a drug dealer.

Is it fair? No. Is it the law? Yes.

Personally, I feel that Mr. Limbaugh or any other adult citizen should be free to smoke, swallow, snort or inject any substance he or she wants, especially in the privacy of his or her own home, as long as the drug user is personally responsible for the consequences.

It seems to me that Mr. Limbaugh should not be complaining that police are picking on him but rather that the drug laws are wrong.

He should join a long list of true conservatives who oppose our war on drugs because it is wasteful and counterproductive.

Mr. Limbaugh and others should oppose our drug laws because they take away our rights as free citizens that our government has no rightful authority to take away.

Our government cannot protect adult citizens from themselves, and our government has no rightful authority in attempting to do so.

Mr. Limbaugh should realize this. All true conservatives should realize this.


Mesa, Ariz.

At battle’s end

The long battle between Virginia tax-increase advocates and opponents has ended with a $1.38 billion tax increase. (“At long last, $60 billion state budget passed,” Metropolitan, May 8).

It seems to me that the battle by tax-increase advocates could have been a lot easier if they had volunteered to step up to the plate and pay more taxes in previous years. I suggest that all tax-increase advocates establish an annual payment plan that calls for voluntarily sending Richmond more taxes each year if they believe taxes are not high enough. Virginia established a “tax me more” fund for that purpose.

Actions speak louder than words. By voluntarily paying more taxes, the tax-increase advocates will speak with authority when they request more taxes. Also, the state coffers will be enriched voluntarily from tax-increase advocates’ own pockets to help pay for all the services they suggest need to be funded.

The general taxpayers will benefit also because there will be more money in the state’s till from the tax-increase advocates to help defray the costs of essential services without unnecessarily raising taxes.

Keep in mind that it is always easier to tax everyone than to pay voluntarily. That’s why it is important that the tax-increase advocates voluntarily pay taxes into the Virginia “tax me more” fund to demonstrate their commitment for more and more taxes.


Mount Vernon

Coercion creates tension

Structural factors increase the likelihood of school misbehavior (“Behavior problems hurt teachers, students,” Page 1, Wednesday). Our systems of education are based on coercion. Families have no choice about whether to send their children to school. Families have no choice — unless they are well off — among schools. Schools cannot choose students. Compulsory education without choices is a formula for tension. The tension is exacerbated by an ever lower popular culture.

Providing more options — including nonpublic options — would lessen the coercion, lower the tension and allow schools to become distinctive: Let families choose schools, thereby enhancing their status and getting them to “buy into” their children’s educations, and let schools choose pupils (with added funds following more challenging students).


Retired public school teacher

Lenoir, N.C.

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