- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 22, 2006

Agreeing to agree

I appreciate William T. Smith’sthoughtfulletter Wednesday, “Defending the World Bank,” which criticizes “Utopian planners are always wrong,” my review Sunday of William Easterly’s book “The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good.” We are both right. I agree with him that many of the early World Bank loans to Pacific Rim countries had constructive results. He agrees with me that this cannot be said of World Bank and International Monetary Fund loans to many sub-Saharan African nations.

In short, we both agree that good World Bank loans are good and bad World Bank loans are bad. We also agree that some countries, especially those with corrupt regimes, such as Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe, present serious problems of political and economic development.

Utopian schemes lead to disaster. Economically sound efforts can be and have been productive.

ERNEST W. LEFEVER

Chevy Chase

Lawsuit abuse

The Center for Science in the Public Interest’s latest lawsuit against KFC (“Special interest’s secret recipe,” Editorial, Friday) highlights an often missing element in society today: personal responsibility.

We have a choice when it comes to what we eat. A simple walk through the food court at the mall is enough to remind us that consumers face a lot of unhealthy food choices. Rather than blaming the fast food companies, we need to accept the consequences of our choices.

The CSPI may believe it is acting in the public’s best interest, but the consumers and taxpayers ultimately will pay for this frivolous litigation, even if the lawsuit is unsuccessful.

In addition to the inevitable costs associated with any lawsuit, such abuse of the court raises the cost of goods and services to consumers, threatens jobs and hurts the economy. Moreover, these frivolous lawsuits further clog our courts, preventing real victims in our society from seeing timely justice.

This latest obesity-related lawsuit underscores the need for passage of the Common Sense Food Consumption Act in Maryland, a law several other states have passed already.

Unfortunately, in our increasingly litigious society, it appears that personal responsibility will come only if legislated.

TODD D. LAMB

Executive director

Maryland Citizens

Against Lawsuit Abuse

Annapolis

Make friends not war

Peter Huessy’s analysis and recommendations for “U.S. missile defense” (Op-Ed, Wednesday) had some insightful technical ideas regarding missile defense, but in our post-September 11 world, enemy missiles are the least of our worries. Resources spent on advancing missile defenses are a wasteful gamble, not an “investment.”

I suspect no nation would launch a missile against the United States if it knew our retaliation would mean the annihilation of those responsible for the launch. A missile delivery system is the most expensive, complicated and inaccurate means of warhead delivery. Why bother with missiles when there are so many cheaper, simpler and more accurate weapons of mass destruction (chemical, nuclear or biological) that won’t leave a return address?

Investing limited federal resources in border and airport detection systems would be infinitely smarter and would involve a technology that would be far less likely to be turned against us in the future.

Mr. Huessy calls for technological advancement of “chemical lasers” or “space-based assets,” but as with every other defense technology we have created, others will seek it, obtain it and then twist into an effective offensive weapon to use against us (Stinger missiles, the Internet, night-vision goggles, just to name a few).

The dual-use nature of increasingly powerful, affordable and ubiquitous technologies combined with the persistent fragility of all human life suggest that technological killing capacity will always be ahead of defensive capacities.

What Mr. Huessy and other military-minded defense experts must concede eventually is that real security isn’t a function of superarmaments or the disarming of others. Real security is a function of not making others in the world so hateful that they are willing to commit mass murder. That means making more friends in the world so they will be able to assist us in effectively defeating our greatest threats, such as natural pandemics or bioterrorists.

CHUCK WOOLERY

Rockville

P.S.

Wednesday’s editorial concerning the legislative backlash at the state and federal level to restrict the use of eminent domain is of little solace, as it fails to recognize the true impact of Kelo v. New London (“Eminent-domain wars”).

Where a constitutional protection once existed — immune from the whims of a simple majority of a city, state or federal legislative body — a future vote requiring only a simple majority can rob us of property rights that should be inviolate. We are faced with a situation that only the Supreme Court can repair, as the eminent domain powers given to the government through the Constitution are clear already: public use only.

By changing the meaning of words, the Supreme Court has, once again, rendered a constitutional provision meaningless (much like the Establishment Clause). What are we to do, amend the Constitution to prohibit takings unless necessary for a public purpose, with a postscript that says we really, really mean it this time?

RON BERESTKA

Alamo, Calif.

Electoral and popular votes

The Washington Times has had two editorials this month about presidential elections in Latin America that are instructive for the value of establishing majority thresholds for winning executive offices.

The most recent editorial, “Nicaragua’s election” (Monday) points out that in Nicaragua, the required vote for avoiding a runoff has declined from 45 percent to 35 percent — down to a level where it will be easier for Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega to win if his opposition is fractured, as may happen in this November’s election. In contrast, as you pointed out on June 4 (“Peru’s front-runners,” Editorial ), Peru has a majority runoff requirement that was necessary for more centrist candidate Alan Garcia to overcome front-runner Lt. Col. Ollanta Humala, a left-leaning nationalistbackedby Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

A majority requirement does not mean left-leaning or right-leaning candidates can’t win, but it does make it more likely that winners will be representative and that voters will be able to hold their leaders accountable. In fact, of the 28 major democracies that Freedom House rates highly for protecting human rights, 20 require winners to receive a majority in runoff elections, and one (Ireland) requires a majority with instant runoff voting. Two set lower thresholds, and just four allow plurality winners.

The American Electoral College system is unique among these democracies in allowing winners who lose the popular vote, but at least it does require candidates to obtain a majority of electoral votes.

ROB RICHIE

Executive director

FairVote

Center for Voting and Democracy

Takoma Park

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