Your April 10 article "Rise of the corporate nation-state" poses this question: Who should set society's agenda - big business or big government?
As suggested in the article, we must now approach this issue globally, as well as nationally, and business is way out in front of government on both levels. More businesses operate worldwide, but little thought is given to the possibility of globalizing democratic political institutions that could rein in the globalized economic institutions.
At the same time, within this country the nominally democratic government has become a servant of the corporations rather than an instrument to control them. How can democracy function as a check on economic power when the corporations control so much of the process by which candidates are nominated?
The article rightly notes that in the past the US government has held corporations in check and that campaign-finance reform is critical to making this possible again. Unfortunately, the article doesn't mention the possibility of a similar strategy on the global level, that is, of developing a democratic global political institution in order to check the power of worldwide organizations. Without such control, it's not surprising that nonregulated global economic groups are having a heyday when pitted against the relatively separate national governments.
Ronald J. Glossop Jennings, Mo.
Paradox in the war against drugs
Regarding your editorial "Help Colombia, help addicts": According to Gen. Barry McCaffrey, when criminals were under the influence of a drug when they committed a crime, the drug was alcohol 84 percent of the time, cocaine 12 percent, and heroin 4 percent. When heroin and cocaine were not illegal before 1915, addiction rates were lower than today, and there was no major link between their use and crime. You ignore the fundamentals of free-market economics. Every effort to choke supply has had the perverse effect of producing additional surplus, either in that country or others. How do you expect us to curtail coca production in jungles half the size of the US when we can't stop the growth of a far more easily detected plant in Georgia or California? A simple glimpse at plunging drug prices over 30 years of accelerated spending should be sufficient to alert you to the growing surplus that seeps down to children, most of whom report that illegal drugs are easier to get than alcohol.
Jerry Epstein, Houston
The rise in all taxes
A few facts should be considered before celebrating the news in your April 14 article "America's tax burden lightens," based on the taxes paid by most with their 1999 1040 tax return.How about the taxes we pay that are not included in our 1040s?Those include taxes through payroll, on property, on purchases, on gasoline, on the telephone, and state income taxes. According to the Tax Foundation, the per-capita expense of taxes this year is $10,298.This is more than we spend on shelter ($5,833), food ($2,693), or transportation ($2,568). The overall tax burden is running at the highest peace-time rate in history.Isn't it time for areal tax cut?
Lawrence M. Tilton San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Freedom from watches
Bravo to Marilyn Gardner for her April 12 column taking on the wristwatch, "Life ticks on with or without a wristwatch." I have not worn one for over 40 years, and life could not be any freer. People always looking at their wrists are not as annoying as those using cellphones in public, but the dependency isolates both types from the world.
Rich Hart Watsonville, Calif.
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