Letters

After Liberia's elections, a hope for better managers and leaders

Regarding the Oct. 11 article, "Liberia's top two face off": Elections in Liberia are of great interest to me. In the 1980s I spent several months on World Bank grant money in Monrovia working with the University of Liberia to plan for its future. Beyond the university I felt the need to explore the economic conditions of the nation because the life and future of the university were so dependent on them. The natural resources of Liberia were good, but foreign managements of iron ore, rubber, and other commodities were inimical to the interests of the people. The government in place showed an astonishing display of ignorance in the management of resources.

As for the university, its problems reflected the corruption of the government. The university bookstore had no inventory; its income was siphoned off, and it had no funds to restock. The excellent plan of agricultural development at a rural campus failed because the faculty had to eat the seed corn. These were but a few of the problems made necessary by the incompetence of government.

It is my fervent hope that new leadership will begin to right some of the wrongs. Liberia can be a prosperous nation if it learns to harness all that is good in that nation.
Charles B. Vail
Banner Elk, N.C.

Species act not important to all farmers

The Oct. 5 article, "A growing regional divide over species act," claims "In general, ranchers, farmers, and others in the rural West ... want to make laws like those protecting endangered species far less restrictive." I suspect this conclusion is based in part on the powerful machines of corporate lobby groups such as the American Farm Bureau, but such groups do not speak for most farmers and ranchers. Less than one third of the bureau's members (many of whom join for insurance and other benefits, not ideological reasons) are farmers or ranchers, and they have no significant voice in setting policy. The farmers and ranchers I know are more troubled by threats such as drilling operations contaminating their water, and corporate consolidation of meatpacking and other wholesale markets than they are by the Endangered Species Act. The corporate executives who control the American Farm Bureau are the threat to farmers, not their spokespeople.
Jeff Milchen
Bozeman, Mont.

Hu's vision similar to predecessors'

Regarding the Oct. 6 article, "Hu Jintao sets out blueprint for China's future": Every Chinese leader seeks to establish a legacy. Mr. Hu wants to build a "socialist harmonious society" based on minzhu (democracy) and fazhi (rule by law). Although his campaign tacitly acknowledges the need to address the consequences of the runaway growth of the previous thirteen years, its purpose and method are debatable.

First, he envisions such a society to "act in an orderly manner according to existing laws." To oppose anarchy and disorder, rule by law is the best guarantee for order. Hu's emphasis on law thus entrenches the power of the party-state, not subjects it to the law.

Second, post-Mao Chinese history has shown the diminishing returns of various political campaigns - against "spiritual pollution," "bourgeois liberalization," and so on. Hu's vision thus continues his predecessors' search for political stability under the Communist Party's rule.
Vincent Wei-cheng Wang
Associate Professor of Political Science,
University of Richmond
Richmond, VA

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