Letters to the Editor

Readers write about national healthcare, forgiving debt, aid workers in Ethiopia, and UN sanctions against Iran.

The government hand in healthcare raises costs

Regarding the March 3 article, "Arguments mount for national healthcare": In David Francis's recent commentary on national healthcare, Shannon Brownlee blames rising healthcare costs on a failure of the free market. In my opinion, the exact opposite is true. It is government interference in the free market that has created the current crisis. Any system of national healthcare would merely worsen the current problems.

National healthcare programs violate the rights of consumers and healthcare providers to contract freely for medical services according to their best judgment. Such programs inevitably lead to rising costs and rationing, as demonstrated repeatedly in Sweden, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

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In contrast, the free market consistently lowers costs and increases availability. Those sectors of medicine that are least regulated by the government (such as LASIK and cosmetic surgery) have shown the typical pattern over time of falling prices and rising quality that we take for granted in the rest of the US economy. Because the free market respects individual rights, it is the only practical and moral solution for the problem of rising healthcare costs.

Paul Hsieh, MD
Cofounder, Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine
Sedalia, Colo.

Cancel poor nations' debt

Regarding Jason Stearns and Colin Thomas-Jensen's Feb. 21 Opinion piece, "Bush's peace opportunity in Congo": The piece presents hope for peace and a chance for President Bush to "gain a positive legacy in one of the most devastated corners of the world." His trip to Africa also presents us with an opportunity to reconsider forgiving the foreign debts of the world's poorest countries, the majority of which are in Africa. This would do even more to improve Mr. Bush's legacy, and the tarnished reputation of the United States worldwide.

Most underdeveloped countries have been pressured to accept loans from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Mostly earmarked for projects such as developing infrastructure, much of the money involved ended up in the pockets of corrupt heads of state. Many projects, especially large dams, brought more harm to people than good.

Now the ordinary citizens of these countries are paying interest on the loans at a rate of millions of dollars a day – money that should instead be used for education, healthcare, and clean drinking water.

A proposed law in Congress, the Jubilee Act for Responsible Lending and Expanded Debt Cancellation would go a long way in improving the lives of billions.

Lynn Biddle
Cambridge, Mass.

Speak out in Ethiopia

Regarding the Feb. 26 article, "In Ethiopia, does staying silent save lives?": The article is very credible. This is the plight of aid workers in many locations: to speak out about rebel atrocities risks reprisals from the rebels and having access denied by gunmen in the bush. Unfortunately, the government may not be any more civilized.

I can well imagine the situation as described by the author; I served in Jijiga during 2004-05 as an aid worker. We didn't speak out against the rebels – although there was little need to do so – so we could go into Ogaden National Liberation Front territory where government vehicles couldn't and we were able to save lives. Now, it seems that aid workers must not speak out about government actions – and there may be a great need to do so.

Lynn Austin
Campbell, Calif.

Allow Iran to develop nuclear technology

Regarding the March 3 article, "UN Security Council passes more sanctions against Iran": Using the logic of the UN, all countries with nuclear weapons should be sanctioned, because these countries pose a threat to peace in the world. But the heavily Western-influenced UN simply sees possession of nuclear weapons in the United States and Europe as a good thing and nuclear weapons in countries that chafe under Western control, like Iran, as a bad thing.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad looks west and sees his neighbor conquered by America and the enemy closer to his country's borders. To protect the integrity of his country and the Middle East, Mr. Ahmadinejad must be able to defend against another country that may attack Iran with nuclear weapons.

It is not just for decoration the Iranian currency has a nuclear symbol on it; this symbol says that Iran is not a bull's eye target for the United States.

Mark Tackett
Anaheim, Calif.

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