The People and Their Government: One and the Same

Rushworth Kidder's column ``Vote for Democracy, Not for Incumbency,'' Nov. 27, states that ``when Congress voted itself a much-needed pay-raise-and-ethics package, it missed the point.'' I do believe that the ethics portion of the package was insufficient to ensure complete freedom of action for legislators. But the agreement is a step in the right direction.

The ideal is to forbid accepting any presents. To justify the ethics rule, the salaries of congressmen and judges should be protected by an annual cost-of-living adjustment. Most salaries in the private sector are.

Knowledge, ability, integrity, and years of experience should not be put aside automatically. Persons who are so qualified are hard to come by. They should be preserved.

Rotation would not eliminate the flaws in the present system, because it would not effectively prevent a poorly informed or uninformed citizenry. Constituents who base their choices on charisma would still exist. So would voters who put up with negative television campaigning, unproved charges, or illogical conclusions.

What the whole situation really amounts to is that ``we the people'' govern ourselves, and depending on what kind of people we are, so will our government be also. Edmund Alexander, Harwich, Mass.

The wealth gap In his commentary ``The Pay Cut Washington Needs,'' Nov. 15, Jonathan Rowe fairly makes an ironic point that the men and women of Congress have a right to expect pay rates more in accord with the bloated figures of those in private Washington business. But Mr. Rowe misses the larger point. The enormous pay discrepancy is not just in Washington.

The real reason the pay raise is such a hot issue is that the average American sees a huge difference between his pay check and those of a handful of the fabulously rich. The underlying problem is that we have lost a critical stance from which to see the massive and growing gap between the few rich and the many poor all over this country. We lash out at politicians because our ideology won't let us recognize the deeper cause: a system which favors the rich and powerful. L.A. Parks Daloz, Cambridge, Mass.

Where are we, anyway? Regarding John Hughes's opinion-page column ``Flunking Geography,'' Nov. 15: Put large maps of the continents, bio-regions, and countries in some of the schools' non-classroom environments for self-directed perusal. For example, why not paint or etch very large maps on the surfaces of playgrounds. As the children play they will be running and walking all over the world.

The tops of lunch tables are a handy place for maps, historical timelines, the periodic table of elements, the layout of the universe, etc. Education can occur most of the time in most places. Such efforts could help overcome geographic ignorance. Gregory Wright, Sherman Oaks, Calif.

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