Individuals, not companies, responsible for debt

I found your March 15 article "Erasing debt may soon get harder" quite interesting, especially your noting that many families get entangled in debt due to life-changing emergencies or similar events.

I take issue, however, with the contention quoted in the article that the source of the problem is "aggressive marketing by credit card companies." While credit card companies market their products aggressively - I must receive a dozen or more pre-approved credit card applications each week - I fail to understand how this should let consumers off the hook. I know of nothing that forces consumers to take dubious "advantage" of these offers.

Where is individual responsibility in this mix? Why is it that self-styled consumer advocates of every stripe appear to want to absolve us of all responsibility for every act we take?

Gary Hobin Leavenworth, Kan.

Can't compare Reagan and Madison

As I read Alvin Felzenburg's March 16 opinion piece "James Madison, the clearest thinker," I came upon this sentence: "Ronald Reagan had to have been thinking of someone like Madison when he observed, 'There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he does not mind who gets the credit.' " The author displays astounding brass to mention Madison and Mr. Reagan in one article. There is no evidence that the latter ever gave much thought to the lines he was fed, and it defies belief that, without a script, he could have said anything about Madison or his beliefs except that he was husband to Dolley who saved a painting.

Monitor readers deserve another piece on Madison, this time by a writer whose purpose is to write about the genius - not to minimize the vast gulf between that genius and one of his most lackluster successors.

John Gear Lansing, Mich.

US should remember former empires

Your March 9 article "Allies keep balking at US missile defense" needs clarification of the impression a national missile defense system makes on our European allies and on the rest of the world. In blunt words, the system means nobody will be able to hit us, but we will be able to hit anybody.

If the United States were confronted with such a proposal by any other country, the reaction would be violent, and the call to match what would be perceived as threatened aggression would be irresistible.

Perhaps no other country is currently able to match the plans of the Bush administration; just as during the 19th century nobody was able to match the power of the British fleet in the vicinity of Europe, Africa, and Asia; and just as the Roman Empire was supreme for 500 years. But those empires resulted in much envy, resentment, and hatred. They were eventually replaced. Perhaps no powerful country has ever voluntarily restrained itself, but at least we should not be surprised that our effort to maintain the supreme power has similar results.

Edward J. Stevens Mahtomedi, Minn.

Journalists still clinging to Clinton

In his March 6 column "Clinton's endless exit," Godfrey Sperling bemoans Bill Clinton's continued "hugging" the spotlight, as if Mr. Clinton carried his controversial pardons just so he would remain the cynosure of the media. Clinton's goodbye would have been an abrupt and short one for me, but Mr. Sperling and his colleagues kept writing about it. That Sperling continued the media obsession with Clinton's turpitude while simultaneously expressing disgust for its continuation is more than an irony.

Dennis O'Leary Evergreen, Colo.

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(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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