The moral imperatives of free trade

Although your June 26 editorial ("Trade-offs for open trade") recognizes that open trade is often harmful to many US interests in the short-term (for example, jobs), you say that "over time, the US economy adjusts and then benefits in growth, technology, and low inflation."

True, but our government should provide timely assistance to American workers, companies, and communities encountering serious difficulty from freer international trade. Notwithstanding the administration's recent gesture with respect to steel, it has not revealed sufficient concern with this aspect of the moral imperative that President Bush preaches when discussing trade policy.

David J. Steinberg Alexandria, Va.

Driving at $3.75 per gallon?

In the June 21 Monitor, you report on a very interesting survey that indicates that the vast majority of Americans supports raising fuel mileage standards ("US drivers want better mileage when they fill up").

The article quotes Vice President Cheney, who expressed reservations because he believes in the market. But what Mr. Cheney fails to realize is that, in driving, we do not now have a free market. In fact, driving in the US is heavily subsidized. Several studies indicate that somewhere between one-third and one-half of the real costs of driving are not paid by drivers but are subsidized. The studies indicate that, in order to remove the subsidies so that drivers would pay the full cost of their driving (as free market theory says we should), the federal gas tax would have to be increased by about $2.00 per gallon. In other words, if Cheney wants to see what the market would do, he needs to propose raising the price of gasoline to somewhere around $3.75 per gallon.

All of us who drive need to realize that we, too, are welfare bums. We should get off the dole and pay our own way. And if we really had to pay the full cost of driving, presumably very few gas guzzlers would be sold. And that would be a real market result.

John Bliese Estes Park, Colo.

Skip a bath for conservation

As we Californians try hard to find ways to conserve energy this summer ("Can time fix energy problems?" July 3), I'm realizing there is one significant source of conservation that most of us aren't even considering: less bathing and hair washing. Many of us Americans have grown accustomed to showering every day and washing our hair at least every other day, while many of our fellow citizens of the world wash their hair once a week and let "bird baths" suffice in between. Even skipping one shower and one hair washing a week would save on energy use and probably wouldn't offend those we live and work with.

Kate Lazarus Sunnyvale, Calif.

A buckthorn in one's side

In the June 22 Home Forum, Robert Klose held forth on the joys of letting each plant make its own try for survival and growth ("Commoners to many, but aristocrats to me"). One of those prominently mentioned was a buckthorn.

Mr. Klose, what are you thinking?!! The buckthorn is not native to the new world. It is particularly aggressive, at least here in Wisconsin. It will drop seeds all over the place. Some birds carry the seeds far and wide, with obvious results.

In a few years it will shade out the native species, and destroy the natural undergrowth and diversity. I can't spend enough time pulling new shoots on my place to keep it completely in check.

You can't give buckthorn a break - it won't give one to you.

Jay Warner Racine, Wis.

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(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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