Investors' responsibility in market mess
Regarding your July 10 editorial, "Just bad apple? Not bad trees?": The press has been right to excoriate unbelievably corrupt executives at Enron and WorldCom. But that is just the mainstream American press doing what it does best: telling the public what it wants to hear. What nobody wants to say out loud is that we, the investing American public, are also responsible for the excesses and outright lies of the companies in which we hold stock.
Executives feel enormous pressure to constantly deliver higher and higher profits because of the demands of 401(k) plans and mutual funds. If no one is investing, then executives have failed and other people will take their places. While there is no reason to feel sorry for these executives (since they are already soothed by millions of dollars, fat expense-account living, and an almost religious respect) we should realize that our focus on unrealistic profit expectations creates a culture that encourages CEOs to do whatever it takes to meet quarterly numbers.
In dismissing the notion that US global dominance may have reached its zenith (Opinion, "The American eagle has not crashed," July 10), columnist John Hughes makes the error of assuming that the United States must be eclipsed by another nation in order to have its own relative power reduced. Much like ancient Rome, the fate of the US could be irrevocably changed by a combination of external pressures and internal weaknesses. With today's turbulent international arena, and a host of economic and social problems at home, this comparison can't be overlooked.
The US military is unquestionably the most advanced and best-trained force in the world, but this was equally true of the Roman legions. The vast authority of an uncompromising Rome was, however, eventually checked by unorthodox military tactics used by their enemies and a complacent Roman populace. The past few months have shown that "the barbarians are at the gate"; we continue to fatten ourselves with bread.
Christopher K. Jones
Slavery in its newest forms
Regarding your book review of Steven Wise's "Drawing the Line: Science and the Case for Animal Rights" ("Don't Slander Your Parrot," Books, July 3): The highlighted excerpt from the book opens with the statement, "With few exceptions, there are no more human slaves...."
According to Kevin Bales, a lecturer at England's University of Surrey, slavery still exists, not only in remnants of chattel slavery as in Mauritania, but also in new forms, such as the child brickmakers of the Punjab; domestic workers in Paris, New York, or Kuwait; contract slaves in factories; and those in debt bondage everywhere. Mr. Bales conservatively estimates that there are 27 million human slaves in the world today.Such slavery is directly or indirectly a result of modernization and globalization, sometimes underwritten by governments or religious institutions, by which humans are transformed into "things" to be brutalized for someone else's profit.
Thanks to Susan Dunn for her July 3 Opinion piece, "Teddy Roosevelt vs. WorldCom." It brought to mind President John F. Kennedy's 1962 admonishment of US steel executives, "whose pursuit of private power and profit exceeds their sense of public responsibility...." I hope Americans will grasp the moment and recapture the control of public policy and the democratic process from the greed merchants of big business.
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