Land reform in Venezuela not so black and white

Your Jan. 25 editorial "Venezuela's Robin Hood" takes a bold stand against Soviet central planning, but fails to add anything to the more relevant current policy debate around poverty and economic failure in Latin America.

The last 25-year period has been the worst in the region's modern history by any measure one cares to use: Improvements in the rate of growth, poverty reduction and other social indicators have all been stagnant by historical standards, and Venezuela has been particularly hard hit in these regards.

By all accounts, the last few years have seen massive increases in access to healthcare, education, and other human-capital enhancing services in Venezuela. As for land reform, the World Bank and other institutions have acknowledged that concentration of land is a major impediment to development in Latin America and elsewhere.

You do your readers a disservice by characterizing the Chávez administration in anachronistic terms. Like most serious administrations in Latin America, this Venezuelan government is seeking incremental social reforms in the context of global capitalism.
Todd Tucker

Respect for others as basis of manners

In the Jan. 25 article, "It's a busy world, who has time to teach manners," Dorothea Johnson, founder and director of the Protocol School of Washington in Portland, Maine laments, "I often hear parents say, 'We work so hard and give 200 percent of our time to our jobs; we just do not have the time [to teach manners and etiquette].' Parents want the time they spend with their children to be quality time; they do not want to be correcting their manners."

Ms. Johnson's comment crystallizes a serious imbalance that exists in American culture today: parents are giving so much time to their employer, there's often little left for the kids.

Many parents might be surprised to find that teaching their children something (even etiquette) is, in fact, the best kind of 'quality time.'
Jeffrey A. Beck
Somerset, N.J.

Children's etiquette? Thank-you notes? Dining in fine restaurants?

I'd be happy simply not to be accosted, pushed out of the way, screamed at, and generally disgusted by the basic behavior of most children today.

Most parents these days fall between two extremes: the stay-at-home parent raising totally self-absorbed, the-world-is-my-oyster divas, and the overworked, stressed-out couple picking up the maniac 4-year-old in diapers from day care at 7 p.m.

Real manners start with the realization that other people have a right to expect you and your children to behave with concern and respect for them, not the other way around.
Tracy Cervellone
Lake Forest, Calif.

To grieving families: We care

Regarding the Jan. 21 article "War brings grief, not doubt, to town that lost six sons": I, too, have a son in Iraq who is in the 82nd airborne unit in Baghdad, and fear what they are going through on a daily basis.

I hope that I never have to deal with what the families who have lost sons in the war are going through, but my heart goes out to every single family that does. I know it has to be the most emotionally trying time in anyone's life to try to deal with the loss of a loved one. I'd like the families to know that there are people out there that truly do care about what they are going through. I'm one of them.
Donna Murray
Newark, Del.

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