While I agree that some measurement and assessment of results is necessary and desirable, I think the May 23 article, "Milwaukee's lessons on school vouchers," has missed some obvious points. First, among documented benefits, why not cite parental satisfaction? Parents are primarily responsible for their children's education; their satisfaction, then, is a significant documented benefit. Second, while the article notes that "Some of the worst schools ... have been shut down," it does not compare the number of these schools to the number of failing public schools that never shut down. The whole idea of vouchers is that the market, as represented by parents who have their children's interests at heart, will separate the good products from the bad over time - something that can never happen while the state monopolizes the education business.
Regarding the May 23 article, "A new rival to regime change": I would like to call attention to a possibly more powerful influence discouraging nuclear arms development, which is almost never addressed. Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty calls for all nations to negotiate complete nuclear disarmament and proceed to place nuclear weapons under international control. Negotiations about eliminating those weapons by the original nuclear nations should be an enormous influence to stop proliferation, not to mention that it may make the rest of the world happy. Not only would the US and the other nuclear powers have the moral high ground, but the desire of smaller nations to assert themselves by emulating the weapons of the "big boys" would be undercut.
Raymond E. Reinert
I think the May 26 article, "The work ethic at the dinner table," is over-Puritanizing the annoying question, "Are you still working on that?" The waiter may well care whether the diner is enjoying his meal because happy diners tip better. But waiters and managers at restaurants where this question is asked care a lot about turnover, too, particularly when things are busy. "Are you still working on that?" often suggests that one is dawdling, or reducing marginal income, whether from tips or tariff. So, politely, fight back. Instead of muttering under one's breath, say cheerfully, "It's no work at all!" Enjoy! But do leave a nice tip.
I read the May 22 article, "Why you should (and shouldn't) pay off your mortgage," with considerable interest (no pun intended). While the comments are generally financially sound, the commentators interviewed missed two critical issues. First, do people consider their homes to be a necessity or simply another earning (or perhaps nonearning) asset? The quoted experts consider it to be the latter. This may be sound balance-sheet management in some cases but very poor judgment in others. Second, the assumption is made (by implication) that cash has no economic value if it is not invested at some earnings rate. This is a very great fallacy; rate of return is a moving target and there is a real opportunity cost in finding oneself locked into a particular rate when markets move up or down. In sum, there is, indeed, an opportunity cost to a debt-free balance sheet. There is also a real risk to one that is too heavily weighted with liabilities.
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