Readers Write: Homeownership isn't all bad – or good; EU is a model for peace

Letters to the Editor for the weekly issue of January 30, 2011: One reader takes issue with an op-ed's reasoning on why Americans should rent, not buy. Another points out that the global reduction in war is largely attributable to the union of previous enemies in Europe.

Homeownership isn't all bad

Justin Martin's Jan. 16 commentary "Why I rent, despite low mortgage rates" is engaging. On the one hand, his diagnosis of the continued dismal state of the housing market is spot on, where renting certainly represents a safe option for a host of persons.

On the other hand, it does not follow that a stagnant housing market and unsettled employment situation can be brought together so breezily. The vast majority of workers can't set out for other countries for new work. Even within the United States, being a renter doesn't equate with being able to "easily move around."

Historically, a home does appreciate in value over time, and it also proves useful to those who can afford one and go into the process clear-eyed. Granted, there are risks. But there are risks to renters as well. There are risks anytime one places a bet on financial return.

There is really no need to force a dichotomy where one doesn't exist. Buying a house isn't a "spending binge." And being a renter isn't a miracle salve for complex economic woes.

Mark Porrovecchio

Assistant professor of rhetoric

Oregon State University

Corvallis

EU as model for peace

In the Dec. 26 issue, two articles deal with the global reduction in war and violence: "Wars grind on; but statistically, violence declines" and "Are we getting better?" The latter features an interview with Harvard professor Steven Pinker about his new book "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined."

Neither, however, mentions a major reason for the reduction in the frequency and magnitude of war, namely, that the nations responsible for one of history's greatest carnages, particularly France and Germany, have been, since the end of World War II, bound together with others in an arrangement of shared sovereignty.

Despite the challenges currently facing the European Union over its common currency and other issues, it still constitutes the closest thing we have on the planet to Immanuel Kant's system of "perpetual peace." Accession to the EU also ensures collaborative resolution of domestic and cross-border conflicts. And it is an example to states in other regions of the world.

These are among the core reasons why nations have increasingly discovered that cooperation and collaboration are the optimal ways forward in addressing complex problems that defy the efforts of any one nation to deal with on its own.

Still, this may not be enough to stop the occasional martyr from attempting to destroy the utility of this model by strapping on an explosive device and detonating it in some city center. Obviously, we still have our work cut out for us!

Dennis J.D. Sandole, PhD

Professor of conflict resolution and international relations

George Mason University

Arlington, Va.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.