TALKING BACK TO LANDSBURG
Steven Landsburg is wrong ("On the Money," September 7). Everybody does not benefit. The US manufacturing sector: machinists, production managers, janitors, engineers, technicians, and production workers all lost when corporations moved jobs to low-wage countries. It sure looks like the major stockholders reaped virtually all the benefits. The results of corporate controlled 'free trade' are in. It is a disaster.
Bill McCoy, Magee Avenue, Rochester
As they say in the sports world, the best offense is a good defense.
So it is with Steve Landsburg's libertarian perspective: at once he opposes the loss of consumer choice in a "protectionist" marketplace while favoring it when gay or black tenants suffer. If holding these two positions seems inconsistent, that's the point: given that blacks and gays are important liberal constituencies, crafting two "it's my money and I'll do what I want with it" arguments in specious parallel becomes the poison pill designed to make a liberal critique sound either illogical or wavering. And at the same time, it attempts to engage the undecided, skeptical, bread-and-butter middle into an imperiling your-money-or-your-government seduction.
For the sake of their central theorem --- that property is an absolute right ---libertarians live gleefully in a Hobbesian world, and it is a pity that City's first interview with Landsburg didn't bring that out in all its warty ugliness. Rather, it took a round-the-park approach that skirted the issue and instead visited the preposterous notion that 19th-century Africans would have perhaps accepted slavery in America over freedom in Africa based on the unforseeable fortunes of their posterity. Whether that is Landsburg's attempt to diffuse anti-libertarian animus from the left's other (largely affluent) former-slave constituency is anyone's guess.
Despite the similarity of name, liberals and libertarians have little in common, save for a few personal-freedom issues (such as the drug laws) that induce a strange Stalin-is-our-ally effect between the two camps. A wealth-dispersed, independent agrarian society of philosopher kings was libertarianism's best chance for implementation over three centuries ago; it does us little good now to try it out in a world where 400 Americans personally own as much as the annual budget of the federal government.
The upshot, gridiron fans? Under libertarianism, there's only one play you have to remember: we'll just send you (the water boy) in padless when the going gets tough, and damn the final score.
Tom Elston, East Avenue, Rochester
In the mid-1980's, I worked on a project that took me across Pennsylvania interviewing and photographing poor and homeless people, many of whom were former workers at steel mills and factories that had closed because the work was being done cheaper elsewhere.
I've worked in shelters filled with people made homeless by every scenario one can imagine, including downsizing. I've documented the lives of migrant workers in Western New York who are working for minimal wages under brutal conditions and who won't complain for fear they'll be replaced by someone who will work for less.
I've been in remote Mexican villages where people are on the verge of starvation because the price of coffee has plummeted as cheaper coffee floods the market. I've met farmers in both Mexico and the US who say they can't compete with the prices of imported food.
Steven Landsburg would apparently see all of this as a good thing because we're paying less and less for goods and services. My question to him is, what does he propose we do with the millions of people who are being driven out of work? Shelters, soup kitchens, and service-sector jobs are full.
Joseph Sorrentino, Suter Terrace, Rochester
I'm becoming concerned: for at least three weeks now, President Bush has not had a vacation. He still gets his two-hour workout every day, and he still tucks himself in at 9 or 10 every evening so that he's sure to maintain his "normal" life in such trying times, but what kind of country is this if our president can't vacation more often than George W. Bush does?
I trust he's not spending too much time studying our situation in Iraq, or disaster relief after Katrina and Rita, or increasing environmental degradation because of current energy policies, or the fact that theocratic Iran will soon have nuclear weapons and a delivery system that could reach thousands of miles. Studying details is just too strenuous and might remind him of cramming for tests in college --- who needs it?
You'll have your own solutions for our leader's difficult life right now. What I plan to do is to send him a care package that includes some suntan lotion, ear plugs for use during boring high-level meetings, and, to save him from having to shop for her birthday, a rose for his compassionate mom who said that the refugees in the Houston Astrodome are actually better off than they were before the hurricane.
Mr. President, heck, take your time and get your beauty rest every night, no matter what.
William Heyen, Frazier Street, Brockport
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