Fareed Zakaria laments that much of what government should do to improve Americans' future economic prospects "involves some short-term pain in exchange for long-term gain. But Washington has become incapable of that" ("How to Get Back to Growth," June 16). He's right. But he's wrong to suggest that this phenomenon is new, as this 1944 entry from the diary of the great Harvard economist Joseph Schumpeter attests: "Politicians are like bad horsemen who are so preoccupied with keeping in the saddle that they can't bother about where they go."
DONALD J. BOUDREAUX
CHAIRMAN, Department of Economics
George Mason University
As a nation, we in the United States have been guilty of far too many excesses for too long. We waste more than most in the rest of the world. It is time we sucked it in and tightened our belts. Our families, our nation and the rest of the world will only be better off.
It is said that we had better not look for solutions from the same people who created the problem, and I think this is the case with our current economic crisis. NEWSWEEK'S Business Roundtable ("We Ask: When Will the Pain Go Away?" June 16) is composed of individuals who either helped make the problem or are benefiting from the economy the way it is. The economy of a nation should support society, but ours in the United States does just the opposite: we all sacrifice to support the economy (those who control most of the capital). None of the Roundtable members can think outside his or her boxes or see that our economic setup needs a major evolution or it will collapse. Americans are no longer citizens; we are consumers, no more than mere units whose only function is to go out and buy stuff. We need a major citizen revolt against the consumer identity.
NEVADA CITY, CALIFORNIA
Who Will Be Obama's Veep?
I was pleased to see Jonathan Alter mention Brian Schweitzer, the Montana governor, as a possible vice presidential candidate for Barack Obama ("The Great Mentioner at Work," June 16). I have been wondering if anyone had thought of him for this position. Schweitzer would bring a number of assets to the ticket. He is down-to-earth and plain-spoken. He is, for lack of a better word, "folksy." He is also quietly brilliant. He has definitive ideas to solve our energy crisis with the creative use of already known energy sources. With gasoline prices soaring to record highs every day, a running mate with these kinds of solutions would have much to bring to a ticket with Obama.
KINGDOM CITY, MISSOURI
The nominating contest for the democratic party in the election for the most powerful leader in the world has ended with Barack Obama the winner. One hopes the winner of the presidential race will avoid the criminal mistakes of his predecessor. How self-righteously and pseudopatriotically the essentially sound U.S. system was subverted by President George W. Bush and his aides. While the war in Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11 had the tacit support of a sympathetic world, Bush's Iraq misadventure had the characteristics of a spoiled and immature ex-president's son attempting to finish the job in Iraq that his father could not complete by using dubious claims and downright falsehoods. While people all over the world are basically the same, what stops a Bush from becoming a Saddam are the checks incorporated in a mature democracy. The things Bush has gotten away with are amazing, but it will be a pity if the American system, which the world still looks up to, is subverted and allowed to be diluted further. It is important to keep in mind that because the United States is the world's only superpower, the president and his government's views and actions have a bearing not just on the country, but on the whole world.
Jonathan Alter, in his column discussing Barack Obama's potential choices for vice president, lists everyone but the most obvious (and best) candidate: Al Gore. Who could be more ready to take the position than someone who has already held it? The day after the election, President Obama could say, "Here are your two portfolios: energy and the environment. Run with them."
MILAN J. KRALIK JR.
A Relationship That Rocks
I pretty much disagree with every aspect of George Will's assessment of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton ("As the Oceans Rise," June 16), but when he brings up a commentator's comparison to the Everly Brothers, I pause. Will's intention is to mock the two Democrats as one and the same, but the fact is that Don and Phil Everly had had a simmering feud that finally blew up publicly at a concert in 1973. They did not record together for the next 10 years. Furthermore, the Beach Boys feuded, the Beatles feuded, the Eagles feuded, and yet they all managed to create soaring, wonderful harmonies. Barack and Hillary have their differences, but if they can get together and meld them into that same kind of harmony, what a glorious song for America that would be.
JEFFREY S. GANELES
UTICA, NEW YORK
Critters Caught in the Cross-Fire
Your June 16 story "The Race for Survival" showed the face of the 21st century's canary in the coal mine. Most of us migrated from Africa about 60,000 years ago. Since that time, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere never—until the industrial age—exceeded about 230 parts per million (ppm). We've adjusted to the resulting climate. In 2007, CO2 levels reached 385ppm. The earth is heating up. As Jerry Adler writes, "[Interior Secretary Dirk] Kempthorne showed satellite imagery indicating that the Arctic ice cover last year fell to the lowest level ever recorded, 39 percent below the long-term average." In his book "Collapse," Jared Diamond describes what happened in the past when once thriving civilizations—the Maya, the Greenland Norse, the Easter Islanders —destroyed their environments. Other warning signs abound: Hurricane Katrina, the Burma cyclone, an estimated 35,000 deaths in Europe from the heat wave in 2003, a global food crisis caused in large part by failed crops due to drought. The polar bear is a reminder that we're next if we don't change our ways.
STANLEY G. THOMAS
What gives us the right to determine that it is OK to wipe scores of species off the face of the earth so we can have more recreational snowmobiling and better long-term profits for industry? If we can't make accommodations to allow the existence of other life forms, what does that say about humans' ability to stave off extinction? Thank you for spotlighting yet another area where politics has replaced scientific facts in government.
FREEHOLD, NEW JERSEY
Global warming and cooling have been facts in all the earth's history. In the past 15,000 years, an unfathomable amount of ice has melted on our planet. Self-appointed and -educated environmentalists need to do something that matters rather than keep up the mantra of "the sky is falling." It seems the earth has done just fine in these past 15,000 years. If the ice finishes melting, it will just be time for something else to replace the polar bears.
CRAIG A. EISENHART
Thank you for the "Race for Survival." Even the listing of the 60 species classified as endangered or threatened during the Bush administration came about for the most part because of litigation. I suspect the same will occur if John McCain becomes president. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall say the reason they are slow in listing species is that they have to spend their time and resources on petitions and lawsuits. The article should have mentioned that if the Fish and Wildlife Service had been given adequate funds and then allowed to make the decisions based on science instead of politics, as the Endangered Species Act requires, there likely would have been few lawsuits. The biologists want to do their jobs, but since they are understaffed without adequate funds, it is very difficult.
HIGHLANDS RANCH, COLORADO
It saddens me when I hear that an endangered species has become extinct. With the population of the world growing at an alarming rate, there will be more animals that fall into this category. Pretty soon, the only animals left on earth will be humans. How boring is that?
PAUL DALE ROBERTS
CALIFORNIA Department of Fish and Game
ELK GROVE, CALIFORNIA
A League of Democracies, Anyone?
Robert Kagan and John McCain call for a "League of Democracies" ("Why Should Democracy Be Shy?" June 9). About their intention or goal, Kagan says only, "Let's start by talking to the people with whom we do agree." Should the league nations meet just to congratulate each other and celebrate? Or is the intention to upset Vladimir Putin? His name is mentioned five times. Could the league's intentions be of a bellicose nature? Who should be invited to join? Let's take Freedom House's Democracy Audit as our guide. It is a ranking of countries, with Finland on top as the most democratic and authoritarian Burma at the bottom (No. 150). Should invitations be limited to the 29 countries in the audit's Division 1? That would exclude Japan (No. 30) and Greece (No. 34). Or should we stop at Division 4, including Sierra Leone (No. 73) as the last one? Before proposing a new grand design, it might be a good idea for America to play a more constructive role in that other league of all nations—the United Nations. It seems an excellent idea, too, for America to finally join the league of 180 nations that has committed to the Kyoto Protocol for the reduction of greenhouse gases. In spite of its ambition and effort, America has been unable to bring peace and democracy in Iraq (at No. 128, tying with Venezuela). Let's set more modest goals and work harder and more honestly within existing institutions before calling for the creation of a new league.
JAN WILLEM BLANKERT
Kosovo's Problematic Independence
The United States, Britain and other countries have violated the U.N. Charter and the Helsinki Final Act guaranteeing the territorial integrity of states by recognizing Kosovo's supposed independence from Serbia (" 'The Balkanization of Europe'," June 16). Not only Serbia and Russia, but EU members Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Slovakia and Romania, and most non-European countries representing a majority of the world's population—including China, India, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and Indonesia—have rejected this action. The "creeping Balkanization" that Denis MacShane deplores can be avoided only by negotiation and compromise, not compulsion and contempt for international standards and opinion.
JAMES GEORGE JATRAS
DIRECTOR, American Council for Kosovo
Why do you publish such a one-sided and biased piece without giving equal space to an opposing viewpoint? As usual, Denis MacShane bashes the European countries he dislikes without offering any convincing, or at least sensible, reasons for doing so. He has evolved from a tireless France-basher to a bigoted critic of all European Christian orthodox states. And, to keep up appearances, he adds Spain to a kind of European axis of evil that exists only in his mind. What is their fault? As sovereign states, they have legitimately tried and largely succeeded in safeguarding their national interests in the ways they deem suitable. Why should they imitate the Americans or the British by recognizing an unlawful state that was violently grabbed from Serbia in plain disregard of international law? It is really bizarre how MacShane failed to utter a single word of disapproval of the March 2004 pogrom organized by Albanian extremists against the helpless Serb population of Kosovo. Many innocent civilians were murdered, historical Christian monuments were desecrated and even the KFOR troops were fired upon. As for the name dispute between Greece and the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, he's right to call it "surreal." How else could one describe the unsubstantiated claims of a bunch of Slavic and other Balkan people residing in Skopje that they are authentic Macedonians, descendants of the soldiers of Alexander the Great, while everyone knows that ancient Macedonians were ethnic Greeks? They spread Hellenism to distant places like Afghanistan and India.