Letters

Posted: April 14, 1997

Approach the peace process in a fair-minded way The editorial ``Save Mideast peace'' (Inquirer, April 1) misses the mark. It claims that the U.S. administration has undercut its credibility with the Arabs by publicly opposing Israeli construction in Har Homa while vetoing two United Nations resolutions condemning the Israeli settlement. In addition, the editorial accuses Israel of taking action that violates the Oslo accords.

Regardless of one's position on the Har Homa controversy, the United Nations is not the forum for discussions of disagreements or outstanding issues between Israel and the Palestinians. These issues are for the negotiating parties to deliberate, through mechanisms that were established through the Oslo process. Moving the debate to the international community is a dangerous, counterproductive development that will serve only to exacerbate current tensions and place pressures on the negotiations. The international community should play a constructive role in facilitating the peace process by encouraging both sides to negotiate directly rather than intervening.

Israel has every right to build new neighborhoods in its capital city, Jerusalem. A consensus issue in Israel, the Har Homa project has been underway for nearly 30 years and is supported by most of the Israel polity. The building does not violate the Oslo accords, as no restrictions were placed on Israeli activity in Jerusalem. The Har Homa area is vacant, is not adjacent to any Arab population, and 78 percent of the land was Jewish-owned. In addition, in conjunction with the Har Homa project, Israel plans to develop infrastructure and authorize building permits for housing in various Arab-populated areas of Jerusalem.

Yasir Arafat was wrong when he claimed that Israel had violated agreements by announcing its construction in Har Homa and by turning only 9.1 percent of the West Bank to the Palestinian authority. Still, he gained worldwide support. The Palestinians have the right to be unhappy with Israeli actions. But to demand that Israel had obligations that it didn't and to use the international community to pressure Israel are gross distortions of a real peace process.

We would all be better served to approach the peace process in a fair-minded way if we are to help it reach its desired ends.

Leona Z. Shaw

Assistant Director

Anti-Defamation League

Eastern Pennsylvania/Delaware Region

* Watching the Middle East peace talks reminds me of my childhood and all the fighting I used to do with my brother. It was all pointless; no one ever won. With no doubt in my mind, I can say the same is true with the Middle East.

Josh Gerben

Berwyn

Giles can save the Phils Who can save the Phillies (Inquirer, April 1)? Only one man: Bill Giles. He needs to sell the team.

Norman F. Braun

West Chester

Keep the State Stores The bogus reason to sell public assets: The stock market is overpriced and new investment opportunities are in short supply. In view of this tragedy, you can't condemn the financiers' and media moguls' crusade to privatize Pennsylvania's state stores.

But one can knock down their arguments:

* Money. As if cheap liquor were a virtue worth pursuing. Forget the conflicting claims of business interests and the Liquor Control Board. Forget the cost analysis. Ask instead: Would free wine and spirits be desirable? Half-priced? Is any reduction in the cost of vodka necessary? If so, why do we tolerate sin taxes?

* Politics. As if buying votes with cheap wine and wild promises makes us the masters of our own destinies. Isn't it offensive when sweet carrots are dangled to make us pull a politician's wagon; first, new stadiums, then education funds? The proposed social benefits keep changing because this plan is not about social benefits. It's about buying control over retail liquor sales. It's about replacing the civil servant who makes a living wage in a safe workplace with a minimum-wage clerk who gets robbed with regularity. It's about making money at the expense of society.

* Morality. As if a democracy has no right to absolute control over alcohol. As if it would shame us for being in the business of selling booze. Will we be redeemed if someone buys our business, if all vice-peddling is in the hands of profit-making vice-peddlers, as the good Lord intended?

We might cut teenage nicotine addiction if we gave tobacco to the LCB. But we never will, because private enterprise already owns that franchise and will never let go. Likewise, the sale of Pennsylvania's state liquor monopoly would be a one-way trip. Once sold, there's no buying it back.

Are 48 other states privatized because it's so much better, or because they're trapped? I grew up in California. There, you can tell if you're in a bad neighborhood by the abundance of liquor stores. And in California, underpaid sales clerks are not always motivated to check the IDs of underage college kids. Pennsylvania has a much better system.

Doug FitzGerald

Pittsburgh

More recognition for Thomas Paine B.J. Phillips' coverage (Inquirer, April 4) of the University of Pennsylvania's symposium on the late 18th-century political economist Adam Smith confirms for me one essential truth: Economists of today know far less about how societies are organized and work than their forebears.

Adam Smith was not only a political economist; he was moral philosopher. He argued the case for the reliance of moral principles in the establishment of socio-political arrangements and institutions. Smith was in good company with Benjamin Franklin and Francois Quesney (and others within the French school of Physiocratie). Yet, Smith was not above succumbing to the pressures of living within a society dominated by a privileged, landed elite. This is very evident in Smith's defense of the status quo where landed property was concerned.

The Physiocrats wrote extensively and persuasively that a very significant portion of the material goods being produced by labor (a ``factor of production'' meaning both the physical and mental work that people did), utilizing the capital goods (the tools and animals and factory buildings) they owned, was confiscated by those who had been granted titles to land (i.e., to the control over locations and natural resources) and who in their capacity as titleholders contributed nothing to the production of wealth.

Smith acknowledged this was the case but made a moral judgment in favor of the system of law that allowed some individuals to monopolize nature.

There is one contemporary of Smith who possessed both the intellectual capacity and the moral courage to understand and attack the status quo where property in land was concerned. That person was Thomas Paine. Paine's essay ``Agrarian Justice'' (1796) is a bright light shining on the moral principle that the earth is our equal birthright. Paine anticipated the writings of Henry George by nearly a century in calling for the societal collection of ``ground rent'' and distribution of this fund to each citizen.

Smith may be heralded as the father of political economy. Paine ought to be similarly and more importantly heralded as the champion of equality of opportunity and a just distribution of wealth.

Edward J. Dodson

Cherry Hill

ejdodson@voicenet.com

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