Letters from our readers.
March 21 1997 3:30 AM

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Love Them Clones

I agree with Nathan Myhrvold's argument in "Human Clones: Why Not?" It is hypocritical of our leaders to issue blanket statements that this type of research should be banned due to some imagined threat to society in the future.

The medical procedures and wonder drugs of this century have been encouraged and funded with full support of political and religious leaders. Modern medicine has, as Myhrvold stated, ended or possibly even reversed the evolution of the human species, producing genetic weaknesses in the population, as a whole. But we would never propose limiting or discontinuing medical research due to the importance of human life. I think that the process of cloning should be looked upon as a possible method of strengthening mankind's weakening genetic makeup or of preventing some future genetic disaster. And I don't think that civilization, as a whole, will allow the predicted abuses of genetic research.

--Steven Richardson


Double Vision

Two genetically identical thumbs up to Nathan Myhrvold for "Human Clones: Why Not?" Not since the heady days of Utah's cold fusion has there been such a complete nonissue issuing from the halls of science.

To suggest that genetic identity between two individuals of differing ages is of any material consequence to their self-identity is the height of hubris. Identical twins all over the world would face discrimination--and, what's worse, the painful process of identifying which one of them was the real one. The discussion of cloning has forgotten the complexity of human nature and centered on the kind of loony sci-fi hysteria that embarrasses the relatively few of us left who have any scientific literacy.

--Evan C. Allen


Marry, Marry, Quite Contrary

The point of David Frum's argument in the "Gay Marriage" dialogue seems to boil down to "Look at how severely and for the worse marriage has changed in the last 30 years." While I see him claiming that permitting gay marriage is one more step along this path, I don't see him providing any argument that such unions are themselves bad or any worse than the other breakdowns of traditional marriage (such as interracial marriage, multiple divorces, prenuptial agreements, and so forth). Neither does he provide any answers to the problem, merely a wistful remembrance of how "good" it was. And if his idea of "good" is forcing roles upon members of a couple, alimony for life, and community shunning of individuals whose marriages did not succeed, then Frum is really criticizing modern society, not just marriage.

--Jim Drew

Can't Buy Me Biodiversity


Steven E. Landsburg exhibited a rather alarming disregard for common sense in his recent article "Tax the Knickers Off Your Grandchildren." The greatest foolishness contained in the article is the assumption that the natural riches that organizations like the Sierra Club try to preserve can be equated with money. Professor Landsburg should take note that money can't buy everything, and the ready cash that can so easily purchase consumer electronics is powerless to restore vanished biodiversity. The breathtaking thoughtlessness exhibited in this piece has appeared in lesser forms time and again in the "Everyday Economics" column. This simple-minded writing misleads readers and slanders economists.

--Yaron Minsky

Steven E. Landsburg replies: Yaron Minsky notes that money can't buy biodiversity and jumps to the conclusion that money can't (at least partly) compensate for a lack of biodiversity. On Minsky's reasoning, there's no reason to give presents to sick children, because presents can't buy health.

It's the Inflation, Stupid


In the Dialogue on the "Capital-Gains Tax," Michael Kinsley is quite correct in noting that, strictly speaking, the capital-gains tax is merely one particular manifestation of the overall income tax. Nevertheless, he glosses over the essential unfairness of the current system of taxing capital gains, namely, the inflation problem.

Suppose someone purchases a building in 1980 and sells it in 1990, in a somewhat appreciated but not especially buoyant market. His capital gain, on which he must pay tax, will seem like a fat profit. But even relatively low inflation during the intervening time period will have caused the value of money to dwindle, thereby diminishing his "gain" in real terms. Capital-gains taxes, to be fair, must be indexed for inflation, otherwise many long-term investors must pay tax on gains that are more than offset by inflation.

--Nicholas Corwin

Racy Headline

The David Mastio article about U.S. government attempts to influence political events in other countries was interesting enough, but I don't know whom to blame for the headline, "Uncle Sam Plays John Huang." Huang is an Asian-American with well-known fund-raising problems, but it has not been proven that he is trying to influence American politics on behalf of other nations. The title, in the context of the article, implies that Huang is a paid agent of a foreign government. Unless there is a connection between foreign-government funding and political influence by John Huang, Slate made the all-too-common error of equating Asian-Americans with foreigners.

--Eddie Chang

Address your e-mail to the editors to letters@slate.com.