Letters from our readers.
March 1 1997 3:30 AM

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"Number 9, Number 9, Number 9 ..."

Maybe it's because I'm a dumb, narrow-minded conservative, but I count nine reasons in the misnamed article "Eight Reasons Not to Cut the Capital-Gains Tax," by Michael Kinsley.

Too bad none of them are very good reasons. In reference to No. 9, how do you get the 1 percent figure? Do only 1 percent of all Americans own their own homes, and think of selling them from time to time? If so, then I'm more elite than I thought! The truth is, the capital-gains tax affects a lot more than 1 percent of all Americans.

Other than that, I enjoyed the article.


--John T. Tant

The Editors' Reply

Kinsley counts; it's his deputy who made the mistake.

We've Found Reason No. 9!


Michael Kinsley missed a pretty good reason in his "Eight Reasons Not to Cut the Capital-Gains Tax." Unless you can go back in time, cutting the tax rate on existing capital gains cannot possibly increase investment in productive resources. You cannot change individuals' past investment decisions. Those who claim to want a cut in the capital-gains tax rate because it will increase investment and not because it is a handout to the rich could gain a lot of credibility if they advocated reducing the rate only on future capital gains.

--Bill Nelson

It's My Money

I guess that one of the things I liked about the blast at capital-gains tax cuts in "Eight Reasons Not to Cut the Capital-Gains Tax," by Michael Kinsley, was the writer's cheerful admission that he has written it all before. I assume that he formed his convictions as a student, when he had no investments and didn't even know what they were.


I am 79, and when I make money out of the market, it is because I watch the ticker much of the morning, study documents, make guesses, and take risks--with money that I earned myself. I could lose my shirt at any moment. I have had noticeable losses, and the feeling of humiliation that goes with them.

Kinsley thinks it is OK for Washington to take a third (give or take) of anything this retired research historian labors to make through entrepreneurial risk-taking. I don't.

--Vaughn Davis Bornet

Fair Play for Belgium


I am not Belgian, nor do I work for any Belgian company, but I have lived happily in Brussels for the last 30 years, and there is very little that I recognize in the highly subjective account "I Have Seen the Future of Europe ...," by Gregg Easterbrook. He is apparently unable to provide accurate factual information, and even contradicts himself.

For example, Sabena is very far from being a state-sanctioned monopoly, as it is in competition with other carriers on all its routes except those with too little traffic to support a second operator. If you want to find such a monopoly, you need look no further than the rails, where the national operator operates the world's fastest in cooperation with similar companies in the neighboring countries. Also, the standard off-peak rate for local phone calls here is less than 2 U.S. cents per minute, which scarcely makes dial-up access to an ISP a "luxury."

Although I could flag numerous other fundamental errors, I think that these should be enough to make my point that Easterbrook's opinion of European "telecoms and communication bureaucrats" is far from the truth.

--Alan F. Reekie

Get Out of Your Cocoon

As a Eurocrat in my cubicle at the European Commission, sitting on the ergonomic chair I "borrowed" from a secretary when mine collapsed last year, I was wondering who got those plush suites with leather chairs that Gregg Easterbrook referred to in "I Have Seen the Future of Europe ...." Suddenly I got it: He is referring to the Council of Ministers, a separate institution where representatives of the 15 member states get together to make decisions (mostly on proposals by the Commission).

Just because somebody can write and his or her spouse gets an assignment abroad does not mean they have insight on a whole continent. I do not think Easterbrook had to relocate to write that piece. Since Slate is distributed electronically and is available to a wide international audience, you should get less ethnocentric views of the world. Couldn't you get contributions from outside your cocoon?

--Jose Antonio Lopez Sanchez

Good Lord

In the Feb. 19 "Summary Judgment," when reviewing the reviews of Roy Jenkins' Gladstone, you understandably fell afoul of those tricky British titles of nobility. You called the author "Lord Roy Jenkins," which is not correct. That would make him the younger son of a duke, like Lord Randolph Churchill or Lord Peter Wimsey (and not, thereby, actually a lord except in using that word in this courtesy title).

Instead, he is a life peer with a barony of Jenkins (Jenkins of Hillhead, to distinguish him from some other Lord Jenkins). So you can call him "Lord Jenkins of Hillhead" or "Lord Jenkins" for short; or by his actual name, "Roy Jenkins," since he still uses it; but not "Lord Roy Jenkins." It is "Margaret Thatcher" or "Lady Thatcher," not "Lady Margaret Thatcher"; "James Callaghan" or "Lord Callaghan," not "Lord James Callaghan"; and so on.

This is worth pointing out because most retired top-rank British politicians are in this position, and an amazing number of writers, even those for the Economist, make this mistake. I'm sure most of the politicians who went to the Lords only so they'd have a place to speechify after retiring from the Commons would rather do without this, but it's part of the British schtick, so at the least we ought to get the names right.

--David Bratman

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