Letters from our readers.
July 11 1997 3:30 AM

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Gaul-ic Bread

I thoroughly enjoyed reading "Unmitigated Gauls," Professor Krugman's interpretation of French elite thinking, but I would quibble with one point.

Krugman mentions in passing that a unified (European) market and a common currency "will do almost nothing to create jobs." In fact, one way or the other EMU matters a lot for jobs. If policy-makers stick to EMU's monetary and fiscal rules the policy stance will be on the tight side, i.e., cyclical unemployment will go up, or at least will not fall. If, in addition, policy-makers reduce rigidities (particularly in the labor market), the initial consequence will be a rise in unemployment, followed by an improvement with a delay of a couple of years (see New Zealand, the U.K., and the Netherlands, for example). Should policy-makers ignore EMU rules and take it easy once EMU has started, cyclical unemployment may fall initially, but at some stage higher inflation and a depreciating euro would force a course correction, and unemployment would rise again.

--Gunther ThumannLondon


Paul Krugman replies: A common currency per se has got nothing much to do with employment; the rules of Maastricht, which bear a dubious relationship to the actual requirements of such a currency, are another matter.

Oxford Banal-ytica

Although "Why Do the G-7 Bother?" by the anonymous folks at Oxford Analytica was just chock-full of silly blather about globalization, I was particularly struck by the vacuousness of this sentence: "The liberalization of trade also effectively prevents governments from erecting protective barriers to boost the domestic economy."

"The liberalization of trade," by definition, is precisely the lack of protective barriers like tariffs and import quotas. Although I'm sure it's true that a lack of protective barriers leads inexorably to a lack of protective barriers, this is hardly a profound insight. At least I can be thankful that I'm reading this for free in Slate, rather than paying big bucks for the wisdom of these international consultants.


--Scott SusinBerkeley, Calif.

The Schneider Retort

Please tell Jeffrey Goldberg ("News You Can't Use") to log off. He's obviously spending too much time online. That's the only explanation I have for his weak attempt at reviewing/satirizing the cable-news wars. Did this guy ever watch more than a minute or two of the programs he panned? If he had, he certainly would have noticed that the program I anchor and edit on Fox News Channel, The Schneider Report, is a serious news program. We feature extensive coverage of the major issues each and every day, and devote more time to international news than any of our evening competitors. You can look it up. Or, better yet, Mr. Goldberg, you could watch!

By the way, if not showing up in gossip columns or fashion magazines makes me, or my colleagues, "distinctly unfamous," I'll wear that title proudly. I'm just a guy with 23 years of TV news experience, 10 of them anchoring network programs like Weekend Today on NBC and Good Morning America news. Who the hell is Jeffrey Goldberg, anyway?


--Mike SchneiderThe Schneider ReportFox News ChannelNew York City

Prose and Cons

In "The Conintern," Jacob Weisberg implies there is a rigid conservative orthodoxy that squelches dissent in "movement" publications under punishment of expulsion. He must be reading different publications and attending different "movement" gatherings than I. My colleagues and I at the Competitive Enterprise Institute have criticized Newt Gingrich in the pages of the Washington Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Human Events for years. Yet we are still invited to Grover Norquist's Wednesday meetings and his frequent parties. National Review has been scathing in its attacks on the GOP leadership, yet it has yet to be ostracized. The Wall Street Journal editorial page complains about "William Jefferson Kasich" and the budget deal, yet no one is seeking to write Bob Bartley out of the movement.

And the idea that Bob Novak is an enforcer of the party line--the same Bob Novak who splits with the conservative mainstream on Israel, campaign-finance reform, and Jude Wanniski--is absurd. Novak is a fine investigative journalist, but he is no secretary for Weisberg's imagined conservative politburo.


--Jonathan H. AdlerCompetitive Enterprise InstituteWashington

Lima 'Zines

It's amusing to see what L.A. or D.C. considers front-page news, but it would be truly eye-opening to learn what Paris' or Lima's or Jakarta's concerns are. I hope you will consider widening the scope of "Today's Papers."

--Nancy Brooke MandelNew York City

Schlock to the System

Thanks to David Plotz for his humorous, balanced, and concise "Assessment" of Marilyn Manson and the forces working against him. I take issue with one point in the article--the issue of antecedents.

Plotz rightly lists Alice Cooper as a primary enabler of what Manson is doing now. An even better case can be made, however, for the importance of G.G. Allin and the Murder Junkies as an influence/antecedent. G.G. Allin created the same kind of talentless, disgusting, yet strangely compelling schlock that Manson puts out, and combined it with a stage show that would make Alice Cooper squeamish. The difference here is image management. Allin had huge contempt for fame. He avoided the conventional spotlight all he could. He died of a heroin overdose in relative obscurity.

Until recently, Marilyn Manson had worked in obscurity as well, with just a slightly larger cult following than G.G. Allin. It was only when Manson acquiesced to the hype machine created by his record label that he started getting rich and the fundamentalists started getting angry.

--Rich ArmstrongDenver

Rate Crimes

In your June 25 "Chatterbox," you attack Newt Gingrich for telling a national radio audience that lower taxes mean "less time at work and more free time" when supply-siders have for years been saying that "cutting taxes would spur more, not less work effort, thereby speeding economic growth." In criticizing Gingrich, you state, "[E]conomic theory tells us, lower taxes do have contradictory effects--they prompt us to work harder, because we net more from each hour of labor, and to goof off because higher total take-home pay means we can satisfy our needs more easily."

In fact, economic theory says no such thing. You have confused lower taxes with lower tax rates. Lower tax rates have conflicting effects on the work effort of individuals for the reasons you stated. Some tax cuts, however, do not raise the reward for work and therefore do not increase work effort. The best example of this is the $500-per-child tax credit--the centerpiece of the Republican tax package. Clearly, this tax cut does not "net more from each hour of labor." Rather it is like winning the lottery--it makes individuals with children better off (or wealthier) and, therefore, reduces the need to work. In this regard, Gingrich is correct. Economic theory predicts that the centerpiece of the Republican tax cut will mean less time at work, which in turn means a further reduction in tax revenues. This may be good "family" politics but I believe it is bad economic policy.

--Rich HartCincinnati

Throw the Book at Him

With regard to "My Personal Trade Deficit," I commend Steven Landsburg's use of personal experience with a Barnes & Noble bookstore in the next town to effectively explain the mechanics of trade.

In the second part of his article, however, he passes judgment--a more ambitious undertaking. Further browsing, perhaps in a different section of the bookstore, may be in order. His conclusions:

"[F]oolishly excessive trade surpluses are a greater danger than foolishly excessive trade deficits. That's because excessive trade deficits are self-limiting: If you run a trade deficit every year, bankruptcy will eventually force you to stop. But excessive trade surpluses can go on forever. A perpetual trade surplus is likely to mean you're either working too hard or consuming too little; either way, you're not getting enough enjoyment out of life."

Really? Bankruptcy is not harmless; the debt is transferred to others (customers, suppliers, taxpayers, the rest of society), and the damage can (and often does) multiply beyond the original "foolishness." The crash of 1929 and the depression that followed is only one dramatic example of such a domino effect.

The real kicker is the last line. Enjoyment of life is reduced when one produces more than one consumes? If Landsburg really has wandered over from the economics section to the philosophy section of his bookstore, and thought about this, I'd like to hear his reasons.

--Chris NobleWinchester, Mass.

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