There were several informative items in the May 27 Opinion section as well as three letters from readers regarding the previous week's column by Tim Penny and Tom Horner. Penny and Horner had suggested that we ask ourselves and our political representatives two questions, basically: Where will you find common ground with opponents on the major issues of the day, and in what ways do you disagree with your own party?
They neglected the most important question: What is the evidence? For example, when assertions are made that raising tax rates will cause this or lowering them will cause that, the response should be: "Prove it."
On many policy questions, quality evidence does exist, because some economists and professionals in other disciplines have for years been committing social science in credible, nonpartisan manners.
MARK STEDMAN, AFTON
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"One never compromises principle," says Republican activist Craig Westover ("The Ron Paul revolution is well beyond the fringe," May 27). Maybe this is true in our lives as individuals. However, when it comes to the legislative process and the creation of public policy, this absolutist outlook is a problem.
If all elected officials were to take such a position, the process of addressing our collective challenges would either lead to deadlock (see Congress) or bitter divisiveness as one side gained enough of a temporary advantage to hammer through its principles in the form of legislation (see Wisconsin). It does not need to be this way. With open-mindedness, actual listening with curiosity to opposing ideas and creative thinking, we are capable of reaching consensus.
The historian Arnold Toynbee studied the development and decay of 23 civilizations ("A Study of History"). Among other things, he observed that these civilizations declined when their people stopped responding to societal challenges with creativity.
I once saw a sign on a telephone pole in New Orleans. It read: "Think that you might be wrong." So maybe I'm wrong about what I have written, but I would say history is on my side.
KEITH RODLI, RIVER FALLS, WIS.
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I serve as a college admissions counselor, and my main role is to help students make a wise and informed college choice. After serving in my current position for one year, I have become frightened by discussion of a college education as an "investment" in a financial future. The sentiment has been echoed in the Star Tribune, and it almost always surfaces in my discussions with students and their families. But it has no merit, because this country established a system of education to train citizens, not workers.
A liberal arts (liberal comes from the Latin root "liber" for free, not from left-wing political positions) curriculum still comprise the core of almost every secondary and bachelor's program in the fields of English, social sciences and, yes, math and science. In liberal education, what is important is that a student learns for the sake of learning, not for any other gains. And through these studies, students gain the ability to argue effectively, experience empathy and fulfill their obligations of citizenship.
An education, at any level, is intrinsic and develops a person, not an employee. It holds no value beyond the knowledge gained. We should not "invest" in degrees; rather, we should contribute to our democracy through education, because this is where we will see the greatest returns.
PATRICK EIDSMO, DULUTH
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After reading Thomas C. Berg's "Back religious liberty, and we all will benefit" (May 30), I have a hypothetical for the law professor.
The owner of a large business says to his employees, "The law says I have to provide you health care, but it also says I can shape that care to take account of my religious beliefs. I have converted to Christian Science, so your entire health plan consists of a copy of "Science and Healing with Key to the Scriptures" and the phone number of a faith healer. I am sure this plan will get you and your families through heart attacks, cancer, diabetes and the other ills of life, and by an odd coincidence it will save me hundreds of thousands of dollars."
Is this moral, is it legal?
And should Quakers, Mennonites and other religious pacifists be forgiven that portion of their taxes which would otherwise go to the Pentagon? How about nonreligious pacifists?
JOHN SHERMAN, MOORHEAD, MINN.
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Actually, we downtown residents have a bit more to look forward to than wet sidewalks when it rains (Letter of the Day, May 31). Many of us have more beautiful views of the sky from our condo or apartment windows than we did from our houses. It is wonderful to watch rain and snowstorms with city lights in the background. Also, watching the changes in the river from any of the great bridges following storms is a real downtown pleasure. Rain is much more romantic to me when I don't have to worry about a flooding basement or how soon I am going to have to mow my yard.
VIRGINIA MAY, MINNEAPOLIS
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