The Feb. 17 letters column was filled with debate over the definition of socialism, most of which ignored the practical in favor of the theoretical. What we call it does not matter. It is what we do that is important.

Some seem to think our Constitution mandates a rigorous capitalist economy. In fact, while the Constitution contains a small number of specific protections of personal property rights, it does not require any particular economic system. Moreover, while the powers of the federal government are limited in some ways, the document clearly recognizes that Congress is free to do whatever the people wish, provided it stays within those powers. The fact that the current majority of the Supreme Court may have retrenched somewhat on the scope of the commerce clause in its decision on the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare does not alter that fact in any significant way at present.

Labels such as “capitalist” and “socialist” are meaningless under our Constitution. Our focus should be on whether a specific proposal furthers the well-being of our nation and its people, not where it should be shelved under political philosophy.

James Hamilton, St. Paul

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I can demystify socialism for anyone who ever played “Monopoly.” Socialism is $200 for passing “GO.”

The game requires that players be eliminated, resulting in a sole winner. But if players were so inclined, they could inflate the $200 every turn to keep all the game pieces circling the board forever.

It’s interesting to note that, at the end of a game, all of the pieces are frozen in place, including the winner’s. This mimics depression, whereby unbridled capitalism has gathered wealth into fewer and larger piles, and everything grinds to a halt.

Life is not a game, and an economy should not be winner-take-all.

Mark Warner, Minneapolis

‘CONVERSION THERAPY’

There is good reason to limit a treatment that induces trauma

Nate Oyloe (“Not all with same-sex attractions want them,” Feb. 18) condemns proposed legislation that would prohibit licensed mental health providers from applying conversion therapy and prohibit medical assistance coverage for such services. Conversion therapy has no scientific support. Many recipients of conversion therapy have been traumatized by having their identities demonized. What Oyloe dismisses as Hollywood depiction includes an autobiographical documentary.

Oyloe, in contrast, reports feeling supported and assisted in modifying his same-sex attractions and fears the proposed legislation would condemn others who seek similar assistance. This legislation (HF 12; tinyurl.com/mnleg-hf12) pertains only to health professionals treating minors or vulnerable adults; it does not prohibit pastoral or other lifestyle guidance that adults may seek voluntarily. Sexual attraction and sexual identity exist on a continuum. The American Psychological Association determined in 1973 that homosexuality could not be considered a mental illness or disorder. It is hardly radical to ban health professionals from promulgating “cures” for what is not an illness or excusing the state from paying for what is not a scientifically accepted treatment.

My primary reason for supporting this legislation is the protection of children who may be damaged by reckless, coercive psychological strategies to nullify aspects of their developing identities. As a former mental health practitioner, I am also in support of maintaining sound scientific and ethical standards of practice with which this legislation is consistent.

Ellen Lowery, Falcon Heights

The writer is a retired psychologist.

IMMIGRATION AND BORDERS

Letter writer wants homogeneity, but how is cultural variety wrong?

Oh, my. I was stunned to read a Feb. 19 letter writer’s comments about wanting to go to Paris and see men in berets smoking cigarettes and stylish Parisian women in the latest fashions. She made it clear she did not want to have her sensibilities offended by seeing women in burqas. She wondered why France has to look like Saudi Arabia. I’ve been to both Paris and Saudi Arabia, and I can assure her that Paris does not look like Saudi Arabia. When I was in Paris, perhaps I did pass a woman in a burqa, while walking down a stylish avenue, but I didn’t notice. I was too busy looking at the wedding-cake architecture, the flowers spilling out of window boxes and the artfully arranged pastel macaroons in pâtisserie windows. I would love for the letter writer to explain how seeing a burqa-wearing woman in Paris would negatively affect her life.

She went on to say “do not go to a country and expect that country to accommodate the culture that you walked away from.” I daresay if the Indians meeting the Pilgrims as they disembarked the Mayflower were as rabidly opposed to immigrants as some of our citizens are today, we would have been sent back whence we came and would still be speaking with a British accent. The letter writer seems worried about losing her culture. We are the very immigrants who all but wiped out an entire culture. Ponder that for a moment.

Jayne Peterson, Minneapolis

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I advise the Feb. 19 letter writer to read an article in the Minnesota section of the same day’s paper about Clyde Bellecourt, a Native American activist, to educate herself on what we have done and continue to do to the original inhabitants of this land (“His body is weary, but activist soldiers on”). Ours is a culture with a long history of racism. Not everything about one’s culture is noble and to be supported.

Jennie Hakes, Aitkin, Minn.

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The Feb. 19 letter spoke out against immigrants coming to America and bringing their culture with them. Instead, the writer recommended that citizens rise up and “retake” their country, “don’t abandon it.” The writer might want to check in with the citizens of Syria to see if that approach actually works.

Michael Meyers, St. Paul

RACISM

A friendly gesture went wrong and left me feeling sad about society

On Monday afternoon as I was leaving a senior choir rehearsal at church, a small group of us “gray-hairs” were clustered in the lobby, putting on coats and chatting. A young man came in with a confused look on his face — I thought he was confused; perhaps he was just startled to see us — so I asked him if I could help him find what he was looking for. He replied, “Stop being racist, lady.” Taken aback, I said I’m not racist. He responded, “You wouldn’t have asked me that if I were white.” At which I replied, “Of course, I would have. I’m just trying to get you wherever.”

He walked around us, got what he wanted and then said again that I was racist and added that he was a member of the church. When I left a minute later, he was in his car at the curb and rolled down the window and said, “Lady, you gotta stop being a racist.”

My thought as I walked away was: This is so sad that people of any color still instantly think you are something just by making a quick glance. Sad because he obviously has prior experience with this to make that decision. As a white older woman, I’ve been subjected to sexism and subtle ageism over the years, but never enough to call someone out in my first breath. I’m not mad, but I am sad, and wish I could have a longer conversation with him to just listen to why my desire to help could possibly have been construed as racism. Apparently we still have a ways to go with this racism issue.

Marna McComb, Minneapolis