Reports in the Feb. 17 issue of the Star Tribune describe offers of massive amounts of public subsidies and tax incentives to multibillion-dollar corporations (“Google growth shrouded in secrecy,” and “Gone in a New York minute: How Amazon deal fell apart”).

Here in Minnesota, the Triple Five Group will receive public assistance for a water park on its land next to its Mall of America (“Mall water park a deep dive into creative financing”). This deal “fits a growing national trend of using tax-free debt in new ways for developments associated with for-profit companies.”

So the richest receive public funds to increase their private wealth. And public officials are complicit in these deals.

Michael W. McNabb, Lakeville

• • •

Regarding the Mall of America’s deep dive into creative financing or, better put, creative legalized tax evasion, I thought it was interesting that nowhere in the article was there any mention of the jobs that will be lost at the already built water park directly across the street from the Mall of America.

David Chall, Minneapolis

SOCIALISM AND CAPITALISM

Sustainability of resources is the missing element in this discussion

The Feb. 17 Opinion Exchange cover contained two fascinating and informative articles (“Capitalism with Scandinavian characteristics,” by Timothy Taylor, and “ ‘Moral Capitalism,’ the Kennedys and Minnesota,” by Stephen B. Young).

It’s easy to forget in today’s discourse that intelligent, thoughtful individuals have wrestled for centuries with the problem of how to create an economic system that best yields a happy and productive society.

But, while these discussions are highly germane, one concept that was omitted — especially with respect to “moral capitalism” — is sustainability.

Humankind may devise the most fair and efficient economic scheme possible, but with a rapidly approaching global population of 8 billion, any system that doesn’t address sustainability in a consumption-driven economic model is ignoring an important reality.

The “inconvenient truth” of a consumption-based economy is that Earth contains a finite supply of raw materials, as well as ingredients to support life. Continuing to degrade clean air and water resources through energy and raw-material extraction, material refining and manufacturing processes — the foundation of our current consumer-based economy — is not sustainable.

Perhaps the billionaire rocketeer class could embrace “moral capitalism” and divert some resources toward maintaining life support on Earth.

Gene Case, Andover

• • •

It’s reassuring to see the coverage of ideas like “moral capitalism” and “capitalism with Scandinavian characteristics” while also debating whether Democrats can afford to embrace more left-leaning ideas and still succeed in winning the presidency. It seems so complex, yet there may be a simpler approach — one that speaks to the needs of our people now and in the future rather than meeting a political power need. And the articles never challenged the economic structure we have that requires increased consumption, accumulation of debt and increasing wealth at the top, leaving us always wanting or needing more.

I had the distinct privilege of listening to Robin Wall Kimmerer speak at the Wild Ones conference on Feb. 16 about healing our relationship with nature. She spoke about the “honorable harvest,” which is a Native American way of respecting what nature provides. I wish I could speak with the clarity and wisdom she brings, but with respect I’d like to suggest that the principles of this way would go a long way to restoring a democracy that works for all.

The honorable harvest starts with never taking the first one. Rather than quickly grabbing what seems like a finite resource, this suggests trust that there will be enough. Then one would ask permission to harvest and listen for the answer. While this requires time and patience, as well as practice, for now let’s assume that the answer was “yes.” Then we are implored to take only what we need and use everything we take. No grasping for more so we can stockpile our wealth. In addition, we are told to share what we’ve taken. In this way all are cared for.

Now it gets even more difficult. We must be grateful, taking the time to realize what we’ve received and appreciate all that went into it. Finally, we are to minimize harm, such as pesticides and chemicals and destruction of the land, or harming other people to get what we want. And then we are encouraged to reciprocate the gift. We could weed around the plant, care for the source of the gift, plant more seeds or respect those who provided the gift.

Just listening to this approach slowed me down and provided a sense of peace. I hope I’ve done this wisdom justice and suggest that we have much to learn from our native ancestors in living a peaceful life of coexistence with our fellow humans and our relatives in nature.

Barbara Klatt, St. Paul

• • •

America is a capitalist country. It has always been a capitalist country. Whether it will always be a capitalist country, well, who can tell? But, I do know this: The future of capitalism in America is in the hands of the capitalists.

Who is it, after all, that lacks confidence in capitalism? It’s not just the poor; it’s not just those who are floundering. Those with access to capital give every impression of seeing capitalism as a zero-sum game. If more people were paid a living wage, and more people were able to feed their families, and more people had access to health care, for example, the capitalists seem to feel that this will hurt them. A living wage and access to health care, they say, are socialist.

And, so, the terms of the debate, the choice that is before us seems to be this: a heartless capitalist system that denies people a living wage and the ability to feed their families and access to health care; or socialism. If people are homeless and hungry and dying, you’re surprised that they might choose something new?

But, as I said, the future of capitalism is in the hands of the capitalists. They’re the ones who can change the terms of the debate. What if the choice was between a heartless capitalist system and a humane capitalist system that paid a living wage, made it possible for more people to feed their families and provided access to health care? If the capitalists who run our economy (and also our government) offered the American people this choice, there would be no need to choose socialism. But, right now, it doesn’t look like they’re willing to put a humane capitalist system on the table.

As long as the only capitalist system we’re allowed to contemplate is as greedy and as heartless as the one we have now — as long as the only case that can be made for capitalism is the fear of socialism — then, as to whether we will always be a capitalist country, well, who can tell?

Marc Hugunin, Stillwater

THE PRESIDENCY

One notionally Minnesotan individual did hold the office

In “Curious Minnesota: Send your quirkiest questions our way” (Feb. 17), the Star Tribune asks, among other things: “Why has Minnesota never produced a U.S. president?” The question is a bit misleading. True, no president was born here or lived here right before taking office. But one did reside in what is now Minnesota. Zachary Taylor, then a lieutenant colonel in the army, commanded Fort Snelling, 1828-29. He went on to become a major general and, from 1849 until his death in 1850, our nation’s chief executive.

Michael Cohen, Oakdale