Peace and Prosperity
The last time I wrote a letter to an editor was in 1969. Two items in the January 27 issue have now moved me to write again.
While fulfilling my duty to my country, I served as an unarmed combat medic (in the status of a conscientious objector) at the Berlin Wall, and I wrote an editor to defend the right of a war protester to speak his mind freely. Thank you for Victor Lee Austin’s review, “Peace and Principle.” It captured many of my struggles over the use of force and the power of forgiveness and the practical application of love. My pacifist leanings were forever challenged and changed by the father of Angela Merkel (yes, that Angela Merkel), who said I should look at the Wall and decide if there were some evils that required forceful action — not hate but a kind of principled resolve that this new book (In Defense of War, by Nigel Biggar) seems to support.
Kevin D. Williamson’s “The Hard-Working Rich” caught my attention as well. I drive one of those F-150s and fit your description and feel the need to affirm what was said. First, I must say that I have been blessed and gifted beyond anything I could have dreamed. I do not feel I did all this by myself, and I do not feel I deserve all I have. However, I turned 70 last year, and that is generally the number of hours I still work every week. Much younger men around me find time for retirement and recreation of all types, and with some deference to my presence complain about the rich — frequently, I am paying these men for various kinds of work. So, thank you, Mr. Williamson, for putting into such well-chosen words a truth about the value of work. I believe the saying that goes something like “Good fortune happens to those who work hard.”
A Doubt of the Benefit
This reader hopes he is not alone in calling attention to one clearly indefensible statement from the January 27 edition of The Week. In discussing the extension of federal unemployment benefits, you argue that, because the current number of job seekers dwarfs the number of available jobs, “extended benefits are probably doing much more good than harm.” This assessment ignores the basic economic fact that paying people not to work incentivizes them not to look for work. Extending these benefits increases the likelihood that they will have a harder time reentering the work force. The notion that such benefits are “much more” helpful than harmful does not follow from sound economic theory.
The Editors respond: Mr. Kokai accuses us of ignoring something we acknowledged: Unemployment benefits decrease the incentive to take a new job even as they help some people in distress. The terms of that trade-off will be different at different times, and reasonable people will defensibly disagree about them.