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Letters to the Editor


Resentment is Directly Correlated with Economic Turndowns
Dear Ms. Berns,
   While I can’t comment on the veracity of your headline in your Publisher’s Letter, and though I personally find “giving” provides an emotional lift to my life, I take serious issue with your last section, “Why Does Resentment Trump Compassion Today?”
   You seem to have completely ignored the economic conditions of the past few years. Our personal giving is down substantially, not because of a change in our attitude, but because our financial resources are not what they once were. And while I am unable to comment upon philanthropy in other parts of the world, every article and statistic that I read shows the American culture to be exceedingly generous, and not only for our domestic causes, but for worldwide causes.
   Helping those who are less fortunate than we are is an abiding principal in our lives and I believe in the lives of a great proportion of Americans both privately and commercially. But I, like many others, take issue with those who will not help themselves. I have sympathy for the family that can’t find work, but I abhor those whose goal seems to be “how do we scam the system?” And it is those who do so that diminish the help that might be available for  those who are truly deserving.
   And it is unarguable that over the past few years, we have become a “bailout nation.” Both businesses and individuals have their hands out asking our government and ultimately the taxpayers to pay for poor decisions and policies and, as well, just plain laziness. As Kennedy once so eloquently expressed, “Ask  not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” The ethic of self-help and self-reliance has morphed into reliance on others.
   I believe you do a disservice by the very narrow focus your article takes. I would also note that historically, it has been found that resentment and prejudice are directly correlated to economic turndowns.
Ric Potenz

Neanderthals Ate Their Own?
Studies of the excavations of Neanderthal bones at El Sidron, Spain revealed that this family had been victims of cannibalism, probably slaughtered by other Neanderthals who used stone blades made from rocks. Your publisher’s letter assumed that our ancestral cousins were happier than we are. Actually, the evidence found in their bones shows malnutrition might have been a problem for this family. Perhaps cannibalism was a way of life for some of these early hominids. Today most humans carry at least 1 to 4 percent Neanderthal DNA in their genetic makeup. What does all this say about us?
Caroline Anderson

Happiness by Giving
There is no virtue in giving away someone else’s money. The shot at the “Tea Partiers” is uncalled for. How do you know they are less generous than others, just because they do not want the Government taking from one group and giving to another group of voters?
Edward M.


A Wonderful One
Thanks a lot! That’s what all the students need!
Imil Nurutdinov

Who’s a Wannabe?
You inexplicably include Steve Landsburg (PhD ’79) as a Steve Levitt “wannabe,” while in fact The Armchair Economist was published in 1993, at which time Steve Levitt was still in graduate school.

Just bought The Mind of the Market for $6 in Like New condition off Amazon... thanks Mr. Sanderson & Mr. Mankiw!

Great List
But: The Armchair Economist is really the first popular and fun book describing the economist as a sort of Sherlock Holmes. If anything it was probably a little too far ahead of its time. I think Coyle’s The Soulful Science: what economists really do and why it matters as a better choice (for budding economists anyway) than her “Sex” book. And Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments is actually a better fit with the behavioral theme, and arguably even greater than the Wealth of Nations. Eamonn Butler’s Primer on Adam Smith is short and wonderful though not a fun book.
Paul Johnson

On Levitt predecessors
And before Landsburg was the book that got me into economics: Abortion, Baseball and Weed by Doug North and Roger Miller. I read it for a book report in a high school economics course.
Jeff Smith

What of Turgot and Hume?
Wealth of Nations is of course a great book. But to say it is where economics started seems inaccurate. What about David Hume's Essays Moral and Political presages nearly all Smith’s arguments on trade and the usefulness of merchants. And what about Turgot?

Smith and Coase should rank at the top list
Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations and Ronald Coase’s The Firm, the Market, and the Law are two most important books in economics. The next three are Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom, Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, and John Maynard Keynes’s General Theory.

Published: February 11, 2011
Issue: February 2011 Heart Health Issue