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Pinochet Should Be Tried For Human Rights Abuses

Readers Report

Pinochet Should Be Tried for Human Rights Abuses

It apparently escaped Robert J. Barro's notice that the superiority of the free-market system rests on a democratic government ("One Pinochet legacy that deserves to live," Economic Viewpoint, Jan. 17). Over time, dictators of all stripes have attempted to justify their authoritarian rule on the pursuit of some general good. Yet free people know otherwise. General Pinochet chose to use or allow the state apparatus and other far-right elements to terrorize and abuse his opponents. It is fair that he be held accountable before a court of law.

George J. Papaioannou

New York

Professor Barro deserves an F in economics and political science for his criticism of Chile's decision to prosecute human-rights violations and to change its policy to reduce 11% unemployment.

Barro's understanding of the Chilean economy is questionable. Chile depends on exports of copper, wood, and other primary goods. Given the glut in those markets, Chile's economy is in trouble. The success of Pinochet's policies owed a great deal to favorable commodity markets. Neoliberal reforms of the 1970s and '80s also resulted in huge income inequality and hard times for the lower classes, flawed environmental policies, and too little public investment in education and human capital.

Unemployment is high, and times are tough in the major Latin American countries--particularly Argentina, Brazil, and Ecuador; privatization and dependence on fickle foreign capital, as a solution for these problems, are under attack elsewhere in South America.

Pinochet was a military oligarch who belongs in a courthouse being tried for human-rights abuses. His economic legacy should also be severely scrutinized.

John Reeder

Arlington, Va.Return to top

Taxing Internet Sales Doesn't Make Sense

"No Net taxes: A break for the well-off" (News: Analysis & Commentary, Jan. 17) should serve as a warning to Internet entrepreneurs that Big Business and Big Government are trying to legislate away the pure competition that e-tailers represent. If a tax firewall is erected, e-tail startups will find the costs of compliance prohibitive. As noted in "B2B: The hottest Net bet yet?" (News: Analysis & Commentary, Jan. 17), the Internet can become the most powerful engine of deflation in the modern era, but not if the only business models allowed to gain entry are those of already existing brick-and-mortar retailers.

While "mostly well-off people" may represent the majority of Internet users, the user population will explode in the next three to five years. Using today's affluent population to justify tax moves that could harm the less affluent masses for generations to come is shortsighted.

As an Internet e-tailer startup, I trust our representatives in government will resist the intense lobbying and keep the Internet a tax-free zone where the small-business person can compete in the global arena.

David S. Boyer

CEO Inc.

Topeka, Kan.

Sales taxes are now collected only from companies with a major presence in a state. Regulation of interstate commerce is a reserved federal power.

Author Andy Reinhardt suggests that e-tailers will take sales away from brick-and-mortar stores and catalog merchandisers, and he uses data that seem to presume that all Net sales will be tax-free. That is not the case. Toys `R' Us Inc., or a similar company with stores in Texas, would continue to have to collect state tax on its sales, even if the goods were bought over the Net. But purchases from Lands' End Inc. or other catalog merchandisers with no physical presence there would not be subject to Texas sales tax.

Estimating state tax losses based on Net sales alone is a stretch. Some states have "use" taxes, which may partially offset lost sales taxes, but they are generally only on large items, such as cars, that require state licensing.

The current tax structure has been in place for years. The founding fathers had it right: Regulation of interstate commerce should be a reserved power of the federal government. The states may control activities that occur within their boundaries. This is not a social or fairness question; it is simply an attempted revenue grab by the states.

William L. Hughes

DallasReturn to top

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