I am a regular reader of Robert J. Barro's column. "The myth that poverty breeds terrorism" (Economic Viewpoint, June 10) was one of the best texts I have ever read in this magazine. I fully agree that poverty and low education are not the main ingredients to create terrorists and to spread terrorism. Unquestionably, Osama Bin Laden is the best example to support this point: He is an engineer and son of a wealthy Saudi family. Other good examples are the leaders of Germany's Baader-Meinhof, Italy's Red Brigades, Japan's Red Army, and Colombia's Shining Path, to mention a few. Ah, we cannot forget Pol Pot, a former Buddhist monk, supposedly a well-educated person, who decimated the Cambodian population in the "killing fields." We can enrich our list with the name of that architect who took power in Germany in 1933.
What is the main characteristic of these people? Unquestionably, they are leaders with a strong following in their communities, they get people to finance their fight, and above all they are psychopaths (not madmen). They do not cherish any values (except their struggle for power) and have no regard for human life. Poverty, the Middle East problem, or whatever are mere ingredients used to create a flavor of legitimacy to their struggle.
Jos? Thomaz Gama da Silva
Ouro Preto, Brazil
While terrorists may be better off than their peers, it's a long way from refuting the power of economic advancement. In fact, free markets and democratic governments help countries improve by establishing a healthy path for intelligent, success-driven individuals. The best and brightest have a system that allows them to amass power and money in a way that advances society.
On the other hand, terrorist activity is worst in countries with a lack of free markets and democratic government. These countries' best and brightest individuals still strive for success and power, but instead of building businesses, they gravitate toward leading through nationalism in radical cells.
Cincinnati Jack Ewing encapsulates the current situation and challenges of Berlin extremely well ("Berlin: Hip but hurting," European Business, June 10). However, one key point is, as often, overlooked: West Berlin was not just dependent on Western political and military support for over 40 years. During that time, all businesses in Berlin were heavily subsidized in order to keep them (and their jobs) in town while communist troops were amassed around the city. When the subsidies (and the troops) went away after unification in 1990, what remained was a "subsidy mentality" in the business community, with many companies (and managers) simply incapable of helping themselves. It took much longer to overcome that than it did to tear down the Berlin Wall.
Ludwig von Reiche
American Chamber of Commerce
Berlin I agree completely with Brian Bremner's "Japan can't get school reform right, either" (Asian Business, Apr. 29). As a part-time lecturer at three universities in Nagoya for eight years, I have been appalled by the lack of focus on student satisfaction, the balkanization of faculty based on department, the lack of clear graduation standards, the primacy of memorization over analytical thinking and originality, the focus on students as a revenue source, and the total lack of student input into curricular design or teacher evaluation.
While a recent reader commented on the importance of giving otherwise overworked Japanese students a breather after high school ("Give the Japanese a break," Readers Report, June 3), surely there must be a way to combine academic rigor with moments of relaxation. Otherwise, students will continue to be woefully ill-prepared to compete in a domestic and international economy where flexibility and capability matter more than alumni connections.
T. Bruce Shaver
Nagoya, Japan To Laura D'Andrea Tyson's "The farm bill is a $200 billion disaster" (Economic Viewpoint, June 3), let me add that by depressing farm exports, the bill's collateral damage should include rapid depletion of developing countries' foreign reserves. This will create foreign-exchange earthquakes and the forced intervention of the International Monetary Fund. That, in turn, means using additional taxpayers' funds to solve the problem. I see no option but to quietly amend it after the November elections.
Alfredo de Urquiza