As an Arizona resident, I appreciated "Ballot Tampering" by Jeffrey A. Singer (December). This is not the only time the courts have blocked a citizens' initiative effort to curtail state power. About 20 years ago, the National Taxpayers Union led a drive to get the states to petition Congress to call a constitutional con-vention to produce a balanced budget amendment. California was one of the states holding out. The citizens put an initiative on the ballot to cut off state legislators' pay until they took appropriate action. The California Supreme Court removed that ballot measure, again with no explanation. That was the bad news. The good news: three of the justices responsible for the removal did not win reinstatement when their terms were up.
Albert K. Heitzmann
I see that welfare reform has moved people into jobs ("The Hassle Factor," December). But the taxpayers are buying welfare recipients cars, paying for their car insurance, schooling or job training, day care, bus transportation, and more. How much does all that cost? Is it more, less, or the same amount as the old programs? I don't care how many people are statistically "former recipients." Welfare is still a big-bucks program. I can't consider welfare reform successful until the taxpayers' burden has been lifted.
The Art of Eminem
Brian Doherty's attack on Lynne Cheney and defense of Eminem ("Bum Rap," December) disturbed me. Doherty overlooks the serious problems with this sort of trash culture, and instead sets up a straw man in Cheney's criticism of nihilistic art.
First off, he implies that Cheney was calling for censorship, which is not true as far as I know. I am dead set against censorship, but holding a firm position in support of artistic freedom does not mean that one cannot pass artistic judgment. I see nothing wrong with public figures using their highly visible positions to encourage greater aesthetic maturity and to discourage the support of nasty, puerile, violent, and intellectually bankrupt influences on our children. No one is obliged to listen to Cheney any more than they are obliged to listen to Eminem.
I was more disturbed by the effort to promote Eminem as a serious artist. I commend Doherty's straightforward honesty in reprinting some of Eminem's lyrics, though they certainly don't help make his case. It surprises me that REASON would fail to connect the self-indulgent attitudes displayed in these lyrics with the ever-growing infantilism in society, which contributes so greatly to the popular demand for Big Daddy Government.
We should be encouraging teenagers to listen to music that stimulates their maturation, not to whining, solipsistic crap aimed at promoting permanent childlike dependence. The problem with "art" of this sort is not that it will produce maniacs who imitate it literally, but that it will stunt the mental development that makes a free society possible.
This so-called musician hides behind ironic detachment and supposed humor so that he can shout out his most childish, violent fantasies. Can anyone really believe "provocation" is an art form? I am well aware that defining the meaning of art is an unsolved -- probably unsolvable -- philosophical problem. Nonetheless, it seems clear to me that defining as art anything that tweaks the nose of other people renders the concept meaningless.
To me, true freedom is based first and foremost on maturity and responsibility among the people. A society that cannot distinguish between good and evil, or between inspiration and mob incitement, is ripe for manipulation by demagogues. We all have within us the desire to scream and shout, to tear down and destroy, to join the mob and indulge our animal natures. The trick is to learn how to live without expressing these primal urges. Children do not naturally draw this lesson from within themselves; they need to have it taught and demonstrated by their parents and other adults around them.
While I certainly defend the right of Eminem to spew hatred and filth, I will continue to encourage my children and all other people around me to turn their backs on such emanations and instead to develop their intellects and their souls as free, responsible, mature individuals.
West Newton, MA