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At A Loss

July 24, 1994

Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan laments that President John F. Kennedy's program to move retarded and mentally ill people out of asylums and into 2,000 community centers was "absolutely catastrophic" because only half the program was implemented--asylums were closed while only a small fraction of the facilities that were to replace them were built ("The Lost Faith of Daniel Patrick Moynihan," by Karen Tumulty, June 19). He has backed off from his humanitarian values, claiming that these failures could have been avoided "if we hadn't set out to improve things."

The problem, in this example and many others, is that noble plans were initiated but were abandoned before completion. They were sabotaged by subsequent conservative administrations and betrayed by liberals who gave up before the game was over. Perhaps if those 2,000 community centers had actually been built, with training, counseling and development services, we could now enjoy a society with neither asylums nor homelessness. Perhaps if we improved our schools and adopted realistic drug prevention and rehabilitation strategies, we wouldn't be building so many prisons.

DOUGLAS DUNN

Oceanside

It is more accurate to characterize Moynihan's position as a loss of naivete than a loss of faith or confidence in what government is able to do. He is much too bright not to have observed that most of his colleagues truly are much more interested in their personal careers and in petty partisanship than in addressing problems meaningfully. On the infrequent occasions when they do implement something bold, the nightmarish, unintended consequences often overwhelm the intended ones.

PATRICK O'BRIEN

Villa Park

The Moynihan piece provides another compelling reason for term limits.

RANDY S. MITCHELL

Palm Desert

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