William J. Bennett is correct when he frets about there being "a coarseness, a callousness, a cynicism, a banality and a vulgarity to our time" ("The Eggheads of the GOP," by Nina J. Easton, Aug. 21). What other words could describe the Administration that used a free country's tax dollars to subsidize a decade's worth of murder, terror and rape in El Salvador?
I'm sure that the minute Bennett sets straight these low-income, willful, unmarried (gasp!) girls, he'll move on to study his former co-workers' complicity in human rights abuses--that is, as soon as someone tosses him $3.1 million to do so.
Is Bennett the same one who almost single-handedly screwed up the entire educational system of the country under President Ronald Reagan? Is he the same "egghead" who ensured, under President George Bush, that we will be living with the morass created by the drug culture for decades to come?
MICHAEL T. LA MOY
Rancho Palos Verdes
Call us retro-con, neo-con or whatever, we are just simple Americans, many of whom are assimilated immigrants, who work and live the American dream. And we pay our own way or just do without.
The shift in conservative emphasis from economic freedom to moral behavior challenges the liberal focus on group victimization. Government rewards for behavior contributing to the decay of society--such as Social Security benefits for drug addicts and welfare handouts for illegal immigrants and mothers of illegitimate children--result in government sanctioning of irresponsible behavior.
Conservative thinkers give voice to the societal backlash against liberal moralizing. Those engaging in responsible sexual behavior, who must subsidize people practicing irresponsible sex, are tired of being denounced as intolerant bigots for questioning this order.
No one is more dangerous than someone who has nothing to lose. More than one revolution began when the only choice of the poor lay between starvation and fighting. Retro-conservatives would be wise to re-examine their history lessons before proposing the '90s version of "Let them eat cake."
DOUGLAS E. WELCH
The "Merchants of Virtue" want us to believe in a simple answer--theirs. One stereotypical philosophy, or one political party, doesn't fit all problems. These retro-conservatives define problems well, but their major solutions are to return to mythological good old days that really weren't that good for most of us. (Before World War II, most eligible teen-agers didn't graduate from high school, for instance, and lack of preventive and other health care kept the average life short and not too sweet).
Neither the Bible nor the Constitution anticipated anything like today's technological world and its dilemmas. We need calm, rational discussion that results in compromise and coming together, not destructive name-calling and childish bickering that divides us into "us and them."
Beware of merchants bearing virtue. Neither politics nor religion provide paths to virtue, despite self-serving claims to the contrary.
D. A. PAPANASTASSIOU
As retro-conservatives plan to bring virtue and values to the masses, perhaps they should consider starting their lessons with the Republican elite. Then the trickle-down effect (remember that?) could kick in.
The lesson on honesty should be directed to Oliver North, who pulls down tens of thousands of dollars from his friends by bragging about scamming Congress. Compassion? Let's send that one to Ronald Reagan, who swelled the ranks of the homeless with the indigent and the mentally ill. And the lesson on virtue and citizenship should go to the retro-cons' friends in industry who collect exorbitant salaries as American workers are laid off and their jobs sent to Third World countries.
San Luis Obispo
Retro-cons say the welfare system has caused the irresponsible behavior of some parents. Am I missing something here? Isn't responsibility about electing to do what is ethical, regardless of other available options? Irresponsible fathers will abandon their children with or without the existence of a welfare system. Responsible fathers won't.