How to Make Democracy WorkDR.L. Ottenheimer's Nov.7 letter...


November 27, 1994

How to Make Democracy Work


R.L. Ottenheimer's Nov.7 letter in the Sun was appropriate for the occasion of the recent elections. The importance of exercising the right to vote in the American democracy cannot be disputed. As the writer noted, "Democracy only works if citizens participate."

It is this quote that prompts my letter. No matter what the outcome of the elections, one outstanding factor needs to be seriously considered and implemented -- namely, active citizen involvement.

We need to be reminded constantly that our representative form of government, otherwise known as a republic, looks to citizens and the persons we elect to offices to have an ongoing communication regarding government issues. In this way, the will of the citizenry can give direction to elected officials.

There is a choice that citizens have to elect persons and step aside to let the officials operate in office as they will; or to establish a working base with those officials to let them know the wishes of the people concerning government programs and legislation.

To choose the first option, which is essentially what we now have, makes effective government chancy at best. The alternative is the second option, whereby citizens hold community meetings on a regular basis and meet with their elected representatives at the local, state and federal levels.

This involvement and participation is needed for the following reasons:

* Individual citizens have an almost impossible task of contacting elected officials to give their views on matters as they arise.

* Reliance on elections as such to reflect the will of the people is limited to broad strokes but does not afford a clear expression of interest and concern regarding a number of issues that can and do surface.

* Debate and exchange of ideas and views are the ingredients that would make intelligent and meaningful decisions, legislation and administration as impinge on the good and welfare of the body politic.

The above are some of the important items that should motivate citizens to make the time and invest the effort to make our involvement and participation work. We cannot do any less than this.

I, for one, tire of citizens who make excuses for not taking some active part in the affairs of government as an important facet of citizenship.

A popular TV commercial states, "The quality goes in before the name goes on." We need some of this quality time and effort invested by the citizenry before we Americans can legitimately brag over the greatness of our form of government. We should not rely exclusively on elections.

Melvin S. Wachs


Chinese Risks

I am amazed by Ian Johnson's Nov. 15 front-page article, describing the collapse of a Sino-American joint-venture.

It seems to me that the failure of the venture is largely due to the American investor group, Multimax, which ironically should know much more about capitalism.

I can't believe that people can put in millions worth of investment before even having a board meeting with their partners and trust information provided by someone who boasts to have an insider's connection (a junior clerk in the company?)

People do their homework before they make a decision such as buying a car, let alone putting down so much money. Those investors would probably be swindled here, if they do business like that.

As it opens its door to capitalism, China may feel like the Wild West. There are many opportunities, as testified by the success of Motorola, AT&T and many other U.S. companies. As in the old West, some cowboys got the gold and others got bitten by


My impression after reading that story is that China is such an economically dangerous place that every one should avoid.

The story in The Sun only reflects either those investors' naiveness or Mr. Johnson's shallowness. I don't understand why it is occupying the front-page space. Maybe editors live in such a utopian state that they never see novices being cheated by con artists.

Mr. Johnson should realize that Multimax is not the first Maryland company to open a joint venture in China. McCormick opened a joint venture one mile away from my home in China at least four years ago, and it is still there and working fine.

Better ask them before you draw your conclusion.

Jian F. Ma


Prayer Helps

KAL's cartoon of Nov. 17 really makes a point. Unfortunately, I don't think it's the point he wanted to make.

The depiction of the haggard politician (I assume a Republican) throwing a prayer book on top of a stack of burdensome books such as "guns," `violence," etc., is meant to say that the newly elected Congress will be adding yet another problem to the stack.

However, in my interpretation of this cartoon, if one adds prayer back to the stack, several of the other burdens will be lifted.

Paul St. Jacques


Limbaugh Menace

Rush Limbaugh got only one thing right in his Oct. 26 Opinion * Commentary article. Yes, as one who leans to liberal, I am afraid of him.

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