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Providing a Human Link to Government

The author of the opinion-page article ``Something to Vote For: Real Representation,'' Nov. 7, recommends a system that would polarize political discourse, make government less responsive, and weaken the link between people and government.

The author states that the ``simple genius'' of proportional representation allows representatives to represent people who think alike rather than those who live together. This is a recipe for extremism. Under the present single-district seat system, all citizens know exactly who represents them. A single district is small enough for representatives to visit most of the communities they represent and see and hear about the effects of their work. Representatives selected under a system of proportional representation would be chosen at large from states as a whole. Most states are too large for representatives to get to know their constituents. The connection between people and their government would be weakened, not strengthened.

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The author's belief that representatives represent only those who voted for them is absurd. His categorization of votes for defeated political candidates as wasted ignores citizens' political participation other than voting and assumes neither citizens nor representatives change their minds between elections.

Some political scientists, such as the author, favor systems of proportional representation because such systems make it easier for them to reduce unquantifiable political behavior to single causes. However, the purpose of representative government is to provide for the general welfare, not to establish the supremacy of one or the other political argument. The current single-district seat system helps dampen political extremism by diffusing political power, forcing compromise, and providing voters a human link to government. Steve G. Capps, Leavenworth, Kan.

Problems remain in Indonesia

The column ``Indonesia Then and Now: a Passion for Freedom Remains,'' Nov. 17, is both a naive and partisan account of Indonesia's recent history.

True, President Suharto took power and stabilized the country amid growing anarchy. What the author neglects, however, is that Suharto replaced an emerging leftist dictatorship with an equally tyrannical regime, with the active backing of the CIA.

Under Suharto, as many as 500,000 Communist Party members, suspected leftists, and purported sympathizers were killed. Even today, human rights violations persist in East Timor, Sumatra, and other regions. Indonesia has made considerable progress in some areas. But to suggest that ``much has changed for the better,'' since Suharto's usurpation of power is, at best, dubious. Michael L. Lyster, Fullerton, Calif.

Leave US troops out of Bosnia

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After reading the opinion-page article ``Doing What's Right in Bosnia,'' Nov. 10, I felt compelled to correct the faulty belief that aiding the Bosnian Muslims is the ``right thing to do.'' Ethnic tension between Muslims and Serbs in the Balkans has occurred since Suleyman the Magnificent ruled (1600s). So why now push for military intervention? The only ``wise'' thing to do is contain the war to let both sides release some of that ``ethnic tension.''

As for war crimes, all wars are horrendous, for both sides. And anyone who feels strongly enough about this is free to enlist on the ``Good Muslim'' side and fight the ``Evil Serbs'' themselves. But to suggest using US troops to fight on any side in Bosnia is preposterous. Unlike war with Iraq, Bosnia is not a playground for the Air Force and would cost too many lives, as it already has. Not one US soldier's life is worth it. Increasing war in order to stop it is not very wise at all - war is a crime. Tomas Andres Perez, Austin, Texas

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