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Protecting the Policyholders

The opinion-page article "Policyholders Lose Out As Mutuals Change Shape" (Nov. 17) begs rebuttal. I'm generally suspicious of arguments that assign dark motives to others; this seems to be the stock in trade for Jason Adkins, whom author David Francis quotes and who perhaps influenced the tone of the essay.

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I'm a 40-year employee/officer of a 103-year-old mutual life insurance company. I'm also a policyholder with that company, as are my wife, children, and their spouses. It is my strong belief that the mutual holding company legislation is in the policyholders' long-term interest. It maintains the mutuality upon which the company was founded (mutual holding companies are controlled by the policyholders), yet enables the organization to raise capital to remain competitive in the financial services arena.

It is true that the policyholder windfall of "divvying up" the surplus doesn't take place as it would in demutualization, but I would contend that none of our policyholders purchased a policy with the expectation of sharing the surplus funds that have built up over the company's 103-year history. Surplus is required to support the insurance and investment risks that an insurance company undertakes, completely apart from the organizational structure of mutual or stock.

Larry R. Robinson


Executive Vice President

The State Life Insurance Company

Stop and smell the dandelions

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Wow... a child so caught up in the simple beauty and wonder of God's creation that she misses an opportunity to "learn" about responsibility and the challenges of life. The opinion-page essay "Cultural Struggles on the Soccer Field" (Nov. 21) tells the story of an eight-year-old who stops to pick a dandelion while the ball rolls toward her in the middle of a game. The author seems concerned with what Lucy is not learning on the soccer field. I think I'm more concerned with what we are not learning from our children.

David Carico

Santa Rosa, Calif.

Parental love, and money, required

Reassure the writer of The Home Forum story "How the Shoes Got on the Other Feet" (Nov. 20) that when it comes to our children, there is no line "between parsimony and healthy thrift." We should be pouring out all our wealth, both spiritual and material, so that they can experience the fact that there is certainly no penalty for loving provision. If you are cheap with them when they are young, look out when you yourself ripen into those golden years. No one said that raising children was inexpensive.

Ewan C. MacQueen Jr.

Cranbury, N.J.

Is the peace process hopeless?

Thank you for your opinion-page article "Restraining Saddam and Netanyahu" (Nov. 18). I have become very dissatisfied with the one-sided approach the US has taken regarding Israel and Palestine. I have seen a bumper sticker that says "If you want peace, work for justice."

That makes sense in my mind. Our approach in the Middle East has not been just. Recently at the 50th reunion of our Stanford University undergraduate class, I heard a talk by professor Joel Beinin. Although Beinin is Jewish, he was very critical of the actions taken by Israel. I believe he saw no hope for peace or progress, based on the way things were going.

Ralph Duniway

Mountain View, Calif.

Nothing beats a book

The opinion-page essay "On TV Today, There's No One Like 'That Girl'" (Nov. 14) concludes by affirming the enduring value of good books as a source of enlightenment and self-knowledge. The essay provides an interesting sequel to the news article "French Turn Off the Tube," (Nov. 4), on the growing numbers who are rejecting TV in France.

I've lived quite happily without TV for over 10 years, and my life is all the richer for it. Good newspapers, good books, and decent radio provide a satisfying and substantial alternative to most TV fare. There may be a place for TV in the home, but the need for wisdom and discernment in program-watching has never been greater.

Alistair Budd

Lindenfels, Germany

Your letters are welcome. All letters are subject to editing. Mail to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to

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