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Ballot Initiatives Are Less Democratic

The article "Ballots Boom, but Is It Good Government?" (May 20) addresses a very important problem, and some of the operating difficulties with the ballot-initiative process. I would like to suggest additional fundamental problems with the ballot initiative.

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First, it lacks the essential legislative process of discussion and amendment. An initiative measure is voted either up or down, and either way it is not the true product of the people acting in direct democracy.

Media coverage does not, even remotely, provide the equivalent of legislative discussion. There is not equal access for the expression of opinion or refutation of argument. There is no way to offer an amendment or for such offers to be debated, and acted upon. In fact, direct democracy is not possible in any polity larger than a village.

Second, an initiative violates the constitutional guarantee to the states and the people of "a republican form of government." The alternatives were monarchy or the form of government created by the Constitution itself, which was also the form of government that each of the individual states had developed over 150 years.

In all of the states, and in the federal government, all legislative power was in a representative legislature that functioned under parliamentary rules having the hallmark of discussion and possible amendment of every matter considered. Direct democracy, as in town meetings, also featured open debate and possibility of amendment.

The ballot initiative violates the essential principles of both direct democracy and representative democracy. It is contrary to the guarantee of a republican form of government.

Robert T. Haines

Littleton, Colo.

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New demands on Poland's farmers

Your article "Poland's 'Return to Europe' Is Plunge Into Modernity" (May 21) praises Polish farmers for stubbornly resisting Communist collectivization to hold onto their small farms. It then labels these same farmers as contrary, backward, and "a step behind" for resisting restructuring by the European Common Market.

We must not presume that Polish farmers will benefit from exchanging their saved seed, their grains of tradition, and faith in their way of life for patented seeds that require more herbicides, for centrally dictated, homogeneous crops for export, and for indebtedness to banks. Restructuring fragments families, destroys soil, and increases pesticides in food and water. There is growing evidence that productivity per acre decreases as farm sizes increase.

It is abundantly clear that families and communities benefit from local, long-term stability. Restructuring is not more beneficial than collectivization.

Gerald Smith

Chelsea, Mich.

Training female marines

The article "Women Build Rank as Marines" (May 19) discusses the rigorous training that women must endure in the Marine Corps and claims that women must "face the same standards men do." The article fails to mention that while women perform the same tasks and training that men do, they, in fact, are required to do less of the same.

The story did not include mention of the stepstools placed in front of the climbing walls when it is the women's turn. And that women are required to do only arm hangs rather than complete pull-ups. The lighter gear packs and slower running times must also have been overlooked.

Yes, women have come a long way in the military and accomplished some great feats. However their standards cannot be claimed as identical to their male counterparts.

Andrew Strychaz

San Luis Obispo, Calif.

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Only a selection can be published, and we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number.

Mail letters to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to

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