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The Independent Culture
Sir: Commentaries on the latest reduction in interest rates have left me increasingly puzzled by the view that the health of the economy appears to be measured by the size of shop sales over the Christmas period. Do not most people realise that the accumulation of more and more "stuff" does not improve the quality of life? Modest presents accompanied by a happy family atmosphere at home over Christmas are more important. Perhaps an ability and willingness to support the poor and lonely in our society might be a better measure.

JULIET BULLIMORE

East Bergholt, Suffolk

Sir: The reason John Sutherland cannot find literary criticism at Borders ("Who needs critics?", 12 December) is that scholarship has become so fragmented - mostly deconstructed by the French and politically corrected by the Americans. A Borders of 25 years ago would certainly have had Lionel Trilling, Alfred Kazan and even William Empson on its shelves. The whole area between journalistic judgements and academic minutiae has disappeared.

BOBBI PORTES

London EC1

Sir: Denys Whatmore (letter, 9 December) says that smokers should be made individually to contribute towards the cost of their treatment on the NHS.

They already have. The tax on cigarettes more than covers the NHS bill for smokers by a factor of between three and five, depending on which figures you believe.

Far from being at the back of the queue, smokers should be at the front when it comes to treatment, as they are generously subsidising the rest of us.

The Rev DAVID E FLAVELL

Liverpool

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