Letter: Dangerous medicine for the economic disease

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Sir: No, your programme for recovery (22 October) will not do. It would bring not a recovery of health but a return to the pattern of behaviour which led to the present disease.

Lowering interest rates means not paying off old debts, but incurring new ones and damaging savings. Starting major road and rail projects means not a better transport system, but even more travelling for the sake of travelling, with higher fares and more fuel consumption. Reviving the housing market means not helping house- owners, but even more moving for the sake of moving, with higher prices and more mortgage debts. Increasing lending to small businesses means not encouraging trade, but even more business for the sake of business, with even more debts and failures.

Tinkering with the Bank of England and the Treasury means not reforming the financial system, but disguising its irrelevance. Creating a Department of Economics means not co-ordinating the economy, but even more central control and bureaucratic interference. Playing a central role in Europe means not helping either ourselves or the Europeans, but dragging even more people into the same mess. Making a strong commitment to free trade means not freeing trade, but preserving the present imbalance against poor people and poor countries.

The problem is not the economy but society. Far too many people are living miserable and meaningless lives in the pursuit of happiness and in the midst of plenty. The problem is not unemployment but malemployment. Far too many people are doing work that is not worth doing. The problem is not under-education but miseducation. Far too many children are being taught things that are not worth learning. The problem is not lack of confidence in politics or business, but lack of confidence in ourselves and one another. Far too few people know how to practise self-help and mutual aid. The problem is not the quantity of goods, but the quality of good. Far too many people eat and drink junk, watch and listen to junk, read and write junk, think and talk junk.

Yes, this includes you.

Yours sincerely,

NICOLAS WALTER

London, N1

26 October

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