Letters: Alternatives to Capitalism

Yes, capitalism is good: for some

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Christina Patterson's myopic piece suggests – using the horrendous example of totalitarian North Korea – that "Occupy" protesters in major cities around the world should "remember that the only alternative to capitalism ... hasn't been all that good for people's stomachs" (Comment, 21 December; letters, 23 December).

This kind of "Be grateful for what you've got" logic is as flimsy as it is disingenuous, particularly considering that one in seven people in the world will go hungry today, many as a direct consequence of a rigged system of global trade, food speculation and other forms of "ingenuity" in the marketplace.

Capitalism is clearly "good for the stomachs" of some, but not others. Let us dismiss the bizarre notion that those who dare to point out these obscenities are automatically demanding the institution of a Stalinist command economy.

Many of the Occupiers and protesters I have met this year would prefer a economic and political system in between the venal, rapacious capitalism we see today and the tinpot "socialisms" of the DPRK. Many also have clear ideas of how they would like to see this achieved.

Patrick Weir

University of Exeter

If it is capitalism and capitalism alone that has produced the "standard of living most people in the world can only dream of", then why was there so much squalor and poverty in Britain during the latter half of the 19th century, surely the most rampantly capitalist era in British history?

Western democracies are a complex mixture of capitalism and socialism. Yes, we have largely capitalist economies, but underpinned by hard-won largely socialist policies (minimum wage, maximum working weeks, the welfare state, health and safety legislation, consumer protection legislation, anti-monopoly legislation etc).

It is this benign synthesis that has led to our hitherto comfortable western lifestyle. Unfortunately, Ms Patterson's beloved capitalists, acting as a law unto themselves in banking, have ruined the economy for generations. Does Ms Patterson think that those of us who want these cowboys brought to account should emigrate to North Korea?

Paul Mitchell


By referring to a dynastic dystopia like North Korea as the result of "socialism" , one might as well refer to the many murderous past South American tin-pot dictatorships as examples of capitalism.

This analysis is both facile and juvenile, a weak attempt to justify the iniquities of rampant capital by indulging in a playground interpretation of socialism by conjuring up a "bogey-man". One wonders why she never used Cuba as the "socialist" example. Perhaps, despite a dearth of material wealth and a 50-year US blockade, she would be forced to admit it has a first-class healthcare and education system.

Our own NHS and welfare state are a result of "socialist" policies. But simply labelling a State "socialist" doesn't necessarily make it so.

Christopher Munro


Falklands grateful for support against Argentina

The people of the Falkland Islands would like to respond to your leading article, "Time to talk about the Falklands" (22 December). The Mercosur statement banning legitimate Falkland Islands-flagged vessels from using their ports came as no surprise to the people of the Islands. We have seen Argentina persuading its neighbours into lending verbal support to various pronouncements, all of which are aimed at putting us under pressure and disrupting our way of life.

We are well aware of the wish to force us to discuss the sovereignty of the Islands from which they would only accept one outcome, turning our home and country into a colony of Argentina.

We are very appreciative of the strong support from the UK for our right to self-determination under the UN Charter. We are equally disappointed that countries in the region with whom we've had a long and mutually beneficial relationship seem ready to join Argentina in ignoring this right.

As a people, we have the right to determine our own future, and we have made a choice, to maintain our relationship with Britain. It is this right, and this choice that we have made, that is being ignored.

In an ideal world, disputes should be settled by talking. The only talks of interest to Argentina are those which have only one possible outcome; the handover of the Falkland Islands against the clearly expressed wishes of their people.

Jan Cheek

Member of the Legislative Assembly, Stanley, Falkland Islands

Simple ways to beat tax-dodgers

Your leading article rightly calls for tax simplification and closure of loopholes ("Radical tax reform is the route to fairness", 21 December 21). HMRC already possesses minimal powers to treat certain tax-avoiding associated operations as a single operation liable to tax; hence, parliament simply needs to widen the powers so that, unless explicitly permitted, operations which make sense solely as tax avoidance ruses are deemed undone. That would render ineffective a range of artificial manoeuvres that create, for example, companies designed as stamp-duty dodges and income-tax escapes.

Cynics may suggest that such a quick solution will be resisted because lawyers within and without the Treasury are of the same breed, seeing the ever-increasing tax complexities as a gravy-train game, one that blinds people from appreciating that paying tax is a good thing.

Peter Cave

London W1

Football 'bubble' can be ludicrous

Police forces are operating increasingly restrictive and often downright excessive policing in and around football matches at all levels of the professional game.

One example of this is so called "bubble matches" whereby fans are forced to travel by coach to specified away games from a fixed point (usually the home ground of their club) even if they live many miles away or even far nearer the stadium where the game is to be played. Obtaining tickets if travelling by any other means is impossible and fans must cover the cost of travelling to and from the pick-up as well as the coach journey they have no option but to make.

As ludicrous and inconvenient as this is, it is sold as being for the "safety and comfort" of supporters and yet in this age of austerity I strongly feel the police talk up the threat of football violence to maintain their [police] numbers, profile and income stream via clubs who are obliged to pay for such policing. Football fans are far from the threat they are presented to be.

John Moore


Too kind to George Bush

Mary Dejevsky's verdict on George Bush is too kind (16 December). His antipathy to environmental issues and that of the Republican Party for decades is not "supposed" but a starkly appalling fact. Perhaps she could name just one thing he did to protect the environment?

Decreasing the dependency of the US on imported fuel has been done only at the cost of exporting even more pollution to the rest of the planet already gasping from America's wanton destruction. Perhaps those Bush adversaries she found so tedious should have been chanting "Kill baby, kill".

Steve Edwards

Haywards Heath, West Sussex

Legacy of Reagan and Thatcher

Thirty years on from the Thatcher and Reagan experiments with monetarism, UK unemployment is two and a half times what it was when Thatcher won in 1978 and half of all Americans now live in poverty. These 30 years of greed have resulted in a situation where young people cannot buy a house even if they have a job and millions live in houses they cannot sell because they are in negative equity.

The new rules on mortgage lending coupled with a build-up of those who want to sell but can't mean market forces will ensure a sudden collapse in house prices. British manufacturing has been reduced to 10 per cent of our GDP and we are held to ransom by a banking industry far more vicious and mercenary than the trades unions ever were. And we have no politician with the imagination to see another economic way forward.

Vaughan Thomas

Usk, Gwent, South Wales.

No cash, bank on it

Jane Talbot's experience of her bank stating that they "don't take cash" (letters, 13 December) is not the only such nonsense. My friend visited his local bank to pay in the cash takings from his shop, £4,000. As he handed it over, he was greeted with, "Hi Fred" from the teller, whom he had known for years.

Then his wife rang his mobile and asked him to bring home £1,500 in cash. He asked the teller to give him that amount back, but was told, "Sorry Fred, have you got photo ID? We can't pay out such a large sum without it". He left empty-handed.

Colin Burke


In brief...

Usual claptrap over rail fares

Surprise, surprise! We are being told that next month's 5.9 per cent increase in rail fares (report, 20 December) will help to "pay for new trains, faster services and better stations". Every year we get given this patronising corporate clap-trap. I've seen no evidence of any of these improvements over the past decade or more.

What I do increasingly see are antiquated, draughty carriages, regular over-crowding due to "lack of rolling stock", vastly over-priced snacks, and countless delays or cancellations. This is another rip-off by a privatised industry, people being bled dry to profit those at the top.

Pete Dorey

Bath, Somerset

Service charge

I am a reservist who has completed two tours of Afghanistan, in 2008 and 2010-11. For these two tours I have received only the one Operational Service Medal from the Ministry of Defence. But I am happy to report that HMRC (letters, 22 December) is not so stingy in its recognition of multiple tours and have sent me two tax demands, one for each period of Afghan service. Much obliged.

Philip Boshier


Christmas spirit

I am a 73-year-old single gent, living alone in poverty who, as usual, will be spending Christmas by himself. The last thing I want is to be "rescued" by a patronising bimbo in a fur hat who wants to force Christmas pud down my gullet, especially as I am not even a Christian. What a pity these seasonal do-gooders could not spread their innate charitable instincts over the rest of the year. Volunteers? Bah! Humbug!

Keith Sharp