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Friday 29 June 2012
Letters: Another disaster bred by the bonus culture
The current furore over bank scandals is merely another result of the culture within the banking and stock market industries, where commission and bonuses are the means by which employees are able vastly to increase their remuneration at the expense of their customers.
The whole culture is based upon maximising business through whatever means in order that commission and bonuses can be enhanced.
Until such time as these practices are outlawed and employees paid a flat salary to do their jobs, then the temptation to oversell and manipulate the markets will never be removed.
However this is a pipe-dream as the beneficiaries are so often the ones who make the rules.
Pevensey, East Sussex
Dan Gledhill, deputy editor of The Independent, tells us that as a bank trader he used to gamble with other people's money and wait in trepidation for the daily announcement of the Libor rate (Comment, 29 June).
He admits that even then the "process stank" and says he is not looking for sympathy, but neither does he acknowledge that to most people what he was doing bordered on downright criminal behaviour.
Yet somehow all those involved in financial affairs are rewarded, not only with enormous cash bonuses but also knighthoods and honoured positions in the upper echelons of the establishment. Some are even looked up to as international gurus.
How do they come to be so revered? In reality none of them are any better than wartime black marketeers.
There is no question but that all is not well with banks and they think they can get away with it. But rather than dismantle the whole capitalist system, as Owen Jones suggests (29 June), why can't we simply prosecute and jail these fraudsters in a such an exemplary way that it deters others?
The prospect of incarceration would do more to break the spell than fines, however large. It is only right that the same sort of severe justice meted out to last summer's rioters should apply here.
Increasingly some bankers resemble medieval theocrats: a bunch of self-recruiting know-alls, claiming spurious prophetic powers, with a superstitious knack of intimidating both the powerful and the weak, while being, when it comes down to it, incompetent prognosticators of actual outcomes. Their survival depends on windy bluff and hollow mantras.
The theocrats of history also managed to carve out ostentatious wealth for themselves, which reinforced their magic to the gullible. It was largely the Enlightenment which rid us of these pretentious charlatans, and we are now in desperate need of a similar philosophical revolution to expose the folly of unproven economic theology, which has led to the neglect, or even the hounding, of deeper human attributes such as labour, creative ingenuity, teaching, compassion, even honest journalism, and modest satisfactions.
We are frequently told that our bankers need to be paid their large bonuses in order to prevent them taking their work elsewhere. After the latest news from Barclays, wouldn't we be better off without them?
We don't need a new House of Politicians
The House of Commons has been trying to hobble the Lords for well over a century. Today the Lords contains experts in a wide variety of fields. Many of them have spent all their life outside the political system and have earned their daily crust without regard to the wishes of the hierarchy of political parties.
In making the new upper house elected, all this knowledge and experience will be swept away. The members of the new chamber will be recruited from the ranks of the main political parties and therefore the new upper house will just be a weak imitation of the lower house.
By all means trim away the hereditary aspects, review the role of the bishops, tinker round the edges if you must, but, with the main body, do not change anything. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
West Buckland, Devon
Languages, yes, but which one?
What is this subject called "languages" that Michael Gove wants children are to learn from an early age? French, German, Spanish, Urdu, Mandarin? Most children attend at least three different schools the course of their education. If each school teaches any language it fancies, what will happen?
Native English speakers already speak the language most widely spoken in Europe and America, so there is no obvious second language for them to learn. I have studied Latin, I speak fluent French and German, and have some holiday Spanish, but when I go to Greece or Egypt, these are of little use to me.
To an extent, all linguistic learning is useful, but the priority should be to ensure that all children are fluent and articulate in speaking and writing English correctly, and understanding how language works. This will give them a sound basis on which to learn another language.
When I studied French in the 1960s the emphasis was on grammar and it was some years later that I suddenly realised that speaking a language meant more than being grammatically perfect.
In the mid-1970s, I was working for the Dublin branch of a UK company and was seconded to head office. The very day I began, the chief accountant was in Paris at the opening of a new office. And, as it happened, his staff needed to speak to him urgently, but none could get through because the Parisian receptionist spoke no English and nobody in head office could muster any French.
When I realised what was happening I asked them to get me Paris on the phone, and in very simple French, I said: "Ici Londres. Je veux parler avec Monsieur Sanders, s'il vous plaît", and a moment later passed the phone back with Mr Sanders on the other end.
The reaction in the office was basically "Bloody hell, the Paddy speaks French!" It was the first time I had spoken to a non-English speaker in her own language and, most importantly, been understood. The incident deepened my love of languages (or rather the ability to communicate in them).
Hidden hate crimes revealed
Strange as it may seem, I am pleased to see that the number of reported disability hate crimes has increased (report, 19 June). I and other members of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign's Trailblazers network recently published a report that revealed young disabled people lacked confidence in the police and would choose not to report incidents of disability-motivated crime against them
I too have been the victim of aggressive insults motivated by disability, but at the time didn't report them because I didn't think the police would take them seriously.
Last week I was with many other young disabled people who shared our experiences of being taunted, bullied and intimidated, at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Young Disabled People, at Westminster. We challenged the Metropolitan Police, the Crown Prosecution Service and ministers Maria Miller MP and Lynne Featherstone MP to do more to raise awareness of these hidden crimes.
It took the tragic case of Fiona Pilkington to bring the issue to public attention.
Staying at home with the children
It is not just rich women (or men) who decide to stay at home and look after children in their early years ("Cherie Blair has a point', 23 June), Following the crowd is not always best.
The majority thought it right not so long ago that women should not vote, could not hold property in their own right and if unmarried should stay at home to look after elderly relatives. Now, just because a materialistic society thinks it normal for all mothers to work, those parents, male or female, who decide they are able to stay at home and look after their very young should not be criticised. Those early years are vital and if a child can spend as much of that time as possible with a parent the security given, and many other benefits, are never lost.
The tone of the current "advice" handed down from on high maybe has a hint of self-justification by some who had a choice in the matter but took another road. Surely we should spare more than a thought for those who would stay home for a year or two but unfortunately cannot.
How pensions are paid for
Alan Jarmain sees the raising of the state pension age to 68 and onwards as some vile Dickensian plot by the Government (letter, 27 June). The more prosaic truth is that the state pension is "unfunded"; in other words, the taxes of those in work are paid out directly to those receiving the pension. There is no "pension pot".
Were the retirement age not to be raised in an era of increased life expectancy, then by 2050 every pensioner would be supported by only two workers. At the moment it is four workers per pensioner, but at the founding of the welfare state it was more like seven. If the pension age is not increased, then the contribution per worker has to rise, or the pension received has to fall. Simple mathematics.
Rude to the Queen
Dave Brown's cartoon of 28 June is surely distasteful even to most Irish republicans and certainly to most Britons, given the success of the peace process in Ireland and the welcome the Queen received in the republic last year. The Independent and Mr Brown may not like the monarchy but it has never been so popular. Perhaps we can have an editorial on the subject with a few helpful suggestions as to suitable candidates for President of the Republic of Great Britain.
St Austell, Cornwall
Not guilty yet
Joan Smith's knowledge and critique of feminism is matched only by the quality of her prose, but I was concerned to see her commitment to equality compromised when she described Jeremy Paxman's interviewing technique as possessing "all the incredulity of a prosecution lawyer confronting a wife-beater" ("Give the viewers a break, Paxo", 28 June). While I share her distaste for the perpetrators of domestic violence, surely she meant "alleged wife-beater"?
The grossest misuse of the word "issue" (Letters, 27 June) must surely be when Donald Rumsfeld mentioned to George Bush in February 2004 that "We have an issue at a prison called Abu Graib." What he should have said was "American troops have behaved so abominably at Abu Graib that it puts into question why we are in Iraq at all."
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