I note that with regard to the USA's greatly feared "fiscal cliff" it appears to have been the general consensus that tax rises and spending cuts would likely plunge that state back into recession.
If that is, indeed, the consensus, then why on Earth is our Government in Britain pursuing such policies as a matter of course?
Equally, and based on the consensus referred to above, is it not therefore logical to deduce that spending rises and tax decreases would most likely lead to that economic phenomenon which a country determined to reduce its debt and deficit so desperately needs (as Alistair Darling pointed out some time ago) and which our country has not seen for some time now: growth?
Joseph de Lacey
John O'Sullivan (letters, 31 December) hits the nail on the head when he says HMRC is "powerless because the legislation left us so".
This is quite deliberate and is what successive chancellors meant when they said Britain is "business-friendly" or "open for business": they mean we have a tax system designed so that individuals and companies facing large tax bills can avoid the taxes the rest of us pay.
Anyone expecting this to change, or believing the rhetoric about Amazon, Google and the like paying their fair share, may be in for a long wait; there is just too much vested interest in the status quo.
Margaret Thatcher may be described as a divisive figure, but her values and basic vision seem to have united most political parties in this country.
If we look at the record, one of the first acts for both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown when arriving at Downing Street was to invite Thatcher to revisit her old stamping ground, the clear subtext being: "You can trust us to look after your legacy for you."
And sure enough, we find the 13 years of New Labour littered with Thatcherite policies and Thatcher-friendly pronouncements.
There was the continuing banging of the free-market drum; continuing privatisation of public-sector activity (dishonestly disguised behind the weasel words "modernising" or "outsourcing"); continuing celebration of the City of London and its "light touch" regulation following Thatcher's Big Bang; the refusal to contemplate higher taxation for the rich; presiding over the biggest increase in inequality since the days of... Margaret Thatcher; and presiding over the biggest increase in the prison population since the days of... Margaret Thatcher.
New Labour cemented and consolidated all the core themes of the Thatcher revolution and made possible the draconian dismantling of public-sector life we are now witnessing. Thatcher may divide the nation, but she has surely united the politicians.
And so we look forward to another year of this Con-Dem atrocity that some call a Government. This curdled duo-pot of festering, soured milk – direct from Mother Thatcher's wrinkled teat – is well past its sell-by date.
On the road to commercial surrogacy
Does Ian Birrell (28 December) take any thought for the unintended consequences of gay marriage?
The next day's headline was "Wombs for hire". One can almost hear the propaganda being worked on at this moment. The objective: to make surrogacy fashionable and accessible, so that gay couples can be bombarded with promotional material about getting children just as they currently are about planning their "great day".
So we witness a long process coming to fruition:
Step one: seek equivalent legal rights to married couples re property, inheritance etc.
Step two: bring about civil partnerships.
Step three: inaugurate civil partnerships, using as much wedding tat as possible so that they look like two people getting married.
Step four: change the term parent from meaning the real and actual mother and father of a child and instead call those who are merely in loco parentis "parents".
Step five: say that marriage is simply an expression of affection between any two people (the David Cameron doctrine) so marriage cannot be limited to just a man and a woman (this moves attention away from the mating and child-raising aspect of marriage).
Step six (soon to follow, as the gay community declares that gay couples should be able to have children as of right): press for commercial surrogacy to be permitted and encouraged in this country.
Is it fanciful to suggest that within 10 years we will have commercial surrogacy here so that gay couples can get the children they want?
South Cave, East Yorkshire
Susan Alexander's views on marriage are interesting but I cannot agree that "if you love someone, surely you must be willing occasionally to share them or let them go" (letters, 31 December). Married or not, if you truly love someone, surely you would not be willing to betray and hurt them in such a way? Infidelity seems pretty selfish to me.
Carrie Sperling (letters, 31 December) seems to have misunderstood. At the time of Henry VIII's proposed marriage to Anne Boleyn, the Church of England did not exist to disagree with anyone. The definition of marriage was not the issue, but the question of whether or not the relevant criteria had been fulfilled. The context was one not of religious difference but of national politics and international powers.
The constitutional position relating to American guns (which she referred to) is also controversial and highly politicised.
Resolutions for our future
This weekend's papers have pointed out some of the dangers facing the world in 2013. Most of these could be solved if our species had the slightest chance of behaving rationally, but our society's main failing, greed, will likely cause our demise.
Everywhere one looks, the very rich do everything in their power to maximise their wealth. The infinite ways in which the wealthy avoid taxation are making them public enemy number one. And their greed is at the expense of the old and poor who still, to my astonishment, worship their "heroes": the celebrities, footballers and pop stars.
If we were sensible, we would be thinking about harnessing the free energy which comes from the sun. An area the size of Turkey devoted to solar energy production could, I am informed, supply the Earth's entire energy needs. The implications would be mindblowing: clean air, free, non-polluting travel, and the release of trillions of pounds to liberate the hopeless from poverty and disease.
Dehumanising production methods make slaves out of workers, many of whom are children coerced into manufacturing goods for the Western world. The rich stand in the way of any progress because the citadels they have built for themselves would be threatened. The first thing that must happen in 2013 is that we have to become more observant, then more rational and informed, and subsequently more active.
Here are my suggested new year resolutions for The Independent:
Stop calling entertainers, sports stars and the like who are, or have been, simply successful and popular "much-loved"; ditto "legendary"; ditto "national treasures".
Stop using the ridiculous suffix "-gate" to describe virtually every crisis or scandal – how many of your younger readers know or care what Watergate was all about, anyway?
And print cricket scorecards in a bolder typeface so that people with less-than-perfect eyesight can actually read them.
Dr John Coad
May I reassure John Lewis (letters, 31 December) that the Pope's prayers are, indeed, answered. The answer, however, is almost always "No".
Organic demand outstrips supply
I would dispute your headline "Organic food loses its appeal" (29 December). While the recession has had an obvious effect on people's purchasing power, my feeling is that the dip in sales of organic food is largely because it has become increasingly difficult to obtain. It is now almost impossible to buy organic roasting joints, bacon or sausages from the major supermarket chains.
When I raised the matter in more than one of these supermarkets, I was given the same answer: that there was less demand for it. How can that be a justified response, when the product is not on the shelves?
A month ago, I phoned a major supermarket regarding the lack of organic meat available and was listened to politely by a lady who expressed concern and incredulity when I pointed out to her that I could no longer get organic meat or any of the organic gluten- and dairy-free products that I need for my restricted diet. She promised to relay my concerns to the appropriate person and assured me that I would receive a reply in the future. I am, of course, still waiting.
I continue to argue that if the product is available, people will buy it.
Good idea but...
While I am sure that those in child protection will welcome the sharing of hospital records in order to identify those who repeatedly need treatment as a consequence of abuse (27 December), we should recognise that for some children this may be a death sentence. Adults simply won't take an unlucky few to hospital because of the increased risk of discovery. And there will, almost certainly, be resultant fatalities. Just for once, it would be in the public interest for such initiatives to be run without an announcement.
I take issue with Reece Fowler's argument that gamekeepers "aim to conserve" (letters, 31 December). Gamekeeping is the practice of dividing wildlife into good and bad. Conservation is about respecting ecology, and that includes the times when predators reduce populations of game birds below what hunters would like them to be. There is always going to be a conflict, because hunters and genuine conservationists do not measure wildlife value by the same criteria.