Letters: Protest could be the saviour of capitalism

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I keep reading about "anti-capitalism" protests outside St Paul's, but many opponents of the current system would argue that they are trying to save capitalism from itself.

Neo-liberals have created a perception that there is a Manichean choice between market fundamentalism and socialism, with nothing in between. They point to the benefits of capitalism, yet without intervention by government, markets work to polarise wealth and political power, as the economy moves towards corporate kleptocracy.

We learned this lesson a century ago, when the threat of the imminent collapse of capitalism predicted by Marx was averted through the imposition of anti-monopoly legislation, the gradual expansion of the welfare state, and the regulation of markets – ushering in a post-war period of relative stability and growth. Perhaps, ultimately, Marx was right: an unenlightened capitalist class is doomed to produce its own gravediggers.

Charles Hopkins

Norwich

I applaud the efforts of the St Paul's protesters to look for new ways of organising capitalism. It would be useful to look at the methods of Fry, Cadbury, Rowntree, Clark, Darby and others who, through Quaker practice, were able to build thoroughly successful, honourable businesses while using their money to help their communities.

There are many trusts such as the Rowntree Trusts which use their money to this day.

Gill Ledsham

Windsor

It was perhaps inevitable that the tensions at St Paul's should lead to the resignation of the Dean. While we are sad that it has come to this for Graeme Knowles, we feel, as Church of England clergy and industrial missioners, that the cathedral has missed a real opportunity to engage publicly with the campaigners about the serious issues of power and wealth in our economic system.

The cathedral's preferred approach of quiet discussion in private seems to have had little discernable effect on the way the institutions of the City that surround it are run. It is time to recognise, with the Occupy movement around the world, that the place of the debate is shifting. This may be a kairos moment, not least in the context of recent news about top directors' pay and before another round of bankers' bonuses.

Christianity is not against capitalism per se, but Jesus was very clearly on the side of the poor and dispossessed and against the rich and powerful. Many Christians and others we know are deeply concerned about the growing inequality of wealth distribution both in this country and globally, and many industrial missioners are meeting regularly with people fearful of being made redundant and those who have already lost their jobs.

It is time for a more thorough-going public debate about the purposes of our economic system and how it is to be shaped beyond our present short-term anxieties. There may now be an opportunity for St Paul's and for the Church more generally to take the lead.

A first step towards the redeeming of the situation might be for Giles Fraser's paper on the subject, which was to have been issued on the date of his resignation, to be published soon and a public debate on the issues hosted by the St Paul's Institute.

The Rev Phillip Jones

Worcester

The Rev Prebendary Olwen Smith

Wolverhampton

It would have been more in keeping with the ethos of the real Christian Church if there had been some resounding sermons thundering from the pulpit on the evils of greed and the iniquity of bankers, rather than eviction notices from the administrative arm of the Church.

Tony Cheney

Ipswich, Suffolk

Propaganda against the EU

I have just read your leading article on the EU (1 November). At last, a balanced view. Thank you.

Is it any wonder many people think they are against our involvement in the EU when all they have been fed for the past 20 years is a diet, by most of the media, of anti-EU information, a great deal of it downright inaccurate.

I wonder if the 3 million who potentially would lose their jobs would vote to leave in any referendum if they realised the true position. We know the EU is not perfect, but it is certainly much better than any current alternative.

John Stevens

Stokenham, Devon

So, I've had it wrong all those years; the old maxim really reads "Beware of Greeks accepting gifts."

David Lyons

Poynton, Cheshire

Choice and the childbirth lottery

Sophie Heawood's colourful description of the joys of natural childbirth ("Not the type of birth to encourage", 1 November) tells us nothing about anything other than her own experience and preferences. Anyone who has ever given birth has earned the right to recount their experience and express a view on how it was for them – but they don't have the right to decide for anyone else how it should be done.

Women opting for a caesarean for no "good" medical reason are unlikely to do it for frivolous reasons, or because they don't care about what's best for their baby. Many of these women may well have already given birth "naturally", or attempted to do so. They may have already taken their chances with midwives who have neither the time nor the sensitivity Heawood optimistically describes, and made the entirely rational decision to have a birth where professional attention is guaranteed.

Three cheers for NICE for supporting a woman's right to opt out of the lottery of natural childbirth.

Catriona Moore

London SE15

Bookmaking in the high street

Mary Dejevsky is wrong to suggest there has been a "triffid-like advance" in betting shops (Notebook, 2 November). The number of betting shops in Great Britain has remained stable at about 8,500 for the past 10 years. This figure stood at over 15,000 at the end of the 1960s.

There are more betting shops specifically on high streets than there used to be. The 2005 Gambling Act gave bookmakers greater freedom on where to locate their shops. But this only reflects the fact that betting shops are modern leisure retail businesses, offering a safe leisure product to adults who choose to use it. Latest figures from the Gambling Commission show that over 99 per cent of our customers use our product safely and responsibly.

It is also incorrect to suggest that "council tax payers all over the country are complaining" about our industry. Out of the 400 or so licensing authorities, betting offices have only become a local political issue in a handful of London boroughs. Indeed, the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee's current inquiry into the Gambling Act has received representations from only one local authority.

We would invite Ms Dejevsky to visit one of our shops in her neighbourhood one Saturday morning to see for herself. She might be pleasantly surprised.

Dirk Vennix

Chief Executive, Association of British Bookmakers

London SW1

Gove's favourite academy

Is Mossbourne the only successful academy? ("Gove tells heads to stop whingeing", 1 November) It should be remembered that Mossbourne has new buildings and pump-priming. Currently money is being taken from the general education budget to bribe schools to become academies, at the expense of education generally. In the long term, this must threaten the financial stability of all schools, even the academies themselves.

Michael Gove, by repeatedly focusing on Mossbourne, gives the impression that the academy programme is universally successful. Unfortunately, this is not true. A higher proportion of academies than LEA schools have been criticised by Ofsted. On the other hand, there are many local authority schools which are as successful as Mossbourne, but without the extra money.

One way of improving education is for politicians to spend more time supporting and visiting successful local authority schools and to stop playing politics with children's lives.

Jane Eades

London SW11

Prince's law

David Cameron's refusal to remove the Prince of Wales's right of veto over legislation which might affect his interests is shocking and indefensible. The least Mr Cameron can do is extend the same privilege to the rest of us.

Mark Walford

London N12

Poppies for remembrance

Richard Walker (letter, 2 November) exhibits a common misunderstanding of the purpose of the poppy. It is worn as an act of remembrance. It does not condone. It does not take sides. It is the expression of a national and heartfelt regret that any should lose their life in conflicts fought on behalf of their country.

That such a conflict may be misconceived or wrong is not in doubt, but this does not negate a sentiment that has come to transcend national boundaries. We honour those who died, and in so doing recognise the heroism and pathos of their loss, and remember down the generations the ultimate cost of all war.

Christopher Dawes

London W11

Elusive genius of Shakespeare

Sheikh Zubair was obviously an Arab. Can we now end this speculation around the identity of the Bard?

Khalid Haneef

Watford, Hertfordshire

Those who have difficulty in believing that a nobody from a small country town could possibly produce works of genius might consider the life and works of Leonardo da Vinci.

Brian Mayes

Edinburgh

Who was that?

Tuesday you reported: "Celebrities and activists kick up a stink over plan for capital super-sewer". Why would anyone give a toss about a celebrity's opinion?

Andy Harrington

Wembley, Middlesex

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