Letters: The era of greed

How class envy ushered in the era of greed

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As always, Adrian Hamilton writes much good sense ("How did we ever think greed was good?", 24 September), but, like practically all progressives, he overlooks the damage done to our national value system by the Labour Governments of the post-war era.

We have been a commercial and enterprising people with an open and mobile society for at least 500 years and could have been overcome by greed at any time during those years. We did not do so because it was generally accepted that families made money and bought land in the first generation; sent their sons to public school and the officers' mess in the second; and in some cases would aspire to a title in the third. In consequence "doing the decent thing" became our underlying national aspiration.

The Labour Party hated this way of thinking – presumably because it celebrated individual virtue, not class-consciousness – derided it as snobbery and destroyed it. The "loadsamoney" Tories of the Eighties might have finished the job – but the "class war lefties" of the Sixties certainly started it.

R S Foster

Sheffield

All the excited talk about bankers and bonuses seems to be missing the point. Reward should be for creating wealth. With banks, in the majority of cases it is simply a case of transferring wealth.

Unfortunately the UK has switched from a culture of long-term investment – which generally creates wealth – to the short term. Pension funds and Insurance companies had to concentrate on the long term, but with their loss of influence the power has shifted to hedge funds and others who concentrate on extracting value in the short.

This attitude was exemplified, pre crunch, by a fund which wanted to buy a UK manufacturer. They identified the success of the business as being its cutting-edge production, achieved through constant investment in new technology. They then stated that they would be able to extract value through stopping investment and taking those funds as profits. This was consciously a policy of destroying the essence and long term viability of the business in return for short-term gains.

Our society and culture need to find a way by which genuine wealth-creators are rewarded.

David Staveley

Walgrave, Northamptonshire

The dilemmas of assisted suicide

Our approach to the law on assisted suicides, in the guidelines issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, prolongs the agony for the principal carer, alone and solely responsible, in limbo, for carrying out the wishes of a loved one who asks for help to die, an act which would be legal if they were able to commit it unaided.

If it remains illegal, we allow that they may be prosecuted, even if the risk is reduced. If we legalise it, they are left without assistance on the best way to carry it out, for example, the provision of lethal drugs. Either way, there may remain suspicions of ulterior motives, of financial gain, or ridding of care, even after years of selfless devotion.

It may be that the establishment of state-owned, medically supervised, clinics provides a solution to this issue, which cannot be swept under the carpet any longer.

Dr John H Greensmith

Bristol

While I have no doubt that the clarification of the law on assisted suicide reflects the thinking of a majority of people in the UK, it remains the case that the DPP's statement effectively proposes a change in the law. While technically open to consultation before being formally adopted, this so-called "clarification" is actually a serious socio-legal development that should not have been left to a civil servant, even one as intelligent and thoughtful as Keir Starmer QC.

In theory the DPP's new guidance is a clarification of what the law actually is, but surely we, with our common-law tradition, can recognise non-elected law-making when we see it. While we may welcome the decision, we should not ignore how it was made – would we regard it as being procedurally legitimate it if Keir Starmer's successor was to reverse this development?

Aonghus Heatley

Warrenpoint, Co Down

If assisted suicide becomes a norm in years to come there would be a sharp disincentive for medical science to find cures for what are now regarded as terminal illnesses.

The last century has seen many "fatal" illnesses cured. If it is thought no longer worthwhile to invest in research, but to switch to other "younger" diseases, we shall actually be halting the progress of medicine over centuries to make life both longer and better.

We must think wisely at all times about the implications for the yet unborn of what we normalise as custom.

Ian Flintoff

Oxford

According to opinion polls a majority of people in this country support euthanasia providing adequate safeguards are in place. It is seen as a basic human right.

The two groups with misgivings are the medical profession and people of faith. The former could be protected by appropriate legislation. The latter could choose not to die with dignity. They could offer their suffering up to their god and die in a state of grace.

So let us have Swiss-style euthanasia clinics in this country. Everyone would win, including the hard-pressed NHS.

Patrick Smith

Beccles, Suffolk

Rising cost of dementia

The research released this week that dementia cases are set to double every twenty years has confirmed statistically what we in the care sector have been concerned with and preparing for for years. We were relieved that finally the Government acknowledged this worrying matter too with their recent Green Paper, but the proposed suggestions for funding do not solve this growing problem.

Dementia is a matter which we should all be concerned with, as hopefully one day we too will grow old. At Nightingale, one of the largest care homes in Europe, some two-thirds of our 200 residents are suffering from the condition at some level.

It is vital that appropriate training is given to everybody working in care homes as for many older people it is the onset of this illness that has necessitated them entering a home in the first place. Training in dementia care must therefore be a priority for all care providers.

Yet training and care come at a cost and if the Government is to attain the goals highlighted in its Green Paper, it must in turn ensure that adequate funding is passed to local authorities to ensure the availability of medication, to improve care packages in individuals' homes and make provisions for care provided by the care-home sector.

Leon Smith

Chief Executive, Nightingale

London SW

No shame in British justice

Your front-page story inviting your British readership to feel "shame" because of the behaviour of a "British trading giant" (17 September) is an example of your constant need to sex up the story.

The "trading giant" doesn't sound particularly British to me – Dutchmen, Frenchmen Americans and a group of dispirited African defendant sub-contractors. The only British thing about the story are the lawyers – "aggressive" for the shameful defendant, and brave and pure, no doubt, for the plaintiffs.

I hope they were all aggressive. That is how our legal system works and how people get justice in our courts. Which they do, generally. That is why British jurisdiction is so often written into international contracts. Nothing to be ashamed about at all. In fact rather encouraging.

Jonathan Davies

Temple, London EC4

The abuse of a teacher's power

Many correspondents, and Lisa Markwell in particular (Opinion 23 September), seem confused about the jailing of Helen Goddard for having sexual relations with one of her pupils.

The relationship of trust between teacher and pupil is such that the power of the teacher can bedazzle the pupil to the extent that reasons for the infatuation can never be truly understood.

For 15 years I handled many such cases for my teacher union in South Yorkshire and Derbyshire. It was impossible to see the relationship as other than an exciting ego trip for the teacher. I explained to my union members that sexual predation was not the object of teaching. Pupils should be regarded as part of the work that we do.

I told one young teacher that an alcoholic would be a fool to work behind a bar and that a person who fancied mid-teenaged children should not be in teaching.

The sexuality is irrelevant; Ms Goddard broke the law. She was in a position of power and she abused it. I know of few, if any, teachers who would arise in her defence. Teachers value their professionalism; Ms Goddard debased it.

David Battye

Sheffield

Solar energy will not be enough

While Johann Hari's opinions about climate change (23 September) are laudable, the measures he suggests will only be sticking plaster if we do not address the fundamental problem: human over-population.

It is true that we need a shift of economic priorities from fossil fuels to solar energy, but an ideological shift is also required. We need to begin to recognise that growth is not always good, and before we start plating the Sahara with solar panels, we need to accept that it is not only our survival that is dependent on a reduction in human population, but that of every species.

Giles Watson

Uffington, Oxfordshire

Sophia Unwin (letter, 21 September) berates her local comprehensive school for organising a ski trip to the USA when perfectly acceptable alternatives are available. She is indeed correct, and I suggest she votes with her feet.

Since I became aware of the damage I was causing to the health of the planet by my jetting around the world on self-indulgent jamborees I have stopped. Responsibility for the looming ecological disaster will only hit home once it becomes personal.

Bob Armstrong

London SE2

Briefly...

Clark's conversion

Dominic Kirkham is unjust to call Alan Clark's deathbed conversion to Roman Catholicism "farcical" (letter, 17 September). A more charitable view is that, contemplating with horror the extent of his sin, he decided that the best road to salvation lay through the Roman Catholic confessional (Tony Blair made the same decision).

Stephen Pimenoff

Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

True Liberals

In her speech at the Liberal Democrat party conference, Baroness Scott listed anniversaries which can be celebrated this year, including the formation of the Liberal Party in 1859. Should not this be the year the party reverts to its proud name and abandons the term in which that name becomes an adjective, or worse, a meaningless abbreviation? Tony Blair used a name-change to revive his party. There is time for the "Lib Dems" to do the same before the next election.

June Longley

Leeds

Local cheeses

British cheese is alive and well (The Big Question, 22 September), but customers need to seek it out. There are over 150 members of the Specialist Cheesemakers' Association. The British Cheese Awards received 900 entries from 190 cheesemakers, as may be seen at the British Cheese Festival in Cardiff Castle this weekend. By asking for local raw milk cheeses at their cheese counter, consumers will excite their taste buds and support the British dairy industry and rural communities. We should not need to import vast quantities of cheddar if people appreciated local.

George Keen

Wincanton, Somerset

Imperial illusion

Why offer to give up one Trident submarine when the other three, hugely expensive, equally pointless and independent in no sense whatsoever, remain? They are a massive call on our taxes, totally dependent on American technology and incapable of defending the country against any likely or credible threat. Surely, unless one clings on to the illusion that Britain is a great power, we can all agree that like police boxes, rag-and-bone men and world maps coloured largely in pink we can lay them gently to rest amid much relief.

Simon Sedgwick-Jell

Cambridge

Defence spending

Could we shame the Government into supplying armour for our troops by raising a public subscription for it?

P Ingham

Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire

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