Letters: The free market

Blinkered belief that markets can police themselves

Share
Related Topics

David Prosser's contention that "the free market does work as an effective control on irresponsible lending" because it punishes failures like Northern Rock ( 23 December) ignores the fact that complete financial meltdown has only been staved off by massive non-market intervention.

Markets may "correct" over the long term but if they are only able to operate by violently oscillating through a series of ruinous overshoots and undershoots, laying waste to the lives of millions in the process, the free market could hardly be described as "an effective control".

Such comments exemplify the reason why solving the crisis will be an uphill struggle. Financiers and commentators have spent the past decade convincing us that neoliberals had invented the economic equivalent of a perpetual motion machine, allowing us all to become wealthier by selling our debt to each other. Now the same voices caution against any threat to this suffocating orthodoxy, as blinkered in their adherence to their tenets as were the popes to a geocentric universe.

The present debacle suggests that such a system is as inimical to human society as the prescriptions of the extreme left, and the belief that regulation is the enemy of the investor mistaken, as the victims of the Madoff debacle would probably testify. The chances that Madoff is a one-off are remote. Even those with the best intentions will have been forced to adopt Ponzi techniques to stay in business. In a world where casinos are more tightly regulated than hedge funds, clinging to the belief that markets can police themselves is no longer an option.

Charles Hopkins

Norwich

In this season of goodwill and deep debt, the name of Scrooge is raised again. He had been an unhappy man, but at least he was solvent. "Scrooge's name was good" says Dickens in A Christmas Carol, which is more than can be said of that of our happy-go-lucky bankers, who with such compassion and goodwill led us into the wilderness of insolvency, aided and abetted by Gordon Brown.

Rainton Finlay

Castle Douglas, Kirkcudbrightshire

The moral threat to Israel's survival

Contrary to Mary Dejevsky's outdated anxiety ("Don't overlook Israel's vulnerability", 30 December), Israel's greatest threat to its very existence does not come from Jordan to the east, with whom it signed a peace treaty in 1994, nor Egypt to the south, with whom it signed a peace treaty in 1979, nor Lebanon to the north, whom it can bomb to its knees at will, nor Syria, with whom the Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert said on 19 December that "a peace deal is feasible".

The greatest threat to Israel's existence ultimately results from its behaviour in the West Bank and Gaza since 1967. This threat isn't from illegal rockets that have killed 20 Israelis in eight years, but from the moral corrosion that results from oppressing others and systematically stealing land the rest of the world agrees does not belong to Israel.

Anyone who truly cares for the continued existence of a Jewish state worthy of the name should work towards Israel ending its illegal occupation and oppression of Palestinian territory.

Simon Block

New Barnet, Hertfordshire

Mary Dejevsky asks whether people who oppose Israel's murderous attacks on Gaza have ever been to Israel. It was the first country I visited, 40 years ago. I must confess however that I never visited South Africa, yet I still opposed Apartheid.

It's not the size of Israel which accounts for the fact that it has been in a permanent state of war for the last 60 years. Settler-colonial states have a habit of waging war against the indigenous population. Just as the American colonists found it difficult to co-exist with the Amerindians and the Australians with the Aboriginal people, so the Zionists found that a Jewish state was incompatible with a state of all its peoples.

Ms Dejevsky couldn't be more wrong in regard to the "withdrawal" from Gaza in 2005. Just as the evacuation of the Sinai was the prelude to the Lebanon War in 1982, so that from Gaza merely confirmed a tightening grip on and settlement of the West Bank. Of course Israel never really withdrew; it merely placed the guards outside rather than inside the prison. It controlled its air and sea space and all trade, into and out of Gaza.

The problem is indeed that a Jewish, or indeed any ethnocratic state, is an anachronism. As long as a Jewish state means privileging those who are Jewish over and above Palestinians, then there can never be meaningful peace. Even today we have quasi-state organisations such as the Jewish National Fund which justify barring 93 per cent of the land to Palestinians on the grounds that it was "redeemed" for the Jewish people alone.

Therein lies the problem, and the size of the country, as the United States demonstrates, is no guarantee of its peaceable intentions.

Tony Greenstein

Brighton

No sooner has Israel's army unleashed its ferocity against defenceless civilians than her "friends" come forward with some spurious justification. Mary Dejevsky asks us to consider Israel's "vulnerability". It is rather hard to square that with Israel's practice during its 60 year existence of using its army to establish dominion over its neighbours. You only have to see how Israel has colonised the hills over the whole of occupied Palestine and indeed over the occupied Golan heights to realise how much in control of its surroundings this state is.

In fact, the people who are vulnerable are the Palestinians, whose "slums" Ms Dejevsky airily dismisses. They have no armies and no F-16 bombers, are corralled into ghettos in the West Bank and into a prison in Gaza, where as we see today, they are either vulnerable to the depredations of the bombers, or to the army of occupation that expropriates their resources without qualm.

Ms Dejevsky talks of Israel's "right to exist", without spelling out what that means in practice, namely the right to be a Jewish state and not a state for all its citizens. While Ms Dejevsky may indeed support this endeavour, there are many Jews, and I count myself among them, who reject ascendancy in favour of equality and justice.

Diana Neslen

Ilford, Essex

The hypocrisy of the British government when it comes to Israel's actions is astounding. It is clear that Israel waited patiently, trying alternative methods to solve the problem such as diplomacy, before mounting the latest attack.

Palestinian rockets have been raining down on Israeli population centres for years – increasing after the end of the occupation of Gaza (so much for the theory that ending occupation is the precursor to peace).

The vast, vast majority of those killed in the Israeli air attacks were Islamic terrorists. If Britain could wipe out known Islamic terrorists in Iraq it would not hesitate to do so. I am sad about the deaths of civilians alongside the terrorists, but the responsibility must be placed on the shoulders of the Islamic terrorists whose nature it is to hide among civilians to ensure maximum casualties.

Israel is on the front line in the war on terror and should be supported, not criticised. Instead of the typical "politically correct" knee-jerk reaction of "Israel is wrong", which has done absolutely nothing to solve the very real problem in the region, Britain should be expressing its unreserved support for actions against Islamic terrorists. The only way to bring peace to the region is the end of Palestinian terrorism.

Michelle Cropman

Givatayim, Israel

The Gaza Strip has one of the highest population densities in the world. So how can the Hamas terrorists use this area as a base to fire rockets at Israel, then complain about their own casualties? Hamas reminds me of the child asking his teacher to tell the other child to stop hitting him back.

When Israel decides, after eight years of rockets, to finally retaliate, it bombs the terrorists, who cowardly hide, live and operate within its own population. Is it any wonder that many are killed?

Amos Fabian

Ramat Gan, Israel

Murano glass is just too much

I was saddened to hear about the collapse of the market for Murano glass ("Recession shatters Venice's glass-blowers", 23 December), but I was not surprised. I went there last year after a long interval and I was struck by the over-supply in shops across all the Venetian islands and by what seemed to me a decline in quality.

No doubt those trained in the ancient craft of glass-making would see the ever more intricate and garish confections on display as signs of technical improvement and increasing sophistication, but to me too often the glassware is overworked , over-ornamented, and – literally – overblown. The glittering arrays of goblets, platters and absurdly elongated animal shapes gave every sign of an industry past its prime and seduced by kitsch.

One's heart goes out to all those skilled craftsmen who carried on filling the shops, oblivious of the economic tidal wave heading their way up the Venetian canals. It's not so very different from the Woolworths employees thrown out of work, also partly victims of ill-advised strategies by their employers. I hope something can be rescued from the wreckage.

Giles Oakley

London SW14

Christians cannot remain strangers

Andreas Whittam Smith rightly stresses that the Established Church of England exists for the benefit of non-members ("We must keep the links between church and state", 26 December) and lauds the role of cathedrals in providing opportunities for casual worshippers "who seem to like the very anonymity of the cathedral congregation".

This essentially individual way into worship may be a start for people rediscovering the Church – "Please don't greet me and certainly don't ask me to do anything. Let me be a stranger" – but in the longer term such an approach to God misses the point that the Church is the community of the baptised, brothers and sisters of Christ, who now has no hands on earth but ours with which to bless.

The Rev Richard Hayes

Shrewsbury

Let dissenters have their pathetic "complementary bishops" ("Opt-out for parishioners who oppose women bishops", 30 December). They will soon be forgotten by most Anglicans, as the "flying bishops" have long been. Those who do not accept the majority view still have the more honest option of joining the Roman Catholic Church.

John Hawgood

Durham

Briefly...

Democrat blasted

The humbugs came out in force to blast Channel 4 for airing its Alternative Christmas Message given by President Ahmadinejad ("Iranian leader's Christmas message prompts outcry", 26 December). That he is a democratically elected head of state, as opposed to the Queen, the Pope, Gordon Brown, a slew of touchy MPs and the Israeli ambassador, cuts no ice.

Stephen Jackson

Bexhill, East Sussex

Early train

Your article "Stamp of approval for classic designs" (29 December) states that George Stephenson and his Rocket would be featured on 2009 postage stamps. Unfortunately, the stamp illustrated shows the engine Locomotion, which was first used on the Stockton and Darlington railway in 1825. The Rocket was a later locomotive, which was used on the Liverpool and Manchester railway.

Michael K Baldwin

Sittingbourne, Kent

Welsh England

"Helvellyn" can't possibly be Welsh (letter, 29 December). The "ll" may seem plausible, but there is no "v" in the Welsh alphabet. My favourite "Welsh" place name in England is Twydall, in Kent, pronounced by the locals as "Twiddle". My first attempt on reading the road sign was somewhat different, and got a lot of laughs.

Hywel Thomas

Ditton, Kent

Damning evidence

New Labour claims to believe in "evidence-based policy". On the evidence of previous privatisations, I anticipate that the proposed part-privatisation of the Royal Mail will result in: a slashing of collections and deliveries to produce "efficiency savings"; thousands of posties made redundant to save labour costs; a massive increase in pay for Royal Mail bosses, to ensure comparability with other private sector employers; a huge increase in prices, justified on the grounds of investing in a better service for customers (the excuse the railway companies trot out each January).

Pete Dorey

Reader in British Politics

Cardiff University

Relativity

In your list of famous people who married their first cousins (24 December), you forgot Albert Einstein.

Kryss Katisavriades

London E5

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Learning Support Assistant vacancy in Penarth

£55 - £65 per day + Travel Scheme and Free Training: Randstad Education Cardif...

Key stage 1 and 2 teachers required for the Vale of Glamorgan

£90 - £110 per day + Travel Scheme & Free Training: Randstad Education Cardiff...

Foundation Phase Teacher required

£90 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Exciting opputunities availabl...

Learning Support Assistant

£65 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Due to the continual growth and...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Prime Minister David Cameron walks on stage to speak at The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) annual conference on November 4, 2013  

Does Cameron really believe in 'British Values'?

Temi Ogunye
The Lada became a symbol of Russia’s failure to keep up with Western economies  

Our sanctions will not cripple Russia. It is doing a lot of the dirty work itself

Hamish McRae
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz