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Contrary to Mary Dejevsky's outdated anxiety ("Don't overlook Israel's vulnerability", 30 December), Israel's greatest threat to its very existence does not come from Jordan to the east, with whom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

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Pokot woman holds a razor blade after performing a circumcision on four girls  

The campaigns to end FGM are a welcomed step, but they don't go far enough

Charlotte Rachael Proudman
Our political system is fragmented, with disillusioned voters looking to the margins for satisfaction  

Politics of hope needed to avert flight to margins

Liam Fox
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game