Letters: The super-rich – do we beat them or join them?

These letters appear in the 24th January issue of The Independent

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When Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (20 January) laments the rich, she is seemingly oblivious that by her own country’s standards she is rich, and by developing countries’ standards fantastically rich.

According to the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World report, the income earned by the poorest 10 per cent of individuals in economically free societies ($11,610) is almost twice the average GDP per capita of people living in the least free nations ($6,253).

If you are poor, the best place to be is in economically free societies such as Britain, as opposed to despotisms such as Zimbabwe, the Republic of Congo, and, increasingly, my home country of South Africa. We see millions trying to escape countries controlled by overbearing states to seek refuge in the richest and the most economically free nations.

Although the income gap within many developed nations may have widened over the past thirty years, the disparity in world income inequality has lessened. This is mainly due to the rapid economic growth that has been occurring in developing countries with big populations, such as India and China, which are following more market-orientated policies.

According to the United Nations, in 1990 approximately 47 per cent of people lived on less than $1.25 a day. By 2010, this figure had plummeted to 22 per cent. Thanks to the free-market policies that Ms Alibhai-Brown so clearly despises, the world is on the cusp of a historic feat – the complete eradication of poverty.

Jasson Urbach

Director, Free Market Foundation,

Johannesburg

 

Paul Sloane (letter, 21 January) is wrong to assert that the super-rich are not responsible for the economic difficulties faced by the rest of society. Wages and salaries in North America and Europe have been held down for several decades while corporate profits have risen.

In the United States, real wages have fallen 7 per cent in seven years while profits are up by 18.6 per cent, and in Britain the average worker is £1,600 worse off than before the last election.

Such growing inequality has fuelled asset inflation, making housing more expensive, and in turn squeezed disposable incomes and reduced demand for goods and services.

At the same time we have faced a series of laws which have privatised much of the public sector, deregulated the private sector and curtailed the ability of workers to take strike action in defence of their pay and conditions, the latter meaning that the unions are more restricted than at any time since the passing of the 1906 Trades Disputes Act, and arguably since their legalisation in 1824.

These changes have been promoted by think-tanks and media organisations, themselves owned by the rich, and have been readily adopted by politicians looking to secure large corporate donations to fund election campaigns.

Rather than the current fashion of scapegoating the unemployed, the disabled and those from other countries, cultures and faiths, it is time that public anger was directed unequivocally against the self-serving 1 per cent.

Julian Wilson

Tonbridge, Kent

 

How rewarding it has been in our society to see the help and support that has been put in place to help people come to terms with their alcohol, drug and gambling problems. It is now increasingly apparent that a new group is emerging who clearly need help to come to terms with their situation.

The evidence that there are people in our society who are rich but cannot acknowledge their plight is all too evident. To help them recognise their situation I would suggest they ask themselves a few basic questions such as “Do I go to great lengths to conceal my plight from others?” and “Do I spend too much time with individuals with the same problem?”

If there is still confusion then maybe they could be helped to admit to being rich by answering the question “Do I live in a house worth more than two million pounds?”

Once the condition is acknowledged, then the unfortunate individuals can be helped not to only live with their condition but also to learn how to make a significant contribution to the improvement of our society.

John Dillon

Birmingham

 

Hateful cartoons can’t justify murder

Elizabeth Morley (letter, 19 January) makes a valid point about whether vicious and salacious anti-Muslim cartoons should be defended. But no matter how indefensible, no matter how gratuitously offensive, no matter how deliberately inflammatory, or hateful or insulting, that does not give anyone the right to kill. 

Did I express “Je suis Charlie”? Yes, I did, but I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who did so, not because I believe that the artists there should have untrammelled rights to publish whatever they want, but because I believe that any limits should be defined by reasoned debate in a free society, not by ignorant fanaticism; and enforced by the due process of law, not by murderous barbarians.

Mike Perry

Ickenham, Middlesex

 

It’s easy to imagine “free speech” as a purely political concept, especially in the light of the recent horrors in France. But there’s another kind of free speech that in many ways is more fundamental and valuable.

A few years ago, I was walking along a Leicester street I grew up in, observing what had changed and what had stayed the same. One significant difference is a nearby mosque and major increase in Muslim families now living in that area.

A tall bearded man, dressed in Islamic white robes was coming out of his house and gave me the warmest smile and “Hello mate, y’alright?” It was nice to exchange greetings back. I remember how the sun was shining so clearly that day. It’s this kind of open, everyday, free speech between British people of different cultures and faiths that’s truly worth standing up for. It does not require cartoons to uphold.

Martin Coley

Leicester

Who loves these Tube mosaics?

Who says the Paolozzi murals are “much loved” (“Heritage group calls for Tube mosaics to be saved”, 22 January)? For years Tottenham Court Road has been one of the most embarrassingly cramped, grubby and tacky stations on the whole of the London Underground system, and the mosaics were part of the problem.

The murals were already a dated Swinging Sixties London fantasy when they were installed in the Eighties. And why does everything from the past need preserving, however ill-conceived it might have been?

It is no criticism of Eduardo Paolozzi to say that the commission was a huge mistake in the first place, frustrating any attempt to preserve or recreate any sense of house style for the Central and Northern Lines.

It is too late now, but it would have been better for selected pieces to go to museums, and for the new station to have found its own modern aesthetic in sympathy with the clean lines of the other revamped Central Line West End stations. I await the unveiling of the new Tottenham Court Road Tube station with interest but trepidation. Let’s hope it is a reinvention of an old station as successful as Farringdon.

Gavin Turner

Gunton, Norfolk

Jewish fears put down to ‘paranoia’

In his article on antisemitism (21 January) Matthew Norman diagnoses the widespread fear in the Jewish community of mounting antisemitism: he puts it down to “paranoia”. He goes further: Jews’ “paranoia” is a “distasteful slur against this country.”

Last year was the worst on record for antisemitic attacks, even though in his article Norman sets the bar for “real” antisemitism at murder. In our polling, which The Independent reported on its front page last week, we found that 45 per cent of Jews in Britain feared they have no long-term future here, while a quarter had considered emigrating.

Norman berates his fellow Jews for their fear and belittles the causes of it, instead of asking how this happened and what can be done.

Gideon Falter

Chairman, Campaign Against Antisemitism

London WC1

 

Stay awake at the back, there

I am surprised that your publication, renowned for calling a spade a spade, is still, in its reports of the allegations made against Prince Andrew, using the euphemism “sleeping with” instead of “having sex with”.

Whatever the truth or falsehood of the claims, at least call it as it is. If I were invited to an orgy, the last thing I would expect is a good night’s sleep.

Trevor Beaumont

Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

 

Waiting for Chilcot

Has anyone told Tony Blair that the Chilcot report could be published in 45 minutes?

Peter Garside

Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire

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