As the UK's credit rating is downgraded, each mainstream political party has its own prescription for effecting our return to economic health.
The Tories propose to apply yet more leeches to the UK's already inert economic body, on the basis that national prosperity is to be regained only through ever-increasing social impoverishment.
Labour, on the other hand, believes that a cure is to be effected only by increasing the extent of the original malady, ie by borrowing yet more money so as to spend our way out of debt.
It would seem that the patient is faced with a choice between two doctors who seem equally (albeit differently) mad.
The course of treatment both doctors agree upon is that we should continue to give away £10bn each year in "overseas aid". This is despite the fact our own children go hungry to school and our old people face dying through starvation, hypothermia or hospital neglect.
The effect of taking this money, 0.7 per cent of GDP, out of the pockets of UK consumers and giving it away overseas is wholly deflationary and further retards any possible recovery of the UK economy. Am I alone in hearing the patient calling from the operating table for a third opinion?
At the weekend senior Coalition figures appeared in the media to play down the significance of Moody's removing the UK's AAA credit rating, despite the Chancellor having made retaining that rating a key element of his economic policy. So are Mr Osborne and his Government colleagues being dishonest, disingenuous or dissembling?
The Coalition regularly claims its cuts are unavoidable because the welfare state has been too generous, but it is ordinary people who have to pay for the very same casino capitalist failures that originally got us into this mess.
Billions cut from welfare, reductions across government departments and the looming bedroom tax are just some examples of policies that actively target the most vulnerable. For example, women are expected to bear 75 per cent of austerity's burden, and, on average, the poorest will be hit six times harder than the richest. There is no financial logic to this economic vandalism.
Mountain Ash, Mid Glamorgan
Craig Hall complains: "Capitalism is inherently corrupt. I hope the 'developing' nations learn from us and do things differently" (Letter, 22 February). The question Mr Hall should ask is why "developing" nations are growing and developing at such a rapid rate.
It is because they have ditched the dreadful centrally planned economic model that was full of political corruption and based on the fundamental error that a central planner knows where to invest. They have now adopted a type of private enterprise that is leading to their rapid development.
Capitalism is the best economic system we have come to know. It has increased life expectancies, improved living standards and provided a wide array of goods and services that neither feudalism nor economic central planning could deliver. It may not be perfect, but nothing can be.
Let's be tough on the causes of child poverty
Mary Dejevsky's attack on the concept of child poverty and those who campaign against it ("Politics needs to grow up", 22 February) would be more convincing if it were not for the fact that children remain disproportionately at risk of poverty, with damaging implications for their life chances.
Moreover, while it is true that children were favoured by the previous government, she should remember that that was after a long period of relative neglect.
Where she has a point is that children's material situation cannot be divorced from that of their parents. Thus, the impact of the improvement in children's benefits under the previous government was blunted because nothing was done to raise the value of their parents' benefits, which had fallen relative to average earnings over decades.
What is needed now is an attack not on the idea of child poverty but on the factors that impoverish millions of children and their parents.
House of Lords
Yet another blow to the high street
When trying to save high streets ("Gimmicks won't save our high streets", 15 February), the first law of holes applies. When you are in one, stop digging.
The Government has just issued proposals for development affecting the strategic road network which will directly affect the high street.
First, the Government would no longer restrict retail space at motorway service areas. Second, minimum spacing criteria for roadside facilities would be removed, "taking out a significant policy block on new sites". Decisions on individual cases would be left to local planning authorities instead.
In other words, service areas will increasingly become retail destinations in their own right, and there will be more of them, drawing custom from high streets.
This is all done to "remove unnecessary bureaucracy and regulation" in the words of Transport Minister Stephen Hammond. That, of course, was the argument used to justify out-of-town shopping centres which, whatever their benefits, damaged so many high streets during the previous Conservative period in power in the 1980s and 1990s.
All fashion fur should be faux
Perhaps Karl Lagerfeld ("Defiant designer goes big on fur", 22 February) is losing his marbles and has forgotten that in 2010 he sensibly praised faux fur as a substitute for the real, bloody stuff. Or perhaps his innovative years are behind him and he is revisiting earlier, shameful times, when no one realised that it was déclassé and insensitive to make models wear the skins of tortured animals.
We take our fake-fur hat off to designers, such as Vivienne Westwood, Stella McCartney, Marc Bouwer, Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein, whose collections are 100 per cent fur-free and fabulous.
Ingrid E Newkirk
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Foundation
How are these weapons used?
I am sure your readers learned with some alarm that the UK has been selling arms to Sri Lanka, a country with an appalling human rights record ("Revealed: UK sells arms to Sri Lanka's brutal regime", 18 February).
The controversy surrounding the sale is a result of the poor levels of transparency in reporting on the arms industry and underscores why we urgently need a global arms trade treaty that requires all countries, including the UK, to provide details of what the weapons they sell will be used for, rather than just stating the customer country.
Next month, world leaders meet to agree upon a historic global Arms Trade Treaty in New York. If the treaty is sufficiently comprehensive, future ambiguity about such deals can be avoided. Only then can we have confidence that UK-manufactured arms aren't used to commit human rights violations.
Amnesty International UK
Over-70s can't be judged by peers
Can someone explain in simple (reasonable) terms why, by being over 70, I am ineligible to be on a jury? Is it so that I can enjoy my retirement without being bothered? Or that I am likely to be gaga?
It does not seem reasonable to me that, when I have more time to ponder things, use cannot be made of my greater freedom to plan than before I retired.
And I thought it was an important principle that one should be judged by one's peers; it is apparently impossible for defendants older than 70 to have anyone of their own age on a jury. Is that not inconsistent with the principle?
The improbable is quite possible
I am concerned that, despite the fact Magistrate Desmond Nair released Oscar Pistorius on bail, his comments that the "improbabilities" in Pistorius's story "are quite pronounced" have been so widely publicised.
I am of an age that requires two or three visits to the bathroom every night, which I do without turning on lights and without fully waking. About three years ago, I did this as usual, thought my husband was asleep next to me in our bed, and opened the bathroom door, without turning on the light, to see the silhouette of a man standing there. I was so utterly terrified that a weird rasping noise came from my throat as I tried to scream – and my poor husband had to hold me for at least 10 minutes before I could stop shaking. It is possible to make such an improbable mistake.
Bourne End, Buckinghamshire
And the Oscar for best actor goes to... Pistorius.
A hypocrite? Of course not
I work in a large organisation. I was aware through "common gossip" that an associate of the company was a paedophile. It has now been revealed that this person sexually molested hundreds of young people. I think the organisation is an absolute disgrace not to have acted sooner to protect these vulnerable people. Pardon? What did I do with this knowledge of this "common gossip"? Well... nothing. What! Hypocrite? No, perish the thought.
If a 50 per cent participation threshold were to be a general requirement to validate ballot results, as is being suggested for strike ballots, then how many elected police and crime commissioners would there now be in England and Wales?
Oliver Wright's report (22 February) referred to Lord Rennard as "the mastermind behind the Liberal Democrats' election strategy for many years". This is a strange context in which to find the word "mastermind". Surely, a simple "mind" would more accurately reflect his level of achievement.
Lower Weston, Bath
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