Let’s talk about guns
Sir: I was surprised that the cover stories on the recent shootings in Las Vegas (‘Say nothing’, 7 October) did not address the issue of gun control. The point surely is that if weapons are readily available, and not universally disapproved of, sooner or later someone will use them. There doesn’t have to be a specific motive, religious or otherwise, and often there is no point in looking for one. There is no question that for some people, using guns and explosives gives a thrill which they probably do not find elsewhere — and the more powerful and rapid-firing the weapon, the greater the thrill. This is why guns are locked up in armouries in military barracks, to prevent them getting into the hands even of people who have been carefully selected and trained to use them. The evidence from Australia — where a gun atrocity in 1996 led to a rapid tightening of the gun laws — is convincing: there have been no such incidents since and there was a drop of 72 per cent in single gun killings. In the UK, a similar outcome followed the Hungerford, Dunblane and Cumbria incidents.
Sir: If John McInnes really thinks that people can only get richer by making the poor poorer, he falls for the fallacy that economics is a zero sum game (Letters, 7 October). Market economies, where quality and productivity is driven up by competition, have over time proved to be the most effective way of increasing living standards for all sections of society. By incentivising economic progress, more resources becomes available for all groups.
Anyone who lived through the 1970s will remember the strikes and the poor quality of goods and services from the nationalised sector. Far from wealth-creating, they were wealth-consuming in their losses and low productivity. The Labour government of the day, with its disastrous economic record, was the only UK government of any party to actually cut in cash terms spending on health and education — cuts for the many, not the few, presumably.
Socialist systems (for example, in Venezuela) have either consigned their people to poverty or required extensive market reforms to prosper — as Britain did in the 1980s. If Mr McInnes feels ‘royally screwed’ by capitalism, he should get out more and take a look at how the alternative systems actually perform.
Bourne, South Lincolnshire
Hong Kong phooey
Sir: James Delingpole (‘If only the Tories understood economics’, 7 October) suggests that the government should follow the economic policies of what was British Hong Kong before the handover to China. As a regular visitor to Hong Kong in the 1980s and 1990s, my impression was that the bulk of the population existed in very cramped accommodation while working fearsomely hard so that a minority, mainly expats, could live lives of great luxury. The shouts of ‘Boy, another double whisky’, at the Jockey Club seemed to sum up the situation. Perhaps Mr Delingpole should remember that Hong Kongers did not have the vote, but the British drones do — and if they are pushed too far they may elect a government more sympathetic to their interests.
Sir Richard Greenbury
Sir: I was interested in Martin Vander Weyer’s account of ‘Rickograms’ sent by Sir Richard Greenbury (Any Other Business, 7 October). As the then principal of Ealing Tertiary College, I discovered Sir Richard had studied in one of our buildings when it was part of the grammar school. Invited as guest of honour to an awards ceremony, he arrived in a chauffeur-driven limousine. We took tea in my office where, visibly upset, he explained that the last time he had been in that room was when he was 15. His mother had brought him to tell the then head that he would be leaving the school that day, as his father had just died. Shocked, the head had asked what she had planned for him, pointing out he was an able student. ‘All sorted,’ his mother said proudly. ‘He starts at the local Marks & Spencer on Monday.’ Another example of the advantage of vocational training?
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
Sir: Unusually, Dot Wordsworth overlooks another important usage for the word ‘tube’ (Mind your language, 7 October). In Scotland, especially in the west of Scotland, it is a commonplace and immensely satisfying insult, as in ‘What are ye on about, ya tube?’, the implication being that the person in question has no qualities beyond his or her digestive functions.
Sir: While I enjoyed Mike Cormack’s review of The Chinese Typewriter (Books, 7 October), it is a shame that he describes the Chinese writing system as ‘ideographic’. This is a longstanding myth, linked to the notion (also untrue) that Chinese characters are essentially pictorial in nature. Really, ‘ideographic’ means a script that, rather than encoding sounds or words, conveys ideas directly to the reader — something no script ever does. Mr Cormack’s mistake is understandable, with a pedigree among European writers going back to the 1500s. But Chinese is fascinating enough without mystifying it unnecessarily.
Fur to go
Sir: Kate Chisholm wonders how to dispose of a fur coat (Radio, 7 October). We solved the problem of our inherited fur by giving it to our local amateur dramatic society for their wardrobe collection. They were very grateful, as many period dramas require the leading lady to be fur-clad.