Where capitalism fails
Sir: James Delingpole is right, of course, to extol the virtues of capitalism (‘We don’t deserve capitalism’, 5 May) but wrong to imagine that if only we stuck to strict capitalist principles we could cure problems like the allegedly system-clogging bureaucracy in the NHS. The United States probably has the most ‘capitalistic’ health service in the world; but it has seen an even greater rise in numbers of bureaucrats than the NHS, contributing to its ranking as the world’s most expensive healthcare system.
Or take US universities: they too operate on a very capitalistic model which has seen student fees rise steeply over the past three decades and has burdened the campuses with huge bureaucracies.
Capitalism in and of itself is no bulwark against bureaucracy, because bureaucrats are necessary; they have the job of ensuring that organisations actually work. But bureaucrats need to be held in check — and neither capitalism nor socialism has ever managed to devise a perfect way to do this. At least in the case of our own dear NHS, a combination of spending limits and political pressure (however feeble) are something of a brake on wasteful pen-pushing; people complain loudly if things aren’t working and managers eventually respond.
Capitalism is unmatched for creating wealth — its merits when applied to public goods like education and healthcare are much more debatable.
Sir: Francis Wheen’s delightful review of a joint biography of E.W. Swanton and John Arlott reminded us of what we have missed with their departure (Books, 5 May). Many of us may have memories of Arlott’s ‘poetic’ eye when commentating: one of mine being the way when, after noting that a test side had just reached 400, he observed ‘quite a score’, adding in his Hampshire burr ‘indeed a score of scores’. The last of that era was the playfully self-caricaturing Henry Blofeld. Their successors have tended to be workmanlike but humdrum by comparison, sometimes keener to discuss where they had dinner the previous evening than to describe what is happening on the pitch.
For my money, the only nonpareil of the present TMS team is the South African statistician Andrew Samson. When the West Indian batsman Shai Hope hit a century in each innings against England last summer, only Samson could immediately have told us that this was the first time anyone had achieved this feat in all the 531 first-class matches played at Headingley since 1881. To have been deft enough to come up with that had its own kind of poetry.
A return to form
Sir: A Campaign for Real Cricket sounds an excellent idea (Letters, 5 May). How about extending it into a Campaign for Real Sport? Both football and boxing could do with turning the clock back, in my view.
Sir: I was surprised by Charles Moore’s inference that the Church of England is struggling to stir up vocations to the priesthood (Notes, 28 April). In the Anglican diocese in which he resides, like many others across the Church of England, we are noting a significant upsurge in people exploring, and being recommended for, ordination. Training numbers from Sussex look set to rise from 30 to 50 in the next three years. This year, too, nearly half of our candidates for selection are under 30. Is this reflective of church leaders living out their vocation in such a way as to reveal the irresistible joy and freedom that comes from living sacrificially after the pattern of Christ? Statistics do not relate. Either way, I hope he’ll agree there are encouraging signs for those of us seeking to deliver our county from a return to Saxon barbarism.
I was delighted, however, by his suggestion of ‘Preach First’, which — while gently reminding him of the indelibility of holy orders — I’ll commend warmly to the Bishop of Chichester.
The Revd Dr Daniel Inman
Diocesan Director of Ordinands
Chichester Diocese, Hove
Sir: You have probably been inundated with letters objecting to Rod Liddle’s unnecessarily cruel article on Kylie Minogue’s new album (Arts, 28 April). He marks it D minus. I would like to mark his article gamma minus. Referring to beautiful Kylie as a dingo is both racist and misogynistic. He then urges her to retire. Institutions don’t do that. Maybe he should consider following his own advice.
Sir: Mary Wakefield (‘Is it “Brexity” to feel you belong to a particular place?’, 5 May) reminds us of our ‘homing instincts’ when we long to return to our roots. I persuaded my wife to leave her native Kent for my native Suffolk ten years ago. This has never been accepted. However, of late she has trained as a funeral celebrant. Do I have cause to be concerned?
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
Consider the pickle
Sir: Madeleine Grittens (Letters, 5 May) suggests that British women know how to use cucumbers. May I offer another idea, aside from the noble cucumber sandwich? Bread and butter pickles are delicious and were pioneered by both British and American women. They combine cucumber, onions and salt, in perfect balance. Tangy yet sweet, the pickle supposedly received its name during the Great Depression, as a cheap staple to help pep up sandwiches. The cucumber is a vegetable of intriguing depth. Putting it in water, as Miss Markle suggests, just seems like a waste.