The Spectator

Letters | 4 October 2018

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What would Smith say?

Sir: Adam Smith’s writings were so definitive that it is said one can find the kernel of every modern branch of economics within them. But Jesse Norman is surely wrong to imply Smith would see merit in Trump’s tariffs (‘Politics trumps trade’, 29 September). Not only did Smith, as Norman points out, regard import taxes as ‘unnecessary’ and ‘absurd’, but he also derided the ‘man of system [who] seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chessboard’. Smith knew humans behave in ways unpredictable to the government planner. Even if a free-trade strategy underlies the US administration’s protectionist tactics, he would have cautioned that things may well turn out differently from the President’s intentions. In any case, as the administration has justified some tariffs on national security grounds and heralded the rejuvenating effects of others on domestic industry, Norman’s interpretation looks overly charitable.

Ryan Bourne and Diego Zuluaga

Cato Institute, Washington DC

Conservative estimate

Sir: Your leading article (‘Left in charge’, 29 September) is a sad but accurate reflection of the current state of the Conservative party. Its instincts are to tax, spend and regulate. Those who believe in low taxes and a small state have effectively been disenfranchised under the Cameron and May leaderships, where being a party for business and the individual has been sacrificed in favour of becoming a watered-down version of the Labour party.

It would appear that the parliamentary party lacks either the conviction to care or the courage to act as it continues to allow those lacking in Conservative convictions to lead the Conservative party.

Richard Thoburn

London EC1

Men will rebel

Sir: Lionel Shriver’s concern about #MeToo is timely, welcome and apposite (‘Men should be angrier about #MeToo’, 29 September). The #MeToo movement has brilliantly leveraged the amplifying power of social media. Newspapers jump on to the sensationalist survival bandwagon, and reinforce the victimhood vibe. Their magazines are now almost predominantly female-focused. The Times is a prime example, where the columnists in the main magazine don’t appear to like men very much. One male writer, Robert Crampton, has a column titled ‘Beta Male’. Can you imagine what would happen if there were a column titled ‘Submissive Female’? Every day on ‘serious’ radio we are subjected to Woman’s Hour with no male equivalent. There appears to be no platform for rebuttal or discussion from a male perspective. Men are effectively being written out of the script. However, if the confected female/male conflict continues, I predict that eventually men will indeed rebel vehemently and the feministas will have reaped a whirlwind that perhaps they might have wished to avoid. Workplaces are already altering to the detriment of all.

David Watson

Waterlooville, Hants

Some objections

Sir: I felt personally implicated by Anne Applebaum as the one who ‘fools’ poor Brexiteers at my embassy’s ‘boozy evenings’, taking them for ‘useful idiots’ (‘The wrong right’, 22 September). She claims that the whole Hungarian establishment consists of ‘con men’, doing a lot of awful things and amongst them we are fooling those poor Brexiteer politicians, who are ‘desperate for allies’, and we are taking them for ‘useful idiots’. She also claims that the Polish are just as bad as we are. I was shocked by this attack and was considering options about how to reply to it when to my great surprise I bumped into her at a friend’s book launch. I introduced myself in the hope of a civilised discussion.

I don’t want to make a private encounter public, so allow me to jump to her conclusion that she has given up on us. She of course has every right to do so, however, actively trying to harm bilateral relations is unacceptable. I could go through point by point here all of the one-sided and politically motivated lies in her article in The Spectator but based on our discussion, frankly I also have given up on her. Let me just remind the general public, however, that Ms. Applebaum is the wife of the ex Polish foreign minister Sikorski who was side-lined by the present Polish government and therefore in all of this Anne Applebaum is anything but independent. She also must have her personal reasons to represent the very same political agenda as Mr. Soros whom she ardently defends in her above mentioned piece.

I, as a Hungarian and as the representative of a 1018 years old European state and its government, behind which there is for the third consecutive time a constitutional majority of Hungarian voters, refuse to be judged by a self-appointed elitist who is angry because she and her defendants seem to lose an important argument about our common future. The elites that she for obvious selfish reasons chose to serve are losing their public support, and they also fear that they will lose their democratic mandate at the upcoming European elections. She is frustrated to see that Central European leaders have a relevant and attractive alternative to replace the tyranny of a more and more obsolete European elite.

Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky

Hungarian ambassador to London, SW1

Welby and God

Sir: A correction to Martin Vander Weyer’s glib assertion that Justin Welby was ‘an oil company executive before he found God’ (22 September). Justin Welby found God before he became an oil company executive; I know because he was already a Christian when I first met him at St Michael’s Church in the Rue D’Aguesseau in Paris, in 1978, at the start of his career at Elf Aquitaine. This seems a small thing, but it is quite important.

Christopher Tawney

Pewsey, Wilts

Just the tonic

Sir: The folk remedies against night cramps that Prue Leith says she has tried and found wanting do not include tonic water (Diary, 29 September). If she has never tried it, she should. In several years, it has never failed me; no doubt it is the quinine.

David Watkins


When bold meant bad

Sir: A footnote to Dot Wordworth’s observations on ‘bold’. In Ireland this means naughty. When I, born and bred in England, first heard it used by my landlady in Dublin of one of her children, I thought it meant impish or mischievous. It doesn’t; it means very badly behaved.

Richard Crampton

Ascott-under-Wychwood, Oxon