Letters to the Editor

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Isn’t it nice that Stephen Bannon has exited the White House? Sadly, his departure doesn’t seem to have imbued the Trump Administration with reason. I remain quite concerned over the course taken by president Trump, his maddening tweets, and his careless brinkmanship. Bannon may have left the house, others equally dangerous have held on to their share of power.

Martin Fasslane Wilmington (DE), USA

The insights and opinions by Philippe Le Houérou of the International Finance Corporation are fascinating. I cannot understand why he doesn’t get a larger audience. Mr Le Houérou shows that there are a great many ways to mobilise private capital for development purposes. Poverty and underdevelopment simply need not be. It gets even better, getting rid of poverty is actually a highly lucrative pursuit.

Francine Lane  London, UK

Regarding last issue’s letter from the editor: I agree that a certain degree of mercantilism is called for when faced with competitive forces on a tilted playing field. As such, the European Union – concerned as it is with ESG and sustainability principles – would be well advised to shield its industry against takeovers by corporations who are a little less concerned over our planet’s wellbeing and only have eyes for the next quarter’s results. That is no way to run a business.

Joachim Franz Cologne, Germany

Former Fed chairperson Ben Bernanke was quite right in pointing out that the current account deficit sustained by the United States since the mid-1970s is the merely the result of a highly attractive investment climate. The US sucks in the world’s savings because it offers a safer have than most other countries. That is a quality rather than a deficiency.

Marjorie Deckers New York, USA

The rise of China is greatly exaggerated. A country that fears free thought and seeks to limit its people’s access to information – cowering as it does behind a firewall – is no match for those that do not suffer such insecurities. Unless Chinese leadership is willing to open up and lighten up, the country will not prosper. It may gather vast riches, but as a nation it will remain impoverished.

William K Vandenburgh, Leeds, UK

Thank you for a magnificent review of the life, times, and thoughts of Robert M Pirsig. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance has allowed me insights into technology and philosophy that proved of great value throughout my life. Though Mr Pirsig will be missed, his legacy will remain with us for decades, if not centuries, to come.

Patricia Severyn Trois Rivières, Canada

Quite courageous to question the premises of climate change. It would appear that on this topic no dissent is allowed even though scientists admit that their data is incomplete and subject to frequent revisions. Whilst stopping short of denying climate change outright, we may want to consider asking the doomsayers to keep calm and carry on.

Jeff Delarousse Singapore

Your article on Brazil and its archaic tax code hits a nerve. Notwithstanding the country’s excellent record in tax collection, the hallmark of a mature economy, the rates applied discourage growth and ensure that only very large corporations can comply – and survive. Then again, what’s the point of all these taxes if a significant part of the funds raised disappear into the pockets of a few powerful politicians?

Irineu Carvalho de Mello Sorocaba, Brazil

Would you not agree that irrespective of the development model chosen, its implementation is more important? It is only when policies are subverted, and shortcuts taken, for political expediency that developments stalls. The inconsistency with which policies are implemented leads to inefficiency and undermines their effectiveness. I honestly do not think it matters which model of development is chosen as long as governments adhere to the recipe and only show flexibility for pragmatic reasons; i.e. those devoid of short-term political considerations.

Jean François Belmont Lyon

Even though we live in an interconnected world, it is surprising how little we know about those on the other side. Your coverage of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and its CEO Jin Liqun show that we in the Atlantic World remain largely unaware of what goes on in China and Southeast Asia. Mr Liqun, however, seems very well informed on global developments and displays a thorough understanding of our side of the world. In order to return the courtesy, we may wish to consider encouraging young people, particularly students, to gain more awareness of China, its history and its defining characteristics. If knowledge is power, Mr Liqun et al seem to have us beat already.

Margot Hildebrand Toronto

The rejection, in Colombia, of the peace deal between government and guerrillas by the population emphasises the folly of calling a referendum on whatever question is plaguing the nation. In Colombia, an agreement almost a decade in the making was rejected by the narrowest of majorities. Effectively, only a few thousand voters now hold the country’s future hostage. Far from democratic, referendums allow the political flavour of the day to determine a country’s long-term destiny which is set in stone even though public opinion may have changed (yet again) a few days or weeks later. This is no way to run a country – unless, of course, that country happens to be Switzerland. Sadly, or luckily, there is only one Switzerland in the world.

Alvaro Fides Medellin

Europe is a mess. It is a continent of has-beens. Sure, there is some prosperity. But, have a look in Greece, or in next door Bulgaria, and poverty on an almost unimaginable scale is found. It does you no good to picture Europe as the wonder of the world: it is not. Economic growth is anaemic, unemployment rampant, and the demographics scary. No union can fix these problems. Time for Europe to join the 21st century and recognise that it is no longer master of the universe – or of its own destiny for that matter.

Norman Fielding Exeter

I do enjoy Ross Jackon’s informative rants. He has a point – and it is a good one. When 62 very rich people own more than half the world’s assets, something has gone terribly wrong indeed. However, it requires quite a leap of faith to fault globalisation. As it happens, protectionism shelters local elites that grow excessively rich by serving their home market with shoddy, yet expensive, products. No competition means no incentive to increase efficiency. No matter how you look at it, globalisation has lowered prices for all while upping quality and convenience. Why not focus instead on improving governance and the rule of law. Most of those 62 very rich guys gathered their fortunes thanks to legal loopholes, protectionist rackets, and other business strategies that pushed the boundaries imposed by law. You can’t blame them for doing that. Blame the politicians who stood by and watched passively, waiting, perhaps, for some crumbs.

Frans Schuurman Vilvoorde

How refreshing to read Ann Low’s appeal for simplicity in interactions between governments and people. She has put her finger, metaphorically, on the sore spot: bureaucracy is the bane of businesses and individuals. Judicious officials, no doubt armed with the best of intentions, often stand in the way of progress. People and businesses face red tape whenever they try to improve themselves. Often regulations aim well, but, as Mr Churchill once noted, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. A more pragmatic, and streamlined, approach is necessary to do away with silly rules that discourage investment and, thus, thwart development.

Jack Hamlyn Houston

I particularly enjoyed your profile of Zena Exotic Fruits of Senegal. This company not only brings a superior product to markets around the world; it does so with flair, making sure that farmers get paid properly for their labour and that employees are treated fairly. As such, Zena Exotic Fruits shows that business practices, even in this highly competitive world, need not be predatory. I hope the company, and others like it, will continue to prosper.

Aage Frandsen Copenhagen

Rosalind Franklin (summer issue) could certainly be cranky and was often insensitive to the feelings of others. However, she was every inch the outstanding scientist – doing critical work in uncovering the double helix. I should perhaps correct the notion (referred to once again in your Science & Technology feature) that Dr Franklin was passed over because of her gender. This was most certainly not the case. The Nobel committee would have been delighted to make an award to this extraordinarily talented woman. But she died several years before Watson, Crick, and Wilkins were recognised. As your writer points out: the Nobel Prize is never awarded posthumously.

Michael Barryson Cambridge

Do I detect a dose of positive discrimination in your summer listing of Heroes? How surprising that your editor could only come up with two male worthies. And it was a further surprise to me that the two token men were a politician soon to be rightly forgotten (Nick Clegg) and the rather odd but engaging Prince Janek Zylinski – who provided some side line entertainment at the time of the last general elec-tion. Nigel Farage may have got his comeuppance from the UK electorate but there is something more obviously heroic about this man than the other two I mention above. Time will tell.

James Crawford Bristol

I have some sympathy with Mr Romeijn’s plea for greater privacy from official eavesdroppers (Editor’s Column) but we should be careful what we wish for. Battles in the fight against crime and terror are often won because of good intelligence gathering and prompt subsequent action. Are we really so concerned about being easily noticed? If we are just going about our business in an honest way I rather doubt it. But the writing is on the wall, Mr Romeijn; things are not going your way, I fear.

Georges Brusson Paris

Saudi Arabia has long dealt with the challenge of embracing modernity whilst holding true to the traditional and enduring values of its society. Your summer issue provides a timely report on two fascinating recent developments namely, the cautious opening up of our stock exchange to foreign participation and the inevitable change now made in the way of deciding on royal succession. Your article Pragmatism as a Driver of Change closes with the suggestion that Saudi Arabia considers modernity a value to be feared. We do not fear modernity. But we do things in our own way and at our own pace. There is too much at risk for us to throw caution to the wind.

Bashir Bajbair Jeddah

Mr Marinus rightly reflects on the passing of Eduardo Galeano (Remembering a Forgotten Continent). A writer can perhaps be forgiven for being less argumentative than usual in describing a lost literary life but surely the predicament of post-colonial Latin America was not unavoidable as Galeano suggests in his seminal work. We can and must make our own choices and determine our futures.

Vitor Cardosoi Rio de Janeiro