A MAJOR problem with Michael Fry’s view that economic nirvana may be achieved if we “cut taxes [and] lift the burden of regulation” because “human initiative [and] human ingenuity will do the rest” is that it assumes most human ingenuity and invention is benign (An economic system that works? The fact is we’ve already got one, The National, January 29). It implies that those of us with less initiative and ingenuity should be the willing servants of a managerial cadre that will offer us good jobs, equality of opportunity, excellent healthcare et cetera.

The reality is that the majority of corporate entrepreneurs are anything but benign. During my career I have worked in both private and public sectors and have never discovered an organisation where the self-appointed senior management has been anything but ruthless, egocentric and in many cases downright stupid.

It is ironic that Michael’s article is juxtaposed with the piece about universities facing strikes, the UCU General Secretary Sally Hunt making the point that “staff feel let down by principals who care more about defending their own perks than the rights of their staff”. The crisis in higher education is yet another example of the rise of “managerialism”, a concept that assumes individuals on obscene salaries who have reached the top of the corporate pecking order know more than the rest of us about acquiring profits for “stakeholders”.

Sadly, the rise of individuals with little genuine talent except for self-promotion exists in politics as well as in the corporate world. In the SNP we are very lucky to have a leader who can justifiably claim to occupy the moral high ground, and we must ensure that her example is followed by others who are seeking power and influence within the party.

We can only ensure genuine economic wellbeing if we ensure that in industry, health and education sectors, as well as in political life, we are appointing people who want equal and fair benefits for all our citizens, not to maximise their own perks.

I joined the SNP not only because I believe in independence for Scotland, but because the SNP is the only party committed to the idea of ethical government, even if it doesn’t always get things right – no party is composed of supermen and women who never make mistakes. But I think we should be very careful of taking Michael’s advice and letting human initiative and ingenuity solve all our challenges, unless we are certain that these ingenious humans share our values of justice and fairness for all.

Dr Mary Brown

MICHAEL Fry’s latest article is curiously not as full of right-wing nonsense as his usual stuff. As usual, though, his complacent acceptance of the existing status quo betrays him.The usage of data from the Davos elites is hardly convincing, when one considers the recent reports from less biased sources (World Inequality Report, Oxfam) that reveal how our neoliberal masters are destroying people and the planet.

I notice in passing that the Davos report ignores private debt but lists public debt as the important one to watch – wrong!

Also, his mention of “average” income is misleading – it is median income that matters.

Finally, I note that the core message of his article, in the subtitle and the very last sentence (“Just cut taxes, and lift the burden of regulation”) is the usual right-wing Tory nonsense, unsupported by any evidence to prove that these magic solutions actually work. Our Tory masters have been busy doing this, and our economy has tanked.

Brian Stobie

CAN there be anything more breathtakingly crass than Michael Fry telling us not to design a new economic system because he knows the answers already – just cut taxes, lift the burden of regulation, and human initiative and ingenuity will do the rest?

Trotting out the usual failed Tory mantra may seem logical to Mr Fry, except we are already living through his proposal now, and the shambles of Tory Westminster government is where it’s at.

The Tories have cut taxes, but only for the rich. The rest of us got austerity cuts, pay levels static and falling in real terms, bedroom taxes, lower investment in public services and food banks and increased home and fuel poverty. So much for cutting taxes then.

Cutting back on regulation? We ended up with the most severe financial crash since the 1920s triggered by the greedy under-regulated banking system; with casino banking, the scandal of PPI and the freedom to “steal” from pension funds and divert the proceeds to shareholder dividends and bosses’ obscene bonuses. Perhaps the regulations Mr Fry and his ilk want cut are the forthcoming EU regulations to control tax havens and tax avoidance? Ah, the reason for Brexit becomes clearer.

Isn’t the truth that the Michael Frys in the realm populated by alleged economic experts have so few real ideas, and little option but to trot out the puerile nonsense of contemporary conservative policy – in some hope that if stated often enough we will somehow believe it, and leave them to get on with harvesting wealth for the rich, and consequent “tolerable” poverty for the rest of us?

Perhaps the best way to describe the global economy is that it is in a state of flux, it does need to be rethought; particularly on more egalitarian grounds. The global and local north/south divide is intolerable, as is the first-/third-world inequality and the increasingly yawning gap between rich and poor.

Stimulated by the inherent flaws in the world economic system, the pressures caused by rampant economic migration have placed the very strain on the system that delivers the imperative to do something about it urgently; and certainly the Michael Frys in our economic world tinkering around the edges and coming up with the same flawed proposition that our very own real experience proves doesn’t work just doesn’t cut it.

What saddens me is that the solution to the vagaries of the global economic system will take place with Brexited Britain having little or no influence. As this little island drifts off the shores of mainland Europe, decisions will be taken with scant regard to any input we would wish to make; like a Clyde puffer bobbing about in the wake of the European superliner.

As we struggle with the drop in GDP now admitted to by the British government – after the SNP were jeered at for having the temerity to outline these while Westminster was concealing them – I just can’t wait for Michael Fry’s panacea to salve our economic problems kicking in with glorious enterprise driven by his predicted “human initiative and ingenuity”.

Doesn’t the phrase “won’t hold my breath” seem apposite?

Jim Taylor

I WAS incensed when I read the latest article by Michael Fry.

His last paragraph says it all. “'How do we design a new economic system that will actually work'? asks Gordon MacIntyre Kemp. I say don't bother, because we know the answers already. Just cut taxes, lift the burden of regulation; human initiative, human ingenuity will do the rest."

We've already had the tax cuts, we've already scrapped the regulations and what did human initiative and human ingenuity give us? Corruption on a massive scale, with London becoming the money-laundering capital of the world where money stolen by corrupt politicians could be hidden in offshore accounts.

Sandy Crawford
Address supplied

AS per usual Michael Fry writes an uninformed defence of his sacred religion of free-market Capitalism. Cut taxes, he says, and this will stimulate growth. This argument is flawed, as most of the fat cats living off rental income whom Mr Fry admires pay zero tax.

Fresh from Davos he has clearly been listening to some feel-good Maharishi twaddle the plutocrats have been telling themselves.

Michael Fry says that the world economy is on the verge of new growth led by breakthroughs in technology. This is simply untrue. The world economy “growth” is based upon asset price debt bubbles. The one per cent have used the ultra-cheap money that central banks worldwide have printed to buy back their own stocks. This has led to an unsuitable financial bubble that actively discourages investment. Corporate raiders load companies up with debt and loot the pension fund. This means the model of neoliberal capitalism actively stops new innovation and technology as short-termism and parasitism take over the economy.

How can an economy dependent on consumer demand grow when real wages are shrinking and production of new products is being made difficult by debt bubbles?

The financial sector, the City and the hedge funds use Orwellian language to make it sound like their gains are gains for the economy. The opposite is true. The financiers take money out the economy.

The money siphoned off by the financial sector is called an addition to GDP. However, it does not add anything and is actually taking away from real incomes.

The dissimilarity between funding “real” versus “financial” capital and real estate implies a “functional differentiation of credit”. This was fundamental to the work of Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes, and Schumpeter. Since the 1980s, the economy has been in a long cycle in which increasing bank credit has inflated prices for real estate, stocks, and bonds, leading borrowers to hope that capital gains will continue. Speculation gains momentum, on credit, so that debts rise almost as rapidly as asset valuations.

Alan Hinnrichs