I WAS pleasantly surprised to read Michael Fry’s response to my letter in his Tuesday article (What would Adam Smith have made of the UK’s splurge on coronavirus?, March 24).

I appreciate Michael’s precis of the works of Adam Smith. To me Adam Smith’s relevance to the modern world is tempered by new forms of monetarism which the great man could barely have envisioned.

It’s true that greed is part of human nature, and as such it must be dealt with somehow, especially when it disadvantages the ordinary hard-working person. Adam Smith suggests that it can be dealt with by the systems and structures of the market itself. Michael concludes that any greed occurring within such a system results in “a surplus for redistribution to the poor”.

READ MORE: Michael Fry: What would Adam Smith make of the UK’s Covid-19 splurge?

In Adam Smith’s 18th-century world that may have been more or less true, but his thinking was formed at a time where the kind of massive individual and institutional wealth we see today was just not possible. Until relatively recently there simply was not enough wealth available.

There are individuals today who do have the wealth of nations, but not in the way Adam Smith described. Our biggest companies are now more powerful than many countries, and the richest 1% now own almost half of the world’s wealth. Adam Smith could barely have imagined such disparity.

Very little of that private wealth finds its way back to the workers who actually create it, much less to the truly needy, who are too busy surviving to contribute.

I agree with Michael that capitalism is a good mechanism, which allows wealth to flow where it’s needed. I also agree that the greedy must be allowed to accumulate to some degree, especially if by such accumulation we all prosper. After all, as Ayn

Rand pointed out when pressed on the evils of money in a TV interview in the sixties: “It’s that or the gun. You choose.”

Greedy people will find a way to get what they want, and any system that attempts to stop them will find itself subverted by those self same greedy people. As Michael points out, it happens under socialism too.

But that is not to say we should happily live with the fact that Jeff Bezos can hoard a fortune of more than $100 billion when his workers live on subsistence wages.

I don’t think Adam Smith provides any useful solutions here. But in light of the economic disaster unfolding thanks to the coronavirus crisis we may yet incorporate Adam Smith’s ideas into a new, more relevant paradigm. Perhaps it will be one that Michael and I can fully agree upon.

Stewart Robinson

MICHAEL Fry, in his excellent article about what Adam Smith would have made of the UK’s splurge on coronavirus, concludes “we will accept that it will be right for government to run the economy hands-on. I’d only say that no UK Government has ever learned in the long term to do that well. A Scottish Government has yet to prove itself.”

The first rule of comparison is to compare “like with like”. The UK Government has been in control of all the “commanding heights” of the macro economy, fiscal policy and the power to raise loans. The Scottish Government only has a devolved budget and has no full fiscal powers, let alone total macro economic power. It has, however, never exceeded its budget even when it has had to use its devolved budget in part to mitigate the worst excesses of UK Government failings on welfare and social policy. So levelling a charge that the Scottish Government has yet “prove itself” in macroeconomic policy and practice is a non sequitur. Holyrood has also not been long established.

He absolutely right, however, to say that the UK Government has never learned in the long term – and we are talking about a period since 1707 – to do that well. Indeed a shocking indictment of the London-dominated UK.

John Edgar

I LOVE the Edinburgh Festival. I’ve been attending it most years for more than 50 years. Every year I go to every morning concert in the Queen’s Hall and every evening for concerts or operas in the Usher Hall or the Festival Theatre.

In recent years I’ve been reviewing festival events for The Wee Review

and was looking forward to reviewing for my new online magazine The Edinburgh Music Review, so why am I calling for it to be cancelled now? I would really think this is an academic question. I’m certain that the Festival and the Fringe will be cancelled.

It’s my judgement that the virus crisis won’t be over by August, that even if it was held no-one would come, or at least many fewer, making the festival an economic disaster. Performers need to know as soon as possible to plan their alternatives, people who come from overseas need to know to cancel their travel, we all need to know to plan our summers even if we aren’t locked down.

Some in Edinburgh will welcome a festival-free August and maybe this will give us time to rethink the future role and the scale of it. Edinburgh is greater than the Festival but we do need it. Let’s cancel it now to save it for the future!

Hugh Kerr