Blog: Letters to the editor – The Economist

Letters are welcome via e-mail to letters@economist.com

Britain has to find its way

I was surprised to see you describe, in your leader on post-Brexit Britain, the cut to British foreign aid from 0.7% to 0.5% of GDP as merely “painful” (“Britain’s place in the world”, January 2nd). Painful no doubt for recipients of the aid, already reduced by our shrinking economy, which the aid figure is linked to, yet hardly painful for the government, many of whose supporters have been crying out for such a cut for years.

The consequences for the Global Britain project will be seriously negative. We will soon see to what extent the 0.7% commitment was a key element in sustaining Britain’s standing and influence in the world, in terms of bilateral relations and of votes and having an effective say in a whole range of multilateral organisations. It would be more convincing to think of the 0.7% commitment as an essential part of any Global Britain policy, quite apart from the moral and humanitarian arguments.

DAVID HANNAY
House of Lords
London

Your leader ended by sneering at the “blindness” of Brexiteers. The only blindness is in the pages of The Economist, which cannot see why ordinary people defied the intelligentsia and voted to leave. Why do you respect the wish for self-determination by the peoples of other countries but refuse to do the same for British people?

ROBERT MACMILLAN
Dunmow, Essex

The Economist’s take on Brexit reminds me of those who suggest Napoleon won Waterloo. In particular I was taken by the implied pejorative that supposedly some British people have a “romantic notion of sovereignty” (“How was it for EU?”, January 2nd). Silly billies.

I actually do have a romantic view of sovereignty’s sister, democracy. The Economist of my younger days would have rejected the European Union’s protectionism and statism. And that is exactly what a democratic Britain has done.

CHRIS RHODES
Horsham, West Sussex

The fundamental supposition since Britain began its relative decline has been that the country’s interests were served by punching above its weight. And yet other countries achieve similar or higher qualities of life without this need to “project”. Switzerland, Norway, the Low Countries, but also Germany and Japan, spring to mind. One of the long-term consequences of Brexit might be that England (Scotland and Northern Ireland are unlikely to remain long in the United Kingdom) can become a normal country again. Let’s try punching below our weight and focus on the well-being of our own citizens.

JAMES HICKMAN
West Raynham, Norfolk

Britain is not losing its relevance when it comes to the arts. In fact, I expect that the digitisation of media will cause British culture to become more saturated throughout the English-speaking world. Take “The Great British Bake-Off”. Growing up in the American Midwest, I had a less-than-nuanced view of British cuisine, believing it to be composed solely of tripe and fish ’n chips. Now, I have spent lockdown trying to perfect sticky toffee pudding.

British television is some of the most popular content on Netflix, The Economist circulates more outside Britain than in it, and any American who says they haven’t read the Daily Mail is a liar. The connected world we live in is becoming more British, not less.

RACHEL BEDDOR
Phoenix

The up to 2m British who have settled in Europe will not have the rights of EU citizenship preserved (“No longer in Rome”, January 2nd). We maintain residence rights in the one country we happened to live in on December 31st 2020, and have lost all rights in the other EU countries, not to mention losing the vote. To paraphrase a former British prime minister, if you believe you are a citizen of Europe, you’re a citizen of nowhere.

OWEN BROWN
Brussels

Adding to price rises

You continue to view inflation as a pricing phenomenon of products and services (“Will inflation return?”, December 12th). But this misses where inflation is hiding in plain sight: asset prices, notably in the increase in prices of investment assets such as property and speculative equity. The way we measure inflation and where we look for it needs a long-overdue change.

NAEEM HUKKAWALA
New York

Girl power

Getting girlhood right” (December 19th) rightly pointed out the many positive knock-on effects of giving girls access to education. One you missed is the impact on climate change. According to Project Drawdown, giving girls the tools of education and family planning is ranked as the second most meaningful solution to limit global heating, only surpassed by reducing food waste, and far ahead of wind energy and solar panels.

BEATE TRIANTAFILIDIS
London

Computing content

Your excellent Christmas special on the use of data analysis in the liberal arts (“The book of numbers”, December 19th) should have spared a thought for the late Phil Stone’s General Inquirer. Developed in the 1960s, this set of procedures continues to be applied to machine-readable text in all disciplines, and indeed everyday discourse. It added to the computerised content analysis based on rote counting, distinguished among the different meanings of most words and applied dictionaries for scoring, profiling and comparing different text extracts in a variety of categories, such as positive and negative sentiments and various political and social values.

HERBERT BLUMBERG
Department of psychology

Goldsmiths, University of London

A lemon about an Orange

You sent the wrong Orange to London for the second world war (“Bruised Oranges”, January 9th). It was not Juliana (who spent her war years in Canada) but her mother, Queen Wilhelmina, whom Churchill quipped to be the only real man among the governments-in-exile in London. As a British publication you might be aware that when there are two generations of royalty involved, the oldest usually is the monarch, and the younger of the two is waiting in line.

PETER RISSEEUW
Heemstede, Netherlands

Rats in the kitchen

Many Western people may shudder at the thought of eating rats (“Hamper scamper”, January 2nd). In 1962 Miguel Delibes, a Spanish novelist, published “Las Ratas”, in which he mentions a village where people eat the rodents. The mayor of the village tells the governor of the province that “They are delicious, sir, with some vinegar!”

WALTER SCHUIT
Overdinkel, Netherlands

A follow-up

In the Letters section of the September 26th issue, Paul Shannon stated that he did not “recall any unlawful behaviour from Republicans” after losing an election. Well, now he can.

RYAN PHILIPS
Oakland, California

This article appeared in the Letters section of the print edition under the headline “On Brexit, inflation, girls, content analysis, the Dutch royal family, rats, Republicans”

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