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The level of public spending is not to blame for economic woes

RICHARD Mowbray (Letters, January 26) makes a fetish out of public spending as a percentage of GDP as the supposedly determining factor for an economy and claims it caused our current problems.

This is nonsense. Economies had booms and recessions long before there was any welfare state or significant public services, as in the South Sea Island bubble and Tulip Mania. Public spending as a percentage of GDP has risen to more than 50% because the financial crisis and resulting recession reduced our GDP and austerity failed to restore it.

The annual percentage was also well over 40% under Margaret Thatcher and on average higher than under the last Labour government.

If his theory that all UK public spending "leaks" abroad was true, the same would hold for any private sector investment and the only way to stabilise the economy would be to ban all transfers of money to outside the UK.

The national debt has increased after four years of the austerity policies Mr Mowbray advocates. Rather than accept they've failed, as in the 1920s and 1930s, he says they haven't been austere enough, which is like claiming Stalinism didn't produce democracy because it wasn't Stalinist enough.

UK welfare spending in the last financial year was just 22% of public spending at £159 billion; and excluding the £74bn of that on pensions, £85bn, or 12%. Just £12.5bn went on disability benefit. Just over £10 billion out of the total public spending of £695 billion went on unemployment benefits (Jobseekers' Allowance and Attendance Allowance). That's under 1.5% of public spending; and that with the highest level of unemployment in decades, once statistical fiddles like the one in five "new jobs" which are actually unpaid, temporary slave labour "workfare" are removed. So let us have no more peddling of the myth that benefits are bankrupting us.

Much of UK defence spending goes not to providing troops or equipment for them, but cushy contracts for big arms companies which are allowed to over-run on costs by billions.

Duncan McFarlane,

Beanshields,

Braidwood,

Carluke.

THE news that Britain is approaching a triple-dip depression is marked in The Herald by a letter from Richard Mowbray claiming that the problem is not the economic policies causing this crisis but rather the fact that they do not go far enough, alongside an inaccurate claim that the economic crisis has anything to do with Government debt, a claim that is simply being used to confuse the issue and drum up public support for dangerous economic policies.

Mr Mowbray asks, what happened to Victorian values? We can at least be glad that they are gone, because despite our current woes we are not being subject to regular economic crisis and decades of sluggish growth and grinding poverty, as the Victorians were.

Mr Mowbray suggests that Britain's tax take of around 42% is the absolute limit the economy they can hold, yet smaller (and more vulnerable to capital flight) countries like Denmark are managing much better with much higher tax takes, more than 50% in the case of that country. The simple fact is that in uncertain economic times the public sector is more stable than the private sector and the former can encourage growth in the latter.

Iain Paterson,

2F Killermont View,

Glasgow.

I FIND it difficult to know where to start with Richard Mowbray's call to the nation to get back to Victorian values). Those were the values that saw children starving in squalor while the upper classes lived a life of ease and plenty with overworked and exploited servants on hand to satisfy every whim. Those were also the values that had to be re-addressed when it was found that the vast majority of urban working-class men were so undernourished and undersized that they had to invent the cheerful epithet "bantams" for whole battalions of them before sending them off to die in the Flanders mud.

I recommend that Richard Mowbray reads The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell, for a first-hand account of the way ordinary, decent, skilled craftsmen, in the early part of the last century, had their health ruined through having to use toxic materials and then working every daylight hour in order to do no more than merely exist. When their health did fail or they simply grew too old, the workhouse beckoned.

Those are the consequences that, if Mr Mowbray had his way, would be visited on very many of his fellow men, women and children. A return to Victorian values would undoubtedly result in prosperity for an elite few, but at a terrible cost to the many. Does Richard Mowbray really wish to see that?

David C Purdie,

12 Mayburn Vale,

Loanhead.

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