YOUR Letters Pages have been dominated recently by correspondents bemoaning hoarding and self-interest, but should we really be surprised by such behaviour?

In a 1987 interview Margaret Thatcher ventured the opinion that “there’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then, also, to look after our neighbours.”

Let me be clear, I disagreed with Mrs Thatcher at the time and I still do, perhaps even more profoundly, having lived not just through her administration, but witnessed the carnage perpetrated by neo-liberalism (and not only in the Tory Party) over the last 30-40 years. Sentiments such as Mrs Thatcher’s have informed the development of society that we have created over this time. The self-centred reaction of many to the current situation is merely one manifestation of this.

It is revealed in studies such as Geert Hofstede’s, who found in a global study that the UK had one of the highest scores for individualist attitudes, “beaten only by some of the commonwealth countries it spawned i.e. Australia and the USA”. If we value the individual more than the collective – or dare I say society – can we be surprised that when the shops open there is a queue of individuals outside supermarkets, looking to buy what they, as individuals consider they need, whether as individuals or for their own immediate family?

And of course, this is how free markets work – we all pursue our own individual self-interest. One consequence of the endorsement of this is that the UK is one of the most unequal societies in the world on almost any metric. Our country is what six per cent of the world’s millionaires call home, yet one of our fastest-growing “activities” is food banks. “Our” top one per cent earned a 13 per cent share of income in 2013, while in Belgium the same calculation was seven per cent, and eight per cent in Norway and Sweden. This degree of inequality is not inevitable, but a political choice, and we elected them!

When our concern about our fellow community members is so limited, how surprised should we be about the conduct of some in the present circumstances? This is the society we have spawned. As ye sow, so shall ye reap.

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.

THE coronavirus crisis has brought out the best and worst in society. It is heartening that the former predominates in our community.

However, sadly there are sectors where this is not the case and we see opportunistic operators taking advantage to generate profits which are at best questionable. I refer in particular to the short-selling of shares by hedge funds against a background of plummeting global markets as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Short-selling is the process by which shares are borrowed by hedge funds from large financial institutions and immediately sold, taking the view that the market will fall before they have to be re-purchased and returned to the rightful owner. The difference between the original sale price and the ultimate buy-back price in a falling market represents the hedge fund profit. It does not take a Philadelphia lawyer to conclude in crisis-hit markets there are easy profits to be made. Consider, for example, shares in airlines with planes grounded, cruise companies with ships confined to harbour or travel companies with tourism virtually banned.

Investment is defined as the placing of money with a view to profit. Short-selling conflicts with that in that hedge funds are dealing in assets/shares which they do not own. The very act of selling large tranches of shares adversely affects and forces down prices and by extension the value of pension fund portfolios in which ultimately we all have an interest.

This has been recognised in Spain and Italy where short-selling has been banned. The question has to be asked why no such action has been taken by the regulator in the UK, the Financial Conduct Authority, as regards quoted shares here.

It is entirely predictable that in the weeks and months ahead we shall be hearing of exceptional profits earned by hedge funds. At whose cost?

D Lindsay Walker (Mr), Strachur.

FOR about the third weekend in a row, the supermarkets in my part of the world have had a fair portion of their shelves left empty, and I have had to mentally adjust my menus for the week. At the same time, the newspapers and the TV news carries pictures of shoppers queueing with large trolleys prior to first light at supermarkets and discount warehouses.

Obviously, a proportion of those waiting, particularly at the warehouses, will be corner shopkeepers, looking to replenish their stock. However, the majority appear to be ordinary members of the public, who despite exhortations from the Government and supermarkets, insist on descending like a swarm of locusts.

I've been wondering: is it the same people who have been repeatedly panic buying, or is there a system which allocates a place in the queue at certain times, so different folk have been in the line? If so, when will it be my turn?

Christopher W Ide, Waterfoot.

TODAY, on my 90th birthday, some despicable person stole our early-morning milk delivery from outside the main door of our block of flats in Bearsden.

What was to be a very limited celebration has been ruined by the kind of selfish behaviour which has been much in evidence during past weeks.

Donald Mackinnon, Bearsden.

THE owners of any public house or hotel which has stayed open during this crisis against the guidance and put lives at risk just for their profit should be deemed an unfit person to hold a liquor licence. At their next renewal these facts should be presented to the licensing board who will then permanently remove their licence. With many people putting their lives at risk to maintain essential services the last thing we need are idiots who simply don't care and create a bigger workload.

Dave Biggart, Kilmacolm.

AFTER reading Mark Smith's article ("Dear PM, here are the people your crisis plan has left behind", The Herald, March 23) this thought occurred to me.

My husband and I (both over 75) have been in the habit of walking at least three times a week in several of our beautiful parks, and afterwards we have enjoyed a cup of coffee at one of the coffee shops on the south side of Glasgow. Many of these are owned by the self-employed.

I believe that many pensioners are sitting at home wondering what they can do to help in our current situation. Of course,being at home means less expenditure in many cases. I propose that those who can afford it (obviously not all) give the cost of their cups of coffee and perhaps a wee scone into a fund to help the self-employed at this particular time.

Maybe the BBC or some other organisation could help with an effort along the lines of the Children in Need programme where money is donated. If this is not feasible the money could go to a bonus for the NHS staff to show our gratitude when this is all over.

Josephine Stewart, Newton Mearns.

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