Letters to the editor | Edition 8 April 2023

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Letters are welcome by email to [email protected]

Danish political tour

The move by the Danish Social Democrats to punitive anti-immigrant policies has failed to win back voters for the left, you say (“advanced disease”, June 17). However, an analysis of the Social Democrats was published by myself and a co-author in the British Journal of Political Science showing just the opposite. We found that left-wing parties in Denmark won a majority in 2019 simply because the Social Democrats had moved to the right.

In addition, studies that concluded that the left in Denmark did not benefit from a right move on immigration have two important flaws. First, they usually focus only on the Social Democrats and not on the left as a whole. Although the Social Democrats who move to the right on immigration tend to lose votes to green or socialist parties, the left as a whole gains and will have more votes because there is a shift to right wing also attracting supporters from anti-immigration parties.

Secondly, the studies do not take into account that social democratic parties that decide to move right do so strategically to avoid the issue. This makes the strategy less effective than it really is. Our study supports these issues. It is clear that accepting the right to immigrate helps the left.

Martin Vinaes Larsen
Associate Professor
Department of Political Science
Aarhus University
Aarhus, Denmark

A vapes promoter on the Custard Shoppe stand during Vape Jam.

Vaping tax

Your discussion of UK vaping policy correctly balanced the desirability of finding an effective way for adults to stop smoking with the risk of creating an undesirable incentive for young people to start (“Fears over vapes ”, 24 June). Your suggestion that it would help make disposable vapes more expensive by imposing more taxes is true, but for reasons that are not obvious. In Britain vapes only attract value added tax. Policymakers are concerned that introducing excise duty on vapes makes them more expensive and could deter adult smokers from switching.

However, we know from the tobacco market that duty-charged products require much stricter sales controls and reporting. These controls would give the authorities a better chance to combat the reckless sale of illegal vans that are ruining the sector. As a responsible manufacturer, we support a small vape tax based on volume on this basis.

Ross Parker
Group corporate affairs director
Imperial brands

The Guyanese immigrant community of Indian descent celebrates Holi in Queens, New York.

Defining diasporas

Regarding the Indian diaspora (“Making it as migrants”, June 17), it is useful to make distinctions about the world’s dispersed communities. The classic diasporas, such as Armenian, Greek and Jewish, tend to have distinct multi-generational identities and loose networks of transnational connections among themselves. Newer immigrant communities tend to be economic migrants. Settlers and their descendants, or slaves and their descendants, may or may not identify themselves as diasporas. Is Joe Biden part of the Irish diaspora? Is Barack Obama a member of the African diaspora? “Irish” and “African” can have different meanings in identifying identity.

So it is with Indian and Chinese communities around the world. Many are recent economic migrants. Within both, there are various sub-national, ethnic, religious, socio-economic and other differences. It would be wrong to talk about one Indian diaspora or Chinese diaspora, and consider their relations with governments in Delhi or Beijing in monolithic terms.

Complicated relationships with country governments lead to a more recent conversation. Others may refer to the waves of people who have left Russia since the spring of 2022 as migrants, emigrants, or diaspora. But many use a different term to describe themselves, resentment. They have not necessarily dispersed or migrated, but they have moved. For now.

Nareg Seferian
Fairfax, Virginia

A real test of Narendra Modi’s political skills (Banyan, June 17) would be a successful campaign to tackle malnutrition in India. Government studies show that more than a third of Indian children do not reach their full growth potential, physically and mentally. The stunting rate (low height for age) for children under 5 years was 38.4% in 2015-16 and 35.5% in 2019-21. At this slow rate of development it would take India 40 years to catch up with China.

Tackling malnutrition is tailor-made for a politician with Mr Modi’s gifts. It requires a focus on delivery, relentless initiative and the skill to create a new narrative. The impact of the Make in India campaign would be much stronger with another national push: Grown in India.

Dr Lawrence Haddad
Executive Director
Global Alliance for Better Nutrition (GAIN)

Photo of Daniel Ellsberg

The woman behind the man

Your obituary for Daniel Ellsberg said that as the bombing in the Vietnam war escalated, he knew he “had to expose the lying, killing machine” (June 24). Perhaps there was another factor that made Mr. Ellsberg oppose the war, a war he once supported.

On 30 August 1972 the New York Times Patricia Marx, Mr. Ellsberg’s wife, told the stories that she was the main reason her husband turned from a hawk to a dove on the Vietnam war. But, she admitted, one of the reasons she rejected his first marriage proposal (in 1966) was because of their differences over the war.” The article went on to report that “Friends say the Ellsbergs are a very close couple.

Richard Colman
Orinda, California


Sierra Leone

You claimed that President Julius Maada Bio won the re-election in Sierra Leone with 56% of the vote just “to cross the 55% threshold to avoid a run-off” (” Anatomy of a heist”, 1 July). That ignores the critical fact that he beat his nearest competitor by a 15% margin, which doesn’t push anything. You also said that President Bio was “sworn in hastily within an hour”. Swearing in our president right after the Electoral Commission announces the winner may be in a hurry, but this is the normal procedure. In 2007, when Ernest Bai Koroma was announced as the winner in a much more controversial poll, he was immediately sworn in. Note that the then chairman of the Electoral Commission invalidated tens of thousands of votes from Mr Koroma’s opposition stronghold.

Not so trivial is the reference to the projections made by the New Election Watch (NEW), which all critics of President Bio’s influence have been using, that he won far more votes than all the candidates combined but did not get the mandatory 55% to avoid it. run-run NEW does not claim to have all the polling data; it only requires the Electoral Commission to disclose that data. Needless to say, the Commission, not NEW, determines the results of our elections.

Viewers can criticize or make suggestions about the conduct of our polls, but they do not decide who wins. The commission only counts the actual votes cast, not votes projected by observers, however subtle or far-fetched they may be.

Lansana Gberie
Sierra Leone’s permanent representative to the UN and other international organizations in Geneva

Movie psychology

The human psyche uses a number of mechanisms to prevent loss, regret and humiliation. In “Multiplexed” by Lexington (June 24) we learn that Hollywood creates films where anything is possible and where everything can be turned off. Freud summarizes it well. In “Civilization and its Discord,” he wrote, “Life as we find it, is too difficult for us; it will give us too many pains, disappointments and impossible actions.” He mentions three dimensions of relief to make life bearable, “a powerful swallow, which will make us lighten our misery; substitute satisfaction, which reduces it; and intoxicating substances, which make us insensible to it”.

With alcohol in hand, watching “Spider-Verse” or any of the multiverses available now is a bonus for us to check all three boxes.

Kurt Ela
Clinical associate professor of psychiatry
Georgetown University School of Medicine
washington, DC

Mostly harmless leaders

From the fourth head of The Economist often as the fifth (Bartleby, June 17) I might suggest you name the director “Mostly Harmless”, in honor of Douglas Adams. It is the fifth installment in the “trilogy” of the often erroneously named Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books.

Jim Miller

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