We have lost more than we have gained since the 1950s

Your editorial ("Lest we forget: 1950s were awful", 19 June) overstated your case. In the 1950s, parents could allow their children the freedom to play outside without fear of being abducted, molested or flattened by a 30-ton truck. The bright working-class child was not condemned to attend the local, socially unmixed school for under-achievers. That same child could later attend university without having to foot the bill. In the 1950s, two employees did the job that one does today. Nor was there the constant fear of redundancy. The NHS was run for the benefit of patients, not consultants and employees. Public services were, on the whole, adequately funded. By the late 1950s, the air in our towns and cities had been cleaned up before becoming polluted again by traffic.

Crime was not something one encountered every day. Although there might be less tolerance in many ways, there was less interference in the lives of ordinary people. Life was gentler and, despite the subsequent growth of the care industry, people were more considerate of others - surely one of the principal aims of liberalism. The achievements of liberalism should have amounted to rather more than the ability to get divorced, be openly gay or utter four-letter words on television.

Of course, the 1950s were not a golden time and you make many valid points. But it is a question of balance and, as far as one can measure quality of life and happiness, we have probably lost more than we have gained overall - which is hugely disappointing.

David Brearley
Rawdon, West Yorkshire

This article first appeared in the 26 June 2000 issue of the New Statesman, We made the people-smugglers rich