Letter of the week

Perhaps the most unseemly aspect of the left's response to the terror attacks is the deluded conviction - repeated by Jackie Ashley last week ("History and social democracy start again", 8 October) - that they somehow herald a revival of old-style social democracy and the subordination of the market to the public sphere. Over recent weeks, the op-ed sections and letters pages of the left-wing press have been dominated by professional pontificators and bearded academics called Max drooling at the prospect of a new statist world order of restricted trade and neo-Keynesian big government.

Ashley, for example, says that "the power and authority of the state have been confirmed". Er, how exactly? By the failure of the world's best-funded government intelligence agency to detect the most brazen terrorist attack ever? Or by the ignorance of the combined diplomatic and military might of the new "alliance" as to how to overcome one man (Osama Bin Laden) and his tinpot backers (the Taliban)? Or by the common link between the states that breed terrorists, which is that they all have lots of what the old left love (public officials telling citizens what to do) and very little of what the old left loathes (free trade, inward investment)?

Most risible, however, is the hope that western governments will now embark on grand state spending projects to support their economies and provide security - a fantastic expectation that was immediately shot to pieces by George Bush's call for a $60bn tax cut to boost consumer demand. The saddest part of all this is not the false and ill-considered nature of the old left's argument, but that they gleefully seize upon even the most devastating of human tragedies as an opportunity to revive their defunct ideology.

Janan Ganesh
Croydon, Greater London

This article first appeared in the 15 October 2001 issue of the New Statesman, A nation in panic