Letters from the Lakes


One problem with being on holiday (although, clearly, I'm not really complaining) is that you get much longer to read the papers. And for someone with libertarian leanings, that means that every leisurely breakfast is inevitably accompanied by news of countless new government initiatives – most of which are pointless, intrusive, expensive, or all of the above. Deeply depressing stuff.

If I had a shorter fuse I'd probably end up hurling my cornflakes at the wall. As it is, I just feel compelled to write letters to the editor. Below are a couple of unpublished ones I sent to The Times while wandering around the Lake District.

On the idea of 'minimum space requirements for new housing...

Sir, Rebecca O’Connor reports that new-build British homes are among the smallest in the world. I can well believe it. But couldn’t this have something to do with our planning system, which forces developers to meet minimum density requirements and obliges them to set aside land for loss-making ‘affordable housing’? Whatever the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment might think, we don’t need more regulation to fix this problem. We just need to free developers to build the sorts of homes that people actually want to live in.

And on Mexico's drug war...

Sir, Your leading article of August 11 is misguided. Decades of bitter experience have shown that no amount of military might can win a ‘War on Drugs’. Indeed, all such interventions actually achieve is to raise the market price of these substances, and give the cartels an even greater prize to fight over. The human cost of this failure is enormous. Surely it is time to accept that the only sensible solution is to take narcotics out of the hands of gangsters, and legalize, licence and regulate their production and sale. As well as depriving criminals of a lucrative market, this would have considerable health and social benefits, reducing the incidence of overdoses and poisoning, and making treatment of addicts much easier. Empirical evidence from Portugal, which decriminalized drugs in 2001, bears this out.

In future, I think I'm just going to stick to the sports pages.