26 JULY 2003, Page 32

Evil hearts

From Floyd Kermode Sir: I am not surprised that Rachel Boyce (`Girls just want to have funds', 12 July) doesn't want to tell her boyfriend about joining Hearts. He may have illiberal feelings about being seen in public with someone associated with such a brainless and evil thing.

It is very inaccurate of Ms Boyce to describe Hearts as a gamble. If I gamble at a casino or in a lottery, I take a risk, but I do not ensure that other people will lose. They take a risk. too. By signing suckers up to Hearts, one absolutely guarantees that someone else will lose down the track. No resort to `scary Internet articles' is necessary to work this out; just using one's upper-middle-class noggin should be enough. If Ms Boyce thinks that this is a matter of opinion, held by men and interfering governments, I can only suggest she repeat high-school mathematics and try again. For her to make eight times what she laughably calls her 'investment', nine other people need to put in the same amount. For all of the people she brings in to get their eight times. 91 people need to shell out.

A similar scheme came from America to Australia in the 1980s. It was called the Golden Aeroplane, and it worked on the same lines, albeit without the cynical 'women only' line. It crashed, too, leaving thousands out of pocket, not because men were involved but because the number of gullible people is finite. Whether this should be made illegal or not is a matter for debate. There is always a limit to how much legislation can protect people from walking straight into a rip-off. Perhaps they should not be allowed knowingly to rip off others. The uses to which this money is put do not redeem the means by which it was acquired. If I could raise the funds to restore a church roof by selling heroin, I would not expect to be congratulated or to get silly articles about good clean profitable fun printed in The Spectator.

As for empowering women, it's nice that a lot of women feel empowered by having thrown money into Hearts. But for every woman who has the `rather glorious feeling of naughty financial independence', a lot more somewhere down the line are going to have the very unglorious, disempowering feeling of having been a bit of a wally.

Floyd Kerrnode

Saitama, Japan