29 APRIL 1955, Page 17

SIR,—'The penalties of failure in this field are quite disproportionate

to the chances of suc- cess: This portentous - sounding phrase ap- peared in your comments on the Budget. I am trying to find out what it means, if anything.

Can one compare two things of a different nature in any scale of proportion? Are you trying to say that a definable sum (the nation's losses if Mr. Butler is wrong) is greater than chances (which can only be expressed in terms of odds)? It seems rather like saying, 'If my horse loses, I shall lose far more money than the odds on his winning.' But does this mean anything?

Or are you trying to say, 'The penalties for failure are greater than the rewards of suc- cess'? If so, why don't you say so? And that, it seems to me, is anyone's guess: not a matter of knowledge.—Yours faithfully, [The Spectator did not use the phrase which Mr. Gedge suggests, as it would not have conveyed the required meaning. Where the chances of making a correct prediction of economic trends are slight and the penalties of failing to do so are total national disaster, it may properly be said that the penalties arc disproportionate to the chances. Reward doe' not enter into the equation.—Editor, Specta tor.]