Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell (Shadow chancellor sympathises with club, Watford Observer, June 21) states that companies should be administered “collectively” and that he, rather than owners and employees, should dictate terms of employment.

In defence of Mr McDonnell’s exciting Marxist plan, I would say that he is merely following on logically from the ideas of Robert Malthus, the English cleric and economist 1766 – 1834, who introduced the ‘Malthusian Trap’: “The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man”. Charles Darwin 1809 - 1882 subsequently translated Malthusian doctrine into his own famous ‘limited resources’ and ‘struggle for survival’ ideas. Thanks to the nationalisation of education in 1872, this notion has been a fixture in western culture ever since - even influencing the choice of economist that our current crop of politicians follows: John Maynard Keynes 1883 - 1946, like so many intellectuals of his time, was a fan of the idea of ‘limited resources’ and confidently recommended a big role for government in sharing them out. Needless to say, this has been popular with governments ever since - apart from a brief and successful spell under the grocer’s daughter. Darwin’s ‘struggle for survival’ was invoked yet again by the Blair government, intent on expanding the State with the help of favoured cronies. He called it ‘The Third Way’.

But resources, it turns out, are not as limited as was once thought - either in the natural or the man-made world. Life-forms constantly search for and exploit novel sources of energy, expand eco-systems and actively adapt to occupy them. Genetic engineering technologies have taken advantage of the fact that genes do not randomly mutate to drive evolution. Rather, organisms adapt - switching their genes on and off and tweaking them - within instinctive constraints. Humans also use genetic switching - volitionally - in order to avoid instinctive constraints. This is free will.

Hog-tied by the myth of ‘limited resources’, any politician remotely attracted to ideas of free-market capitalism has had to water them down or be accused of endorsing the dreaded ‘survival of the fittest’. But individuals are endlessly innovative and trade ideas as well as goods. The right to the product of one’s work is fundamental to an expanding economy. An expanding economy is a benevolent economy.

John McDonnell needs to realise that the heavy hand of government simply pours sand into a finely tuned engine.

Prof. Christine Wheeler McNulty