Links Roundup: Checklists, Pollution, Catalonia, and Value Capture

+ Kari Kohn

The Divergence in Catalan Identity in France and Spain

In recent research Laia Balcells, a political science professor at Duke University, has investigated the differences between Catalans south of the Spanish border and those north. In her paper “Mass Schooling and Catalan Nationalism”, she points out that Catalunya was split between France and Spain by a treaty in 1659. The Catalans had a distinct history with their own language yet the extent to which people identify as Catalan today differs greatly north and south of the border.

In Spanish Catalonia, Balcells shows that Catalan is the main language of communication between members of the family for 37% of the population; also, 7% say that Catalan is not the only language, but that it is more usual than Spanish.

In French Catalonia, in contrast, only 0.5% of the population speaks Catalan within the family: French is the main language in family communications for 87.6% of the population. This use of language is one way of seeing the different facts about identity.

...Balcells’ argument is that what is critical is the interaction between these social dynamics and what she calls, following the terminology of political scientist Keith Darden, a “scholastic revolution”. This corresponds to the first generation of people to receive mass education and when a community first shifts from an oral to a literate mass culture. The important point about France was that the strong state was around at the time of the scholastic revolution that meant that Catalan nationalistic sentiments got no air time in school.

...The critical factor causing the divergence between the north and south of the French-Spain border in terms of Catalan nationalism was that the Spanish state was weak at exactly the wrong time — when the scholastic revolution interacted with a wave of patriotic agitation.

The Utility of Checklists

The utility of checklists for accomplishing complex tasks has long been known. They were championed and refined by the US Air Force (which also pioneered, during WWII, the research that became industrial and organizational psychology) and are used by surgeons to cut fatalities by one-third, according to Atul Gawande’s excellent The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right.

One of the central tenets of The Checklist Manifesto is that even when tasks are simple—and Apple’s ANPP definitely is not—it’s human nature to forget critical steps. In design, perhaps the right people weren’t consulted in the correct order, or a critical supplier was left out of the decision-making process, leading to delays and compromise.

The Effects of Pollutants on Productivity

We find that an increase in PM2.5 outdoors leads to a statistically and economically significant decrease in packing speeds inside the factory, with effects arising at levels well below current air quality standards. In contrast, we find little effect of PM2.5 on hours worked or the decision to work, and little effect of pollutants that do not travel indoors, such as ozone. This effect of outdoor pollution on the productivity of indoor workers suggests a thus far overlooked consequence of pollution. Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that nationwide reductions in PM2.5 from 1999 to 2008 generated $19.5 billion in labor cost savings, which is roughly one-third of the total welfare benefits associated with this change.

A Case for Land Value Capture in Cities

There are a number of cities leading the way with respect to value capture. The $500 million redevelopment of Denver Union Station was planned in 2004 and will become the hub of the new FasTracks lines, a 10-year, $7.4 billion investment in 197 km of new rail lines and 29 km of bus rapid transit lines. Two federal loans will be repaid through Tax Increment Financing (TIF), a land value tax instrument.

São Paulo is another example of the positive impacts of value capture. Research by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy has estimated that more than $1 billion was generated in two of the 13 Urban Operations (Faria Lima and Agua Espraiada). Following the City of São Paulo’s 2002 Strategic Master Plan rezoning plan, such land taxes have been deposited into the Urban Development Fund (FUNDURB), which has developed parks, improved sidewalks, upgraded informal settlements, and so forth.

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