UP Links 20 December 2012

+ Kari Kohn

Peter Gordon on Alain Bertaud’s Paper: ”The Costs of Utopia”

Bertaud sees market forces trumping the efforts of designers. ”Haussman did design street patterns in ninteenth century Paris, so did L’Enfant in Washington.  However, these ‘urbanists’ only designed the boundaries between public and private use … they did not decide who was going to live where, they did not decide where offices and residential areas will be located and what should be the density in these urban areas. Market forces were left free to fill the bulk volumes alloacted to private use.”

Lant Pritchett and Shrayana Bhattacharya on Cash Transfers

Cash transfers are terrific at what cash transfers are terrific at — a pure and direct transfer of purchasing power. If the goal of transferring resources to citizens is simply to attain a socially desirable distribution of money and ability to buy things, cash works very well. However, if the idea is to tackle market failures and attain a socially desirable form of behaviour, where administrators allocate benefits to the poorest and the poorest are able to use the subsidy amounts for good nutrition and health outcomes, the idea of cash as a cure-all is problematic.

The Economist on the “Old Empire” in Europe

An intermittent tussle began, with several emperors trying and failing to achieve an ever closer union. Each time, the princes withheld the necessary money or soldiers, says Joachim Whaley at Cambridge, the author of a two-volume history of the empire. At each Reichstag, power was renegotiated and usually favoured looser union. Everything pointed to a continuation of dual sovereignty. On the hot-button issue of religion, in particular, each prince should independently determine whether his territory was to be Catholic, Lutheran or Calvinist.

Brad Plumer on Health Risks of Air Pollution

In 2010, 3.2 million people died prematurely from outdoor air pollution, mainly in Asia, and mainly from soot and other pollutants from diesel cars and trucks. That means outdoor air pollution is now a bigger health risk than high cholesterol— and, along with obesity, one of the fastest-growing health risks in the world. (Air pollution only killed about 800,000 people worldwide in 1990, although measurements were much cruder back then.)The Lancet study also found that indoor air pollution, largely from smoky coal- or wood-burning cook stoves in countries in Africa, and in India, caused some 3.5 million premature deaths in 2010. That number has tumbled over the past two decades, but it’s still high.

Peter Sutherland on Immigration

…people generally believe that the number of immigrants in their countries is far higher than it actually is. In the same German Marshall Fund survey, British respondents estimated that 31.8% of the United Kingdom’s population was foreign born; the true figure is 11.3%. Americans estimated that the US foreign-born population stood at 37.8% – triple the actual proportion, 12.5%. Such false perceptions make it even more difficult to have a reasonable debate about the issues.… The good news is that there have been important advances during the last decade in managing migration. For example, policymakers can draw on successful programs to integrate migrant children into educational systems. They can learn how some countries are successfully matching their businesses’ labor needs with immigrants’ skills.
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