Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Let's Pollute Everything

Thanks to Jill at La Vida Locavore ,who is currently reading Soil Not Oil by Vandana Shiva, we get a peek into the thinking of Larry Summers who is evidently on the short list as a potential Secretary of the Treasury. This was from back in his World Bank days.

In 1991, Summers wrote in a memo to senior World Bank staff, "Just between
you and me, shouldn't the World Bank be encouraging more migration of the dirty
industries to the LDC [Less Developed Countries]?" Summers had justified the
economic logic of increasing pollution in the third world on three grounds.

First, since wages are low in the South, economic costs of pollution arising
from increased illness and death are lowest in the poorest countries. According
to Summers, the logic "of relocation of pollution in the lowest wage country is
impeccable and we should face up to that."

Second, since in large parts of the South, pollution is still low, it makes economic sense to Summers to introduce pollution: "I've always thought," he writes, "that countries in Africa are vastly under polluted; their air quality is probably vastly inefficiently
low compared to Los Angeles or Mexico City."

Finally, he argues, since the poor are poor, they cannot possibly worry about environmental problems: "The concern over an agent that causes a one in a million change in the odds of prostate cancer is obviously going to be much higher in a country where people survive to get prostate cancer than in a country where under five mortality is 200 per thousand."

(pages 33-34)

I will leave it up to the reader to draw any conclusions about the sanity of Mr. Summers.

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