Summers Memo

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By mehedinsu
Words 865
Pages 4
Summers memo was a 1991 memo on trade liberalization that was written by Lant Pritchett and signed by Lawrence Summers while he was Chief Economist of the World Bank. It included a section that both Summers and Pritchett say was sarcastic that suggested dumping toxic waste in third-world countries for perceived economic benefits
[Least Developed Countries]? I can think of three reasons:
1) The measurements of the costs of health impairing pollution depends on the earnings. From this point of view a given amount of health impairing pollution should be done in the country with the lowest cost, which will be the country with the lowest wages. I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.
2) The costs of pollution are likely to be non-linear as the initial increments of pollution probably have very low cost. I've always thought that under-populated countries in Africa are vastly UNDER-polluted, their air quality is probably vastly inefficiently low compared to Los Angeles or Mexico City. Only the lamentable facts that so much pollution is generated by non-tradable industries (transport, electrical generation) and that the unit transport costs of solid waste are so high prevent world welfare enhancing trade in air pollution and waste.
3) The demand for a clean environment for aesthetic and health reasons is likely to have very high income elasticity. The concern over an agent that causes a one in a million change in the odds of prostrate cancer is obviously going to be much higher in a country where people survive to get prostrate cancer than in a country where under 5 mortality is 200 per thousand. Also, much of the concern over industrial atmosphere discharge is about visibility impairing particulates. These discharges may have very little direct health impact. Clearly trade in…...

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