Letters to the editor | Edition 2 December 2021

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Letters are welcome by email to [email protected]

Let the juries decide

Your pre-judgment article about the Kyle Rittenhouse trial suggested that the broader question of gun laws in America, and specifically “when is it appropriate to shoot someone”, is one for the political system and not e jury (“motivating questions”, Nov. 20th). It is impossible to look to politicians for a clear answer as to what constitutes reasonable self-defence. These are the same politicians who, according to whether they appeared MSNBC or Fox News, describing the problem in Kenosha as a peaceful demonstration or riotous looting. To these politicians Mr. Rittenhouse is either a vigilante rioter who wanted to kill innocent people, or a well-meaning young man who was looking to protect his community and got caught with mentally disturbed criminals.

These are the same politicians, including our president, who publicly communicate their opinion of a defendant prior to the jury’s verdict. They promote narratives that view shootings through the lens of systemic racism or evoked fascism, pushing their followers to take to the streets if their judgment doesn’t fit the bill. -close them.

Can we really expect politicians to get involved in complex legal cases covering a variety of situations, protagonists and weapons that lead to deadly conflicts? These are questions that only a jury can answer, after evaluating the evidence of the particular conflict in question.

Park City, Utah

Mining in Kyrgyzstan

We agree that the Kumtor gold mine is vital to Kyrgyzstan (Banyan, November 6). We question, however, the assumption that Centerra, the owner of the mine, did not communicate with the Kyrgyz government about how it could best benefit the country and its people. For nearly 30 years Centerra and its predecessor have been operating the Kumtor concession in close cooperation with many Kyrgyz governments. As the largest private employer in Kyrgyzstan (over 99% of employees are Kyrgyz nationals), Kumtor contributed nearly $4.5bn to the economy between 1994 and 2020.

We have always resolved disputes with successive Kyrgyz administrations through negotiation and compromise, yet the current government has shown no willingness to engage in meaningful dialogue from they sent secret police into the mine on May 15. The government’s illegal behavior threatens not only Centerra’s interests but the future of foreign direct investment in Kyrgyzstan.

Senior officer
Information about the company Centerra Gold Inc.

Investment and rent

Governments are wrong, you say, to think that allowing private equity firms into housing markets will increase rents (“Barbarians at the garden gates”, November 20). Your reasoning implies that more investment in housing should be welcomed as it would bring down house prices and rents. This is not true. In many countries, private equity has invested mainly, and sometimes exclusively, in existing housing stock. This was certainly the experience in the two largest European markets for private equity investment, Germany and Spain. Landlords increased rents and often failed to maintain buildings.

Even when investment is taking place in new construction rather than existing homes, we cannot assume that increased supply automatically lowers prices. This was certainly not the case in Spain and Ireland. Both countries oversupplied housing before the crisis in 2008. Did prices fall? They rose well above the European average.

House prices are no longer driven by housing supply and demand, but by the financial provision for housing. The expansion of mortgage credit drives up prices, as does the income of new landlords who believe they can make more money than current landlords. And investments need returns. If investors pay a higher price then, inevitably, so will their tenants.

University of Leuven
Leuven, Belgium

Allowing private equity in housing should not come at the expense of the fair housing initiative, especially mandatory requirements for affordable housing. These require a certain percentage of newly built homes with cheap rent for people on low incomes. The homes in a development that are sold at market rate subsidize the affordable, making the venture profitable. Affordable housing policies allow large returns while providing affordable homes to the city’s working class.

New York

Struggling to get ahead

The case for investing in social mobility in America is stronger than your briefing suggests, as it depends on political and economic reasons (“Stuck in place”, November 6). In a recent paper Philip McCann, who coined the term “geography of discontent”, wrote that “Social mobility is the vital indicator of public voting.”

Contrary to popular opinion, populist voters are not all boring, stupid and racist; they are strongly motivated by ideals of a rigid, socially immobile economy. Whether a citizen has an unlucky start in life or is beset by an economic crisis, too many Americans are unable to get ahead on their own merits. With the Democrats struggling in Virginia recently, the party would do well to move away from maintaining the culture wars and toward a fairer economy where there is more equal opportunity and reward allocated according to the contribution.

It is important that the social movement message is not confused with income and wealth inequality. We have shown that the latter are poor predictors of republicanism. People generally prefer fair economic outcomes whether they are equal or unequal.

Growth Lab
John F. Kennedy School of Government
Harvard University
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Crossing the centuries

“London’s bridges are falling down” (November 13). Of course. In 1282 a royal charter was granted establishing the Bridge House Estates as a charity to maintain London Bridge and later other bridges leading into the City of London. Today he manages assets of around £1.6bn ($2.1bn). A simple solution to the failings of London Bridge would be to put them in the charity’s ownership, and for the local council authorities to pay an annual fee in exchange for ongoing maintenance.

Gordon, Scottish Borders

Business vocabulary

Thanks to Bartleby for his short guide to the business of speaking (November 20). He nailed it with most of them, though I would change this:

“Do you have five minutes?”

Ostensible meaning: This question takes five minutes to answer.

Real meaning: This question will take 45 minutes of discussion and two days of study to answer.

Westwood, Massachusetts

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