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Let the juries decide

Your pre-verdict article on the Kyle Rittenhouse trial suggested that the overarching issue of gun laws in America, and in particular “when to shoot a person is okay”, is a matter for the political system, not for a jury (“Provoking questions”, November 20). It is impractical to look to politicians for a clear answer on what constitutes reasonable self-defense. These are the same politicians who, depending on whether or not they appeared on MSNBC or Fox News, described the unrest in Kenosha as a peaceful protest or rampant looting. To these politicians, Mr Rittenhouse is either a vigilant chaos tourist who wanted to kill innocent people or a well-meaning young man who sought to protect his community and was ambushed by mentally disturbed criminals.

These are the same politicians, including our president, who publicly communicate their opinion on an accused before the conclusions of the jury. They promote narratives that see the shootings through the prism of systemic racism or awakened fascism, leading their supporters to take to the streets if the verdict does not match theirs.

Can we really expect politicians to grapple with complex legal issues spanning the combination of circumstances, protagonists, and weapons that lead to deadly conflict? These are questions that only a jury can answer, after assessing the evidence for the specific conflict in question.

TONY VENEZIA
Park City, Utah

Mining in Kyrgyzstan

We agree that the Kumtor gold mine is vital for Kyrgyzstan (Banyan, November 6). However, we dispute the assumption that Centerra, the owner of the mine, did not discuss with the Kyrgyz government how best this could benefit the country and its people. For almost 30 years, Centerra and its predecessor operated 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 $ 4.5 billion to the economy between 1994 and 2020.

We have always resolved differences with successive Kyrgyz administrations through negotiation and compromise, but the current government has shown no willingness to engage in constructive dialogue since the secret police were dispatched to seize the mine on May 15. The government’s illegal conduct threatens not only Centerra’s interests, but the future of foreign direct investment in Kyrgyzstan.

SCOTT PERRY
Chief Executive Officer
Centrera Or inc.
Toronto

Investment and rents

Governments are wrong, you say, in thinking that allowing private equity firms in housing markets will drive up rents (“Barbarians at the garden gates”, November 20). Your reasoning implies that increased investment in housing should be welcome as it would lower house prices and rents. This is not the case. In many countries, private equity has invested primarily, and sometimes exclusively, in existing building stock. This was certainly the experience of the two largest European private equity investment markets, Germany and Spain. Landlords raised rents and often failed to maintain their properties.

Even when the investment is in new construction rather than existing homes, we cannot assume that a larger supply automatically drives prices down. This was certainly not the case in Spain and Ireland. Both countries have a large surplus in housing supply as the 2008 crisis approaches. Have prices fallen? No. They have risen well above the European average.

House prices are no longer determined simply by the supply of and demand for housing, but rather by the supply of housing finance. Expanding mortgage lending drives up prices, as does the arrival of new homeowners who think they can make more money than current homeowners. And investments require returns. If investors pay a higher price, their tenants inevitably will.

PROFESSOR MANUEL AALBERS
University of Louvain
Leuven, Belgium

Allowing private equity in housing should not come at the expense of promoting fair housing, especially mandatory requirements for affordable housing. These require that a certain percentage of newly constructed homes have cheap rents for low-income people. Homes in a subdivision that are sold at market rates subsidize affordable homes, making the business profitable. Affordable housing policies allow big money to make a comeback while providing cheap housing for a city’s working class.

ANTHONY HASCHEFF
new York

Struggling to move forward

The case for investing in social mobility in America is stronger than your briefing suggests, as it has political and economic foundations (“Stuck in place”, November 6). In a recent article, Philip McCann, who coined the term “geography of discontent”, wrote that “social mobility is the crucial indicator of populist voting”.

Contrary to popular perceptions, populist voters are not uniformly deplorable, stupid and racist; they are deeply motivated by the perception of a rigged and socially immobile economy. Whether a citizen has an unlucky start in life or is overthrown by an economic crisis, too many Americans cannot advance on their own merits. Given the recent beating of Democrats in Virginia, the party would do well to move away from condescending culture wars and towards a more just economy where opportunities are more equal and the reward is awarded based on contribution.

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

ERIC PROTZER
Researcher
Growth laboratory
John F. Kennedy School of Government
Harvard University
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Cross the ages

“London bridges are collapsing” (November 13). Indeed. In 1282 a Royal Charter was granted establishing the Bridge House Estates as a charity to maintain London Bridge and subsequently other bridges leading into the City of London. Today, he manages a fund of around 1.6 billion pounds ($ 2.1 billion). A simple solution to the London Bridge woes would be to place them in the property of the charity, and for local council authorities to pay an annual fee in return for ongoing maintenance.

CALUM GALLEITCH
Gordon, Scottish Borders

Commercial phraseology

Thanks to Bartleby for his little guides on business speech (November 20). He nailed it to the head with most of them, although I would edit this:

“Do you have five minutes?” “

Apparent significance: The answer to this question will take five minutes.

Actual Meaning: This question will take 45 minutes of discussion and two days of analysis to answer.

IVAN GRABOWSKI
Westwood, Massachusetts

This article appeared in the Letters section of the print edition under the title “On Kyle Rittenhouse, Centerra Gold, Housing, Social Mobility, London Bridges, Business Talks”


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