Whereas the treatment of space in economic analysis leaves much to be desired, the economic policy issues raised by the existence of spatial disparities are prominent in many debates, as illustrated for instance at the international level by the debate around the need for a new international economic order and at the national level by the discussions about regional development policies. Some authors argue that the latter are not very important since spatial income disparities play a very useful role as incentives for the geographic mobility of resources required by economic growth. We intend to show that such a position, which corresponds to a clear preference for growth over equity considerations, is not tenable for policy analysis. Conversely, the call for attention to equity considerations alone leads to very distorted and partial policy recommendations, as illustrated for instance by much of the rhetoric on international development. In order to go beyond these ideological positions, one must assess more precisely the nature of the issues. The need for a theoretical detour regarding the treatment of space in economics will then appear before returning in the third part of this paper to the policy issues raised first.


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