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OpenMarket: January 2007

  • Will the Real Redisributionists Stand Up?

    January 8, 2007
    The populist rhetoric in the recent elections was widespread. We need to tax the rich and the greedy corporations - take from the rich and give to the poor. But such redistributionist tactics are old hat. The current weather situation suggests a far more innovative approach to this liberal program. I refer, of course, to weather redistribution. Colorado, one might have noticed, had too much snow, while the ski slopes at Eastern resorts were bare. Why doesn't Congress do something about this inequity? Why not charge the Corps of Engineers to move the unwanted snow to where it would be valuable? And, while they're at it, they might shift a little of our recent rain falls to the Western deserts. And, since Canada too is "suffering" from this horrible bout of balmy weather and foreign aid has not been getting a good press in recent years, why not make this redistribution...
  • Can a Deal be Done on Doha?

    January 8, 2007
    Hopes are rising that the U.S. and the European Union may find ways to work out their differences on advancing more open international trade. Today President Bush met with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, with trade talks high on the agenda. After the meeting, both leaders strongly endorsed the need to advance the World Trade Organization's Doha Development Round. Negotiations have been at a standstill since last July, when talks broke down mainly because the U.S. and the EU could not agree on substantial cuts in agricultural subsidies and tariffs. (For CEI's perspective on the talks and the Doha Round, check...
  • Ethanol demand will drive grain prices to record levels, Lester Brown warns

    January 8, 2007
    Lester Brown, founder and President of the Earth Policy Institute, estimates that in 2008, U.S. ethanol distilleries will require 139 million tons of corn -- twice as much as the U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts. He predicts that "the emerging competition between cars and people for grain will likely drive grain prices to levels never seen before." Most ethanol is made from corn, but "as corn prices rise, so too do those of wheat and rice, both because of consumer substitution among grains and because the crops compete for land." A surge in U.S. corn prices will have dramatic effects on global grain prices. Brown explains: "The U.S. corn crop, accounting for 40 percent of the global harvest and supplying 70 precent of global corn exports, looms large in the world food economy. Annual U.S. corn exports of some...
  • Efficiency – You Have to Know the Purpose First!

    January 8, 2007

    Over the Holidays, I sought to catch up on some long-deferred reading. One book, Climbing Mount Improbable by Richard Dawkins was on that list and I made a bit of headway. Early in the book, there's an interesting discussion of how one might distinguish between a designed and an accidental product. He uses the example of a “container” — something that can contain a liquid. He notes that he has on his desk a “geode” — a mineral formation that contains a bubble. When split, that mineral formation creates a “natural” cup. However, he suggests a measure of efficiency — the ratio of the “container material” to the liquid that can be contained. His stone occupies 130 cubic centimeters and can contain 87.5 cubic centimeters of liquid — an “efficiency rating” of .673! In contrast, one of his wine glasses has a ratio of 3....

  • Go Where the Voters Are!

    January 8, 2007
    Robert Samuelson wrote a recent column, “Myths and the Middle Class,” quoting statistics that indicate that only 2 percent of Americans see themselves as Upper Class, only 8 percent as Lower Class. That our politicians would thus seek to focus on ensuring that the Middle Class doesn't get neglected would seem sound politics!
  • Holiday Horrors: Pollution is Everywhere!

    January 8, 2007

    A news item (from researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle) found that cinnamon and vanilla levels in the Puget Sound rose over the Holidays. The peak “environmental impact” occurred shortly after Thanksgiving. Well that does it — no more egg nog and pumpkin pies next year.

  • Egalitarian Confusion Abounds

    January 8, 2007
    Thomas Sowell wrote a series of columns recently seeking to deconstruct the Left's confusion over “fairness.” Their ideal, as many have noted, seems to be a world in which everyone scores equally in the economic game of life. Disparities in wealth are, to this group, evidence of an unjust society. That creating such uniformity would ensure only an equality of misery seems never to occur to these people. Perhaps, the world of sports and how it treats rewards might enlighten them. I recently visited Clemson where the faculty has been engaged for some years in exploring “sports economics.” They discussed one interesting point — that human athletic talent (like most attributes) obeys a general centralizing tendencies (many people perform near some mean) but that the tails of such a distribution extends far from this norm. A slight gain in ability may make all the difference in...
  • Will the Real Bob Seger Please Stand Up?

    January 8, 2007
    NPR's Morning Edition interviewed classic rock radio staple Bob Seger today, highlighting his new album and his first tour in a decade. Seger, a son of Detroit, is known for working references to all-American autos into his songs, such as the backseat of that '60 Chevy in "Night Moves." Even better known, of course, is the song that has long served as the theme song for Chevy pickup trucks, "Like a Rock." Now, however, it seems that Bob has soured on the auto industry, if we are to be guided by the lyrics off of his new album:
    World keeps getting hotter Ice falls in the sea We buy a bigger engine and say it isn't me.
  • "Never has good weather felt so bad."

    January 7, 2007
    It should be expected that climate doomsayers would try to seize the unseasonal warm weather the Northeastern U.S. has been experiencing as another "sign" of impending global warming apocalyse. But Joel Achenbach puts this in perspective in today's Washington Post:
    Never has good weather felt so bad. Never have flowers inspired so much fear. Never has the warm caress of a sunbeam seemed so ominous. The weather is sublime, it's glorious, it's the end of the world.
    Only, that it isn't quite.
    [W]e don't need anyone to tell us that some computer model in some climatologist's office is showing that a doubling of atmospheric carbon will lead over the next century to approximately 3 degrees Celsius warming in the average surface...
  • Lamy sees WTO "at heart of global governance"

    January 5, 2007
    Those of us concerned about national sovereignty and global governance — no, not the black helicopter style — should check out a recent speech by World Trade Organization Director-General Pascal Lamy. Ostensibly discussing how to get the WTO's Doha Development Round up and running, Lamy also put in a strong pitch on the need for global governance in the global world.
    Globalization is at the same time a reality and an on-going process that cannot be met by nation-states alone. We therefore need to contemplate new forms of governance at the global level to ensure that our growing interdependence evolves in a sustainable manner. How can the interdependence of our world be better managed? In my view, four elements should guide us. First of all, values. Values allow our feeling of belonging to a world...


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