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OpenMarket: March 2007

  • Thoughts about McCarran-Ferguson

    March 26, 2007
    Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott, angry with the whole insurance industry over the situation in his home state of Mississippi, has announced that he wants to do away with the 1945 McCarran-Ferguson law. Friends on the Hill tell me he's quietly gathering support. It won't move forward for now, but I could see things changing. Right now, the McCarran-Ferguson Act grants insurance companies a limited antitrust exemption. The law lets insurance companies share risk and rating data in a way that other private companies typically couldn't. (The law also implicitly mandates state insurance regulation.) I'm skeptical of most antitrust law and, in the insurance industry in particular, there are real consumer benefits to allowing companies to share data on price...
  • The poor are always with us (and enviros mean to keep it that way)

    March 26, 2007
    In Scotland and Australia, two places as far apart on the globe as you can get, people are realizing that rationing carbon is a socially regressive move. In Scotland:
    An energy underclass could develop in Scotland if personal carbon trading is introduced in the fight against climate change, urban planning experts warned yesterday.The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in Scotland voiced concerns that low-income households could be driven into an eat-or-heat situation if tradable allowances were introduced.
    In Australia:
    THE jobless would be hardest hit by carbon pricing, with new research showing low-income households would have to pay about $600 a year to fight...
  • Commenting on GW -- what can economists contribute?

    March 26, 2007
    The excellent classical liberal economics blog www.cafehayek.com had a short post Friday by Russell Roberts on Richard Lindzen's podcast on Bloomberg. The posting generated a lot of interesting comments on global warming -- and whether economists have anything to contribute on that issue.
  • Death by Regulation 2.0

    March 26, 2007
    A firefighter in the UK is facing suspension for breaking fire service regulations.  His breach?  Saving a drowning woman's life:
    The brigade's rules state: “Personnel should not enter the water.” The fire crew should instead have tried to haul the woman out using poles and ropes. Stephen Hunter, chief fire officer of Tayside Fire and Rescue, admitted that fire engines in Perth were not equipped with the correct poles and ropes, but insisted that Mr Brown had broken the rules. He said: “Firefighter safety is of paramount importance to us. Although our duties include rescues from flooding, there is no statutory obligation to carry out rescues from moving water."
    Tim Worstall has more.
  • Give Us Some Decent Games

    March 26, 2007
    Last week, Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.)introduced H. R. 1531, the "Video Game Decency Act." This bill is in response to the Hot Coffee controversy, which refers to the sexually explicit unlockable mini-game in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Sen. Brownback (R-Kan.) has also introduced a bill to deal with this controversy (see my 2/15 post on Sen. Brownback's bill). His bill would require the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) to play the "entire game," a measure that shows Senator Brownback and his staff have never played a modern video game. Unlike classics like Mario Brothers, modern games don't...
  • Fortune smiled on these companies

    March 23, 2007

    Fortune magazine has come out with its list of “America's Most Admired Companies.” Here are the top ten:

    1. General Electric

    6. FedEx

    2. Starbucks

    7. Apple

    3...

  • Boutique Poverty

    March 23, 2007
    I love The New York Times. Not the news and editorial departments of course - the true object of my desire is the food, style, design and travel coverage. The reason for this is very simple: whenever I need a pretentious, out-of-touch theme story on the latest trend in sustainable caviar-spoon technology, my beloved Times is there. The lifestyle editors would rather vacation on the Jersey coast than print something as prosiac and bourgeois as, say, "10 Easy Chicken Recipes a Busy Single Parent Can Prepare in 30 Minutes or Less." Let the weeklies in the sticks run that trash. Much better to profile a free range poultry farm where heritage breeds are pre-infused with provencal herbs by grazing among organically-fertilized plots of rosemary and chervil. Today's Home & Garden section has...
  • Ethanol ain't no magic bullet (2)

    March 23, 2007

    Citizen groups in many small Midwestern towns are trying to stop ethanol plants from being built in their communities, according to today's front-page article in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required). Fueled by a 51 cents per gallon federal government subsidy and other incentives for “alternative energy sources,” ethanol production from corn is driving up the cost of food, meat and poultry, as well as the prices of Midwestern farmland.

    Corn-based ethanol has been touted by policymakers — and producers — as a panacea to solve both energy security and environmental problems.

    Now, community groups are objecting to ethanol plants because of their environmental impact. As the WSJ...

  • After Gore: Observations on Bjorn Lomborg's Testimony

    March 23, 2007
    For those of you who missed Bjorn Lomborg's testimony after Gore's "triumphant return" (Katie Couric's words, not mine) to Capitol Hill, he did a great job attacking the crisis mentality on climate change. His main point was that all peer-reviewed cost-benefit studies suggest we should do very little regarding the climate and referred to "vast frivolous projects like the Kyoto Protocol." Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) did a vicious hit job on Lomborg in his introduction. He said while America takes great pride in freedom of speech, we have to separate science from opinion and that every "credible organization" has said Lomborg is basically wrong and dishonest: the Danish Scientific Committee on Dishonesty, the NAS, Science, Nature,...
  • Modern Prometheus

    March 23, 2007

    Norman Borlaug, the Nobel Peace Prize winning agronomist, will turn 93 on Sunday, March 25, 2007. It's a birthday well worth celebrating. His life's work -- known around the world the Green Revolution -- is estimated to have saved more than a billion human beings from starvation. Still, at age 93, Borlaug still spends much of his time in the wheat and corn fields outside Mexico City, helping teams of scientists and farmers breed new and improved varieties. And, he jets around the world, working with farmers in Africa and Asia, and trying to convince governments that they should free their people and allow them to apply the best new technologies and their own ingenuity to conquering the problems that cause low agricultural productivity and food insecurity.

    I first met Norm (and this kind and amiable man always...

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