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OpenMarket: March 2007

  • But we can learn some lessons from the U.K.

    March 15, 2007
    Iain — What the U.K. is doing with that rolling stock is obviously bizarre. But, as bad as it is, I'm not totally turned off by the U.K.'s rail privatization efforts. Since privatization, service has improved markedly, the trains are nicer, and ridership has risen faster than population growth. But, for some reasons you understand better than I do, infrastructure privatization in the form of Railtrack Group didn't work in the U.K. Maybe Labour did it in on purpose. I don't really understand. But, whatever the case, it can't happen here. Although Amtrak still owns much of the Northeast Corridor between New York and D.C., virtually all other rail infrastructure in the U.S. is already in private hands. But we do need to do what the U.K. has done pretty well: create openings for private rail service...
  • Laying the smack down

    March 15, 2007
    Libertarian wrestler Val Venis (real name Sean Morley) has started a blog, The Freetarian.
  • Good point!

    March 15, 2007
    Climate scientist James Annan makes an important point about the economics of climate change in a comment (#4) over at Prometheus:
    "Putting it a different way, If they come true, my children will inherit a world of hurt. I'd like to help them avoid that if I can." I do wonder when reading these sort of comments if the writer (and indeed the general public) is aware of the basic fact that under all plausible scenarios of climate change their children will be substantially richer than they are, and their grandchildren even more so.
    Indeed. That is precisely why paying now to avoid harm in the future amounts, in my opinion, to a regressive tax on the poor of today to help the rich of tomorrow. That's true even taking into account the time...
  • Global warming round-up

    March 15, 2007
    Here are some tidbits and links you may have missed:
  • They call this privatization?

    March 14, 2007
    I argued in my Issue Analysis on the mistakes made during the privatization of Britain's railroads that it was no longer accurate to call the railroads privatized. Today we get further confirmation:
    "An extra 1,000 train carriages are expected to be provided for Britain's railways by 2014 in a bid to tackle overcrowding, the BBC has learnt. Ministers will announce that carriages will be used to lengthen trains on the most congested parts of the network... "But the Association of Train Companies said extra space would soon be used up...The government will pay for them and then lease them to the train companies at a cost of about £130 million a year, he says."
    In a truly privatized system, the train companies would decide on how many trains they...
  • Thumbing Their Noses at the Constitution

    March 14, 2007
    Last Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down the District of Columbia's gun ban in Parker v. District of Columbia, ruling that citizens have a right to possess guns in the home for self-protection. I discussed why that ruling is supported by the text of the Second Amendment and basic principles of constitutional interpretation here and here. Does this mean that Washington, D.C. courts will stop prosecuting people who use firearms in self-defense for unlawful gun possession? Not necessarily. Indeed, as hard as it may be to believe, they may be able to thumb their nose at the decision, unless and until the decision leads to a court injunction expressly barring D.C. prosecutors from...
  • AT&T Merger with BellSouth

    March 14, 2007
    The Internet is abuzz with worry about the possible negative implications of the merger of AT&T and BellSouth. One of the biggest fears is that the merger will threaten "Net neutrality," which is more rightly called network price-controls. The diversity of pricing that AT&T wishes to introduce won't produce the Net-neutrality horror stories we've been warned about, but rather reasonable and understanable applications of packet management, a way of managings traffic on a network to ensure that vital information is given priority. AT&T has announced two such ways that it will be managing data on its network. The first is a product offered to businesses called "enterprise managed IP services." Because AT&T charges business customers more than it does home users, it needs to give some data packets priority to maintain the level of service promised to business customers...
  • Britain to be the World's First "Green" Economy?

    March 14, 2007
    The British government's "green" vision may force homeowners to pay penalties if they don't make their homes energy efficient. A story in today's Daily Mail reports on this "warning to homeowners."
  • Insult to injury

    March 14, 2007
    Doesn't anyone in the UK understand the economic concept of "sunk costs" any more?  Three men wrongly convicted of murder and released after many years in jail will have to pay Her Majesty's Prison Service the cost of "food and lodgings" on the grounds that they would have incurred such expenses if they'd been free men. Of course, had the men actually been guilty, society and the taxpayer would have absorbed the costs. As far as I am aware, HMPS does not routinely charge guilty men their room and board - and a quick search of the HMPS website does not provide any suggestion that it does. So, in the bizarro world that is the UK at the moment, if government wrongly incarcerates you, you must pay for the privilege. "Stark staring bonkers," as they say over there.
  • A Typical Government Response

    March 13, 2007
    Following a tragic bus accident over the weekend, Georgia has announced it will rework several highway exits to make them "safer." The new measures, the AP reports, will include "adding signs and adding reflective striping to seven similar ramps starting Wednesday." Additional studies are planned. But, as Georgia's own state highway boss admits, there's no evidence that any of this will work or would have prevented the accident. Still it's an important issue. Perhaps because it's such an unsexy topic, we don't pay enough attention to the enormous number of people who die each year on our roads. In the best cases, good government-run agencies have made things better. The California Highway Patrol's Corridor Safety Program, for...


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