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OpenMarket: May 2007

  • The Only Green Vacation Is Staying Home

    May 18, 2007
    Being a Malthusian environmentalist is getting more difficult every day. When I was volunteering for an enviro non-profit many years ago in high school, all you really had to do was recycle your soup cans and, if practical, start a compost pile, (I did both) and you'd be a member in good standing of the green social set. In the era of the "carbon footprint", however, things have gotten much more difficult. Now that pretty much anything you produce, consume or discard contributes to greenhouse gas emissions in some way, previously virtuous behaviors have now become grave sins. Which brings me to one of the Associated Press stories in today's Washington Post, which assesses the moral conflict in the ecotourism industry:...
  • Did the undersecretaries of Famine and Pestilence get the memo?

    May 18, 2007
    Along with the launch of the Politico, the arrival of The Onion in print has been a boon to the nation's capital's Metro riders, especially myself (or the Politico would be if its circulation department bothered to install a box at East Falls Church). Today I had to restrain from laughing out loud on the train. Of course, a jaded libertarian might ask: Wouldn't that constitute most of government already? ...
  • Americans drive less - what does that tell us?

    May 18, 2007
    It appears that, for the first time in 26 years, the average American is driving less. Between March 06 and March 07, the figures suggest that Americans drove 200 to 300 million miles less than they would have if the growth rate had continued. According to government figures, the average price of gas rose by 18c from $2.37 a gallon to $2.55 in that period. From this, we can work out what that implies would need to happen to the price of gas to deter more CO2 emissions. The average American auto gets 17 MPG, so this implies a reduction per capita of about 21 gallons per year. If we attribute this all to the gas price, then a price increase of 18c has led to a decrease of 183kg of CO2 per person. So, the tax one would have to levy to reduce CO2 by 1 (metric) ton would be 98c per gallon. That...
  • NAFTA redux

    May 18, 2007

    CEI, of course, hates to say "We told you so!" As a shy, retiring group, it tries not to toot its own horn immodestly. But two editorials today—one in the Financial Times and the other an op-ed in the Washington Times by our friends at Cato—call out for CEI to crow over its prescient position on the negatives of including non-trade issues, such as labor and environmental provisions, in trade agreements.

    The current two editorials point out some of the dangers of the "Bipartisan Trade Deal" that anti-trade and protectionist legislators forged with the embattled and battered Administration. Loads of enforceable labor and...

  • Tim Carney on Drugs

    May 18, 2007
    Our good friend Tim Carney writes in today's Examiner about how Congress is pushing to expand the FDA's authority over prescription drugs, and why the pharmaceutical companies couldn't be happier:
    When the U.S. Senate passed a bill May 9 to expand the Food and Drug Administration's authority to regulate prescription drugs, the big drug makers applauded. This latest expansion of government regulatory power marked another win for the pharmaceutical industry, which has one of the most successful lobbying records in town. The U.S. pharmaceutical industry is built on federal regulations and more often than not finds itself on the side of increased government control over pharmaceuticals. This year's push (spearheaded by “Liberal Lion” Teddy Kennedy) to heighten...
  • "Ethanol's bitter taste" in the WSJ

    May 18, 2007
    Wall Street Journal editorial writer Kimberley Strassel, in her usual irreverent, inimitable way, today hits the government subsidy and mandate program for ethanol. In her column titled "Ethanol's Bitter Taste," (subscription required) Strassel describes how there's now a pushback from some of the farmers affected by high corn prices. She points out:
    The hugely influential National Cattlemen's Beef Association has gone so far as to outline a series of public demands, including an end to any government tax credits (subsidies) for ethanol and an axe to the import tariff on foreign ethanol. Put another way, the cattlemen are so angry that they are demanding free markets and free trade -- a first.
  • Property Insurance Becomes a Legislative Casualty

    May 18, 2007
    The Florida legislature recently passed a bill regulating property insurance rates in response to complaints that premiums in certain hurricane-prone areas were too high. Now a rational person might suggest that property insurance premiums in hurricane-prone areas probably should be high, but I wouldn't expect such clarity of thought from someone like Gov. Charlie Crist. For a summary of the mess the Sunshine State has made of its insurance market (and thoughts on how to fix it), read Eli's op-ed in today's Tampa Tribune:
    If Tampa Bay area residents don't like Florida's property insurance environment, they only have to wait. Things will get worse. With Gov. Charlie...
  • But Maybe It's the Best we Can do For Now

    May 18, 2007
    Hans, I disagree with some parts of your post on immigration and agree with others. On one hand, I'm in total agreement that we should ditch "family reunification" as a basis for legal immigration, bring in more skilled workers and swear never to do another amnesty. But I'd disagree with you on two major points. First, who says that physical barriers won't work? There's actually ample evidence that they would. Where we've built them, near San Diego, they've displaced a large amount of immigration. We build more and we can displace it until it has no place left to go. Second, although I think that illegal immigration is a net minus for society, I'm not convinced that social services consumption drives it. Coming over as an illegal immigrant costs lots of money (Coyotes charge about $3,000 per head...
  • Trial Lawyers at the Public Trough

    May 17, 2007
    Legal Newsline has an interesting story today on President Bush's executive order forbidding federal agencies from hiring trial lawyers on contingency. Bonus: it quotes our work on the 1998 master tobacco settlement.
    Some attorneys general most known for the use of outside attorneys being paid on a contingency fee basis are Connecticut's Richard Blumenthal and West Virginia's Darrell McGraw. In the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, the Competitive Enterprise Institute says trial lawyers received $14 billion nationally in attorneys' fees under a $246 billion-plus settlement. The organization also says Blumenthal steered $65 million in fees to his own allies and the associates of former Gov. John Rowland, later convicted...
  • Underwear Coverage Examined

    May 17, 2007
    Our latest video on efficiency regulations, "Send Your Underwear to the Undersecretary," has happily gotten the attenion of business reporter Alison Bert at the Cost of Living blog. She even added a fun image of some boxers.
    We also got mentioned on the blog at Entrepreneur magazine. In case you missed it, here's the video itself again:



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