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OpenMarket: June 2007

  • Supreme Court Protects Non-Union Workers from Union Coercion

    June 14, 2007
    The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today in Davenport v. Washington Education Association that it is not a violation of the First Amendment for a state to bar a labor union representing government employees from using non-union workers' dues for political causes if those workers have not affirmatively consented. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned a ruling by the Washington State Supreme Court, which erroneously held that it violates the First Amendment rights of a union to require it to gain the affirmative consent of non-union workers before using their dues for political purposes. (The non-union workers were compelled to pay dues to the union as a condition of their employment). As I have explained before, the Washington...
  • The New Rationale for Central Planning

    June 14, 2007
    Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus writes in today's Financial Times on climate change:
    As someone who lived under communism for most of his life, I feel obliged to say that I see the biggest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity now in ambitious environmentalism, not in communism. This ideology wants to replace the free and spontaneous evolution of mankind by a sort of central (now global) planning. The environmentalists ask for immediate political action because they do not believe in the long-term positive impact of economic growth and ignore both the technological progress that future generations will undoubtedly enjoy, and the proven fact that the higher the wealth of society, the higher is the quality of the environment. They are Malthusian pessimists. The scientists should help us and take into consideration the political...
  • Long Term Outlook on Underwriting Profits

    June 14, 2007
    I had an op-ed yesterday's Washington Times about the rather dismal insurance situation along the Gulf Coast. A friend e-mailed me to challenge one statement I made. Here's what I said: "By design, insurance companies lose money on property insurance premiums and make it back through investments." Obviously, insurance companies seek to make profits (or excess) on every policy they write. These are called underwriting profits. But long experience in hurricane zones has made that very, very difficult. The profits insurance companies are getting now will be fleeting. Thus, companies do have to design their operations without the assumption of an underwriting profit. Many assume that more competition and less government regulation would result in higher underwriting profits. In the short...
  • Multi-billion dollar RPS wealth transfer

    June 13, 2007
    The U.S. Energy Information Administration has just published an analysis of Sen. Jeff Bingaman's (D-N.M.) "renewable portfolio standard" (RPS) plan requiring utilities by 2020 to generate 15 percent of all the electricity they sell from renewable sources. Bingaman is crowing that EIA's analysis shows the RPS would produce only "slightly higher electricity expenditures (0.5 percent) by 2030," offset by "lower coal and natural gas prices." That is correct but EIA's description of the same facts reveals another less attractive side to those numbers:
    With slightly higher prices, EIA projects that cumulative...
  • Tesla in the 21st Century

    June 13, 2007
    Last week the Daily Mail reported on the advent of a new technology that uses electromagnetic induction to transfer energy wirelessly across spans of up to 3 meters. But this new invention isn't new, and don't say that Ayn Rand already thought of it! Rand didn't pull the idea of wireless power from thin air, but took the inspiration for Gault's Motor from the work of many scientists studying power transfer in the later 19th and early 20th century. The most famous of of these electrical pioneers was...
  • Would Dingell's Legislation Overturn Mass v EPA?

    June 13, 2007
    Last week (June 7, 2007), a panel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on Chairman John Dingell (D-MI) and Subcommittee Chair Rick Boucher's (D-VA) discussion-draft legislation concerning alternative fuels, infrastructure, and vehicles. The bill is laden with mandates and new spending authority. Several prominent Democrats along with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger have declared their opposition to the bill.
  • Victory for Property Rights in New Jersey

    June 13, 2007
    There's good news on property rights from New Jersey, of all places. The New Jersey Supreme Court, in Gallenthin Realty v. Borough of Paulsboro, has just limited takings of private property for redevelopment, ruling that under the state constitution, property cannot be seized by the government merely because it is not being used in the most economically productive possible manner. Instead, the property has to be blighted to justify seizure. This ruling limits the effect of the U.S. Supreme Court's bad decision in Kelo v. New London, which held that the federal Constitution doesn't...
  • Green gold in California?

    June 13, 2007
    The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) has published a report examining six scenarios under which the Golden State might implement AB 32, the "California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006," which requires greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions to 1990 levels by 2020, and related policy measures.   Proponents of these measures, which aim utlimately to reduce the State's GHG emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, say it will strengthen California's economy by making the State a world leader in environmental technology exports. Although the EPRI report does not directly rebut this opinion, it suggests that costs will be significant, and will "increase more rapidly over time than do the emission reductions." A key finding: 
    Although policies differ in cost per ton of greenhouse gas (GHG)...
  • Judge's Multi-Million Dollar Pants Suit Goes to Trial

    June 13, 2007
    Roy Pearson, a Washington, D.C. administrative law judge, is suing his drycleaners for $54 million for losing his pants and posting signs saying "satisfaction guaranteed." His ridiculous lawsuit is now being tried in the D.C. Superior Court, where it has become a media spectacle, with news crews from at least five countries observing the trial. The dysfunctional Washington, D.C. government apparently refuses to remove Pearson from his position as judge, despite his bizarre suit.  It refuses to remove him despite the fact that judges are supposed to exercise good judgment, and the fact...
  • Goodbye Antioch!

    June 13, 2007
    Antioch College announced yesterday that it would close its main undergraduate campus. Good riddance. Although the college had started a far-flung network of programs for adults and non-traditional students, undergraduate enrollment had dwindled to only about 300. The college, always on the far, far Left, went way overboard in its pursuit of political purity. Most infamously, it introduced a sexual offense prevention policy that, no joke, requires specific permission for "each new level of sexual activity." (The same policy, taken literally, would also ban sending a sexy e-mail that the recipient didn't like and has a page about its development with the legend "herstory.") Although I understand that the college once...


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