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OpenMarket: July 2007

  • Virtual Second Life = Libertarianism Is a Failure ??

    July 6, 2007
    Get this: Because people behave badly or irratically in a virtual internet world, Second Life, libertarianism in the real world would be a hopeless flop. The logic is astounding, no? It's what Michael Gerson at the Council on Foreign Relations opines today in a Washington Post op-ed.
    Libertarians hold to a theory of "spontaneous order"—that society should be the product of uncoordinated human choices instead of human design. Well, Second Life has plenty of spontaneity, and not much genuine order. This experiment suggests that a world that is only a market is not a utopia. It more closely resembles a seedy, derelict carnival...
    Gerson seems not to realize that Second Life and other virtual communities are fantasy worlds—the consequences of fantasy...
  • What Insight Katrina Lends to the International Aid Industry

    July 6, 2007
    Over the last half century, the developed world has spent almost $2.5 trillion to develop the less developed world. By any accounting, that spending was all for naught, as no correlation, much less causal link, has been established between aid inflows and economic progress. In fact, during an especially intense period of assistance, roughly the 1980s and 90s, continental Africa's economy actually contracted. Despite evident failure, the money flows forth still, to the tune of about $100 billion a year. And if the Bonos of the world have their way, that sum will increase. More starkly than any academic or professional analysis of foreign aid's success, the ongoing situation along America's Gulf Coast demonstrates why...
  • Lemonade Stands and the Free Market

    July 6, 2007
    It's a rite of passage for any kid, to set up a lemonade stand on your street corner and hawk cups of the cold, sweet drink during the long, hot summer months. It's also a symbol of our free market system, something Trader Joe's recognizes in a new commercial it's airing. The grocery store, which has been called the "Grateful Dead of supermarkets," touts our free market system in the commercial for allowing kids to run lemonade stands and explains how Trader Joe's can help them accomplish their summer dream (by offering the lemonade kids can sell of course). Unfortunately, I can't link to the commercial here because the company, known for its secrecy, has a "no blog" policy. Whatever that means. But hey, it's nice to hear the benefits of a free market talked about once in awhile.
  • Live Earth: Global warming has "jumped the shark"

    July 5, 2007
    This weekend, rock stars will jet around the world, cars and buses will clog traffic, and elaborate sound stages will be set up to burn massive amounts of fuel to send the message to fans at home that they better conserve their energy or face the allegedly dire threat of global warming. The Live Earth concerts, which start this Saturday, July 7, are also one last chance for Baby Boomers to relive the "flower power" activism of the '60s. In a recent interview in Rolling Stone, former Vice President Al Gore invoked music icon Bob Dylan to promote the importance of these concerts. Citing Dylan's '60 anthem "The Times They Are A-Changin'". Gore rambled: "What's the...
  • Support for Big Government Grows

    July 5, 2007
    The Pew Center finds that a growing percentage of Americans believe that "government should have the responsibility to take care of those who can't take care of themselves." People are also becoming more pro-government on a wide variety of issues and, more interestingly, less confident of the American people's own judgment. And the young are the most pro-government of all. Looks like we're headed for a period of ever-growing government.
  • More Foreign Lawsuits Against Tobacco Companies

    July 5, 2007
    Back in 1998, in the Master Settlement Agreement, the big tobacco companies agreed to pay 46 states billions of dollars in perpetuity, supposedly to defray states' health care costs. In exchange, the states passed laws protecting big tobacco companies against price competition from their smaller rivals, enabling them to pass on the costs of the settlement to consumers. The billions paid out under the Master Settlement inspired foreign countries to get into the act, suing the tobacco companies in hopes of receiving billions of dollars of their own. Nigerian states are now suing the tobacco companies for roughly $30 billion. Leading the pack is the northern Nigerian state of Kano, which claims that the tobacco companies...
  • This does not compute

    July 5, 2007
    Gov. Rendell of PA is indignant because GOP legislators are calling his proposed "system benefits charge" or "fee" on electricity a TAX. The proposed "fee" would place a $0.0005 surcharge on electricity rates. The proceeds would create an $850 million "Energy Independence Fund" to invest in conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. Rendell predicts the Fund would save Pennsylvanians $1 billion a year over ten years. This smells fishy. First of all, the very title of the fund is false advertising. "Energy independence" is a dumb idea even when applied to the transportation fuels sector, but it has no intelligible meaning when applied to electric power generation. Consider that half of our electricity is generated from coal, and America--not Saudi Arabia--is the...
  • Could it happen here? Probably not.

    July 5, 2007
    Recent media reports indicate that some the leading suspects in the recently attempted terror attacks against the U.K. were doctors working for the National Health Service. Although some of the 9/11 plotters had significant formal education (leader Mohamed Atta had studied architecture) all had failed in attempts to enter high-status professions. It's easy to speculate that their resentment over this helped feed their desire to commit acts of terror. But the alleged U.K. plotters were DOCTORS with JOBS. Best as I understand, any doctor who can get a job offer in the U.S. can come. Although our immigration bureaucracy does everything it can to drive them away, our laws still do a pretty good job welcoming the well-educated...
  • Racial Set-Asides Cost D.C. Taxpayers

    July 5, 2007
    Washington, D.C. has a minority set-aside program that results in taxpayers of all races paying hundreds of millions of dollars more in taxes to pay for low-quality goods and services. Jonetta Rose Barras has a column in today's Washington Examiner about how affirmative-action contractors receive enormous sums for shoddy work. An earlier version of the minority set-aside program was struck down by the federal courts in O'Donnell Construction Co. v. District of Columbia, 963 F.2d 420 (D.C. Cir. 1992). The current version of the program sounds no better. It is a mystery that no one is challenging it. George Will has a column today in the Washington Post on the Supreme Court ruling against the use...
  • Price signals don't lie

    July 3, 2007
    And today in Nigeria they bring some needed, and rare, good news in an otherwise dismal situation:
    The price of machetes has halved in parts of Nigeria since the end of general elections in April because demand from thugs sponsored by politicians has subsided, the state-owned News Agency of Nigeria reported.
    When things get so bad that political violence becomes routine, any news of its reduction -- however qualified -- is welcome.

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