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OpenMarket: August 2007

  • Happy Labor Day, y'all

    August 31, 2007
    The Washington Examiner editorializes further today in anticipation of Labor Day, this time on the efforts by Democrats in Congress to cut the buget of the Department of Labor's Office of Labor Management Standards. Now, Democrats wanting to cut a government agency's budget is a story that should attract man-bites-dog attention, so what's the catch? This is the agency that enforces disclosure requirements for union finances.
    Labor Secretary Elaine Chao made a priority of finally putting teeth into the 1959 Landrum-Griffin Act, which required that unions make public credible information concerning how they spend their money, most of which comes from members' dues. Until Bush and Chao came along, however...
  • Chinaphobia?

    August 31, 2007
    With all the hype about recalls of Chinese toys, jewelry, and other children's items, consumers — especially parents — in the West are understandably concerned if not downright fearful of Chinese goods. Yet the risks don't match the hype as Brendan O'Neill of Spiked points out very well. So what drives the extreme response? O'Neill offers some thought provoking perspectives on other forces that may be at play. He notes:
    Look behind the headlines and it seems that, yes, some toys and various other products from China fall short of tough Western safety standards, but they are far from lethal. They're not even particularly toxic. Instead, the ‘toxic toys' drama has become a rather poisonous metaphor for contemporary Western fears of China, of its apparently rapacious economic growth and its...
  • Bush mortgage plan -- the good, the bad, and the neutral

    August 31, 2007
    Perhaps wanting to preempt Congress before it returns next Tuesday, President Bush offered his own plan to deal with troubles in the housing market. The plan wisely avoided a paternalistic "suitability" standard such as that proposed by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), which would treat borrowers almost like children and make lenders virtually guarantee that loans could be afforded. As I have noted, such an approach would make lenders overcautious and deny loans to anyone who had a slight blemish on his credit record. This approach would result in reduced opportunities for families to better their economic circumstances and would also worsen housing woes by making the market less liquid for buyers and sellers, due to the reduction of financing...
  • A subprime bailout or not?

    August 31, 2007
    This morning both Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and President George W. Bush addressed the subprime lending problems and what the government would and would not be doing. Both said it's not the role of the government to bail out speculators and investors who made imprudent decisions, but . . . Bernanke, in a speech delivered at the Economic Symposium of the FRB of Kansas City in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, said that the Fed “stands ready to take additional actions as needed to provide liquidity and promote the orderly functioning of markets.” He said:
    It is not the responsibility of the Federal Reserve--nor would it be appropriate--to protect lenders and investors from the consequences of their financial decisions. But developments in financial...
  • Basking in the Reflected Glory: Logomasini in the New York Sun

    August 31, 2007
    Julie Satow of the New York Sun does a great job today profiling our very own Angela Logomasini's new study on the costs of environmental regulation:
    Any assumption that the environmental lobby has been fighting an uphill battle to implement important regulations belies the facts, a new study has found. In fact, environmental regulations have grown at an exponential pace, and their cost to the federal government is second only to that of homeland security regulations. The report, by the think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute, said the federal government spent $6 billion in 2006 on the development and implementation of environmental regulations and the effort to ensure compliance, an increase of 7,372% since 1960. Environmental spending...
  • OFC Debate to Begin Again

    August 31, 2007
    With Tim Johnson, the lead sponsor of the Optional Federal Charter for insurance companies back in the U.S. Senate next week, it's likely that the debate over the bill will heat up. The proposal, which I've written about here, would let insurance companies do what banks have done since the Civil War and organize themselves under federal rather than state laws. I'm hardly wild about creating a new federal bureaucracy but, in my judgment, adding an infinitesimal amount to an already overgrown government is a small price to pay for a system that would promote competition between regulators and free the economy from government-set insurance prices. Ultimately, however, I see this debate as more than a fight about the nature of insurance regulation alone. We're clearly entering into a phase where government regulation is becoming more...
  • Problems of models and scientific prediction -- a physicist heretic

    August 30, 2007
    Russell Roberts at CafeHayek posted excerpts from Freeman Dyson's article “Heretical thoughts about science and society.” Dyson, professor of physics at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study, lays out cogent and wonderfully reasoned heretical thoughts about global warming. Read the whole article. It's brilliant. Here's a sample:
    My first heresy says that all the fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated. Here I am opposing the holy brotherhood of climate model experts and the crowd of deluded citizens who believe the numbers predicted by the computer models. Of course, they say, I have no degree in meteorology and I am therefore not qualified to speak. But I have studied the climate models and I know what they can do. The models solve the equations...
  • Is reincarnation too important to leave to the market?

    August 30, 2007
    Communist China's attempts to suppress Tibetan Buddhism are well known in the West, where it's created a backlash in the form of the "Free Tibet" movement, so Chinese excesses in seeking to diminish the influence of the Dalai Lama aren't surprising. But now the Beijing government is going where no totalitarian state has gone before. Reports Newsweek:
    In one of history's more absurd acts of totalitarianism, China has banned Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnating without government permission...the law, which goes into effect next month and strictly stipulates the procedures by which one is to reincarnate, is "an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation."
    This would allow Beijing to claim authority to choose the next Dalai Lama, in the hopes of coopting Tibetan...
  • FDA Tobacco Regulation Bill Violates Treaty, Indonesia Says

    August 30, 2007
    Indonesia is protesting that the bill to subject the tobacco industry to FDA regulation would violate an international trade treaty. The Jakarta Post reports that the Indonesian government objects to the fact that the bill bans clove cigarettes, which Indonesia produces, while permitting menthol cigarettes. It says that the differential treatment is discriminatory and not justified by health concerns, and thus violates the World Trade Organization Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Safeguards. More discussion of the FDA tobacco regulation bill can be found here,...
  • Big Labor [hearts] Big Government

    August 30, 2007
    Government is the only area in which unionization is growing in America. Today's DC Examiner features an editorial that explains one reason why:
    It's a lot easier to extract big raises and juicier benefits from politicians bidding for votes among politically active bureaucrats, who, unlike the private sector, don't have to worry about the bottom line.
    Yet it's worse than that, because the politicians and agency administrators who negotiate with government employees aren't paying government workers out of their own money. In the traditional collective bargaining model, employers and employees negotiate to extract the most for less, but in government employment, "bargaining" is nigh impossible when the two sides to the negotiations have the same objective in mind: to...


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