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OpenMarket: September 2007

  • Indulgences for the Rich and Famous?

    September 30, 2007
    In an appendix titled “What You Can Do” found in their latest book — This Moment on Earth — Senator John Kerry and wife Theresa Heinz Kerry call on their readers to make sacrifices that will reduce mankind's “environmental footprint.”  Like Al Gore, however, they take a pass.  After all, the rich can afford to buy what amounts to indulgences: “Those of us in politics, traveling at times in motorcades, flying on private planes on occasion, you name it…now buy carbon offsets by making a donation to an organization that specializes in carbon neutrality,” they explain. The idea that somehow the lifestyles of the rich and famous can buy their morality is really absurd. In fact, the entire concept of offsetting one's personal moral precepts is offensive, especially when those people taking the offsets want to regulate away other people's freedoms. ...
  • At FCC, Internet Connect to You!

    September 28, 2007
    Yakov Smirnoff's short lived fame died off with the Soviet Union. Little did he know, his unique style of comedy could have lived on indefinitely by mocking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In a real-life example of Mises' theory of interventionism, where the effects of one bad regulation is the catalyst for more bad regulation, the FCC is advocating additional price controls for dedicated line services. Of course, dedicated line services are only supplied by FCC backed Baby Bells, which have regional monopolies of these services. Hmmmm, I seem to remember from Microeconomics 101 that monopolies tend to raise price... Instead of more price controls and regulations, why doesn't the FCC just let any firm compete? Proponents of regulation...
  • A Tragic Loss to Our Friends at NTU and to All of Us

    September 28, 2007
    John Berthoud died -- suddenly and unexpectedly. Our span is always too short but John's was far shorter than all of us had hoped. John was a blend of movement leader, creative advocate of economic liberty, and friend. Under his leadership, NTU had become one of the consistent and effective allies of the movement and his death weakens us all. But he was also a friend and wonderful adocate to all seeking allies in the multiple battles that must be fought against those seeking to expand the power of the state. He insisted and readily understood the reasons why NTU support would be both consistent with those of taxpayers and all the peoples of the world and quickly put his organization in support. The oft quoted refrain of John Donne is fully applicable to his death.
    No man is an island, Entire of itself. Each is a piece of the continent, A part of the main. If a...
  • FDA Tobacco Regulation Bill Enriches Lobbyists

    September 28, 2007
    A lobbying firm has been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, including $160,000 in the first half of 2007, to lobby for the FDA tobacco regulation bill, by Altria (Philip Morris), the nation's largest tobacco company. The bill supposedly seeks to protect the public health, but a news story notes that the true motivation behind the FDA tobacco regulation bill may be a big company's desire to kill off its smaller competitors. "Altria, the largest U.S. tobacco company, is better positioned to operate under regulation than competitors," it observes. An editorial in a campus newspaper describes how the FDA...
  • SCHIP Program: Taxes, Deficits Increase

    September 28, 2007
    The Wall Street Journal has an editorial today on the SCHIP health-care bill, which would expand health care coverage for children, and even some childless adults, in households making up to $82,600 per year. The phony accounting by the bill's sponsors makes it sound like it can be funded with an increase in federal cigarette taxes, but in fact, those increased taxes won't be sufficient to pay for the program's increased costs. (If you can't access the editorial, a few of its highlights are summarized here). The bill has passed by a veto-proof margin in the Senate, but passed by a smaller majority in the House. The bill's perverse incentives and the...
  • Should Amazon be able to patent 1-Click ordering?

    September 28, 2007
  • Can We Trust James Woolsey?

    September 28, 2007
    Ex-CIA Director James Woolsey is a proponent of ethanol because he believes it can help make the United States more energy independent. Never mind that the ethanol mandate that the Senate passed last summer would have decreased oil imports by only 7%, at a cost to the taxpayer of $74/barrel “saved.” And for the purpose of this conversation, I will make only passing mention of fact that global demand for ethanol has the potential to destabilize developing countries. Suffice to say, there is a small pro againt many big cons with respect to the argument that ethanol is good for national security. No, what I want to discuss is James Woolsey's response to a question from...
  • Things the First Amendment Doesn't Say

    September 28, 2007
    The Washington Post carries a story about a minor dust-up between Naral Pro-Choice America and Verizon. Naral wanted to use Verizon's mobile network to distribute a series of pro-choice text messages and Verizon said no to the group's request before reversing itself. Personally, I think that Verizon was awfully silly to deny any group the use of its network: more users equal more money. (And, of course, given how controversial abortion is, I can't imagine that any large private company does well to take a strong position on it either way.) So, on the initial dispute, I tend to think that Naral was right and Verizon wrong. What I find interesting is what Naral president Nancy Keenan said about the whole issue: "This is where you have a corporation that is censoring free speech....
  • Double Jeopardy for Google DoubleClick Deal

    September 27, 2007

    Google's bid to purchase the Internet advertising firm DoubleClick was scrutinized today in hearings by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill), Chairman of the Congressional Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection and by Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wi), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights. Rush & Kohl have been critical of the proposed $3.1 billion acquisition which is still subject to FTC approval.

    Part of what makes this deal complicated is the somewhat sketchy history of DoubleClick itself. Its ill fated “intelligent” targeting service for advertisers raised concerns about online privacy. DoubleClick's new service was controversial because it supposedly used online and offline...

  • Time to Reform the FCC

    September 27, 2007
    Minor abuses at the FCC, such as the one mentioned in my last post, warrant at least investigating how the FCC assesses fines, if not looking for ways to reform the FCC's governance of broadcasting. But when we look at the incredible distortion created by the central planning of broadcast spectrum the case of dramatic and rapid reform becomes very clear. More specifically, the FCC is now placing caveats on the 700Mhz auction--perverting the one reform, auctions, that have worked to replace bureaucratic preference with market forces. The XM/Sirius Satellite radio merger is also a symptom of the disease of FCC regulation. Satellite spacing requirements, spectrum allocation, and the inability for terrestrial firms to sell their spectrum assets and move skyward are all standing in the way of more competition in satellite markets.

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