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OpenMarket: November 2007

  • Educational Monopoly Versus Educational Choice

    November 15, 2007
    In today's educational monopoly, it seems that even progress can have counterproductive consequences. For instance, the growth of public charter schools, which appear to deliver an improved education, are creating unfair competition with Catholic schools. The former are free to users, while the latter charge tuition. Explains Matthew Ladner of the Goldwater Institute:
    The Education Next article “Can Catholic Schools Be Saved?” asks the provocative question: Will charter schools finish off inner city Catholic private schools? Preliminary evidence suggests that charter schools are actually threatening to help close inner city Catholic schools. A RAND Corporation study focusing on the impact of charter schools in Michigan found that...
  • Anti-choice mortgage bill on the House floor

    November 15, 2007
    Yesterday I had an article in National Review Online analyzing Rep. Barney Frank's answer to subprime woes. As I write, Frank's "Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act," H.R. 3915, is on the House floor today. It's almost certain to pass; the only question is how many Republicans will vote with Frank. The vote doesn't guarantee ultimate passage of anything like this legislation, as the Senate counterpart to Frank's House Financial Service Committee has yet to put together a bill. Still, with the constant bombardment of headlines about all the issues rolled into the "subprime meltdown," there could very well be a legislative stampede that would make matters worse -- and cause us to lose a little bit more of our freedoms. As I say in the NRO piece, the terminology of some of the...
  • ENDA vs. Free Speech

    November 15, 2007
    Earlier, I discussed ENDA, a bill passed by the House of Representatives that would ban most employers from engaging in sexual orientation discrimination. While well-intended, it could lead to very costly lawsuits against employers for things their employees say, even if the employer itself has no discriminatory bias. The bill would have little impact on most firms' hiring decisions, since companies typically do not hire based on sexual orientation (although the military and churches, which are exempt from ENDA, sometimes do).
  • Living Like a King at the Royal Mail

    November 14, 2007
    Nicole Williams of the State Policy Network passes on an announcement today (via the TaxPayers' Alliance) on the salaries of public sector employees in the UK. Conclusion - it's a good time to be a civil servant. If you're at the top of the list, life is especially good. Take Adam Crozier, the fellow in charge of the British postal system. His annual salary, at current exchange rates, clocks in at a little over $2.5 million. For that kind of money, I hope our British cousins don't have the same opinion of their government postal service that most Americans do of our own. Read more about the Public Sector Rich List 2007 here.
  • Your DC Metro Government at Work

    November 14, 2007
    The local transit authority for the Washington, D.C. area - known to most residents simply as "Metro" - is having problems getting feedback from riders on a proposed rate increase. It's not that locals don't have strong feelings about the plan; on the contrary, bus and rails riders are quite unhappy. It seems the main problem so far has to do with holding public meetings at remote suburban locations with no bus or rail service. So I guess they're happy to hear from car owners who also happen to use Metro buses and trains occasionally, but are less interested in listening to anyone who actually depends on the system to get where they're going. Students of American history will remember that such inconveniently scheduled government meetings are...
  • Judge Who Lost Pants and Sued for $54 Million Now Loses Job

    November 14, 2007
    As I earlier anticipated, the Washington, D.C., administrative law judge who sued for $54 million after losing his pants has now lost his job. I publicly urged the city government to fire him for bringing his ridiculous suit in the Washington Times. Roy Pearson sued his dry cleaners for allegedly losing his pants and not taking down signs that say “satisfaction guaranteed.” He lost his lawsuit at trial, but D.C.'s “consumer” laws provide such big damages if...
  • The Real GM Food Scandal

    November 14, 2007
    Author Dick Taverne has the cover story in this month's issue of Prospect, in which he takes on the unwarranted negative reputation GM foods have acquired in Britain and Europe. Not only are GM foods safe, he reminds us, but they have the potential to save millions of lives:
    Seldom has public perception been more out of line with the facts. The public in Britain and Europe seems unaware of the astonishing success of GM crops in the rest of the world. No new agricultural technology in recent times has spread faster and more widely. Only a decade after their commercial introduction, GM crops are now cultivated in 22 countries on over 100m hectares (an area more than four times the size of Britain) by over 10m farmers, of whom 9m are resource-poor farmers in developing countries, mainly...
  • Business models: opportunistic vs. fixed-goal

    November 14, 2007

    Intriguing book review today in the Wall Street Journal by William Easterly. He discusses William Duggan's new book, Strategic Intuition, which argues that the business school model of building leaders by having them focus on fixed goals has the wrong end of the stick. Instead, he argues that most innovations occur through having the flexibility to take advantage of opportunities that arise.

    Easterly also notes that Duggan compares this opportunistic business model to governments' fixed-...

  • Where are the Food Police When We Need Them?

    November 14, 2007
    Another study reports on the costs of obesity. Just dropping down to European levels would save $100 billion in extra medical costs. Reports Nurse.com:
    Older Americans are significantly more likely than Europeans to be diagnosed with and treated for chronic diseases, the journal Health Affairs found in an online study. Obesity and smoking were found to be major factors. If the United States could bring its obesity rates in line with Europe's, which would be a decrease from 33.1% to 17.1%, it could save at least $100 billion a year in healthcare costs, according to Kenneth Thorpe, PhD, study author and chairman of Emory University's Department of Health Policy and Management.
    Isn't it time to get serious about the obesity crisis? Since socializing health...
  • Exposing Health Care Myths

    November 14, 2007
    Critics of the U.S. health care system have a litany of complaints. Some are true, but highly misleading. N. Gregory Mankiw takes on three of the latter in a recent New York Times piece. For instance, he observes:
    Some 47 million Americans do not have health insurance. This number from the Census Bureau is often cited as evidence that the health system is failing for many American families. Yet by masking tremendous heterogeneity in personal circumstances, the figure exaggerates the magnitude of the problem. To start with, the 47 million includes about 10 million residents who...

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