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OpenMarket: December 2007

  • Feds to Patients: Drop Dead to Prevent "Unauthorized Experiment"

    December 31, 2007
    A program in Michigan that saved 1500 lives over 18 months by maintaining checklists on patient care to prevent hospital infections has been shut down by the federal government.  The federal Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) defines the concept of a medical "experiment" so broadly that keeping tabs on patient care through checklists is deemed an "experiment" that requires express permission in advance from patients and physicians.  To OHRP, it is better that patients die than that they be subjected to an "experiment" and that they and their physicians fill out elaborate forms after receiving extensive disclosures. Dr. Atul...
  • Penny-Wise, Pound-Foolish: D.C. Schools Waste Millions

    December 31, 2007
    The Washington, D.C. school system recently spent tens of millions of dollars to buy sophisticated new boilers to heat the schools.  Then it allowed them to break down because it wouldn't spend a mere $100,000 per year maintaining them.  It wouldn't do the most basic things to keep them from deteriorating, like treating water to remove mineral deposits that build up in (and ultimately destroy) boilers.  Now, it is spending more than $10 million per year to replace new boilers that are being destroyed through neglect. It's elementary knowledge to almost every resident of the Washington, D.C. area that the region has hard water that contains minerals, so certain appliances need distilled or treated water to operate effectively.  That's why I buy distilled water to use in the baby bottle...
  • Why Not a National Health Insurance Market?

    December 31, 2007
    Trying to "fix" health care is not easy, since it's a bizarre amalgam of private provision of insurance and public spending and regulation, completely distorted by the counterproductive incentives of pervasive third-party payment. But one very simple step would be to simply have a national market in health insurance. Explains Merrill Mathews of the Council for Affordable Health Insurance in The Wall Street Journal (subscription required):
    Why can't people living in New Jersey buy health insurance available to residents of, say, Pennsylvania? Rep. John Shadegg, an Arizona Republican, thinks they should -- and today will reintroduce legislation to make that possible. The Health Care Choice Act would allow residents in one state to buy health insurance that is available in and...
  • Candles are next to be banned

    December 28, 2007
    In his Examiner column today, Tim Carney -- with a nod to Bastiat -- takes the company founded by Thomas Edison to task for eschewing innovation in favor of political rent seeking:
    Had Thomas Edison employed the same business strategy as his 21st-Century heirs at General Electric, he would have lobbied Congress to outlaw the candle in 1879 when he perfected and patented the light bulb. He surely could have masked his self-interested lobbying in some public interest claim, such as fire...
  • The Biggest News of the Year

    December 28, 2007
    According to Bill McKibben in an op-ed in The Washington Post, the biggest news of the year is that Jim Hansen has spoken. According to Hansen, who has risen in recent years from astronomer to wizard and now to high priest of a doomsday cult, the safe level for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can be no more than 350 parts per million.  So since it's now 380 or 390 ppm, we're already doomed and can stop worrying about it. Oh, no, sorry, we can't stop worrying about it. True, we're just about cooked (like Hansel and Gretel in the oven), but there's still barely time to save life on Earth if we turn off the lights and throw away the car keys this instant. The alternative, I guess, is to party now for tomorrow we die. Hmm, I can't decide. What if there's just a tiny chance that...
  • No news from the eastern GMO front

    December 28, 2007
    There is nothing new in a New York Times story about the GMO standoff in Europe. It is a political standoff, caused by activists who claim to represents consumers. Consumers, on the other hand, have shown that they don't really give a damn when it comes to selecting one or the other in the store. Dr. Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes, of the University of Missouri-Columbia, and his team have since replicated these surprising results in China. The science is fairly settled at this point, and 11 years of experience with commercial production since them molecular plant breeding method was presented to the research community 35 years ago has given us a fairly good record to show that this breeding method has the same level of risk as other breeding methods we use for...
  • Department of the Obvious

    December 28, 2007
    A new British government report has concluded that...wait...wait...wait.. getting rid of bad teachers will improve schools. Wow. I'm amazed.
  • No holiday cheer in Rosia Montana

    December 28, 2007
    Yule never came to Rosia Montana, Romania, this year. With the help of activists such as billionaire George Soros and British actress Vanessa Redgrave, it seems that Western European activists has prevented an environmental cleanup and a sustainable livelihood for the 4,000 people who live there. Like getting a lump of coal, the poor people of Rosia Montana had their dreams for improved quality of life and prosperity for their village crushed. They will have to continue to live with no electricity, go to the bathroom in drafty sheds in their yards, and scrounge a meager living out of foraging for food in the polluted forest that Gabriel Resources wanted to pay to clean up. It is hard to mount a publicity campaign to match Greenpeace et al. when you...
  • Darfur: Starving for Freedom

    December 28, 2007
    Humanitarians are perplexed by the fact that, despite their hard work and the fact that it's the epicenter of the world's largest aid effort, starvation in Darfur is increasing at a rapid pace. As reported by The New York Times today, malnutrition among children in the region jumped this year to over 16 percent, a 3 percent increase from last year.
    Dr. Rigal said he was not exactly sure why child malnutrition rates were rising. But he cited more insecurity, restricted access for relief workers and a fresh round of displacements because of tribal fighting. “There are many hypotheses,” he said.
    What most humanitarians either do not understand, or decline to address, is that starvation is not caused by lack of money or even lack of food -- therefore, no amount of either will...
  • RIP Benazir Bhutto

    December 28, 2007
    Benazir Bhutto, who was murdered in a politically-motivated suicide attack, was the closest the Islamic world has yet got to a secular free-marketeer as a leader. Sadly, she dressed that in socialist rhetoric and demagoguery, and instituted authoritarian policies towards the press and judiciary that helped contribute to her downfall in the 1990s. The Telegraph's commendably objective obituary is here. After her ineffective first premiership, many forget that her second tenure was almost Thatcherite:
    Her tight monetary policy produced a dramatic reduction in the budget deficit, pulling the country's economy back from the brink of collapse, and earning it a clean bill of health from the IMF and World Bank.
    The...

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