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OpenMarket: December 2007

  • Ninjas are Lame

    December 5, 2007
    Earlier this year, CEI recognized Talk Like a Pirate Day. Today, December 5, many will mark The Day of the Ninja. For reasons I described here pirates do have some libertarian appeal. Ninjas -- who frankly, are a lot more important in modern pop culture than they ever were in Japan -- served their liege lords (usually Daimyos) as trained spies and, sometimes, assassins. Since the feudal system which ninjas helped to uphold has much in common with modern concepts of "corporate social responsibility," and involved heavy redistributive taxation, I think that there's a good reason for libertarians to reject ninjas and all for which they stand. Also, of course, if a pirate and a ninja were to get into a fight, the pirate...
  • Mortgage Bailout Unjust

    December 5, 2007
    The Washington Times has an editorial today, "No Bailout," explaining why the Treasury Secretary's plan to freeze mortgage interest rates for people who borrowed more than they could afford is unjust. As the Times points out, if people can't afford their monthly mortgage payment, and want it reduced, then they should be willing to take out a longer term mortgage (say, 40 years) to offset that lower monthly payment, rather than just getting a cut in their interest rate at the expense of investors and taxpayers. Martin Feldstein, former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, explains in The Wall Street Journal...
  • Snowballing Litigation

    December 5, 2007
    As the first significant snowfall blankets the Washington, D.C. area, a word of warning: Be careful at whom you aim any snowballs. Hit the wrong person and you may end up with a lawsuit on your hands. And in D.C., where you can't swing a dead cat (or launch an icy projectile) without hitting a lawyer, the risk is especially high.
  • Holman Jenkins on "global warmism"

    December 5, 2007
    Holman Jenkins, in his Wall Street Journal column today, coins a new term, "global warmism," to describe the blind fealty which climate alarmism seems to command in certain circles, within which Al Gore is revered these days.
    How this [Nobel Peace Prize] honor has befallen the former Veep could perhaps be explained by another Nobel, awarded in 2002 to Daniel Kahneman for work he and the late Amos Tversky did on "availability bias," roughly the human propensity to judge the validity of a proposition by how easily it comes to mind. Their insight has been fruitful and multiplied: "Availability cascade" has been coined for the way a proposition can become irresistible simply by the media repeating it; "informational cascade" for the tendency to replace our beliefs with the crowd's beliefs;...
  • Marrying to Fight Global Warming

    December 5, 2007
    What to do about global warming? The usual ideologues and activists are busy at the latest international conclave in Bali. Needless to say, there are worse places where the U.N. could host a meeting dedicated to saving the environment. The Indonesian government has come up with a unique program: People can help ameliorate global warming by getting married. Reports the BBC:
    State-run Antara news agency reported that couples will have to supply seedlings or pay 25,000 rupiah ($3, £1.30) under the compulsory scheme. Couples applying for a divorce face a higher charge of 25 seedlings or over 40,000 rupiah ($4.25,£2). District officials say the programme is aimed at combating global warming. Couples will be expected to hand over the seedlings or cash to the person officiating at their wedding...
  • Dying by the FDA's Rules

    December 4, 2007
    For patients dying from a terminal illnesses, sometimes the only comfort they have is being able to choose the manner in which they ‘check out'. A variety of treatments mean that patients can decide the best course of action, medically and psychologically for themselves and their families. They get to decide, that is, unless regulation gets in the way. As reported today, the FDA is hinting that it will not approve the drug Avastin for use in breast cancer patients (currently approved for colon and lung cancer). Avastin is used for people with metastatic cancer—cancer that is spreading. While it did not appear to significantly lengthen the lives of those in the trial, it did double the time they had before the cancer spread or got worse. But there are side-effects including heart problems, bowel perforation, and...
  • Don't use electricity...or candles

    December 4, 2007
    The "Green Hanukkia" campaign is urging Jews to burn fewer candles this Hanukka to help the environment, since--yep--candles spew carbon dioxide (15 grams!). But who knows, maybe a little extra darkness will help alleviate that bad-for-the-environment divorce rate referred to here on OpenMarket by my colleagues. We all obviously need to get our priorities straight.
  • The Economics of Divorce

    December 4, 2007
    I agree with most, but not all, of what Eli has to say below in his thoughtful post about the costs of divorce, such as the massive harm it does to children. (His post was provoked by a study that said divorce hurts the environment, by resulting in two households using utilities rather than just one). But I don't agree with his suggestion that women "particularly" fare worse than men in divorce. In fact, studies that claim that men fare better economically then women in a divorce invariably contain massive design flaws, and the most famous such statistic has since been repudiated by its own author...
  • Senate approves Peru Free Trade Agreement

    December 4, 2007
    The Senate shortly before 3 p.m. today voted 77-18 in favor of the U.S. Peru Free Trade Agreement. Earlier today and yesterday the Senate was debating the trade pact (HR 3688). On the floor, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) in his remarks blamed trade for just about every job loss over the past decade. He said that the citizenry doesn't want free trade and the Peru pact should be voted down. Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) spoke in support of the Peru FTA. He lauded the leadership for its Bipartisan Trade Deal, which requires all trade agreements to include provisions for enforceable labor and environmental standards. The Peru pact is the first FTA to include those provisions. He also noted that 90 percent of Peruvian goods already enter the U.S. duty-free, and that this agreement opens the Peru market to U.S. exports. Baucus also said that the Peru agreement is only one step in the process...
  • WTO and fisheries: A small move toward property rights approaches

    December 4, 2007

    The World Trade Organization on November 30 published texts of proposed rules to prohibit some of the worst subsidies on fisheries, which provide incentives for fishing fleets to overfish the ocean commons. What's encouraging is that the proposals show some movement toward property rights approaches to fisheries.

    The text was prepared by the chair of the WTO's Negotiating Group on Rules, Guillermo Valles Galmés of Uruguay and was distributed to all members. The rules text will be used as the basis of negotiations not just on fisheries subsidies, but on anti-dumping and subsidies and countervailing measures.

    The proposals prohibit an array of fisheries subsidies, including subsidies for the construction and repair of fishing vessels used for wild marine capture, for operating costs...

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