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OpenMarket: May 2008

  • Greenhouse Sinners Repent!

    May 5, 2008
    Airplanes emit CO2.  Ergo people shouldn't fly.  To do otherwise is, well, sinful in the view of some people  Reports ABC News:
    Moral authorities of varied stripes have weighed in. In 2006, London's Anglican Bishop John Chartres said flying abroad to vacation is a "symptom of sin" because it ignores "an overriding imperative to walk more lightly upon the earth." Environmentalists have also framed flying as a moral issue since it allegedly causes harm in pursuit of unnecessary ends. "You can be an environmental saint — drive a hybrid car, recycle, conserve your water — and if you take one air flight, it actually blows your carbon budget right out of the water," says Elle Morrell, director of a green-lifestyle program at the Australian Conservation Foundation. One round-trip flight from...
  • Suing Over What Your Co-Workers Listen To

    May 2, 2008
    Should you be able to sue your employer because your co-workers listen to raunchy radio programs?  The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals' decision in Reeves v. C.H. Robinson Worldwide says you should, under the dubious theory that it is "sexual harassment" that's "based on" your sex.  U.C.L.A. Law Professor Eugene Volokh criticizes the decision on First Amendment grounds, while I criticize the decision as being inconsistent with the language of the discrimination laws and the Eleventh Circuit's own past rulings, and a threat to the media and freedom of the press in the long run.  Courts frequently engage in ...
  • A Former British Commie Says Yes to Profit in Health Care

    May 2, 2008
    Leave it to a Brit who used to be a communist to support relying on the profit motive to improve health care.  Writing in the Guardian, Richard Smith argues
    Profit is a filthy word for many health campaigners. It evokes fears of the rich getting better treatment than the poor and of shareholders fattening themselves on money that should have gone to sick children. Sadly, this is a wholly erroneous and very English way of thinking - driven, I believe, by the Romantic poets (better hills than profits) and snobbery (it's people in trade who care about profits). The reality is that profit benefits health care just as it does all other enterprises. I was once secretary of the Greenwich Young Communist League and deplored profits, although I knew nothing about economics....
  • Eat a Kangaroo to Save the Environment?

    May 2, 2008
    A story in the Wall Street Journal suggests it is time to once again eat kangaroos, to protect the environment, and cope with Kangaroo overpopulation problems.  "Greenpeace has recommended that Australians substitute kangaroo meat for consumption of other red meats to reduce land clearing and the release of methane gas from flatulent cattle and sheep.  Kangaroo meat is a sought-after meal in Australian restaurants and charcuteries. Recipes like kangaroo escalopes with spinach and anchovy butter, kangaroo tail soup, or kangaroo strip loin pan roasted on balsamic mash are not unusual on the menus of fine restaurants." Of course, as Doug Bandow noted earlier today, eating animals can also save endangered species by giving...
  • Something is Happening in Austria

    May 2, 2008
    By now, of course, everyone has heard the story of Elisabeth Fritzl and the seven siblings/children she gave birth to while her father Joseph imprisoned her in the family's basement. This is the third such case revealed in Austria in the past three years. In all, at least eight younger Austrians have spent long stretches of time imprisoned in home basements. Plenty of thoughtful commentary--like this piece from Spiked Online's Brendan O'Neill dismisses the idea that there's any kind of trend going on. Overall, I agree with O'Neill: "there are not Josef Fritzls lurking everywhere." For the world, he's right. But, ultimately, I do think that the case says something--I don't know what...
  • A Question for Iain

    May 2, 2008
    Iain, I believe you that congestion pricing has not worked in reducing traffic during London's rush hour. Here's my question: how can Virginia's just-started project to build High Occupancy Toll Lanes on the beltway work where London's has failed? I'm skeptical, personally, of many "private" infrastructure proposals because, in more cases than not, the private party gets the upside but taxpayers get stuck with the bill if the project fails. Here's one problem I see: the price needed to achieve the optimal reduction in congestion--every car can drive at the speed limit for the entire length of a given area--may be different than the price needed to achieve the greatest return on investment. One could just argue that the optimal level of congestion, by...
  • Save a Species. Eat it!

    May 2, 2008
    You don't have to be a free market ideologue to realize that markets are the best means of saving endangered plants and animals.  Reports the New York Times:
    SOME people would just as soon ignore the culinary potential of the Carolina flying squirrel or the Waldoboro green neck rutabaga. To them, the creamy Hutterite soup bean is too obscure and the Tennessee fainting goat, which keels over when startled, sounds more like a sideshow act than the centerpiece of a barbecue. But not Gary Paul Nabhan. He has spent most of the past four years compiling a list of endangered plants and animals that were once fairly commonplace in American kitchens but are now threatened, endangered or essentially extinct in the marketplace. He has set out to save them, which often involves urging people to eat them....
  • Wow, Markets Work for Autos!

    May 2, 2008
    Who would have thought it?  Gas prices go up, and the demand for smaller cars rises.  Some cynics might even think that arbitrary regulations like Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards aren't necessary to encourage gas conservation. Reports the New York Times:  
    Soaring gas prices have turned the steady migration by Americans to smaller cars into a stampede. In what industry analysts are calling a first, about one in five vehicles sold in the United States was a compact or subcompact car during April, based on monthly sales data released Thursday. Almost a decade ago, when sport utility vehicles were at their peak of popularity, only one in every eight vehicles sold was a small car. The switch to smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles has been building in recent years, but has accelerated...
  • Want a Burger in New Jersey? Pay Up!

    May 2, 2008
    Politicians are always looking for the easy source of money.  New Jersey legislators hoping to pay for health care want to tax fast food.  Reports WCBS TV:
    The sputtering economy has caused an increase in prices of many staples including gasoline, rice, ice cream, even beer. Now some lawmakers in New Jersey are considering taking food taxes a step further and install a proverbial "sin" tax on fast food. Yes, the idea of marking up your favorite fast food burger or pack of fries is actually being tossed around, and it's not settling well with many residents. "They're taxing everything. Now you're gonna tax fast food? That's crazy," said Newark resident Miriam Robertson.
    This proposal shows how government naturally begets government.  Provide health care, so every unhealthy private action suddenly...
  • Court: Don't Blame the Terrorists for Bombing the World Trade Center

    May 1, 2008
    A New York State appellate court has upheld a ludicrous $1.8 billion verdict holding the building operator -- not terrorists -- chiefly responsible for the 1993 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.  The Port Authority that operated the building was held 68 percent responsible for the terrorist attack.  The court said that long-standing tort law principles required it to uphold this ridiculous verdict, since third parties with deep pockets are frequently held more responsible than criminals in civil suits in this country: "the Appellate Division has affirmed unanimously (...

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