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OpenMarket: December 2011

  • Fairness and the Totalitarian Impulse

    December 21, 2011
    Comedian Louis C.K. once received a disturbing lesson in “fairness” from his children. As he tells the story in one of his stand-up specials, his daughter once accidentally broke one of her toys, and then demanded that Louis break her sibling's toy “to make it fair.” Wow. From the mouths of babes, a perfect example of how the impulse to “fairness” -- seemingly so benign in theory -- in practice so often leads to disaster. Nature, of course, is not fair. It dispenses talent, intellect, and luck unequally amongst the populations of the world. As a result, some people will always end up with more than others.  When government sets out to impose “fairness” on society, it is therefore faced with a dilemma. It is impossible to make some people smarter, luckier, more talented. It is equally impossible to take away those blessings from those who have inherited them. The only recourse for...
  • Today's Links: December 20, 2011

    December 20, 2011
    OPINION GENE HEALY: "Obama and Congress Bring the War on Terror to Your Doorstep" "Last Thursday—which happened to be the 220th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights—the Senate passed a defense bill that demonstrates just how cavalier Congress can be with our fundamental liberties. Given the opportunity to clarify existing law and confirm that American citizens are not subject to indefinite military detention at the order of the president—Congress punted." HOWARD LOVY: "DNA: It's Not Just For the Living Anymore" "To people who say that true nanomachines — those that assemble themselves from the bottom up —...
  • Butter-nomics: Protectionism and Food Shortages

    December 20, 2011
    Norway, a fully industrialized country and ranked first in the latest Human Development Index, a United Nations’ metric that tries to quantify the quality of life across countries, is suffering through a butter shortage, a common food staple and an important input in the food industry. Food shortages wouldn’t be out of place in places like Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela and some poor Sub-Saharan nations; it is almost unfathomable that they occur in one of the most developed nations in the world. Norwegian authorities seem puzzled by the shortage and subsequent rise in...
  • Obama Administration Betrays America's Friends Overseas

    December 20, 2011
    America is now "turning its back" on Iraqis who helped the U.S., contradicting Obama's rhetoric on the campaign trail. Moqtada al-Sadr, a radical Anti-American Iraqi cleric, with a violent militia at his disposal, "recently declared that all Iraqis who assisted foreign forces are now 'outcasts.'" Al-Sadr's militia has killed many people, including American troops, and has a history of torturing opponents to death.  But he is currently a key power-broker in Iraq. Iraqis who helped the U.S. are thus at risk of death, just as Iraqis who helped the British were killed when the British earlier pulled out of the southern Iraqi city of Basra: "when Britain...
  • U.S., Other Countries Threaten to Retaliate Against EU on Airline Emissions "Taxes"

    December 20, 2011
    The U.S. sent a strong letter to the European Union warning them that the EU’s airline emissions trading scheme -- set to start in January 2012 -- should be halted or postponed. If not, the letter from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “. . . we will be compelled to take appropriate action.” According to the Financial Times (registration required), 42 other countries, including major economic powerhouses, such as China and Brazil, signed onto the letter, which seemed to be timed just before the EU’s highest court renders its decision. On Wednesday the...
  • Dick Durbin's Hypocritical Quest for "Honest Information' on Bank Fees

    December 20, 2011
    Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) wants banks and credit unions to know that he's all about transparency and "honesty" in consumer fees. In his recent letter hectoring the Illinois Bankers Association and the Illinois Credit Union League, Durbin proclaimed that  "consumers in Illinois and across America have made clear their desire for honest information about banking fees." He urged the banks to "be transparent about fees" by adopting a checking account disclosure form he favors. Yet when it comes to disclosing to consumers what's causing these bank fees to rise, Durbin has told these same institutions to just shut up. That's because honesty and transparency would require that banks and credit unions disclose to consumers the Durbin Amendment to the Dodd-Frank...
  • Federal Officials Gave Valuable Insider-Information to Obama Supporters like North Carolina's Democratic Governor

    December 20, 2011
    If you've lost money in the stock market over the last few years, it may be because politically-favored people are trading in the stock market based on sensitive, confidential government information that you lack -- information like monthly federal employment figures, which can drive the stock market up or down by hundreds of points by disclosing the direction the economy is headed. As veteran journalist Michael Barone notes, federal officials are now giving such insider-information to key Obama supporters, like the office of North Carolina's liberal governor, violating federal criminal laws in the process. As a result, some people who learn of it in advance may be making a quick buck off of that information before it becomes publicly available...
  • Alcohol Regulation Roundup: December 20, 2011

    December 20, 2011
    With the holidays near and all in good cheer, here is some alcohol news at which you can jeer. And you plan on having booze around the house on Christmas, you had better consult with my previous roundup of Christmas Day liquor sales bans and plan your shopping accordingly. District of Columbia: Beer lovers in D.C. may soon be allowed to fill growlers. D.C. Councilmember Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) filed legislation earlier this month that would lift the ban on filling growlers -- large jugs that can be filled with fresh beer, enjoyed at home, and refilled. Georgia: ...
  • Useless Law School "Educations" Shielded Against Improvement and Competition by Special-Interest-Driven Regulations

    December 19, 2011
    The New York Times featured an excellent news story Sunday by David Segal on the costly white elephant that is legal education in America. He describes how law school is expensive because of government-enforced accreditation standards that prevent law schools from containing costs even if they wanted to (and in truth, most law schools are all too happy to jack up their costs and pass them on to law students and consumers of legal services): "the lack of affordable law school options, scholars say, helps explain why so many Americans don’t hire lawyers” when they genuinely need legal assistance or advice. One reason for that is that lawyers who incur a fortune in student loans need to bring (or defend) big-ticket lawsuits -- even...
  • Today's Links: December 19, 2011

    December 19, 2011
    OPINION WALL STREET JOURNAL: "VACLAV HAVEL" "When [Havel] died Sunday at age 75, he knew his legacy lived on with freedom-seeking people around the world, not least the imprisoned signatories of China's Charter 08 who took their inspiration directly from him. Their day of freedom is coming." MICHAEL MORAN: "SEC Puts Small Downpayment on Justice" "Hardly worth the fanfare the SEC gave it Friday - taken in context, this remains enormously underwhelming - but the charges against six pre-cataclysm Fannie...

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