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OpenMarket: March 2015

  • Human Achievement of the Day: Bitcoin

    March 26, 2015

    On the eve of the financial crisis of 2007-8, financial systems had grown extremely sophisticated, but were still essentially based on a model of trust. When two people engaged in a transaction, they generally relied on a trusted third party to process the payment. This meant that there was room for fraud at worst and at best a transaction cost to the parties.

    The transaction cost arises because there is the possibility of the transaction failing to go through, or, in payments-speak, being “reversed.” A reversed payment can occur because the paying party doesn’t have the money he says he does, or because he is over his credit limit, or because she isn’t who she says she is, among many other examples.

    Over the years, third parties have developed extremely sophisticated ways to handle these problems, but they have never been able to eliminate the transaction cost...

  • A Bright Future

    March 24, 2015

    The following is a guest post by Chelsea German, Researcher and Managing Editor of HumanProgress.org.

    When Homo erectus first learned to control fire a million years ago, humanity gained the ability to light up the night. From fire to electricity to LEDs, lighting technology has advanced unceasingly ever since. Yet every year, the Earth Hour campaign calls on millions of people to forgo this remarkable achievement by turning off their electricity. Earth Hour even discourages the use of smoke-emitting candles, plunging many participants into the same impenetrable darkness that surrounded our ancestors before fire was first...

  • Congress Introduces Bill to Combat NLRB Overreach

    March 24, 2015
    Last week, Congress introduced a bill that would restore decades-old National Labor Relations Board precedent by overturning a decision that inappropriately eased union organizing drives.
  • Human Achievement of the Day: Guitars

    March 24, 2015

    When Human Achievement Hour rolls around each year, I make sure to do two things. One is to play an electric guitar. The other is to play an acoustic guitar.

    Guitars are simple things. Stretch some thin metal wires over a plank of wood, and you’re most of the way there. Electric guitars add a few magnets wrapped in copper wire mounted underneath the strings, called pickups. This deceptively simple invention is one of the pinnacles of human achievement. Music made on guitars has brought unfettered joy to billions of people, most of whom have idea how to play one. Whether you like jazz, punk rock, flamenco, blues, death metal, or classic rock, guitars have enhanced your life. In a way, the guitar is one of the defining objects of modern Western culture.

    Regular readers will likely be familiar with CEI’s...

  • Human Achievement of the Day: Higher Education

    March 23, 2015

    As the amount of student loans outstanding continues to rise, taxpayers are more on the hook as the Obama administration continues to expand loan repayment programs. As long as President Obama is in office, we are unlikely to see serious reforms that rein in the growing student loan bubble, which has inflated the cost of attending school without a commensurate increase in the value of a degree.

    ...

  • CEI's Battered Business Bureau: The Week in Regulation

    March 23, 2015

    New rules published in the last week include everything from the IRS and Executive Office of the President declaring themselves exempt from select transparency laws, to requirements for observing sea turtles.

    On to the data:

    • Last week, 68 new final regulations were published in the Federal Register, after 60 new regulations the previous week.
    • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every two hours and 28 minutes.
    • So far in 2015, 616 final regulations have been published in the Federal Register. At that pace, there will be a total of 2,852 new regulations this year, which would be nearly 1,000 fewer rules than the usual total.
    • Last week, 1,157 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 1,242 pages the previous week.
    • Currently at 15,133 pages, the 2015 Federal Register is on pace...
  • Yes, and Water Can Run Uphill!

    March 20, 2015

    A recent Washington Post story by Joby Warrick says much about the credulity of the media. The story extols the great gains in wind power, noting that it “could provide more than a third of the country’s electricity by 2050 while yielding a net savings in energy costs paid by consumers.”

    Warrick, like many in the media, viewed this prediction by the Department of Energy as clear evidence of the gains by non-fossil fuel sources. Indeed, he quoted without comment the Department’s statement that there would a “net savings in energy costs paid by consumers” and later that this shift “would result in a net price increase of about 1 percent for consumers” even though “an overall savings of 2 percent.” The “savings...

  • Is Ferguson "the Norm"? In Some Ways, Yes

    March 20, 2015

    Recently, the Justice Department issued a report that was very critical of the Ferguson police department and courts. In response, President Obama stated that “he doesn't believe Ferguson is typical of most police departments,” and that the city’s practices were “not the norm.”

    But in reality, the practices described in the report are commonplace outside of Ferguson, including both those that the Justice Department rightly condemned for violating Fourth Amendment rights, and those that may have had a more innocent explanation...

  • When Regulations Undermine Justice and Due Process

    March 19, 2015

    Recently, I participated in a March 13 panel discussion at the National Press Club titled “Bringing an End to Second-Class Justice,” discussing how federal micromanagement of college discipline by the Education Department ignores federal court rulings, increases college costs, and stacks the deck against some accused students. Here is the text of my remarks at the event, which was put together by the group Stop Abusive and Violent Environments:

    A Stacked Deck: OCR and Sexual Harassment Liability

    In the attached handouts, I have explained how the Office for Civil Rights, where I used to work...

  • Data Torturing at the CPSC

    March 19, 2015

    James Mills of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development lamented in an article in the New England Journal of Medicine back in 1993: “‘If you torture your data long enough, they will tell you whatever you want to hear’ has become a popular observation in our office. In plain English, this means that study data, if manipulated in enough different ways can prove whatever the investigator wants to prove.”

    Government regulators will resort to such data torture to justify an activist regulatory agendas if they can’t do it with good data and sound science. One approach includes selective use of data—excluding years or datasets that might change the conclusions of a risk assessment. The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s recent ...

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