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OpenMarket: March 2016

  • Illinois' Narrow Road to Pension Reform

    March 28, 2016

    On March 24, the Illinois Supreme Court struck down a Chicago pension reform bill that sought to address the city’s considerable pension shortfall. In addition to posing a setback for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s efforts to fix the city’s finances, the ruling highlights a problem some states face in attempting to bring their pension liabilities under control.

    As the late, great Yogi Berra would put it, last week’s ruling was déjà vu all over again. Last week’s ruling echoes a May 2015 case, in which the court ruled unanimously that SB1, a modest state pension reform law enacted during the administration of Governor Pat Quinn ran afoul of...

  • RealClear Radio Hour: Satire, Art, & Politics

    March 28, 2016

    From satire to narrative, my guests this week tackle politics in compelling and controversial ways.

    Up first is Karl Sharro, architect by day and political and cultural blogger at Karl reMarks by night. Sharro comments on growing up during the Lebanese Civil War and the complexities of the Middle East. He discusses using humor to challenge fatalism about the Middle East and to encourage optimism and dynamism. 

    ...
  • Common Property, Gains from Trade—and Statehood

    March 28, 2016

    Historian Staughton Lynd argued that the contemporaneously drafted Constitution and Northwest Ordinance of 1787 were themselves components of a larger implicit package that harmonized the conflicting interests of the several states, in which one document officially recognized and sanctioned slavery while the other expressly prohibited it (“The Compromise of 1787,” Political Science Quarterly, Vol. LXXXI, No. 2, June 1966, p. 225). Slavery was recognized in the Constitution’s 3/5ths clause, but was prohibited in the Northwest Territory by the Ordinance, and supposedly neither could have stood alone, in the context of the time.   

    Economists, like historians, may similarly be interested in questions of expanding territory and voting franchises. Per Ronald Coase (“The Problem of Social Cost,” Journal of Law and Economics. October 1960, pp. 1-44), if transaction...

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

    March 28, 2016

    Friday’s Federal Register, the last before the Easter holiday, contained 1,005 pages, 14 final regulations, nine proposed regulations, and an impressive 119 agency notices. New rules for the week cover everything from tomatoes to dockworkers.

    On to the data:

    • Last week, 53 new final regulations were published in the Federal Register, after 66 the previous week.
    • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every three hours and 10 minutes.
    • With 708 final regulations published so far in 2016, the federal government is on pace to issue 3,052 regulations in 2016. Last year’s total was 3,406 regulations.
    • Last week, 2,109 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 1,683 pages the previous week.
    • Currently at 17,029 pages, the 2016 Federal Register is on pace for 73,401 pages. The 2015 ...
  • Advocates Attempt to Debunk Idea that Any Alcohol Is Beneficial

    March 25, 2016

    For most public health advocates, no amount of alcohol is safe. As they see it, any amount of alcohol increases a drinkers risk for certain negative health outcomes and they have tried to scare people into abstinence with tales of cancer, sexual assault, and fetal alcohol syndrome; all of which are real risks associated with alcohol consumption, but usually only in extreme quantities. Rarely will a public health official address the subtleties of risk or the possible physical and psychological benefits of low and moderate alcohol consumption. To do so...

  • Glyphosate Saves Lives, Reduces Child Labor, and More

    March 25, 2016

    David Zaruk, aka the Risk Monger, has produced an excellent series of blog posts on why the herbicide glyphosate (the active ingredient in “Roundup”) is a wonderful thing, despite “cancer classifications” and demonization by greens. In a refreshingly blunt and honest series of posts, he makes some fantastic points that must shock green activists who can’t imagine why anyone would dare use a chemical to control noxious weeds, grow food, and feed the world. 

    Some key points that Zaruk offers include:

    1. Weed killers help reduce child labor. Yes, that’s what I said. Zaruk has real-life experience to prove it. Check out this post.
    2. The cancer researchers at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) have lost credibility within Europe’s...
  • Free Speech Violation in St. Paul Schools Undermines Anti-Private Ideology

    March 25, 2016

    Leftists who seek to ban home schooling and school vouchers, and restrict private schools, argue that is needed to prevent “indoctrination” or “balkanization.” Rather than developing a mind of their own, they argue, students who are privately schooled or home schooled will instead be indoctrinated in beliefs that progressives disagree with, like opposition to “gun control” or support for “capital punishment.” These arguments are ironic, because many public schools demand far more ideological conformity than a typical private school.

    A case in point is the school system in...

  • Doing Away with Government Flammability Standards

    March 24, 2016

    During the past several years, there’s been much hype in the news alleging that flame retardant chemicals used on upholstered furniture pose unacceptable health risks. With these alarmist claims abounding, some green minded individuals complain that they unknowingly purchased couches that contain these chemicals because furniture manufacturers apply them to meet government flammability standards. To address this concern, activist groups advocate banning a wide number of chemical flame retardants. While I don’t buy their claims about these chemicals being dangerous and certainly oppose bans, no one should be essentially forced into buying...

  • The Sharing Economy Is More than Just Uber

    March 24, 2016

    In an article for The New York Times, columnist Farhad Manjoo worries that the Uber model of app-based service companies has run its course. He points out that in a lot of cases the room for extra efficiency was small and that initial pricing models were distorted by venture capital funding, leading to customer-deterring higher prices. He concludes, “The lesson so far in the on-demand world is that Uber is the exception, not the norm. Uber, but for Uber—and not much else.”

    This is, however, a very narrow view of the sharing economy, which is much more than the Uber model. It should in fact be called the Transaction Costs Economy, as what Uber did—and the other on-demand apps Manjoo talks about have so far failed to do—is to cut the transaction costs of...

  • Judge Orders White House OSTP to Explain Why It Shouldn't Be Sanctioned for Undisclosed Records

    March 24, 2016

    Judges don’t like it when someone makes a claim that turns out not to be true in order to get a lawsuit dismissed, such as by claiming records don’t exist when they do. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) failed to disclose the existence of some records in response to a Freedom of Information Act request until after a federal judge had already ruled in the case. When the judge found out, he issued an Order to Show Cause yesterday asking OSTP to explain why the Court should not impose sanctions on it, or permit discovery against it.

    CEI had sought drafts of OSTP’s letter denying...

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