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OpenMarket: Regulatory Reform

  • Obama's New Appliance Efficiency Mandates, Consumers Better Run For Cover

    February 5, 2009

    President Obama today announced that he is pressuring the Department of Energy (DoE) to speed up some long-delayed efficiency standards for appliances.  His move is being applauded by environmentalists—no surprise there.  And DoE itself will almost certainly proclaim that the new standards will give us better appliances in the future; they might cost more, but they'll supposedly save us money in the long run.

    Don't believe it.  Here are some examples of how DoE efficiency mandates have produced, or will produce, fiascoes rather than progress:

    • In 2007, higher efficiency standards for top-loading washing machines ruined the cleaning ability of many models, according to Consumer Reports...
  • Support for Stimulus Collapses Internationally

    February 4, 2009
    Rasmussen reports that support for the borrow-and-spend plan is falling rapidly:
    The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 37% favor the legislation, 43% are opposed, and 20% are not sure. Two weeks ago, 45% supported the plan. Last week, 42% supported it. Opposition has grown from 34% two weeks ago to 39% last week and 43% today.
    Interestingly, only 27% of independents support the package, indicating that President Obama would have to spend a lot of his political capital to turn them around. Meanwhile, across the pond, support for British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's similar stimulus package has also collapsed...
  • Obama's defense of weatherizing homes as "stimulus" with Anderson Cooper on CNN is priceless

    February 4, 2009
    The President actually said: --it puts people to work --it saves families on their energy bill --it reduces dependence on foreign oil. He said this with a straight face, Cooper didn’t hit him over the head with a notebook, nothing. Then Cooper asked him "what's the coolest thing about your new car?"
  • The Smart Way to Provide Power

    February 3, 2009
    It's not often I disagree with Ron Bailey, but his article about the "Smart Grid" today glosses over the main reason why electric companies aren't investing in it now. It's not because they'll be selling less electricity and that means reduced profits. One of the main points about a smart grid means that you can charge more when there is a strain on the system caused by peaking and less when there isn't. So your income stream takes on a different character. Yes, people tend to use less electricity on the whole, but this is made up for by the fact that you don't have to generate extra electricity to supply the concentrated demand, and you are getting more revenue for electricity you generated that would otherwise be wasted. Most companies would prefer this, but there's a lot of regulation out there, aimed at keeping prices "...
  • Stimulus Plan Repeats Mistakes That Spawned Great Depression

    February 3, 2009
    The European Union is threatening a trade war over provisions in the $800 billion "stimulus" package backed by Obama and Congressional leaders. The Great Depression resulted partly from the trade war that followed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff signed into law by Herbert Hoover, which Congressional leaders wrongly thought would help end the recession that followed the 1929 stock market collapse. The stimulus package also contains tons of red tape and strings attached to the money it showers on state governments, in order to benefit big labor unions, like "prevailing wage" mandates that result in taxpayers paying inflated wages for construction projects. Economists have...
  • Appetite for Creative Destruction

    February 2, 2009
    Duff McKagan of Guns n' Roses fame is going to be writing on financial matters at Playboy.com. What makes this more interesting than the simple fact it allowed me to type that last sentence is that Duff has outed himself as a free-marketer. He says:
    I do find how money works rather fascinating. Adam Smith, the main person looked at to be the founder of capitalism, was a simple but brilliant economist who had particular ideas on how a free market would take care of itself. The theory of every little niche being filled in the marketplace seems too 'free' to actually work...but it has for the most part over the last 240 years. This is a statement made free of politics by the way.
    Duff gets my vote for Mayor of Paradise City.
  • Renewable Energy Jobs Will Have To Wait

    February 2, 2009
    The porcine stimulus bill passed by the House contains $15 billion in capital investments and loan guarantees for renewable energy projects and new electric transmission lines.  But the billions of dollars targeted toward renewable energy aren’t likely to generate many “green collar” jobs anytime soon.  That’s because the environmental and permitting regulations for these types of projects typically take years.  This is particularly true for new transmission lines.  And without the new transmission lines, new solar or wind power stations won’t bring many benefits. For example, the Tehachapi Transmission Project, a 250 mile transmission project to deliver electricity from wind farms in Southern California, took over 10 years to design, permit, and begin construction.  One of the reasons for the long wait is that all of these projects have to go through a lengthy environmental review...
  • Len Nichols of NAF on Incentives in Health Care

    February 1, 2009
    12:52pm Len Nichols of the New America Foundation is driving down the same "Middle Road" that the last panel plotted out.  So far, he's applauded John McCain for realizing that price transparency has been a problem in the health care industry and he's applauded Barack Obama for realizing that markets are a good idea and by advocating that a national health care policy focus on working with private insurers. According to Len, these are the biggest problems with the existing system:
    • Incentives in the current system are perverse
    • Current players profit from the flaws in the system, so there are interests who want the system to stay the same
    • Individual choices affect health and health costs, bit time
    • There are tremendous barriers to change...
  • Heart Docs & Health Reform: What about Regulation?

    February 1, 2009
    I'm listening now to a panel discussion at the America College or Cardiology Health System Reform Summit. The panel's topic: "Health Care Reform: State Models for Improving Access to Care."  The panelists: Secretary Kimberly Belshe or California's HHS, John Holahan of the Urban Institute, and Paul Wingle of Massachusettss Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector. So far, I've heard a lot about Massachusetts-style reform programs, which basically break down to mandating that everyone carry some form of insurance and then figuring out a way to help them pay for it—usually this means businesses and governments kicking in a good share of coin. Given the realities of the health care industry, namely that professional and ethical standards result in nearly no one being turned away when they're in dire need of care, insurance mandates seem like a sensible policy. In other words, because...
  • Increasingly Lost Property Rights

    January 30, 2009
    Most people probably think "wetlands" should be wet.  But not in the view of federal bureaucrats.  Land can be perfectly dry--indeed, never have the slightest pool of standing water--and still be a "wetland" in Washington's view.  And it turns out that having the Supreme Court on your side isn't enough to protect you. Writes Reed Hopper in the Detroit News:
    After hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorneys fees and 14 years of court battles with no end in sight, Michigan's John Rapanos finally gave up his fight to defend himself against accusations that he illegally filled wetlands on his private property in violation of the Clean Water Act. Despite winning his case in the U.S. Supreme Court, Rapanos recently settled it with the federal government....

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