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OpenMarket: Regulatory Reform

  • Let the Sunstein In

    January 8, 2009

    I was cheered this morning by the news that Cass Sunstein of the University of Chicago is to be the next head of OIRA, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. While not someone a libertarian conservative would necessarily appoint, he is possibly the best choice possible that Obama could have made, and his friendship with the President-elect suggests he will have some power. In particular, Prof. Sunstein has been a very strong opponent of the Precautionary Principle, which is the rock upon which many environmental regulatory initiatives are built. He also called CEI's litigation to draw attention to the fatal consequences of CAFE regulation "the principal case involving the issue of health-health tradeoffs."


  • Thousands Die After Zimbabwe Dictator Nationalizes Water Systems

    January 8, 2009
    Thousands of people have died of cholera in Zimbabwe after the country's left-wing dictator Robert Mugabe nationalized municipal water systems to seize their revenue, allowing them to fall into ruin in the process. "The cholera epidemic has its origins in politics . . .Mugabe's ZANU-PF regime nationalized municipal water supplies in 2006 after the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), led by Morgan Tsvangirai, controlled some 80 percent of seats nationwide following successes in municipal elections. Mugabe's government seized the water authorities to deny the MDC revenue and to control the lucrative contracts for repair of the broken system. The result was mayhem: Graft and corruption further undermined repairs, water went untreated and raw sewage was pumped into [the capital...
  • Card Check Loses Support, but Threat Isn't Over

    January 5, 2009
    Today in The Wall Street Journal, Kimberley Strassel dissects the shifting political prospects for the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), commonly known as the "card check" bill. ("Card check" is a unionization procedure whereby union organizers circumvent the secret ballot process by getting workers to sign union cards in the open, exposing them  to aggressive, hard-sell intimidation tactics.)
    It hasn't been much noticed, but the political ground is already shifting under Big Labor's card-check initiative. The unions poured unprecedented money and manpower into getting Democrats elected; their payoff was supposed to be a bill that would allow them to intimidate more workers into joining unions. The conventional wisdom was that Barack Obama and an unfettered Democratic majority would write that...
  • Prediction 2009: No Net Neutrality Regulation

    January 2, 2009
    Perhaps this is just wishful thinking, but I think that 2009 may see the death of calls for net neutrality regulation and may even see some of the most ardent supporters of neutrality soften their stances as it becomes painfully obvious that non-neutral arrangements for distributing content—especially large files like movies and digitally-distributed software—are the best way for the maturing Internet to deal with the accelerating amount of content online. But before I address why I think more proponents of neutrality regulation will be jumping ship this year, we should break down the neutrality debate into its constituent parts.  I think its most useful to think of net neutrality as three separate policy questions—one dealing with censorship, one addressing the issue of prioritizing traffic, and the other dealing with the physical architecture of the Internet. Censorship...
  • Davis-Bacon from the Pork Barrel

    December 29, 2008
    In today's Wall Street Journal, the Brookings Institution's Clifford Winston points out some critical pitfalls likely to face the infrastructure spending element of President-elect Obama's "stimulus" plan:
    One of the biggest killers of all is that states insist on allocating federal transportation funds through a politically devised formula. The result? Smooth, well-paved rural highways and worn-out urban roadways that are paved with a layer of asphalt too thin to withstand heavy use and are therefore in need of excessive, costly maintenance. But don't blame the states for all the inefficient use of highway dollars. Federal regulations have also inflated the cost of providing roads, trains and so much more for a public on the move. It takes the nation's busiest airports...
  • Jail Time for Conflict of Interest?

    December 29, 2008
    David Bruggeman at Prometheus has what I think can only be described as an extreme view of conflict of interest:
    An Emory University Researcher has been sanctioned by the school for, among other things, failing to report about $800,000 in speaking fees from GlaxoSmithKline. As Science Magazine's science policy blog reports, psychiatrist Charles Nemeroff has been banned from accepting industry money at certain speaking engagements, and not to seek any National Insitutes of Health funding for 2 years. You can get the complete details from the university's report. I don't have much patience for research misconduct, and only a little bit more for the appearance of conflicts of interest. If Nemeroff served jail time I'd think it well deserved.
    As a commenter makes...
  • Madoff: Hiding in Plain Sight, Thanks to SEC

    December 28, 2008
    Contrary to popular belief, Madoff's $50 billion Ponzi scheme was subject to to a variety of financial regulations, something he actually used as a selling point to investors. In fact, last year during a speech Madoff said, "In today's regulatory environment, it's virtually impossible to violate rules."
  • Fewer Toys for Christmas

    December 22, 2008
    Small toy manufacturers may go out of business thanks to the "Consumer Product Safety Act of 2008," which Congress hastily passed in response to reports of lead paint in children's toys produced in China. Its poorly-drafted provisions may require manufacturers to perform $4,000 worth of tests on each lot of toys shipped. The law also mandates "$100,000 minimum fines for each violation," even unintentional ones, and contains provisions that "may actually harm safety." The law is also a bonanza for trial lawyers and the state attorneys general who hire them, giving state AGs the ability to sue...
  • Bush Auto Bailout Illegal, Bailout Supporter Admits

    December 20, 2008
    Clinton Administration Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who supports bailing out the Detroit automakers (whose unionized workers are paid $70 an hour), nevertheless points out that the Bush Administration's plan for an auto bailout, using financial-system bailout funds, is illegal and unconstitutional. We, the Heritage Foundation, and many others earlier reached the same conclusion. The Bush auto bailout is a waste of billions of...
  • GM-Chrysler Merger Likely Blocked by Antitrust

    December 19, 2008
    General Motors & Chrysler could be strengthened by a merger, an option that wouldn't cost taxpayers a dime. But, the idea has been pushed aside, likely because of the hurdles of antitrust rules.


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