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OpenMarket: Risk and Consumer Freedom

  • Modern Prometheus

    March 23, 2007

    Norman Borlaug, the Nobel Peace Prize winning agronomist, will turn 93 on Sunday, March 25, 2007. It's a birthday well worth celebrating. His life's work -- known around the world the Green Revolution -- is estimated to have saved more than a billion human beings from starvation. Still, at age 93, Borlaug still spends much of his time in the wheat and corn fields outside Mexico City, helping teams of scientists and farmers breed new and improved varieties. And, he jets around the world, working with farmers in Africa and Asia, and trying to convince governments that they should free their people and allow them to apply the best new technologies and their own ingenuity to conquering the problems that cause low agricultural productivity and food insecurity.

    I first met Norm (and this kind and amiable man always...

  • AP on the Nanny State

    March 22, 2007
    The AP has a very good article on the growth of the Nanny State. Best fact I didn't know: two states have banned smoking IN YOUR OWN CAR if there's someone else along.
  • Yes, But. . .

    March 21, 2007
    Fran, I knew about most of the cases you cite when I wrote the first post. None of those new to me are surprising and all of them illustrate the problem with the magazine I cited in the first post. With the exception of the Isuzu Trooper article, the things you cite are all examples of the magazine's far-left, preachy, pro-nanny state approach that I so strongly dislike. This doesn't diminish the enormous importance of the comparative product testing that CU does. The lawsuit over the Trooper, the one product testing example you cite, actually spilt the difference. Just as with the infant seat article, CR made some mistakes, maybe serious ones. But ultimately, the jury found that CR didn't act with malice and didn't award any cash damages. Anyway, why would CR have set out to trash Isuzu in particular? Sure, fear does sell. But I think that they could do just as well to promote the...
  • I don't love Consumer Reports

    March 21, 2007

    Eli — I've enjoyed your postings on a range of topics. But on your most recent one, I'm going to take you on. You said you're a loyal subscriber to Consumer Reports. I'm not, and don't intend to be. You also stated that “Consumer Reports, in fact, has probably done more to raise the overall quality of the things consumers buy more than any other single entity public or private.”

    Oh no, I say. I would argue that the publication has a history of causing or contributing to significant consumer harm. I grant you that they generally do a good job in the laboratory testing products, but even there sometimes the criteria they use to rate those products is biased. For instance, in the past, in rating cars' safety, CR included fuel economy as a criterion, which biased their...

  • They call this privatization?

    March 14, 2007
    I argued in my Issue Analysis on the mistakes made during the privatization of Britain's railroads that it was no longer accurate to call the railroads privatized. Today we get further confirmation:
    "An extra 1,000 train carriages are expected to be provided for Britain's railways by 2014 in a bid to tackle overcrowding, the BBC has learnt. Ministers will announce that carriages will be used to lengthen trains on the most congested parts of the network... "But the Association of Train Companies said extra space would soon be used up...The government will pay for them and then lease them to the train companies at a cost of about £130 million a year, he says."
    In a truly privatized system, the train companies would decide on how many trains they...
  • A Typical Government Response

    March 13, 2007
    Following a tragic bus accident over the weekend, Georgia has announced it will rework several highway exits to make them "safer." The new measures, the AP reports, will include "adding signs and adding reflective striping to seven similar ramps starting Wednesday." Additional studies are planned. But, as Georgia's own state highway boss admits, there's no evidence that any of this will work or would have prevented the accident. Still it's an important issue. Perhaps because it's such an unsexy topic, we don't pay enough attention to the enormous number of people who die each year on our roads. In the best cases, good government-run agencies have made things better. The California Highway Patrol's Corridor Safety Program, for...
  • Where's The Precautionary Principle When We Need It?

    February 8, 2007
    Today's Wall Street Journal (link for subscribers) has a short piece in the B section noting how a new Bush Administration "clean diesel" fuel mandate may be responsible for stranding school buses full of children in the extreme cold during recent weeks. The new EPA rule requires diesel users (including school buses) to switch to ultra-low-sulfur fuel in order to reduce air pollution. Unfortunately, the low-sulfur stuff also tends to turn from a liquid into a gel more readily in cold temperatures. Don't the nice folks at EPA know that the precautionary principle requires them to "look before they leap" head first into adopting new technologies?
  • FDA Animal Cloning Decision Comes Years Too Late

    January 4, 2007
    In an invited post on The Hill's Congress Blog yesterday, I argued that the FDA's announcement that it had officially found meat and milk from cloned cows, pigs, and goats to be safe for human consumption was welcome news, but way over due. The National Academy of Science came to the same conclusion four years ago. And even FDA had come to that conclusion three years ago; it just stalled for three additional years culling through more...
  • Bear-baiting

    December 30, 2006
    CEI Adjunct Fellow Steve Milloy has more on the polar bear issue in his weekly must-read FoxNews column:
    "Let's keep in mind that polar bears have survived much warmer times than we are now experiencing — like 1,000 years ago when the Vikings farmed Greenland during the Medieval Climate Optimum and 5,000-9,000 years ago during the period known as the Holocene Climate Optimum. "But even giving the proposal the benefit of the doubt, will it accomplish anything? "When I asked Secretary [of the Interior Dirk] Kempthorne that question — pointing out that even if the polar bear habitat was shrinking because of melting ice there isn't a credible climate scientist in the world that believes anything could be done to stop the ice from melting, and that legalized polar bear harvesting seems to contradict any...
  • Taste and Trans fats

    December 30, 2006
    Nobel laureate Gary Becker has some thoughts on the New York City trans-fats ban (reflecting on comments by his co-blogger, Judge Richard Posner):
    "Posner also gives a kind of lower bound estimate of the benefits as $100 million, and also suggests a much lower cost to restaurants of becoming trans fat-free -- I take this as $30 million. With a small taste benefit from the use of trans fats -- the New England Medicine Journal article I cited earlier does admit positive effect of trans fats on 'palatability' -- the total cost of the ban would equal or exceed total benefits. For example, suppose 1 million persons on average eat 200 meals per year in NYC restaurants with trans fats. If they value the taste of trans fats in their foods only by 35 cents per meal, the taste cost to...

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