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OpenMarket: Risk and Consumer Freedom

  • The Green Revolution South of the Border

    November 27, 2006
    In his latest column, The Miami Herald's Andres Oppenheimer gives reason for hope for Latin America's water supply challenges, and offers policy makers there good advice. While many parts of the region suffer water shortages, and some conspiracy theorists claim that the United States is out to take over water supplies there, he cites experts who claim that "water is not likely to become a rapidly disappearing natural resource." He goes on:
    "On the contrary, water may become more easily available in the future, because one of the most important technological innovations of the 21st century will be drought-resistant crops. These crops will allow farmers to grow food using half of the water they use now, they say. "That will be a watershed technological...
  • Why Check 'n Go Is Not the Great Satan

    November 27, 2006
    Hot on the heels of John's op-ed on credit cards fees (and the retailers who want price controls on them) comes a piece by investor (and podcaster) Ryan Krueger on the campaign against payday loans. Some activists want payday loans banned, or at least more tightly regulated, because they point out it's poor working people who are paying all those high fees. Yet it's exactly their uncertain financial situation which keeps them out of the market for other financial tools like credit cards. Clearly what they need is greater access to financial services, not less. So how exactly does banning the practice of one of the few money management tools they have make things better? Krueger also points out some of the...
  • Lake Woebegone Takes over Britain!

    November 27, 2006
    The classic motto of Garrison Keillor's bucolic world — “where all the children are above average” — has now been adopted by David Cameron, leader of the Conservative party now challenging Labour in the UK. In a recent speech, Cameron noted “…we used to think of poverty only in absolute terms — [but in the future] we need to think of poverty in relative terms — the fact that some people lack those things which others in society take for granted.”
  • They Know It When They Smell It

    November 27, 2006
    Here at Open Market, we're big fans of Penn & Teller, particularly their emmy-nominated Showtime program, Bullshit! Our own Angela Logomasini was even a guest on the episode they did on recycling. We are therefore excited to bring you, via Google Video, their episode on environmental hysteria, featuring the now-legendary petition drive to ban dihydrogen monoxide. Thanks to Wayne for passing along. [googlevideo]-4480559399263937213[/googlevideo]
  • Keeping a Stiff Upper Lip on Climate Science

    November 22, 2006
    The global warming debate this week features a furious back-and-forth between our pal Al Gore and Christopher Monckton (a/k/a Viscount Mockton of Brenchley), a former policy advisor to Margaret Thatcher. Monckton started with two articles in the Sunday Telegraph earlier this month, which Gore then responded to. The final product is this analysis and defence by Monckton of his original arguments, complete with dozens of references and citations (direct PDF link). It gets a little technical in parts, but it's a great point-by-point refutation of Gore's arguments. Almost as good, I might add, as this one, by our very own Marlo Lewis.
  • Court Ensures Painful Death for Terminally Ill

    November 22, 2006
    Yesterday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals voted to vacate and rehear its Abigail Alliance v. Von Eschenbach decision, which would have required the FDA to justify why it prevents gravely ill people who would otherwise die from obtaining access to drugs that have passed the first stage of the FDA's lengthy approval process. Decisions are usually reversed when they are reheard by the full court. Apparently, the specter of terminally ill people being able to access experimental drugs that might save their lives was just too scary for many of the D.C. Circuit judges. Perhaps they agreed with the specious arguments of the Washington Post, which editorialized against the D.C. Circuit's original decision in favor of the terminally ill by using the straw-man argument that no one has an affirmative right of access to medical...
  • Stern's Critical Flaws

    November 22, 2006
    The Stern Review on the economics of climate change has come in for more criticism from experts in the field. Following Richard Tol, we now have Yale's William Nordhaus (PDF link), who says:
    The Stern Review is a Prime Minister's dream come true. It provides decisive and compelling answers instead of the dreaded conjectures, contingencies, and qualifications. However, a closer look reveals that there is indeed another hand to these answers. The radical revision of the economics of climate change proposed by the Review does not arise from any new economics, science, or modeling. Rather, it depends decisively on the assumption of a near-zero social discount rate. The Review's unambiguous conclusions about the need for extreme immediate action will not...
  • Keeping an Eye on the CBS Legal Department

    November 21, 2006
    CBS is appealing new FCC indecency regulations (and fines) in court, arguing that the new rules run afoul of the First Amendment. Which, of course, they do. Hopefully the executives at CBS and other broadcast stations will remember this when reporting on other FCC intrusions into what we are allowed to see, hear, download, upload, talk about or even buy online. And just in case you were wondering what depraved indecencies have been getting the FCC's knickers in such a twist over the past few years, check out a pile of them here.
  • Weighty Problem

    November 21, 2006
    As Brooke notes below, obesity has been tied to global warming.  One of the lessons obesity campaigners drew from that study was that losing weight saves you gas money and that the US uses 938 million more gallons of gas a year because of the extra weight gain since 1960.  The often excellent env-econ blog had something to say about that:
    Let's say that a typical new car sold these days weighs about 4000 pounds. A 50 pound increase (one heavier male, one heavier female) is a 1.25 % increase in total weight. If the gasoline savings are about 1%, the elasticity of gas to weight (% change in gasoline divided by the % change in weight) is 0.80. Hmmm. Maybe the estimate ain't so crazy. Extrapolating, if the typical car turns into a typical car sold 25...
  • Fake Boobs and Phony Science

    November 21, 2006
    To follow up on a thread from yesterday, FDA's decision to let silicon gel filled breast implants back on the market is noteworthy for two other reasons not mentioned by my colleagues. The first real breakthrough on this front was back in 1999, when a federal judge in Alabama appointed a National Science Panel pursuant to a Daubert motion to investigate the reliability of the plaintiffs' expert witnesses in the Silicone Gel Breast Implant Products Litigation. The panel examined the epidemiological evidence available as of 1999 and concluded that breast implants were associated with an increase the relative risk of rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune and rheumatic conditions by 15 percent (not...

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