January 23, 2008Jimmy Carter regulated the temperature of public buildings. The state of California is preparing to regulate the temperature of private homes. Really.
Explains columnist Jonah Goldberg:
California is proposing revisions to its housing code that would require all new or remodeled homes to have a "programmable communicating thermostat." Equipped with special "nonremovable" FM radio receivers, these devices would allow state power authorities to set the temperature in your home as they see fit. Ostensibly to manage demand during "price events" and other "emergencies," you would basically cede control of your home's heating and air conditioning to the state (when and if state officials wanted to exercise it).
What will they think of next? Don't ask! I...
January 23, 2008Most people understand the role of incentives. Pay me to stop working and I will happily quit my job and take the check. Penalize me for working and I also will quit, if not quite so happily, since there's no check involved.
The government routinely creates perverse incentives without thinking. Decades ago Washington put price controls on domestic oil. Great idea. So producers invested less to find new sources; energy companies imported more foreign oil, which was not subject to price regulation; consumers used more energy since it was cheap; and gas lines developed across America, since you can't supply less while demanding more without having, er, "problems."
Economists Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt point out that similarly perverse incentives afflict everything from the Americans with Disabilities...
January 17, 2008Surprise, surprise! The Europeans don't like market economics.
That's hardly startling news. But it turns out that the educational system works overtime to demonize free enterprise. Stefan Theil of Newsweek writes in the Financial Times:
There has been much debate over the ways in which historical ideology is passed on to the next generation - over Japanese textbooks that downplay the Nanjing massacre, Palestinian textbooks that feature maps without Israel and new Russian guidelines that require teachers to acclaim Stalinism. Yet there has been almost no analysis of how countries teach economics.
In France and Germany, schools have helped ingrain a serious aversion to the market economy. In a 2005 poll, just 36 per cent of French citizens said they supported the free...
January 15, 2008What will the world look like in a century? Imagine asking that question in 1900. And in 1800. The world would have changed in so many dramatic ways, that any economic and environmental predictions would have been worthless.
That's the problem that we face with the climate doomsayers. They can spin out scenarios day after day, but there is little reason to believe the underlying economic and other assumptions.
So far the computer models have proved inadequate to the task. More research has come forth demonstrating that the models predict more warming than we have so far seen. If they can't get the last three decades right, why does anyone believe that they will get multiple decades, or longer, in the future right?
Explains Drew Thornley of the Heartland Institute:
Computer models that form the basis for...
January 15, 2008Access to health care has become a big political issue in the U.S. And it's a legitimate issue. The American system is a bizarre mish-mash of public and private, with government incentives encouraging third party payment and employer provision of medical insurance. The result isn't pretty.
But nationalized systems are far worse. Access remains an issue, since the government becomes the sole gatekeeper. And the results, well, aren't pretty.
If you're in Great Britain, forget getting the best and most effective (and, thus, the most expensive) medicines. Reports the Guardian:
Drug rationing is essential in the NHS, and ministers should back the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) which plays the key role in deciding which ones are worthwhile, MPs will say today in a...
January 10, 2008Let's see. The U.S. Constitution gives the Congress the power to raise armies, regulate interstate commerce, and ... control snack machines in local schools. Apparently that's how a number of members of Congress read America's basic governing document.
Not content with leaving anything outside of Uncle Sam's purview, Republicans and Democrats alike are backing the moves.
Reports the New York Times:
Federal lawmakers are considering the broadest effort ever to limit what children eat: a national ban on selling candy, sugary soda and salty, fatty food in school snack bars, vending machines and Ã la carte cafeteria lines.
Whether the measure, an amendment to the farm bill,...
January 10, 2008It's terrible. We all know that global warming threatens the planet's future. Everything is getting worse. More people are dying. Or they are supposed to be. It just isn't working out. It must be an oil company conspiracy!
Reports the Times of London:
GREEN scientists have been accused of overstating the dangers of climate change by researchers who found that the number of people killed each year by weather-related disasters is falling.
Their report suggests that a central plank in the global warming argument — that it will result in a big increase in deaths from weather-related disasters — is undermined by the facts. It shows deaths in such disasters peaked in the 1920s and have been declining ever since.
Average annual deaths from weather-related events in the period 1990-...
January 8, 2008Government always has been pretty good in handling blunt, simple tasks: bombing cities into ruins, for instance. But if any nuance or sophistication is required, it's best not to call in the public sector.
One of the latest panaceas for gloal warming is banning the common light-bulb. But it turns out that doing so will have a significant adverse health impact on some people.
Reports the Press Association:
The process of phasing out the conventional pear-shaped "incandescent" bulbs and replacing them with more energy-efficient fluorescent models begins this month and is due to be completed by 2011 as part of the UK's efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
But Professor John Hawk, dermatology spokesman for the British Skin Foundation, warned that the new-style bulbs will cause...
January 8, 2008Americans like to believe that they are a free people, certainly freer than the Europeans. And the U.S. economy has been much more vibrant than those of most European nations for years.
However, America risks losing its advantage. Even as some U.S. politicians complain about how much taxes have been cut, socialist European leaders are proposing to slash rates below those in America. A commitment to cut taxes is spreading elsewhere in the world--to the Mideast, for instance.
Observes the Wall Street Journal (subscription required):
Start in Europe, where Socialist Party Prime Minister JosÃ© Luis RodrÃguez Zapatero pledged in December that if re-elected, "One of the first decisions I would take is to eliminate the wealth tax [up to 2.5%]," which he says is one of the...
January 3, 2008You get what you pay for, goes the adage, and it certainly is true when it comes to nationalized health care. Britons thought that they were entitled to medical treatment. Not so fast! It turns out that they have "responsibilities," in the view of Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Reports the Daily Telegraph:
Patients could be required to stop smoking, take exercise or lose weight before they can be treated on the National Health Service, Gordon Brown has suggested.
In a New Year message to NHS staff, the Prime Minister indicates people may have to fulfil new "responsibilities" in order to establish their entitlement to care.
The new conditions could be set out in a formal NHS "constitution", Mr Brown says.
In his open letter to...