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OpenMarket: Doug Bandow

  • The Politics of Federal Flood Insurance

    August 29, 2007
    There's been quite a buzz recently on the second anniversary of Hurricane Kartrina's destruction of New Orleans. Presidential contender Barack Obama even offered a plan to restore the city.

    Of course one should sympathize with the residents of New Orleans, especially those who were driven from their homes and lack the resources to rebuild. But from what springs the belief that one is entitled not only to live in a flood plain, below sea level, but to have the rest of the country pay one's way?

    America is a large country and there are plenty of places to build a house that do now sit in a bowl between a lake and an ocean. It's one thing to make the mistake once. But to repeat the mistake again--and to put the taxpayers at risk again--is outrageous.

    Of course, New Orleans is not the only place where Uncle Sam...
  • Porking One's Way to Victory

    August 26, 2007
    For some people government is a means to an end, a tool to achieve certain ends. With them real debate is possible. While one can, and should, disagree with, say, someone who desires to arbitrarily reshuffle people's wealth to meet some predetermined "fair" distribution of income, at least there is something to debate.

    But Washington is filled with people for whom government is a means to a different end -- the acquisition and maintenance of power. How do you argue with someone who really doesn't care one way or another about liberty, or poverty, or the environment? All they want to do is run the world, and passing out loot -- bringing to mind H.L. Mencken's comment that an election is an advance auction of stolen goods -- is the most effective means of doing so.

    These people can be Republicans or Democrats. In fact, in recent years the GOP has been far more effective in playing...
  • Battered Food Police and the Battle Against Trans Fats

    August 23, 2007
    The food fascists are every where. It's one thing for New York City to ban trans fats from city restaurants. But for the Great Indiana State Fair to do so is pure sacrilege.

    One might view this as a nod to making a healthier America, except for the fact that the foods served at the fair are decidedly--and thankfully--unhealthy. Reports the New York Times:
    The deep-fried Combo Plate may be a little more healthful this year at the Great Indiana State Fair. So say the fair's leaders, who, taking a step rarely seen in the realm of corn dogs and fried pickles, have banned oils with trans fats from all the fryers that line the grounds here...
  • Save the Planet, Reward Your Friends, Get Reelected

    August 23, 2007
    Is nothing sacred? Congress passes an energy bill in the name of fighting global warming, and what it best accomplishes is passing pork off to campaign supporters of leading legislators. Who would have imagined!?

  • The Carbon Offset Scam: Can I Join?

    August 16, 2007
    Free markets may not be perfect, but they demonstrate enormous flexibility and creativity. Display a demand, and a market will develop. So it is with so-called carbon offsets, but which people can buy absolution for engaging in activities which generate carbon dioxide emissions.

    Of course, the cynical among us suspect that most people are just tossing money away in order to salve their guilty consciences. In the comic strip Sherman's Lagoon, for instance, one of the lagoon's underwater residents sells carbon offset certificates to anyone feeling slightly guilt-stricken about almost anything.

    Unfortunately, reality appears to track entertainment. Reports the Washington Post:
    With a click, a credit card and $99, visitors can pay a...
  • You Can't Save the Planet by Ruining the Economy

    August 15, 2007
    The issue of global warming has become a classic morality tale: the heroic environmental activists battling the evil temperature deniers. Despite the efforts of Newsweek, among many others, to prevent any debate on the issue, even the science remains at issue. As NASA had to acknowledge, the 1990s really weren't the hottest decade on record. The 1930s were. Oops!

    The other great elephant is "solutions." If the goal is to stop warming--in contrast to adapting to any problems as they occur--the cost would be hideous. As Robert Samuelson wrote in the Washington Post:
    The global-warming debate's great unmentionable is this: We lack the technology to get from...
  • Bipartisan Greed on Capitol Hill

    August 13, 2007
    During the 2006 congressional campaign Democrats denounced the Republican majority for its wastrel ways. It was a fair criticism: the GOP lavished money on pork as well as entitlements. There was, it seemed, no program which the Republicans didn't want to increase!

    Now the Democrats are in charge, and, well, nothing much has changed. The symbol of congressional waste and corruption is the earmark, an appropriation typically directed by one legislator to a major constituent or campaign contributor. Alas, the supposedly reformist Democrats have joined ranks with the supposedly reformed Republicans to support every earmark that comes to a vote. The chief antagonist of earmarks, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), writes Robert Novak:
    is immensely unpopular on both sides of the aisle...
  • America's Black Market in Raw Milk

    August 9, 2007
    Criminals continue to peddle their illegal wares in America, as heroic law enforcement officers seek to stamp out a dangerous black market. No, the product isn't heroin or cocaine. It's far worse. It is ... raw milk.

    It turns out that some people prefer raw over pasteurized milk. Never mind that Americans drank unprocessed milk - straight from the cow, as it were - for, well, centuries. Two decades ago the Food and Drug Administration banned the interstate shipment of "raw" milk.

    However, it is legal in some states, and can be sold in other states for purposes other than human consumption. Which opens up black market opportunities for determined consumers and entrepreneurial producers.

    Reports the New York Times:

    [Mark McAfee's] raw milk is sold in 300 stores in California, where it is legal....
  • So Much for Eating Local

    August 6, 2007
    Environmentalism embodies numerous religious rituals. Recycling is one -- it doesn't matter if the practice is economically or even environmentally productive. It's essentially an act of worship to the Earth.

    Similar is the mantra that people should buy, eat, and produce locally. In theory, of course, one saves on transportation costs. But there's a moral subtext -- that somehow staying close to your home is superior to wandering across the country or globe interacting with nameless masses beyond your own community.

    Now it turns out that localism can be bad for the environment. Because -- imagine this! -- foreigners sometimes engage in more efficient economic and better environmental practices. University researchers recently took up the issue, with results sure to confound the most doctrinaire environmentalist....
  • Calling All Fair Pay Warriors!

    August 6, 2007
    It's an axiom of faith for the usual redistributionists that capitalists are biased against women and discriminate against them when it comes to pay and benefits. Cited as evidence is a "wage gap" that is never adjusted for age, experience, or time worked. Even today women are more likely to take time off in the home. That's an admirable decision, but it naturally results in lower pay in workplaces that value experience.

    The even more bizarre manifestation of the "pay discrimination" thesis was comparable worth. The claim was that women workers, such as librarians, were paid less than men workers, such as truck drivers, even though the work was "comparable." Of course, there was no obvious definition of what was "comparable," so highly paid consultants were called in to decide exactly how many nurses equaled how many engineers. No one agreed on who was equal to what, and the...

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