March 10, 2008I've previously called attention to stupid product bans around the nation. Now, with Elliot Spitzer -- a member of CEI's list of The Nation's Top Ten Worst Attorneys General -- under fire and likely to resign as governor as a result of his alleged involvement in a prostitution ring, it seems pretty clear to me that Spitzers' problems are an issue for his family and New York's voters to deal with.
But, provided that it comes out that he did nothing more than simply visit a prostitute while on a business trip--probably a misdemeanor -- I...
March 7, 2008At long last, David Simon's grossly overrated, overwrought, overwritten, television series "The Wire" is getting the bad reviews it deserves. [Full disclosure: I've had my personal differences with Simon and, at one point, he took to writing be hugely nasty emails to me for daring to suggest that maybe his own reporting on inner-city life sometimes ran contrary to his own nihilistic left-wing ideology. He even once called me a profane name in a print interview. Why he, a big time television producer and best true crime writer of his generation would feel threatened by things I wrote in small circulation political magazines is beyond me.]
The show went unwatched largely...
March 5, 2008An important new study from the American Consumer Institute shows that consumers, on the whole, want broader choice of insurance plans.
Right now, insurance remains the only industry that's regulated almost entirely on the state level. Proposals for an Optional Federal Charter offer one promising way to give consumers more choice. Structured properly, it could do a lot of good.
March 5, 2008Cord,
I couldn't agree more with your points about Gary Gygax. I think it's also worth noting that the game he created Dungeons and Dragons--in its original form--has a strong, libertarian, almost Randian, theme. Although the game can now be played in any number of settings, the original "world" that Gygax created, Greyhawk encourages players to take the role of rugged individualists, fight the corrupt mages who rule the land, go forth to slay monsters, and gather lots of treasure for themselves. Of course, the sort of moral self-assuredness Rand...
March 4, 2008I'm a case study in complex taxes. During 2007, I switched jobs, got income from a half dozen sources, bought one house, sold another, made energy saving upgrades to the home I bought, and had a baby. I didn't sell any investments outside of tax sheltered accounts but I did have interest and dividend income from a bunch of places. So how difficult were my taxes? Using name brand software provided through a major financial services company, I finished my taxes for $44.00 and two and a half hours of time on a Sunday afternoon. A lot of my information was copied from last years' return or downloaded directly from people who paid me or were paid by me.
I'm not bragging. Actually, I'm not even that organized. I know that businesses, particularly small ones, do have real problems with tax compliance. But I've never thought that complexity provided a compelling reason, or even a decent one,...
February 26, 2008A new CEI paper by one of our fellows--okay, me--outlines the five dumbest product bans we could find in the United States. My personal (least) favorite is a Louisiana law that threatens children with $250 fines if they sell wildflower bouquets without having passed a florist's exam. Admittedly, writing the paper was sort of like shooting fish in a barrel: the bans we picked are so clearly absurd that I simply can't figure out how legislators have managed to pass them without snickering. (Although one, a ban on a medical device to assist with CPR, stems from regulation rather than statute.) In addition to the wildflower and CPR device bans, we also picked bans on playing online poker against friends, marketing sex toys--which, under the law could include a simple...
February 25, 2008I recently came across Tumbleweed, the self-styled "tiny house company." The houses that Tumbleweed builds in California and delivers to any site in the lower 48 states are, indeed, tiny. They range from 70 to 120 square feet. By comparison, a typical new home is a shade under 2,500 square feet, up from about 2,000 square feet 10 years ago and about 800 square feet in the 1950s. The Tumbleweed houses are also pretty to boot. For people determined to live a Thoreau-like life in the woods, they may be just the thing. I could even imagine an ordinary childless couple using one as a summer house. They do appear very well designed and even beautiful.
But, on a per-square foot basis, they're some of the most expensive...
February 20, 2008Via fark.com comes an I-can't-believe-she-wrote-this memo telling journalists to be nice to Castro. One particularly delicious passage:
Please note Fidel did bring social reforms to Cuba — namely free education and universal health care, and racial integration. in addition to being criticized for oppressing human rights and freedom of speech.
In addition to questionable grammar -- people and movements are subject to oppression, abstract concepts cannot be oppressed -- part of this is flatly wrong. It's true that Cuba provides plenty of state-paid doctors (although little in the way of actual care) and also true that it has a public school system. So, yes, Cuba has "free" education and health care. But racial integration? Bah. Although...
February 18, 2008I'm an eBay fanatic: clothes, shoes, furniture, razor blades, makeup for my wife, books and even a car -- I've found them all on eBay. I'm also an eBay seller and have used the the site to move everything from tattered old books to a TiVo I didn't need any more.
In many ways, I think that eBay is one of the greatest examples of what a free market economy can accomplish.
Recently, however, eBay has announced a series of policy changes that take effect on Wednesday. As a result, many sellers are up in arms and threaten an Ebay boycott.
Although its management is as prone to miscalculation as anyone else, it is obvious that eBay didn't get where it is by treating sellers poorly. Unlike...
February 12, 2008Doug,
I agree with your criticisms of the about the problems with the Swedish health care system. But, of course, we have pretty much the same thing here. The government--through Medicaid, SCHIP, and occasionally Medicare--already provides health insurance to almost half of all children. Medicare "takes care" of all of the old and disabled. Many efforts to graft "private" features onto these programs--all of SCHIP and Medicare Advantage--can sometimes be worse than the pure-government programs that preceded them.
The Canadian Health care system, a bugbear to much of the Right, is not very different from the American system: it's somewhat better for preventative care, somewhat less likely to waste money on MRIs for every broken bone, and somewhat worse at end-of-life care. Like...