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  • Why Wi-Fi?

    August 21, 2007
    David Robinson at The American said my last blog post on Wi-Fi was intriguing and asked me to write a piece for him. I can't turn down a request for writing, so here it is. The piece is about the recent failure of the San Francisco Wi-Fi plan with Google and Earthlink. I also advance the argument that a public/private partnership to create Wi-Fi is a generally bad idea—the regulation that comes with Muni-Wi threatens to turn providers into utilities.

  • Out on the Experimental Economics Frontier

    August 20, 2007
    In a recent paper, University of Calgary economist Robert J. Oxoby addresses the eternal question: Who was the better singer to have fronted AC/DC, the legendary Australian hard rock : Bon Scott or Brian Johnson? Of course, on purely aesthetic grounds, answers to this question may vary, so Oxoby decided instead to conduct an experiment to see which singer's material could help lead listeners to make more efficient decisions -- under strictly controlled conditions, of course. Given that the late Bon Scott, whom Johnson replaced after his death in 1980, is most fans' favorite, Oxoby's conclusion is bound to be, well, at least among those who read the paper.
    The question as to who was a better singer, Bon Scott or Brian Johnson, may never ruly be resolved. However, our...
  • Chesapeake Bay Foundation -- more corn acreage, more pollution

    August 20, 2007
    Growing more corn for ethanol in the mid-Atlantic region will mean increased pollution in rivers, streams and the Chesapeake Bay, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation notes. The CBF cited a report showing that significant expansion of corn acreage will require more nitrogen fertilizers and lead to increased runoff.
    To meet the growing demand for corn, the region's farmers are expected to increase corn planted in the watershed by 500,000 to 1 million acres over the next few years,” said Tom Simpson, the lead author and Regional Coordinator of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Water Quality Program. “Even under relatively well-managed crop rotations, increased corn acreage will lead to increased nitrogen fertilizer use, and an increase in nitrogen pollution."...
  • FDA Tobacco Regulation Bill: A Trojan Horse?

    August 20, 2007
    PR Watch has an interesting story on the cynical baptist-bootlegger alliance behind the bill to give the FDA oversight over the tobacco industry, which would reduce competition in the tobacco industry, while making it harder to market reduced-risk tobacco products to smokers.
  • Peru's Post-Earthquake Prospects

    August 20, 2007
    The horrendous devastation of the recent earthquake in Peru could only have been exacerbated by government incompetence. That's my conclusion after reading Ian Vazquez's account in today's Wall Street Journal. In some parts of the country, government provision of basic services, such as clean water and education, is so bad that residents are simply giving up on the state to provide, and turning to the private sector instead. (Subscription required for Journal link.)
    One million of Lima's eight million citizens have no access to clean water.

    The water monopoly -- which loses some 40% of its water through leaky pipes or in ways otherwise unaccounted for -- is only one of...

  • DDT Deniers Deny Science

    August 20, 2007
    DDT-deniers—those who would rather let people die that allow DDT use to fight malaria-carrying mosquitoes—have been critiquing our blog posts on the topic lately. Last week they attacked us for highlighting recent scientific research that underscores the value of DDT in repelling mosquitoes. Apparently, they won't even be swayed by scientific data, nor do they want anyone else to be convicted by the facts. But don't be swayed by their hype. Instead, read the op-ed in today's New York Times by Dr. Donald Roberts one of the study's authors. Roberts notes:
    DDT, the miracle insecticide turned environmental bogeyman, is once...
  • The Uncreative Indestructibility of Modern Farming

    August 20, 2007
    Over at the Mises Institute's website, Dan McLaughlin highlights a little-discussed pernicious effect of U.S. farm policy: the short-circuiting of the market's creative destruction. Just as mom-and-pop grocery stores gave way to supermarkets, which gave consumers better value and choice, so other businesses should be allowed to lose out to more efficient competitors. But during the 1930s, the federal government decided to step in to protect farmers threatened by the Great Depression. The result, a mind-boggling array of price supports and subsidies, is still with us today, as the current Farm Bill attests.
    Just as mom-and-pop groceries disappeared because they were inefficient high-cost operations, inefficient farms should be allowed to follow suit. That is what happens with inefficient auto mechanics, plumbers, homebuilders, or...
  • DDT Saves Africans from Malaria

    August 20, 2007
    Donald Roberts has an interesting Op-Ed in the New York Times about the crucial role of DDT in preventing the spread of malaria in Africa. DDT all but eradicated malaria in the West, but was banned after it was falsely blamed for endangering various bird species.
  • In Defense of the Prix Fixe Menu

    August 20, 2007
    Our old pal Peter Suderman, now writing for FreedomWorks, has a great takedown of the argument for "a la carte" cable pricing up at CNET today:
    At a recent communications forum in Aspen, Colo., Kevin Martin, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, once again announced his support for imposing federal authority over how your video programming company packages its lineup. Martin would force providers to offer channels on an "a la carte," or per-channel basis, replacing the current system in which subscribers buy bundled packages. He claims that such a rule would aid parents in fighting objectionable content, and that it would allow consumers to pay only for the channels they want, ostensibly saving them money. Sounds nice, right? Too bad enacting such a law would...
  • What Gives in South Carolina?

    August 17, 2007
    I'm writing this from the new library in downtown Columbia, South Carolina. It's a big, open all glass building that I wouldn't want to be in during a hurricane. Thanks to a series of insurance reforms, here, however, it looks like it will get rebuilt quickly no matter what happens. South Carolina, for the most part, has taken the right insurance reform route when it comes to wind coverage while other states have gone wrong. Some background first: in the wake of soaring post Hurricane Katrina rates, nearly every hurricane-prone state implemented insurance reforms. In most places, these reforms involved states taking on liability for their citizens: Florida, as I write about in the current Weekly Standard, could well go bankrupt. While states like Texas and Mississippi won't go bankrupt, they will likely need to raise taxes on...


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