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  • Of Gas Prices and Carbon Taxes

    May 21, 2007
    Iain, I found your post on how higher gas prices have reduced travel very interesting. In the short term, what you present is a good first guess and it tells us what would happen in the first year of a carbon tax. But I think there's another level worth looking at. Some percentage of auto travel -- commutes to work for example -- is difficult to change in the economic short run (the period before changes can be made in land, labor, capital, and entrepreneurial ability/smarts). It seems to me that changing any of these factors (getting to the long run, in other words), will take quite a while when it comes to automobile travel. It takes over 25 years -- longer in desert areas -- to turn over the nation's vehicle fleet. It also takes significant time to change land use patterns, create new...
  • Mises on Immigration

    May 18, 2007
    As long as I'm on the subject of immigration, a complex matter, I always find Ludwig von Mises always quotable, providing clarity in such complex matters (I've previously cited him on labor more generally). As he notes in the essay "The Freedom to Move as an International Problem" (1935):
    If the European workers are prevented from emigrating and thus have to stay at home, this does not mean they will remain idle as a result. They will continue to work in their old homeland under less favorable conditions. And because of the less advantageous conditions of production there, they will be compensated in lower wages. They will then compete on the world...
  • A Free Market means a Free Labor Market

    May 18, 2007
    CEI's mission of "advancing the principles of free enterprise and limited government" doesn't come with the caveat of "unless it costs too much under our current welfare state." Eli, while I agree that immigration, either legal or illegal, isn't driven by the availability of state-provided social services, I think you miss a key factor. In addition to greater economic freedom, people who enter the United States illegally do so because of the demand for labor here. The push of "Mexico's poverty" is only half the picture; the pull of American jobs is also crucial -- though the economic freedom you mention is what allows those U.S. jobs to be created. I more strongly disagree with your contention that America has "little choice but as to keep on building walls to keep out illegal...
  • A Colossal Tragedy

    May 18, 2007
    A story on today's front page of the Washington Post highlights the life of Rachel Carson. While largely praising Carson, the author does note that Carson's contribution to the banning of DDT remains "controversial." While Carson surely would not have wanted this legacy, "controversial" doesn't begin to describe it. It's an ongoing colossal tragedy—one that Carson's followers could help reverse if only they would aggressively advocate DDT use for malaria control. After all, while Carson was wrong about DDT's public health impacts, she did admit that pesticides are sometimes necessary to address public health emergencies.
  • The Only Green Vacation Is Staying Home

    May 18, 2007
    Being a Malthusian environmentalist is getting more difficult every day. When I was volunteering for an enviro non-profit many years ago in high school, all you really had to do was recycle your soup cans and, if practical, start a compost pile, (I did both) and you'd be a member in good standing of the green social set. In the era of the "carbon footprint", however, things have gotten much more difficult. Now that pretty much anything you produce, consume or discard contributes to greenhouse gas emissions in some way, previously virtuous behaviors have now become grave sins. Which brings me to one of the Associated Press stories in today's Washington Post, which assesses the moral conflict in the ecotourism industry:...
  • Did the undersecretaries of Famine and Pestilence get the memo?

    May 18, 2007
    Along with the launch of the Politico, the arrival of The Onion in print has been a boon to the nation's capital's Metro riders, especially myself (or the Politico would be if its circulation department bothered to install a box at East Falls Church). Today I had to restrain from laughing out loud on the train. Of course, a jaded libertarian might ask: Wouldn't that constitute most of government already? ...
  • Americans drive less - what does that tell us?

    May 18, 2007
    It appears that, for the first time in 26 years, the average American is driving less. Between March 06 and March 07, the figures suggest that Americans drove 200 to 300 million miles less than they would have if the growth rate had continued. According to government figures, the average price of gas rose by 18c from $2.37 a gallon to $2.55 in that period. From this, we can work out what that implies would need to happen to the price of gas to deter more CO2 emissions. The average American auto gets 17 MPG, so this implies a reduction per capita of about 21 gallons per year. If we attribute this all to the gas price, then a price increase of 18c has led to a decrease of 183kg of CO2 per person. So, the tax one would have to levy to reduce CO2 by 1 (metric) ton would be 98c per gallon. That...
  • NAFTA redux

    May 18, 2007

    CEI, of course, hates to say "We told you so!" As a shy, retiring group, it tries not to toot its own horn immodestly. But two editorials today—one in the Financial Times and the other an op-ed in the Washington Times by our friends at Cato—call out for CEI to crow over its prescient position on the negatives of including non-trade issues, such as labor and environmental provisions, in trade agreements.

    The current two editorials point out some of the dangers of the "Bipartisan Trade Deal" that anti-trade and protectionist legislators forged with the embattled and battered Administration. Loads of enforceable labor and...

  • Tim Carney on Drugs

    May 18, 2007
    Our good friend Tim Carney writes in today's Examiner about how Congress is pushing to expand the FDA's authority over prescription drugs, and why the pharmaceutical companies couldn't be happier:
    When the U.S. Senate passed a bill May 9 to expand the Food and Drug Administration's authority to regulate prescription drugs, the big drug makers applauded. This latest expansion of government regulatory power marked another win for the pharmaceutical industry, which has one of the most successful lobbying records in town. The U.S. pharmaceutical industry is built on federal regulations and more often than not finds itself on the side of increased government control over pharmaceuticals. This year's push (spearheaded by “Liberal Lion” Teddy Kennedy) to heighten...
  • "Ethanol's bitter taste" in the WSJ

    May 18, 2007
    Wall Street Journal editorial writer Kimberley Strassel, in her usual irreverent, inimitable way, today hits the government subsidy and mandate program for ethanol. In her column titled "Ethanol's Bitter Taste," (subscription required) Strassel describes how there's now a pushback from some of the farmers affected by high corn prices. She points out:
    The hugely influential National Cattlemen's Beef Association has gone so far as to outline a series of public demands, including an end to any government tax credits (subsidies) for ethanol and an axe to the import tariff on foreign ethanol. Put another way, the cattlemen are so angry that they are demanding free markets and free trade -- a first.

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