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  • Free trade gives way to labor protectionists

    January 17, 2007

    At a press roundtable today, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative John Veroneau said that the U.S. would be renegotiating three completed Latin American free trade agreements to add more labor provisions before submitting them to Congress.

    The FTAs with Peru, Colombia, and Panama already include extensive labor and environmental provisions that were mandated by the Trade Promotion Authority Act of 2002. However, Democratic leaders — flush with their Congressional victories in late November — had written the USTR saying that more stringent labor provisions needed to be included in trade pacts before they would consider approving them.

    Here's an...

  • The Latest Disease of Affluence

    January 17, 2007

    Living in a nation with a vibrant market economy and a predictable rule of law is generally considered a good thing. Lest we allow ourselves to be blinded to the darker side of capitalist society, though, Reuters is here for us, exposing the story the rest of the mainstream media has been too timid to tackle: unduly elaborate little kid birthday parties.


    It seems that a group of social science professors from Minnesota have decided that fancy parties for young children are "running out of control," ($25,...

  • As Lenin said about rope...

    January 17, 2007
    Our sophisticated friends, the Europeans, are desperate to do anything to meet their Kyoto targets, which they are currently speeding away from in the wrong direction. That noted philanthropist Vladimir Putin is riding like a white knight to the rescue:
    Russian energy group Gazprom will make its first significant foray into carbon trading on Tuesday through a joint venture with Dresdner Bank that could open up a €15bn ($19.4bn, £9.8bn) market. The joint venture between Gazprombank, part of the Gazprom Group, and Dresdner Kleinwort will invest in projects generating "carbon credits" under the Kyoto protocol, mainly in Russia and eastern Europe.
    Coincidentally, Gazprom has had the way cleared for it to become Russia's monopoly...
  • Economists File Brief In Support of Terminally-Ill

    January 17, 2007
    On November 21, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals voted to vacate and rehear its Abigail Alliance v. Von Eschenbach decision, which would have required the FDA to justify why it prevents terminally-ill people from obtaining access to potentially life-saving doctor-recommended drugs that have passed the first stage of the FDA's lengthy approval process. Ted Frank of AEI, working with the O'Melveny & Myers law firm, has filed a well-written amicus brief on behalf of several eminent economists arguing in support of the D.C. Circuit's original decision in favor of the terminally ill. The brief explains why allowing the terminally-ill greater access to such drugs will not only save the lives of terminally-ill people, but also...
  • We're from the government and are here to help

    January 17, 2007
    That is, of course, one of the classic lines of untruth. A spectacular example comes from the UK:
    [The] invention looked like being a godsend to all those businesses across the country, such as those on most industrial estates, that generate huge amounts of cardboard packaging that normally gets thrown away into landfill. Being a careful engineer, Mr Donovan was keen to ensure that his device complied with all the relevant EC legislation, so several times between 2001 and 2003 he consulted the Environment Agency. On the basis of their advice, he completed a prototype of his system, which saved a local plant nursery thousands of pounds a year on its heating bills...
    After looking again at the EC's waste incineration directive, [the Agency] now advised that,...
  • Forbidden Words

    January 16, 2007
    Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes observed in Towne v. Eisner (1918) that "a word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged, it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in color and content according to the circumstances and the time in which it is used." Court rulings under the First Amendment recognize this fact.  There are no forbidden words that the government can ban regardless of the circumstances in which they are used.  For example, in Hardy v. Jefferson Community College (2001), the federal appeals court in Cincinnati held that an instructor could not be terminated just for discussing the "N" word and how it was historically used to promote racism. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would like to change that, though.  It would like to ban racially derogatory terms, even when they are used by minorities themselves. ...
  • New -- WTO summaries of trade disputes

    January 16, 2007
    For those following trade issues, a World Trade Organization report published today gives one-page summaries of 103 cases brought before the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body from 1995 to September 2006. Such important disputes as the U.S. complaint against the European Commission on beef hormones, Canada's complaint against the U.S. re softwood lumber, Brazil's complaint against the U.S. on domestic support for upland cotton, and the earlier and far-reaching shrimp-turtle decision are included with core facts and findings. It's sobering to realize that complaints are brought about seemingly minor products in the world trading system, such as wheat gluten or preserved peaches. Products such as those, however, may be extremely...
  • "Daniel" makes it easy for identity thieves

    January 16, 2007
    With Congress focusing a lot of attention on identity theft, sometimes it's important to note that individuals have some responsibility for protecting their personal information.  That hit home this morning as I rode to work on the S2 bus on 16th Street.  Right behind me, a young professional man was on his cell phone, and he was making a credit card purchase. During his one-sided conversation, I learned his Visa credit card number — he repeated it very slowly so listeners could be sure to get it -- the expiration date of his card, his name and the correct spelling, his phone number, his new address — that was repeated too — his zip code, his email address, and his place of employment (the World Bank).  I also learned that he was charging an item for $280.17. No, I didn't get his mother's maiden name....
  • Another Hazardous Rulemaking

    January 12, 2007
    This week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) denied the marketing of yet another wood preservative, meaning consumers will continue to have few choices when it comes to buying wood products for decking, fences, and other outdoor structures. Wood preservatives are the chemicals used to make pressure treated lumber—lumber that is resistant to insects and decay. The ostensive reason for prohibiting the product—acid copper chromate or ACC—was to prevent consumers from suffering allergy-related skin irritations and reduce potential cancer risks for workers. Yet ACC has been used safely for decades. It was once one of the most widely used chemicals for residential uses, and it is still used in industrial applications. The same cannot be said about the alternative products that began wide use in 2004, and which pose serious other problems for consumers (see below). This decision...
  • Rep. Flake gets bumped from Judiciary -- on principle?

    January 12, 2007
    One of the top free market legislators — Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) — got kicked off the House Judiciary Committee, even though he had more seniority than some of the other Republicans who were kept on. Rated the most fiscally conservative House member by the National Taxpayers Union, and the top free trader by Cato Institute, Rep. Flake has also been a leader against “earmarks” — lawmakers' pet pork projects that get buried in larger bills. Other papers report that he got dumped because of his stands against the Republicans' immigration and border control measures. He also has taken on warrantless wiretap policy. I'm with the Wall Street...


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