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  • “Socialism or Death”â€â€Is There a Difference?

    October 23, 2006
    “Socialismo o muerte” (“socialism or death”) may be the choice that Fidel Castro has imposed upon Cuba's population for decades, but many Cubans are responding, “Neither.” As The Washington Post reports, Cubans all over the island are resorting to thriving “black market” enterprise—a lot of which would be legal just about anywhere else, with the exception of, say, North Korea. Post reporter Manuel Roig-Franzia notes:
    The thriving underground economy functions as a pocket of capitalism, prescribed by supply and demand, within the Western Hemisphere's only communist state. Observers say it may be the precursor of a push for a market economy, one that could accelerate after President Fidel Castro dies; on the other hand, they say, the black market may simply be...
  • Ted Kennedy, Hero of Socialist Labor

    October 23, 2006
    More fun news from CNS today: the history of Ted Kennedy's secret plan to conspire with the Soviets to derail Reagan's reelection in 1984! The amusing tale unfolds thusly: Specifically, Kennedy proposed that [Communist Party General Secretary Yuri] Andropov make a direct appeal to the American people in a series of television interviews that would be organized in August and September of 1983, according to the letter. “[Former U.S. Sen. John ] Tunney told his contacts that Kennedy was very troubled about the decline in U.S -Soviet relations under Reagan,” [Prof. Paul] Kengor said. “But Kennedy attributed this decline to Reagan, not to the Soviets. In one of the most striking parts of this letter, Kennedy is said to be very impressed with Andropov and other Soviet leaders.” In Kennedy's...
  • Going Wobbly at Starbucks

    October 23, 2006
    Ever feel like you're aiding the oppression of workers every time you order a mocha latte at Starbucks? According to the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), you should, because the coffee chain is guilty of such brutal offenses against workers as hiring them part-time and paying less-than-premium wages for what is essentially low-skill work. Remember the IWW? Don't feel bad if you don't; it's the ultra-radical union group, also known as Wobblies, that saw its heyday during the 1910s and 1920s. While I was aware of the Wobblies' campaign, I was surprised to see them in D.C., since it's…not Berkeley, from where Shawn Macomber reported on this campaign for Reason Online. He spoke with a concession stand worker at a movie theater the Wobblies were...
  • Politics Nerds Rejoice

    October 23, 2006
    Students at my alma mater, Claremont McKenna College, have created a very wonky alternative to the season's popular fantasy football leagues: fantasy Congress. As The New York Times reports today, hundreds of people have already joined the fun: Just as in fantasy football or baseball, each player picks a team — in this case, 4 senators and 12 House members of varying seniority levels — and competes with other players in a league typically managed by a friend or a co-worker. Members determine whether to play for money or the thrill of victory. But that is where the similarities end. On the Fantasy Congress Web site, www....
  • Big government tattoo artists

    October 23, 2006
    CEI has nothing against tattoos. Some of our staffers proudly sport them. And we generally have a live-and-let-live, libertarian philosophy. But now, in a twist, it seems the tattooed are the ones displaying intolerance. Over at, editor Joseph Farah reports that firms that don't allow employees to sport tattoos or body piercings may now face discrimination “lawsuits from members of a new activist lobby representing the ever-growing population of those into ‘body modification.'” CEI recommends this article even though we don't necessarily agree with all of Mr. Farah's opinions against tattoos. The article reports that some cities in California have vaguely-worded laws prohibiting discrimination “based on appearance and behavior.” A wholesale club was sued was recently sued by a member of...
  • Maybe That's Why the Lacrosse Scandal Disappeared from the News

    October 20, 2006
    Scientists at Duke University and Imperial College London have reportedly developed a cloaking device for solid objects. All of the relevant Romulan and Harry Potter jokes have, naturally, already been made. The military applications are obvious, but I'd like to hear anyone's ideas for civilian, consumer applications. Making your car invisible to vandals? Hiding that pile of unwashed dishes in your sink from party guests? Personally disappearing when activist canvassers come to the door?
  • "The politics of relative position is the egalitarian welfare statist’s new favorite game"

    October 20, 2006
    Cato's Will Wilkinson has an interesting, if slightly econ-jargon filled, article in Policy magazine on egalitarianism, class resentment and "zero-sum positional conflicts." Published by Australia's Centre for Independent Studies, link from Arts & Letters Daily.
  • The Latest Wal-Mart Scandal

    October 20, 2006
    Well, they've gone and done it again. Wal-Mart, that is. Even with all kinds of labor and activist pressure on them to change their ways, they go right on and charge ahead with business as usual. That's right, that shameless corporation created another 8,600 new jobs in October. Will they never learn? Also, for a great, wide-ranging discussion on the economics of Wal-Mart, check out the Econ Talk podcast "Legislators vs. Wal-Mart," with Russ Roberts and his guest, the brilliant Richard Epstein of the University of Chicago.
  • Ralph Harris, RIP

    October 20, 2006
    Ralph Harris, guiding light of the UK's Institute for Economic Affairs, has passed away. The Times has an extensive obituary: For three decades at the epicentre of free-market thinking, Ralph Harris was decisive in converting the British political consensus back to liberal economics. He did this chiefly by informing — and often inspiring — an ideological underpinning for Margaret Thatcher and Sir Keith Joseph as they remodelled the Conservative Party after 1975. Supplying the motivating energy (as its general director, 1957-87) behind the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), the most enduring and intellectually substantial of the think-tanks made famous by the Thatcher phenomenon, Harris had exhibited great character in maintaining his...
  • Cars, Women and Minorities

    October 20, 2006
    The magazines Black Enterprise, African American Golfer's Digest and Divas On-The-Go are hosting the African-American Empowerment Weekend here in Washington this week. We've talked a lot in the past about how free market ideas can do just that - provide economic empowerment to members of historically disenfranchised minority groups - and how any number of government policies have done just the opposite. One of the most interesting of these examples is the role the privately owned automobile has played in expanding economic opportunities for women and minorities. Transportation policy analyst...


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