Saturday, March 31, 2007

Mad Regulation
Mike Rappaport

Say there is some problem that affects the private market -- for example, the sale of meats with Mad Cow Disease.  So the government steps in and decides to test, or require testing of, cows.  Most people support these actions. 

Of course, a free market fan might (or might not) argue that such government testing is problematic, since it might be too restrictive or too costly.  Yet, most people would probably say that the problem seems to warrant the solution and ask what is so wrong with being safe.  (Of course, excessive testing requirements can be very dangerous.  It appears that the FDA kills many people each year by delaying or preventing good drugs from getting to the market sooner.  But let's put that aside.)

But government does not limit itself to protecting consumers from this one danger.  It also steps in and tries to control the market more generally.  So the government has determined that testing for mad cow is a good thing, but only up to a point.  Some private companies wanted to test for mad cow, but the government said no: that would be too much testing and a bad thing.  In this case, fortunately a court told the government, no.  (Fortunately as a policy matter; I don't know the law.)

The point here is that the government rarely just steps in in a limited way.  Once it steps in, it often feels the need -- legitimately or not -- to start regulating things all over the place.  Wisdom when it comes to regulation must take this into account, and must not, as is so often done, assume it away.

March 31, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 30, 2007

Forbes Endorses Giuliani
Mike Rappaport

Steve Forbes endorses Rudy Giuliani based in part on the latter's fiscal conservatism.  This should provide a big boost to Giuliani among economic conservatives:

Less well known is the mayor's fiscal record. Nonetheless, conservatives will find it impressive. He built New York's resurgence not just on fundamental police work, but also on a foundation of fiscal discipline. He cut taxes and the size of government and turned an inherited deficit into a multibillion dollar surplus.

In his first budget address Mr. Giuliani explained that he would "cut taxes to attract jobs so our people can work." While lots of politicians make promises about cutting taxes Mr. Giuliani delivered, overcoming the initial resistance of the overwhelmingly Democratic City Council. He ultimately prevailed 23 times, including cuts in sales, personal income, commercial rent and hotel occupancy taxes. He understood that these taxes were not revenue producers, but counterproductive job killers.

When he left office after eight years, New Yorkers had saved over $9 billion, while enjoying their lowest tax burden in decades. The private sector, which had been hemorrhaging hundreds of thousands of jobs in the years before he took office, produced over 423,000 new jobs. Meanwhile the unemployment rate was cut in half. Businesses responded to Mr. Giuliani's reforms by returning to the center of city life.

So when he talks about his belief in supply-side economics, its not just theory, it's a plan he has already succeeded at putting into action. He's seen the results of supply-side economics first hand--higher revenues from lower taxes.

Mr. Giuliani set out to cut the size of city government, insisting that New York should live within its means. New Yorkers saw their quality of life improve with more effective delivery of services while the bureaucratic ranks were being thinned by nearly 20,000--a near 20% decrease in city headcount, excluding police officers and teachers. He increased the number of cops and teachers because he understood that public safety and quality education are what we expect in return for our tax dollars, not partisan job protection or union featherbedding. As mayor, he proved that government can be smaller and smarter--more efficient and more effective.

March 30, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

International Law Now
Maimon Schwarzschild

Glenn Reynolds:

"International law" is only a tool to bash the United States and its allies. It's not meant to actually protect people. Except the enemies of civilization. Just ask the folks in Darfur.


March 29, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Your blog readers probably know you better than you know yourself
Tom Smith

This study of facebook sites probably applies to blogs as well, and certainly makes one think.  Don't think too much, however, or you will stop posting.

March 29, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Betting Their Lives (Or Someone's)
Maimon Schwarzschild

Roger L. Simon on the Timeline for Withdrawal bill:

[T]he Democrats are more than ever in the position of having to root for an American defeat and the defeat of democracy in Iraq. They have bet their political lives on our failure.

But I suppose we should call it the Pork for Surrender bill.

March 28, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Are Left-Leaning Supporters of the ERA Confused?
Gail Heriot

As many of you know, Ted Kennedy, Barbara Boxer and others are working on reviving the ERA. The ill-fated proposal–which stated that "[e]quality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex"–was adopted by Congress in 1972 and ratified shortly thereafter by 35 of the 38 states needed. Five of those states later withdrew their ratification. When the 1979 deadline for ratification was about to expire, Congress extended it to 1982, but no additional states could be persuaded to sign on. The ERA was dead--or so everyone thought. Recently, the so-called "three-state strategy" for its resurrection has been put forth by its supporters. This strategy operates on the premise that (1) Congress can extend the deadline for ratification (yet again) after the previous deadline has passed: (2) once a state ratifies, it cannot withdraw its ratification and (3) a state ratification that was obtained on the (explicit) understanding that the ratification process must be completed by 1979 is still good a generation later.  Other strategies are also being proposed. (Kennedy & Boxer are evidently co-sponsoring the ERA's re-introduction.)

There are lots of fascinating questions raised by all this. For example, with regard to the three-state strategy, if Congress can essentially "withdraw" its original deadline for ratification, why can’t states withdraw their ratification? The biggest question, however, has got to be: Why in the world do Kennedy and Boxer and groups like the Feminist Majority want to revive the ERA under any strategy ? Isn’t it just as likely to harm their political agenda as help it? What about affirmative action? Won’t the ERA hurt the argument for preferential treatment for women in public employment, public contracting and public education? Do they really think that Roberts, Stevens, Scalia, Kennedy, Souter, Thomas, Breyer, Ginsburg, & Alito will always interpret the amendment in a way that will further rather than hinder the so-called feminist agenda?

The Left just poured millions of dollars into unsuccessfully opposing the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. Among other things, MCRI prohibits the State of Michigan from discriminating on the basis of sex in public employment, public education and public contracting. Self-described feminists howled that such a law would be devastating for women, because it would forbid affirmative action programs. (They were correct that MCRI will prohibit preferential treatment based on sex in public employment, public education and public contracting; on the other hand, their claim that MCRI will prohibit medical researchers from studying breast cancer was deliberate fear mongering.) Now these same people are demanding an amendment that is worded even more strongly than MCRI. Don’t they need to stop and think about what they are doing?  Exactly what would ERA do?  Would it elevate sex to the same level as race in equal protection analysis?  Or would it raise it even higher?  Would it affect affirmative action?  Wouldn't everyone like to know the answers to these questions before they decide whether to support or oppose the ERA?

That’s all for now. I hope to elaborate on this theme later.

March 28, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Daycared dudes disruptive
Tom Smith

This new study suggests kids who spend a substantial amount of time in day care are more likely to be disruptive in school, an effect that persists through the sixth grade.

Our three year old Mark has been a little disruptive in pre-school.  Apparently sometimes during circle time he prefers to run around the school, being chased by a teacher's aide.  When our nanny picked him up the other day, the teacher said to Mark, "Now please tell Theresa that you are going to stay seated during circle time."  Mark replied "Actually sometimes I like to run around during circle time."  Of course, we all found this highly amusing.  This is the parents-getting-lazy-with-the-fourth-child syndrome.  We are now shooting for complete potty training by the beginning of the fifth grade.  Alternatively, nanotechnology may eliminate the necessity altogether.

March 27, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

A Stern Look at Schoolroom Politics
Maimon Schwarzschild

A grimly funny story made the rounds (if not the papers) recently of grade-school "anti-capitalist" indoctrination in Seattle.  Here is Sol Stern, of the Manhattan Institute, who keeps track of the iceberg of which the Seattle story was a mere tip.  Scroll down for Stern's articles and op-eds on far-left "progressive education" in public schools, very much including grade schools, across the country. 

The latest: "progressive" math.  This, like much else of the same sort, seems to be inspired by doctrinaires, including ex-Weatherman gurus, in the teacher's colleges or "ed" schools.  Many - if not most, if not all - of the ed schools (in a more innocent era they were called "normal schools") are even more gruesome and absurdly politicized than you probably imagine.

Stern is the author of an important book on school choice - "Breaking Free: Public School Lessons and the Imperative of Free Choice".  It's not getting any less imperative.

March 27, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

A Global Warming Question
Mike Rappaport

Question: How much has the global mean temperature gone up since 1999?
Answer: Not at all.

That's from this podcast with Richard Lindzen of MIT, a climate scientist and a prominent scientific skeptics of global warming.

Lindzen also notes that some funding grants for anti-global warming projects have been cut off.  (What a shock?  Who would have thought?)

The entire podcast, which is worth listening to, can be found here.

March 27, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Another Southern California Grocery Strike?
Gail Heriot

Good grief.  Albertson's employees have apparently voted to go on strike--again.  After the 2003 Southern California grocery strike (involving Albertson's, Von's and Ralph's), both union and management lost big.  The stores lost market share to Costco and Wal Mart, and employees found themselves replaced by self check out lines.    Here is a comment that I wrote during the last strike.  It goes double now:

I confess that I do not understand the current grocery strike in Southern California. It has been a week now with no agreement in sight. The non-unionized Wal-Mart, whose consumer-friendly low prices have made it the most popular grocery retailer in the world, is sure to be the major beneficiary. Southern California appears to be witnessing a suicide.

But I will resist asking Rodney King's question. The last time labor and management in the traditional grocery industry "got along" with each other, it was to persuade California's daffy legislature to squelch their competition. The statute that got passed would have made it illegal to sell groceries in a building the size of a Wal-Mart or CostCo. It was one more occasion for the California legislature to demonstrate what a carnival of special interests it had become.

Fortunately, this was back in the year 2000, when now-recalled Governor Gray Davis was still in his responsible moderate phase. He vetoed the legislation. In his scathing veto-message, he called it "anti-competitive and anti-consumer" and "the worst kind of end-of-session manuevering by special interests." Had Gray Davis continued to stand up to the California legislature the way he did that day, he might not have been recalled.

March 26, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)