Sweet Protectionism

November 23, 2012

For American sugar producers, like many other industries, protectionism is apparently a sweet deal. Not the same for American consumers, as this video from Learn Liberty explains …

H/T to Crony Chronicles.

A Half Century Without the Fairness Doctrine

August 4, 2012

Twenty-five years ago today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted an order effectively repealing the infamous broadcast “Fairness Doctrine.” The Doctrine required that broadcast licensees had to present reasonable opportunity for the airing of contesting points of view when covering issues of public importance to their community. For nearly 40 years, it was upheld in the name of protecting the ‘public interest.’

Lost in this more positive-right view of freedom of speech often espoused by proponents of the Doctrine was the harm it had on the more negative-right view of freedom of speech. But over time the negative-right view won out. It became viewed as a restriction on free speech, creating a “chilling effect” which led broadcasters to avoid covering any controversial public issues due to the requirement to ensure all sides of the issue were covered.

To commemorate the repeal, Reason.tv has posted the following interview with Thomas Hazlett, a professor of law and economics at George Mason University, discussing the history and various issues with the Doctrine:

In addition, I actually wrote my master’s thesis on the subject, relating it to the two conceptions of liberty: positive and negative, as postulated by Isaiah Berlin. In addition to the “chilling effect” argument, I also argued in the thesis that the positive-right conception exemplified in the Doctrine lends itself to an uncomfortable level of paternalism on the part of government regulators and a constitutional abridgement of negative-right speech. For those with probably too much time on their hands, all 184 pages can be read here.

Getting Permission to Work

May 19, 2012

The Institute for Justice has this fairly thorough video demonstrating the preponderance of dubious occupational license requirements in many jurisdictions:

Back in 2006, I looked at the prevalence of occupational licensing in Hillsborough County, Florida – starting with the example of requiring auctioneers to be licensed. I thought it kind of funny that a person who wanted to be an auctioneer requires a government license, while a 16-year-old who wanted to operate a large roller coaster, like at the theme park where I used to work, did not. (Subsequently, that theme park quit hiring anyone under 18 years of age – not connected to my original column I’m sure.)

At the time, Hillsborough County issued two different auctioneer licenses: one for selling your own property and one for selling someone else’s. (I contemplated interviewing an actual auctioneer, but I realized that he or she might be difficult to understand.)

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The Waivers List

January 29, 2011

As an objection lesson, below is a list of health plans that have been granted waivers from the requirement in the new healthcare ‘reform’ law ending yearly benefit limits. There are two main problems with this scenario. One is that it flies in the face of the promise that Americans would be able to keep their existent health insurance plans if they want to. The other is that it grants the authority to an appointed, unelected government official – the Health and Human Services Secretary – to simply exempt certain companies from a law.

While you think about those issues, gaze upon this list of over 700 plans that have been granted waivers (Warning: It’s long!):

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Words for the Weekend – 10-22-10

October 22, 2010

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.”

– attributed to either E. F. Schumacher or Albert Einstein

Political Attempts to Ignore Economics in Health-care ‘Reform’

September 28, 2010

Politicians are experts at ignoring economics. One of their favorite activities is to mandate price and service requirements from private companies and just expect that, like magic, all will be fixed. They seldom acknowledge the perhaps unintended, but yet inevitable, consequences of their wishful mandating.

The most pertinent example is the list of nice-sounding mandates on insurance carriers included in the new health-care ‘reform’ law. Many of them took effect this week.

The list includes, among others, the following requirements:

  • Insurers can no longer deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions
  • Insurers can no longer put lifetime caps on benefits
  • Preventive services are now free
  • Kids can stay on a their parents’ plan until 26

All of these, of course, will add to the overall costs of insurance policies. There is a difference between “price” (how much is directly charged a consumer for a service) and “cost” (the amount of money required to provide the service).

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Stretching the Commerce Clause

August 31, 2010

Here’s a great new video from Reason.tv on the extents to which Congress has stretched the scope of the commerce clause in the U.S. Constitution over the years in order to justify its regulation of just about everything:

‘Government Approved’

August 29, 2010

A little noticed effect of government regulation of industry is that it acts in ways to protect already established businesses from up-start competition, doing a disfavor to consumers. Part of the way it achieves this is through licensing and “seals of approval.”

A small section of a recent report on the current egg recall notes how the USDA issues such government approval:

A USDA official, though, told FoxNews.com that USDA agencies have had no involvement in food safety regulations over shell eggs. The official said USDA’s chief task was to send an official to the farms, including one involved in the latest outbreak, to grade the eggs — in other words, inspect them for thickness and cracks and other quality assurance factors in order to give them a USDA seal of approval.

“Quality” is here based on standards developed by a government bureaucracy. The story notes how such standards do not necessarily ensure safety:

That stamp, though, does not certify that an egg is salmonella-free.

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Legal Challenge to Obamacare Underway

August 4, 2010

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=obama+sebelius&iid=9183874″ src=”http://view.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9183874/obama-speaks/obama-speaks.jpg?size=500&imageId=9183874″ width=”234″ height=”156″ /]The “individual mandate” section of the ‘Obamacare’ law passed earlier this year is now being officially challenged in the courts. A recent decision in a U.S. district court furthers this legal challenge by denying an effort by Kathleen Sebelius, acting in her official capacity as Health and Human Services Secretary, to have a case disputing the constitutionality of the law dismissed.

It’s an interesting read. Here’s one notable excerpt from the concluding remarks that summarizes the importance of considering the case:

While this case raises a host of complex constitutional issues, all seem to distill to the single question of whether or not Congress has the power to regulate — and  tax — a citizen’s decision not to participate in interstate commerce. Neither the U.S. Supreme Court nor any circuit court of appeals has squarely addressed this issue. No reported case from any federal appellate court has extended the Commerce Clause or Tax Clause to include the regulation of a person’s decision not to purchase a product, notwithstanding its effect on interstate commerce.

It should be interesting to see how far this legal challenge goes.

Raw-Food Raid

July 28, 2010

Imagine the scene. Cops barge in, guns drawn. “Sir, place the raw milk down and put your hands in the air!” That was apparently the sight at a recent raid of a California organic grocery store.

A Los Angeles Times story notes the following:

With no warning one weekday morning, investigators entered an organic grocery with a search warrant and ordered the hemp-clad workers to put down their buckets of mashed coconut cream and to step away from the nuts. Then, guns drawn, four officers fanned out across Rawesome Foods in Venice. Skirting past the arugula and peering under crates of zucchini, they found the raid’s target inside a walk-in refrigerator: unmarked jugs of raw milk.

The raid was reportedly a coordination among several government agencies: the county’s Department of Public Health and district attorney’s office, the state Department of Food and Agriculture, the FDA, and the federal Department of Agriculture. What concern motivated them to barge in with guns aimed: raw food. The thought! A video of the raid is also posted on the LA Times website.

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