Minor Thoughts from me to you

Archives for Regulation (page 1 / 5)

Freaking Out Over Babies in Boxes

Rachel Rabin Peachman gives me the reason for my weekly eye roll directed towards the New York Times. Finland gives new mothers a box loaded with baby supplies. The box can double as an infant bed. It's been a successful program in Finland, so American hospitals are following their lead.

American "safety" experts are freaking out, because these are unregulated boxes. And, by the mighty power of the precautionary principle, anything unregulated must be treated as a danger to society.

But the rapid pace at which the box programs have been adopted by states and hospitals worries some experts, who say the boxes have not yet been proven to be a safe infant sleep environment or an effective tool in reducing infant mortality.

“I’ve been very surprised at how much enthusiasm there’s been for this and how people are just jumping on this bandwagon,” said Dr. Rachel Moon, chairwoman of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ task force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. “They’re just assuming that since it worked in Finland that it’s going to be fine.”

Well, yes. That seems a reasonable thing to assume. Hence the reason why I'm rolling my eyes at Dr. Moon. She appears be a professional worrier, which does nothing to change my general opinion that the American Academy of Pediatrics is primarily run by professional worriers.

The CPSC joins her in stressing out about these boxes.

Ms. Buerkle said there are a number of unknowns about the boxes. “What is the box made of? How durable is it? If you use it through three different children does it deteriorate?” she said. “But those are things they’ll determine in the standards committee.”

But Dr. Moon said safety standards need to be decided by unbiased experts, not the companies that make a product. She said she has many unanswered questions about the boxes herself, including: What are the age and weight limits for baby boxes made in the United States? Is it safe to pick up the box with the baby in it? What is the airflow quality inside the box? Is it safe to place the box with baby inside on the floor or on another surface?

Good grief, people. It's a box for newborn infants. I think it's very nature indicates that it's a disposable start, not a full bed. She appears to worry that there will be a rash of parents trying to stuff their children in boxes, carry the boxes around the house, and then mail them to their grandparents.

Meanwhile, Temple University has been busy using these new box programs to do some research.

On Monday, Temple University released data showing that box programs may influence the sleep practices of new parents. When new mothers in the Temple program received a baby box and face-to-face sleep education from a nurse before leaving the hospital, their reported rate of bed-sharing with their infant within the first eight days of life was 25 percent lower than the reported bed-sharing rate of mothers given nursing instructions and no baby box. Bed-sharing is a risk factor for suffocation and other sleep-related deaths. The A.A.P. recommends that infants sleep alone, on their backs, without any loose, soft bedding.

Dr. Megan Heere, medical director of the Well Baby Nursery at Temple University Hospital and lead author of the study, said she was optimistic about the baby boxes and their potential role in promoting safe sleep. “At this point we have no reason to believe they’re dangerous,” Dr. Heere said. “We’re of the thought process that it can only help.”

I'm with Dr. Heere. Let's try acting as though parents had a modicum of common sense. Parents who already have a good bed or bassinet for their infant won't use the box as a bed. For the parents who don't have those things, the box may very well be better than whatever they'd been planning to use. Let's not freak out until we've first seen whether or not there's a reason to freak out.

(Oh, and why am I rolling my eyes at the New York Times? Because of their typically breathless coverage and the fact that they chose to lead the article with the fact that the boxes are, gasp!, unregulated. As though that were the primary thing that mattered.)

Lawsuit filed over Wisconsin law banning 'illegal' Irish butter →

A state law that makes it illegal to sell a popular Irish butter in Wisconsin is unconstitutional and deprives consumers of their rights, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in Ozaukee County court.

The public advocacy group Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty brought the suit against the state on behalf of five clients, four of them consumers and one a Grafton food store.

Good. Very good. And why was this necessary?

"Wisconsin’s current protectionist law requires butter that is bought and sold to be labeled by the government. This archaic labeling regime prevents very popular butter such as Kerrygold from being enjoyed by Wisconsin residents," the group said in a news release.

A state law with roots in the 1953 margarine scare requires all butter sold in Wisconsin to be tested and graded by state-approved experts.

As a butter made and packaged in Ireland, Kerrygold is not inspected in the United States, making it illegal to sell under the state law.

Lest you think this is a worthwhile regulation, Wisconsin is the only state in the nation with a law like this. It's a purely protectionist measure, to make the Wisconsin dairy industry happy.

Limited Government Limits Corruption

Alberto Mingardi, writing at EconLog:

We are back to the original argument: "liberalising" policies, that go in the direction of decreasing government powers, are in a sense the best competition policy. The less the government can give away, the least a private business could ask from it.

Most people seem to think that there's a way to limit government corruption while continually expanding the areas of our lives that the government controls or affects. This is a false. As long as governmental policies can have a large impact on the economy, people will find a way to make sure that the impact is positive for them (or at least negative for their competitors).

The only effective way to reduce corruption is to reduce the government's ability to make some groups winners and some groups losers.

FDA bans antibacterial soaps →

Beth Mole reports, for Ars Technica.

In a final ruling announced Friday, the Food and Drug Administration is pulling from the market a wide range of antimicrobial soaps after manufacturers failed to show that the soaps are both safe and more effective than plain soap. The federal flushing applies to any hand soap or antiseptic wash product that has one or more of 19 specific chemicals in them, including the common triclosan (found in antibacterial hand soap) and triclocarbon (found in bar soaps). Manufacturers will have one year to either reformulate their products or pull them from the market entirely.

As Ars has reported previously, scientists have found that triclosan and other antimicrobial soaps have little benefit to consumers and may actually pose risks. These include bolstering antibiotic resistant microbes, giving opportunistic pathogens a leg up, and disrupting microbiomes. In its final ruling, issued Friday, the FDA seemed to agree. “Consumers may think antibacterial washes are more effective at preventing the spread of germs, but we have no scientific evidence that they are any better than plain soap and water,” Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), said in a statement. “In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term.”

Innovation and its enemies →

​Matt Ridley wrote about a new book, Innovation and Its Enemies.

“When a new invention is first propounded,” said William Petty in 1679, “in the beginning every man objects and the poor inventor runs the gauntloop of all petulant wits.” As Calestous Juma, of Harvard Kennedy School, recounts in a fascinating new book called Innovation and Its Enemies, even coffee and margarine were fiercely rejected at first.

He shared some of the stories from the book.

In the 16th and 17th century, coffee was repeatedly outlawed by religious and political leaders in Cairo, Istanbul and parts of Europe as it spread north from Ethiopia and Yemen. Their objection was ostensibly to its “intoxicating” qualities or on some spurious religious ground, but the real motivation was usually to ban coffee-houses’ alarming tendency to encourage the free exchange of ideas. King Charles II sought to close down all coffee houses explicitly because he did not like people sitting “half the day” in them “insinuating into the ears of people a prejudice against” rulers. He’d have hated Starbucks.

Margarine, invented in France in 1869, was subjected to a decades-long smear campaign (blame Professor Juma for the pun, not me) from the American dairy industry. “There never was . . . a more deliberate and outrageous swindle than this bogus butter business,” thundered the New York dairy commission. Even Mark Twain denounced margarine, showing that celebs have been anti-progress before.

Laws were passed in many states to cripple the margarine industry with bans, taxes, labelling laws and licensing provisions. By the early 1940s, two thirds of states had banned yellow margarine altogether on spurious health grounds. This is reminiscent of today’s reaction to the invention of vaping: banned in some countries, such as Brazil and the United Arab Emirates, discouraged in most others.

The Horse Association of America once fought a furious rearguard action against tractors. The American musicians’ union managed to ban all recorded music on the radio for a while. Like the initially successful opposition to railways from the canal owners in Britain a century before, incumbent industries will do their utmost to stop new challengers.

People react to many new innovations with an attitude of "ban it until it's proven safe". This is an easy reaction, but a wrong headed one. We're all made poorer by knee jerk fear. We look people at our ancestors and wonder how they could have possibly been afraid of margarine or coffee. What will our descendants think of our fear of GMO foods or plastics?

Imagine if Exxon Was Protected From Liability After the Valdez?

John Gruber approvingly quotes Evan Osnos:

Anybody — especially people who favor free markets — should conclude that the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act was a big mistake. Imagine if Exxon was protected from liability after the Valdez? That’s not how markets should work. It will probably be revised or repealed to make sure that companies are doing safe work — as with any industry.

The argument is that because Exxon was held responsible for the Valdez oil spill, gun manufacturers should be held responsible for deadly shootings.

That's one of the stupidest comments that I've seen smart people make. Exxon was the company operating the Valdez. The Valdez itself was manufactured by National Steel and Shipbuilding Company. As far as I can discover, NASSCO was never sued or penalized over the Exxon Valdez crash. Exxon (the user of the ship) faced massive penalties for the oil spill.

The same principle would apply to cars. If someone uses a Ford Focus to detonate a car bomb, you don't sue Ford for making the car. If someone drives a Ford into a crowd of people, killing some, you don't sue Ford for making the car. And if someone uses a Colt handgun or rifle to kill someone, you don't sue Colt for making the gun. You prosecute the individual who was using the gun.

This entry was tagged. Guns Regulation

80% of Americans Support Mandatory Labels on Food Containing DNA →

Ilya Somin writes at the Foundation for Economic Education:

A survey by the Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Economics finds that over 80 percent of Americans support “mandatory labels on foods containing DNA,” about the same number as support mandatory labeling of GMO foods “produced with genetic engineering.” Oklahoma State economist Jayson Lusk has some additional details on the survey.

If the government does impose mandatory labeling on foods containing DNA, perhaps the label might look something like this:

WARNING: This product contains deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). The Surgeon General has determined that DNA is linked to a variety of diseases in both animals and humans. In some configurations, it is a risk factor for cancer and heart disease. Pregnant women are at very high risk of passing on DNA to their children.

The Oklahoma State survey result is probably an example of the intersection between scientific ignorance and political ignorance, both of which are widespread. The most obvious explanation for the data is that most of these people don’t really understand what DNA is and don’t realize that it is contained in almost all food.

When they read that a strange substance called “DNA” might be included in their food, they might suspect that this is some dangerous chemical inserted by greedy corporations for their own nefarious purposes.

Let me be perfectly clear. Those who want mandatory GMO labels on food are only slightly less foolish than those who want mandatory DNA labels on food. In both cases, the labels are born out of a fear driven by ignorance and superstition.

This entry was tagged. Food Regulation

Rural broadband bills would streamline local approvals →

The Wisconsin Assembly is considering some changes to how broadband providers apply to provide service.

AB 820, creates a “Broadband Forward” certification for municipalities that is intended to limit fees and streamline the application process for service providers. To be eligible, municipalities must enact an ordinance that designates a single contact for applicants to work with and provide a timeline for consideration of applications, specific criteria for approval or denial of applications, and enables electronic filing.

It would also prohibit application fees exceeding $100 and bar municipalities from discriminating against providers seeking access to public right-of-ways.

That all sounds good to me.

[Rep. Dave Considine, D-Baraboo] said he’s largely concerned that the bill would place too many restrictions on local governments.

“I’m scared that we’re dictating a whole lot as a state to local municipalities,” he said. “While I support rural broadband like crazy and wanted to sign on just based on the title, I think there’s enough restrictions in there that make me hesitate.”

Oh? How are these restrictions a bad thing? The provisions about providing a single point of contact, hard timelines, and specific criteria all sound like very good things to me. Let the companies know who they're dealing with, how long the process will take, and exactly what they have to do. Get rid of the risk of long delays and capricious criteria.

Bill Esbeck, executive director of the Wisconsin State Telecommunications Association, lauded the bill for prohibiting “unreasonable” fees on service providers. Some of the Telecommunications Association’s member companies have seen right-of-way access fees as high as $5 per foot, making already expensive projects less feasible, he said.

“When you have a project that is looking to invest in a fiber route that’s 10,000 feet long, a $50,000 invoice from a local government seems to cross the line between reasonable and unreasonable. … This will absolutely improve the efficiency of those investments,” Esbeck said.

Given the deplorable lack of rural broadband in America, to say nothing of actual competition, I think the State should approve anything and everything that can speed up the approval and permitting process. The faster and cheaper it is to submit an application for providing broadband service, the more broadband you're likely to get.

How the Daily Fantasy Sports Industry Turns Fans Into Suckers

Jay Caspian Kang, in the New York Times Magazine, wrote a good overview of what daily fantasy sports are and how they're currently rigged against casual players.

I initially intended to write an article about the bro culture that had sprouted up around D.F.S., which, from a distance, reminded me of the sweaty, sardonic camaraderie you typically see at high-stakes poker events. At the time, the crusade against D.F.S. felt a few degrees too hot — DraftKings and FanDuel struck me as obviously gambling sites, but the game itself felt sort of like homework. You research players. You build a spreadsheet. You project data and enter a team. You watch the team either fulfill or fall short of your projections. The next day, you start over again. The ruinous thrill of other forms of gambling — sports betting, blackjack, poker — just wasn’t there.

Instead, I came across a different sort of problem: a rapacious ecosystem in which high-volume gamblers, often aided by computer scripts and optimization software that allow players to submit hundreds or even thousands of lineups at a time, repeatedly take advantage of new players, who, after watching an ad, deposit some money on DraftKings and FanDuel and start betting.

​The biggest problem is that expert players relentlessly hunt for, and take advantage of, inexperienced players.

Bumhunting” is a word that comes from the poker world. It means seeking out an inexperienced player and mercilessly exploiting him for all he’s worth. Bumhunters are pariahs because they turn what can be a cerebral, competitive game into its most cynical iteration, and, in the process, discourage that new player from ever coming back. But poker has built-in safeguards against rampant bumhunting — new players tend to play at lower limits, which make it harder for bumhunters to take in huge profits. The bumhunter’s dream is to play thousands of games of poker a day against a never-ending line of fresh, inexperienced newbies. He falls short of that lofty goal because he has to actually bet, raise or fold his hands – he can play multiple tables at once, but he cannot fully automate his bumhunting.

In the game lobbies of DraftKings and FanDuel, however, sharks are free to flood the marketplace with thousands of entries every day, luring inexperienced, bad players into games in which they are at a sizable disadvantage. The imbalanced winnings in D.F.S. have been an open secret since this past September, when Bloomberg Businessweek published an exposé on the habits of high-volume players. The numbers are damning. According to DraftKings data obtained by the New York State attorney general’s office, between 2013 and 2014, 89.3 percent of players had a negative return on investment. A recent McKinsey study showed that in the first half of the 2015 Major League Baseball season, 91 percent of the prize money was won by a mere 1.3 percent of the players.

​It's nearly impossible to avoid being matched against someone who vastly exceeds your own skill level.

For the 17 weeks I played D.F.S., whether at a $5 entry fee or for $100, I routinely was matched up against top players. But unless I examined win rates and researched the strengths and weaknesses of my opponents, I would never have known that I was being repeatedly bumhunted by high-volume players.

On Dec. 16, for example, I entered three $20 N.B.A. head-to-head contests on DraftKings. My opponents were gunz4hire, Dinkpiece and Nadia4Fashion. Gunz4hire was then ranked 47th on the Rotogrinders players ranking and is generally considered one of the better players in the world. Dinkpiece, who was 20th on that same list, is the alias for Drew Dinkmeyer, a former stock trader whose winnings in D.F.S. have been so well publicized that he has his own Wall Street Journal stipple drawing.

On Christmas, the biggest day in the N.B.A.’s regular season, I entered 17 head-to-head contests on DraftKings for prices between $1 and $20. Once again, I was matched up against Dinkpiece and gunz4hire, along with a handful of other professionals.

The next day, I entered three more $20 N.B.A. contests. I was able to avoid Dinkpiece and gunz4hire, but found myself in a $20 head-to-head against Birdwings, the 2nd-ranked player in the Rotogrinders rankings.

In three days, I played three of the best D.F.S. players in the world.

​Kang ends with a hope for the future. I was glad to see that he didn't call for a large, regulatory framework or an entire shutdown of the daily fantasy sports industry. Instead, he points out that simple transparency could eliminate much of the problem.

There is, in theory, a version of D.F.S. that could work. All that’s required is a transparent marketplace in which a player can reasonably expect to enter a head-to-head or 50-50 or even one of the big-money tournaments without going up against hundreds of lineups generated by professional gamblers who have been lying in wait for him.

This entry was tagged. News Regulation

Why Daraprim went from $13.50 to $750

Andrew Pollack wrote a shocking expose of corporate greed, revealing that Turing Pharmaceuticals jacked the price of Daraprim from $13.50 a tablet to $750 a tablet. This is a 62-year old drug.

Pollack spent 21 paragraphs writing about the importance of this drug and the shockingly unapologetic greed demonstrated by Turing Pharmaceuticals. I spent 21 paragraphs wondering how a company could increase the price of an unpatented drug by 5,500% without being undercut by a competitor.

In paragraph #22, Pollack finally decided to toss off a few sentences about that.

With the price now high, other companies could conceivably make generic copies, since patents have long expired. One factor that could discourage that option is that Daraprim’s distribution is now tightly controlled, making it harder for generic companies to get the samples they need for the required testing.

Oh-ho. It's government regulation. Manufacturers of generics need to compare their own prototype pills to Daraprim, before they can get government permission to market and sell a generic. Prescription laws make it hard to obtain Daraprim without a prescription and Turing's control over its own supply chain ensures that nothing leaks out. In essence, government restrictions on trade are giving Turing a monopoly on a patent free drug. Turing's price hike would be impossible without this government protection.

The New York Times article frames this as an issue of greed. But greed is a universal constant. It's always with us. Greed is never an explanation for unpleasant behavior. The real question is why nothing is acting as a check on greed. In this case, the government is blocking that market based check. I can see two solutions.

  1. Stop restricting access to pharmaceuticals. If the FDA didn't tightly control drug distribution, generic manufacturers could easily obtain their own supply of Daraprim and start cranking out much cheaper copies. Turing would be forced to lower their prices to match and greed would be kept in check.
  2. If you are going to restrict access to pharmaceuticals, there should be an exception in the law that allows generic manufacturers to easily obtain access to the main drug, for the purposes of cloning it. I see no good reason to give Turing Pharmaceuticals a government enforced monopoly on the drug's distribution and supply once the patent protections have expired.

Once again, the New York Times has made the free market into the villain of the piece. I think the real villain is the government restrictions that give Turing Pharmaceuticals power it doesn't need and shouldn't have.

An Experimental Wireless Network from Artemis →

Artemis Networks, a start-up that says it has created a technology for increasing the speed and reliability of wireless networks, is getting closer to bringing that service to the public.

The start-up, which first announced its technology a year ago, said it planned to lease wireless spectrum from Dish Network, the satellite television provider, for up to two years. It will use the spectrum to introduce a wireless Internet service in San Francisco.

… San Francisco, like many big cities, is already served by all the major wireless carriers, but Artemis has developed a technology that it promises will increase wireless Internet speeds through an innovative method of dealing with the congestion that dogs cellular networks.

When too many users get onto the Internet in one area from wireless devices, speeds typically slow, like a freeway jammed with too many cars. Carriers try to mitigate the problem by putting up more antennas in busy places like stadiums, but there are limits to how much of that can be done without creating interference between the antennas.

Artemis, in contrast, has an antenna technology called pCell that it says embraces, rather than avoids, avoids wireless interference. The antennas on an Artemis network are connected to data centers that perform nearly instantaneous mathematical calculations to fashion a unique wireless signal for every person on the network, giving them access to wireless data speeds that are not degraded as other people use the Internet from their devices.

This is the type of innovation that makes me skeptical about the need for net neutrality. The entire push for net neutrality is predicated on the idea that internet access lacks the competition needed to keep internet providers honest.

New technologies can quickly provide competition where none previously existed. My iPhone's LTE connection is already as fast as my home internet connection. If it weren't for data transfer caps, I could use my LTE access as my only internet access, bypassing Charter.

This pCell technology could enable wireless providers to offer much higher data caps, providing competition for cable in every city in America. With that kind of competitive pressure, who'd need network neutrality to keep providers honest? Big cable would be falling all over itself to offer "true unlimited" internet access, at prices below that offered by Big Cellular. We should be looking for every opportunity to increase competition, rather than looking to increase regulation.

This entry was tagged. Innovation Regulation

Texas's Hair Braiders Law is Unconstitutional →

This is a win for economic liberty. It's good to see judges who are willing to protect people's right to earn a living.

Isis Brantley, an entrepreneur who runs a hair braiding school in Dallas, sued the state in 2013, citing the laws that pertained to hair braiding schools to be unreasonable. Under Texas laws, hair braiding schools must first be a fully equipped barber college before turning into a facility that teaches students how to braid hair. In the case of Brantley, she had to first convert her small business into a barber school that had at least 10 student chairs that reclined back and a sink behind ever work station before being allowed to teach hair braiding.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks ruled the laws against hair braiders to be “irrational,” citing the fact that braiding salons don’t need sinks to do hair because hair washing is not a part of the braiding process. Judge Sparks also reasoned that the state cannot force entrepreneurs to do meaningless things before starting their own business and challenged the state to find a single hair braiding school that met their requirements.

Here's A Better Idea Than Net Neutrality Knockoffs →

Brock Cusick writes,

My proposal for fixing these problems is fairly simple, and relies on a mix of civic organization and free-market entrepreneurialism. The goal is to break the current monopoly on ISP service held by local cable companies in most of America, force local utility companies to act in the public's best interest, and bring some competition to the ISP business to keep prices low and innovation high.

Here it is.

Require utility companies to lease space on their rights-of-way to at least four ISPs, at cost.

Call it infrastructure neutrality, or open leasing. This proposal should independently provide most of the benefits in changing the Internet companies' status to 'telecommunications service' as mere competition between local firms will discourage them from withholding any service or level of service offered by their local competitors. This competition would thus provide the consumer protections that voters are looking for, while allowing Internet companies to remain more lightly regulated (and thus more innovative) information services.

I like this idea much better than the current net neutrality suggestions floating around. I really want my internet providers to compete against each other for my business. I have far more faith in that competition than I do that we'll get competent regulation of monopoly internet providers.

Pure Genius: How Dean Kamen's Invention Could Bring Clean Water To Millions →

Popular Science published an exciting, inspiring article about Dean Kamen's water purifier. (Kamen is the inventor of the Segway, among many other items.) The purifier requires minuscule energy to operate and works reliably in remote, undeveloped places. This makes it well suited to improve health by providing the world's poorest people with a reliable source of clean water.

As I was reading the article, this particular section jumped out at me.

“ ‘Dean,’ he says to me, ‘if we can make the water, why can’t we do other things too?’ ” Providing clean water could be the cornerstone of what’s known as a bottom-of-the-pyramid strategy for developing markets. By providing the poorest people in the world with new technologies, services, and opportunities, a company can help lift them out of poverty and transform them into viable customers. Hence, the Ekocenter concept took shape as a companion to the water purifier, at least in some markets.

Coca-Cola launched the first Ekocenter in Heidelberg, South Africa in August 2013. A slingshot attached to the faucets provides clean water. Courtesy Coca Cola “We believe Coca-Cola’s business can only be as healthy as the community it is part of, so the well-being of the community is important to our long-term strategy,” says Derk Hendriksen, the general manager of the Ekocenter program. Notably, the company won’t directly profit from the program; each “downtown in a box” will operate as a standalone business run by a local entrepreneur, typically a woman, selected and trained by Coke. (That the soda giant enjoys an image boost in the process goes without saying.)

I love Derk Hendriksen's quote. It's a direct refutation of the idea that businesses must be regulated because—absent regulation—they'll sacrifice the health and safety of their customers for short-term profit. That fallacious idea is crazy making.

Every successful business wants their customers to be as healthy and happy as possible. Repeat customers are the best customers. There's simply no long-term profit in killing off or driving away your customer base.

How Often Can You Trust The Experts? →

Ira Stoll, writing for Reason.com, points out that the experts are often wrong.

So, of the 60 baseball “experts” in total, not a single one of them picked the Red Sox to win the American League pennant. Only one of the 60 picked the Cardinals to win the National League pennant.

You would have been better off throwing darts at a dartboard than you would have been listening to the baseball “experts.” The Wall Street Journal used to demonstrate this in a regular column in which stocks picked by throwing darts randomly often outperformed the selections of Wall Street professionals who were even more highly compensated than ESPN journalists.

Complex systems are hard to predict.

That doesn’t mean we should ignore all experts. But it does mean we should routinely treat their predictions with the skepticism they deserve. This goes for predictions from experts preferred by the political left, who warn that the sea level rise from global warming is going to leave us all under water, and for predictions from experts preferred by the political right, who warn that the future cost of entitlement programs is going to leave us all under water.

It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan for the future, whether on entitlements, or the threat of global warming. But what planning we do should take into account the possibility that the experts will be wrong.

Exactly. I do trust experts when they're giving advice about what to do in response to what we know is happening right now. I'm far more distrustful when they're prognosticating about what might happen later and what we should do to prepare for that potential future. In fact, given how often expert predictions are wrong, I think blindly following their advice about potential futures might be worse than blindly ignoring their advice about potential futures.

This entry was tagged. Regulation

Against the Living Wage/”Subsidy” Arguments →

Jason Brennan, at Bleeding Heart Libertarians, offered some thoughts about the arguments in favor of a living wage.

Isn’t it more plausible to think that if there’s some enforceable positive duty to provide Bob with enough stuff to lead a life, that all of us, together share this burdensome duty, rather than just Bob’s employer? Why should Bob’s employer, specifically, be the one that has to bear the burden and lose all this money to keep him alive (at whatever level you consider decent)? This just seems like a kind of moral outsourcing to me. Why not instead Bob’s neighbors, parents, friends, or sexual partners? Bob does McBurger a service, and McBurger pays him for that service.

I think this can apply to more than just a living wage though. Think about any employer mandate: salary, health care, paid vacation time, paid sick time, birth control, etc. Why should Bob's (or Barbara's) employer be responsible for those costs. If "we" in society think that all employees are entitled to those benefits than shouldn't "we" in society be responsible for paying for them?

If the goverment mandated cost of entry-level employees keeps going up and up and up, why wouldn't you expect employers to be a lot more picky about who gets those "entry-level" jobs? I love having these benefits at my job and I'd love for everyone to have access to them. But if we load them all onto employers, I think we'll soon find that the poorest among us are sitting home, unemployed. And that pains my bleeding heart.

The Puzzling Return of Glass-Steagall →

Alex Tabarrok, on Senator Warren's proposal to resurrect the Depression-era Glass Steagall legislation.

Separate commercial and investment banking? Please. The problem was that investment banking, in the form of shadow banking, become so separated from commercial banking that the Fed no longer had any idea where a majority of credit was being generated. Credit creation separated from banking as understood by the Fed, and moved into the shadows, hence, the term shadow banking.

...

Glass-Steagall would merely shuffle around organizational boxes in the less important regulated banking sector. Indeed, why would anyone think that 1930s policy is the solution to a 21st century problem?

Indeed. Senator Warren strikes me as the worst kind of Senator: interested in sound bites that play well on TV and in blogs but have little relevance to actual problems and solutions.

A Constitutional Argument Against the So-Called "Monsanto Protection Act" →

Baylen Linnekin, writing at Reason.com:

If a federal agency has the power to bar a court from overturning or halting the actions of that agency—an administrative rulemaking body to which Congress delegates far too much power already—then that body may (and will) act with impunity. The power of such an agency would, in fact, exceed that of Congress itself.

Such a law would be worse than almost any that preceded it in this country. Under no theory of agency with which I'm familiar can one delegate more power than one has. And yet this new amendment to the GMO law appears to place some USDA powers almost entirely outside the scope of judicial review.

In effect, this amendment gives the USDA the power to ignore a federal judge’s ruling in some cases. It would take the power of judicial review out of the hand of judges, crumple it up, toss it on the ground, step on it, and set it ablaze.

I know many people have an irrational hated of genetically modified food. When I first heard about this provision, I just assumed that it would protect Monsanto against these biased attacks. This analysis completely changes my opinion. Congress should vote this down.

Rethinking Centers of Excellence (and Other Well-Laid Plans) →

Dr. Pauline Chen, writing at the New York Times.

The researchers then compared these outcomes to those of patients who were not covered by Medicare and therefore not restricted to having their operations done at centers of excellence. Even after adjusting for individual patient risk factors and the specific type of bariatric procedure performed, they found no differences in complication rates or outcomes between Medicare and non-Medicare patients. Moreover, they discovered that many of the improvements had been under way prior to 2006.

In other words, the much-heralded policy of funneling patients to centers of excellence has had little effect on how patients do.

Over the past several years, I've seen lots of people talking about how this or that government program fixed this or that problem in the United States. And, almost invariably, I'll see economists pointing out that the trend line was already declining before the government got involved and that the government's involvement did nothing to speed up the change.

Without this research, this Medicare policy would have received the same praise even though it, too, deserves none of the credit.

The Pizza Police →

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Congressman Fred Upton, writing in National Review:

The nutritional boards may cost a lot of dough, but at least the pizza-loving populace will be exposed to the caloric details of their feast, right? Hardly. Ninety percent of Domino’s customers never see the menu sign. That’s because they place their orders on the Internet or over the phone; whether the pie is delivered or picked up in-store, at best the consumer would see the calorie sign only after the order is placed.

Thanks to an Obamacare provision, restaurants will have to spend thousands of dollars putting up government mandated signs that few of their customers will ever see. All in the name of bullying you into eating healthier. Who's your nanny now?