Saturday, November 12, 2011

Risk, Regulation and Consequences

The recent bankruptcy of brokerage firm MF Global, led by former Senator and Governor Jon Corzine (D-NJ), begs questions about why the firm and its creditors took on so much risk on European sovereign debt. Whatever the reason, many saw the case as a justification for more regulation. Russ Roberts wrote an excellent rebuttal to this position.

Among those calling for more regulation in light of MF Global's collapse was the editorial page of the Saint Petersburg Times. In response, they printed my letter to the editor:

The fall of MF Global under Jon Corzine's stewardship couldn't be a worse argument for more government regulation of the financial industry. More financial regulations will be written by people who are connected, smart and savvy. These are people with experience in politics and the profession — people like Jon Corzine. If these folks make such poor decisions when they could suffer direct personal consequences, why should we expect any better when they are in government with no skin in the game?

Instead of a nanny-state bureaucracy that purports to manages our lives for us and protect the bankers from themselves for their own good, I have a better idea: loss of capital. If creditors want to finance the gambling of brokerages like MF Global on investments various and sundry, let them. And if they lose their shirts doing so, let them do that too. Given a steady diet of consequences, prudence will become a lot more commonplace.

Almost everyone touched a hot stove when they were a child. How many of us did it twice?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

LQ&C 10/26/11

- Wendy Alexander ran a private school that eventually went bankrupt and closed 4 weeks into the current school year. Given her proclivity for running an educational establishment that is fiscally irresponsible and delivers poor results, she has decided to take her act to the professionals:
This time, Wendy Alexander wants to use $1.6 million a year in taxpayer money to operate a public charter school called the Academy for Accelerated Learning, serving students in kindergarten through fifth grade.
- EconLog's David Henderson asks why illegal drug suppliers are always called "cartels":
But are they? The defining characteristics of cartels are that they get together to fix the price and agree to limit production. Do these firms do that? I know that the government limits production by going after producers. But do the firms do it?
- A piece from last month by Gary Becker compares market and government failures, and points out that in cases of actual market failure, government can often make the situation worse. While I don't agree with some of Becker's conclusions, I did love his rebuttal to the liberal talking point that without government, ignorant consumers would make the wrong choices:
However, before advocating various forms of government protection of consumers, we should recognize that voters are far more ignorant of political candidates then consumers are of what they buy. The reason is that consumers directly suffer if they make bad choices out of ignorance, while individual voters have negligible influence over political outcomes. Hence voters have little incentive to be informed about different candidates and their positions, and the consequences of the mistakes they make are largely borne by others.
I brought up a similar point in a recent facebook debate with a friend, writing:
We're left with a tradeoff - freedom, with the legitimate chance that people will make poor decisions (and learn from them), or society ran by a cabal of our betters, picked by the very imperfect subjects they wish to rescue, vested with the confidence that they magically know the optimal trade-offs and decisions for millions of strangers, all with scant historical evidence that such demigods have ever existed.
- Warren Meyer appeared on Fox and Friends to explain the folly of our government subsidizing an expensive luxury car (the Fisker Karma) that gets the equivalent of 19 mpg.

- Cafe Hayek featured a letter to the editor from Steve Horwitz regarding the actions of private actors amidst government intervention, featuring one of the most effective metaphors in economics I've ever seen:
If all the traffic lights in Watertown were stuck on green, we’d hardly blame the drivers for the ensuing accidents. When government distorts the signals and incentives facing producers and consumers, the blame for the resulting disaster should fall on government not the private sector. The crisis and recession are what happens when you put “people before profits.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

9 Questions for Occupy Wall Street

1. Do you value equality over utility? If system A resulted in a higher standard of living for all, but more inequality, and system B resulted in lower living standards for all, but less inequality, which would you prefer?

2. Would you rather be a member of the top 1% in 1890 or part of the lower 50% today? Hint: only one group has penicillin, automobiles, cell phones, chemotherapy, internet, refrigeration, indoor electricity and central heating and air conditioning.

3. Statistically, there has to be somebody in the top 1%. Do you concede the possibility that these individuals change over time? Thinking more about this concept, consider that only seniors get diplomas. But does this mean they're taking anything away from freshmen, sophomores or juniors?

4. Is it greed to want more wealth through voluntary, capitalistic transactions? Is it greed to want to take money from others to pay for loans you agreed to pay back?

5. Do you believe that wealth is a fixed sum, where the only consideration is how to divvy it up, or do you think it is actively created? If the former, how do you explain the explosion of living standards (greater per capita wealth) over the last 200 years even with a greatly increased population? If the latter, what type of system do you think incentivizes people to create more wealth?

6. Do you value security over freedom? Does your answer regarding economics apply equally to national security and civil liberties or free speech? If not, why?

7. You describe yourselves as “the 99%.” Do you think that the argument of “there are more of us than there are of you” is a just and effective way to run a country? Is there anything that government may absolutely not do, even if supported by the majority?

8. If a large bulldozer were driving through your neighborhood destroying houses, would rather spend your energy trying to change who was driving the bulldozer or getting rid of it? Likewise, if the big corporations run the government, do you expect increasing government power to increase or decrease the influence of these corporations? What do you expect would be the result of campaign finance reform designed by bought-and-paid-for politicians?

9. In a capitalist society, what is to stop willing citizens from forming a commune where all possessions are shared? In a socialist society, what is to stop willing citizens from forming a capitalist, property-rights based enclave? Hint: guns.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Truthers at 'Occupy Tampa'

Who says the 'Occupy Wall Street' crowd doesn't have a serious agenda?

This photo is from the Occupy Tampa Facebook profile:

Because 9/11 and the recession were Bush's fault 'n stuff. Man.


Update: A better-quality photo:

Plus this one, which has nothing to do with Truthers, but the shirt is priceless:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Shifting Debit Card Costs

In light of Bank of America's recent announcement that they will be charging a $5 monthly fee for debit cards, the St. Pete Times published an incoherent rant that tried to link the unpopular program on another - TARP:

With financially stretched consumers already getting their pockets picked at every turn, from airline travel fees to cable television bills, Bank of America's decision to impose a $5 monthly debit card fee is a cynical slap in the face to the public whose tax-funded $45 billion in TARP funds helped bail out the nation's biggest bank from the consequences of its own incompetence. The new fees by B of A and its competitors hit the poor and middle class disproportionately hard, and Congress should look for ways to provide more relief for consumers.
In response, I wrote the following letter to the editor, published today:

Your editorial criticizing Bank of America's new debit card fees was off base in linking them to the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

TARP had nothing to do with these new fees; they were spawned by another ill-conceived government initiative, the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill.

Allowing customers the use of debit cards creates costs on issuing banks, and previously the banks imposed these costs on merchants. So, the most powerful and politically connected corporations in this sector lobbied the government to make someone else pay their bills. Kind of like TARP, actually.

The result was Dodd-Frank, which capped how much banks could charge merchants for debit card transactions. To make up for the shortfall, banks now have to find other sources of revenue to fund debit card transactions.

The fees did not spring up out of nowhere — they represent costs that existed all along, but now shifted to individuals because of an unjustified government intervention. To suggest more congressional "relief" is unfortunate and illogical.

I previously wrote about debit card fees here.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Bob Buckhorn's New Whip

Civil asset forfeiture is the practice wherein law enforcement and the government at large take possession of property seized during illegal activities (or allegedly legal activities; remember that whole "innocent until proven guilty" thing?).

If you get arrested, you may get your day in court and found not guilty, but don't count on using your stuff. That's for the important guys like Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn, whose pillaging would make the Vikings blush:

Mayor Bob Buckhorn's city vehicle, a jet black GMC Yukon Denali with tinted windows, was seized from a man charged last month with sex trafficking, sexual battery and forcing someone to become a prostitute.


Tampa police seized the SUV on Sept. 28 during their investigation. In addition to transporting prostitutes and the proceeds of prostitution, the SUV was purchased from proceeds of prostitution, police maintain in court documents. In a letter, Fox denied that, saying a cousin's husband bought the SUV at a Clearwater car auction.

Buckhorn pulled the gas guzzler from the department's forfeiture fleet in April, the same month he took office. It has about 105,000 miles on its odometer and averages about 14 miles per gallon.

Fox sounds like a creep, but here in America we have a right to trial. Legally speaking, the mayor is driving a vehicle taken from an innocent man. But rest assured that Buckhorn had good reasons for picking this treat out of TPD's stable:

"The reason I drive it – number one is because I have a family. I have young kids who travel with me a lot and I need a car that's safe," Buckhorn said. "Secondarily, as you can see we often travel with staff and we get a lot of work done while we're traveling. It's easy to do work in a larger car. Thirdly, in the event of a hurricane I need a vehicle that can get though high water, get through debris, get me to a zone where we can take care of business."

Would that we could all get a car from our job to jump puddles and haul the kids around.

It's nice to talk a tough game about law and order, but I hope we all can admit the horrible incentives posed by government executives using the goodies taken from citizens who have yet to be proven guilty in a court of law.

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Rush To Regulation

On June 27th, David Sieradzki, a tourist from South Carolina, died while parasailing off of Bradenton Beach. The engine on the boat stalled, and the resultant loss in speed caused Sieradzki to drop into the water. When he was reeled back onto the boat, he was dead.

Clearly there are a lot of unknowns in this case. I have been parasailing before, and the operator slowed down on purpose to allow each customer to dip their feet in the water. Something more had to happen to contribute to Mr. Sieradzki's tragic death.

Despite the unknown cause of death, both of the major newspapers in the Tampa Bay area wrote editorials advocating more state regulation of parasail operators. From the St. Petersburg Times (emphasis added):
Exactly why David Sieradzki, 31, died Monday while parasailing won't be known until completion of an autopsy. But this is the second parasailing death off Florida's west coast in a year, a reminder that this inherently dangerous activity needs to come under government standards, particularly when it is being offered as a commercial activity.
I responded with the following unpublished letter to the Times:

Your editorial advocating parasailing regulations may be a well-meaning attempt to provide for the safety of others, but using the tragic death of Mr. Sieradzki as just cause is irresponsible.

Your editorial itself admits that the cause of Mr. Sieradzki's death is unknown. There is as of yet no empirical way to link his death to imprudent behavior on the part of the parasail operator. Yet you still quickly siezed the opportunity to demand action that fits your ideological worldview - government regulation of private enterprise.

You further advocated for regulation because parasailing "is being offered as a commercial activity." This is precisely why regulation is a poor solution for safety concerns. Because parasailing firms seek profits dependent on their record and reputation among consumers, the market already provides the incentive and regulation necessary to ensure that safe practices are followed. The fact that such tragedies like that of Mr. Sieradzki are rare enough to warrant an editorial are testament to the effectiveness of such a system.

To put my last point in perspective is this bit from the original TBO report I linked:

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission estimates 70 to 120 commercial parasail operators exist statewide. The Parasailing Safety Council said that from 1990 through September 2009, there were more than 380 parasailing accidents resulting in 22 deaths in the United States and its territories.

Any single death is a tragedy, and I don't intend to undermine that. But 22 deaths in 19 years is not a crises, especially given the enormous amount of instances where parasailing is done without incident.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

LQ&C 6/30/11

- Former Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin White's legal troubles stemmed from him trying to take bribes to bestow favors to those seeking sanction from the Public Transportation Commission. The Tampa Tribune advocated the Commission's abolition:

The panel, created by state law, allows public officials to pick winners and losers in the transportation business, which not only curtails free enterprise but also opens opportunities for favoritism, if not graft.

Those trying to start new vehicle-for-hire businesses say the PTC can be counted on to safeguard existing businesses. Last year after taxi companies complained, the board banished an electric vehicle service that provided free rides while making money from advertising.

Bravo. Say, who was that guy that told the Trib that misbehavior by Hillsborough County Commissioners was an inevitable result of government's power to control?

- The WSJ says there is a federal revenue problem, and it ain't because of the Bush tax cuts:

On May 12, the budget arm of Congress examined the changes in its baseline projections from 2001 through 2011. In 2001, it had predicted a surplus in 2011 of $889 billion. Instead, it expects a deficit of $1.4 trillion.

What explains that $2.29 trillion budget reversal? Well, the direct revenue loss from the combination of the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts contributed roughly $216 billion, or only about 9.5% of the $2.29 trillion. And keep in mind that even this low figure is based on a static revenue model that assumes almost no gains from faster economic growth.

After the Bush investment tax cuts of 2003, tax revenues were $786 billion higher in 2007 ($2.568 trillion) than they were in 2003 ($1.782 trillion), the biggest four-year increase in U.S. history. So as flawed as it is, the current tax code with a top personal income tax rate of 35% is clearly capable of generating big revenue gains.

- A union official in Michigan put up a sign stating that any non-union/non-American made cars would be towed from the parking lot. Maybe it's understandable, given that the union members' jobs are dependent on the purchases of union/American made cars. Don Boudreaux offers some more foes to union employment:

The person who drives, say, a 1991 Buick Regal – whether he bought it new 20 years ago or bought it used yesterday – opts, no less than does the person who drives a 2011 Toyota Camry, not to buy a newly made American automobile. Both persons spend their money now in ways that keep demand for new American-made automobiles lower than it would otherwise be. The spending choices of the owner of the 1991 Buick harm your members no less than – and for exactly the same reasons as – do the spending choices of the owner of the 2011 Toyota.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Right To Hire

The actions of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that prevented the operation of an aircraft plant in South Carolina by Boeing were reprehensible. The fact that an agency of the federal government can tell a private company where it may conduct its operations - within the same country - is terrifying. The proponents of such actions have put at risk the livelihood of thousands of workers in South Carolina in a tough economic environment, and should disabuse themselves of the mantle of "liberal". Though the past century has bastardized this noble political tradition, this sad chapter of force of the many versus the few pushes the envelope to a whole new level.

Predictably, many conservatives were outraged. Wrote Rich Lowry at National Review Online:

H. L. Mencken defined puritanism as the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy. The National Labor Relations Board is haunted by the fear that a company somewhere might be creating jobs with a nonunionized work force.

Boeing has run afoul of that fear by investing more than $1 billion in a new plant in the right-to-work state of South Carolina. With only the flimsiest legal justification, the board wants to force Boeing to reverse course and locate the facility with its current operations in Washington State, where its workers are unionized.

The NLRB’s claims are laughable on their face, although Boeing — trying to run a business in a highly competitive global market — can be forgiven for missing the joke. The board accuses Boeing of “interfering with, restraining, and coercing” its union employees in the exercise of their rights by making a thoroughly understandable business decision.

This is putting not a thumb, but a fist on the scale in favor of the unions. A writer at the liberal The New Republic says it “may be the most radical thing the Obama administration has done.” It’s an attempt to keep companies with the misfortune of operating in union-heavy states in perpetual thrall to organized labor.

Defenders of the free market were, and should be, aghast at the proposition that the government can tell you who you can and cannot employ. The right to hire and be hired should be counted among our most treasured liberties.

Unfortunately, most conservatives are in a poor position to champion this right. The fact that labor laws prevent Americans from hiring others across state borders often draws their ire. But when the same holds true across international borders, many of these same people voice their unqualified deference to the rule of law.

More open immigration is no more than the codification of the right to hire. The respect of this right may indeed mean the employment of laborers of lower wages (such as the workers in South Carolina) and changes in business patterns and culture.

Some such as I may view many of these changes as beneficial. But then again, I'm biased. One of my wife's parents emigrated from Mexico; my parents and I emigrated from New York. There may be those who disagree, but that gives them no right to restrict the actions of others through the force of government.

The right seeks to restrict hiring those from abroad, and the left seeks to restrict hiring in the Sun Belt. Neither can claim to defend employment freedom.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Debit Card Fees

One of the most prominent functions of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill is that it limits the fees that banks can charge merchants for processing payments via debit cards. Essentially, every time you swipe your debit card at the store to pay for your purchase, that store has to pay a fee to the bank. The legislation limits the fees that banks can charge to a maximum of 12 cents.

Predictably, the St. Petersburg Times editorial page was in favor of this government interference in the business interactions of banks, retailers, and consumers:

Government intervention was needed because perverse incentives pushed the industry leaders, Visa and MasterCard, to raise swipe fees to entice banks to issue more debit cards. Yet merchants had little opportunity to resist the fee increases — other than refusing plastic altogether. As a result, swipe fees have tripled since 2001 even as technology has been bringing processing costs down.

While those fees brought in astronomical sums for Visa, MasterCard and the big banks, topping $20 billion last year, they hurt mom and pop merchants that operate on narrow margins. Consumers, too, felt the brunt of the fees in the form of higher prices.

The "mom and pop" meme has been pushed by proponents of the legislation, and it is complete nonsense.

Of course, these fees cut into the margins of small retailers. But the players with the clout to get the government to lower their bills for them are large retailers. It is anti-market, and anti-consumer.

The use of debit cards have opened up large swaths of the buying public to retailers. They allow for quick and easy payments of sales that are the lifeblood of retailers. If they don't like the costs of this option, then they can refuse it. Their reluctance to do so speaks to the value of debit cards to retailers.*

Secondly, the fee-restriction provision hurts consumers like, well, me. The presence of fees incentivized banks and retailers to act in my favor. My bank instituted a program that awarded me points for qualifying purchases on my card that I could redeem for rewards. My wife and I enjoyed a movie, popcorn and drinks for free thanks to such rewards.

We benefited from the retailers actions also. One of our favorite stores, Target, instituted a Target Debit Card which simply drafts money from our bank account like a check, without running our credit. All purchases on the card give the customer a 5% discount, as well as allowing us to donate 1% of the value of our purchases to the school of our choice. Target benefits by avoiding the debit card fee and fostering consumer loyalty.

After the legislation was passed, our bank cancelled the rewards program. Target has left its debit card product in place (for now), but it is unlikely it would have instituted it in the first place without the incentive the fees produced.

Misguided government action like Dodd-Frank is of course an unjustified intervention in the affairs of private sector parties. But it is also a tried and true way for those businesses in power to use their influence to transfer wealth from their customers to themselves.

*In some localities, it is illegal for merchants to charge an extra fee or put other restrictions on consumers using debit cards so as to offset the costs. These laws are garbage, but they should be thrown out, not countered by more regulatory heavy-handedness.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Feature, Not A Bug

Last Sunday's editorial in the Saint Petersburg Times criticized Rep. Paul Ryan's plans for Medicare as not spending a sufficient amount to counter rising health care costs. My letter in Friday's paper counters that the lower spending and other reforms in the plan serve as part of the solution:

This editorial criticizes Rep. Paul Ryan's budget proposal for not spending as much on Medicare and Medicaid as current health care costs would require. This is a feature, not a bug. These two government entitlements deluge the health care market with dollars that chase available supplies of medical treatment, bidding up the price. This, combined with the fact that beneficiaries have little incentive to shop for the best prices, put these programs in perilous financial straits and increase costs for those inside and outside of the system.

Ryan's plan offers solutions to both of these problems. Lower overall spending puts brakes on rampant health care inflation, and his voucher system incentivizes beneficiaries to shop for the best deal. Far from being insufficient, Ryan's proposals are just what the doctor ordered.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Incorporate the Fetus Too

Abortion has surfaced as a topic for debate in Florida as several bills have come up addressing the subject. Among the most prominent is a bill that would require a woman to have an ultrasound before she consents to an abortion.

I am opposed to the bill because neither Tallahassee nor the federal government (via Obamacare) should be mandating such specific decisions like a certain procedure or insurance coverage amount.

I am also pro-life. How can I square these two positions?

In the end, I believe that each person is free to live their lives in a manner of their choosing as long as they do not coerce, commit violence upon, or defraud others. Giving the state government the sanction to dictate when we receive ultrasounds and by whom is opening the door to a plethora of meddlesomeness to people who hardly need prodding to involve themselves more in our lives. A pregnant woman has the right to receive or refuse an ultrasound at her discretion. To deny this right is to deny all manner of rights personal and economic.

So too does a person, who happens to reside in a uterus, have the right to life without violence. Much of the abortion debate, at least at the philosophical level, centers around whether we define a fetus as a person or not. I happen to think that popular points demarcating the beginning of life, such as a certain amount of weeks, are arbitrary. The only two points that seem non-arbitrary to me are conception or birth, and because I cannot accept that a baby could be killed an hour before it is born, I must settle on conception as the beginning of life.

Others can and will disagree with me about my position on abortion or the beginning of life, and their arguments have considerable merit. As with any position based on principles, it leads me to unsettling real-life conclusions that are difficult to ignore.

One person that apparently happens to agree with me, however, is Democrat Scott Randolph, a Florida State House Representative. He decided to make the cute little suggestion of allowing women to incorporate their uterus. Because he is under the impression that Florida Republicans are against all corporate regulation, incorporation of the uterus would make abortion restrictions off-limits.

Any casual student of business will remember that the chief benefit of the corporate form is that it creates a separate legal entity. Doing so to the uterus, and I assume by extension the fetus, is therefore something I can wholeheartedly support. With Mr. Randolph's help, we can soon dispense of this notion that the right to life of the unborn exists at the sole discretion of their maternal parent, and instead see them as the separate, yet admittedly dependent and vulnerable individuals that they are.

Note: I am fully aware that Randolph's suggestion was in jest. I'm trying to make a point here, people.

Friday, April 1, 2011

LQ&C 4/1/11

-Connecticut considers marijuana policy reform.

-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid blissfully ignores the Social Security problem, saying he'll deal with it in a decade or two. Ed Morrissey quips:
I’m not sure which is worse: the suggestion that even the easiest kind of entitlement reform won’t get any hearing in the Senate this session, or the idea that Harry Reid will still be in the Senate in 2031.
-The Cato Institute puts the budget debate in perspective.

-St. Petersburg Times editor Tim Nickens' article about Rick Scott and transparency was pretty much what you'd expect:
He says he supports open government, and he signed an executive order his first day re-establishing the Office of Open Government created by Gov. Charlie Crist. But it's been downhill since then. Scott is the Prince of Darkness, avoiding the sunshine of open meetings and public records whenever he can.
The governor and the media having an antagonistic relationship? Where did he get that idea? Maybe by, oh I don't know, newspaper editors calling him the Prince of Darkness???

-It begins: Fed official says interest rate increases could begin this year.

Monday, March 14, 2011

LQ&C 3/15/11

-From TBO, state prisoners have six months to give up their cancer sticks. Fuzzy feelings all around:

Quitting cigarettes will help prisoners when they're released into society, she said.

"They've proud of themselves. They've succeeded at something," she said. "It'll teach them self-control."

Oh, and there's this:

It will reduce the risk of arson. And lighters can be used to melt plastic objects like toothbrushes into shanks...
-Florida Senator Marco Rubio will not be voting for any more continuing resolutions in lieu of a federal budget. Neither will Jeff Flake or Allen West.

-A letter to the shareholders of USA, Inc. Page 2 includes this little nugget:
By our rough estimate, USA Inc. has a net worth of negative $44 trillion. That comes to $143,000 per capita. Negative.
-Some might say "we" are not broke. According to Michael Moore, there are a bunch of folks with money out there. Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek quickly dispenses with such nonsense.

-Finally, this outstanding and level-headed high speed rail piece from the incomparable Megan McArdle:
My answer is that I wouldn't harp on the problems if the advocates of high speed rail advocates wouldn't make such glaring mistakes. Like, say, the Tampa-to-Orlando high speed rail project. No matter how much you love trains, and the planet, I think you ought to be skeptical about projects like this. A New York Times article makes it clear just how dimwitted the concept was:

The Tampa-to-Orlando route had obvious drawbacks: It would have linked two cities that are virtually unnavigable without cars, and that are so close that the new train would have been little faster than driving. But the Obama administration chose it anyway because it was seen as the line that could be built first.


There is a case for rail in the United States. It works in the Northeast Corridor, and it might well be possible to grow it organically to other areas--south from Washington, west from New York. Perhaps it will even work in California. But to make it work, we need to get away from demonstration projects, and start with the projects that make good economic sense. If we do a couple of those, we may inspire more imitators across the country. But if we insist on building trains to nowhere because they're so darn easy to build, we're not going to inspire anything but contempt.

-At HotAir, a video of New York Times columnist David Brooks defending federal funding of NPR by saying that it helps immigrants assimilate, or something. From the comments: "Here in Southern California, the illegal immigrants won’t stop talking about what they heard on this week’s World of Opera."

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

LQ&C 3/9/11

-In a piece about the Wisconsin budget mess at Reason, Shikha Dalmia makes a broader point about government maternalism like big pensions and Social Security:
But Wisconsin demonstrates that people who put their economic fate in the government’s hands don’t get safety; they get screwed. They simply trade the cruel vagaries of the market for the cruel vagaries of politics whose risks they have even less control over. Why? Because the government does not play by the same rules that apply to mere mortals in the private sector.
-Florida Governor Rick Scott tweeted a line from his State of the State address on Tuesday:
“The first step to better times is acknowledging that Government cannot afford what some have come to expect.”
Reducing government will take more than tackling "waste" and shielding popular programs. It will take honest assessments from elected officials and an adult citizenry.

-Eugene Volokh weighs in on a bill in the Florida Senate that would make photographing a farm a felony (sponsored by the Senator who represents yours truly). Tom Jackson of the Tampa Tribune mulls the political use of sting videos.

-Michael Smerconish says that legalizing prostitution squares with Conservatism:
Instead of ostracizing Nevada, more states should follow its lead and stop legislating morality. The government has no business determining consensual sex among adults; it does, however, have economic and public-safety interests in taxing and regulating such conduct.
I mostly agree, although I don't like the whole "If it's legal we can tax it!" meme that also is rampant in the marijuana debate. Consumers of vice are no more responsible for funding our government than the rest of us.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

My New Blog

Those who know me know that writing is something I like to do, especially when it comes to politics. Some may remember my blog, Zoominac, that I used to have with my own domain name. In the end, the blog was more of an occasional log of essays rather than an oft-updated website that is capable of obtaining wide readership. That's all well and good, but not something I was really interested in paying a $10 a month hosting fee for.

I've used the Note feature on Facebook to do a lot of my writing, and it generated some of the results I wished for but never had at my old blog - comment and debate. I'm thankful for the platform and will continue to use it. However, I've wanted once again to have a place where the outside world could access my writing, as well as have a "home base" where I could link to and list other stuff, such as my letters-to-the-editor (I'm up to 10 since 2008).

So, I've decided to put together a new blog, this time hosted by Blogger without a monthly fee.

I want to write posts I'll call LQ&C, which stands for Link, Quote and Comment. I'll post some links to interesting articles and things I find on the internet, as well as occasionally including a quote or a short comment from me. One of the qualities of my favorite blogs is that they serve as a router to other interesting content, and I find myself going back to these blogs because I know they'll find some of the best articles on the internet. I hope that my blog can do a little of that, too.

I'll cover my usual junk - politics, economics, and news from a libertarianish Republican perspective, with sports and miscellany from time to time.

The blog will be a hobby and treated with all the seriousness of that pet hamster you had in fourth grade - you know, the one you fed at least once a month. I work and go to school full time, as well as have a life, which doesn't leave a whole lot of time for blogging. I can't stick to any type of posting schedule, but I'd like to put up something at least once a week.

So drop by sometime, check it out, and leave a comment if you're so inclined. But do me a favor and take your shoes off when you come in.