Saturday, October 29, 2005

Fun With Voting Systems

If you have some time to spare, here's a fun site that show how different electoral systems work. I know there's no such thing as a perfect voting system, but I'm fond of choice voting (otherwise known as Single Transferable Vote).

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Cigarrette Taxes and Terrorism

This is one of the most scary example of unintended consequences that I've seen.

Smugglers with ties to terrorist groups are acquiring millions of dollars from illegal cigarette sales and funneling the cash to organizations such as al Qaeda and Hezbollah, federal law enforcement officials say, prompting a nationwide crackdown on black market tobacco.

The lucrative trafficking of cigarettes, known as cigarette diversion, is a simple scheme but difficult to stop, law enforcement officials say. The traffickers purchase a large volume of cigarettes in states where the tax is low, such as Virginia and North Carolina, transport them up Interstate 95 to states such as Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey and then sell them at a discount without paying the higher cigarette taxes in those states.

Will any politician risk political suicide and draw the conclusion that high cigarette taxes assist in financing terrorism? I doubt it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Go Slovakia!

Slovakia has banned positive discrimination (aka affirmative action) on the grounds that it "violates full equality before the law." Good for them.

Proposition 79

Sean Lynch opposes Prop 79 and offers a better alternative:

Cut the regulatory risk by fixing the drug approval process. Let Consumer’s Union (a prop 79 supporter of which I’m a member) and Underwriters Laboratories approve drugs instead of the FDA. Fix the tort system so that people don’t get awarded millions of dollars based on bad science. Then maybe we can talk about fixing the patent system and having more funding for drug research come from private non-profits instead of for-profit corporations and governments.

Update: Walter Olson has more.

Comic Strip of the Day

Comic Strip of the Day

Via Distribution of Labour

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Brazil is Still a Free Country

Brazilians Reject Proposed Gun Ban

Brazilians had the opportunity to vote away a fundamental human right, but thankfully they rejected that path.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Not so Happy Birthday

The North Korean Communist Party is celebrating its 60th birthday.

Creepy video via Evolution will be blogged

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Cultural Protectionism

Time to withdraw from UNESCO (again):

Unesco member states have formally voted to support their own film and music industries against globalisation.

The United Nations cultural body voted in favour of a cultural diversity convention, backed by France, Canada and the UK.

The US had said the "deeply flawed" convention could be used to block the export of Hollywood films and other cultural exports.

The vote follows French moves to protect its film and music industries.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Telecom Deregulation

The Heartland Institute has an article about some legislation being proposed in the Senate deregulate telecommunications:

Federal Legislation Aims to Expand TV Offerings

The U.S. Senate is considering legislation that would remove government-created barriers critics say drive up the cost of cable television and keep technological improvements out of the hands of ordinary Americans.

Senate Bill 1504, the Broadband Investment and Consumer Choice Act, aims to modernize U.S. telecommunications law by reforming the local franchising process that makes it difficult for new providers to compete with local cable television companies. The legislation seeks to promote growth and competition among all technologies, allowing consumers to choose their cable provider.

Internet, telephone, and possibly even power companies are waiting in the wings to offer television programming with new technologies able to compete with cable. If current franchise laws are not reformed, those new players will be effectively shut out of the market, according to Sen. John Ensign (R-NV). Ensign is a cosponsor of S. 1504, with Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Trent Lott (R-MS).

"It is time to restore America's status as a leader in the field of global communication technology and to improve burdensome and outdated government regulations for the benefit of consumers nationwide," Ensign said. "Americans' ingenuity and creativity can provide more choices for consumers if government bureaucrats will get out of the way and allow our companies to compete."

Additional Legislation

The Video Choice Act of 2005, introduced by Sens. Gordon Smith (R-OR) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Albert Wynn (D-MD), also would allow consumers to choose their cable supplier.

"American consumers are paying higher television service rates today because of the hoops we require new providers to jump through," Blackburn said. "We need to bring these outdated regulations into the twenty-first century. You cannot expect the current system to meet the expectations of modern consumers who are used to choice and competition in virtually every area of daily life."

Wynn added, "The Video Choice Act would provide consumers with a much-needed option for television service. I am confident this bill would promote competition and lower prices for consumers by allowing alternative television service providers the opportunity to widely offer their services."

The Video Choice Act has bipartisan support, but some interest groups oppose it. The U.S. Conference of Mayors, for example, doesn't like the idea of new businesses "entering the video market to provide video service without obtaining local franchise agreements."

Sharing the mayors' concern is the Michigan Municipal League. The league has asked members to send Congress a letter saying they oppose the legislation because "it will deprive us of badly needed funds that are currently part of our municipal budget."

Better Service, Prices, Choices

While some municipal politicians would lose the power to decide from whom their constituents can buy pay TV--and the cash benefits that accrue to such power through direct and hidden taxes--pro-consumer groups side with the bipartisan coalition in Congress.

Former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey, co-chairman of FreedomWorks, a nonpartisan free-market think tank and lobbying group, said, "For too long, consumers have been denied the benefits of real cable competition: more choices, lower prices, and better service. It's time to allow competition and put the consumer in the driver's seat."

Max Pappas ( is director of policy at FreedomWorks.

Proposition 75

The LA Times has endorsed Proposition 75:

Proposition 75 opponents argue that this is unfair because there is no similar move to curtail the discretion of business lobbyists to invest shareholder resources in politics. But the analogy is flawed, given that this initiative applies only to public employee unions. It's not private businesses that sit across the negotiating table from public employee unions; it's the taxpayers and their elected representatives, acting as stewards of the public interest.

If this notion sounds almost quaint, it is, because it has become so divorced from reality. At many levels of government, public employee unions, aided by their political war chests, have gained control over both sides of the negotiating process. When public employee unions wield the type of influence they now do in California, too much governing becomes an exercise in self-dealing.

Link via Andrew Sullivan

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Transparency International has released its 2005 Corruption Perceptions Index. Congratulations to Iceland for being one of the least corrupt countries in the world. Unfortunately, Italy still has a reputation for being corrupt. The US is #17.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Norberg on Pinter

I like Johan Norberg's analysis of the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Harold Pinter:

I don´t know if his support of the fascist Serbian mass murderer (or his defence of Castro) is the reason why Pinter gets the Nobel Prize in literature, but it follows a modern tradition of awarding authors who hate liberal democracy and the free market.

Right to Culture?

"The attack (cut in arts budget) against showbusiness and citizens' fundamental right to culture has reached new heights," an Anica statement said.

I added the bold and what's in the parentheses.

I have two questions. Is there such a thing as a right to culture? Also, given Italy's history would a cut in government spending mean collapse in Italy's culture?

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Japanese Postal Reform

Japan has privatized their postal system. Reason has more about it here. I'm still waiting for Bush to propose a plan to privatize USPS. My guess is I'll be waiting for quite a long time.

Update: On the site that I linked to above, I found a new website that I added to my list of links. The link is to an organization called the Consumer Postal Council. It lists the following objectives:

a) eliminating the government monopoly for postal services, (b) ensuring that while the government monopoly exists for postal mail services, the U.S. and other postal services do not abuse their monopoly by overcharging monopoly mail users, and (c) seeking a delivery marketplace that is free of the distortions of government monopolies and other government privileges.

It also promotes the following:

• Bring sensible reform to U.S. Postal Service business practices, including greater transparency, improved productivity and reasonable measurement and control of costs

• Where the Postal Service does compete in the commercial marketplace, make sure that it does so fairly and on a level playing field

• Promote competition within the mail delivery system wherever possible.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

California Elections

The Libertarian Party of California has a voter guide for next months elections. I will probably (but not necessarily) vote for and against what they have endorsed.

Proposition 73. -- no position

Proposition 74 -- YES

Proposition 75 -- YES

Proposition 76 -- YES

Proposition 77 -- YES

Proposition 78 -- NO

Proposition 79 -- NO

Proposition 80 -- NO

Tax Reform Panel

I was looking at the website of the President's Tax Reform Panel and found that its mission has contradictory goals. If you scroll down to the bottom of the homepage you will find the following goals:

# simplify Federal tax laws to reduce the costs and administrative burdens of compliance with such laws;
# share the burdens and benefits of the Federal tax structure in an appropriately progressive manner while recognizing the importance of homeownership and charity in American society; and
# promote long-run economic growth and job creation, and better encourage work effort, saving, and investment, so as to strengthen the competitiveness of the United States in the global marketplace

Goals one and two contradict each other. How can you have an simple tax system and, at the same time, have tax codes that are biased toward homeownership and charity. Also, goals two and three contradict each other. You can't "promote...saving, and investment" and, at the same time, punish savings by having a tax structure with a "progressive manner".

Rent-Seeking in Action

Builders vow to save home loan tax break

Given all the talk about a housing bubble, should the Federal Government subsidize home ownership?

Monday, October 10, 2005

Economics Nobel Prize

The two Nobel prize winning economists, Thomas Schelling and Robert Aumann, won for their work in game theory.


Is Bryan Caplan not funny as hell?

The economically sensible and morally beautiful choice would be to auction off Lenin's corpse on eBay, and use the proceeds to pay down Russia's national debt. I bet it would fetch millions. And there's no finer way to hammer in the point that Communism is truly dead.

Sunday, October 09, 2005


Bill Is Signed to Restrict Video Games in California

Via Marginal Revolution

Thursday, October 06, 2005


Court Rules in Favor of Anonymous Blogger

The Delaware Supreme Court reversed a lower court ruling that forced an ISP to reveal the identity of an anonymous blogger.