Archive for the ‘Government regulation’ Category

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Can we find more regulators like this?

October 15, 2017

Nick Gillespie interviews FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

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A bureaucrat’s nightmare

January 8, 2017

This is a pretty humorous video.

Via International Liberty

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Anyone need the services of a former MEP?

June 24, 2016

Daniel Hannan argued that voters should fire him from his job as MEP by voting for Brexit. He got his wish.

Can this cat talk or what? What an orator! His closing lines here are by Tennyson:

“Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are”

I don’t know whether Brexit was a good move or not. I hope it was because Mr. Hannan makes such good sense on other, related topics. ‘Twould be a pity if he were wrong about this one.


Update 2: The headline of Matt Taibbi’s Rolling Stone piece says it all:

The Reaction to Brexit Is the Reason Brexit Happened
If you believe there’s such a thing as “too much democracy,” you probably don’t believe in democracy at all

In 1934, at the dawn of the Stalinist Terror, the great Russian writer Isaac Babel offered a daring quip at the International Writers Conference in Moscow:

“Everything is given to us by the party and the government. Only one right is taken away: the right to write badly.”

As a rule, people resent being saved from themselves. And if you think depriving people of their right to make mistakes makes sense, you probably never had respect for their right to make decisions at all.

This is all relevant in the wake of the Brexit referendum, in which British citizens narrowly voted to exit the European Union. […]

Update: Here’s an interesting column about Brexit at Hit & Run.

‘Who Rules Over You?’ Is Democracy’s Most Important Question
If there shouldn’t have been a Brexit referendum, should there even be elections?

The Washington Post headline bluntly declares “Brexit is a reminder that some things just shouldn’t be decided by referendum.” [Sounds like Mr. Hannan quoting Jean-Claude Juncker, doesn’t it? Ed.]

Writer Emily Badger, whose focus is generally on urban policy, brings up American ballot initiatives—particularly those in California — as an example of how referendums can lead to bad outcomes, or rather outcomes that certain people don’t like.

After talking about a handful of Brits who publicly regret their vote (keep in mind that millions of people voted to leave), Badger points out correctly that public referendums can be used to undermine democratic institutions, both purposefully by special interest groups ranging from public sector unions to private corporations by directing taxes and government programs in their directions and by simple and not-so-simple unintended (or unpublicized) consequences.

Still, even when making this point, Badger commits some possibly unconscious biases to print when she writes about California, “Back in 1978, California voters generously decided in a ballot measure to cap their own property taxes in a way — amending the state constitution — that has hobbled ever since California’s ability to generate revenue and create reasonable housing policy.” The bold emphasis is mine to point out that her idea of a problematic referendum seems to inherently be anything that restrains the authority of the state. California’s ability to generate revenue has most assuredly not been hobbled even with this one restriction. It’s got some of the highest taxes and fees in the country. She uses “hobbled” to describe the idea that there are limits to what the state of California can afford to do, assuming that these are things that should be done.

But what should also be obvious during this entire “populist” vs. “elites” political battle happening both in the United States and Europe is that representative democracy under legislators has also led to taxes and government programs being directed to interest groups and all sorts of unintended or unpublicized consequences. And it’s an issue that some these same people do not want to seem to deal with. Instead, we get the “uneducated poor people voting against their own self-interest” arguments, like we see about Wales.

These responses are of the “These communities get more money from the European Union than they pay in” vein. We have seen similar arguments about American states who get more “money” from the federal government than they pay in taxes. Such an argument ignores the fact that these targeted communities don’t actually get more “money” than what they pay into the pool; what they get is more government administration and programs put together by various interest groups that tend to direct these subsidies to those with the right connections (in other words—”elites”). […]

The question of who rules over you is an elemental, central component of having a democratic republic. Treating Brexit like it’s just some complicated but very broad referendum is ignoring the nature of the question behind it. If British citizens shouldn’t get to vote whether to be in the European Union because they don’t “understand” all the issues involved, then why should they even get to vote on their legislators? Indeed, why have them vote at all?

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Cognitive dissonance strikes again

April 9, 2016

I’ve had my share of minimum-wage or low wage jobs; I’ve even held more than one at a time, years ago. I’ve been nickle & dimed, as Barbara Ehrenreich would call it.

So I’m all for people who work low-skill jobs getting all the pay they can. (For that matter, I’m all for people working any type of job to get all the pay they can.)

But letting the government set minimum wages is effectively saying that those people have no flexibility – they can’t bargain about wages because it becomes unlawful. That’s a nasty handicap if you’re new to the job market, or you’re new to a line of business, or you’re new to a particular area (see below).

I’ve mentioned before that Mark Twain claimed the best way to get the job you want is to go to work for free. When your value becomes apparent, the pay will follow. If it doesn’t become apparent, you’ve learned a lesson. That’s not possible when the law makes such a bargain illegal.

When did the U.S. repeal the law of supply and demand?

Back in October, The New York Times reported that the law of supply and demand still works. “Yes, Soda Taxes Seem to Cut Soda Drinking,” the newspaper told its readers, relating the results of Mexico’s new tax on sugary beverages. Mexico’s measure imposed a 10 percent tax on soft drinks, and so far has cut consumption from 6 percent to as much as 17 percent among the poorest Mexicans.

The efficacy of the soda tax comes as no great surprise. After all, as the news story noted, “the idea for the soda tax is in some ways modeled on . . . tobacco taxes. . . . A robust literature now exists showing that the resulting higher prices really did push down cigarette sales, particularly among young people.”

The paper’s editorial page soon came out in full cry demanding higher soda taxes for Americans, too. Noting that “a big tax on sugary drinks in Mexico appears to be driving down sales of soda,” the editors urged “lawmakers in the United States to consider comparably stiff taxes.”

Some already have. Soda taxes have become a chic cause in progressive enclaves, from Berkeley and San Francisco to Philadelphia and New York.

But if you want to make liberal heads in those same enclaves explode, dare to suggest that raising the minimum wage might reduce employment.

Thanks to legislation their governors signed Monday, California and New York are hiking their minimums to $15, the target hourly rate of a national campaign by labor activists. Earlier this year The Times encouraged Hillary Clinton to join Bernie Sanders in demanding a $15 minimum for the entire country. “Mrs. Clinton has argued that $15 might be too high for employers in low-wage states, causing them to lay off workers or make fewer hires,” the paper noted, but then argued: “There is no proof for or against that position.”

Sure there isn’t — not if you don’t remember the argument for soda taxes, anyway. […]

In San Francisco and Oakland, Calif., employment growth has been cut in half. In Seattle, job growth has plunged from 4.6 percent to 1.8 percent — even while restaurant hiring rose more than 6 percent for the rest of Washington State.
Sure, you can find studies that purport to show small hikes in the minimum wage don’t hurt jobs. You can find a lot more that say they do. But the more honest advocates for a higher minimum wage acknowledge that it will cost some people their jobs. But some argue that’s no big deal and might even be a feature, not a bug: “What’s so bad about getting rid of crappy jobs?” asks public-policy professor David Howell.

Which is easy to say if the job being gotten rid of isn’t yours.


Now here’s the interesting part. Gov. Jerry Brown says (my emphasis):

Brown, traveling to the state’s largest media market to sign the landmark bill, remained hesitant about the economic effect of raising the minimum wage, saying, “Economically, minimum wages may not make sense.”

But he said work is “not just an economic equation,” calling labor “part of living in a moral community.”

“Morally and socially and politically, they (minimum wages) make every sense because it binds the community together and makes sure that parents can take care of their kids in a much more satisfactory way,” Brown said.


In this same vein, here’s an account by Mitch Hall about his job search in Seattle (which I assume happened late last year).

70 Tries After Seattle Raised Its Minimum Wage, I Still Can’t Find A Job
States nationwide are beginning to join the ‘Fight for $15.’ My job experience in Seattle, Washington helps illustrate why that’s a bad idea.

Over the weekend, lawmakers and labor unions in California, the nation’s most populous state, reached a tentative agreement to gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour over the course of the next several years. […]

Twenty-nine states have minimum wages that exceed the federally mandated $7.25 per hour. Heading into the 2016 election, the issue remains hotly contested and politically potent, with Republican presidential candidates in fierce opposition to, and Democratic candidates in strong support of, a dramatic increase in the federal minimum wage. […]

My opposition to minimum wage increases comes as a direct result of my own experience searching for jobs as a new resident of Seattle, Washington, a city that currently has one of the highest minimum wages in the nation. In June 2014, the Seattle City Council, composed of just nine members, unanimously voted to increase the city’s base pay to a whopping $15 an hour, to be gradually implemented over the course of several years.

I’ve spent the majority of the last two months stalking online job sites and entire days traversing the various neighborhoods of Seattle.

On January 1, 2016, the newly mandated minimum wage rose to $13 for larger companies (those that have more than 500 employees in the United States), and $10.50 for smaller employers (those with fewer than 500 employees in the United States). On top of this, Washington state law now requires businesses to adhere to this minimum even for tipped workers, a rule that only six other states have on the books.

In December, I found myself needing a break from college, for a variety of reasons. So at the close of last semester, I decided (rather impulsively, as young people are wont to do) to take my spring semester off from the College of William and Mary and move out west to try my luck in Seattle, a place I had only visited once before. […]

Having a combined two years of serving experience and close to five years of total experience in the customer and food services industries (which is literally as much as you can ask for from a 20-year-old college student), I assumed I’d be able to find a restaurant gig in no time. So, after reassuring my parents all would be well in the financial department, I boarded a plane in Philly a few weeks later and made the move.

Yet seven weeks and more than 70 job applications later, I still have yet to land a part-time, minimum wage job. I’ve spent the majority of the last two months stalking online job sites and entire days traversing the various neighborhoods of Seattle, filling out applications and inquiring about job opportunities at any restaurant, coffee shop, retail store, or other service-oriented establishment I can find. […]

At first, I was utterly dumbfounded by my lack of success, and figured only bad luck was to blame. After all, I had been hired at every single one of my past serving jobs within only a day or two of searching and applying. I’d have to find something in Seattle eventually, I thought; I’m young, competent, and college-educated, and serving is by no means a highly skilled occupation that requires degrees or extensive training. I know how to make a good impression with prospective employers, and I already have years of experience in the food services industry. What more could these people want?

Employers, especially in the restaurant and food services industries, are far less willing to take chances on who they hire with so much money on the line.

But soon enough it became clear, through talking with potential employers and local college students also trying to find work, that my failure to land a job was likely due, at least in large part, to Seattle’s absurdly high minimum wage. […]


I think the real problem here is what to do about those who are seemingly stuck in low-skill jobs. I don’t think they’re the majority of people in those jobs, but they’re the chronic cases that seem to motivate the urge to raise minimum wages.

Here’s a graph from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (Dept. of Labor). It’s titled: Minimum wage workers account for 4.7 percent of hourly paid workers in 2012.

bls-minimum-wage-by-age

This report (at the Heritage Foundation) says the same thing: Who Earns the Minimum Wage? Suburban Teenagers, Not Single Parents.

Just eyeballing that graph above, my guess is that maybe a third of the people making minimum wage are heads of households. If I’m right, that’s 33% of 4.7% or 1.6% of the total labor force.

A better approach would be to address directly the needs of the adults stuck in those jobs rather than raising the bar for everyone, children included. Don Boudreaux and Nick Gillespie touch on these points in this interview.

Taking a cue from Governor Brown, is it "moral" to inflict hardships on a large class in order to relieve a small number of those people from other hardships? I’d disagree. I’d say that’s an immoral action by a government based on purely utilitarian grounds (greatest good for the greatest number).

Bear in mind that it’s a different case if particular individuals step up and volunteer for hardships in order to spare their peers or fellow citizens – in that case, the action may be admirable and moral. But when it’s legally compulsory, it’s just so much bullying by legislators.


Update: Now this I can believe. Based on what I read, I think that unions are trying to regain the political power they once exercised; so this explanation seems possible. But dang… it’s gotta sting to be a union member who’s making less than the minimum wage championed by your union. Where’s the brotherhood?

The Minimum Wage Con

If you thought that the union-backed #FightFor15 movement was really about making sure that all workers earned a living wage—rather than about using the government to enrich progressive interest groups—think again. The Guardian:

Los Angeles city council will hear a proposal on Tuesday to exempt union members from a $15 an hour minimum wage that the unions themselves have spent years fighting for.

The proposal for the exemption was first introduced last year, after the Los Angeles city council passed a bill that would see the city’s minimum wage increase to $15 by 2020. After drawing criticism last year, the proposed amendment was put on hold but is now up for consideration once again.

As it turns out, this practice is not uncommon. The WSJ reported last year that at least six municipalities have created special minimum wage carveouts for unions. The logic is straightforward: Kill non-unionized jobs, add more workers to the union rolls, and extract higher fees for union bosses. It’s not a minimum wage hike the labor movement is after, exactly: It’s a penalty on non-union employers, and a payout for modern-day Jimmy Hoffas. Expect unions in California and New York, which recently enacted statewide $15 minimums, to start lobbying legislators for their own sweetheart deals in the near future. […]


Update 2:
Here’s an interesting graph from Business Insider. It explains to some extent how California can get away with its hike in the minimum wage: it’s easy when you have one of the lowest minimum-wage work forces in the country.

heres-how-many-people-in-each-state-make-the-federal-minimum-wage-or-less

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More evidence for the limited government argument (2)

January 9, 2016

Moe Lane writes at RedState:

Washington Post admits that, no: electric cars were NOT worth it.

At least, if you use the rule of thumb that any time you ask a question in a headline then the answer is always going to be ‘no:’ “The government has spent a lot on electric cars, but was it worth it?” And the answer to the question is no in this case, too. There are three ways that the Washington Post (note that I am not criticizing WaPo article author Charles Lane, here: he’s obviously figured it all out already) could have worked that out ahead of time, in fact; all it had to do was look more closely at the title. […]

Read the whole thing; it’s brief. Better yet, follow the link the to WaPo article.

When electric cars get charged from solar cells or from zero point energy (assuming that’s practical), then I’ll buy one.

But to buy an electric vehicle which is charged by coal-fired generation (as mine would be) is just adding another step, with its particular inefficiencies, to the total energy use. TANSTAAFL applies to engineering as well as to politics. That’s why engineers won’t shut up about it.

It’s tough to beat the energy density in petroleum. Unless you’re willing to burn hyrdrogen or natural gas, or you’re willing to use nuclear sources, then you should burn petroleum. You don’t have to be an engineer to look this stuff up.

My view is that people should convert their vehicles to natural gas. It’s cheaper and it’s better in terms of emissions. If you’re one who worries about catastrophic warming, look at what the switch from coal to natural gas has done for US carbon emissions. They’ve fallen since 2007.

I always think that the example of places like Cuba, Venezuela, the Soviet Union, North Korea, the old ‘Eastern Bloc’ in Europe, und so weiter, would be enough to convince anyone that governments have no business trying to run markets.

But I’m learning not to be surprised when those examples aren’t convincing.

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Why repeal drug laws?

October 14, 2015

One of the most concise statements I’ve seen recently of anti-prohibitionist arguments.

Being of a practical turn of mind, I can imagine all manner of horror stories from full legalization: parents neglecting their children, people bankrupting their families, victims killed by stoned drivers – or worse, by stoned doctors(!) – all the typical appeals to fear that prohibitionists like to make.

And I’ve seen some tragedies first hand. I once lost a contract employee due to his crystal meth habit. He was fired from the best gig he’d ever had and he ended up serving some time. Luckily he had no children.

But all those evils happen today due to other factors. I had an alcoholic uncle who was found shot dead in an alley. It was a nasty death but I don’t believe he was ever involved with drugs.

More importantly, all those evils happen today due to drug abuse and that’s in spite of the current drug laws.

And others evils happen because of drug laws. Can you say roadside cavity search? What if that happened to one of your relatives or close friends?

So live free or die, even if living free means that some will die from bad habits. Ain’t nobody’s business but their own.

Via Carpe Diem

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She’s been there and done that

September 2, 2015

Here’s a recent opinion piece in The Washington Post by Mirta Gutierrez.

IMO, a $15 minimum wage is great news for automation companies. But…

A $15 minimum wage would hurt entry-level workers

Living in poverty in Argentina was not easy. Like many Argentinians trapped at the bottom of the economy, I was determined to make something of myself. I pursued a degree in accounting, but I quickly discovered that even with an education in my country, I was on a path to a dead end. […]

After arriving in Washington, I learned at a job fair that an Angelo & Maxie’s restaurant was opening and hiring 300 people. I met the chef, and in very broken English I asked for an opportunity to prove myself. He agreed, reluctantly, to hire me as a dishwasher at $5.50 an hour. It was 2001. I watched everything, took mental notes and looked for every opportunity to try something new in the back of the house. […]

When Angelo & Maxie’s closed, I went to work at District ChopHouse near Verizon Center. In nine years, the general manager and executive chef taught me everything he knew about the restaurant business. Then, in a bittersweet moment, he told me, “It’s time for you to fly.”

I was hired as the executive sous chef at Rosa Mexicano, where I was able to apply the skills that I had learned over the years. Before long, restaurant executive Spike Mendelsohn asked for my help with kitchen management and bookkeeping for one of his restaurant concepts, Good Stuff Eatery, on Capitol Hill. Soon, I was recruited to be executive chef at Tortilla Coast, where I am today.

I am an immigrant who started at the bottom with nothing. I became an executive chef who understands the kitchen and an accountant who understands the numbers of running a business. […]

As a poor immigrant, would a $15 minimum wage have helped me? Absolutely not. No restaurant owner would hire someone without experience, skills or English at such a high wage. I would never have made it to that first rung on the career ladder. […]

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