Jens 'n' Frens
Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

"A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures."
  -- Daniel Webster

Monday, November 15, 2010 :::

Yeah, I've been busy. But here's some of what I've seen:

  • A low-end caffeine/alcohol drink called Four Loko has been getting a lot of attention after college students started using it to get drunk. The state of Washington, among others, has banned it on an emergency basis; Jacob Sullum notes that "[t]he emergency ban lasts for 120 days, giving the liquor control board time to make it permanent. And after that, no college student in Washington state will ever drink irresponsibly again."

    Closer to my neck of the woods:
    New York’s largest beer distributors agreed late Saturday to stop selling caffeinated alcoholic drinks that come in tall, colorful cans and to purge their inventory of the products, the state’s Liquor Authority said in a statement obtained by The Associated Press ahead of an expected announcement.
    When the state liquor authority is releasing a statement on behalf of the state's beer distributors, you know that the beer distributors arrived at their decision solely on the basis of what would best serve their customers.

    Paragraph three is what caught my attention, though:
    New York’s liquor regulators said that they had determined there was insufficient evidence to show that the products were safe.
    One reasonable distinction between a totalitarian state and a sometimes-paternalistic-but-basically-free state is that a free state puts the burden of proof on those who want to prohibit consumers from making decisions themselves while a totalitarian system will ban a product if there is "insufficient evidence" to allow it.

    I'm not saying it's fair to equate New York with Cuba. I'm just saying it's not quite as unfair as I'd like it to be.
  • Correlation is not causation, which this article acknowledges in its second paragraph, though I'm not sure the article has much point if you take that warning seriously. Not that I didn't learn anything from this: I wasn't really sure that Time Magazine was still publishing.
  • Balance the federal budget yourself. Related, the deficit commission returned recommendations. Based on what I've seen, I would support some changes, but I would also be happy with a straight up-or-down vote, in which case I would prefer the up.
  • From Twitter, regarding the TSA's recent decision to celebrate the pointlessness of most of their procedures by intensifying them: ["security theater" is] like regular theater: if you enjoyed it, then it's not transgressive enough.
  • While trying to figure out why government programs are so bad at achieving what they set out to achieve, Nobel Prize-winning economist Ronald Coase concluded that “diseconomy of scale” was a big part of the problem. An “important reason may be that government at the present time is so large that it has reached the stage of negative marginal productivity,” he wrote. That “means that any additional function it takes on will probably result in more harm than good … If a federal program were established to give financial assistance to Boy Scouts to enable them to help old ladies cross busy intersections, we could be sure that not all the money would go to Boy Scouts, that some of those they helped would be neither old nor ladies, that part of the program would be devoted to preventing old ladies from crossing busy intersections, and that many of them would be killed because they would now cross at places where, unsupervised, they were at least permitted to cross.”
    For what it's worth, Coase's birthday is next month.
  • Obama hasn't been keeping his transparency promise, but he's getting closer over time.

UPDATE: I meant to say that Coase's 100th birthday is next month. Rather more remarkable than just his birthday.


::: posted by Steven at 11:34 PM

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Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

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