Spindle Time, Mostly on Economics

Featured image The stock market sold off hard today, supposedly because of economic turmoil and devaluations in developing countries.  Perhaps this is so, though I usually discount the snap analysis in the media about what drives the daily moves of the overall market, as opposed to individual sectors where industry slumps or disruptions (housing and banking anyone?) are more comprehensible.  I wonder whether the market may be sliding because of the downgrades »

Mad As Hell Time

Featured image Last month we took notice of the case of John Beale, the highest paid employee at the EPA and climate change expert who hadn’t actually worked at the agency for nearly a decade, claiming instead to be a deep-cover CIA agent.  Beale was sentenced today to 32 months in prison (seems rather light) for what the government called “massive fraud.”  Somehow, however, none of the reporters following this story have »

Time for Oversight, Foresight, and Hindsight Hearings

Featured image Juliet Eilprin’s story in yesterday’s Washington Post about how the Obama administration delayed the rollout of numerous regulations to avoid controversy in the election ought to be a significant scandal: The White House systematically delayed enacting a series of rules on the environment, worker safety and health care to prevent them from becoming points of contention before the 2012 election, according to documents and interviews with current and former administration »

From cradle to grave, and beyond [UPDATED]

Featured image Fifty years ago, when the idea still seemed novel and overly intrusive, conservatives sometimes complained that the welfare state aimed to take care of Americans “from the cradle to the grave.” These days, however, the government is taking care of many Americans even after they reach the grave. The Washington Post reports that “in the past few years, Social Security has paid $133 million to beneficiaries who [are] deceased.” In »

It’s time for a time-out at the EPA

Featured image As Steve notes below, less than 7 percent of the EPA’s workforce is considered “essential,” in the sense of being permitted to work during the government shutdown. The message? The productive sector of our society needs to be harassed, but not on a daily basis. However, if John Brenner were still working for the EPA, he would probably be deemed part of the essential 6.6 percent. So would his close »

The wealth of Washington

Featured image During the tourist season here in Washington, D.C., it sometimes occurs to me that if our tourists drove around the many wealthy neighbors in the D.C. area, the reaction would cause the Tea Party movement of 2010 to look like an ordinary tea party. Such is the wealth of Washington. I had the same thought when I read this post by John Gabriel at Ricochet called “D.C. Incomes Boom While »

What’s the difference between government background checks and those by the private sector?

Featured image As part of its war on standards, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing employers around the country for using the results of background checks to screen applicants for employment. The EEOC’s theory is that such screening excludes a disproportionate amount of Black applicants and, at least in the cases where EEOC sues, is not justified by business necessity. But the federal government screens applicants for employment. And given »

Now The Gov’t Wants to Regulate . . . Dinner Parties?

Featured image I suppose it was only a matter of time before the Bloombergians of the world decided to extend their regulatory impulses to . . . dinner parties.  The local CBS affiliate in New York reports on the crackdown on “illegal” dinner parties (with my commentary interpolated): NEW YORK (CBS 2) — As you sit down to dinner, this story illustrates eating out like you have never experienced before. We are talking »

Time to Drive a Stake Through “Stakeholding”

Featured image The Dept. of Energy has just released a “Directory of Potential Stakeholders for DoE Actions Under NEPA” (link to a PDF file).  NEPA is the National Environmental Policy Act; think environmental impact assessments, and the endless lawsuits challenging their adequacy.  Skip over the list of the myriad federal and state agencies that want in on the process; note the list starting on page 24 (or just check the list in »

Our Disastrous Bureaucrats

Featured image The story of Marty Hahne, the magician who received a regulatory notice from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture that he needed to file a disaster plan for his rabbit, has been around a while, but this week it made the Washington Post, so now it is officially certified by the (still-unregulated, for the time being) mainstream media: Hahne is a slight man with the stage persona of an exuberant doofus »

Was Orwell Right After All?

Featured image Cast your mind back a ways to the 1980s and early 1990s, and you may recall that our thoughts about technology started undergoing a revision—namely, that far from offering increasingly powerful tools for government oppression and control, personal computers, cell phones, and all the rest of the emergent technologies were becoming means of our liberation as well as barriers to oppressive government.  Certainly personal computers and new communication technology—or really »

Law of Unintended Consequences Strikes Again

Featured image I forget which Chicago-school economist it was (probably it was Sam Peltzman) who once suggested that the most effective way to cut down on automobile accidents would be to place a sharp, eight-inch knife on the steering wheel of every car.  Instead, we got mandates for seat belts and air bags.  Peltzman’s research showed that in the early years people with seat belts suffered fewer injuries in accidents, but . »

In Praise of Slow Learners

Featured image There’s this much to be said in praise of Jonathan Turley, professor of “public interest law” at George Washington University Law School, and frequent bobblehead on cable TV shows: at least he isn’t a supercilious smug-mugger like Jeffrey Toobin.  In addition, unlike Toobin, Turley often gets things right. But come on man, you’re only just discovering now that the federal administrative bureaucracy—the “fourth branch of government”—has become problematic?  From Turley’s »

Bureaucracy in America

Featured image Bureaucracy in America may well be the subject and therefore the title of my next book, and its theme would be Tocqueville meets James Q. Wilson.  Tocqueville, as I mentioned in my note about the nanny state here a couple weeks ago, described the form of “soft despotism” that America needed to fear, but which he didn’t quite have a name for.  James Q. Wilson’s 1988 book Bureaucracy is still »