Author Archives: Quincy

Moving nowhere fast in Oregon

Coyote Blog has an excellent post up about a moving business at the whim of Oregon law:

Cato has a video of some folks in Oregon who started a moving business, only to find that sate law effectively requires them to get permission of current moving companies before they can operate (apparently, someone in Oregon is enamored of medieval guild systems).

How the law works is that when a new mover submits his application for a business license, existing movers can file an objection (which apparently is pro forma). The new company must then justify to the state why another moving company is justified by the marketplace. Of course, absolutely no guidance is given how such a thing might be proven.

Head on over and check out not only the Cato video, but Warren’s own stories about similar regulatory idiocy.

Eliot Spitzer on Transformation and Stimulation

Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer gives us a look at the kind of stimulation he would give the economy in Slate:

The incoming Obama administration and Congress are planning a huge fiscal stimulus package. They hope that such a stimulus will catalyze an economic turnaround and be a cornerstone of a “New New Deal.”


Here is where the New Deal analogies are instructive. The New Deal probably didn’t pull us out of the Depression; World War II did that. What the New Deal did was redefine the social contract—perhaps just as important an outcome. The ultimate significance of the Obama package may be not its short-term demand-side impact but rather its capacity to transform our economy and, in turn, some of the fundamental underpinnings of our society. This introduces the second major problem: The “off the shelf” infrastructure projects that can be funded immediately and provide immediate demand-side stimulus are almost by definition not the transformative investments we really need. Paving roads, repairing bridges that need refurbishing, and accelerating existing projects are all good and necessary, but not transformative. These projects by and large are building or patching the same economy with the same flaws that got us where we are. Our concern should be that as we look for the next great infrastructure project to transform our economy, we might rebuild the Erie Canal and find ourselves a century behind technologically.

So Spitzer thinks the economy needs to be transformed into something better. Does he propose that we forge ahead in an environment that allows the free market and the awesome intelligence of millions of American citizens to find the way forward? No. He proposes that government picks winners and losers in the new economy. Here is perhaps the most idiotic example:

Second, the most significant hurdle to beginning the shift to nongasoline-based cars is the lack of an infrastructure to distribute the alternative energy, whether it is electricity—plug-in hybrids—or natural gas or even hydrogen. Once that infrastructure is there, it is said, consumers will be able to opt for the new technology. If that is so, let us build that infrastructure now: Transform existing gas stations so they can serve as distribution points for natural gas or hydrogen, build plug-in charging centers at parking lots, and design units for at-home garages. These would, indeed, be transformative investments.

Where should the debunkulating begin? First, gas stations are private property. It’s rather hard to transform private property in a government program without being thuggish about it.

Second, massive deployments of immature technology hamper genuine progress. Building out a massive electric car infrastructure based on current battery technology would be an environmental and economic disaster. Today’s batteries are not only inefficient, they are harmful to the environment to produce and dispose of. They also are not suitable as a replacement to gasoline as an energy storage medium for cars because of weight, charging time, and energy leakage over time.

Ultracapacitors, on the other hand, are suitable for automotive use. EEStor has just patented a capacitor that provides the same performance as a Tesla roadster battery while weighing one-third as much and having a charging time of seconds when enough power is available. They also require a different charging system for the full benefit of the technology to be realized.

Instead of enabling a greener, high-tech future, Spitzer’s transformative plan would put it farther out of reach. This consequence is not peculiar to Eliot Spitzer planning the economy, of course. It comes with all forms of centralized economic planning. No human is intelligent enough to make efficient economic decisions for large groups of people. The amount of information and understanding needed to pick technologies that will most efficiently meet the needs of people who will use them is staggering. Not only must all the technologies be thoroughly understood, but so do the needs of the people who will be using them.

The free market solves this problem by changing the scope of the decision. Instead of trying to figure out the needs of millions and picking one technology, a free market offers several technologies and allows buyers to consider only their own needs. While not everyone buying technology thoroughly understands what they’re buying, they do know what they want out of it. Sometimes this leads to a clear winner, while other times it leads to a continued selection of technologies. Eventually, dissatisfaction with the choices allows a new idea to take hold.

This process is vital to the continued health of the economy, yet interfering with it is exactly how Spitzer, Obama, and the left want to stimulate the economy. Thanks, Mr. Spitzer, but what you’re offering is stimulation we don’t need.

It’s not a privacy threat today…

Oregon is trying to devise a system to tax all those shifty, tax-evading environmentalists they have up there:

Oregon is among a growing number of states exploring ways to tax drivers based on the number of miles they drive instead of how much gas they use, even going so far as to install GPS monitoring devices in 300 vehicles. The idea first emerged nearly 10 years ago as Oregon lawmakers worried that fuel-efficient cars such as gas-electric hybrids could pose a threat to road upkeep, which is paid for largely with gasoline taxes.

“I’m glad we’re taking a look at it before the potholes get so big that we can’t even get out of them,” said Leroy Younglove, a Portland driver who participated in a recent pilot program.

Any reader of this site will see the words “GPS monitoring device” and immediately worry about privacy from prying government eyes. Don’t worry, Oregon’s got it all figured out for you:

Another concern is that such devices could threaten privacy. Whitty said he and his task force have assured people that the program does not track detailed movement and that driving history is not stored and cannot be accessed by law enforcement agencies.

“I think most people will come to realize there is really no tracking issue and will continue to buy new cars,” Whitty said, noting that many cell phones now come equipped with GPS, which has not deterred customers.

I’d love to believe that the devices present no tracking issue. Really, I would. Too bad it’s simply not true:

Though the GPS devices did not track the cars’ locations in great detail, they could determine when a driver had left certain zones, such as the state of Oregon. They also kept track of the time the driving was done, so a premium could be charged for rush-hour mileage.

If the devices can determine whether a vehicle has left the state and how many miles were driven in rush-hour traffic, there is a tracking issue.

How serious is this tracking issue? » Read more

You should want what I want

…or “The Basic Fallacy of all Leftist Economics”

The political left throughout the world loves to proclaim its eternal devotion to diversity. They like diverse schools, diverse workplaces, diverse TV shows, diverse music, and on and on. It turns out, though, that this love of diversity is only skin deep. That is, the skin of the faces of the people they see as diverse. When it comes to economic choices, the left invariably believes that choices can and should be made by the intelligent elite for the good of everyone.

How could a group so concerned with diversity believe that the intelligent elite should make economic decisions for millions of people with diverse wants and needs? It’s a good question. » Read more

A Libertarian-Friendly Economic Stimulus Plan?

Based on Brad’s recent post about the stimulus plan and the comments to it, I’ve come up with a plan that puts money in the hands where it can do some good, ours, while allowing the politicians in Washington to claim they’ve done something.

Here are my starting assumptions:

1) The plan must be revenue neutral or else it would die in Congress.
2) The plan must align with the Federal Reserve’s goal of increasing liquidity in the economy to gain its support.
3) The plan must get money in the hands of the people, where it belongs.
4) The quickest way to get money into the economy is to stop withholding it from paychecks.

Based on this, the solution seems simple. Implement a tax holiday period funded by newly-printed dollars from the Federal Reserve. Americans see an immediate boost in the amount of money available to them while federal spending is not negatively (or positively) impacted.

Here are some numbers generated in response to Louis Gohmert’s tax holiday plan:

According to American Solutions, a conservative think tank founded by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Americans pay $101.6 billion per month in personal income tax and $65.6 billion per month in FICA tax.

A three month tax holiday would inject approximately $501.6 billion into the economy far faster and more efficiently than Obama’s job program can or the Bush stimulus checks did. By balancing the uncollected tax with newly printed dollars, the Federal Government can fast-track money into circulation without having to enlist the aid of banks, who are understandably cautious about lending.

Now, because this idea seems too good to be true, I’ll ask you, the readers, to blow some holes in it. Go!

» Read more

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