Dec 032013

To start a bank, you need to spell out how you’re going to guard against cyberattack. To take over the country’s medical care system, you do not.  That’s the advantage of doing things with an unregulated monopoly.

To convince regulators of their viability, the backers behind the Bird-in-Hand group raised about $17 million from investors. Brent Peters, chief executive of the Bank of Bird-in-Hand, estimated the group spent about $800,000 in preparing its application for a new charter, including consulting and legal fees, rent on a temporary office during the roughly seven-month application process and the salaries of top managers, four of whom were on the payroll one month before the bank won FDIC approval.

In its application, the bank had to lay out internal policies and procedures in detail and specify the systems in place to, for example, guard against cyberattacks.

“You are talking perhaps anywhere from 8 to 16 inches of paper,” the bank’s attorney, Nick Bybel, said of the application.

Tally of U.S. Banks Sinks to Record Low –



Mar 162013

A probable example of regulatory failure.  This can happen when the emphasis turns from health and safety to the rules about health and safety.

State building officials say they would like to help Mr. Conway and are considering changes. Local officials say their hands are tied because the codes are written by the state. They also say even amending building codes wouldn’t address fire and health issues at Turtle Island.

via Ah, Wilderness! Mountain Man vs. the Building Inspector –

Dec 102012

Quiz question: When the referees own one of the teams, does it instill a) more or b) less confidence in their whistle blowing?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is looking into findings by Consumer Reports magazine that Ford Motor Co.’s F -0.09% Ford Fusion and C-Max wagon hybrids fall well short of their official gas-mileage ratings, an agency spokeswoman said on Monday.

via Ford Fusion, C-Max Mileage Claims Get EPA Scrutiny –

Jul 102012

The Fed’s view is that by raising interest rates enough, it can stop any inflation. True, but not entirely relevant. Will the politicians, the public, business and labor accept the necessary level of interest rates?

via Allan Meltzer: What’s Wrong With the Federal Reserve? –

What it can do and what it will do: two different things.

Jun 032011

Today’s Leviathan Ankle-Biter award goes to the Whole Life Buying Club of Louisville, Kentucky.   Forty members defied a cease-and-desist order from the Food Security Nazis.    They put the following note on their milk cooler and took their quarantined milk home anyway:

I, the undersigned, hereby declare that I have taken my milk that comes from cows I own via private contract under the protection of the KY constitution (articles 1,2,4,6,10,16,26), and if the county health department would like to speak with me about this matter, I can be reached at the number given below.

I learned about this from Jerry Salyer at Front Porch Republic, in an article titled, “The War on Raw Milk.”  It’s good reading.   My own comment in response:

Statism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere may make a consequential personal choice.

A corollary definition: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere may trust his neighbor more than the state.

When I was growing up we often bought unpasteurized milk from local farmers precisely because it was unpasteurized. This became more difficult already in the 1960s, with the widespread use of bulk tanks and tighter inspections for Grade A milk, but we did it anyway. I’d sometimes be the one to walk over to a nearby dairy farmer’s milk room and dip some out of the bulk tank into a pail I had brought along. This was not exactly legal, but we had instructions on how to do it without risking any problems with the milk inspections. Such problems could incur considerable cost for the farmer.

Laws against the sale or purchase of unpasteurized milk do have one positive effect, though. They teach impressionable young minds that the regulatory state is more often stupid than not. They act as a preventative against unwarranted respect for government.


May 312011

Is it OK to give a Leviathan Ankle-Biter award to the United States Supreme Court?  Whether or not, I think I will.

The inspiration is this WSJ lead article from May 27:

Justices Uphold Immigrant Law : States Can Shut Firms That Hire Illegal Workers

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce called my attention to the ankle-biter part.  It doesn’t like this decision:

“The growing patchwork of state and local immigration laws is a serious obstacle to doing business across state lines,” said Robin Conrad, director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s legal arm, which challenged the Arizona law. She called on Congress to outlaw “employment-related state immigration laws” like Arizona’s, as part of a broader immigration overhaul.

A patchwork of state and local laws makes it hard for a single company to dominate its niche from coast to coast.   If laws are uniform nation-wide, a dominant company needs to deal with only one set of regulations, and can then use economies of scale to run the smaller ones out of its business.   It can hire lobbyists to schmooze the regulators in Washington.   The biggest, most efficient lobbyist organization wins.

But if laws are not uniform, then there are niches for the smaller companies who can deal with local regulations.

In a patchwork of local laws and regulations, it’s hard for the winner to take all.   And  it’s harder for the U.S. government regulators to coopt and intimidate the patchwork of small competitors who can survive in that environment.

True, there is some loss of economic efficiency under such a patchwork, but there is also corresponding loss of efficiency of government control.    Leviathan doesn’t like that.

So a Leviathan Ankle-Biter Award goes to the United States Supreme Court.

I hope to soon make a similar award to those members of Congress who will resist the big corporate lobbyists who will argue for uniformity.

Jan 312011

I’d think the main question is not so much whether the TSA chief personally finds alternatives to its government/union workers to be advantageous, but whether passengers and airport managers do.

But on Friday, the TSA denied an application by Springfield-Branson Airport in Missouri to privatize its checkpoint workforce, and in a statement, Pistole indicated other applications likewise will be denied.

“I examined the contractor screening program and decided not to expand the program beyond the current 16 airports as I do not see any clear or substantial advantage to do so at this time,” Pistole said.

CNN article:  TSA shuts door on private airport screening program

Dec 032010

So Congress wants to ban loud TV ads.    I personally have no problem with loud TV ads.   It’s the idiots who are on television in between the ads who are too loud for me, so I watch none of it.

Well, I did watch election night coverage once, back in 1982.   And I sometimes join my wife in watching Big Ten football or basketball.

The bad part is that sometimes I’m inflicted with television noise in public places where it doesn’t belong:   MacDonalds, the jury waiting room,  hospital waiting rooms, gas stations.   THAT is a public health hazard and it is offensive.

When it comes to banning things, I usually prefer social controls to federal government corruption and bureaucracy.   But if government can’t get over its urge to ban things, it should channel its energies in a useful direction.  It should ban TV in public places.   Governments already ban smoking in hospitals and retail establishments.   What’s the point of doing that and allowing a public health nuisance like TV?

Aug 052010

My comment on Katherine Hobson’s blog article at the WSJ titled, “Institute for Safe Medication Practices: Drug Shortages ‘Unprecedented’

Since the author had a chance to talk to this Michael Cohen, I wish she would have asked more questions about this “authority” that he thinks the FDA should have. Who would be compelled to do what? Who is supposed to be responsible to whom for a “plan?” After all, it’s not clear how a “plan” could help with any of the causes that the article lists. There are a whole lot of unanswered questions that need answers before we think about giving the FDA more power; otherwise it’s just another power grab.