URLs du Jour


  • At Cato@Liberty, Jim Harper comments upon an illuminating phrase uttered on Meet the Press by one Erin Burnett: that the Madoff scandal demonstrated that "we need a real regulator." His spot-on reply:
    Ms. Burnett, the SEC that failed to prevent this is a real regulator.

    When regulators fail to address a problem ahead of time, when they regulate inefficiently, when they hand their rulemaking organs to the industries they are supposed to oversee, those are all the actions of real regulators. That's what you get with real regulation.

    What Burnett meant when she called for a "real" regulator, of course, was "the regulator I can imagine." The regulators people imagine are foresighted, interested only in the public good, they're resistant to lobbying, and they run efficient organizations. But these characteristics are simply imaginary.

    At the Technology Liberation Front, Tim Lee expands on that notion:
    Ponzi schemes and dishonest bookkeeping are already illegal. Had the SEC been so motivated, it had all the authority it needed to investigate Madoff's books, discover the problems, and shut his firm down. In a rational world, this would be taken as a cautionary tale about the dangers of assuming that regulators will be vigilant, competent, or interested in defending the interests of the general public rather than those with political clout. Instead, we live in a bizarro world in which people believe that the SEC's failure to do its job is an illustration of the need to give agencies like the SEC more power.
    Some "enlightened" individuals love to poke fun at the religious (the "oogedy-boogedy" folks, in the words of Kathleen Parker), but are totally blind in their devotion to their secular theology of the State. When three tons of money goes down a government rathole to no effect, their only conclusion is that—gosh, if only it had been four tons.

  • Also at Cato, David Boaz notes the strange language that allows people to call the proposed Obama cabinet picks as "centrist".
    That's what you would expect from a bunch of statist ideologues who have been waiting years or decades for an election and a crisis that would allow them to fasten on American society their own plan for how energy, transportation, health care, education, and the economy should work. That's not centrist, it's a collectivist vision hammered out by Ivy Leaguers and activists over the past couple of decades. In its more idealistic formulation, it's based on the premise that smart people know what the people need better than the people themselves do, and that command and control work better than markets and individual choice. In its more practical application, it's interest-group rent-seeking dressed in the trappings of public interest.
    People who prefer limited government and free markets are going to be in for a rough stretch.

  • However, here's a bright spot: in Newsweek, Larry Lessig calls for a "reboot" of the Federal Communications Commission. By which he means…
    The solution here is not tinkering. You can't fix DNA. You have to bury it. President Obama should get Congress to shut down the FCC and similar vestigial regulators, which put stability and special interests above the public good. In their place, Congress should create something we could call the Innovation Environment Protection Agency (iEPA), charged with a simple founding mission: "minimal intervention to maximize innovation." The iEPA's core purpose would be to protect innovation from its two historical enemies--excessive government favors, and excessive private monopoly power.
    This is such an insanely great idea, I'd guess it has no chance of happening. But it's nice to see a prominent person advocating it in a prominent publication. (Via Volokh.)

    Previous Pun Salad FCC posts here, here, here, here, here.

  • If you'd like some more libertarian wishful thinking—and don't we all need some?—John H. Richardson at Esquire examines the chances that Obama might decriminalize or even legalize marijuana. His utterances and signals have so far been mixed.

  • Think you're too old to be beguiled by toys? You might want to check out Cracked's guide to modern versions of classic kids' toys. Or, as they put it, "8 Old School Toys That Got Badass Makeovers." Whoa. ("Honey, is it too late to revise my Christmas list?")