Wednesday, September 29, 2010

More on small-farm organic locavorism (from Freakonomics). Just because there are fewer cases of salmonella reported on from free-range chickens doesn't mean that the risks are lower - free range farms just don't produce enough eggs for their salmonella to get noticed.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Chart of the Day

From the Daily Dish.

Creative Destruction

Apparently, the athletic department at VMI is switching over to digital video, judging from this email I got:

Sent with permission of the Director of Intercollegiate Athletics

The football office has approximately 250 new video tapes that we no longer need. If you can use these please contact me. Thanks!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Deception at Farmers' Markets

Via Tim Diette at WLU:

A nice example of the potential value of regulation so that consumers have information on what they are buying.

Stories from NY Times (here) and Roanoke Times (here).
I'm not a expert in the economics of regulation, but I do a bit of political economy in my research, and I did OK in the game theory portion of my micro sequence in grad school, so here's how I'd see this one playing out. Regulation will ultimately be lobbied for most by big players in the organic/local market (think whole foods, etc.). My thinking here is that the big producers actually have less incentive to "cheat" by outsourcing produce advertised as local and/or using pesticide-enhanced produce, because everyone will remember it if Whole Foods gets busted; no one will remember if Johnny Farmer does. Consumer groups will support it, but the final product will mainly serve to: (1) bar entry for small sellers; and (2) help the same big players signal their reputation cheaply. It will go over great for a while, but eventually, enough of the relatively honest small producers will collectively complain about the onerous opportunity-killing regulations. If they succeed, we'll be right back at square one.

Shortcut to Serfdom

This piece does a good job of the real and tangible threats to liberty that are out there right now. Many started under "W" but have been continued and in some cases escalated under Obama. Mr. Friedersdorf points out:
Seven decades have passed since The Road to Serfdom was published. Social democracy hasn’t yet led Europe or any of its diverse countries into serfdom. On the contrary, they’re are among the most free and prosperous countries in the history of human civilization. I prefer the American system. It’s better, all things considered. In order to make the case for it, we need not pretend that the people of Europe are in chains.

There are real threats to liberty, but they have less to do with Obamacare, bailouts, or taxes. Which does the conservative Friedersdorf prefer?
Forced to choose, I’d rather live in the ACLU’s idea of the perfect America than a country where we repeal Obamacare, eliminate earmarks, and persist in chipping away at civil liberties to fight drugs and terrorists. The former may be a “road to serfdom.” The latter is a shortcut to the same place.

I recommend the whole piece, but I do disagree with the statement, "The last two presidents have asserted authority unprecedented in American history." Sadly, the current circumstances are not particularly unprecedented or even extraordinary. We had the internment camps during World War II, McCarthyism, J. Edgar Hoover's domestic spying, Watergate, Iran Contra... There is a seemingly endless list of landmark historical instances where our government acted in contradiction to the liberties proscribed in the constitution. On the broader issue, however (that we need to guard our civil liberties much more than we need to worry about some perceived injustice stemming from our personal disagreements with a particular economic policy, the author hits it right on the head.