Category: Public Policy

Blog author: dpahman
Friday, February 27, 2015
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Yesterday the FCC reclassified Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act, with additional provisions from Title III and Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. This was done for the purpose of ensuring net neutrality or open internet access, requiring ISPs to treat all data on the internet equally. Notably, yesterday’s Order also includes mobile broadband for the first time as well.

In a press release, the FCC claims,

Together Title II and Section 706 support clear rules of the road, providing the certainty needed for innovators and investors, and the competitive choices and freedom demanded by consumers, while not burdening broadband providers with anachronistic utility-style regulations such as rate regulation, tariffs or network sharing requirements.

I have expressed concerns in the past about the smattering of regulations available under Title II, far beyond what would be required for net neutrality. On the surface, the press release would seem to indicate that the recent Order was designed to attempt to prevent those further regulations from being available to the FCC: (more…)

red tapeDo government regulations squelch marketplace innovation? A new study from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Nathan Goldschlag and George Mason University’s Alex Tabarrok says, “Not really.”

According to Ryan Young at the Competitive Enterprise Institute:

…the underlying institutions of social cooperation, market exchange, and dynamism are strong enough that federal regulation has, according to Goldschlag and Tabarrok’s analysis, so far been unable to squelch them. Just as a balloon pressed on one end pushes air to the other end, people will still find ways to cooperate and exchange with each other even when regulations push down on them. This inner strength of human cooperation is my great source of optimism, and Tabarrok draws on similar themes in his excellent 2011 e-book Launching the Innovation Renaissance.

Read “Does Regulation Hurt Innovation? at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America has published a new report on Orthodox Monastic Communities in the United States (here). The report contains a lot of great information (“great” for nerds like me, anyway), including a whole section entitled, “‘Monastic Economy:’ Ownership of Property and Sources of Income in US Orthodox Monasteries.”

According to the report,

In summary, the three most common sources of income in US Orthodox monasteries are:

  • Occasional private donations including bequests and offerings for performed sacraments (87% of all monastic communities mentioned this source of income);

  • Sale of religious items (except candles) that are not produced by monastery (52% of all monastic communities mentioned this source of income);

  • Production and sales of candles (24% of all monastic communities mentioned this source of income).

Thus, after private donations, the top two sources of income are through commerce: 52% sales of items not produced by the monastery and 24% candles produced by the monastery. Income from other items produced by monasteries, such as books, devotional items, and food items, was also significant. Our Merciful Saviour Russian Orthodox Monastery in Washington state, for example, lists sales of their “monastery blend” coffee as their primary source of income.

This does not come as a surprise to me.

The most recent volume (vol. 8, 2014) published by the Sophia Institute, of which I am a fellow, includes a paper by me entitled, “Markets and Monasticism: A Survey & Appraisal of Eastern Christian Monastic Enterprise.” While my paper is not a comprehensive history, it does include a section on modern Orthodox monasteries in the United States.

I write, (more…)

Bishop Emmanuel Badejo of Oyo, Nigeria

Bishop Emmanuel Badejo of Oyo, Nigeria

Bishop Emmanuel Badejo of Oyo, Nigeria and newly appointed Chairman of Communications for the African bishops, has some strong words for the West. Bishop Badejo believes help for Nigeria in fighting Boko Haram has been withheld because of Nigerians refusal to accept population control tactics from the Western world.

In a lengthy interview given in Rome, Badejo discusses his thoughts the Nigerian government, Boko Haram and Western policies and values.

In Yorubaland, human dignity and human life are sacred. Christianity came to baptize that. No one would convince me to accept that Christianity came just for the respect of human life. We had that before. You don’t just go ahead and kill somebody. There are many proverbs which encompass Yoruba wisdom. They say: you don’t fight until the point of death. When you have a fight, a disagreement or a conflict, you don’t go to the point of death, because you never know what happens tomorrow, and who you might need tomorrow.

I think that this lack of a cultural fiber, the maladministration of the past, the dissolution of the premises of a democratic government, and the millions of young people who have been left on the streets with no promise, no capacity at all, already prepared great ground for Boko Haram. It has something to latch on to.

(more…)

geoengineering-the-planetFor at least forty years, scientists and policy makers have considered addressing climate related issues by means of climate engineering, or as it more commonly referred to, geoengineering. A prime example is found in a story published in Newsweek that proposed (albeit with reservations) to use geoengineering to fix a climatic “problem”:

Climatologists are pessimistic that political leaders will take any positive action to compensate for the climatic change, or even to allay its effects. They concede that some of the more spectacular solutions proposed, such as melting the Arctic ice cap by covering it with black soot or diverting arctic rivers, might create problems far greater than those they solve. [emphasis added]

That quote comes, of course, from the now infamous 1975 Newsweek story about the dangers of global cooling. Nowadays, melting the Artic ice cap is considered a problem in need of a solution, not a solution to fix the problem.

More recently, other ridiculous geoengineering ideas have been proposed, such as shooting millions of tons of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere or taking similar actions to put reflective particles in the atmosphere to block some sunlight.

While such proposals are frightfully absurd, it appears cooler heads are beginning to prevail on ideas about how to “fix” global warming. According to a new report by the U.S. Academies of Science, Engineering, Medicine, and National Research :
(more…)

Blog author: jballor
Monday, February 9, 2015
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There’s a good deal of new research that connects things like happiness and satisfaction to experiences rather than to material goods. If you want to be happy, the advice goes, buy experiences, not things. There’s some truth to this, of course, but the reality is a bit more complex. After all, don’t you also have “experiences” when you use “things”?

Disposal GenieIn fact, I want to take a moment to write a brief note of thanks for a little material item that has notably increased my life satisfaction. It’s a small thing, a piece of metal with a rubber flipper on the end. It’s technical name is the Danco 10051 Disposal Genie. A couple years ago I read a piece by Megan McArdle that focused on gift ideas, and she recommended the Disposal Genie. As she wrote, “If the Oxo vegetable peeler is the least romantic gift ever, the disposal genie is surely in second place. It’s basically a slightly better disposal blocker; it lets the stuff you want to go in the disposal (water, small bits of food) get in, while the cutlery stays safely in the sink. If you aren’t quite ready to stuff this in a stocking, think about stuffing it in your own disposal.”

I took her advice to heart and bought it for myself. And boy am I glad I did. Every time I’m washing dishes or cleaning the sink I enjoy at least a brief moment of appreciation for this little invention. Sure, “it’s basically a slightly better disposal blocker,” but that slight improvement is enough to give me an uptick in life satisfaction every time I use it.

So thank you, Megan McArdle, for recommending the Danco 10051 Disposal Genie, and thank you to Danco and all the people who worked to create this little miracle. I have been blessed by your work.

blue lakeAt The Stream, Jonathan Witt questions why nations with free economies have cleaner water. After all, wouldn’t it seem more likely that countries with heavy government regulations regarding the environment have cleaner water?

An examination of the most polluted rivers and streams in the world paints a different picture. With only a handful of exceptions, the dirtiest rivers in the world are located within some of the most restrictive countries. In contrast, three of the top five cleanest streams or in the world are located in “mostly free countries.”

Take a single vivid example. New Zealand is considered one of only six completely free nations in the world — even the US doesn’t fall into this category — and its Blue Lake, located in the Southern Alps, is fed by the purest mountain streams coming from glacial Lake Constance. With the clearest natural fresh water in the world, visibility extends up to 80 meters underwater.

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bloated uncle samHead Start doesn’t work. More people than ever are now on food stamps. Medicaid is staggering under the weight of its own bloat. Why are we continuing to fund bad programs?

This is what Stephen M. Krason is asking. Such programs keep expanding:

There has been a sharp increase in the food-stamp and Children’s Health Insurance programs. Obama has proposed more federal funding for Head Start and pre-school education generally, job training for laid-off workers, and Medicaid. In fact, the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) has bloated the Medicaid rolls. He is even seeking free federally subsidized community college education. I have seen numbers ranging from 79 to 126 federal programs aimed at reducing poverty and an annual price tag of $668 to $927 billion.

The question is: are we getting our money’s worth? Krason says absolutely not. (more…)

The largest initiative to combat poverty by funding public schools has occurred in Camden, New Jersey, the poorest small city in America. New Jersey spends about 60 percent more on education per pupil than the national average according to 2012 census figures, or about $19,000 in 2013. In Camden, per pupil spending was more than $25,000 in 2013, making it one of the highest spending districts in the nation.

But as Reason.com notes, all that extra money hasn’t changed the fact that Camden’s public schools are among in the worst in the nation, notorious for their abysmal test scores, the frequent occurrence of in-school violence, dilapidated buildings, and an on-time graduation rate of just 61 percent.

As Bridget Cusato-Rosa, Principal of Freedom Prep Charter School, says in the mini-documentary about the effort,

A lack of resources is not our problem. I actually despise that argument. I think it’s a scapegoat. ‘We need more money. If we had more money, we could do this, or do this.’ It’s just a Band-Aid for the problem. Why not address the real issue, which is what’s broken right in front of you?

When is a ban not a ban? One answer might be when it is based on moral suasion rather than legal coercion. (I would also accept: When it’s a Target.)

In this piece over at the Federalist, Georgi Boorman takes up the prudence of a petition to get Target to remove smutty material and paraphernalia related to Fifty Shades from its shelves.

Boorman rightly points to the limitations of this kind of cultural posturing. Perhaps this petition illustrates more of a domination mentality than authentic cultural engagement, and Boorman’s right to offer many more hopeful options for engaging the kinds of cultural corruption that this case provides evidence of. I also tend to favor the more direct, personal, and relational methods of engagement to petitions, charters, public statements, and open letters, and there’s a lot of wisdom offered in Boorman’s piece.

shades_banned (more…)