Category Archives: Uncategorized

An Antitrust Analogy

One of the biggest problems with antitrust regulation is that the statutes are so vague it can be difficult to tell what is legal and what isn’t. From p. 28 of Robert Bork’s 1978 book The Antitrust Paradox: A Policy at War with Itself:

To put the matter roughly, lawyers forming a partnership could lawfully agree on fields of exclusive specialization (which is market division) and the fees each should charge (price fixing), while the same lawyers, if they were not in a partnership, could not do these things lawfully.

The same logic applies to anything a company does in-house. Hiring an in-house accountant instead of using an outside firm is a form of vertical merger. So is hiring cleaning or cafeteria staff instead of using contractors. More than a century of case law has not settled the matter, at least for companies above a certain size (which also hasn’t been defined). The uncertainty can make companies hesitant to make efficiency-enhancing decisions that might benefit consumers.

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Unemployment, Taxes, and Spending

Alongside Charles W. Baird, whose writing I have enjoyed since my high school and college days in FEE’s The Freeman magazine (then called Ideas on Liberty), I am quoted in a Heartland Institute piece on unemployment and how to keep it low.

A Quick Note to WordPress

This website is powered by WordPress, which has provided an excellent hosting service for many years. This is a note I sent their customer service regarding an upcoming change to their editing interface. 

Please do not force migration to the new editor. The blocks system is non-intuitive and has no obvious reason for existence, because paragraphs.

Blocks are prone to accidental unwanted formatting changes at the click of a mouse, with no intuitive way to undo them. This has caused me to delete entire draft posts and have to start again from scratch.

The pop-up menus for each and every new paragraph/block are not only unnecessary, they obstruct other text in the post. This is more than a little annoying.

The new editor also works poorly with copy-and-pastes from Microsoft Word, requiring time-consuming re-editing for spacing issues–a special kind of tedium for longer posts.

Do not want. Please terminate the individual who came up with blocks and set fire to their home.

OPIC Citations

A paper from the Congressional Research Service, Congress’ non-partisan in-house think tank, was kind enough to cite my 2015 paper about OPIC, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. The CRS paper is here. It was also cited in a Heritage Foundation study here.

Unfortunately, OPIC is in the process of being renamed and doubled in size. I wrote on that development here.

This Week in Ridiculous Regulations

It was another short work week due to Thanksgiving, while Black Friday’s ritual tramplings put a damper on that day’s productivity. Last week agencies published more than 2,000 Federal Register pages, pushing this year’s total over 60,000. The number of this year’s new regulations will likely surpass 3,000 next week. New regulations from the last week range from passenger trains to Zodiac seats.

On to the data:

  • Last week, 50 new final regulations were published in the Federal Register, after 40 the previous week.
  • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every three hours and 22 minutes.
  • Federal agencies have issued 2,976 final regulations in 2018. At that pace, there will be 3,293 new final regulations. Last year’s total was 3,236 regulations.
  • Last week, 2,157 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 1,619 pages the previous week.
  • The 2018 Federal Register totals 60,332 pages. It is on pace for 66,739 pages. The all-time record adjusted page count (which subtracts skips, jumps, and blank pages) is 96,994, set in 2016.
  • Rules are called “economically significant” if they have costs of $100 million or more in a given year. Five such rules have been published this year, none in the last week.
  • The running compliance cost tally for 2018’s economically significant regulations is a net savings ranging from $348.9 million to $560.9 million.
  • Agencies have published 98 final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” so far this year.
  • So far in 2018, 572 new rules affect small businesses; 24 of them are classified as significant. 

Highlights from selected final rules published last week:

For more data, see Ten Thousand Commandments and follow @10KC and @RegoftheDay on Twitter.

Free Trade and Elections

Over at the American Institute for Economic Research, Max Gulker has a perceptive take on why support for free trade doesn’t much matter for winning or losing elections. As he points out, tariffs “were only a hot campaign topic in select states and congressional districts. When candidates did discuss trade, they presented it as an issue of gamesmanship rather than economics.”

In other words, politics and policy are different things.

Gulker is also kind enough to cite something I wrote a while back about public choice and trade. Aside from that, he makes a valuable contribution to the debate.

This Week in Ridiculous Regulations

It was a short work week due to Veterans Day, as most Americans took time to reflect on the centenary of the World War I armistice. Readers interested in learning more about that terrible war can turn to Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, Adam Hochschild’s To End All Wars, or literature from the period such as Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front and Wilfred Owen’s War Poems. Owen, a soldier and a poet, was killed days before the armistice. Meanwhile, agencies issued new regulations ranging from RVs to commercial hogfish fishing.

On to the data:

  • Last week, 40 new final regulations were published in the Federal Register, after 54 the previous week.
  • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every four hours and 12 minutes.
  • Federal agencies have issued 2,926 final regulations in 2018. At that pace, there will be 3,296 new final regulations. Last year’s total was 3,236 regulations.
  • Last week, 1,619 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 1,007 pages the previous week.
  • The 2018 Federal Register totals 58,174 pages. It is on pace for 65,512 pages. The all-time record adjusted page count (which subtracts skips, jumps, and blank pages) is 96,994, set in 2016.
  • Rules are called “economically significant” if they have costs of $100 million or more in a given year. Five such rules have been published this year, none in the last week.
  • The running compliance cost tally for 2018’s economically significant regulations is a net savings ranging from $348.9 million to $560.9 million.
  • Agencies have published 96 final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” so far this year.
  • So far in 2018, 559 new rules affect small businesses; 23 of them are classified as significant.

Highlights from selected final rules published last week:

For more data, see Ten Thousand Commandments and follow @10KC and @RegoftheDay on Twitter.