Harvard has announced that it is launching a privately funded, multi-million dollar program to clone human embryos for use in stem cell research. In this 2004 column, I argued for exactly this kind of private sector initiative to solve the politically divisive debate over stem cells.
I wrote in part,
By its very nature, government politicizes everything it touches. Science is no exception. Stem cell research needs neither government money nor politics. It is better to get the government out and let the private sector continue its good work. Those people calling for increased funding could take out their checkbooks and support it. Those who oppose embryonic stem cell research would not be forced to pay for it.
Harvard is proving one again that civil society can do what government can’t.
Didn't someone famous say that there is nothing certain in this world except death, taxes, and proliferating lawyers? These three evils come together in the debate over repeal of the federal estate tax.
A Cato supporter alerted me to interesting data showing that there are 52,000 estate planning lawyers in the United States. Let's say that half of their time is spent on the estate tax, or about 1,000 billable hours a year each. And let's say that their billable rate is $200 per hour.
What you get is an estate tax lawyer industry of about $10 billion annually. If you added in the costs of all the estate tax accountants, IRS administrators, the estate tax portion of the life insurance industry, and other workers, the costs of estate tax paperwork could be as high as the amount the government collects from the tax -- $28 billion annually. That is the definition of a wasteful tax.
FYI, I'll be on Kudlow & Company (probably around 5:30 EST) to debate ethanol subsidies with Frank Gaffney.
Something to chew over while you wait for the beating to come: wholesale ethanol is selling today for July delivery at the Chicago Board of Trade for $3.40 a gallon. Given that ethanol has only two-thirds the energy content of conventional unleaded gasoline, we have to multiply that price by 1.5 if we want to compare apples with apples. So to get the same amount of energy from ethanol that we would get with a gallon of conventional unleaded, we would have to pay $5.10 a gallon. What is the wholesale price today for conventional unleaded for July delivery? All of $2.10 a gallon at the NYMEX.
But that's not all. Gasoline moves from refineries to retail distribution centers via pipelines, and transportation costs are low. It costs a lot more money, however, to move ethanol from processing plants in the Midwest to retail distribution centers because it must be moved by truck and barge (one can't use pipelines to move ethanol for various technical reasons). So add another couple of dimes to the differential between the price of ethanol and conventional unleaded to account for that, and perhaps another dime or more if you're shipping that ethanol to the Atlantic or Pacific coasts.
If the answer is ethanol, what exactly is the question?
Jamie Dolloff was expecting a routine code inspection to check smoke alarms and an electrical breaker box in her northeast Dallas apartment.
She said she wasn't prepared for a loud banging on her door and police officers entering her apartment and searching her belongings.Read the rest of this post »
"Cops were going through my bathroom drawers. Then I heard them going through my kitchen," Ms. Dolloff said of the police who accompanied fire and code inspectors during the search.
"I told them, 'You don't have a warrant. You'd better stop what you're doing'," she said. "They shouldn't have been going through my stuff."
In today's reply to Richard Florida's lead essay on "The Future of the American Workforce in the Global Creative Economy," Frank Levy, Daniel Rose Professor of Urban Economics in the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning, agrees that creativity is more important than ever in a world where computers and foreign workers can do routine work less expensively than domestic workers. This shift, Levy says, requires better education in problem-solving. But better education can only do so much. The gains from rising labor productivity are going largely to the wealthy, Levy argues. Unless policies and norms are reinstated that spread those gains more widely, "all of the nation's institutions will be at risk."