Sunday, January 18, 2004

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Corporate Rent Seeking

Alarmed at the success of small tobacco companies in recent years, Big Tobacco is trying to persuade their good friends, the state attorneys general, to smack down their underpriced competitors. These smaller firms weren’t part of the industry’s multi-state cartel agreement which gave them immunity from legal health claims and gave state legislators billions of dollars revenue, therefor many are able to significantly undercut the major national brands in price. Philip Morris and friends want the little guys to abide by the terms of the agreement – even though they never agreed to it. Their logic makes sense, however, when you realize that it was never meant to be a voluntary legal agreement. It was a new form of industry-wide national regulation dressed up as something else. Now the AGs and Big Tobacco are crying when their hypocrisy gets exposed.


Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Hear Ye, Hear Ye: Bad Stuff is Wrong

In a move that will doubtless cause the oppressed citizens of the Western Hemisphere to breath a pleased sigh of relief, the White House today issued a proclamation denouncing corruption of government officials. Bush and the other 33 nations represented at this week's summit of the Americas have agreed that corruption is bad, and leads to bad consequences. It's a big step, but I think we, as a hemisphere, are ready for it. No word yet on when the rampant corruption in Latin America will actually stop. But we have a proclamation.


Sunday, January 11, 2004

The Shi'ite Hits the Fan

Iran’s theocrats may have finally created the spark for the democratic revolution that many in the West have been waiting for. In preperation for parliamentary elections, The Islamic Republic’s Guardian Council disqualified hundreds of pro-reform candidates from running for election – including many current MPs. This has led to protests by members in parliament, including both a walkout and a sit-in. The nation’s regional governors have also threatened to resign en masse.

This high-handed rigging of national elections seems destined to create a dangerous split in Iran’s political establishment, given the historic inflexibility of clerics regarding their public pronouncements. Especially alarming is the knowledge that the Guardian Council is composed of “six clerics and six Islamic lawyers.” Could there be a more fearsome enemy of democracy that a cadre of fundamentalist Islamic lawyers?