Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Thursday March 23, 2011


Owens still blocks judicial selection reform. Kansas Reporter writes that one man, Senator Tim Owens, an attorney and Republican from Overland Park, is still blocking judicial selection reform. But a move by the House gives Senate President Stephen Morris a chance to let Senators vote to concur with the reform measure passed by the House. Or, Morris could refer the measure to Owens’ Judiciary committee, where it will die. See New way of picking appeals judges gets second shot.

Greed is killing Detroit. Greed is often portrayed as a negative quality of the rich. But Investor’s Business Daily tells what happens when union greed — yes, everyone can be greedy — runs wild in a city: “Census data released Tuesday show Detroit’s population has plunged 25% since 2000 to just 713,777 souls — the same as 100 years ago, before the auto industry’s heyday. As recently as the 1970s, Detroit had 1.8 million people. What’s happening is no secret: Detroiters are fleeing an economic disaster, the irreversible decline of the Big Three automakers. … Sure, a lot of the blame goes to a generation of bad management. But the main reason for Detroit’s decline is the greed of the industry’s main union, the UAW, which priced the Big Three out of the market.” … Having killed the goose with the golden egg once, union leadership seeks seek to do it again: “Even as Detroit collapses, new UAW chief Bob King promises to ‘pound’ the transplants into submission and force them to drink his union’s poison, too. Given what we know, every town that is now home to a foreign automaker should be very afraid. If King has his way, they’ll soon suffer Detroit’s fate.”

Liberal Bias at NPR? Stephen Inskeep, co-host of the National Public Radio program Morning Edition, defends his network against charges of liberal bias. In The Wall Street Journal Inskeep writes that NPR draws an audience with diverse political views, including conservatives: “Millions of conservatives choose NPR, even with powerful conservative alternatives on the radio.” Which, I would say, is all the more reason why the network should stand on its own without government funding. … Inskeep also writes about the recent undercover video by James O’Keefe, who NPR claims, through a spokesperson, to have “inappropriately edited the videos with an intent to discredit” NPR. If true, shame on O’Keefe. The NPR spokesperson concedes that then-NPR chief fundraiser Ron Schiller made some “egregious statements.”

Electric cars questioned. Margo Thorning writing in The Wall Street Journal, explains that the new crop of all-electric or near-all-electric cars not worthy of government support. She notes the Consumer Report opinion of the Chevrolet Volt: “isn’t particularly efficient as an electric vehicle and it’s not particularly good as a gas vehicle either in terms of fuel economy.” … Batteries remain a problem: “A battery for a small vehicle like the Nissan Leaf can cost about $20,000 and still only put out a range of 80 miles on a good day (range is affected by hot and cold weather) before requiring a recharge that takes eight to 10 hours. Even then, those batteries may only last six to eight years, leaving consumers with a vehicle that has little resale value. Home installation of a recharging unit costs between $900 and $2,100.” … Thorning notes that half of the electricity that powers America is generated by coal, so all-electric cars are still not free of greenhouse gas emissions. Also, “a substantial increase in the numbers of them on the road will require upgrading the nation’s electricity infrastructure.” … While electric cars are not ready to save the earth, the U.S. government insists on intervention: “Despite these significant flaws, the government is determined to jump-start sales for plug-ins by putting taxpayers on the hook. The $7,500 federal tax credit per PEV is nothing more than a federal subsidy that will add to the deficit. There are also federal tax credits for installing charging stations in homes and businesses and for building battery factories and upgrading the electric grid. The administration’s goal — one million PEVs on the road by 2015 — could cost taxpayers $7.5 billion.” And saddle Americans with expensive automobiles that do little to address the problem they’re designed to solve. Reading the Journal article requires a subscription, but it is also available at The American Council for Capital Formation, where Thorning is Senior Vice President and Chief Economist.

Government as business. Yesterday’s reading from Robert P. Murphy’s book Lessons for the Young Economist explained the value of the profit-and-loss system in guiding resources to where they are most valued. For those who wan to “run government like a business” I offer today’s excerpt from the same book, which explains how lack of the ability to calculate profit means this can’t happen: [Regarding a capital investment made by Disney as compared to government:] The crucial difference is that the owners of Disneyland are operating in the voluntary market economy and so are subject to the profit and loss test. If they spend $100 million not on personal consumption (such as fancy houses and fast cars) but in an effort to make Disneyland more enjoyable to their customers, they get objective feedback. Their accountants can tell them soon enough whether they are getting more visitors (and hence more revenue) after the installation of a new ride or other investment projects. Remember it is the profit and loss test, relying on market prices, that guides entrepreneurs into careful stewardship of society’s scarce resources. In contrast, the government cannot rely on objective feedback from market prices, because the government operates (at least partially) outside of the market. Interventionism is admittedly a mixture of capitalism and socialism, and it therefore (partially) suffers from the defects of socialism. To the extent that the government buys its resources from private owner — rather than simply passing mandates requiring workers to spend time building bridges for no pay, or confiscating concrete and steel for the government’s purposes — the government’s budget provides a limit to how many resources it siphons out of the private sector. (Under pure socialism, all resources in the entire economy are subject to the political rulers’ directions.) However, because the government is not a business, it doesn’t raise its funds voluntarily from the “consumers” of its services. Therefore, even though the political authorities in an interventionist economy understand the relative importance of the resources they are using up in their program — because of the market prices attached to each unit they must purchase — they still don’t have any objective measure of how much their citizens benefit from these expenditures. Without such feedback, even if the authorities only want to help their people as much as possible, they are “flying blind” or at best, flying with only one eye.


One response to “Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Thursday March 23, 2011”

  1. Anonymous

    Detroit car makers lost their edge in the market because they continued to make large, ugly cars that were enginered poorly and we not economical in the fuel dept. They did not listen to consumer demand. This hurt them more than the labor unions.

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