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How Egg Regulations Hurt the Environment — And Your Pocket!

in Business and Economy, Economic Liberty, Economics, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

How Egg Regulations Hurt the Environment — And Your Pocket!

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Government has a way of making us all question our sanity. Especially when it comes to food regulations and its environmentally unsound consequences.

In many countries across the globe, the practice of washing eggs is seen as anti-hygienic. Because when egg producers wash fresh eggs, they also remove a layer of protein known as cuticle.

EggsThe cuticle is important because it prevents the egg shell from being porous. With a porous exterior, eggs are vulnerable to bacteria.

In the 1970s, regulators with the U.S. Department of Agriculture concluded that egg producers should invest in “fancy machines,” as NPR puts it, to shampoo eggs with soap and hot water. But once the eggs were washed, regulators added, producers should place them immediately in a refrigerator.

To justify the addition of yet another requirement for the egg industry, regulators claimed this step helped to avoid salmonella contamination. But washing the egg’s exterior does little to prevent contamination.

As NPR explains, the cuticle “is like a little safety vest for the egg, keeping water and oxygen in and bad bacteria out. Washing can damage that layer and ‘increase the chances for bacterial invasion’ into pores or hairline cracks in the shell, according to Yi Chen, a food scientist at Purdue University.”

Salmonella enteritidis often infects a chicken’s ovaries, which tends to impact the yolk before the shell hardens. The bacteria can be killed when consumers cook it. Washing the exterior of the egg does little to prevent contamination. As expected, salmonella continues to expose about 142,000 individuals to infections each year.

While many contend that washing the egg and refrigerating it or leaving the cuticle both work, only the method adopted by the United States government requires a great deal of electricity use to ensure the product’s safety. Considering only 10 percent of the total U.S. energy consumption comes from renewable sources, it’s hard to see why environmentalists are not urging government to nix this particular regulation.

But too much energy consumption is not the only negative consequence of egg-washing. The cost of purchasing an egg washing machine, the device’s maintenance, required labor, and the cost of electricity employed in maintaining the product shielded from contamination all add up, increasing the price of eggs and harming the consumer.

With reports showing just how salmonella is still a problem despite the regulatory requirements imposed on the egg industry, it’s hard to contend forcing all producers to wash their eggs is somehow productive. Especially when so much electricity is required to maintain the eggs refrigerated.

Why not try freedom for a change?

Airbnb to Collect Taxes from Los Angeles Users

in Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights, Taxes by Alice Salles Comments are off

Airbnb to Collect Taxes from Los Angeles Users

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Airbnb, the short-term rental app, has recently agreed to go along with officials in Los Angeles by requiring users to collect hotel taxes from their clients. The three-year agreement was signed early this week. And according to LA city officials, money collected by Airbnb in Los Angeles would bring $5.8 million in annual revenue.

ProtestThe agreement follows the city’s efforts to regulate Airbnb and similar companies locally.

As City Council members discussed what to do with Airbnb in the past few months, the company lobbied its users to stand up against suffocating regulations in a series of emails sent out regularly.

In one of these emails, Airbnb explained that the LA City Planning Commission was considering putting a 90 day cap on the number of nights Airbnb hosts can list their space, a rule Airbnb called “restrictive and arbitrary.” City officials were also considering limiting the number of listings hosts can have, which could affect users who have more than one room to rent, and instituting a registration procedure that would render the process of hosting through Airbnb difficult and expensive.

Another rule LA city officials had considered would also force Airbnb to turn over users’ personal information to the authorities, giving them information on how many nights a host books through the site and how much money renters make. Airbnb warned its users that the city did not detail how this information could be used.

Accusing property owners of evicting tenants to turn their properties into “commercial hotel and motel businesses,” Councilman Mike Bonin was one of the first in Los Angeles to propose Airbnb regulations. But while it is true, many users have, in fact, evicted their tenants in order to list their properties on Airbnb, that alone is not an excuse to regulate Airbnb out of existence. After all, the system works because it’s still affordable.

To tourists looking for an affordable accommodation option, the extra financial burden tied to the hotel tax could mean that renting through Airbnb might not be that affordable after all. To those who use the service as renters to make ends meet, being part of Airbnb may not be as appealing if rates are high because of the new rules.

In an article for US News, Mercatus Center’s Matthew Mitchell urges regulators to “deregulate traditional industries” if their goal is to help all industries and local businesses thrive. Instead of regulating the sharing economy and stifling competition, deregulation could also make it easier for visitors to stay and spend money locally.

Airbnb’s decision to go along with Los Angeles city officials may represent the company’s willingness to compromise, but a real solution to this dilemma will only be produced when lawmakers are honest about their goals.

After all, regulation will always makes things difficult for the consumer and the businessman, no matter how you slice it.

New Jersey’s Takeover of Camden Proves Freedom is Better Than Taxpayer-Backed Revitalization Projects

in Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Taxes by Alice Salles Comments are off

New Jersey’s Takeover of Camden Proves Freedom is Better Than Taxpayer-Backed Revitalization Projects

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Governor Chris Christie has recently announced that the state will take control of Atlantic City’s finances. As the city’s huge debt looms over its residents and the state vows to take over, critics and experts take a closer look at a previous major takeover of the city of Camden. And since many argue that state intervention ended up failing some of Camden’s most vulnerable residents, the promise of a better Atlantic City after intervention seems somewhat unrealistic.

In 2002, the state of New Jersey poured millions of taxpayer dollars into one of the largest takeover projects in US history. At least one law school, an aquarium, and a hospital were updated. But despite the taxpayer-backed incentives, the lives of residents did not improve. Instead, poverty and crime rates in the city remain high.

Camden

Despite the interventionist failures since 2002, the state announced in 2013 that it had decided to take over the education in Camden. As you will see, the results were equally disappointing.

According to a report from 2009, the initial revitalization campaign in the city counted with $175 million in bonds and loans and a one-time $7.5 million appropriation from the state budget. Shortly after, the then-Governor Jim McGreevey appointed a chief operating officer to take over the local government and the school board. The plan was to create jobs, bring in new businesses, fix the schools and the sewers, and demolish unsafe vacant businesses.

But as the takeover came to an end in 2010, Camden remained one of the most dangerous cities in New Jersey. And despite the state’s repeating efforts to reform the education system in the city, Camden school districts remain problematic.

The New Jersey government has been responsible for running the Paterson, Newark, and Jersey City school districts for more than 20 years. In 2013, it took over Camden’s as well. During the first years under state control, Camden failed to meet performance requirements in at least five areas.

While Paterson, Newark, and Jersey City report that their graduation rates had improved, local educational leaders claim that the improvement is due to the work members of the community have been doing in partnership with educational groups.

According to Paterson Education Fund’s executive director Rosie Grant, the state takeover meant little to the community.

“The gains that we have made,” she told The Record, “have been for the most part despite the state takeover.” Instead, Grant believes that the city’s decision to break the region’s largest high schools to form smaller academies is what made Paterson great.

But not all is lost in Camden.

When it comes to education, the real revolution arrived in the form of school choice.

According to a 2015 video by Jim Epstein, school choice gave local families in Camden the ability to choose. Instead of relying solely on state-run schools that continue to fail Camden’s children to this day, the implementation of charter schools has given residents the opportunity to enroll their children in institutions where children actually learn, despite their economic background.

If the state’s intervention in Camden has anything to teach other cities across the country is that pouring taxpayer money into an issue won’t make it better. Boosting choice—and freedom—on the other hand, usually works.

If the current administration is serious about saving Atlantic City, it will avoid pouring money into the problems the city is facing. Opening its doors for businesses and competition, however, may just do the trick.

In Wisconsin, Homemade Cookies are the Victims of Big Government

in Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

In Wisconsin, Homemade Cookies are the Victims of Big Government

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Things are hard out there for folks trying to make ends meat.

According to Watchdog.org, Wisconsin residents can go to jail and face steep fines if they dare to sell homemade baked goods without an OK from the government.

Under Wisconsin law, entrepreneurs selling homemade baked goods who prepare their products in home kitchens are not allowed to make a profit. After all, how will the state assure the quality of the those delicious cookies baked by grandma if she’s not following state regulations?

Cookies

According to Institute for Justice’s attorney Erica Smith, entrepreneurs in Wisconsin could face a $1,000 fine or go to jail for up to six months even if they “sell one cookie at a farmers market, to your neighbor, [or] somewhere in your community.” This practice, the attorney told Watchdog, “[is] not only unfair, it’s unconstitutional.”

In order to remedy this problem locally, three Wisconsin farmers filed a lawsuit against the state Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection with the help of IJ’s Smith. The suit hopes to put an end to the ban on homemade baked goods.

But before there was a lawsuit, a piece of legislation introduced two years ago could have made small changes to the baked goods law. Unfortunately, the bill stalled in the Assembly after passing in the Senate. According to Smith, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) is the reason why the “cookie bill” won’t hit the House floor.

“That could very well be because he owns his own commercial food business,” known as Rojos Popcorn, Smith told Watchdog.

According to the bill, current law would be modified to allow up to $7,500 in annual homemade baked goods sale. While the proposed legislation isn’t perfect, it could have helped countless Wisconsin residents to earn some extra cash on the side.

According to Dave Schmdt, the executive director of the Wisconsin Bakers Association, the commercial food industry in the state is not happy with the proposed ban lift. “If several people in a certain market or particular community are doing that, they’re eating away at a local baker that’s been there for 100 years and taking away his livelihood,” Schmidt told Wisconsin Public Radio. To Schmidt, that’s simply not fair.

But home bakers also believe that the treatment they get from their own state government isn’t fair either.

To Lisa Kivirist, one of the plaintiffs fighting for her right to bake and sell her homemade goods, the “state’s home-baked-good ban hurts farmers, homemakers and others who just want to help support their family by selling simple goods from their home oven.”

Instead of keeping consumers happy and allowing local economies to gain from the competition, the ban also “prevents customers from buying the fresh and local foods of their choice,” Kivirist stated during a press event at the Capitol.

Current law keeps bakers from selling products that aren’t produced in commercial kitchens. To small outfits, the cost of setting up a commercial kitchen is simply too high. The only exemptions currently in place protect nonprofit groups such as churches or charity organizations. These groups are currently allowed to sell homemade goods, but there’s a catch: they may not put their products up for sale more often than 12 times a year.

Study: States with Economic Liberty Benefit; States Without Economic Liberty Suffer

in Economic Liberty, Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 23 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

A just-released study shows that U.S. states with economic liberty benefit greatly from it, while residents of states with less economic freedom suffer badly from the lack of it.

Economic Freedom of North America 2014 is an annual report by Canada’s Fraser Institute that measures levels of economic freedom, and thus economic opportunity, in the 50 states (as well as Canada and Mexico).

Economic Freedom of North America 2014The report defines “economic freedom” as “the ability of individuals to act in the economic sphere free of undue restrictions.”

Elaborating on that: “The freest economies operate with minimal government interference, relying upon personal choice and markets to answer basic economic questions such as what is to be produced, how it is to be produced, how much is produced, and for whom production is intended. As government imposes restrictions on these choices, there is less economic freedom.”

The report shows that economic liberty has clear, measurable, dollars-and-cents benefits, writes study co-author Dean Stansel in the Washington Examiner:

“States that have low taxation, limited government and flexible labor markets enjoy greater economic growth, while states with lower levels of economic freedom suffer from reduced living standards for families and less economic opportunity.

“In the three most-free states (Texas, South Dakota, and North Dakota) average personal income is about 20 percent higher than in the three least-free states (Maine, Vermont, and Mississippi) — approximately $48,000 versus $40,000. And the unemployment rate is more than seven percent in Rhode Island (45th) versus about four percent in nearby New Hampshire (5th).

“Furthermore, cities in low-freedom states like California (43rd), Michigan (37th), and Rhode Island have made headlines in recent years for declaring bankruptcy, whereas cities in high-freedom states like Nebraska (5th), Texas, and the Dakotas, have seen incomes and their tax bases expand.

“In the top ten states, total employment grew by roughly 3.5 percent, while it has barely budged in the bottom 10. Over that same period, the economy grew more than eight percent in the top 10, but only by about two percent in the bottom 10.”

Concludes Stansel:

“The research is clear: Where economic freedom is high and rising, the number of jobs is expanding and the economy is vibrant and growing. Where it’s low and declining, the economy is stagnant, limiting opportunity and quality of life for residents of those states.

“Big, costly government at the expense of the people doesn’t work. It leads to economic decline. In contrast, expanding economic freedom increases economic opportunity and provides the path to economic prosperity.”

The report ranks economic freedom along a scale of 1 (lowest) to 10 (full economic liberty). This brings a warning: “Historically, economic freedom has been declining in all three countries. Since 2000, the average score for Canadian provinces on the all-governments index has fallen from 7.8 to 7.6; the number for U.S. states was 8.2 to 7.5.”

The Economic Freedom of North America study is an offshoot of the Fraser Institute’s acclaimed Economic Freedom of the World index, the result of a quarter century of work by more than 60 scholars including three Nobel laureates.

Three Caterpillars, a Butterfly… and Liberty

in Liberator Online by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 21 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Three caterpillars — a conservative, a liberal, and a libertarian — looked up and saw a butterfly. butterfly

The conservative caterpillar said, “That should be illegal. Why, it’s blasphemous! If God had meant for caterpillars to fly, he would have given us wings.”

The liberal caterpillar said, “That looks incredibly dangerous! Who’s in charge of it? What’s going to happen to the crawling industry if this catches on? This needs to be stopped until the government can investigate it and set up inspection and regulation to make sure it’s safe.”

The libertarian caterpillar said, “One day we’ll all fly together, and we’ll wonder why we ever feared the freedom of flight.”


 

People have always feared the innovation and choice that liberty brings. Liberty shakes up the status quo. Liberty constantly creates new opportunities and replaces old industries and institutions with new and better ones.

This wonderful process is scary and threatening for many people. That’s understandable.

Yet the history of the progress of the human race is the history of removing government control of our personal and economic lives.

Religious liberty made both religion and the state more humane. Economic liberty — lessening government control over the economy — brought us incredible abundance and saved billions of lives. Ending alcohol Prohibition in America ended the crime and loss of civil liberties that misguided policy provoked.

Time and time again, we see that personal and economic liberty create harmony and abundance.

Yet in each of the examples above, and many more, good people from across the political spectrum feared and opposed the changes that ultimately proved to be so beneficial.

Today our liberal and conservative friends are on our side on these once-contentious issues. No one yearns for subsidies to prop up the horse and buggy industry. No one wants to return to slavery, or alcohol Prohibition, or compulsory state religion.

As libertarians, an important part of our job is to reassure our fearful friends on the left and the right that liberty works, and the more liberty we have, the better off we will be. On every issue.

Eventually, just as they did on the issues above, they will come to see the benefits of liberty on the remaining issues as well, and they will join with us on them.

As the libertarian caterpillar said, “One day we’ll all fly together, and we’ll wonder why we ever feared the freedom of flight.”

(Thanks to that most prolific of authors, A. Nonymous, for the original version of this fable that I encountered on the web.)

Major Study: U.S. and World Economic Liberty is Fading

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

Economic Freedom of the WorldEconomic liberty — essential for human progress and well-being — has dropped significantly worldwide. And the United States — once the very symbol of economic freedom — has fallen behind many other countries in this crucial area.

That’s the disturbing finding of the 18th annual Economic Freedom of the World Annual Report, a highly-regarded measuring of economic freedom around the world.

The annual study is prepared by the Economic Freedom Network, a group of independent research and educational institutes in nearly 90 nations and territories worldwide. The group describes their report as “the world’s premier measurement of economic freedom.”

The report defines the cornerstones of economic freedom as: personal choice, voluntary exchange, freedom to compete, and security of private property.

The report measures economic freedom in five different areas: (1) size of government, (2) legal structure and security of property rights, (3) access to sound money, (4) freedom to trade internationally, and (5) regulation of credit, labor, and business.

Each year’s report ranks the nation of the world in relation to one another, and assigns a score from zero to ten on the amount of liberty in each nation.

This year’s study covers the year 2012, the most recent year for which the data is available.

It reports that the United States, “long considered the standard bearer for economic freedom among large industrial nations, has experienced a substantial decline in economic freedom during the past decade.”

The fall has been fast. From 1980 to 2000, the U.S. was generally rated the third-freest economy in the world, ranking behind only Hong Kong and Singapore.

However, in this year’s study the United States now ranks 12th in the world, tied with the United Kingdom and behind countries including Canada, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

More disturbing than the rankings is the U.S. score of 7.81, which shows a continuing pattern of losing economic freedom. After generally rising from 1980 to reach second place and a score of 8.55 in 2000, the U.S. has now fallen considerably lower.

The reasons? According to the study: “Due to a weakening rule of law, increasing regulation, and the ramifications of wars on terrorism and drugs, the United States has seen its economic freedom score plummet in recent years, compared to 2000 when it ranked second globally.”

Worldwide economic freedom dropped slightly in this year’s report, and it remains well below its peak level of 6.92 in 2007. The average score fell to 6.84.

Hong Kong retained the highest rating for economic freedom, 8.98 out of 10. The rest of this year’s top scores are Singapore, 8.54; New Zealand, 8.25; Switzerland, 8.19; Mauritius, 8.09; United Arab Emirates, 8.05; Canada, 8.00; Australia, 7.87; Jordan, 7.86; and, tied for 10th at 7.84, Chile and Finland.

These scores are extraordinarily important, because, as the report shows, economic liberty is literally a matter of life and death. Extensive research shows that people living in countries with high levels of economic freedom enjoy greater prosperity, more political and civil liberties, and longer life spans.

As the report notes: “Nations in the top quartile of economic freedom had an average per capita GDP of $39,899 in 2012, compared to $6,253 for bottom quartile nations. Moreover, life expectancy is 79.9 years in the top quartile compared to 63.2 years in the bottom quartile, and political and civil liberties are considerably higher in economically free nations than in unfree nations.”

Further, the poorest 10 per cent of people in the freest nations are nearly twice as prosperous as the average population of the countries with the least economic freedom.

The 10 lowest-rated countries for economic freedom are: Myanmar, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Chad, Iran, Algeria, Argentina, Zimbabwe, Republic of Congo, and, lastly, Venezuela. (North Korea and Cuba could not be included because data was unavailable.)

“The link between economic freedom and prosperity is undeniable,” said Fred McMahon of the Fraser Institute, one of the institutes involved in producing the report. “The most economically free countries offer the highest quality of life and personal freedoms, while the lowest-ranked countries are usually burdened by oppressive regimes that limit the freedom and opportunity of their citizens.”

The report is available free online.

Britain’s Young Are Libertarian; British rEVOLution Brewing?

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

British libertarians?

“Young Britons are classical liberals: as well as prizing social freedom, they believe in low taxes, limited welfare and personal responsibility. In America they would be called libertarians.”

Libertarianism is growing fast among Britain’s youth. Indeed, surveys indicate this is the most libertarian-leaning generation in British history. And libertarian ideas are rapidly gaining ground.

So reports The Economist magazine, June 1st 2013.

The Economist reports that the latest findings of the long-running British Social Attitudes survey (BSA) show young Britons have a “suspicion of state interventions of most varieties” and tend to feel that “people have a right to express themselves by what they consume and how they choose to live.”

“Predictably, that translates into a tolerance for social and cultural difference,” the Economist reports. “Polls show that the young are more relaxed than others about drugs, sex, alcohol, euthanasia and non-traditional family structures. They dislike immigration, but not as strongly as do their elders. And they are becoming ever more liberal. The BSA has tracked attitudes for three decades. It shows that the young are now far more tolerant of homosexuality, for example, than were previous generations at the same age.”

What about economic liberty? Young Britons are also far more skeptical of the welfare state: “More than two-thirds of people born before 1939 consider the welfare state ‘one of Britain’s proudest achievements.’ Less than one-third of those born after 1979 say the same.

The Economist quotes pollster Ben Page on the trend: “Every successive generation is less collectivist than the last.”

The Economist further notes: “All age groups are becoming more socially and economically liberal. But the young are ahead of the general trend. …

“Polling by YouGov shows that those aged 18 to 24 are also more likely than older people to consider social problems the responsibility of individuals rather than government. They are deficit hawks… They care about the environment, but are also keen on commerce: more supportive of the privatization of utilities, more likely to reject government attempts to ban branding on cigarette packets and more likely to agree that Tesco, Britain’s supermarket giant, ‘has only become so large by offering customers what they want.’”

Most of the young are disaffected politically. They are turned off by politics and there is very little libertarianism in the major parties.

Yet there may be a British rEVOLution brewing: “But among the politically engaged minority, libertarianism is growing. In April [the writer of this article] squeezed into a fuggy crowd of enthusiasts trading quotes by Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard in a room above a central London pub. Between discourses on the merits of Bitcoin (‘a currency without government-perfect!’) old-timers marvelled at the surge of interest. Freedom Forum, an annual convention for young libertarians, has tripled in size since its launch in 2011; a similar venture planned for July — a ‘Freedom Week’ of debate and lectures — has ten applicants for every place. Mark Littlewood of the Institute of Economic Affairs, a think-tank, declares himself ‘gobsmacked’ at the new popularity of anti-statist ideas and confidently predicts the emergence of a mass libertarian movement.”