Wilderness Act Makes Wilderness Inaccessible and Dangerous

(p. A19) ONE day in early 1970, a cross-country skier got lost along the 46-mile Kekekabic Trail, which winds through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota. Unable to make his way out, he died of exposure.

In response, the Forest Service installed markers along the trail. But when, years later, it became time to replace them, the agency refused, claiming that the 1964 Wilderness Act banned signage in the nation’s wilderness areas.
. . .
Over the decades an obvious contradiction has emerged between preservation and access. As the Forest Service, the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management — each of which claims jurisdiction over different wilderness areas — adopted stricter interpretations of the act, they forbade signs, baby strollers, certain climbing tools and carts that hunters use to carry game.
As a result, the agencies have made these supposedly open recreational areas inaccessible and even dangerous, putting themselves in opposition to healthy and environmentally sound human-powered activities, the very thing Congress intended the Wilderness Act to promote.

For the full commentary, see:

TED STROLL. “Aw, Wilderness!.” The New York Times (Fri., August 27, 2010): A19.

(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the article was dated August 26, 2010.)

Arne Duncan on “Waiting for Superman” and Teachers’ Unions

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Arne Duncan. Source of photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. 26) Have you seen the new film “Waiting for Superman,” a documentary opening this week that makes public education in this country seem totally dysfunctional?
I did. I think it’s going to help the country to understand the tremendous sense of urgency that I feel. We have parents who know their child is getting a subpar education. That is devastating to them and ultimately it’s devastating to our country.
The film blames teachers’ unions for the failure of public schools because the unions have made it almost impossible to fire lazy teachers. Are you against teachers’ unions?
Of course not. I’m a big fan of Randi’s.

Randi Weingarten, of the American Federation of Teachers? The film depicts her as a villain.
I think Randi is providing some courageous leadership and is actually taking some heat internally in the union because she said publicly that the union shouldn’t be protecting bad teachers.

For the full interview, see:
DEBORAH SOLOMON. “Questions for Arne Duncan; The School of Hard Drives.” The New York Times, Magazine Section (Sun., September 17, 2010): 26.
(Note: the online version of the article is dated September 16, 2010.)

Competitors Have “Incentive to Misuse the Government to Obtain an Advantage”

(p. A15) Today’s technology behemoth risks becoming tomorrow’s dinosaur, and competitors sometimes plead for government intervention to obtain what they fail to achieve in the market. As a former head of a competition agency, I offer . . . principles to guide competition policy toward successful innovators.

. . . , be wary of competitor complaints. When a competitor tells government that its rival acts unfairly, the complaint should be viewed with great suspicion. Competitor complaints are driving recent EU investigations into companies that include Qualcomm, Google, Oracle and IBM. Competitors can provide valuable information about marketplace realities, but they have every incentive to misuse the government to obtain an advantage that is otherwise unattainable.
. . .
. . . , don’t create disincentives for innovation. Complaining competitors often want innovators to be forced to share the source of their success, regardless of intellectual property rights. Nothing could be more destructive to the incentives for future innovation than rules that prevent innovators from reaping the full benefits of their work. As a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court said in its 2004 Verizon v. Trinko decision, “[f]irms may acquire monopoly power by establishing an infrastructure that renders them uniquely suited to serve their customers.”

For the full commentary, see:
TIMOTHY J. MURIS. “Antitrust in a High-Tech World; The first rule of regulators should be to be wary of complaints from competitors..” The Wall Street Journal (Tues., August 12, 2010): A15.
(Note: ellipses added.)

Joe Ricketts Stands Tall Against Earmarks

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Entrepreneur Joe Ricketts. Source of photo: online version of the Omaha World-Herald article quoted and cited below.

I used to teach an Economics of Technology course in the UNO EMBA program (until a curriculum committee axed the course). As a long-shot I once invited Joe Ricketts to speak to the class. I was surprised that he accepted, and maybe also surprised that he clearly invested some time and thought in his presentation. The class was riveted not only by the story of his own entrepreneurial challenges, but also of his views of the policy issues of the day. I remember his good-natured persistence in arguing with one student who challenged him on his view of the importance of tort-reform.
From his manner, and some of the stories he told, he seemed to be the sort of entrepreneur who exemplified George Gilder’s view that great entrepreneurs have a kind of humility that leaves them open to learning, at least in key areas related to their business goals. By all accounts, Sam Walton was another example. And I heard Charles Koch speak this summer and saw him interact with some of his executives; he also gave the impression of being down-to-earth, and open to learning.
(Of course, then there’s Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison—generalizations on entrepreneurship are hard to come by!)
Ricketts and Koch also share another trait—this one too rare among successful entrepreneurs. They are both willing to invest a considerable part of their hard-earned wealth in order to preserve and protect the institutions of limited government that will make it possible for future entrepreneurs to succeed. In Ricketts’ case, for example:

(p. 7A) WASHINGTON — Joe Ricketts wants to bring down at least one Capitol Hill lawmaker who seeks earmarks so he can get the rest of Congress’ attention.

The founder and former CEO of what is now TD Ameritrade has started a new organization called Taxpayers Against Earmarks, which will seek to highlight what he describes as the evils of legislators setting aside money for pet projects back home.
. . .
Ricketts said that while some earmarks support worthy projects, he is against them all because the process is flawed. He compared those who support earmarks to addicts and criminals.
“I’m sure that all over the country there are people that like earmarks and people come to defend earmarks, and those are the people that are on the dope,” he said.
Ricketts said those who seek earmarks are asking legislators to spend other people’s money for their purposes.
“That’s theft,” he said. “As Tom Coburn says, that’s intergenerational theft. So those people that like earmarks, you can consider thieves.”
. . .
Ricketts said . . . the process encourages lawmakers to throw their support behind other spending bills to gain other lawmakers’ support for their earmarks.
“A lot of elected officials like the earmarks, but they’ve never had anybody like me or anybody else push back. … So now the scales are going to balance a little bit,” he said. “I’m going to spend as many years and as many dollars as it takes to be successful.”

For the full story, see:
Joseph Morton. “Joe Ricketts Will Put Up Big Bucks to Fight Earmarks.” Omaha World-Herald (Friday, October 1, 2010): 7A.
(Note: all ellipses added, except for the last one which was in the original.)
(Note: the online version of the article has the title “Joe Ricketts will help fight earmarks.”)

Wind Energy Produces Warm Fuzzy Feelings, But Little Energy and No Reduction in Carbon Dioxide

(p. A15) Because wind blows intermittently, electric utilities must either keep their conventional power plants running all the time to make sure the lights don’t go dark, or continually ramp up and down the output from conventional coal- or gas-fired generators (called “cycling”). But coal-fired and gas-fired generators are designed to run continuously, and if they don’t, fuel consumption and emissions generally increase. A car analogy helps explain: An automobile that operates at a constant speed–say, 55 miles per hour–will have better fuel efficiency, and emit less pollution per mile traveled, than one that is stuck in stop-and-go traffic.

Recent research strongly suggests how this problem defeats the alleged carbon-reducing virtues of wind power. In April, Bentek Energy, a Colorado-based energy analytics firm, looked at power plant records in Colorado and Texas. (It was commissioned by the Independent Petroleum Association of the Mountain States.) Bentek concluded that despite huge investments, wind-generated electricity “has had minimal, if any, impact on carbon dioxide” emissions.
Bentek found that thanks to the cycling of Colorado’s coal-fired plants in 2009, at least 94,000 more pounds of carbon dioxide were generated because of the repeated cycling. In Texas, Bentek estimated that the cycling of power plants due to increased use of wind energy resulted in a slight savings of carbon dioxide (about 600 tons) in 2008 and a slight increase (of about 1,000 tons) in 2009.
. . .
Perhaps it comes down to what Kevin Forbes, the director of the Center for the Study of Energy and Environmental Stewardship at Catholic University, told me: “Wind energy gives people a nice warm fuzzy feeling that we’re taking action on climate change.” Yet when it comes to CO2 emissions, “the reality is that it’s not doing much of anything.”

For the full commentary, see:
ROBERT BRYCE. “Wind Power Won’t Cool Down the Planet; Often enough it leads to higher carbon emissions.” The Wall Street Journal (Tues., August 24, 2010): A15.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the article was dated August 23, 2010.)

To request a full copy of the Bentek Energy report, or to download a PDF executive summary of the report, you can visit:
http://www.bentekenergy.com/WindCoalandGasStudy.aspx

Robert Bryce’s recent book on energy issues is:
Bryce, Robert. Power Hungry; the Myths of “Green” Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future. New York: PublicAffairs, 2010.

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Source of book image: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_4ify7vDXrDs/S98Go4-H9WI/AAAAAAAAFt0/pZ7rYtV1YbE/s1600/power_hungry_robert_bryce.jpg

“I Just Love Economics”

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Paul Ryan. Source of photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. 16) Your once-quiet life as a congressman from Wisconsin was forever altered at the House Republican retreat in Baltimore last month, when President Obama singled you out as a “pretty sincere guy” and gave a shout-out to your “Road Map for America’s Future 2.0,” your plan to balance the federal budget.
He brought up my plan and I thought for a moment, Wow, this could be a sincere olive branch.

As the ranking Republican member of the House Budget Committee, you are seen within your party as a policy wonk.
I’ve been working on the federal budget most of my adult life, which is kind of a pretty sad thing to admit to. I just love economics.
Your “Road Map,” we should explain, is a somewhat alarming document that proposes, in 600-plus pages, erasing the federal deficit by radically restricting the government’s role in social programs like Social Security and Medicare. The president described it as “a serious proposal.”
Right. And then the next day his budget director starts ripping me and then the day after that the entire Democratic National Committee political machine starts launching demagogic attacks on me and my plan. So when you hear the word “bipartisanship” come from the president and then you see his political machine get in full-force attack mode, it comes across as very insincere.

For the full interview, see:
DEBORAH SOLOMON. “Questions for Paul Ryan; The Big Cheese.” The New York Times, Magazine Section (Sun., February 21, 2010): 16.
(Note: bold in original versions, to indicate questions by Deborah Solomon.)
(Note: the online version of the article is dated February 19, 2010.)

Charlie Munger: Capitalist Ventures Do Good, While Philanthropies Are a Source of “So Much Folly and Stupidity”

We’d all be better off if Warren Buffett listened a little more to his old friend Charlie Munger, and a little less to his new friend, Bill Gates.

(p. 6A) Charlie Munger, the business partner of billionaire philanthropist Warren Buffett, said private investment may advance society more than charity.

“I believe Costco does more for civilization than the Rockefeller Foundation,” Munger, 86, told students in a discussion at the University of Michigan on Tuesday, according to a video posted on the Internet. “I think it’s a better place. You get a bunch of very intelligent people sitting around trying to do good, I immediately get kind of suspicious and squirm in my seat.”
Munger is a director at Costco Wholesale Corp., the largest U.S. warehouse-club chain, and has served as vice chairman of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. for more than three decades. Munger’s stake in Omaha-based Berkshire’s Class A shares is valued at more than $1.6 billion.
. . .
“I’ve seen so much folly and stupidity on the part of our major philanthropic groups, including the World Bank,” Munger said. “I really have more confidence in building up the more capitalistic ventures like Costco.”

For the full story, see:
Bloomberg News. “Costco beats charity, Munger Says.” Omaha World-Herald (Sat., September 16, 2010): 6A-7A.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the article has the title “Munger: Costco beats charity.”)

Munger’s comments can be viewed online at: http://rossmedia.bus.umich.edu/rossmedia/SilverlightPlayer/Default.aspx?peid=4d215177cbe44b1e8e94d0dd68f5058f