Friday, December 16, 2005

More on Sweatshops

I received some feedback on an earlier post...the one about sweatshops, suggesting that I find a case study to investigate. So I started Googling, searching the Web for some Western "exploiter" to defend. In the midst of my research I happened upon this piece from

So I read it, and felt at once inspired, and deflated.

This is the kind of material I want to learn to write. This article's treatment of its topic was excellent, IMHO. Please read it when you have a few minutes. It's worth it.

Patriot Act Extension Defeated in the Senate!

In a close (52-47) vote, the Senate today rejected the extension of several major provisions of the Patriot Act. These provisions are set to expire on December 31st.

While this doesn't make the Patriot Act go away completely, it's definitely a step in the right direction. There are still a lot of loopholes to close, and hopefully the momentum will carry through to the sunset of this travesty.

Here's the full story.

Incidentally, John Sununu is quoting Ben Franklin here:
"Those that would give up essential liberties in pursuit in a little temporary
security deserve neither liberty nor security," said Sen. John Sununu, R-N.H.

Another great quote:
"I don't want to hear again from the attorney general or anyone on this floor
that this government has shown it can be trusted to use the power we give it
with restraint and care," said Feingold, the only senator to vote against the
Patriot Act in 2001.

And finally, from the warmongers:
If the Patriot Act provisions expire, Republicans say they will place the blame
on Democrats in next year's midterm elections. "In the war on terror, we cannot
afford to be without these vital tools for a single moment," White House press
secretary Scott McClellan said. "The time for Democrats to stop standing in the
way has come."

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Housing prices influenced by zoning regulation?

Movning this discussion to the 'blog, from email...

Interesting article about how rising home costs in the area are due more to
zoning restrictions than market forces.

I don't know if it will show up for everyone, but it cracked me up that
on the same page as an article pointing out the ill effects of gov't
regulation there's an advertisement for
organization that favors government intervention.

Response from Steve:
The problem is that the zoning restrictions aren't anything new. They surely are
a big reason why home prices trend upward and almost never downward (supply
cannot rise fast enough or simply enough to keep pace with demand), but it
doesn't explain why demand has risen so much, so fast. If I had to give an
answer to that, I'd suggest it has something to do with how increases in the
money supply come into circulation through the banking system, and make for
easier and cheaper credit markets.

My response to Steve's response:
> has something to do with how increases in the money supply come into
circulation through the banking system, and make for easier and cheaper credit

There was a nod given (however slight) to cheaper credit
markets, although it clearly doesn't address the issue

"What many economists have been proclaiming as a "bubble"
in Washington and other high-cost areas can be mostly explained by the
restrictions on development, combined with a rush to homeownership by renters
taking advantage of low interest rates
, [Mark Vitner, senior economist at
Wachovia Securities] said." (emphasis added)

In this light the term
"housing bubble" is almost a misnomer. If anything, there is a "credit
bubble" that affects not only housing, but also automobile sales, credit card
debt, basically anything that relies on cheap credit. At least with a house one
has some form of equity so long as the loan is of the conventional
variety. Those who have bought their homes using "alternative" (i.e.
adustable rate and interest-only) mortgages, relying on the assumption that they
will be able to offset the outstanding loan balance by selling within a few
years at a profit, are the ones who will suffer as housing prices start to level

Were interest rates set by the market, rather than by a
misquided central planning authority, they would naturally rise to balance
supply with demand. Home prices would be much more consistent, more
accurately reflecting the costs of development and the desirability of
individual locations. Furthermore, the lack of a federal guarantee of repayment
on bad debt would cause lenders to be much more selective of prospective
borrowers, thereby placing more of the responsibility of ownership on the
borrower than on taxpayers.

Continued from here in the Comments section...