Last month federal district judge Claude Hilton dismissed an antitrust suit filed against rival makers of table saws by SawStop, a company that has patented a table saw with innovative safety features. “Hilton’s ruling, while a blow to SawStop, has no legal bearing on the company’s efforts to get the Consumer Product Safety Commission to require the use of their technology on most table saws sold in the U.S.” Trial lawyers at Boies Schiller and elsewhere have also filed numerous product liability suits against makers of conventional saws; many saw users prefer to go on buying conventional saws, which are much less expensive, in preference to using the SawStop system [David Frane, Tools of the Trade, background; earlier]
Taxi regulators and taxi operators join to conspire against the consumer interest [Glenn Reynolds, USA Today; Matthew Feeney, Cato (including link to Cato podcast), more (Illinois, Maryland, Australia, and an ADA complaint in Texas)] “Austin, Texas, Impounds Cars Because Their Drivers Were Giving People Lifts” [Brian Doherty, Reason]
Update June 11: Demanding a stop to consumer-driven Uber — but inadvertently making the most eloquent case for it — London black cab drivers are barricading key intersections today, and Paris taximen are deliberately driving airport fares at snail’s pace. [Lara Prendergast, The Spectator]
Some consider the Renaissance Italian cleric (whose feast day is today) to be patron of p.r. practitioners and lobbyists, and at least one comic tale, prefiguring the later Public Choice theme of “Bootleggers and Baptists,” tends to back them up. I explain at Cato at Liberty.
Incumbent firms “have an army of lawyers” and aren’t afraid to use them [Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica]
I spoke on Thursday to the Bastiat Society chapter in Charlotte with some observations rooted in public choice theory about the “three-tier” system of state liquor regulation familiar since Prohibition. A few further links for those interested in the subject:
- Tom Wark: “Why do wine and beer wholesalers deliver up more campaign contributions than all wineries, distillers, brewers and retailers combined?” (Because of the rents!) The North Carolina microbrewery angle;
- Matt Yglesias at Slate: “How Looser Regulation Gave D.C. Great Specialty Bars“
- AEI held a panel discussion last spring with Brandon Arnold, Jacob Grier (both formerly with the Cato Institute), and Stephen George, moderated by Tim Carney. Video snippets: Jacob on the history of the 3-tier system (2:00); Brandon on homebrewing (0:44). Here’s Jacob discussing the Oregon system at his cocktails-and-policy blog Liquidity Preference, and here’s Brandon on direct-to-consumer Internet sales.
- On “at rest” laws, and the attempted extension to New York: my posts at Cato and Overlawyered, Wark, and recently from CEI’s Michelle Minton on renewed action in New York.
- Oldie-but-goodie David Spiegel, Regulation mag, 1985 (PDF).
The disappearance of the cheap, popular incandescent bulb “has become a fitting symbol for the collusion of big business and big government…. the market didn’t kill the traditional [low-profit-margin] light bulb. Government did it, at the request of big business.” [Tim Carney]
It’s pretextual and cronyish in motivation, argues Jim Epstein at the Daily Beast (earlier).
Enough that 33 states have so-called enacted At Rest laws, requiring that bottles spend time in an in-state warehouse before being sold to consumers. Although the laws limit competition, drive up prices to consumers, and make it harder to special-order less common labels, New York may join the list following generous donations to politicians from an in-state wholesaler. [New York Post] FTC attorney David Spiegel analyzed anti-competitive liquor laws in this 1985 article (PDF) in Cato’s Regulation magazine.
And: I’ve posted an expanded version at the Cato blog. (& Michelle Minton, CEI “Open Market,” who cites an informative column by Tom Wark, WineInterview.com, to the effect that the New York bill may be dead for now.) (Edited for accuracy 4/9: licensed New York wholesalers already own warehouses in both New York and New Jersey, and the bill would have protected the former from competition from the latter)
Is this what Congress intended, or what the public was told, when the FDA was given authority over tobacco in 2009? Jacob Grier at the Atlantic:
As first reported by Michael Felberbaum of the Associated Press, since 2009 the agency has received about 3,500 substantial equivalence reports [i.e., submissions seeking approval for new products on the grounds that they are substantially equivalent to products already on the market]. Approximately 115 employees work on reviewing them. And to date they have issued exactly zero rulings.
Can it really be the case that none of the 3,500 reflect new products that are substantially equivalent to (or for that matter safer than) the cigarettes already on the market? And while we’re asking questions, who benefits when new competition for existing products is cut off? More: Michael Siegel.
Compounding pharmacies, which mix medications to order, are a corner of the drug business that has been much less heavily regulated than mass-manufacturing drug companies. As a result, the compounders began expanding their market presence as against the mass manufacturers, and even get into mass manufacturing methods themselves. The process accelerated in the past few years after tightened FDA control of conventional makers’ production practices (under GMP, or Good Manufacturing Practice, regulation) began to result in widespread production-line suspensions; for hospitals and other users, the availability of compounded alternatives is often the only fallback in the face of shortages.
Unfortunately, poor quality control at some compounders resulted in a series of fiascos culminating in a meningitis outbreak. Now the Washington Post reports that major drug companies are seizing the chance to hobble their competition by pressing for maximally burdensome regulation of compounders, including the addition of regulations unrelated to safety, such as rules aimed at restricting the compounding of formulas that imitate the action of patented products. Hospitals, which sometimes engage in compounding themselves to obtain medication for their patients, say overregulation could worsen the problem of drug shortages. [Kimberly Kindy and Lena Sun, Washington Post] Earlier on drug shortages here, here, etc.
Brad Smith on how Woodrow Wilson and Henry Ford used early versions of campaign finance law to settle scores with Michigan opponent Truman Newberry [Law and Liberty]
How ketchup baron H.J. Heinz became the “main force behind the passage of the Pure Food Law of 1906″ [Tim Carney, Washington Examiner]
What may sound like just another random outbreak of safety-firstism — a proposal to require online dating sites to notify users as to whether they carry out background checks of their users — may have a bit more to it than that, as Tim Carney discovered a few years ago when he found that the “alliance” backing the idea was an arm of an existing online dating site that would profit by handicapping its competition. [Washington Examiner]