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competition through regulation

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]

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June 19 roundup

by Walter Olson on June 19, 2014

  • Heeding union and legacy air carriers, Congress nixes cheap flights to Europe [W.R. Mead/American Interest, Marc Scribner/CEI]
  • Kneecapping the opposition: lawprof wants to yank trade associations’ tax exemption [CL&P]
  • “Connecticut Supreme Court rules against man who got drunk and fell in bonfire” [Legal NewsLine]
  • Making reform of big-city government a conservative cause [Scott Beyer]
  • Judge: Pipe maker can sue qui tam law firm over press release calling products defective [Daniel Fisher, Forbes]
  • British insurer group calls for action, says fraudulent accident claims up 18% in year [Insurance Journal]
  • Long, detailed look at forces behind the madness that is the San Francisco housing market [Kim-Mai Cutler, TechCrunch in April]

Environment roundup

by Walter Olson on June 18, 2014

  • Coming to other towns soon: new stormwater regs ban car wash fundraisers at schools in Arlington, Va. [ArlNow]
  • Krugman hides the ball on coal-fired utility regs [David Henderson]
  • Coming in September: book on Chevron/Ecuador case by Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s Paul M. Barrett [Business Roundtable]
  • Simplified narrative of “business versus environmental regulation” obscures so much [Tim Carney, Washington Examiner]
  • Environmental disclosure panel from Vermont Law School “Disclosure Debates” [video, summary by Caitlin Stanton for VLR's Environmental Health, links to all videos, background]
  • California: “Attorney General Posts 2013 Proposition 65 Settlement Numbers” [Cal Biz Lit]
  • “Silent Spring at 50: The False Crises of Rachel Carson” [Cato panel with Andrew Morriss, Richard Tren]

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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]

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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:

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]

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It’s pretextual and cronyish in motivation, argues Jim Epstein at the Daily Beast (earlier).

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…maybe City Hall is not your friend [Arnold Kling, Nick Sibilla/IJ, earlier here and here]

May 2 roundup

by Walter Olson on May 2, 2013

April 20 roundup

by Walter Olson on April 20, 2013

  • “Victory For Blogger Patterico In Free Speech Case” [Ken at Popehat, earlier]
  • “Watch ‘disparate impact’ become the new HUD jihad if it succeeds in [Westchester]” [Jackson Jambalaya, earlier]
  • “Big Tobacco uses Big Government to keep out Small Competitors” [Tim Carney, DC Examiner]
  • Casinos or no, Connecticut tribes want the federal dole [AP]
  • High cost of litigation to California municipalities [L.A. Daily News, new CALA report in PDF] “San Francisco’s iconic cable cars cost city millions of dollars in legal settlements” [AP]
  • Morning sickness drug Bendectin, famed casualty of unfounded litigation, returns to market renamed diclegis [MedPageToday, David Bernstein; background here, etc.; classic account from Peter W. Huber's Galileo's Revenge] Another Bendectin sequel: Barry Nace, former ATLA/AAJ head, draws 120-day suspension from West Virginia high court [Chamber-backed WV Record]
  • “Tennessee’s ‘guns in parking lots’ bill a net drain on liberty [George Scoville; similarly Bainbridge and earlier] Another pro-gun but anti-liberty idea: Colorado lawmaker wants to force firms to hire guards if they deny armed customers access to their premises [KOAA, SecurityInfoWatch, Durango Herald (idea nixed in committee)]

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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)

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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.

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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]