Lobbying R Us by David Boaz

Think Washington lobbying is just for the big-money interests? Think you could never afford a lobbyist yourself? Well, think again! At Crazy Eddie's Lobbying Service, our prices are insane! The firm is actually called Keys to the Capitol. It was started not by Crazy Eddie or Sy and Marcy Syms, but by Paul Kanitra, who's happy to call it McLobbying. Keys to the Capitol
targets small towns, humble associations and others of modest means that can't even consider signing the $10,000-a-month retainers required by many top Washington firms. Instead, Kanitra's company offers contracts starting at $995, month-to-month agreements and prices and other details spelled out on the company's Web site.
Want some government money? Want to regulate your competitors? Come on down to Keys! Now of course it might be that the new, low-priced, easy-to-understand lobbying firm would be helping people get government off their backs. Sort of a "leave us alone" lobbyist for Tea Party times. Get real. What do you think those small towns want? They're not hiring a Washington lobbyist, even a cheap one, to get government off their backs. They want a piece of that stimulus money, or that Race to the Top money, or that highway money, or whatever. And take a look at the Washington Post's description of one of Keys's first clients,
the aptly named Louie Key, national director of the 3,000-member Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association of Aurora, Colo. Key was shopping around for a lobbyist to help his union on several federal issues, including persuading lawmakers to tighten oversight of repair stations that use unlicensed mechanics.
That's right. This little ol' association just wanted a nice simple law to impose new regulatory burdens on their cheaper competitors. That's Washington in a nutshell. As long as the government has favors to hand out, people will pay lobbyists to get access. So come on down and get yours!

Posted on May 4, 2010  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Liberty on a Disk by David Boaz

To celebrate its 50th anniversary, Liberty Fund has just produced an amazing item -- The Portable Library of Liberty, a single DVD containing the complete texts of more than 1000 books, audio interviews with 26 great scholars, and more. And it's free for the asking! Just take a look at what you could be carrying in your laptop:
1,001 full text titles in PDF format, self-contained and searchable. They are organized by titles, subject areas, and topics. Highlights include the complete scholarly editions of the works of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, John Stuart Mill; the collected works of Jefferson, Madison, John Adams, & many others; and 166 full-text books published by Liberty Fund. works by hundreds of authors from Ancient Sumeria to the present, organized by people, periods, and schools of thought, such as the French Enlightenment, the Founding Fathers, 19th century natural rights theorists, the Austrian School of Economics, and many others. audio interviews with 26 leading scholars from the Intellectual Portrait Series: Conversations with Leading Classical Liberal Figures of Our Time and 7 lectures on The Legacy of Friedrich Hayek. a collection of Quotations about Liberty & Power which is a compilation of all the quotes of the week that have appeared on the front page of the Online Library of Liberty since its inception.
My initial response was, if all that stuff is on the web, then why do you need a DVD? And I guess there are two answers to that: First, there are people around the world who have computers but not regular internet access. Liberty Fund officers say that a typical request is something like "I am a masters student in economics at the national university in Bangladesh. Thanks for making this available to me. We do not have these titles in our library. Can I make another copy to give to my friends?" And second, there are times that all of us could access a DVD but not the internet, such as on flights. So -- at the low, low cost of . . . nothing, it's truly an amazing deal. Order yours today. Or you could wait for the 6th edition later this year, when all the titles will be in the new ePub format for even easier reading on portable devices. The pace of progress quickens!

Posted on May 3, 2010  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Insurance Reform in Virginia by David Boaz

Free-market reforms are hard to come by this year, but there's just been a small victory for economic freedom and individual rights in Virginia. A bill enabling Virginia companies to offer life insurance benefits to people their employees choose, including same-sex partners, was passed overwhelmingly by the legislature in April. My friend Kelly Young discovered three years ago that Virginia law prevented his employer's insurance company from selling him group life insurance on his partner. The company did offer such insurance in other states. As the Washington Blade reports:
Previously, state law permitted Virginia residents to take out group life insurance coverage only for a legal spouse or a child under age 25. But the new statute, which takes effect July 1, broadens that group of people to include anyone with whom a Virginia resident has [an insurable] interest, including a same-sex partner.
The bill, introduced by Del. Adam Ebbin (D), did not even get out of committee in 2008 and 2009, despite a ringing editorial endorsement by the conservative Richmond Times-Dispatch and the support of Virginia FREE, the state's most effective business association. This year, perhaps because of the addition of a Republican, Del. Tom Rust, as chief sponsor, it moved smoothly through both houses. Gov. Robert McDonnell, who has come in for criticism in these parts, commendably signed the bill. As the Times-Dispatch editorialized two years ago:
Note well what this bill is not: a mandate. Insurance companies would not be required to cover anybody they did not wish to. They would remain free to reject coverage they did not care to offer. They simply would not be prohibited from covering persons they are willing to cover. In a free market, that is precisely how insurance ought to work: The buyer and the seller of the policy work out the terms between themselves. The state’s job is merely to enforce the contract — not to write it. Ebbin’s bill deserves a resounding and unanimous aye.
It took two more years, but at long last Virginia's legislators have legalized this particular capitalist act among consenting adults. In this case, it's likely to be same-sex couples who will benefit most from the removal of this barrier to commerce. Just another little step toward equality under the law.

Posted on May 1, 2010  Posted to Cato@Liberty

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