Latest Blog Posts

MIT Encourages Disobedience as Key to Human Progress

May 15, 2017 by Logan Albright

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is offering a cash prize for what it is calling “responsible disobedience.” The stated goals of the competition are as follows: “With this award, we will honor work that impacts society in positive ways, and is consistent with a set of key principles, including non-violence, creativity, courage, and responsibility for one’s actions. The award will go to a living person or group engaged in what we believe is extraordinary disobedience for the benefit of society.” Nominations for the prize recently closed, and a winner will be announced in July.

At first glance, disobedience may seem like a strange thing to reward. …

The FDA Is Unreliable – So Let’s Not Rely on It

May 10, 2017 by Logan Albright

A new report reveals that as many as a third of all drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration may have previously unknown safety risks. It’s undeniably worrying that so many pharmaceuticals are more dangerous than we thought, and there are doubtless many who will use this report as a justification for more restrictive approval policies at the FDA. But is that the right response?

What the report really shows is the danger of relying on a central authority, a government agency, to tell us what is safe and what is not. When you have an agency like the FDA giving an official government stamp of approval to pharmaceuticals, people tend to assume that adequate precautions have been taken and that they can trust the agency’s findings. …

Starbucks Didn’t Steal Anybody’s Unicorn

May 9, 2017 by Logan Albright

Have you heard about Starbucks’ Unicorn Frappuccino, the brightly-colored, staggeringly sweet treat that earned the coffee chain headlines (both positive and negative) over the last couple of weeks? I bet you have.

Now another question, have you heard of the Unicorn Latte, a supposedly healthy beverage sold by a cafe in Brooklyn called The End? I’m guessing for most people, it’s a no. Outraged by this disparity in attention, the cafe owners are claiming that Starbucks “stole” their drink idea and are demanding a public apology and unspecified damages.

Thus we enter the thorny realms of intellectual property. The End is seeking a trademark on the name Unicorn Latte, under the assumption that because they thought of it first, no one else should be allowed to use it. …

Big Kennel Is Cracking Down on Local Dog Walkers

May 5, 2017 by Logan Albright

If you live in a city, you’ve probably seen ads taped to street signs and scattered around the neighborhood offering pet-sitting or dog-walking services for reasonable rates. And it’s no surprise that these little businesses are everywhere. The alienation of modern city life means that many young professionals have dogs and cats to keep them company, and the long work hours make it difficult to find adequate time to provide all the care and attention good pets require.

In any market, when a need is going unfulfilled, there is opportunity for entrepreneurship. Indeed, it is the entrepreneur who, by anticipating the wants of consumers, creates economic growth and prosperity. …

Why Do We Still Have High Expectations for Politicians?

April 29, 2017 by Logan Albright

We all like to think we can spot a fraud and tell a charlatan from the real thing, but sometimes prejudice, assumption, and years of indoctrination make it harder than we might think. Maybe it’s a fundamental feature of humanity, or maybe it’s a product of society, but for better or worse, people tend to see what they expect to see. This point is often made in the context of racism, and it certainly applies there, but it also has a lot to do with the way we handle authority, and the confidence we place in those who wield it.

The Emperor is Naked

We give credence to what doctors and scientists say because their position in society invests them with authority. …

The Five Best Things We Could Get Out of Renegotiating NAFTA

April 27, 2017 by Logan Albright

The North American Free Trade Agreement has been a frequent target of criticism from Donald Trump. He has called it a “catastrophe” and a very bad deal for Americans. Most recently, he has threatened to scrap the agreement altogether over Canada’s protectionist policies for dairy products.

Fortunately for those of us who like consumer choice, cooler heads appear to have prevailed. Following a meeting with the president of Mexico and the prime minister of Canada, Trump has agreed not to unilaterally dissolve the treaty, but continues to express the desire to renegotiate it. This is progress.

What would such a renegotiation look like? It’s difficult to say, as it would not only involve our government’s demands, but those of Canada and Mexico as well. …

Don’t Be Fooled. The Government Shutdown Is Just a Political Trick

April 24, 2017 by Logan Albright

It’s that time again, boys and girls! Funding for the federal government is going to run out at the end of the week, and Congress has to scramble to avoid a government shutdown. This sort of high-pressure situation is necessary to get the two sides of the aisle to cooperate, both knowing that they have to work together to govern, or else face certain catastrophe. At least, that’s what they tell us.

In reality, the ominous phrase “government shutdown” is a charade. It’s a rhetorical and propagandistic trick to make the American people think they have to surrender what they care about for the greater good. …

Can Scott Garrett Finally Neuter the Ex-Im Bank

April 22, 2017 by Logan Albright

What’s going on with the Ex-Im Bank? The business community is just as confused as the rest of us, as the White House is sending some very mixed signals.

First of all, let’s remind ourselves what the bank is and what it does. The United States Export-Import Bank was created by Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the Great Depression as part of his New Deal, an effort to stimulate the economy and grow American jobs. Like most New Deal programs, it was staggeringly wrongheaded and more about cronyism between business and government than about actually helping the economy.

The bank offers loans and loan guarantees to businesses, ostensibly to stimulate exports. …

What You Need to Know About Ajit Pai’s Plan to Overhaul Net Neutrality Rules

April 14, 2017 by Logan Albright

As FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai prepares to roll back the regulations that treat the internet like a public utility, including net neutrality provisions, many tech companies are protesting and claiming that Pai is compromising a free and open internet.

Let’s get one thing clear right off the bat: we all want a free and open internet. There is no serious argument on either side of the aisle for the internet to be closed off, censored, or otherwise made less free. Anyone who says otherwise is being disingenuous in an effort to score political points. Where the disagreement lies is in how to achieve this common goal. …