A California jury has awarded $289 million to DeWayne Johnson, a groundskeeper who has non-Hodgkins lymphoma and claims his disease was caused by glyphosate, Monsanto’s blockbuster pesticide marketed most prominently as Roundup.
Michael Hiltzik of the LA Times reviews the facts of the case and the scientific dispute surrounding glyphosate’s role, or lack thereof, in causing cancer. He points out, reasonably, that a courtroom is a lousy places to resolve scientific disputes; how many of the twelve jurors could define “statistical significance” or “type II error”? And the notion that non-experts can pick out the truth in a swearing contest between experts is simply laughable.
Hilzik notes that alternatives, including “bringing these cases before specialized tribunals or setting up public funds for victims of certain products,” “all have their own flaws,” and concludes with an expert’s view that the jury trial “is a highly imperfect process,” but that “like democracy, it’s the best we have.”
I doubt it. Continue reading “The verdict against Monsanto”
Cary Coglianese and Nancy Nord of the University of Pennsylvania Law School organized a panel called “The Cannabis Conundrum: An Experiment in Federalism or States’ Rights Run Amuck?” with Peter Conti-Brown of Wharton talking about banking regulation and Judge James Colins of the Commonwealth Court talking about a case brought against the Commonwealth by some unsuccessful applicants for growing and distribution licenses under Pennsylvania’s new medical-marijuana program. I’m on (from about 9:45 to about 26:45, aka “too long”) talking about how the states are screwing up legalization and only federal legalization can unscrew it.
In the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire,
Jeet Heer posted what seemed to me a thoroughly ungenerous Tweet aimed at Megan McArdle, a frequent punching-bag for the Twitter left. (Full disclosure: I regard Megan as a friend, and intensely admire her book on failure, The Upside of Down.)The Tweet has a picture of a friend of one of the victims, and reads (in full) â€œMegan Mcardle [sic] should tell him that libertarian cost/benefit analysis proves his friend’s death is totally worth it.â€ Since the original Tweet didnâ€™t link to anything McArdle had written, it looked as if Heer had simply picked her at random as his target.
But that wasnâ€™t in fact the case. The Tweet was an allusion to a McArdle essay on Bloomberg NewsÂ headlined â€œBeware of Blaming Government for London Tower Fire.â€ And while that piece does not in fact say that the deaths in Grenfell Towers were â€œtotally worth it,â€ it really is just about as unfeeling as Heer makes it out to be. Worse (from my somewhat unusual perspective), itâ€™s also a catastrophically bad piece of policy analysis. This is a case where the self-parody is even meaner than the parody. As someone who teaches and practices benefit-cost analysis, let me say that Meganâ€™s essay is the sort of thing that gives the rest of us cold-blooded, heartless bastards a bad name. Continue reading “Benefits, costs and the Grenfell Tower fire”
When a company called Freedom Enterprises (no, really) poisons the water supply for 300,000 people by carelessly allowing thousands of gallons ofÂ 4-methylcyclohexane methanol to leak into the water supply from a worn-out storage pond conveniently located just upstream from the area’s main water treatment plant, that’s called “free enterprise.” Free enterprise is good.
If anyone tries to do prevent such disasters, that’s called “regulation.” Regulation is bad,Â because it limits free enterprise.
When the Federal government trucks in a million liters of bottled water, that’s “big government.” Big government is really bad, because it makes people lazy rather than self-reliant. Why didn’t all those folks have the gumption to buy stills?
When you add regulation to big government, you get socialism.Â The next step is torture chambers and gulags, or even Obamacare.
I certainly hope the Tea Party crowd in West Virginia will stoutly resist the socialist plot to provide them with “free” water at the expense of hard-working taxpayers. Perhaps the legislature could make it a felony to distribute socialist water.
Bonus query for members of the Federalist Society Which enumerated power allows the Congress to appropriate money to supply drinking water after a toxic spill?
Debating *whether* to legalize pot is pretty pointless. The important debate now is *how* to legalize it. Some notes toward an essay on that topic.
Debating whether to legalize pot is increasingly pointless. Unless there’s an unexpected shock to public opinion, itâ€™s going to happen, and sooner rather than later.
The important debate now is how to legalize it. The results of legalization depend strongly on the details of the post-prohibition tax and regulatory regimes. In the current situation, continued prohibition might be the worst option. Full commercial legalization on the alcohol model might well be the second-worst. But thatâ€™s the way weâ€™re heading.
I’m preparing an essay about designing a post-prohibition regime. After the jump is a set of topic sentences and paragraphs for sections of that essay, not yet in a well-defined order. (UPDATE: Numbers inserted to facilitate comments.)
Substantive comments are welcome. Rant and snark will be ruthlessly zapped.
Continue reading “How to legalize cannabis”