Gongol.com Archives: September 2010
Brian Gongol

September 22, 2010

Iowa Underage drinking and the law of unintended consequences
Sometimes, a business owner's incentives are well-matched with a matter of public policy -- as in Iowa City, where the local authorities have closed all bars to patrons under age 21. A bar owner -- who obviously wants as many people as possible inside his establishment anyway -- argues that the policy is bad because it doesn't keep young people from going out on Saturday nights and drinking -- it just sends them to house parties and other less-regulated locations. That's bad for his business (whether or not they were drinking in his establishments, since he could still charge a cover and sell them non-alcoholic beverages), and it's also a bad approach to public health policy. The problem in college towns isn't drinking per se -- it's binge drinking, particularly unsupervised binge drinking by inexperienced young people. It's hard to imagine a set of circumstances under which they would be safer at a drunken house party than under the supervision of a paid (and sober) staff trained in recognizing dangerous consumption.

News Natural disaster in Pakistan is leading to economic calamity
The country is running out of money, in part because the floods this summer wiped out a lot of agriculture and simultaneously decreased exports and dramatically increased the need for food imports. Now the country might not even be eligible for additional funding from international lenders like the IMF. It's an excellent illustration of the need for international trade: More trade allows nations to specialize more and develop their industries. Within the United States, which is itself one big free-trade zone, Iowa focuses on raising corn and soybeans, Michigan builds cars (or at least it used to), and California produces the TV shows. Specialization makes for efficiency, and efficiency makes for productivity. President Obama doesn't mow his own lawn, and neither does Bill Gates. They have better things to do. Economically speaking, so do many countries -- and increased trade lets them focus on what they're best at doing.

Threats and Hazards Potential hurricane insurance liabilities dwarf resources in the southeastern US
A bad hurricane anywhere along the Gulf Coast or southern part of the Eastern Seaboard could be calamitous to the states that have failed to set aside enough for their insurance plans. America has vastly overbuilt in highly-exposed areas, and it's one of the most serious economic threats to the United States.

Science and Technology What would happen if we actually did discover intelligent life beyond Earth?

Water News Millions in state aid for Coralville flood protection

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