Adam Smithski. Boris Yeltsin gets economic advice from the Hoover Institution. Top Russian economists will join with Hoover scholars to help establish banks, stock markets, pricing, and privatization in the republic. Will Russian currency soon bear a picture of Milton Friedman—or the inscription, In Gold We Trust?
Housing Start. How to reduce homelessness by 90 percent overnight: Have census takers count street people. The Census Bureau's head count finds fewer than 250,000 homeless people nationwide. Homeless advocates say they concealed street people from census workers. But the Census count, while lower than some reputable private estimates, makes you wonder where they hid 2.7 million folks.
Nice Catch. Overfishing off the U.S. coast threatens halibut, flounder, and crab populations. The Commerce Department comes to the rescue, granting exclusive fishing rights to boat owners. Notes The New York Times, privatization will give owners "strong incentives to prevent overfishing or polluting the habitat because damage will [reduce] the market value of their [fishing] rights."
Hotel California. Some nonviolent criminals in California have a new way to repay society: restitution centers. Inmates, housed in refurbished hotels, pay one-third of their wages to their victims, another third to the state for room and board, and put the rest in a savings account. One inmate says of the program, "This is a lot better than being behind that [prison] fence. No weapons. No fights.…You feel more at home here."
Governor Green. California Gov. Pete Wilson announces a 14-point plan to save the planet, pledging big bucks to buy up forests, "wetlands," and wildlife areas—and boosting the power—hungry Coastal Commission. Wilson will also create a CAL-EPA superagency and, breaking a campaign promise, appoint an environmental czar. Hey, wait a minute: I thought both Dianne Feinstein and Big Green lost last November.
Risky Policy. And you thought the S&L bailout was bad. In National Journal, Jonathan Rauch totes up deposit insurance, farm credit, loan guarantees, and the other risks taxpayers stand behind. We owe at least $6 trillion—not including disaster relief and Chrysler-style business bailouts. Even worse, Rauch concludes, the government insures "more of the economy than it used to, and much more of what the government insures has been going bad."
Bad Tirade. Rep. Dick Gephardt (D–Mo.) could deep-six the free-trade agreement with Mexico. U.S. News says Gephardt wants the White House's Council on Environmental Quality to issue an environmental-impact statement on the pact; such a study could take years to complete. If the superprotectionists get their wish, say bye-bye to perestroika south of the border.
Speechless. To combat speech codes on college campuses, Rep. Henry Hyde (R–Ill.) sponsors a bill letting students sue private universities that abridge speech. This well-intended bill would stick the First Amendment's nose in all sorts of private activities. Eventually, such "constitutional" principles could prevent companies from disciplining employees who insult customers, or require churches to give equal time to Satanists. If colleges want to be stupid, let 'em.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Balance Sheet".
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