Balance Sheet



Sex Crime. A Texas judge throws out the Justice Department's seizure of an adult-film distributor's assets. U.S. District Judge Barefoot Sanders convicts California Publishers Liquidating Corp. for violating obscenity laws but rules out of bounds prosecutors who seized cash, warehouses, and other nonerotic items. Such seizure, he writes, destroys "legal business enterprises simply because their stock in trade is sexually related materials."

Coase Correction. The University of Chicago's Ronald Coase wins the Nobel Prize in economics. Coase asked such fundamental questions as, Why do people create firms?, and, Why should we protect rights? His study of lighthouses shot down the conventional wisdom about public goods. And his fans include U.S. Court of Appeals Judges Richard Posner and Alex Kozinski and Supreme Court Justices Scalia and Thomas.

Microbe Munchies. Toxic-waste troubles? Genetically engineered microbes come to the rescue. New strains of bacteria, the Los Angeles Times reports, break PCBs down to carbon dioxide, salt, and water. And Amgen Inc. is developing a bug to break up trichloroethylene, a common but hazardous solvent. Even biotech skeptics admit that bacteria can clean up waste before it leaves the factory.

No No-Brainer. Dan Quayle raises hell on the stump. He bashes Naderites and greens as "extremists" who want to "strangle the free market with red tape." Quayle says forcing car fuel economy up to 40 miles per gallon will lead to as many as 1,700 additional highway deaths and 17,000 more serious injuries a year. "I do have an agenda," he told Business Week. "It's to have as few regulations as possible."


Deal Us Out. The budget agreement falls apart—in California. (See "Bigger or Better?", Nov.) Last July's budget, which Gov. Pete Wilson said would stay balanced until 1996, is already $1 billion in the red. The head of the Commission on State Finance expects an additional $2-billion deficit by summer. Democratic legislators want Wilson to reconvene the Legislature to consider more tax hikes.

No Choice. A New Hampshire judge overturns a tuition tax-credit plan in Epsom. (See "Choice Challenges," Oct.) Merrimack County Superior Court Judge George Mathias calls the $1,000 tax abatement for parents who send their children to private schools a tax exemption, which only the state legislature can enact.

Comic Relief. Faux tax-cut fever hits D.C., as capital-gains cuts battle to the death against expanded IRAs. Beltway wags ask, Who will keep their money, the rich or the middle class? In truth, the administration and Congress do nothing more than posture: The proposed cuts are marginal at best and won't take effect until 1993. Only lower spending will provide any true relief.

Sick Idea. Next on the civil-rights agenda: health care. Black Americans don't live as long as whites; the NAACP blames discrimination by doctors and hospitals for the difference. The group's Legal Defense Fund, The Wall Street Journal reports, plans a string of lawsuits, hoping to establish a constitutional right to free health care.