Balance Sheet



Sentence Fragment. The Michigan Supreme Court strikes down the nation's toughest mandatory minimum sentences for drug possession. A 4-3 majority deems the "drug lifer" law—life in prison without parole for having 650 grams of cocaine—cruel and unusual punishment. Inmates now become eligible for parole in 10 years.

Private Investigation. A World Bank study cites "substantial gains" from privatization in Chile, Mexico, Malaysia, and Great Britain. Researchers looked at the sale of 12 state-owned firms, including airlines, telephone companies, and railroads. In 11 cases, shareholders, employees, and consumers gained. The 12th, Mexicana Airline, overspent on new planes, hurting profits. The authors say privatization "make[s] the world a better place."

Ruble Rousers. The International Monetary Fund considers a currency board for the former Soviet Union. (See "Clearing the Ruble," Mar.) Thomas Dawson, the IMF's U.S. executive director, tells the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "Anything that can bring inflation under control"—even a private currency board—"is being looked at."

Air Fairs. Airline deregulation reaches Europe. Starting next year, airlines, not Eurocrats, will set fares. And by 1997, airlines can openly compete for customers on any route. Bonn to Berlin? Choose Air France, Alitalia, or Lufthansa. Plan that visit to the Old Country.


Bureaucrat Bonanza. The number of state and local government employees jumps 2.6 percent from 1990 to '92—even as private nonfarm employment drops by 2.2 percent. And bureaucrats' salaries increase by 6.1 percent in 1991, twice as fast as the economy as a whole. Forget austerity, says Forbes, "the good times keep rolling."

Elastic Banned. A bungee jumper in Michigan plummets to his death. So the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services bans the activity. But in the Sunshine State you may still hunt alligators, fish with a spear gun, and go to Disney World.

Civil Libertines. The ACLU's "Campaign for the Bill of Rights '92" says end mandatory minimum drug sentences. Hear, hear. But consider its other three points: an urban Marshall Plan, abortion on demand, and a constitutional right to a job. Mr. Madison, call your office.

Border Patrol. House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt's idea of a free-trade agreement: new tariffs. As a condition for the North American Free Trade Agreement, he wants a tax on "cross-border transactions" (a.k.a. imports) to fund worker retraining. He also says Mexico must enact minimum wages and tough health and safety standards. Meanwhile, "free-trader" Bill Clinton backs "Gephardt's continuing efforts [to ensure] that these goals are, in fact, incorporated." These are the "new" Democrats?