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EconDebates Online

EconDebates Online keeps you informed on today's most crucial economics policy debates. Each EconDebate, created by John Kane (SUNY-Oswego), provides a primer on the issues and links to background information and current, in-depth commentaries from experts around the world. Review the brief introductions and, for EconDebates of interest, select the full debate.

Market Failure, Regulation, and Public Choice



Should the antitrust exemption for baseball be eliminated?

Full Debate

Proponents of the antitrust exemption argue that the antitrust exemption allows professional baseball to maintain a high quality of play by restricting the number of teams allowed to compete in the major leagues. They often suggest that baseball's monopoly power is significantly limited by competition for fans with other professional sports and other forms of entertainment. This competition, it is suggested, helps keep prices relatively low. The debate on the antitrust exemption for baseball is now nearly 80 years old. It is likely to continue to be a source of contention for some time to come.

Do slave redemption programs reduce the problem of slavery?

Full Debate 

In the U.S. and other industrialized countries, slavery is generally viewed as a part of the distant past. Slavery, however, still exists in some parts of the world. In recent years, substantial attention has been focused on the existence of slavery in Sudan. As world attention focused on the problem of slavery in Sudan, several religious and human rights groups attempted to deal with this issue by buying the freedom of these slaves. Several concerns have been raised, however, about the unintended consequences associated with these slave redemption programs. A simple demand and supply model of the market for slaves can effectively illustrate these concerns.

Has Deregulation Caused the Energy Shortage in California?

Full Debate

California began experiencing a serious energy shortage in the summer of 2000. Power blackouts became relatively frequent in many areas of the state. These problems appeared to have begun with the deregulation of the electrical power industry in California. Are these problems the result of deregulation? Or are they the result of regulations that result in inefficient outcomes? This question is of particular importance since many other states are in the process of following California's path to deregulation.
Should Napster and similar MP3 distribution mechanisms be banned?

Full Debate

For decades, individuals have made tape recordings of live musical performances or musical performances sold on records, tapes, or CDs. Taped copies, however, were of a lower quality than the original. The introduction of the MP3 recording format, however, made it possible to encode and compress musical recordings into a compact file that can be played back at near-CD quality. These files are small enough that they can be quickly downloaded from the internet, even by those using modem connections. The development of MP3 players that can store hundreds of songs has also encouraged the widespread use of this storage format.
Should there be a market for human organs?

Full Debate

Advances in medical treatments have resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of organ transplants performed each year. A limited supply of organs, however, prevents many individuals from receiving organ replacements that could either save a life or substantially improve the recipient's quality of life.

Should marijuana be decriminalized?

Full Debate

Marijuana is a product derived from the cannabis sativa plant. This plant, also known as "hemp," was a major agricultural product in the United States from the colonial period until the early part of the 20th century. Hemp was used to produce rope, cloth, lacquer, and bird seed. There is evidence suggesting that hemp was grown on the plantations of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

Will Social Security survive into the 21st century?

Full Debate 

The online resources listed below provide a wide range of opinions concerning the magnitude of the problems facing the social security system. Part of the reason for this is that forecasts of future social security revenue depend on factors such as future rates of economic growth, the level of future unemployment and labor force participation rates, and similar factors. Small differences in rates of economic growth can have dramatic effects on the level of output (and tax revenue) over the course of a 20-30 year period. Different assumptions about such future outcomes result in very different conclusions about the future solvency of the social security system.

Is there a need for health-care reform?

Full Debate 

Health-care reform was one of the major issues in the 1992 U.S. Presidential campaign. While no major reform bill was passed during Bill Clinton's first term in office, health-care reform has remained a major topic of congressional debate.

Should anti-pollution standards be strengthened?

Full Debate 

Nearly everyone agrees that pollution is undesirable (the only likely exceptions are those individuals whose income depends on the provision of pollution abatement services). It is socially optimal, however, that some level of pollution be tolerated. The reason, of course, is that there is an opportunity cost associated with pollution abatement. A cleaner environment requires higher production costs and a lower level of output.

Should U.S. financial markets be deregulated?

Full Debate 

Historically, financial markets, which include banks, insurance companies, investment companies, and brokerage firms, have been subject to heavy governmental regulation. For the most part, this regulation, is a result of the fear caused by widespread financial failures immediately before and during the Great Depression. Congress responded to these failures by adopting the 1933 Banking Act. Provisions of the 1933 Banking Act, collectively known as the Glass-Steagall Act, separated commercial banking from investment banking, thus distinguishing each as separate lines of commerce. The Glass-Steagall Act also prompted Washington to establish the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) as a permanent government agency.

Does globalization require a change in antitrust policy?

Full Debate 

In the early years of U.S. antitrust enforcement, most antitrust cases involved domestic firms that sold most of their goods in the domestic economy. Lower transportation costs, information costs, and the development of international and regional free trade agreements have resulted in a dramatic expansion in international trade in recent years. In an increasingly global economy, the task of antitrust enforcement becomes more complex.

Is Microsoft a Monopoly?

Full Debate 

In 1997, Microsoft operating systems accounted for 93% of all new sales of computer operating systems. Microsoft's Windows operating system has become the de facto standard for home and business computer applications. It is fairly clear that Microsoft is the dominant firm in the market for computer operating systems. The question in the current Microsoft antitrust case is whether or not the computer firm has used its market dominance to restrain trade in violation of federal antitrust statutes.

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