Macron’s Liberalization Has Made Travel More Affordable in France

View of the Champs-Élysées from the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, December 5, 2012
View of the Champs-Élysées from the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, December 5, 2012 (Chris Chabot)

Emmanuel Macron’s liberalization of intercity public transport in France is paying off.

Until 2015, railroads had a monopoly on domestic ground routes of 100 kilometers or more. Macron — then economy minister, now president — wrote legislation that allowed busses to compete.

Bloomberg reports that 6.2 million passengers took a long-distance bus in 2016 and bookings are up another 25 percent this year.

That’s still a fraction of the more than 100 million annual high-speed train passengers, but competition from busses is forcing the state-owned railway to cut rates. Read more

Repression Is the Wrong Approach to America’s Opioid Epidemic

American president Donald Trump is seen in Washington DC, January 20
American president Donald Trump is seen in Washington DC, January 20 (DoD/Marianique Santos)

One of the few silver linings to last year’s presidential election in the United States was that candidates from both major parties recognized that opioid addiction should be treated as a public-health, rather than a law-enforcement, problem.

Which makes it all the more disheartening that Donald Trump is taking exactly the wrong approach to this crisis.

Politico reports that the new president believes in a “tough law-and-order approach” to arrest the rise in drug overdose deaths.

142 Americans die from opioid abuse every day. That is more than die in car accidents or from guns.

The crisis is concentrated in postindustrial states like Kentucky and West Virginia: the heart of Trumpland. Read more

May Adopts Energy Policy Her Predecessor Called “Nuts”

Prime Ministers Theresa May of the United Kingdom and Lars Løkke Rasmussen of Denmark answer questions from reporters in Copenhagen, October 10, 2016
Prime Ministers Theresa May of the United Kingdom and Lars Løkke Rasmussen of Denmark answer questions from reporters in Copenhagen, October 10, 2016 (The Prime Minister’s Office/Tom Evans)

British prime minister Theresa May has adopted a policy her Conservative predecessor, David Cameron, once described as “nuts”.

When the opposition Labour Party proposed to freeze electricity rates in 2013, Cameron, then the Conservative Party leader, ridiculed it.

Now May has taken it over. Read more

Clinton’s Plan to Control Drug Prices Seems Like an Overreach

Former American secretary of state Hillary Clinton gives a speech in Cleveland, Ohio, August 17
Former American secretary of state Hillary Clinton gives a speech in Cleveland, Ohio, August 17 (Hillary for America/Michael Davidson)

Hillary Clinton has a new plan to stop what she considers “unjustified” increases in drug prices.

Slate reports that her plan comes down to European-style price control.

As president, Clinton would create a task force of regulators with the power to decide whether price increases on old, essential medicines and devices were reasonable given product improvements and the amount of competition in the market. If not, the task force would have the power to mete out punishments to companies that were trying to profiteer, potentially with fines.

Fines would still require an act of Congress, where market-friendly Republicans are likely to retain their majority in the House of Representatives and block such penalties.

Nonetheless, as Slate puts it, “Clinton is subtly sending the message that she’s comfortable moving toward a more European system in which regulators have a direct say not just in what drug companies can charge the government, but what they can charge the rest of the public, too.”

It may not happen in the first four years of a Hillary Clinton presidency, but price controls are becoming Democratic Party policy — which means they could happen eventually. Read more

Professors Confuse Right Wing for Authoritarian

The Albert Sloman Library at the University of Essex in Colchester, England, December 12, 2013
The Albert Sloman Library at the University of Essex in Colchester, England, December 12, 2013 (Alvin Leong)

If you live in the United Kingdom, you may have recently seen headlines like these: “Around 50 percent ‘hold authoritarian views'”.

Nearly one in two Britons is supposed to share opinions that researchers describe as “authoritarian populist”. Read more

More State Aid Won’t Save British Steel

View of the Port Talbot Steelworks in Wales, October 31, 2006
View of the Port Talbot Steelworks in Wales, October 31, 2006 (Jef Thomas)

Tata’s decision to put its British operations up for sale has predictably triggered calls for state aid.

Sajid Javid, the Conservative business secretary, has fortunately ruled out nationalizing the Port Talbot steelworks in Wales, but he is leaving the door open to some form of government assistance.

The “steel industry is absolutely vital for the country,” said Javid. “We will look at all viable options to keep steelmaking continuing in Port Talbot.”

He would be wrong on both counts. Read more

Greece Continues to Drive Businesses Away

The port of Thessaloniki, Greece at dusk, September 3, 2012
The port of Thessaloniki, Greece at dusk, September 3, 2012 (Flickr/Ghagaz)

Are there another people in Europe so determined to shoot themselves in the foot as the Greeks?

Against all the advice of other euro states, they elected — twice — in recent years leaders who vowed to reverse what little progress had been made to liberalize the Balkan nation’s economy. Labor market reforms came undone last year. Privatizations were canceled or pushed back.

The country only agreed to sustain reforms in return for a third, €86 billion bailout this summer when it, once again, teetered on the brink of default.

Now promises have already been broken and targets missed. Greece is typically slow to implement the economic policy changes it commits to undertake. Yet there seems to be no holdup in policies that make things worse. Read more