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Why Oklahoma's Method for Selecting Judges Is a Bad Idea

Tyler Williamson
The state of Oklahoma selects supreme court justices using a system known as the Missouri Plan, which is a form of merit selection. Advocates paint a rosy picture of the plan, claiming that it is a more sophisticated system than the federal model or the election model and that it strikes the perfect balance between the other two systems. Unfortunately, that is simply not the case.
Here is how the plan works: the Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC), a board of individuals who review candidates for vacancies on the supreme court, selects three candidates to present to the governor. The governor must select one of these candidates. If he does not, after 60 days, the Chief Justice selects one of the candidates to fill the vacancy. Once on the court, justices face an uncontested “retention election” every six years; however, not one justice has been voted off the court in the half century that this system has been in place.
On its face this system might seem like a good idea…
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Higher Home Prices, Brought to You by Oklahoma's Occupational Licensing Machine

Increasingly, people across the ideological spectrum recognize the costs of occupational licensing. Almost since its inception, the 1889 Institute has highlighted several of the least justifiable licensing regimes in Oklahoma. Each individual license may seem, if not harmless, then at least only slightly harmful on its own. But the effects add up. It is estimated that licensing costs $203 billion each year, and results in up to 2.85 million fewer jobs nationwide. One of the principle ways Americans build lasting wealth is through home ownership. So a license that interferes with this process is particularly galling. 
The transaction costs of buying and selling a home in Oklahoma are too high. This is not a matter of opinion, like “the price of gas is too high” or “the luxury goods I would like to own cost too much.” It is an empirical fact. The way Oklahoma regulates the Abstracting and Title Insurance industries tangibly and demonstrably impacts the cost of buying and selling a ho…

Let’s Stop Allowing Special Interests to Pull Up the Ladder of Opportunity

By Benjamin Lepak
People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.-Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations
A legislator I know once told me that he heard a lobbyist for a trade group describe his job as helping those already on top of the building pull up the ladder so that no one else would be able to climb to the top.What he meant was that he helped this trade association get the legislature to pass laws that made it ever more difficult to become licensed in the field, thus limiting competition for his paying clients.For the incumbents in the field, this seems like an easy trade: the fee to hire the lobbyist is relatively small compared to the windfall produced by using the law to eliminate future competition.
To the lobbyist’s credit, at least he was forthright about what he was being paid to do (rather than pretending that he was out to protect “public hea…

Why Does Oklahoma License Polygraph Examiners?

Luke Tucker

Should polygraph examiners be licensed?

In Oklahoma, a license is required to work as a polygraph examiner (a professional who applies lie-detector tests), and it is not at all obvious why.

Generally, an occupation is licensed if it is obviously in the public’s interest to prevent potential bad actors from practicing. So, for example, it is argued that doctors must be licensed because, otherwise, some idiot might open a hospital in his garage and really hurt someone. And it is argued that accountants must be licensed because, otherwise, some college-dropout might offer to do accounting for an unsuspecting mom-and-pop shop, tell them their numbers look great (when, in fact, they don’t), and cause them to go bankrupt.

In short, occupational licensing is supposed to either (1) prevent real, tangible harm, or (2) assure customers that their service-provider is trustworthy. However, interestingly, licensing polygraph examiners does not accomplish either of those goals because polyg…

The Real Reason Health Care Prices Keep Rising

Mike Davis
Much has been made of the healthcare crisis of late, but very little of it addresses two of the biggest financial problems with the system: the third party payer problem and the reality that health insurance bears no resemblance to true insurance.
Insurance is a pooling of risk. The odds are that just over one in every 250 people will contract cancer in the next year. Cancer is an incredibly expensive disease to treat. So if 250 people got together and put aside enough savings to cover one case of cancer between them, they have effectively pooled their risk, and, on average, they should have enough to cover the statistical cancer they as a group are likely to incur.
This risk pooling works better in larger numbers. A statistician would be unsurprised if one group of 250 had four cases of cancer while three others had none. But a single group of 10,000 people is much more likely to remain near the nationwide average, and if each of the 10,000 people pays just a little extra, t…

Medicaid Expansion: A Raw Deal

Byron Schlomach
For the sake of most Oklahomans, our state legislature should continue to hold out against the unrelenting pressure of monied interests and refuse to expand the state’s Medicaid program under Obamacare. Why? It’s simple, really, if someone is robbing my house, moving from room to room and taking my valuables, I’m not going to point out a room they missed and invite them to steal even more. Expanding Medicaid will just allow the health industry to take even more from us than they already do.

That’s the fundamental, underlying message of my most recent paper, Medicaid Expansion in Colorado: An Exercise in Futility. In addition to providing some context about just how rich the health industry is in this country, I use plain language to restate the conclusions of an official study from a Colorado state agency to point out that Medicaid expansion advocates (mostly from the health care industry) are selling us a false bill of goods.

The false claim is that if we expand Medicai…

Penmanship Fit for a King, Words Fit for a Free People

Penmanship Fit for a King, Words Fit for a Free People By Benjamin M. Lepak
We all know that Thomas Jefferson authored the Declaration of Independence, but who wrote the Declaration? Who took pen to paper—actually, quill to parchment—and inscribed the words on the document displayed at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.? The name Timothy Matlack has largely been lost to history, but in addition to having exceptional penmanship, Matlack actually played a significant role in the events we celebrate on the Fourth of July. More importantly, the words Matlack transcribed set into motion a conception of government completely new in world history. While Matlack’s elegant calligraphy appears fit for a king, Jefferson’s elegant prose—directed at a king—had far more lasting consequences.
So what of these consequential words? We’ve all read them at some point, or perhaps been required to memorize them in school. Was the Declaration just a flowery way of saying “no taxation without repres…