3:16 PM, Oct 24, 2014 • By ELI LEHRER
As any visitor to New York City discovers, the Big Apple isn’t the best place to get a hotel room. Rates top $300 per night, the highest in the country, and supply is quite limited.
At year-end in 2013, New York, with a population 8.3 million had fewer hotel rooms than either Chicago, with a population of just 2.7 million, or than much smaller tourist hot-spots like Las Vegas, Orlando, and Washington. Booming and gentrifying Brooklyn, with roughly the same population as Chicago, has a grand total of two full-service, major-brand hotels.
The limited supply and high demand benefits incumbent hotel owners, who get to enjoy high prices. But the room shortage clearly harms the local economy as a whole, by limiting the number of tourists and business travelers who can visit. To their credit, city officials recently eased hotel permitting processes and more than 12,000 new rooms are now under constructions. But unsurprisingly, the city also has seen a boom in Internet-based room-sharing services.
Bureaucrats at the state level aren't crazy about the idea of new consumer choice. Dusting off old laws intended to deal with brothels and slumlords, busybody state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is now wielding them against individuals who rent rooms out through websites like Airbnb and Roomarama. His office recently issued a report that estimates more than two-thirds of Airbnb accommodations are illegal. Even if there are antiquated laws that technically prohibit these types of rentals, many of them are simply nonsensical. For example, one state law targeted toward slumlords could be interpreted to ban nearly all bed and breakfast accommodations.
Indeed, by-the-night room rentals seem like one of the last areas where the government has much business interfering with people’s housing choices. Unlike home purchases or even apartment rentals, by-the-night accommodations are temporary: if any harm is done, it is easy to evict the malefactors. So long as there’s no obvious danger (say, cramming 20 people into a one-bedroom apartment) it’s better and easier to remedy any problems after the fact. Even when they have laws similar to those in New York—and such laws are legion—officials in other state governments have mostly left well enough alone, letting the room-sharing market develop on its own.
Schneiderman appears to have other ideas, vowing a continued crackdown. It's probably worth noting that, as the Ralph Nader-founded New York Public Interest Research Group points out, Schneiderman's contributions from the hotel industry have soared recently. More than a third of the contributions he's ever received from hospitality businesses have come in the just last two months. Coincidence?
Eli Lehrer is president of the R Street Institute.
7:31 AM, Oct 15, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
While the rise of the barbarous Islamic State and the spread of the modern day plague of Ebola has many concerned about the state of civilization here on earth, some at the White House are turning their attention beyond our planet.
IRS Donates/Recycles Over 100K Computers in 2009-2012.9:10 AM, Jun 18, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
The results of a Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) audit released Tuesday found that "[w]hile the IRS is complying with GSA requirements to recycle or donate used information technology (IT) equipment, TIGTA
2:01 PM, Jun 6, 2014 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
A buddy of mine who works in tech has been telling me for years that we're all doomed. The problem, he says, is that there are too many systems that are too unsecure.
Victorino Matus finds anachronism is relativeJun 2, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 36 • By VICTORINO MATUS
With growing amusement (and only mild alarm), my wife and I have been noticing how our parents’ quirks have gotten, well, quirkier. My mother and father, for instance, steadfastly refuse to text-message. “I don’t want to get charged,” my mother says. And besides, “Why do you need to text when you can just call me?” Of course, this assumes she hears her flip-phone at all—it’s often buried deep inside her handbag. She also has a habit of turning the phone off.
8:09 AM, Apr 24, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama met some Japanese robots and didn't like it. "I have to say that the robots were a little scary, they were too lifelike.
In theory . . .12:00 AM, Apr 12, 2014 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
Employers’ requests for the limited number of H1-B visas that allow foreign skilled workers to work and live here has wildly exceeded the supply. After all, the visas allow employers to hire foreigners, rather than bid up wage rates to attract American citizens, or incur the cost of training Americans to do the job. And the visas are free.
7:05 AM, Mar 18, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
Healthcare.gov has eliminated the web chat customer service option. Sometime around the beginning of March, the online chat feature that has been present since Healthcare.gov was launched disappeared.
8:39 AM, Feb 6, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The CEO of AOL, Tim Armstrong, said on CNBC this morning that "Obamacare is an additional $7.1 million expense for us as a company."
"We have to look at our benefits programs very seriously," said Armstrong. "In the CEO chair, let me give you an example of the decisions we have to make as a company: Obamacare is an additional $7.1 million expense for us as a company. So we have to decide whether or not to pass that expense to employees or whether to cut other benefits."
No Limitations to Nuke Technology11:22 AM, Jan 23, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The Iranian president tells Fareed Zakaria of CNN that, under the nuclear deal, there will be no limitations to nuclear technology and no destruction of centrifuges:
Courtesy of the U.N.Dec 30, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 16 • By CLAUDIA ROSETT
It's well over a year since the United Nations intellectual property agency got caught undermining the U.N.’s own sanctions—shipping U.S.-origin computers and related high-tech equipment to North Korea and Iran. In classic U.N. fashion, the World Intellectual Property Organization, known as WIPO, stiffed congressional inquiries and arranged its own narrow and “independent” investigation of itself. Thanks to U.N. privileges and immunities, WIPO was ultimately judged by the U.N. to have stayed within the letter, if not the spirit, of U.N. sanctions.
Dec 16, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 14 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Michio Kaku is a sort of pop physicist who makes a specialty of glibly forecasting future technology. He had a piece in the New York Times recently making 10 “predictions for the future,” and they’re about as facile as one would expect from a stalwart of the TED Talk circuit. Take just two examples: Kaku says that “Augmented Reality Will Become Everyday Reality.” (Actual quote: “Remember the movie ‘The Matrix,’ where virtual information popped up to help inform physical day-to-day reality?