October 20, 2014

Adam Smith on Crack

Now that's a provocative headline! Upworthy here we come!

I highlighted a couple of quotes from Sunday's Review Corner of Russ Roberts's How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness. I wanted to separate them from the review, yet use them here to torture my blog brothers with an appeal-to-authority in our ongoing, internecine debate on The War on Drugs.

Roberts finds that Smith had suspicions about anti-Hayekians centuries before there was a Hayek to oppose. Smith was a man of government and he saw -- up close and personal -- those who would run our lives to improve us:

He seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board. He does not consider that the pieces upon the chess-board have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but that, in the great chess-board of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might chuse to impress upon it.

Roberts, Russ (2014-10-09). How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness (p. 207). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.


Roberts "chuses" the Drug War to illustrate:
I have met kind, empathetic, earnest people who see recreational drugs as a great scourge. And certainly some drug users destroy themselves and their families through their inability to control their desires. Yet the war on drugs has failed despite the desires of those kind, empathetic, earnest people and despite the harm that comes to drug users. The war on drugs has failed because too many chess pieces have their own movements; too many people like to use drugs. And too many people see those desires as a potential for profit, which it surely is.

Kind, empathetic, earnest blog brothers?

Posted by John Kranz at 12:39 PM | Comments (3)
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

What, no music? There's gotta be a sound track to go with an internecine war on drugs discussion.

OK, The Refugee willingly rises to the bait of what is clearly a friendly taunt among blog brothers. He also counts himself among those who see substance abuse as a great scourge - and the challenge of our time.

First, it would be useful to define what constitutes "winning" the war. Does addiction need to be eliminated before those opposing the war would admit that it was won? Surely not, as the "war on crime" certainly has not been won by that definition, yet no one is suggesting that we disband law enforcement. The Refugee would suggest that "winning" means a steady decline in use and addiction. By that definition, we are "winning the war on tobacco."

One must also observe what is missing from this analysis, which is a solution to the problem. That means that either the author does not see it as a problem, despite acknowledging the lives and families ruined by drug abuse, is simply throwing up his hands in surrender, or sees the problem as a societal abstraction.

Imagine if our Founding Fathers had seen their society's challenges too daunting to tackle. They might have said, "Gee, the king sure is powerful." Or, "Wow, the British navy sure has a lot of cannons." And, "How can we ever expect a bunch of farmers and merchants to defeat the best trained, best equipped, most professional army in the world?" Great problems are not solved by passivity. They are solved by people willing to relentlessly pursue a problem until a solution is found, willingly failing over and over and realizing that you can be wrong many times but need be right only once to be successful.

Those who see drug abuse in the abstract are the modern version of Marie Antoinette saying, "Let them snort cake." Would any blog brother suggest that eradicating (or even significantly reducing) substance abuse would be a bad thing?

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at October 20, 2014 1:56 PM
But jk thinks:

"La la la la, La ls la la-la-la-laaah.."

It strikes me that we have a more fundamental disagreement. I don't want to dodge your direct questions, but perhaps the disconnect is whether it be a legitimate function of government. Is there Kumbaya potential in "get the feds out of it, unless you can lay your finger on the No weed Clause in Article I Section 8?" Then we can argue about the strictness of local enforcement and I would be much more open to local laws. Short-cutting the commerce clause argument, Claude Wickard, I'll stick to intra-State production, sales and consumption.

As to direct questions:

The founding fathers were seeking to protect our liberties. I back off not because it is difficult, but because it is wrong.

If tobacco is your success story, we're farther apart than I thought. Really, really, read the Aftermath book. New York taxes a pack of smokes $2.50 or something. That's a brutal and regressive tax on the poor, props up crime because it is so distortionary (actually funded the 9-11 hijackers in part), and we just had a guy killed by the police in Central Park for selling bootleg cigarettes. I quit 20 years ago, but if my heath were better I'd start up again in protest of the moral preening, hectoring, and misplaced government coercion.

I guess I'm guilty of viewing the drug problem abstractly. You want to move the chessboard pieces around and I really do not. So I have no solution like Obamacare opponents lacked one. More freedom might help. My brother has still not agreed that alcohol prohibition was a failure. More freedom helped there. Alcohol has been quite the scourge in my circle of friends -- do we go back to Elliot Ness? (If alcohol's less scouragious, and maybe weed's not so terrible some days, who decides?)

I'll say let the chess pieces make their lives as best as they can without government intrusion.

Posted by: jk at October 20, 2014 2:53 PM
But johngalt thinks:

The drug war question is not, as I see it, whether or not eradicating or even significantly reducing substance abuse is a good thing. It is good. Clearly so. The question is: Has legal prohibition been, on the whole, good or bad.

Taking the "war on tobacco" claim at face value, I must have missed the era when tobacco was outlawed.

Finally, not to inflame but to inform, the stance that great problems are solved by people willing to relentlessly pursue a problem until a solution is found, willingly failing over and over and realizing that you can be wrong many times but need be right only once to be successful, is also the modus operandi of the World Socialists, is it not? Some problems have no solutions. Some creatures behave in ways contradictory to survival. c.f. Darwin, Charles. Efforts to save every individual from harming himself ultimately results in a society where all individuals are hopeless. c.f. Miranda. God helps he who helps himself.

Posted by: johngalt at October 20, 2014 3:48 PM

August 19, 2014

The Humanity!

Removing an option entirely does not help teach good decision-making skills, it’s just temporarily taking something out of the equation for 6 or 7 hours a day.

Yet another argument against prohibition, but this one is not in support of legalizing recreational drugs, or alcohol, or pharmaceuticals. This lunatic nut job is very seriously suggesting the radical idea of unfettered access to ... groceries.

The recent passing of the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act was done with the best of intentions. The act, established as a way to promote healthy eating among kids and decrease childhood obesity, which is rising at alarming rates, sets nutritional standards for school lunches and snacks available to school-age children. That means the end of the elusive vending machine and the high-calorie snacks it contains.

But don't expect kids to give up their sugar fix so easily…

As The Atlantic reports, jonesing students have turned to the junk-food black market… some as dealers, others as addicts.

That's right, kids are smuggling in junk food, risking punishment, but making bank. The Atlantic reports that some kids are making upwards of $200 per week dealing in sugar, and it’s even hit student government. Yup, a student body vice president at one Connecticut school was forced to resign after buying contraband Skittles from a student "dealer."

That's "recently passed" as of 2011, but of interest today as it is back-to-school time. This is when it is most noticeable, with flyers coming home in packets of forms to complete. We've never been called into the office for sending our kids to school with Frito Lay products in their backpacks, but one does rehearse speeches in preparation for that possibility.

"We ask you to teach our children how to think for themselves but when it comes to the foods they may eat, you teach them that thinking is forbidden."

Posted by JohnGalt at 12:02 AM | Comments (2)
But jk thinks:

When Cheetos® are outlawed...

Posted by: jk at August 19, 2014 11:39 AM
But johngalt thinks:

Cold, dead, orange fingers.

Posted by: johngalt at August 19, 2014 12:42 PM

August 14, 2014

Bad Ideas from the Past

Right wing scolds. I get it, but I just don't get it.Gov. Huckabee and Senator Santorum have deep religious convictions which make it easier. I think they are wrong to push their way of life on me, but I understand the foundation.

Drug Czar Bill Bennett, by comparison, makes me open my eyes widely and cock my head to one side in confusion. He is a very bright guy who has been exposed to some very good ideas. Yet . . .

On a day tensions hove boiled over in Ferguson, Missouri, Bennett has a guest editorial on legalization madness.

The great irony, or misfortune, of the national debate over marijuana is that while almost all the science and research is going in one direction--pointing out the dangers of marijuana use--public opinion seems to be going in favor of broad legalization.

For example, last week a new study in the journal Current Addiction Reports found that regular pot use (defined as once a week) among teenagers and young adults led to cognitive decline, poor attention and memory, and decreased IQ. On Aug. 9, the American Psychological Association reported that at its annual convention the ramifications of marijuana legalization was much discussed, with Krista Lisdahl, director of the imaging and neuropsychology lab at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, saying: "It needs to be emphasized that regular cannabis use, which we consider once a week, is not safe and may result in addiction and neurocognitive damage, especially in youth."


Bill, Krista: put me down as opposed to regular cannabis use in youth (or middle age. Willie, Nelson, by comparison, seems to be doing fine).

Read Bennett's whole piece and you'll see no reference to liberty or John Stuart Mill. "It's bad, and we've a public to protect." I agree it's bad and even I become exasperated by fellow travelers who will not admit that or who want to laugh it off. I have zero interest in arguing whether it is good or bad but I very much will defend anyone who says that it is not Sec. Bennett's right to tell me.

I don't want to oversimplify what is going on in Ferguson either. But if you were to remove all the adverse police-community interactions that represented enforcement of the War on Drugs, that would significantly lower the frustration -- and likely obviate the paramilitary equipment and tactics that the police have used in pursuit of its goals.


Posted by John Kranz at 3:35 PM | Comments (0)

December 4, 2013

AEI Wheat of the Day

Retired Buffalo Police Captain Peter Christ speaks out against the "War on Drugs:"

When you institute a prohibition like we have with drugs in this country, what you are doing is not protecting people from other people, you are attempting to use law enforcement to protect people from themselves. Protecting you from yourself is a function of family, church, education, and the health care system. It never is, and never should have been intended to be, a law enforcement function. We are out there enforcing morality when we enforce drug laws, and that is not our job. We were not trained to do it, we are not capable of doing it, and if anything else you see the failure of it.

[Heh: the headline refers to a kind comment by blog friend tg, complementing my separating "the wheat from the chaff" on AEI. I'm a pretty big AEI fan and am torn between voraciously defending a friend of liberty and graciously accepting kind words...]

Posted by John Kranz at 12:00 PM | Comments (1)
But T. Greer thinks:

Hehe.

It is a good quote though, I agree.

Posted by: T. Greer at December 9, 2013 11:36 PM

February 19, 2013

Gangsterville

I will put this under War on Drugs, but I don't mean to poke a stick into the eye of my blog brothers. This is a "world has gone to hell what are you possibly going to do?" story of the first order. Kevin Williamson of National Review tours Chicago with a Pakistani guide, one Mister Butt.

"They do this to their own neighborhood," Mr. Butt says, exasperated. "They make it a place no decent person would want to be. Why do they do that? It’s very bad, very scary at night." This from a guy who vacations in Lahore.

Like many white boys before me I suppose, I went on a tear of books about life in Chicago's Housing Projects. Alex Kotlowitz's There Are No Children Here, Daniel Coyle's Hardball: a season in the projects and Richard Price's fictional Clockers.

Williamson describes a post-projects Chicago in which the big drug lords have lost their territory in Cabrini-Green and Henry Horner to be replaced by absolute anarchy of 15 year-olds controlling a block and requiring a murder for initiation.

Mr. Butt locks the doors, and we cruise through Englewood and environs. Martin Luther King Drive, like so many streets named for the Reverend King, is a hideous dog show of squalor and dysfunction, as though Daniel Patrick Moynihan's depressing reportage in 1965's The Negro Family had been used as a how-to manual.

I don't think any ThreeSourcer would institute any of the policies used to run Chicago, and it is easy to see it as a blue model train wreck of deracinated multi-generational welfare, drug laws, gun restrictions, gub'mint education, and "community organizing."

Even if you got them to admit the problem and stop applying increased dosage of that which brought them here, what do you do? I cannot long for the sweet old days when more grownup drug lords ruled the town, holding the violence down like Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Daley? The Mob? Capone?

Mister answer for everything leaves the reader Chicago as an exercise. I'd love to yank the gangs' funding by no longer protecting their drug profits from legal competition, but much more is required.

Malala Yousafzai was a 15-year-old schoolgirl who got shot for a reason -- a terrible, awful, evil reason, but a reason. (Say what you like about Islamic radicalism, at least it's an ethos.) All of Chicago is aghast at the story of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, who was shot -- and, unlike Malala Yousafzai, killed -- apparently for no reason at all, at 2:20 in the afternoon in a public park. Miss Pendleton was a student at King College Prep, and a majorette in the school's band, which had the honor of performing at President Obama's first inauguration. Miss Pendleton had just recently returned from a trip to the president’s second inauguration when she took shelter from the rain under a canopy at Harsh Park.

Posted by John Kranz at 9:41 AM | Comments (1)
But johngalt thinks:

Chicago, like Kabul, will be as safe as the local police department decides it will be. For free people the only option is to accept it or emmigrate. Escape From Chicago! (I think the old franchise has at least one more sequel in 'er.)

Posted by: johngalt at February 19, 2013 12:49 PM

September 4, 2012

KUMBAY-FREAKIN-YA!

I think I can finally unite ThreeSourcers on one aspect of drug policy: This is absolutely shameful:

In a promotional video released yesterday, President Obama "calls" actor Kal Penn, the former Associate Director of Public Engagement for the Obama administration, and tells him to get ready for the DNC Convention. On a split screen, Penn is seen with his Harold and Kumar co-star John Cho. The two are watching cartoons, surrounded by pizza boxes, soda, candy, and other junk food. The none-too-subtle suggestion is that, like the characters in the Harold and Kumar films, Cho and Penn are stoned.

I emphatically suggested that the drug question was a philosophical one of self-ownership and was not about condoning drug use in any way.

Leave it to the President to get a fundamental question completely, totally, 100% wrong (and drive a good blogger to redundancy)!

He makes light of drug use, which we might all admit to be damaging. And, yet, on the question of protecting individual rights, he has been home eating Doritos® and watching The Flintstones.

Hat-tip: @radleybalko Obama ad idea: Call up a cancer patient wasting, vomiting from chemo b/c of your marijuana policy; make stoner jokes. http://t.co/cHKioRrF

Posted by John Kranz at 1:07 PM | Comments (2)
But Terri thinks:

No, no, no. There will be no eating of Doritos in the White House or anywhere. That would be wrong.

Posted by: Terri at September 4, 2012 1:48 PM
But Keith Arnold thinks:

Mayhaps the SCOAMF is planning to get the Choom Gang back together once he retires in January.

That explains the fancy crash pad he's got planned in Hawai'i - being paid for with someone else's money, of course...

http://is.gd/CxgOTr

Posted by: Keith Arnold at September 4, 2012 3:36 PM

August 28, 2012

WHO WILL PROTECT THE CHILDREN????

ThreeSources is watching out for you, the folks! Seconding brother jg's superb piece on the evils of devil reefer, I want to share another interesting data point: Energy Drinks!

New York's attorney general is investigating whether the multibillion-dollar energy-drink industry is deceiving consumers with misstatements about the ingredients and health value of its products.

Eric T. Schneiderman issued subpoenas in July to PepsiCo Inc., PEP, maker of AMP, Monster Beverage Corp., MNST and Living Essentials LLC, maker of 5-hour Energy drink, according to a person familiar with the matter. The subpoenas asked for information on the companies' marketing and advertising practices.

The caffeine-heavy, carbonated beverages have become ubiquitous at grocery stores, gas stations and checkout counters across the country. Makers of the drinks, which are often sweetened with flavors such as grape or mixed berry, say they boost energy with a mix of additives including B-vitamins, taurine and ginseng. AMP's website, for example, says the B-vitamins and caffeine in its Boost drinks offers "the kick you need to tackle the early morning meeting." On its website, 5-hour Energy says it gives "hours of energy" with "no crash later."


Grape and mixed berry flavors. It's a scourge.

Posted by John Kranz at 4:02 PM | Comments (1)
But Terri thinks:

Next thing you know they'll be suing McDonald's because "I'm loving it" doesn't apply to some lawyer someplace. Or suing Ford because their trucks don't actually "work hard", a person has to drive it.

Posted by: Terri at August 28, 2012 11:37 PM

Pot Smokers' IQ 8 Points Lower - Permanently

With all the usual caveats about the reliability of "scientific studies" here is another datapoint in the marijuana debate.

Prof Moffitt said adolescent brains appeared "more vulnerable to damage and disruption" from cannabis than those of fully mature adults.

Reliable figures on cannabis usage among today's British teens and twentysomethings are hard to come by.

But Prof Moffitt said there was growing concern in the US that cannabis was increasingly being seen as a safe alternative to tobacco.

"This is the first year that more secondary school students in the US are using cannabis than tobacco, according to the Monitoring the Future project at the University of Michigan," she noted.

"Fewer now think cannabis is [more] damaging than tobacco. But cannabis is harmful for the very young."

The news article, by UK Telegraph medical correspondent Stephen Adams, quotes study contributor Professor Terrie Moffitt on the cascading effects of an 8-point IQ diminishment:

"Research has shown that IQ is a strong determinant of a person's access to a college education, their lifelong total income, their access to a good job, their performance on the job, their tendency to develop heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, and even early death," she said.

"Individuals who lose eight IQ points in their teens and 20s may be disadvantaged, relative to their same-age peers, in most of the important aspects of life and for years to come."


Posted by JohnGalt at 2:48 PM | Comments (4)
But jk thinks:

NO NO NO NO NO NO NO! This is absolutely not a datapoint in the debate.

The debate is not: should you smoke weed? The debate is: do you own yourself? If not, then every "study" is a datapoint in the debate to restrict soft drink sizes, outlaw trans fats, ban cheeseburgers, &c.

If you want a real point in the debate -- I will share a Facebook post here. Lundy Khoy escaped Pol Pot's year zero when she was one. She has lived here her entire life. Now, she faces deportation for an ecstasy charge (and horrifically stupid perhaps criminally negligent candor).

We surrender our liberties, endure violence, lose billions of dollars to both crime and enforcement. But when we start deporting attractive young Cambodian women -- it's just got to stop!

Posted by: jk at August 28, 2012 3:42 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Apologies for treading so closely to a hot-button without a better disclaimer. Prior to posting I changed the first draft from "drug legalization debate" to "marijuana debate" but left the "War on Drugs" categorization because I thought it germane.

I completely agree that adult marijuana use should not be prohibited by law. I do, however, oppose the prevalent notion that marijuana use is harmless - either completely so or at least virtually.

A reading of the story reveals that harm is permanent among adolescent onset users, temporary for college and later onset. Perhaps an age restriction could be debated.

Posted by: johngalt at August 28, 2012 3:56 PM
But jk thinks:

I may apologize someday for the vicious energy-drink attack.

But I feel disappointed, saddened, and surprised that the liberty argument finds no purchase at ThreeSources. On your age restriction, if you mean adults-only, by all means. If you suggest 25 or older to escape damage, then you really do not get what I am saying and deserve the rebarbative energy drink post. Grown ups can make their own decisions.

Posted by: jk at August 28, 2012 4:19 PM
But johngalt thinks:

"No purchase?" None? Oh, you mean those other guys.

But if I may, I do see a parallel here to 'Libertario delenda est.' Complete legalization of drugs, like complete free-market capitalism, is pragmatically a bridge too far in the political sphere, which necessarily requires consensus amongst "the folks."

Maybe in our lifetimes. We can both hope.

Posted by: johngalt at August 28, 2012 4:45 PM

July 20, 2012

Quote of the Day

Chris Christie is not a wimp, a hippie, or a countercultural icon. He's not known for taking time out from budget negotiations to smoke dope, or for his sympathy for drug dealers.

Yet he is a soft-liner on the war on drugs. That the combative New Jersey governor and Republican rock star -- just tapped to keynote the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla. -- vocally dissents from drug-war orthodoxy is another sign that the tectonic plates of the drug debate are shifting. Perhaps our appetite for spending billions and incarcerating millions, in the service of pieties immune to rational analysis, is not limitless after all. -- Rich Lowry


Today the world, tomorrow ThreeSources!

Posted by John Kranz at 6:00 PM | Comments (1)
But johngalt thinks:

I'd like to show evidence of hypocrisy on Cristie's part, or at least a flip-flop, but I can't lay my hands on the article I remember reading last week saying Cristie wasn't likely to sign NJ bills to legalize pot and gay marriage. At least that is my recollection. It would seem that this mandatory drug treatment bill is a compromise he thought he could not be seen refusing.

For my part I'm glad to see this. The GOP must make a hard sell for the kiddie vote and Cristie is influential enough in the party to drag other opinion makers along with him, at least to a degree. Grizzled old TEA Partiers like me can approve on the basis of reduced goverment spending for fighting the so-called drug war.

Huzzah!

Posted by: johngalt at July 21, 2012 12:31 PM

March 14, 2012

JG agrees with Boulder DA

Like myself, Boulder's [Democrat] District Attorney Stan Garnett doesn't understand why the Obama Justice Department is so tough on the medical marijuana business. After all, aren't Democrats and weed activists fellow travelers? And, perhaps because I had dinner with the man 12 days ago (well, actually, different tables in the same Boulder burger joint) I agree verbatim with General Garnett on this sentence from his letter to United States Attorney John Walsh:

"The people of Boulder County do not need Washington, D.C., or the federal government dictating ..." WAIT! Stop right there.

But he continued, "how far dispensaries should be from schools or other fine points of local land use law," Garnett wrote.

I don't think Garnett helped his effort by suggesting what the US Attorney's priorities should be, but that probably won't be what makes or breaks the G-Men's "prosecutorial discretion."

In the "things that make you say, hmmm" department: The article also says that Boulder has an estimated 12 dispensaries within 1000 feet of a school.

Posted by JohnGalt at 3:11 PM | Comments (2)
But jk thinks:

I think it is part of the First Lady's initiative to make schoolchildren walk more.

Flippancy aside, yaay DA Garnett for asserting our rights -- maybe he'll join The Filburn Society. (Do follow that link if you have not seen it!)

Posted by: jk at March 14, 2012 4:23 PM
But Bryan thinks:

It’s wonderful to see the Boulder DA standing up to the Feds on what really is a 10th Amendment issue.

It’s too bad that he and other Democrats (and some Republicans), don't apply this principal consistently on all of the issues that the Federal Government should not be meddling in.

Posted by: Bryan at March 15, 2012 12:52 PM

February 21, 2012

Quote of the Day

[Randy] Paige: Let us deal first with the issue of legalization of drugs. How do you see America changing for the better under that system?

[Hoss of Hosses, Nobel Laureate Milton] Friedman: I see America with half the number of prisons, half the number of prisoners, ten thousand fewer homicides a year, inner cities in which there's a chance for these poor people to live without being afraid for their lives, citizens who might be respectable who are now addicts not being subject to becoming criminals in order to get their drug, being able to get drugs for which they're sure of the quality. You know, the same thing happened under prohibition of alcohol as is happening now.

Under prohibition of alcohol, deaths from alcohol poisoning, from poisoning by things that were mixed in with the bootleg alcohol, went up sharply. Similarly, under drug prohibition, deaths from overdose, from adulterations, from adulterated substances have gone up.


Hat-tip: @radlybalko

Posted by John Kranz at 11:43 AM | Comments (0)

November 26, 2011

Your DEA at Work

The enforcement-heavy segment of ThreeSources can be proud today.

Here's a Mercury News profile of Bob Wallace, an 88-year-old chemist who started a very successful cottage business selling iodine crystals under the "Polar Pure" brand new, used by hikers and disaster relief workers for water purification. Wallace has been put out of business by the Drug Enforcement Agency, who say they once busted a meth lab that was using Wallace's iodine in their process.

I share this link both to torque the enforcement-heavy segment of ThreeSources and also to share Mr. Wallace's awesome response:
For Wallace to comply, the state Department of Justice fingerprinted the couple and told Wallace he needed to show them such things as a solid security system for his product. Wallace sent a photograph of Buddy sitting on the front porch.

"These guys don't go for my humor," Wallace said. "Cops are the most humorless knotheads on the planet." Even so, Marco Campagna, Wallace's lawyer, promised to strengthen security and make other improvements to allay the government's concerns.


A bigger dog? Hat-tip: Insty

Posted by John Kranz at 11:57 AM | Comments (1)
But johngalt thinks:

But, iodine is a gateway drug!

Posted by: johngalt at November 26, 2011 1:37 PM

July 11, 2011

Quote of the Day

The Drug War, with an impact stretching far beyond the inner cities, is one of America's worst policies. It costs billions we don't have; it promotes the growth of transnational criminal gangs and supports large black markets in money and arms that terrorists as well as drug lords can use; if fills the prisons and it hasn't stopped either the use of existing illegal drugs or the development of new ones. Furthermore, as a Cato Institute paper estimates that legalizing and taxing drugs would yield more than $80 billion a year in savings and new revenue. (Something tells me that even the hardiest Tea Partiers might see their way to a hefty excise tax on heroin and cocaine.) -- Dirty Hippie and Professor Walter Russell Mead
To be fair, Mead raises more interesting concerns than most. His thoughtful piece is sobering reading for the legalization crowd as well.

Hat-tip: Instapundit

Posted by John Kranz at 1:19 PM | Comments (6)
But johngalt thinks:

A thorough and sober treatment of the damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't problem of illicit drugs, but not a comprehensive case for one way or the other. You seem to read it as evidence that legalizing such drugs is the least bad approach, but one of Mead's points seems to me to make that a non starter.

We will then find ourselves in an interesting position: will we say that drugs intended for medical purposes must pass rigorous testing before they can be prescribed, but recreational drugs can just be unleashed on the market? Is the FDA going to test drugs like ecstasy, crack cocaine and methamphetamine for purity and safety?

And, one might add, efficacy?

Mead observes, "The widespread use of drugs in our inner cities and elsewhere in our society is both a cause and a symptom of social decay." I agree with this chicken/egg conclusion. But we don't have to know which came first to figure out how best to stop the cycle. Drug users have proven to be remarkably ingenious both in acquiring drugs and self-rationalizing that their lives are better with than without drug trips. And the harm they do to their communities is impossible to prevent unless they drop the habit.

The answer as I see it is not legalization, but twofold: Education of our children before they start "experimenting"; and making it harder for addicts to live off of the state. I don't mean 'Just Say No' kinds of education. I'm talking about subverting the paradigm in our public schools, which teach that individuals are victims rather than achievers. Curricula follow the Postmodern subjectivist theme that "nothing is anything" from which many kids conclude it makes no difference what choices they make.

Make life something that has to be worked for once again, and teach kids that all of them can be successful if they apply themselves. Then the ailments of which drug use are a symptom will begin to heal. Genuine hope will work its magic.

Posted by: johngalt at July 11, 2011 3:26 PM
But jk thinks:

In my defense, I posted it as QOTD, especially enjoying his projected lack of Tea Party indignation on heroin taxes. And I alerted the alert reader of more nuanced views at the link.

But it was all worth it for FDA approvals on recreational drug efficacy. I'll carry that one around the rest of the day. One wishes George Carlin were still around to write the rest of the routine...

Posted by: jk at July 11, 2011 3:37 PM
But jk thinks:

I purport that your move toward a more genuine, self-reliant relationship of man and state suggests -- nay, Sir, requires -- a more grown-up, JSM-esque self sovereignty.

Posted by: jk at July 11, 2011 3:41 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Agreed. And that's hard for children reared in a nanny state to achieve. So we'll compromise by legalizing illicit drugs and privatizing the FDA. The drug testing labs that certify recreational drugs will carry that reputation and the "legitimate" pharmaceuticals will license with other labs. (Yes, I realize this is a win-win for you.)

If brother takes offense I beg his pardon. I don't mean to be a scold, I was just trying to advance the debate.

I also intended to point out that punitive "sin taxes" on legalized drugs will have the same effect as making them illegal - underground trade. Government wins. Drug gangs win. Individuals, both users and not, lose.

Posted by: johngalt at July 11, 2011 3:55 PM
But jk thinks:

Feigned offense is valuable currency in this Century -- don't worry about me too much.

I suggest that substantive taxes on cigarettes and liquor have created some crime but that it is negligible compared to street drug trade. And keep in mind we'll have about 700,000 suddenly under-occupied law enforcement officers to chase them.

Pretty sure the statue of limitations has worn off: did loyal blog readers know I put myself through a semester of college smuggling a brand of not-legal-for-import tequila from Juarez? Truly one of the best jobs of my life. But the premium on prohibition was much better than that of taxation.

Posted by: jk at July 11, 2011 4:09 PM
But johngalt thinks:

True 'nuff, but the incentive to avoid taxation was strong enough to spawn moonshiners and rum runners, who evolved into the very NASCAR Retards whence our blog takes its name.

And in the case of drugs the black market apparatus is already in place. It doesn't even need to sprout and grow.

Posted by: johngalt at July 12, 2011 3:21 PM

June 12, 2011

Ignorant Laws Have No Excuse

I set out on the internet this morning to find support for a personal premise: The existence of unenforced laws undermines respect for those laws that are enforced. The experience caused me to recognize an unacknowledged subsequent premise: Individual liberty is enhanced in a law-abiding society. For some time now I have thought the first premise was a call to action in furtherance of the second premise but then I questioned the validity of that objective, and of the second premise itself.

Slate magazine published, in October 2007, a rather wide-ranging compendium of unenforced law discussion by Tim Wu.

He addressed the drug war, illegal immigration, copyright, polygamy and more. Wu seems to conclude that non-enforcement is good for America. Not, as I would attempt, in furtherance of greater liberty but of "the economic interests of the nation."

Immigration policy is perhaps the strongest example of the ways in which tolerated lawbreaking is used to make the legal system closer to what lies in the economic interests of the nation but cannot be achieved by rational politics. All this is why the Bush administration faces an uphill battle in the course of trying a real internal enforcement strategy.

I tend to agree with this conclusion but I attribute as cause the very American attitude of individual liberty amongst voters who won't tolerate a heavy hand against individual workers and employers. More to the point is what this does to our representative government. Since our legislatures cannot achieve rational laws our judiciaries and our executives, at both state and federal levels, exercise discretion in which laws are enforced and to what extent. This appears, at first, to be a good outcome since the forces that guide the police and the courts are those of public opinion which derive, in turn, from individuals. We effectively have 300 million citizen legislators. However, this system has (at least) two major flaws.

First is the disparate influence on the legal system from concentrated versus individual interests and the tyranny of the majority. Allowing the trial lawyers lobby, the AARP and SEIU to dictate which laws are left to wither (and which to be bolstered) is no boon to liberty.

But worse yet, the ability of government to "get" any individual on some trumped up charge whenever it is "necessary" is a hallmark of totalitarian states.

At the federal prosecutor's office in the Southern District of New York, the staff, over beer and pretzels, used to play a darkly humorous game. Junior and senior prosecutors would sit around, and someone would name a random celebrity--say, Mother Theresa or John Lennon.

It would then be up to the junior prosecutors to figure out a plausible crime for which to indict him or her. (...) The trick and the skill lay in finding the more obscure offenses that fit the character of the celebrity and carried the toughest sentences. The, result, however, was inevitable: "prison time."

It's one thing when government lawyers make selective prosecution into a drinking game, but quite another when used as a tool of coercion and intimidation. In the name of liberty, laws to prevent "injuring a mail bag" have no place in a just society. Liberty is enhanced when laws are obeyed, but said laws must first be not just objective and knowable but also justified in the cause of protecting individuals from others and not from themselves.

Posted by JohnGalt at 12:47 PM | Comments (3)
But jk thinks:

Three Words: Bastiat, The Law.

Looking the other way at drugs invites discrimination against the statistically minority poor. That has been one of my big objections. Rightly or wrongly, minority youths feel that they are hassled by law enforcement, increasingly under the rubric of suspected drug possession.

Taken to its logical conclusion, unenforced law is no law, but rather rule by police and prosecutors.

Excellent post. The undermining of voluntary enforcement is a powerful point as well.

Posted by: jk at June 12, 2011 1:32 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Love the link. Six stars! If you've posted it before I was delinquent in following it.

"The Desire to Rule Over Others" is a good reply to your current FB tilt.

Posted by: johngalt at June 12, 2011 3:19 PM
But gd thinks:

Agreed. Great post and response. Nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced.

Posted by: gd at June 12, 2011 9:31 PM

May 20, 2011

Professor Miron!

Nobody's around on Friday afternoon. I can sneak in some of my pro-heroin nonsense!

UPDATE: My brothers won't like the domain (reason.com) on the url of this, but I gotta: "Marine Survives Two Tours in Iraq, SWAT Kills Him"

Posted by John Kranz at 3:23 PM | Comments (4)
But johngalt thinks:

I've been leaning your way for quite some time but the opinion of my cop brother-in-law kept me from commiting. This exchange with my hero, Judge Napolitano, helped me realize that cops can still bust drug users for the other crimes they commit while under the influence. And if they aren't commiting any other crimes there's no public harm done. (The private harm still exists but that's for others to be concerned with - his friends and family.)

I'll let you know if I can convince the cop.

Posted by: johngalt at May 20, 2011 3:54 PM
But jk thinks:

"The presumption in our free society should be that people get to do what they want so long as they are not actively harming other people by so doing." (~0:30)

Not knowing your brother-in-law ("Fife, did you say? F-I-F-E?"), I can see that law enforcement professionals would miss this great tool for use at their own discretion. But long-term, I cannot help but feel a relationship with the civilian population based on liberty and trust would serve both better.

Good luck!

Posted by: jk at May 20, 2011 4:25 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Yes, I was actually thinking he could base a run for Mayor of Los Angeles on the concept. [And since I'm typically such a sarcastic SOB I must say] "seriously."

Posted by: johngalt at May 21, 2011 3:11 PM
But jk thinks:

Yeah. But he's our sarcastic SOB -- cut him the hell down!

Posted by: jk at May 21, 2011 4:10 PM

April 1, 2011

This was not supposed to happen

This from today's Denver Post:

AURORA -- Two men were shot dead Thursday inside an apartment where they apparently planned to rob a man and a woman they thought to be marijuana growers, police said.

The couple were both critically wounded. Their child, a toddler, escaped the gunfire.

Marijuana is, for all intents and purposes, legal in Colorado. If you want it, you can get it or grow it with virtually no fear of prosecution. The Refugee was under the impression that if we made drugs legal, drug-related crime would end. What gives?

Posted by Boulder Refugee at 11:30 AM | Comments (7)
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

If a few anecdotes about police overreach can justify abandoning the enforcement of the laws, surely a few corollary anecdotes are enough to revive them.

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at April 1, 2011 2:27 PM
But jk thinks:

No my friend. You offer a few anecdotes (minus two).

There are an estimated 40,000 no-knock raids every year for drug enforcement. More than 100 households on the absolute envelope of the Fourth Amendment -- every single day. Versus one random drug crime?

The blazing false equivalence of that kept me from commenting on the difference between general availability and "legal, for all intents and purposes." An actual, de jure legality would provide much greater protection against crimes like this.

Posted by: jk at April 1, 2011 2:48 PM
But jk thinks:

But, in the spirit of brotherhood, I offer a few anecdotes: Radley Balko on the 3 Worst Cases of Police Abuse in 2011. (Only 66% are related to the War on Drugs.)

Posted by: jk at April 1, 2011 3:08 PM
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

But to be fair - and I know you are - you would have to put these incidents in the context to all drug-related police engagements. It's like using Abu Graib to say that we should never have entered Iraq.

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at April 1, 2011 4:30 PM
But jk thinks:

No, not gonna be fair today. I cannot accept that there are more than 100 incidents a day that require a no-knock raid.

These are so potentially dangerous to the public and the officers involved, that they should be reserved for Jack Bauer situations: imminent danger to innocent life. Forty thousand of these is a cumulative destruction of the Fourth Amendment.

Posted by: jk at April 1, 2011 4:50 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I'm reminded what kind of story gets the heaviest comment activity 'round here.

Posted by: johngalt at April 2, 2011 2:22 AM

March 22, 2011

Personal Sovereignty

Cui Bono?

When the SWAT team came for Richard Paey in 1997, officers battered down the front door of the Florida home he shared with his wife and their two children. Paey is a paraplegic who uses a wheelchair after a car accident and a botched back surgery. He also suffers from multiple sclerosis. Paey was accused of distributing the medication he used to treat his chronic pain, even though there was no evidence he had sold or given away a single pill. Thanks to Florida's draconian drug laws, he was eventually convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Queue the ThreeSources chorus of "well, mistakes are made and we cannot discontinue enforcement because of one bad [Judge | Cop | Prosecutor]..."

The problem, as Radley Balko explains is that the prosecutor in question still brags about this case and is now a candidate for Judge in Florida and is so far running unopposed. The good news is that Governor Charlie Christ (Weasel - FL) pardoned him after "only" four years.

NOBODY was harmed. The absolute worst thing that possibly happened (and it is disputed) is that an MS-suffering paraplegic in chronic pain after a car crash and botched back surgery may have forged a prescription to get pain medication. Thankfully they got prosecutors in the Sunshine State who are not afraid of the tough cases,

I see no reason that a man in this condition should be denied his medication or his freedom.

Posted by John Kranz at 1:03 PM | Comments (6)
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

There you go again, pulling an Obama and throwing up a strawman! Nope, not gonna defend the prosecutor.

At least he wasn't trying to use medical marijuana, the gateway drug to oxicontin.

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at March 22, 2011 2:38 PM
But jk thinks:

Yet you defend the law that allows a prosecutor to proceed. It's either right or it's wrong -- the sympathetic value of the perp should not be a factor.

We don't accept common sense / sympathetic plaintiff arguments on free speech (Snyder v. Phelps), why do we leave it up to a capricious prosecutors judgment whether Paey can access medication?

Bastiat: just law must be "understandable and avoidable." This fails on both counts.

Posted by: jk at March 22, 2011 3:29 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I'm with you on this one - Just say no to draconian drug laws. But that's no reason not to have any drug laws.

Incarceration is typically reserved for dealers, as it should be, and to which this excerpt alluded. So how did this prosecutor get a jury to make a unanimous leap from forging a prescription to engaging in distribution?

Posted by: johngalt at March 22, 2011 3:43 PM
But jk thinks:

He was on a special program with a very high dosage (allowed in New Jersey). The purchased amounts were so large that "he must be dealing" even though a recipient could not be located.

So, the pharmacist should be sent away for 25 years?

Posted by: jk at March 22, 2011 3:48 PM
But johngalt thinks:

It sounds like the jury was truly composed of his peers - they must've been on drugs too.

Who said anything about pharmacists?

Posted by: johngalt at March 22, 2011 4:52 PM
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

The idea that it's black or white, right or wrong is also a strawman. For example, we can all agree that kids shouldn't take knives to school while understand that this applies to weapons and not plasticware for spreading peanut butter.

Morphine is illegal as a recreational drug, but legal to use under the guidance of a qualified doctor. We don't haul cancer patients off to the hoosgow because they use it in a hospice.

This case sounds like a prosecutor gone wrong, but not because the law was vague. It was misapplied to circumstantial evidence where facts seem to clearly contradict the commission of a crime.

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at March 22, 2011 7:49 PM

March 18, 2011

End Racism in America

My John Stuart Mill argument for ending drug prohibition did not, as I recall, win over all ThreeSourcers to full legalization based on self-sovereignty.

I might try one more time on a more pragmatic matter. I had linked to Blog friend tg's CATO video "Ten Rules for Dealing with the Police" notable more for exposing perceptions about the police. John Stossel had John McWhorter on his show last night. McWhorter's belief is aligned perfectly with mine: take away the job of selling drugs on the corner.

My conversion, I admit, came not from some great libertarian tome, but from Richard Price's novel "Clockers." I wanted -- like McWhorter -- to expunge that profession from the face of the earth. Stossel writes a column on McWhorter's column in the recent CATO letter.

McWhorter sees prohibition as the saboteur of black families. "It has become a norm for black children to grow up in single-parent homes, their fathers away in prison for long spells and barely knowing them. In poor and working-class black America, a man and a woman raising their children together is, of all things, an unusual sight. The War on Drugs plays a large part in this."

He also blames the black market created by prohibition for diverting young black men from the normal workforce. "Because the illegality of drugs keeps the prices high," he says, "there are high salaries to be made in selling them. This makes selling drugs a standing tempting alternative to seeking lower-paying legal employment."


I invite the many who disagree to read McWhorter's complete column (pdf) and consider it in tandem with the video.
If we truly want to get past race in this country, we must be aware that it will never happen until the futile War on Drugs so familiar to us now is a memory. All it will take is a single generation of black Americans growing up in a post-Prohibition America for us to get where we all want to go. The time to end the War on Drugs, therefore, is yesterday.

Posted by John Kranz at 11:19 AM | Comments (2)
But Keith Arnold thinks:

I'm not unsympathetic toward your stance, but I'm going to have to quibble with Mr. McWhorter's argument.

"It has become a norm for black children to grow up in single-parent homes, their fathers away in prison for long spells and barely knowing them..." Really? What percentage of black men in America are in prison for being drug pushers? I do not know myself. By "the norm," I assume he means more than fifty percent - otherwise, not being in prison for selling drugs is the norm. Is imprisonment really the primary reason why black children are raised in single-parent homes, as he implies? Or are there other, larger causes.

There are plenty of good reasons I can be open to arguing in favor of a change in drug enforcement policy; race is not one of them. Drugs are not prejudiced, and they don't have a motivation to single out one particular race to target. Drugs don't put a sheet over their head and burn crosses in people's yards, and the CIA didn't spread them in the ghetto to keep the black man down.

Full disclosure: I have a personal ax to grind with drugs. I have a lily-white younger brother who, while I was off to college, went from being a straight-A student with a bright future to a dysfunctional cretin who barely graduated from high school by the scum of his teeth and pretty much ruined his life. Readers deserve to know the basis for a personal animus I bear toward drugs.

That being said: it has been written by better men than me that slavery could not destroy the black family, the Klan could not destroy the black family, and Jim Crow could not destroy the black family, and I agree. I've read that before and during the Depression, the black neighborhoods of Harlem had the lowest crime rate in New York, and the lowest divorce rate.

McWhorter's argument is much better employed as an argument to end a welfare system and a tax policy that reward illegitimacy, encourage absent fathers, and punish marriage and family unity. If we truly want to get past race in this country, we must be aware that it will never happen until these destructive economic policies are a memory. Drug enforcement policy, to a far, far lesser extent.

Posted by: Keith Arnold at March 18, 2011 12:11 PM
But jk thinks:

Don't want to be accused of cherry-picking data, but I went on a hunt for statistics, and the first I found was in Slate

54% of federal prisoners are serving time for drug offenses, according to The Sentencing Project, with only 11% for violent crime. Drug crime rates have increased regardless of the increase in imprisonment.

There are yards of stats about incarceration by ethnicity but fewer for offense. I’m not convinced that this is the best source yet I also suspect many non-drug offenses are related to the trade.

Drugs are color-blind but I don't think it's the height of namby-pambyism to suggest that enforcement might not be. I'll join my leftist friends in one line: Drugs ARE legal. How many rich cokeheads are arrested in Aspen or Santa Fe? Drugs get more illegal the less money you have. In poor communities with high minority populations, drugs are very illegal.

Your argument about welfare incentives finds a willing heart with me. But I see (and McWhorter eloquently explains) a deracination from the foundations of self sufficient society as a consequence of the Drug War. Black Convicts are "heroes" for providing people with a product they want. The Police represent white society.

I see this extending to rejecting education as "acting white." Helping Police solve a murder is "snitching." This adversarial relationship can be terminated in one second by ending the drug war. Ending racism is a bold claim, but it rewrites the rules and realigns personnel to facilitate it. Take away this hard shell and we can start to peel the onion skin down.

I am sorry to hear about your brother. I've lost friends to drugs. Some are dead and some might as well be. But I cannot look back and see any instance where prohibition helped any of them. Nor do I know a person who was saved by prohibition.

Posted by: jk at March 18, 2011 1:12 PM

November 18, 2010

Citizens or Subjects?

No doubt brother br will chime in in support of the authorities, here. They were just doing their job, most milk patrol officers are good people, goat bites can be extremely painful, and drinking raw milk is not a victimless crime -- children may have to smell it if you get sick.

But for the rest of us, can we start with a little John Stuart Mill? I rolled my eyes at announcements that the FDA banned caffeinated alcoholic drinks. Not sure that's a good idea (I mean what would you drink to sober up?) but the wholesale theft of our sovereignty is deeply disturbing.

Clearly, the answer is subjects.

Posted by John Kranz at 10:54 AM | Comments (14)
But Keith Arnold thinks:

If you ever want a good laugh, by the way, walk into the produce section of a California grocery market, and stand next to the "organic" tomatoes. Say, to no one in particular, "so, what the hell are those over there supposed to be? Plastic?"

One of two things will happen. Either every recycled hippie within earshot will be horribly embarrassed and slink away, or one self-righteous one who has never seen Penn and Teller will start a lecture on the superiority of the organics (justifying the triple price differential).

Let them talk for about a minute, and then say, "so, it's the paraquat that does this to your brain, right?" Try to keep a straight face when you do that, too.

Posted by: Keith Arnold at November 18, 2010 5:18 PM
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

If The Refugee were to ever enter an organic California market he would immediately be recognized as an imposter and banished as a heretic.

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at November 18, 2010 5:39 PM
But Keith Arnold thinks:

BR: the credit you give Californians for situational awareness is unwarranted. Ey're-thay ot-nay oo-tay ight-bray, ifyaknowwhatimean.

Listened to the video at home last night, and I'm completely with the Rawesome folks. If the authorities were making this kind of raid on a meth lab or a chop shop, that might be a bit different - but the guns-out assault on a dairy cooperative goes well beyond just stormtrooper level.

Posted by: Keith Arnold at November 19, 2010 12:52 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Like I said, "dairy lobby."

BR, brother, yer confusin' me. No moonbats voted Tancredo for governor. Not a single one.

With as much humility as I can muster, I think y'all are missing the main point of my "liberalism has jumped the shark" commentary. The point is that Liberals are not liberal. Think of it this way: The old-fashioned establishment liberals (jk's Progressives) are merely plastic, preservative-laden facsimilies of pro-freedom independent thinkers. Today's healthy "organic" Liberals are TEA Partiers.

And I think this may subconsciously be why leftists mock the TEA Party movement so zealously. While the TEA Party message gets to be anti-government, the leftists are stuck defending the state, the man, the status-quo. From an individual liberty perspective, the TEA Party is cool and the left-statists are the true "Party of No." (No SUVs. No internal combustion. No cheap electricity. No private health insurance....)

Or is this all just so obvious that it isn't a novel idea?

Posted by: johngalt at November 19, 2010 2:40 PM
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

JG,

"I smell Federal Dairy Lobby" was just a wonderful pun - gave me a good laugh. And, quite likely true.

I was also poking some fun at myself for suddenly finding me defending state intervention. Trust me, that's been a rarity in my life. It dawned on me that I'm likely the left wing member of this illustrious cadre.

I understand where you're going with the definition of classical liberal and entirely agree. The definitions over time have been turned upside down. "Statist" and "individualist" or "self-reliant" likely are better labels, but not likely to catch on soon.

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at November 19, 2010 3:31 PM
But johngalt thinks:

We all need to keep in mind that the raison d'etre for the philosophy of Postmodernism is to destroy the meaning of the word "objectivity." If enough things are explained in enough different and contradictory ways then people who value consistency, reason and facts will throw up their hands in disgust and abandon the field to the babblers, who then will be free to shape outcomes in their desired image. We've seen this in education, climate "science" and the whole liberalism/statism conundrum is its manifestation in politics.

We mustn't worry about what might "catch on" but we also can't abandon the field of politics to politicians any longer. Just keep using the words that you know have meaning: Liberty, individual, freedom, human, dollar.

Posted by: johngalt at November 20, 2010 1:13 PM

November 10, 2010

Three Cheers for the ACLU!

If this story does not chill you...

Jameson Hospital, where Isabella Rodriguez was born on April 27, has a policy of testing expectant mothers' urine for illegal drugs and reporting positive results to LCCYS, even without any additional evidence that the baby is in danger of neglect or abuse. LCCYS, in turn, has a policy of seizing such babies from their homes based on nothing more than the test result. Unfortunately for Isabella's parents, Elizabeth Mort and Alex Rodriguez, Jameson sets the cutoff level for its opiate test so low that it can be triggered by poppy seeds, which is why two caseworkers and two Neshannock Township police officers visited their home the day after baby and mother returned from the hospital. LCCYS seized the three-day-old girl and put her in foster care for five days before conceding it had made a mistake.

The ACLU does not get a ton of love on these pages, but hip-hip-hooray, baby!

What kind of world lets a government take a new baby from her parents? Based on a goddam drug test? Even if the test was not a false positive -- hands up those who think the child is better in foster care. Mandatory drug tests for parenthood?

I've only one question mark remaining: Citizens or Subjects?

UPDATE: The PA-ACLU Case

Posted by John Kranz at 10:43 AM | Comments (24)
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

The issue isn't that complex. The fundamental problems are only two. The first is that there's the political contraption called "the state," which has the absolute authority to determine arbitrarily that it can seize our children. The second is that most people today are cowards, lacking the will to act.

By what authority did the government seize Isabella? None, really, but people accepted that the government had it, never questioning why. Look at this state-worshippers' tripe, in which he begs his own question. Essentially his argument is that government is needed for order, for virtue, for prosperity, because he says only government can provide them. It's because of such blindness that government can impose its will via raw force, which is how other criminals commit violence anyway.

So Isabella was to be taken away for her own good, and there was nothing the parents could have done. Unless they wanted to get themselves killed, that is, because to defend their daughter and themselves, they'd have ultimately needed to use deadly force to fight off the "authorities" so empowered to kidnap their child. Meanwhile, all the hospital staff, and probably everyone else, would have just stood there.

This ties into the second, that most people are cowards. It's easier for hospital staff to assume, "Well, they're police, they must have good reason," than. It's easier for police to seize a newborn, than for them to be good neighbors and march upon someone's house when they're pretty sure.

If I were beating my children, then by God my neighbors should do something about it themselves, instead of waiting for the gummint. I'm not talking about old-fashioned discipline when a child deserves it, but what happened to Nixzmary Brown. (It was big news in NY. Google her name and see if you can read through the whole Wikipedia entry without crying.) Wouldn't you try to intervene, as Moses did when he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, when someone's committing a wrongful act upon another?

People throw around "Don't take matters into your own hands," when in fact that's the courageous thing to do. You're not waiting for someone else to get his hands dirty, to risk his life, to enforce some arbitrary set of statutes and behavioral codes. You're using your own mind, your own physical ability, to enforce what's right. And what is right? Well, can't we judge for ourselves? Didn't God give us brains?

Moreover, you're entrusting the task to only yourself, instead of hoping "the system" will work. We don't have a justice system, only a judicial system. A court is not concerned with what's right, but with what is "according to the law." It doesn't dispense justice, only verdicts and punishments according to its arbitrarily interpreted procedures.

And should someone wrong me grievously even though he thought he was doing right, he'll find himself burning to death in his own house. It comes down to being damn sure before you commit an act that you can't take back -- what a pity the government doesn't do that, huh?

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at November 12, 2010 1:23 PM
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

Sorry, Perry, I don't think it's that black-and-white. But I will give you this: you have shown an element of caring for the child that has been lacking from any other counter-argument. All of the other arguments have said, "The child is ALWAYS better off with a parent," which your example clearly illustrates is not true. Thousands of such examples exist.

I will also agree with you that individual people must step up, and the more they do so, the less we need government. Our family has taken in a young lady thrown out by her parents and helped her finish high school. I have also taken in a homeless, alcoholic friend to try to help him get back on his feet and beat the addition. None of this with was with government interference nor compenstation.

I will also agree that neighbors should step in to bad situations. However, this is where we will disagree. Yes, private parties should step up when possible, but there are not always willing people (including family members) to do so.

Now, the real disagreement: Should neighbors step in according to their own dictates or according to some rule of law? I say rule of law. For example, I would not want my neighbor to take away my child because I swatted him on the butt, even though that fits my neighbor's definition of "abuse." Moreover, let's define "neighbor." Governments are not amorphous objects. They are made up of people, who are our neighbors. We need to elect decent, common sense people who appoint decent, common sense judges who can then act as appropiate "neighbors" when private efforts fail.

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at November 12, 2010 1:47 PM
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

Actually, I don't argue that every situation is black or white, but that the basic principle is. Each situation must be judged according to its particular circumstances. A child may not necessarily be better off with either party. Perhaps a boy is being whipped brutally at home, but it's a pedophile neighbor wishing to "save" him.

Like I said, the situation must be thought through. Carefully. The police and courts don't, because they're too busy with "the law" and not what's just and proper, they're rarely held accountable for their mistakes, and it's not their money anyway. Something we didn't even get into, but what I've talked about before, is that I and every other unwilling taxpayer help fund the tragedies, whether it's paying police who kidnap children or fail to save others. When I'm not coerced, I have my own resources to devote to what I think needs a dose of justice.

When it's your life, your fortune, your sacred honor on the line, you're going to fight even harder. You're also going to question yourself before doing a thing: is this worth it? Say the kid next door is beaten every night, because you can hear him. The wife regularly has black eyes, her arm's now in a sling, and she says she keeps falling down. What do you do?

Well, the father's a real redneck, and his inbred cousins often come over. You know they all have weapons. What do you do?

As Bastiat defined law, "It is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense." Are there enough people of enough courageous to do what's right? To keep themselves sufficiently armed so they can do what's right? Or will they leave it to someone else?

"but there are not always willing people (including family members) to do so."

That is where people fail twice: firstly because of their cowardice, and secondly because their cowardice spawns government. All that is necessary for the triumph of evil, right?

You talk about "rule of law." Which law, and written by whom? The law that makes good people wait two years to adopt a baby, but allows greedy bastards to become professional foster parents? I knew the latter, and I knew the facts because I unfortunately knew the mother. They'd take in foster child after foster child because it was profitable, spending a portion of the monthly stipend on themselves. Child Services probably still hasn't caught up with them.

"Neighbor" was defined well in Luke 10:25-37. "Neighbor" comes down to whosoever is courageous enough to do something. The priest, i.e. the legal authority of the Jews, ignored him. So did the Levite, of the tribe who administered the Law of Moses. It was the Samaritan, of a people not regarded at all, who stopped to help.

Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?

And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

"We need to elect decent, common sense people who appoint decent, common sense judges"

Good luck with that. I sooner trust to my own judgment.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at November 13, 2010 4:25 PM
But nanobrewer thinks:

BR Wrote:
"your solution is to never take a kid away from the parents?"

Easy now, 20, 19, 18....

No, I didn't say that. I agreed with JK, and he didn't say "never take a kid away." I thought we were discussing the case of an undeclared blood test being shared with a state agency w/o disclosure. THAT's what I'm agin... also the idea that substance abuse that causes a child to be underdeveloped is considered an after the fact crime (aka, willful endangerment).

Yes, I think the state can step in, but only when the kid's current safety are at risk. Yes, I realize how hard this is to prove, and thereby why some State agencies therefore are more proactive than the letter of the law allows.

In Issie Rodriguez's case: I'm 110% with JK, and the state should be smacked back. I hope the little one is OK, and is back with her parents.

Posted by: nanobrewer at November 14, 2010 12:50 AM
But jk thinks:

Not never. Safe, legal (due process), and rare.

Posted by: jk at November 14, 2010 12:01 PM
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

"Yes, I think the state can step in, but only when the kid's current safety are at risk."

But the problem is that Neshannock Township police did just that. They said the daughter was in danger, and the nature of the state is such that no one, NO ONE, can question it.

This was a case of kidnapping, and every goddamn pig involved deserves a slow death.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at November 15, 2010 1:30 PM

September 15, 2010

End Racism in America

Blog friend tg suggests that everybody in America should see CATO's video "Ten Rules for Dealing with Police."

We had some good natured persiflage on his comments page as to whether the wonky CATO introduction was better than the short documentary they screened and highlighted (I took the affirmative).

But I suggest ThreeSourcers watch it for a different reason. It highlights drug prohibition's exacerbation of race relations. The officer after makes the claim we could "end racism" by ending the drug war. I don't think I'll go that far, but I will suggest:

  • Aggressive drug policing makes residents feel disconnected from their communities.

  • This deracinated populace has no reason to contribute to a community, city, state, or country that they are not a part of.

  • Without policing drug crimes, police could establish better relations with lower-income communities and enjoy greater cooperation and participation.

I'm guessing ThreeSourcers are going to hate this video. It teaches Constitutional rights, but it is presented through a prism of institutional and police racism. I'd challenge you to disagree if you want, but realize that these feelings are prevalent. And that they are perpetuated thanks in part to drug prohibition.

RELATED TOPIC; My blog brother jg offers another "trade" for drug legalization in a comment below. This time, he offers to accept legalization in exchange for privatization of education financing. Milton Friedman would be proud: vouchers and ending prohibition.

I'll accept either half of that deal and love both. But I again think he misidentifies the polity for legalization. Are the teachers' unions the obstacles to ending the drug war? Maybe they are but I do not see it that way.

I will say that I am stunned from my representative sample of the population. I agree with a populist, Limbaugh-listening relative and his überprogressive daughter. I have bonded with libertarians, liberals, and a large smattering of conservatives. Yet the opposition around ThreeSources surprised in its ferocity. I still think there is a plurality for it. But the distribution and different reasons preclude it -- and make jg's legislative bargains particularly difficult.

Posted by John Kranz at 6:51 PM | Comments (6)
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

The Refugee has little to say that will advance the debate, but will say that this is an awesome post! Very well articulated.

Nevertheless, he cannot help making a few comments. What this argument really says is that drug abuse is disproportionately within the minority community. Thus, legalizing drugs would largely get the cops off minorities backs, so to speak. However, it would likely do nothing to reduce the incidence of substance abuse among minorities. Cops are not the scourge - narcotics are.

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at September 15, 2010 10:41 PM
But jk thinks:

Thanks for the kind words.

There is a line in the CATO discussion that suggests "We already have drug legalization in the white community." I'll suggest that we have more trafficking in minority communities.

By nature, you'll have more use among less affluent demographics. But I return to the NRA-esque argument of let's deal with the crime and abuse instead of inanimate objects.

Were non-users and no-offenders less likely to encounter police searching for narcotics, it would be a huge step forward for making our society more inclusive.

Posted by: jk at September 16, 2010 9:36 AM
But johngalt thinks:

The "obstacles to ending the drug war" are the many examples of societal chaos when drug use is rampant. Do we have many examples of widespread drug forbearance where it is not prohibited? More simply, where has legalization resulted in lower consumption among at-risk populations?

The way to win the drug "war" is to restore hope to the members of those at-risk populations. I don't see how abandoning their communities to the ravages of drug distribution and use will engender anything of any sort of positive nature. (Those damn po-leece don't even care enough about us poor *fill-in-the-blank* folk to come down here and arrest these animals!)

What we are ferrociously opposed to is rewarding drug use, particularly when it is draped in the clothing of some magical "but all the bad stuff will stop when it is legal" canard.

Posted by: johngalt at September 16, 2010 4:15 PM
But jk thinks:

Ahem. The government's role is to minimize drug use? That's the reason to continue denying liberty? Perhaps we should outlaw transfats. They're bad. And everywhere they're illegal less is consumed. Salt. Bacon, Cheeze-whiz. You make this stuff legal and more people will use it!

I think they have "ravages of drug distribution" now. Abandoning them to a legal market will provide some commerce in a licensed legitimate business. The idea that users will be significantly worse neighbors than gang wars for sales territories is hard to accept.

What is easy for me to accept, as a rule of law guy, is that you don't make something legal because you cannot enforce it. That's compelling, but not for unjust law.

"We cannot reward those colonists, they must pay the Stamp Tax!"

"We cannot reward those runaway slaves, they must return to their masters!"

"We cannot reward those suffragists until they realize that inferior women cannot be trusted with the voting franchise."

"We cannot let those n****** ride in the front of the bus in Montgomery!"

You legalize because you believe in liberty, but many other benefits are accrued.

Posted by: jk at September 16, 2010 5:00 PM
But johngalt thinks:

If we aren't careful we'll fall into the pattern of past debates. I didn't mean to imply that it is government's role to minimize drug use. I'm trying to point out the reasons why otherwise liberty-minded folk - my LAPD brother-in-law included - can support prohibition. I'm trying to advance the dialog.

You make a valid point about the relative scourges of drug users vs. outlaw drug dealers. That's the direction the conversation needs to lead, not back to "you're a nannyist because you want the streets to be safe for your wife and children."

Posted by: johngalt at September 16, 2010 7:25 PM
But jk thinks:

Heh. I thought you were (somewhat rightfully) going to blast me for comparing the stoners to the great freedom struggles.

Bit I disagree the idea of legalization as a "reward." Individual sovereignty is the foundation of birthright liberty. We don't let people do things, we stop prohibiting them, except in the case of direct harm to others.

Posted by: jk at September 17, 2010 10:39 AM

September 13, 2010

Drug War, Federal Power

Pick any reason you want to hate this:

Thirty-seven-year-old El Paso City Council member Beto O'Rourke, a father of three, told me that before witnessing the slaughter of his neighbors and the economic decline of his city, he'd never really given the drug war much thought. But in 2008, after more than 1,660 murders, the city council sponsored a resolution condemning the violence with an amendment he offered "calling for an open and honest dialogue on ending the prohibition in this country." The resolution passed 8-0, but the mayor vetoed it on the grounds that it would make the city look bad in Austin and Washington.

When the council tried to override the veto, Mr. O'Rourke says council members received phone calls from Democratic Congressman Sylvester Reyes that "basically threatened [the city] with loss of federal funds if we continued with this resolution." Mr. Reyes's office says it only sent a message that in a moment when the congressman was trying to garner stimulus funds for El Paso, the resolution "wasn't helpful." The override failed by two votes.


"Am open and honest dialog" threatened the city's esteem in Austin, Washington, and in the take-a-number-please line for Federal Jack.

Meanwhile across the Rio Grande, "Since the beginning of this year, more than 2,200 people in the city have been murdered. Since 2008, the toll is almost 6,500. On a per capita basis this would be equivalent to some 26,000 murders in New York City." This is causing, Mary Anastasia O'Grady asserts, conservatives in Texas and Catholics in El Paso to rethink Drug Prohibition that they have heretofore supported.

tg, call your office...

Posted by John Kranz at 4:51 PM | Comments (3)
But Jillian Galloway thinks:

$113 billion is spent on marijuana every year in the U.S., and because of the federal prohibition *every* dollar of it goes straight into the hands of criminals. Far from preventing people from using marijuana, the prohibition instead creates zero legal supply amid massive and unrelenting demand. We are all responsible for the consequences of this policy!

According to the ONDCP, at least sixty percent of Mexican drug cartel money comes from selling marijuana in the U.S., they protect this revenue by brutally torturing, murdering and dismembering countless innocent people.

If we can STOP people using marijuana then we need to do so NOW, but if we can't then we must legalize the production and sale of marijuana to adults with after-tax prices set too low for the cartels to match. One way or the other, we have to force the cartels out of the marijuana market and eliminate their highly lucrative marijuana incomes - no business can withstand the loss of sixty percent of its revenue!

To date, the cartels have amassed more than 100,000 "foot soldiers" and operate in 230 U.S. cities, and it's now believed that the cartels are "morphing into, or making common cause with, what would be considered an insurgency" (Secretary of State Clinton, 09/09/2010). The longer the cartels are allowed to exploit the prohibition the more powerful they'll get and the more our own personal security will be put in jeopardy.

Posted by: Jillian Galloway at September 14, 2010 12:54 AM
But johngalt thinks:

I have a better idea than legalizing pot, thus allowing market forces to drive the price down to something on a par with spinach and therefore put outlaw gangs "out of business." Instead the US Federal Government should mandate that all Americans buy a set quantity of pot from government owned and/or regulated suppliers whether they want it or not. Non-compliant growers and distributors will be raided by the FBI and shut down. THAT'S the most effective way to put private, for-profit organizations "out of business."

(Tongue placed only slightly into cheek.)

Posted by: johngalt at September 14, 2010 2:52 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Not drawing any reactions with yesterday's quip I'll try a slightly more serious approach:

Legalize pot (and maybe eventually hash, qualludes, cocaine, PCP, meth, etc. - because you know the bar would keep moving) but privatize the public school system and give equal credit vouchers for education to every child-citizen, which their parents could spend on a local, private, for-profit school of their choice. The number of students being taught that "tune in, turn on, and drop out" is in their best interest would plummet.

This would also have incalculable other positive consequences.

Posted by: johngalt at September 15, 2010 2:32 PM

August 7, 2010

Locally Grown "Medicine"

Yes, we all know that "medical" marijuana is a con to get the stuff out in the open. But c'mon!

Some tasty phrases from separate ads on the 5 pages of pot "dispensary" ads in the back of the Boulder Weekly independent newspaper:

Daily Specials for our Customers (while supplies last) ... Tuesday - Free Doobie Day!

Now Showing - Black Domina, Indica dominant with a hash-like buzz; Blueberry Crush, Succulent berry flavor with a smooth berry finish; Peak-19, Named after Mt. Everest for its epic highness!

Boulder's Most Discreet Dispensary - Recommended by both the Wall Street Journal and the Associated Press.

And my favorite. The one that had me laughing hysterically:

Happy Hour 1pm to 3pm Monday through Friday (...) FREE GRAM for First Time Patients

"Patients." Yeah.

Posted by JohnGalt at 11:15 AM | Comments (4)
But jk thinks:

I've shared my disappointment that things have turned out as they have. Megan McArdle had a great mea culpa that she did not foresee emergency room use going up after RomneyCare® was enacted and increased demands on office physicians exceeded demand. She cautions that libertarians, understanding unintended consequences, should not be so surprised by them.

Disappointment aside, would I change my vote or the seriousness with which I supported it? Nope.

Unseemly though it is, it is saving the Angel Raiches of the State. I don't know how many real patients there are but it is nonzero and it is an unalloyed good for them.

For the others, are we really worse off? They would just be buying it black market or drinking instead or cooking up meth in the toaster oven. I don't know but I suspect the increased use the accessibility provides is offset by the removal of this money stream from the underground economy.

We could fix things for both of us. How about legal, regulated and taxed?

Posted by: jk at August 7, 2010 12:35 PM
But johngalt thinks:

No, I really don't have a problem with it being legal. I just want something in return.

As for regulating and taxing it, I'm far more opposed to those government functions than anything related to weed.

The impetus for posting this was the hypocrisy. It was legalized as a pain med and is marketed like a micro-brew. Free samples and discreetness and happy hours for Advil? I don't think so. Is our society so immature that we can't just be honest?

Posted by: johngalt at August 7, 2010 6:05 PM
But jk thinks:

A dozen links and I am still baffled by this compromise. "I'll take that free Corvette I won in the raffle -- BUT ONLY IF it comes with a free roast chicken!"

Posted by: jk at August 8, 2010 11:58 AM
But johngalt thinks:

Maybe it's just me...

I see the subset of America who are activists for legalized pot as environmentalist liberals.

I see the subset of America who are activists for domestic oil production as SUV drivin' conservatives.

Those in the conservative camp oppose pot more than I do (and way more than you do) but I suggest they accede to legal pot if the pothead anti-capitalists will do so on domestic oil drilling.

Wouldn't you call that a compromise between those two factions?

Posted by: johngalt at August 9, 2010 2:31 PM

July 30, 2010

It Might Make You Fat!

Sleep easy tonight, parents, the children are now safe!

Last night the United States Senate voted to double the penalties for the nation’s newest existential threat: brownies made with marijuana!

The Senate unanimously passed Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)’s “Saving Kids from Dangerous Drugs Act of 2009″ (S. 258) that targets pot brownies and other marijuana edibles preferred by some medical marijuana patients. The bill next moves to the House; if it passes that chamber, anyone making pot brownies or similar products could be subject to double the fines and jail time for regular marijuana.


Senator Feinstein (Grassley's in too, maybe if they used corn sweetener instead of sugar...) is afraid this will lead to "candy flavored meth."

Hat-tip: NRO Corner. Andrew Stuttaford gets a Headline-of-the-Day for Another Fine Meth

Posted by John Kranz at 4:16 PM | Comments (1)
But Keith Arnold thinks:

Right, this is for the children. "Careful the things you say - children will listen..."

The penalty for Alice B. Toklas Brownies is doubled; the penalty for thirteen separate charges of corruption in the Senate is barely a scolding. Definitely convenient seeking this is two consecutive posts.

What will the children learn from this, huh?

Posted by: Keith Arnold at July 30, 2010 5:43 PM

June 16, 2010

Must See TV

Stossel's Thursday show will be on The Drug War:

40 years ago, President Nixon declared a war on drugs, but what has it achieved? Police forces that increasingly resemble paramilitary forces, breaking down doors, holding families at gun-point, killing the family dog...over small amounts of marijuana. Drug gangs are funded by the high profits that come from black market smuggling. All to stop people from getting stoned?

On my FBN show tomorrow (Thursday @ 8pm & midnight ET), I'll debate some of that with Fox News' Sean Hannity. In my syndicated column today, I explain why I think that drug laws cause more harm than drug use.


Posted by John Kranz at 4:35 PM | Comments (1)
But johngalt thinks:

Please let us know if you hear any new arguments from either side.

Posted by: johngalt at June 17, 2010 3:36 PM

June 14, 2010

Really Strange Bedfellows

Fairness dictates that I share a movie review with my ThreeSources brothers and sisters.

On the recommendation of my truther buddy, I put "How Weed Won the West" on my Netflix Queue. Wasn't sure what to expect, but I took a flyer. Watching their argument for the decriminalization of marijuana, I am tempted to call up Bill Bennett and sign up. "Mister Secretary, I'm joining the war, where do I start?"

It was a paranoid-left version or reality that asserted that pot was illegal to enrich the corporations who run private jails, and that pharmaceutical firms were onboard because they can't patent it and it cures everything and makes all other "medicine" obsolete.

We are enlightened to all this by one bombastic talk show host, but mostly by a bunch of stoners who are always smoking onscreen out of giant bongs and wearing T-shirts with their favorite varieties. A few gang members and a professional female wrestler break up the monotony. No John Stuart Mill, a few bows to the possible revenue streams from a taxed and legal product, but basically two hours of naive losers. I give it a half star (and that's for the wrestler).

Posted by John Kranz at 12:27 PM | Comments (0)

May 17, 2010

Drug War vs. Real War

Our foray into militarized SWAT raids quickly devolved into an interesting discussion on drug laws. I'm all for it.

But back to the original question of the suitability of using paramilitary tactics on US citizens, I have to link to (those hippies at) Reason. Radley Balko gets a letter from a "US Army officer, currently serving in Afghanistan." I'll cede some selection bias in that he is writing to Reason Magazine, but this officer suggests that rules of engagement are far stricter in a war zone fighting suspected Taliban than in Missouri fighting US citizens who have a Constitutional presumption of innocence:

For our troops over here to conduct any kind of forced entry, day or night, they have to meet one of two conditions: have a bad guy (or guys) inside actively shooting at them; or obtain permission from a 2-star general, who must be convinced by available intelligence (evidence) that the person or persons they're after is present at the location, and that it's too dangerous to try less coercive methods. The general can be pretty tough to convince, too. (I'm a staff liason, and one of my jobs is to present these briefings to obtain the required permission.)
[...]
Oh, and all of the bad guys we're going after are closely tied to killing and maiming people.

Hat-tip: Instapundit.

UPDATE: Balko is cutting out the middleman and guest blogging at Instpundit this week. I fear It's going to be a long week for the conservatives around here. Y'all might want to join Glenn and take the week off...

Posted by John Kranz at 12:05 PM | Comments (3)
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

Rather than a critisism of our SWAT tactics on innocent, peace loving, salt-of-the-earth drug addicts, I think this is an indictment of our idiotic rules of engagement ever since Korea.

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at May 17, 2010 2:11 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Agreed, BR. It sounds to me like our boys in Afghani could use a few of Obama's missile-carrying "surveilance" drones that the CIA's been flying next door in Pak. They don't seem to require quite as much oversight before blowing things up.

Posted by: johngalt at May 17, 2010 2:45 PM
But jk thinks:

Expected and generally agree.

And yet I'd highlight the efficacy of the Army's raids, using tactics appropriate for civilian law enforcement.

Posted by: jk at May 17, 2010 3:13 PM