Ron Paul is right a lot Tuesday, Apr 13 2010 

Some readers might not believe it, but there was a period of time when I considered myself a “Ron Paul libertarian.” Paul is who inspired me to explore libertarianism and, indeed, politics in general. His run for presidency last election got me to not only explore political concepts differently but to also be actively engaged in the issues of the day, so he has always been an influential person in my political understandings. However, not long ago, I became disillusioned with Paul and suffice it to say I disagree with Paul on several key issues. There’s no need to go into the details of that transformation, but I should point out that I still agree with Paul on many things.

One thing that I particularly like about Paul is that he’s quick to criticize both of the political parties in the United States (even when he belongs to one of them). I don’t usually like to get involved in party politics, as they are usually inane, but I think Paul raises some great points that are hard to ignore. One salient point that he highlighted at last week’s Southern Republican Leadership Conference, much to the chagrin of many of the conservative Republicans in attendance, was the hypocrisy of mainstream Republicanism. He blasted them for their neoconservative tendencies. In his speech that drew both applause and ire, Paul pointed out, “The conservatives and the liberals, they both like to spend.” He condemned how “Conservatives spend money on different things.” To wit, “They like embassies, and they like occupation. They like the empire. They like to be in 135 countries and 700 bases.”

Certainly the right-wing loves to pay lip service to fiscal conservatism, balancing budgets, and keeping spending to a minimum. In practice, however, they act just the opposite, as the record clearly demonstrates. Paul, despite being a member of the Republican party, has no qualms mentioning this. Paul is right in lambasting them for their costly endeavors, which include the expansionist foreign policy, two wars in the Middle East, Wall Street bailouts, tax cuts without spending cuts, and radical spending on military. This is all okay by Republican standards, and they see no inconsistency in their rhetoric for small government and limited spending.

Republicans actually tend to outspend their Democrat counterparts. It was, after all, Bill Clinton who created a budget surplus and George W. Bush who accumulated more national debt than every other president combined (to use the words of Stephen Frank of the political science department and supported by King Banaian of the economics department). While Democrats do spend, they typically “spend money on different things,” like social programs, science, aide, education, and infrastructure. They also don’t tend go on and on about deficits, limiting spending, and so on.

The pattern is familiar. Ronald Reagan, for example, championed free markets, but very rarely ever adhered to the doctrine. Noam Chomsky refers to this as the “really existing free market doctrine,” namely because it rarely is ever consistent with “the official doctrine that is taught to and by the educated classes, and imposed on the defenceless.” George H. W. Bush railed against taxes—before he raised them. George W. Bush touted “no nation building,” before he began his senseless adventurism in the Middle East. Perhaps we shouldn’t expect anything else from politicians.

Indeed, to bring it to the present, Michele Bachmann, the congresswoman from Minnesota, claimed yesterday, “we’ve gone from the United States having 100% of the private economy private, to today the federal government effectively owns or controls 51% of the private economy” over the past 15 months of President Obama’s presidency (this is why she believes Obama is “anti-American” and “the most radical president” in U.S. history). Of course, it’s not very difficult to see how patently absurd her claims are. One of her examples is the bank bailouts. However, as FOX News’ Chris Wallace was quick to point out, it was President Bush who started those bailouts, which Bachmann responded was “unfortunate.” Certainly unfortunate for her argument. Even more unfortunate is that Obama’s actions don’t actually constitute “nationalization.”

As Ben Chabot of the Yale economics department keenly pointed out to NPR in 2008, “it’s not nationalization because they didn’t buy common stock with voting rights, so they don’t have a seat at the table.” The business press is in accord, and believe “the Obama plan is working.” But even if it was nationalization, there’s nothing “anti-American” about nationalization, as Harvard’s Richard Parker is quick to point out. He mentions our long history of government intervention and nationalization, beginning with “the Northwest Ordinance of 1789, and then the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.” He continues with mentioning the vast amount of land, airspace, roads, and valuable infrastructure that the U.S. government owns. During the two world wars, the U.S. government took over sizable portions of the economy—one reason for the U.S.’s recuperation from the Great Depression. After 9/11, Bush “effectively nationalized the private-security firms at airports, and replaced them with the federal TSA.” Needless to say, no one moaned about “anti-Americanism.” As I have always liked to mention, the United States has always been heavily involved in markets (having a Republican president or Congress makes no difference); fantasies about the “American free market system” are just that.

In my opinion, all this says something about the intellectual and moral culture of today’s Republicanism and our society in general. The underpinning assumption on which all this works is that what’s wrong for you is right for me. It’s a poor reflection that we cannot rise to even a minimal moral standard.

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Democracy vs. libertarianism Monday, Jan 11 2010 

One of the problems that ideologues of any persuasion probably run into is the problem of democracy. What do I mean by “the problem of democracy”? What I mean by this is that the democratic majority often does not adhere or conform perfectly to the ideology that a person or group may have. This can be a problem for the ideologue if he or she professes to be a democrat (a supporter of democracy). So, for example, the libertarian may decry the government’s role in society, despite the democratic majority wanting social programs or government regulation. Thus, any claim that we should wipe out social spending is inherently anti-democratic in this sense. My previous post on government involvement touches on this issue. Of course, the ideologue can bypass this “problem” if they do not profess to be democrats. Instead, we should simply implement the policies of our ideology, no matter how much the public is opposed to it. That is, we become authoritarians. For the libertarian or the anarchist, this is inherently paradoxical. We cannot claim to be libertarians and authoritarians at the same time—the ideas are necessarily opposed to each other. It is not possible to authoritatively implement our policies in the name of libertarianism, for example. That isn’t to say no one has tried; for example, Augusto Pinochet, in his brutal dictatorship over Chile, enacted free-market reforms in the name of “liberating.” We know that’s hypocritical, and we understand the perversity in his understanding of “liberty.” Here, “liberty” means liberty for the corporation, not for the people. Thus, the ideas of libertarianism and anti-democratic measures are incompatible.

How can the ideologue cope with “the problem of democracy”? How can we accept certain principles that the majority rejects, yet still call ourselves “champions of democracy”? I have two suggestions, and others are welcome. First, be what could be called a philosophical ideologue (cf. philosophical anarchism). That is to say, you keep your beliefs in whatever ideology you choose, but you accept the majority’s opinion as the opinion that should be adhered to. So, for example, if you’re against social spending, but the majority supports it, you continue to believe that social spending is wrong but accept the majority’s choice as the will of the people. For some, this might seem like an unpleasing solution, which I accept. It does seem contradictory to accept the choice but at the same time to not accept the choice. It would seem as if we are not truly adhering to our ideologies (that’s a common argument against anarchists who do not support the overthrow of the state—they’re not real anarchists). Do we or do we not accept that argument? The other thing I suggest is that we teach or advocate our ideology in a way that is not anti-democratic. We explain our philosophies (non-coercively) to others in the hopes that they will accept them. In this way, we can influence the outcome of the democratic choice without resorting to authoritarianism.

I accept that others may not accept this. They may say we have to cling to our ideologies, no matter what. We must reject the democratic majority. They may not say it in this way, but it is what they’re saying. I reject this argument and find it to be dangerous. Over ideology, I am a democrat.

P.S. This is a further exploration of a concept that Dr. Spagnoli explores on his blog in a post titled “What is Democracy?” In it, he explains, “Napoleon Bonaparte propelled his armies across Europe on behalf of the universal principles of liberty, equality and fraternity . . . Napoleon’s armies occupied Europe because they wanted to export French principles and French civilization. . . . France was the advance guard of the struggle of humanity for freedom and against old-style authoritarianism.” The parallels to contemporary foreign affairs are obvious enough. Claims Dr. Spagnoli, “Attacking, conquering and occupying other countries, even with the purpose of liberating these countries from oppression and archaic authoritarian forms of government, seems to be highly illogical and self-contradictory. It’s incompatible with the very principles of democracy (democracy is self-determination).” The question being raised is, “are we allowed to impose or enforce democracy in an authoritarian way?” Likewise, I raise the question if libertarians are allowed to impose or enforce libertarianism in an authoritarian way. I say no.

Is the government inefficient? Sunday, Jan 3 2010 

I found this passage somewhere on the Internet, unknown author:

This morning I was awoken by my alarm clock powered by electricity generated by the public power monopoly regulated by the U.S. Department of Energy. I then took a shower in the clean water provided by the municipal water utility. After that, I turned on the TV to one of the FCC-regulated channels to see what the National Weather Service of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration determined the weather was going to be like using satellites designed, built, and launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. I watched this while eating my breakfast of the U.S. Department of Agriculture-inspected food and taking the drugs which have been determined safe by the Food and Drug Administration.

At the appropriate time as regulated by the U.S. Congress and kept accurate by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the U.S. Naval Observatory, I get into my National Highway Traffic Safety Administration-approved automobile and set out to work on the roads built and maintained by the local, state, and federal departments of transportation, possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel of quality level determined by the Environmental Protection Agency, using legal tender issued by the Federal Reserve System. On the way out the door, I deposit any mail I have to be sent out via the U.S. Postal Service and drop the kids off at the public school.

After work, I drive my NHTSA car back home on the DOT roads, to a house that has not burned down in my absence because of the state and local building codes and fire marshal’s inspection, and which has not been plundered of all its valuable thanks to the local police department.

I then log on to the Internet, which was developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration and post on freerepublic.com and FOX News forums about how SOCIALISM in medicine is BAD because government can’t do anything right.

What this passage is getting at is the myriad functions that government serves— sometimes unbeknown to the general public—and it only begins to scratch the surface. It would, I think, be pretty safe to say government is responsible for or at least crucially linked to the development of modern society, not free markets. That’s just a descriptive statement, and I believe the main point of the quoted passage. There are some, like those “on freerepublic.com and FOX News forums,” who bemoan government and its supposed inefficiency, yet take for granted all the things it provides them (like roads and police protection).

The question, really, is an economic one. One issue that arises concerns what are called public goods. In technical terms, a public good is any “good that is non-rivalrous and non-excludable.” All non-rivalrous means is that when one person uses that good another person is not restricted from also using that good (e.g., when I log on to the Internet, this does not preclude you from doing the same). All non-excludable means is that no one wanting access to the good can be reasonably denied access to that good. A decent example might lighthouse beams that provide light to ships, regardless of which ship it might be (that is, it’s difficult to exclude other people from seeing this light). As the Wikipedia article points out, “there may be no such thing as an absolutely non-rivaled and non-excludable good; but economists think that some goods approximate the concept closely enough for the analysis to be economically useful.” (The economic idea of public goods, by the way, was developed by Paul Samuelson, the pioneering Nobel laureate who died just three weeks ago.)

The problem that arises is that public goods are not produced efficiently in “free markets.” They’re under-produced. This causes what is called market failure; the market does not operate efficiently. The reason for this is because you can’t make a profit off of it, or not very much the closer the good approaches the concept of a public good. If a good produces a benefit to society that the creator of the good cannot profit from, there’s little economic incentive to produce such a good. That’s standard neoclassical economic theory, anyway. The idea is tied to what are called externalities. A positive externality is something people benefit from, e.g. clean air, but those who benefit from it don’t necessarily have to pay for it. An example I get from Milton Friedman, the great free-market thinker, is that when I plant a pretty garden in my front yard, other people get to experience the benefit of it without having to pay or do any work for it. Again, these are under-produced in free markets, according to standard theory, because there is not enough economic incentive to produce these things.

Well, one solution has been to have the government produce goods for public use, which is where the entire passage quoted above comes from. The result is that we all get to benefit from government involvement in the market place. I get the ability to tell the precise time because the government has taken the initiative to keep accurate account of time—something theory tells us profit-maximizing corporations would be unwilling to do.

At the same time, however, as the story above illustrated, people still bemoan government and its attempts to provide for the public good. The market is great, it will provide us all the things we need, and it will do so efficiently, they might say. The socialist might respond by pointing out that this is not necessarily true, and point to things like externalities and asymmetric information, which exist nearly everywhere, and conclude the market rarely works efficiently. For this reason, we need the government to provide for the public good, particularly when the unfettered market cannot. The right-winger (if they’re not Austrian) might concede that things like externalities and asymmetric information exist but posit that the government still ought not get involved because that would constitute an abridgment of our freedom, is coercive, evil, etc. The question becomes harder. Indeed, for many the question is not only economic but also ethical. At this point, I think most people begin to ask what the right balance is between market forces and government involvement. The question is left unanswered and, in mind, the answer remains to be seen.

A crime against that which does not exist Saturday, Dec 19 2009 

Global warming is a crime against that which not exist, namely future people. Of course, it is still a crime against people who do exist in the present, e.g. the poor in Bolivia whose glacial water sources are quickly disappearing.

This is a point I just thought about in a discussion about global warming on some other forum. It’s worth mentioning that global warming (read anthropogenic climate change) is a classic example of externalities. Neoclassical economics tells us that when people (which includes corporations) don’t have to pay the price for the consequences of their actions, there is market failure. Resources are not being allocated efficiently—one reason why any claim about markets being efficient should be taken with a grain of salt. For examples, producers of pollution do not take into consideration the harmful effects of pollution—i.e. the true cost of pollution is ignored—and so pollution is overproduced (because the price does not reflect the cost). However, not only is global warming a classic example of market failure, it is the “greatest market failure” ever, in the words of Nicholas Stern:

The science tells us that GHG emissions are an externality; in other words, our emissions affect the lives of others. When people do not pay for the consequences of their actions we have market failure. This is the greatest market failure the world has seen. It is an externality that goes beyond those of ordinary congestion or pollution, although many of the same economic principles apply for its analysis.

This externality is different in 4 key ways that shape the whole policy story of a rational response. It is: global; long term; involves risks and uncertainties; and potentially involves major and irreversible change.

As it happens, there is a solution to fix the problem of when prices do not reflect true costs. The solution is to make the price reflect cost. In this case, you increase the price. That’s what some people have called the carbon tax (i.e. a Pigouvian tax). The externality goes away and resources are being allocated more efficiently. Now, we know the cost of our pollution and activity on this planet is enormous. It is several magnitudes larger than any cost associated with mitigating it, in fact. The rational human being should therefore be opting to mitigate it. The real question becomes whether or not we’re rational.

But let us think about the four key ways that Stern says global warming is distinct from other typical externalities. It’s global, long-term, risky and involves uncertainties, and is irreversible (within reasonable amounts of time, that is). What this means is that we’re condemning future populations of humans to live with the adverse effects of our actions. When we think about it for just a moment or two, we quickly realize that this is fundamentally wrong. It is morally wrong. Yet, many of these people do not even exist yet. They haven’t been born. At the same time, when they do come into existence, they will have to live in a much worse environment because of the actions we are committing in the present. It is in this sense that we are committing a crime against that which does not yet exist (namely future generations).

This is very peculiar indeed. The non-harm and non-aggression principles of libertarianism tells us not to harm other people. But it says nothing of people who do not exist (in that they have yet to exist). In a sense, I think many people in the present feel undisturbed about the effects of human activity on future generations because it’s a rather intangible idea, somewhat abstract. It’s hard to connect. If we are able to so brazenly ignore the plight of suffering Africans in the present, surely it is almost impossible for us to feel anything for generations of humans who are yet to exist. The effects of what goes on in our neighborhood, our cities, our states, or even our nation are much more immediate than that which goes on halfway around the world. So I think there is a problem of immediacy here. What happens to future generations is not immediate to us. This allows us to do what we do without even so much as batting an eyelid. Again, though, this is because we aren’t having to pay for the costs. Future generations will have to pay for it, and they will pay greatly. This is an externality. We can fix it by making the price of our actions reflect the true cost, and in this way we will also make the problems associated with our actions more immediate to us.

Libertarianism. What’s in a name? Sunday, Nov 1 2009 

I just got done reading an excellent article by Kerry Howley in Reason, a libertarian magazine. I think the article raises some very thought-provoking questions concerning libertarianism.

What exactly is libertarianism, and what does it entail? Is it, as the article asks, the opposition to coercion and authority only by the state? Or does it entail opposition to other forms of coercion and authority outside of the state, such as that coming from cultural norms, societal practices, traditions, or other institutionalized structures and conventions? If libertarianism is concerned with liberty, particularly individual liberty, do we define it only as liberty from the state? Are there other ways individual liberty is restrained that libertarians ought to care about? Are there practices and norms all people calling themselves libertarians ought to fight against, “even if no one has bothered to codify the rules in an Important Book and call them ‘laws'”?

A central question for left-libertarians or leftist anarchists is whether private power is just as bad (or even worse) than state power. To them, the answer is a resounding “Yes.” This is why, for example, they oppose capitalistic economic orders that act to propagate “unaccountable private tyrannies” (corporations) and private property. Traditionally, libertarianism was associated with these leftists. Today, and most notably in the United States, “libertarianism” is associated with rightist libertarians—those who advocate free markets and the protection of private poverty. American libertarianism, most closely associated with the Libertarian Party, is very much a part of the Lockean imagination. To quote Ayn Rand:

The right to life is the source of all rights—and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave.

These are profound remarks. According to Rand, “Those who advocate laissez-faire capitalism are the only advocates of man’s rights.” Similarly, as Murray Rothbard states, “Capitalism is the fullest expression of anarchism, and anarchism is the fullest expression of capitalism.” As Howley explains, however, free markets and anti-statism are only one part of the story. “It’s possible to be an anti-government zealot with no interest whatsoever in individual liberty,” she writes.

According to Howley, “libertarians for whom individualism is important cannot avoid discussions of culture, conformism, and social structure. Not every threat to liberty is backed by a government gun. . . . when a libertarian claims that his philosophy has no cultural content—has nothing to say, for instance, about society’s acceptance of gays and lesbians—he is engaging in a kind of cultural politics that welcomes the paternalism of the mob while balking at that of the state.” As I said, I think this raises many interesting questions. Particularly, if we see a social injustice that we perceive to be limiting the individual liberty of certain people, is it our moral obligation to attempt to change that? If a particular society’s mores dictate that women should be restricted to the confines of the home, is it the libertarian’s job to fight against it? Importantly, would that not entail forcing our cultural preferences and ideals on others whom we might consider “backward”? As the response by Todd Seavey to Howley’s article strongly proclaims, “Freedom’s Just Another Word for Kerry Howley’s Preferences.”

Truly, all libertarians should be concerned with the exercise of authority, in any context. As the left-anarchist Noam Chomsky posits, “The core of the anarchist tradition, as I understand it, is that power is always illegitimate, unless it proves itself to be legitimate. So the burden of proof is always on those who claim that some authoritarian hierarchic relation is legitimate. If they can’t prove it, then it should be dismantled.” To wit, it is not enough to simply confront political and economic orders that restrict individual liberty; rather, it is required of us to oppose even the social and cultural orders that act similarly, working under the basis that power is illegitimate by assumption. Writes Howley, “In turning so definitively from the left, libertarians denied themselves a powerful vocabulary with which to engage discussions of individualism.” Even those libertarians concerned with free markets and other rightist agendas ought to concern themselves with other institutionalized forms of coercion and authority. The answer to the question “Are Property Rights Enough?”, I believe, is “No.”

Your own thoughts about the nature of libertarianism are invited.

Anarchism in St. Cloud Thursday, Oct 8 2009 

Two Wednesdays ago, St. Cloud got a sort of impromptu visit from the Motorhome Diaries guys. They are essentially three guys driving around the country in a motorhome spreading the word of liberty to people they meet along the way. They stopped in on SCSU for a little while to talk to a couple of people (about a dozen or so), most of them from the Libertarian Party club and the Young Americans for Liberty organization, and few other open-minded people.

These people described themselves as voluntaryists, meaning only decisions or actions that are made voluntarily are just and moral. They therefore oppose the state, which they see as coercive and necessarily violent. They also support anarcho-capitalism, which would be a completely stateless society in which completely unfettered laissez-faire capitalism constitutes the mode of production. The gist of their argument, I think, is that any voluntary association should be allowed so long as it does not interfere with the rights of others. Being forced to pay taxes, live in a statist society, follow statist regulations, and so forth are seen as involuntary and enforced only through the use of force and coercion by the state. Because the state lacks voluntary association, it is seen as illegitimate.

So the work these guys do is to oppose the state based on these premises. However, they, like most voluntaryists, wish to do so by working outside of state institutions. That is opposed to the Libertarian Party’s method of working within state institutions by, for example, electing officials into government for the purpose of reducing government. Instead, they opt for non-political means such as civil disobedience. Their stance reminded me of a discussion I had with Filip Spagnoli. While I agree the state is the largest perpetrator of violence and destruction, I think it’s helpful to try to improve the state. And I think one way you can do that is through electing officials that will help the cause of reducing government and ending state violence. It would be a more gradual change. I think that’s a noble cause. It’s certainly more realistic, in my opinion, than abolishing the state outright, especially given its current size.

I think that’s where I disagree with these guys. Nevertheless, I appreciate their visit and sharing their ideas about ideal society. It was intriguing, and I’m sure a new concept for many people at the meeting. Anarchism is often seen in a negative light, as a chaotic system, disorganized, lawless, and so on. The Motorhome Diaries help dispel these myths. I think anarchism is a legitimate political philosophy (it’s quite broad) and merits our careful attention as such.

SSDP and the War on Drugs Tuesday, Sep 22 2009 

Today, the Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) had it’s first ever meeting on SCSU’s campus. You can find out information about the organization, which has over 100 chapters in the U.S. and more in other countries, on its Web site. Though it might be easy to assume otherwise because it is a college organization regarding drugs, the organization does not promote the use of drugs or necessarily support the legalization of narcotics. Instead, it is focused on more sensible drug policies on the campus, city, state, or national level, namely due to the failures of the United States’ current War on Drugs. The mission statement, also available on their Web site along with other helpful information, is as follows:

Students for Sensible Drug Policy is an international grassroots network of students who are concerned about the impact drug abuse has on our communities, but who also know that the War on Drugs is failing our generation and our society.

SSDP mobilizes and empowers young people to participate in the political process, pushing for sensible policies to achieve a safer and more just future, while fighting back against counterproductive Drug War policies, particularly those that directly harm students and youth.

Again, as per their values statement available on the Web site, SSDP “neither encourages nor condemns drug use.” Instead, it seeks “a just and compassionate society where drug abuse is treated as a health issue instead of a criminal justice issue.” Furthermore, the SSDP continues, “As scholars we seek solutions to society’s drug problems through focused research, honest dialogue, and informed debate, instead of unquestioned extremism, punishment, and propaganda.”

So that’s the SSDP. Now that SCSU officially has a chapter, I hope the issue of sensible drug policy can more earnestly be discussed on campus. In fact, I’m rather optimistic that this can happen even after just the first meeting tonight. There were good ideas brought up about spreading awareness and contributing useful dialogue. We are still discussing the scope of our focus (thinking primarily the campus-level at the moment) and the types of policies we should be promoting, but I’m confident this organization has the capability of creating meaningful discourse and even implementing helpful changes because I know there are members working on this who are eager, intelligent, and devoted to the issue.

My diatribe on the issue
What is my take on the issue of drug policy? I don’t know how aligned my views are with the rest of the group’s but I think we can all definitely agree the War on Drugs has been a fantastic failure. The research and academic literature on this issue is immense, and I cannot possibly address it all. To make a seriously thorough post on this topic is probably beyond my capability, especially for the purpose of crafting a blog post (so I won’t pretend to address every or even most of the salient points, which are important and have been discussed diligently elsewhere). One thing has become abundantly clear, though: Prohibition does not cause things to go away; it makes things more dangerous among other adverse social effects. The argument in support of the War on Drugs are plentiful and nuanced (mostly coming from the conservative right), but usually fall flat when seriously scrutinized.

Of particular interest has been the issue of marijuana. Increasingly, the American public has been concerned with the government’s harsh laws on marijuana and there has been a very strong push for legalization (or at least decriminalization), even to such an extent that President Obama and his administration had to respond. The response has been less harsh than that of President Bush’s, but it still falls short.

But we cannot even begin to talk about the criminalization of marijuana without first acknowledging its purpose. There is a reason why marijuana is illegal (and alcohol is not, for example). History actually ran a show about it (Hooked: Illegal Drugs and How They Got That Way—I recommend everyone watch it). The reason is because it was associated with “deviants” (read: minorities). So the policy has its roots in racism. The laws are still quite racist, in fact. The only way to justify them is through bigotry.

There is no medical reason for banning marijuana (a claim strongly supported by the medical literature). Certain drugs, including marijuana, have become criminalized because they’re associated with what’s called the “dangerous classes,” meaning poor people. That’s why, for example, gin was criminalized in 19th century London and whiskey was not. Poor people drank gin. This is why the sentencing for crack is so much harsher than for powder cocaine. Poor people use crack. For marijuana, it was Mexicans bringing it in. That’s why you’ve got to criminalize it.

So, yes, it’s also quite true that there was a time when these things weren’t prohibited. Society functioned still. In fact, there are places were it’s currently not criminalized. Take Portugal for example. They’re a functioning society. In fact, since they’ve legalized marijuana, they have said it has benefited their society (teen drug use decreased, HIV from needle sharing decreased, and treatment increased). Of course, one should not be surprised by this.

As it happens, places such as the National Treatment Improvement Evaluation Study and the RAND Corporation have done studies the cost effectiveness of certain approaches. Invariably, what they find is that treatment and prevention is the most cost effective (and by large margins). Law enforcement, police work, and incarceration was more expensive and less effective. Even more expensive and even less effective is border intervention. The least effective and most costly? Extra-national operations. So what approach do the United States take? We actually do it in the opposite direction. We’re spending more money on doing things like engaging in chemical warfare on Colombia’s farms. The next biggest place we spend money is on border intervention, and down the line. Why is it done this way? Because it helps corporations and the government. It’s used as a cover for counter-insurgency, clears the land of peasants so large multinational corporations can come in for resource extraction and agrobusiness, benefits the prison-industrial complex, grows the government, unconstitutionally expands their power, etc. But it doesn’t stop drug use. And this is no small amount either. We’re spending hundreds of billions of dollars on this so-called war on drugs. And for what? For naught. (In fact, it’s making things worse.) All the while we could be making billions from the legal sale of it in taxes. On the other hand, while we’re losing hundreds of billions, drug cartels and other illegal enterprises are making billions. Does that really seem logical to anyone?

Libertarian talking head? Saturday, Aug 29 2009 

Glenn Beck is a radio and television host who has a show named after him on FOX News. Unfortunately, this guy calls himself a libertarian and even more unfortunate is that some libertarians use him as their talking head. This guy has said some pretty very stupid stuff and is more of an entertainer than anything else. And what exactly is he rambling on about anyway?

I’m guessing it has to do with this. According to the latest count, a total of 46 advertisers have pulled out of the Glenn Beck program on FOX News, including UPS which has pulled all of its advertisements off the whole FOX News network. Why? Part of it is due to an organization called Color of Change and their efforts to stop Beck’s “race baiting.”

Here’s what Beck said in late July of 2009: “This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy over and over and over again who has a deep-seated hatred for white people, or the white culture … this guy is, I believe, a racist.” Of course, you must never mind the fact that President Obama has selected many white people to serve high-ranking positions within his government, not the least of which include Joe Biden as the Vice President, Hillary Clinton as the Secretary of State, or Rahm Emanuel as the White House Chief of Staff, Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense, Ben Bernanke as Chairman of the Fed, Leon Panetta as the director of the CIA, Janet Napolitano as the Secretary of Homeland Security, Kathleen Sebelius as the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tim Geithner as the Secretary of the Treasury, and the list goes on and on. These are some of the most important jobs in country, all run by white people. And Obama selected them. Of course, you should also forget that President Obama is just as white as he is black (and was raised by his white grandparents). Still, though, he hates white people and the white culture.

Instead of apologizing for his diarrhea of the mouth, Beck defended his comments, saying, “I am not willing to bow before the king, I will never bow before the king. In America, we do not have kings.” Thanks for enlightening us, Beck, but that’s a straw man if I ever saw one. He also said he has the right to free speech (yet another straw man). No one denies this. No one has said he doesn’t have the right to say this. But the right to free speech goes both ways, including my right to criticize his idiocy that is promoted by FOX News. And, incidentally, it includes an advertiser’s right to not advertise on your show. What better manifestation of free market principles?

P.S. Beck, even though you’ve been taking days to come up with this, it’s spelled “OLIGARCHY“!