Who Says the Economy is Bad?

Sorry about the lack of posting, but I’ve been putting in long hours and a lot of windshield time (note that I’m posting this about 5:20AM). Today I’ll be on the road again, and probably won’t get home until after 6:00 (again), and tomorrow is the AR15.com shoot in Casa Grande (which I haven’t finished loading ammo for, either.) So, no more posts today, and probably not until tomorrow afternoon at the earliest. Sorry about that, but sometimes life intrudes.

Anyway, if you’re new to the site, please peruse the archives or just click on the “Best of” links on the lefthand column. Thank you for your patronage.

More Guns in Church! (Concluded)

I commented on the incident of Rev. Phillip Mielke of Big Lake Alaska here, when he was charged with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide for the killing of two men who were burglarizing his church. Well, his trial is over, and he’s been acquitted of all charges.

Of course, there’s the obligatory reference to “taking the law into their own hands” in the story, and the obligatory call to depend on the State for the protection of yourself and your property.

Nice to see that an Alaskan jury still can reason. Sometimes the justice system does get it right.

UPDATE: Ravenwood comments, and does a better job than I did.

Not In My Back Yard – or Anybody Else’s Either!

Arizona recently suffered through a gas shortage because a pipeline that runs gasoline from Texas to Phoenix through Tucson ruptured. Aside from the problem of tens of thousands of gallons of spilled gasoline, the pipeline was down for a considerable period of time. This affected prices not only in Arizona, but in California as well as gasoline was shipped by truck from there to Arizona to help cover the loss.

So, why am I not surprised to find that a proposed refinery in Arizona is being fought by environmentalists?

John Moore of Useful Fools has done a bang-up job of investigative journalism on the subject. Seems that the site of this proposed refinery violates the doctrine of “environmental racism.” Yes, the 33 people living within four miles of the site include five blacks and five Indians.

As John points out, this would be the first refinery built in the U.S. for 25 years, and would cost $2.5 billion to construct. You can bet your ass that Mobile, AZ wouldn’t be just a wide spot in the road anymore.

If you’re an “environmentalist” you can’t have that.

Go read the whole thing. You won’t be seeing it in the major media.

“Democrats give up gun control issue” – For Now…

MSNBC.com carries a Washington Post article on the Democrat abandonment of gun control as a policy topic. Money quotes:

Democratic presidential candidates are distancing themselves from tough gun control, reversing a decade of rhetoric and advocacy by the Democratic Party in favor of federal regulation of firearms.

MOST DEMOCRATIC White House hopefuls rarely highlight gun control in their campaigns, and none of the candidates who routinely poll near the top is calling for the licensing of new handgun owners, a central theme of then-Vice President Al Gore’s winning primary campaign in 2000.

“It’s very important for us as Democrats to understand that where I come from guns are about a lot more than guns themselves,” said Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), one of nine Democrats seeking the presidency. “They are about independence. For a lot of people who work hard for a living, one of the few things they feel they have any control over is whether they can buy a gun and hunt. They don’t want people messing with that, which I understand.”

In the presidential race, several candidates said the gun issue contributed to Gore’s defeat in 2000 and could backfire on the party again next year if Democrats do not quickly lose their anti-gun image.

Indeed, the Democrats’ shift away from gun control is rooted more in politics than in a belief that gun laws do not help prevent crime and death, several Democrats said privately.

“The gun issue is the silent killer” of Democrats, said Deborah Barron of Americans for Gun Safety, which is tutoring candidates on the gun issue. “Democrats will be extinct in red states unless” they change how gun owners view their party.

In some ways, the shift is more rhetorical than substantive.

No, REALLY? Color me shocked.

Remember, kiddies: Gun Safety = Gun Elimination, just like Gun CONTROL used to.

It is Not the Business of Government

It is not the business of government to make men virtuous or religious, or to preserve the fool from the consequences of his own folly. Government should be repressive no further than is necessary to secure liberty by protecting the equal rights of each from aggression on the part of others, and the moment governmental prohibitions extend beyond this line they are in danger of defeating the very ends they are intended to serve.
Henry George*

Prohibition was introduced as a fraud; it has been nursed as a fraud.
It is wrapped in the livery of Heaven, but it comes to serve the devil.
It comes to regulate by law our appetites and our daily lives.
It comes to tear down liberty and build up fanaticism, hypocrisy, and intolerance. It comes to confiscate by legislative decree the property of many of our fellow citizens. It comes to send spies, detectives, and informers into our homes; to have us arrested and carried before courts and condemned to fines and imprisonments. It comes to dissipate the sunlight of happiness, peace, and prosperity in which we are now living and to fill our land with alienations, estrangements, and bitterness.
It comes to bring us evil– only evil– and that continually. Let us rise in our might as one and overwhelm it with such indignation that we shall never hear of it again as long as grass grows and water runs.”
Roger Q. Mills**, 1887

Sorry Roger, sorry Henry. Nobody listened.

This post was inspired by a piece written by Clayton Cramer on his blog a few days ago. I’ve read a lot that Clayton’s written (I highly recommend his book For Defense of Themselves and the State if you’re interested in the judicial history of the right to arms) and I find his work on the right to arms exemplary, but he and I differ on some other topics. In this piece he discussed Rush Limbaugh’s addiction and talks about his support of the criminalization of drugs. The quote that got my attention was this one:

I still don’t think that prohibition of drugs is the most effective way to deal with the problem. It does have one positive effect, however: it encourages parents whose lives are built entirely around intoxication to move to places where those values predominate, like Sonoma County, leaving other parts of America relatively civilized.

That’s not the problem, though, in my opinion. Roger Mills foresaw the real problems, and he was right.

The Harrison Narcotic Act was passed in December of 1914:

To provide for the registration of, with collectors of internal revenue, and to impose a special tax on all persons who produce, import, manufacture, compound, deal in, dispense, sell, distribute, or give away opium or coca leaves, their salts, derivatives, or preparations, and for other purposes.

It was passed in response to an international treaty on the opium trade, and in response to the fact that the United States had just taken possession of the Phillipines where there was an established trade in opiates. On its face, the Act is not a prohibition, but part of the wording having to do with who can legally provide opiates was interpreted to mean that physicians could not legally prescribe drugs to addicts to support their habits. A drug addiction wasn’t a disease, so giving an addict a prescription for his fix was a perversion of a doctor’s practice. Shortly after passage, Roger Mills’s predictions began to become realities. Doctors were arrested and jailed for giving out prescriptions. Addicts, unable to get their drugs through legal channels, found illegal ones. A market to feed their needs (and build a market of new users) was established. The cost of drugs went up – and crime increased to supply money to fill the need. Users were arrested for possession of illegal narcotics. People who, while addicted, were able to provide an income for their families through honest work, instead went to jail and left their families destitute. Addicts relocated to major cities where access to (now illicit) drugs was easier, and crime came with them.

New drugs hit the market, and were in short order added to the Act. Heroin was banned in 1924. Boy, that was effective, wasn’t it? According to this site, in 1926 the Illinois Medical Journal carried an op-ed that said:

The Harrison Narcotic law should never have been placed upon the Statute books of the United States. It is to be granted that the well-meaning blunderers who put it there had in mind only the idea of making it impossible for addicts to secure their supply of “dope” and to prevent unprincipled people from making fortunes, and fattening upon the infirmities of their fellow men.

As is the case with most prohibitive laws, however, this one fell far short of the mark. So far, in fact, that instead of stopping the traffic, those who deal in dope now make double their money from the poor unfortunates upon whom they prey. . . .

The doctor who needs narcotics used in reason to cure and allay human misery finds himself in a pit of trouble. The lawbreaker is in clover. . . . It is costing the United States more to support bootleggers of both narcotics and alcoholics than there is good coming from the farcical laws now on the statute books.

As to the Harrison Narcotic law, it is as with prohibition [of alcohol] legislation. People are beginning to ask, “Who did that, anyway?”

Not enough people, and not the people who had just cracked a Pandora’s box of enormous powers – powers “…to confiscate by legislative decree the property of many of our fellow citizens. …to send spies, detectives, and informers into our homes; to have us arrested and carried before courts and condemned to fines and imprisonments.” Not those people.

In between passage of the Narcotic Act and subsequent “tightening of the loopholes,” America in another fit of Puritanism ratified the Eighteenth Amendment – Prohibition – and then went home and had a stiff martini in celebration. What followed paralleled the results of the other attempt “to regulate by law our appetites and our daily lives,” – abject failure. Increased crime. Increased misery. Increased prison populations. Increased poverty. Death. Mayhem.

And ever-increasing, ever more intrusive government power at the expense of the rights of the individual.

I am not an advocate of “If it feels good, do it.” I’ll tell you right up front that I have never been intoxicated in my life. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, the only drugs I take are over-the-counter medications when I’m ill, or prescriptions as prescribed. I’ve never wanted to take a mind-altering substance. But I know a lot of people who have and some who still do. I understand that, for some people, drugs lead to addiction and death. They fuck up families. They destroy lives. They’re best left alone, in my opinion.

But it shouldn’t be the job of government to protect us from ourselves.

Because it can’t. All it can do is oppress us. And in its effort to protect us, it doesn’t just oppress the people who abuse drugs, it oppresses us all. The “cure” is worse than the disease – except there is no cure – just a new (and in many ways worse) problem on top of the one it’s supposed to cure.

The Illinois Medical Journal saw it in 1926. The American public saw it well enough to repeal Prohibition in 1933. But drug users (other than of alcohol and nicotine) represent an unpopular and unsympathetic minority in this country, and our elected officials were unable or unwilling to tell the electorate “We don’t have that power.” The Founders understood the dangers of creeping expansion of government power and tried their best to ensure that our system inhibited that expansion, but in this they failed. Regardless of the best idiot-proof designs, human nature constantly provides unprotectable idiots. In volume. Congress didn’t have that power. Aside from the fact that protecting us from ouselves is impossible, Congress wasn’t given the power to try. But they went ahead and tried anyway.

Here are some of the results of the War on (some) Drugs© as we know them:

  • The prison population in America as of December 2002 was 2,033,331.
  • 20% – 400,000 – of those incarcerated are there primarily on drug charges. (They may be there for other reasons as well, but drugs are the primary conviction.
  • 35% of college students surveyed in 2001 admit that they had used marijuana daily within the previous year.
  • 4.7% admitted daily cocaine use within the previous year
  • 47.8% of high-school seniors admitted to having used marijuana or hash.
  • Of high-school seniors reporting drug availability, 25% said they could easily get PCP. Twenty-eight percent said they could get crystal meth. Twenty-nine percent could get heroin. Thirty-eight percent could get crack. Eighty-seven percent could get marijuana. Easily.
  • 42% percent of the population of this nation admits to having used an illicit substance at least once. Thirteen percent within the last year. Seven percent, some fifteen million, within the previous month.
  • 70% of illicit drug users, age 18-49, were employed full-time.
  • 6.3 million of full-time workers were illicit drug users.
  • 1.6 million of these full-time workers were both illicit drug and heavy alcohol users in the past.
  • The DEA’s budget is in excess of $300 million annually, and that’s just one government agency. And that budget never goes down. How can it? It’s a government agency.
  • So what does that tell us? For one thing, all the drug laws on the books haven’t affected availability. For another, it’s possible to be a drug user and still hold down a job, be a productive citizen, and pay taxes. For a third, all that money we’re shelling out to interdict drugs is wasted. Fourth, we’re incarcerating only a tiny fraction of drug users. The laws aren’t preventing drug use.

    Here’s some more:

  • There’s a Treasury office dedicated now to Asset Forfeiture. There’s another belonging to the Department of Justice. Remember the words of Roger Mills from 1887: “It comes to confiscate by legislative decree the property of many of our fellow citizens.” Civil asset forfeiture is an affront to the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure and Fifth Amendment protection against deprival of property without due process. Under current law your property can be seized and the government can keep it even if you’re never convicted of anything.
  • You are now subject to random, suspicionless drug testing at most workplaces. Officers may search your vehicle and the posessions of your passengers without a warrant. What happened to the Fourth Amendment protection against warrantless search?
  • Fundamental rights of individuals that were supposed to be protected against infringement by the Bill of Rights have been chipped at under the guise of “Drug Control.” A little bit here, a little bit there. Just in this special circumstance. Until they decide they need to widen that window. Just a bit, you understand. To make us all safer.

    Alcohol prohibition created many problems not foreseen: Organized crime, gang wars, bathtub gin, just to name a few. But when Prohibition ended, beer truck drivers no longer shot at each other for infringing on their territories. The incidents of people being blinded by drinking poisonous homebrew dropped dramatically. And tax revenues went up. Yes, alcohol remains one of the most devastating drugs out there – responsible for violence, broken homes, ruined lives, and horrendous numbers of dead on the nations highways – but it was better than the alternative – which was all those things and government in everybody’s lives.

    Legalizing drugs wouldn’t be a panacea. It wouldn’t make everything peachy-keen. Much damage is already done that cannot be undone, but you cannot honestly argue that it will make drugs easier to get. It might reduce the number of overdoses and unintentional poisonings due to inconsistent quality and cutting with who knows what. It would put a major dent in the illicit trade, and hopefully the violence associated with it. It should reduce the crime associated with supporting addiction. It might make drug abusers more employable – though that should remain a choice that businesses make for themselves. But it would end an ever-increasing intrusion on our lives and our rights by government. And hey! It might be a new source of revenue, so long as they don’t try to regulate useage (as they are now with tobacco) via onerous “sin taxes” that just lead back to a black market.

    And it should save a considerable amount of tax dollars. But of course it wouldn’t. After just a few years of Prohibition the Federal agents tasked with that job weren’t let go when it was repealed, they were just given a different job – enforcing the new Federal firearms law. You can bet all those DEA agents would be put on something.

    How about anti-terrorism?

    *Henry George was, for want of a better term, a “social philosopher,” and a contemporary of Mark Twain and Thomas Edison. He wrote Progress and Poverty in his spare time and self-published it in 1879. It was picked up by a publishing house in 1880 and became an international best seller. It’s a book on economics. I’ve not read the book, and I have no other knowledge of the author, but the quotation that begins this piece is as concise an expression of the purpose of government as any I’ve ever seen.

    **Roger Mills was a Democrat and (after fighting on the side of the South during the Civil War) served as a representative for Texas in the House from 1873 to 1892, and the Senate from 1892 to 1899. He died in 1911, so he never saw the 1914 Harrison Narcotic Act pass, and he missed the passage of Prohibition, but his warning was prescient, and I’ve often wondered why more people do not understand what he put so eloquently 116 years ago.

    Update: Francis Porretto takes the basic premise and runs with it.

    Update, 10/27: In a related issue, Ravenwood reports that we obviously haven’t learned anything yet.

    UPDATE:  As of August 6, 2013, due to the herculean efforts of reader John Hardin, the original JS-Kit/Echo comment thread for this post (read-only) is available here.