Tag: Prohibition

ACF#41 The Untouchables

 

Let’s talk about The Untouchables, Brian De Palma and David Mamet’s answer to The Godfather! My friend John Presnall and I give you a conversation about the Mafia and America and all the different elements these amazing artists wove together: Democracy, tyranny, Europe, America, Protestants, Catholics, WASPs, Irishmen, Italians, and all sorts of other things brought to life by Sean Connery, Kevin Costner, Andy Garcia, Robert De Niro, and Patricia Clarkson. Listen and share, friends!

Drinking Lessons

 

I was a scofflaw. In my state it is against the law to provide alcohol to any person who is under age 21. When my sons were underage, I broke this law on a few occasions. Neither of them ever embraced the binge-drinking culture when they went to college. Teach your kids how to drink.

I saw a story featured in the Google News “spotlight.” It was an article from CNN, a few months ago, titled “Is Drinking with your Kids at Home a Good Idea?” I say, yes it is a very good idea. Your kids need good role models. They need to see that adults can enjoy one drink or two drinks and then stop. They need to learn how to enjoy one drink and then stop.

Modern American youth culture wants to teach them that, when you drink, you are drinking to get drunk. It is all over social media, TV, movies, pop songs, etc. Drunkenness is a laughing matter. Often it is an excuse for bad behavior, such as casual sex, which is frequently blamed on alcohol.

Bad Guys Will Still Be Bad Guys

 

Detroit_police_prohibitionMegan McArdle has an excellent post describing one of the best consequentialist arguments for ending the war on drugs:

… I consider the reduction of violent crime to be the main benefit. Deprived of the ability to enforce contracts through the relatively peaceful legal process used by other markets, black markets are accompanied by high levels of violence: Gangs fight for territory, enforce business agreements and try to defer defections. The more profitable the black market is, the more incentive there is to use violence to protect your profits, which may be one reason that the introduction of crack cocaine was accompanied by such a huge increase in violent crime. Legalizing drugs cuts into the profits and gives industry players legal means to settle their disputes, so in theory, this should reduce the prevalence, and the brutality, of violent gangs.

I find the logic of this nearly unassailable. Just as there’s no inherent reason why the alcohol trade should be violent, there’s little inherent reason why the market for other intoxicants should be. Give people the opportunity to work within the confines of the law — and to enjoy its protections — and the worst sorts of behavior become unnecessary. Deny them those confines and protections, and we quickly descend into a petty Hobbesianism that drives out all the nice guys and rewards the worst.

Member Post

 

How close have you been to organized crime? Were you aware of it at the time? Lots of us have had brushes with the mob, with crime syndicates, and gangs, or else strange connections to them. Maybe it’s in your family history, maybe it’s that uncle who always seems a bit twitchy, or maybe it has […]

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What’s Your General Rule on Drug Prohibition?

 

shutterstock_158845502Let me be very upfront here: I’m one of those radicals who thinks we should legalize all drugs. I’m not just in favor of marijuana legalization, but also the “hard stuff”: heroin, cocaine, LSD, and just about anything else you can think of. If you’re one of those weirdos who wants to put mescaline in your eggnog, I don’t think there should be a law against it.

We’ve had several awesome discussions recently here on drug prohibition. However, one thing that seems to be lacking, among prohibition advocates is a general principle. So to any of you prohibitionists, I’m issuing a challenge. I’m willing to listen to any prohibition standard you’re willing to propose. What I’d like to hear is a general rule on what the government should and shouldn’t prohibit, but I’m going to add a sticking point: you must apply it across the board to drugs, prescription medications, tobacco, and alcohol.

There it is. Prohibitionists are able to come up with all kinds of arguments, but I’ve yet to hear one that couldn’t also reasonably be applied to alcohol. But, I could be wrong (it happens… occasionally), so let’s hear it: What’s your general rule?

Prohibition Rules of the Road

 

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In an ill-fated attempt to listen to all 328 Ricochet CPAC podcasts in one marathon sitting, I ended up passing out somewhere between the one where Jay Nordlinger tries to convince Carly Fiorina to honor the warranty on his old printer and the episode where Charles C.W. Cooke negotiates a kitchen remodel for his condo with the Benham brothers. When I recovered my senses, the podcasts were closed and a post on prohibition was on my screen. I began investigating and noticed that there have been quite a few posts on prohibition over the last week (here, here, and um, here to name a few). These have been highly interesting, but tend to focus on very specific issues such as particular drug legalizations, prostitution, and which degree of cousin it is acceptable to court……Okay, have not seen that last one, but I’m sure it will soon be posted. I’d like to take a step back and ask the question of what framework of thought should be used when determining prohibitions? In my experience, I find there are generally two camps.

The absolutists tend to say that as long as you are not causing obvious harm to someone else, it should be legal. This seems to be a clean approach but leads to some interesting mental exercises. For instance, what if Apple wanted to invest the bazillion dollars it has in the bank into researching the creation of a new strain of smallpox? Should this be allowed? You might counter that this is ridiculous and theoretical and no company would have an incentive to create a killer virus when there is always a new version of iJunk – sorry, Apple lovers – to produce, but the question remains. Does an individual or organization have the right to pursue any endeavor no matter how potentially harmful it could be as long as he/she/it is not, in this pursuit, harming others?

The Costs of Prohibition

 

shutterstock_177594347Continuing on today’s theme of prohibition, a common and very reasonable argument made by prohibitionists is to point to all the dangers, criminality, and immorality associated with proscribed activities and ask whether society should invite more of them. The implication is that these problems are intrinsic to the activity itself and should further tip the scales toward prohibition.

Examples abound. Consider Bill Bennett & Robert White’s point in Going to Pot that modern marijuana is more potent than ever before; dangerously so, they say. Regarding a different kind of vice, prostitution opponents have, of late, focused their attention on the dangers and exploitation women and girls face, to the point that the trade is sometimes presented as being nearly synonymous with human trafficking.

While we can stipulate that intoxicants and the selling of sex are more likely to be fraught than other industries, prohibition — or regulations equivalent to it — can have the simultaneous effect of reducing consumption (at least a little) while making what consumption remains even more dangerous than before. As Milton Friedman argued nearly 40 years ago, increasing a drug’s potency increases its portability, something highly desired in contraband. Analogously, consider both how much easier it is to smuggle whisky into a party than a full case of beer and how much more potentially dangerous the former is.

Let’s Just Criminalize Prohibition

 

imageAs marijuana legalization and decriminalization gains traction nationwide — DC this morning, as well as Alaska, the first red state to decriminalize — I can’t help but feel that it is inevitable that my own home state of New Jersey will follow suit sooner rather than later. Although New Jersey can, at times, feel like living in a liberty hinterland, the state’s blueish nature should, at least theoretically, lead to gains on the civil liberties front. Nonetheless, we still find that our politicians rely upon old saws in constructing their political positions on the intoxicant.

For instance, take the claim that marijuana is a gateway drug that will lead to a general decline of society. Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini (R-Monmouth) is putting together an anti-legalization activist group. Its platform will include arguments relating to “health and incarceration statistics about marijuana users, and questions about additional costs that might be incurred as a result of legalization.”

I’m certain the assemblywoman means well, but, frankly, the tide of facts and history moves against her efforts. Without having the benefit of really being able to parse her incipient group’s position, it seems hard to believe that legalized marijuana will do anything but dry up a significant portion of the criminal trafficking in our state and nation. Thus, at the outset, a major social cost related to enforcing prohibition disappears — if not overnight, then very quickly.

Eric Garner and the Dog Who Didn’t Bark

 

shutterstock_121088260Amid the contention over the Eric Garner case — whether the force used against him was justified, how much his criminal and medical histories should bear on the events, etc. — two points have emerged with what should be crystal clarity: that the cigarette taxes that make selling “loosies” so profitable are absurd, and that the crime Garner was being arrested for at the time of his death is almost wholly a creation of these taxes.

To give a sense of just how crazy cigarette taxes are in New York City, consider that each pack of 20 is subject to $4.35 in state taxes, plus an additional $1.50 in city taxes: in all, a little over $0.29 per cigarette. Given that cigarettes are legally available within a day’s drive for less than the cost of the taxes, it’s little wonder that an estimated 57% of the cigarettes sold in the state are smuggled in (the highest rate in the nation; Lord knows how much higher the figure is for NYC itself). It’s even less of a surprise that street vendors like Garner and this fellow can make a living selling individual cigarettes for $0.70 each or $1 for two.

Now, given this situation — and the supposed concern for people victimized by overzealous law enforcement — you would think that at least someone in the Empire State or Gotham would call for a reexamination of the tax policies that directly led to Garner’s arrest and, indirectly, to his death.

What is the Problem with Heroin?

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn his post “Bringing Conservatives and Libertarians Together” about marijuana legalization, Fred Cole wrote:

I think it’s the situation with marijuana that it’s already so widely accepted and widely available, that most people who want to smoke already do. Whatever society costs it imposes are already there.

So marijuana prohibition means we get all of the downsides of legalization and all of the downsides of prohibition, but none of the upsides that come with legalization. It’s the worst of both worlds.

Should We Lower the Drinking Age? — Troy Senik

 

Camille Paglia thinks so. Writing at Time:

The National Minimum Drinking Age Act, passed by Congress 30 years ago this July, is a gross violation of civil liberties and must be repealed. It is absurd and unjust that young Americans can vote, marry, enter contracts, and serve in the military at 18 but cannot buy an alcoholic drink in a bar or restaurant. The age 21 rule sets the United States apart from all advanced Western nations and lumps it with small or repressive countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Indonesia, Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.