Archive for the ‘Not So Crazy Libertarian Ideals’ tag
The war on drugs has permeated our entire society. Police have been militarized and given almost limitless power, entire industries have developed around detecting illicit drugs, and employers have become snoops that test employees for illicit drug use. The last one really baffles me.
Outside of being coerced at the point of the State’s gun, why would an employer waste their time and the time of their employees testing them for drug use? If an employee is performing their job satisfactorily an employer shouldn’t care what that employee puts into their body. If an employee isn’t performing their job satisfactorily then the employer will likely terminate them regardless of the reason. But employers have allowed themselves to become snoops for the State and is do doing have handicapped themselves:
SAVANNAH, Ga. — A few years back, the heavy-equipment manufacturer JCB held a job fair in the glass foyer of its sprawling headquarters near here, but when a throng of prospective employees learned the next step would be drug testing, an alarming thing happened: About half of them left.
That story still circulates within the business community of this historic port city. But the problem has gotten worse.
All over the country, employers say they see a disturbing downside of tighter labor markets as they try to rebuild from the worst recession since the Depression: They are struggling to find workers who can pass a pre-employment drug test.
That hurdle partly stems from the growing ubiquity of drug testing, at corporations with big human resources departments, in industries like trucking where testing is mandated by federal law for safety reasons, and increasingly at smaller companies.
I’ve heard a lot of people who work in human resource departments at software development firms joke about how their companies would lose all of their employees if they actually started doing drug testing. It’s good evidence that users of illicit drugs aren’t incapable of performing reliably. This is especially true when many drugs that are declared illegal aren’t actually that harmful. Cannabis, for example, is an example of a drug that’s still illegal in many states but doesn’t actually cause a great deal of harm. In fact it can improve an individual’s performance at work by helping them coax with anxiety or stress.
The lesson from this story is that you should not volunteer to enforce the State’s policies. Even though the State has declared a massive list of chemicals illegal that doesn’t mean you, as an employer, should volunteer to test your employees. You gain no advantage from it (when’s the last time you heard of the State giving a sizable reward to an employer for drug testing their employees) and actually put yourself at a severe disadvantage by limiting your pool of potential employees.
Evelyn Beatrice Hall once said, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” That attitude used to be widely held but the freedom of speech is quickly becoming another casualty to statism. A lot of people are happy to support suppressing the speech of people they disagree with. Fortunately, the freedom of speech hasn’t been slain yet. There are a few holdouts who understand the value of the freedom of speech even if it can be inconvenient:
Rowling gave a brief but exquisite address in which she lauded free speech in the broadest terms, saying, “The tides of populism and nationalism currently sweeping many developed countries have been accompanied by demands that unwelcome and inconvenient voices be removed from public discourse … Intolerance of alternative viewpoints is spreading to places that make me, a moderate and a liberal, most uncomfortable.” Speaking out about an online petition that sought to ban Donald Trump from visiting the UK, she said, “I find almost everything that Mr Trump says objectionable. I consider him offensive and bigoted. But he has my full support to come to my country and be offensive and bigoted there. His freedom to speak protects my freedom to call him a bigot. His freedom guarantees mine.”
The problem with suppressing free speech is the same problem inherent in any political solution: it sounds great while your people are in power but turns out not being so great when your opposition is in power.
Political power in democratic systems tends to change hands frequently. When things turn south the people tend to blame whatever party is in power and punish that party by handing one of its competitors the reigns. Since political power never actually solves the problems facing the people — and in fact is often the cause — entire nations of people end up trapped in a vicious cycle of flip flopping rules.
Consider the situation Rowling discussed. A lot of people in the United Kingdom support black listing Donald Trump from entering. On the one hand I can see their power. Trump is a fascist. But black listing him would set a precedence and that precedence could be used in a very different way at a future time. If the current party in power black listed Trump a future party could use that act as a justification to black list somebody else (for you Bernie Sanders supporters out there, a conservative party could come into power and black list him).
Handing the State more power always carries longterm consequences. If you hand it the power to censor bigots today it could very well use that power to censor political dissidents who are fighting bigotry in the future. The freedom of speech, like all freedoms, should be absolute.
Imodium may be the new over-the-counter scary drug but it appears that W-18 is the new illicit scary drug (which is in desperate name of a marketing department to give it a better name):
For the second time in a year, police in Alberta have uncovered a drug called W-18, a synthetic opioid that’s 100 times more powerful than fentanyl — and 10,000 more powerful than morphine.
Police in Edmonton announced Wednesday they seized four kilograms of the substance in powder form during a raid carried out in December during a fentanyl investigation. The powder was then sent to Health Canada, which confirmed on Tuesday that it was W-18.
Staff Sergeant Dave Knibbs told a press conference that this amount of powder could have produced hundreds of millions of W-18 pills.
A stronger substance that people can voluntarily put into their bodies? The horror!
In all seriousness though, W-18 is likely a more dangerous drug than fentanyl but it is also a byproduct of the war on drugs. The iron law of prohibition states that the potency of a prohibited substance increases along with the enforcement of the prohibition:
Super potent pot is not a market failure. It is simply the result of government prohibition. In fact, it is one of the best examples of the iron law of prohibition. When government enacts and enforces a prohibition it eliminates the free market which is then replaced by a black market. This typically changes everything about “the market.” It changes how the product is produced, how it is distributed and sold to consumers. It changes how the product is packaged and in particular, the product itself. The iron law of prohibition looks specifically at how prohibition makes drugs like alcohol and marijuana more potent. The key to the phenomenon is that law enforcement makes it more risky to make, sell, or consume the product. This encourages suppliers to concentrate the product to make it smaller and thus more potent. In this manner you get “more bang for the buck.”
During alcohol prohibition (1920-1933), alcohol consumption went from a beer, wine, and whiskey market to one of rotgut whiskey with little wine or beer available. The rotgut whiskey could be more than twice as potent of the normal whiskey that was produced both before and after prohibition. The product is then diluted at the point of consumption. During the 1920s all sorts of cocktails were invented to dilute the whiskey and to cover up for bad smells and tastes.
Therefore, the current high potency of marijuana is not a market phenomenon, nor is it a market failure. It is primarily driven by government’s prohibition and the odd incentives that this produces on the sellers’ side of the market. Under these conditions consumers may prefer higher potency marijuana, ceteris paribus, but it is not primarily a consumer driven phenomenon.
W-18 is the byproduct of stronger enforcement of opioid prohibitions. Since law enforcers are concentrating their efforts on opioids such as heroine and fentanyl the producers are responding by making a more concealable version (as the product is more potent less is needed for the desired effect) that is easier to transport under the watchful eye of the badged men with guns.
This is just another example of how the war on drugs has actually made the drug market more dangerous. In addition to adding the risk of men with guns kicking down the doors of drug users at oh dark thirty and shooting their family pets, the war on drugs has also made the substances themselves more dangerous by creating an environment that motivates producers to increase the potency. So long as the war on opioids continues we will see more potent forms. In a few years W-18 will likely become a footnote in history; just another less potent version of a new opioid. This trend will continue until the war on drugs is ended and producers are no longer encouraged to make ever increasingly potent substances.
Every year we’re told about the hot new legal drug that people are abusing. Shortly afterward we’re told about the hot new legislation that is supposed to curtail the abuse. Nobody seems to recognize the pattern though. This year the new drug being abused appears to be Imodium:
They call it the poor man’s methadone.
The epidemic of opioid addiction sweeping the country has led to another form of drug abuse that few experts saw coming: Addicts who cannot lay hands on painkillers are instead turning to Imodium and other anti-diarrhea medications.
The active ingredient, loperamide, offers a cheap high if it is consumed in extraordinary amounts. But in addition to being uncomfortably constipating, it can be toxic, even deadly, to the heart.
Now we just need to wait for the legislation that orders Imodium to be treated the same way as all drugs containing pseudoephedrine.
The cycle of abuse and legislation is counterintuitive. At first glance it seems sensible to restrict access to drugs people abuse. But looking at the cycle with a critical eye reveals a major problem: when one drug is restricted addicts find a substitute.
Restricting opioids didn’t stop addicts from being addicts. It merely pushed them to abuse Imodium instead just as restricting heroine lead to the substitute of easier to produce krokodil. Addiction is a medical issue. It cannot be legislated away. So long as politicians continue to treat addiction as a legal issue addicts will be pushed into finding, often more dangerous, substitutes.
Under any sane legal system the label criminal would be reserved for those who victimize others. But the legal systems of most modern developed countries use the label to describe anybody who has violated any of the State’s decrees, regardless of how arbitrary they may be. Because of this we have people walking around who have been labeled criminals but have never victimized anybody. Fortunately the Department of Justice (DoJ) is finally recognizing this fact, although I doubt it’s intentionally, and is moving away from the term criminal to describe the people it targets:
The Department Of Justice has been phasing out the use of the word “criminal” to describe criminals. On the DOJ website the newer term, “justice-involved individual,” can be traced back to 2009. However, the term has seen more and more daylight over the last couple of years.
I’ve seen quite a few neocons flipping their shit about this but it really is a good move. The DoJ spends a great deal of its time harassing drug buys and sellers, tax evaders, unlicensed firearm dealers, and other people who haven’t actually victimized anybody. That being the case, it makes sense to refer to its targets by something other than criminals.
With that said, the DoJ, like every other government agency, sucks at language. Justice-involved individual is also a misnomer for the same reason the agency’s name is a misnomer; the word justice implies a wrong being righted. Without a victim there is no wrong to right and therefore no justice to be had. A better label would be a legal-involved individual.
Barack Obama is once again pushing science fiction as official policy. As usual this has caused a great deal of ignorant individuals to voice their unqualified opinions on the matter. Surprisingly, in a sea of shitty media discussion, one publication managed to hit the nail on the head as far as the entire smart gun discussion is concerned:
Guns are a technology, and, like most members of the general public, gun control advocates are thoroughly confused about how guns operate outside of Hollywood — as in, “the Internet is a series of tubes“-level confused. It’s hard for me to overstate just how bad it is out there, even among much of the gun-owning public.
This, then, is what the NRA is terrified of: that lawmakers who don’t even know how to begin to evaluate the impact of the smallest, most random-seeming feature of a given firearm on that firearm’s effectiveness and functionality for different types of users with different training backgrounds under different circumstances will get into the business of gun design.
And they’re right to be afraid, because it has happened before.
You can substitute gun owners for the National Rifle Association (NRA) since the opposition isn’t limited to just that organization. But the point stands, most lawmakers are entirely ignorant about the technology behind firearms. That brings us to today’s lesson: democracy sucks.
Somewhere along the line the idea that everybody is entitled to their opinion morphed into the idea that everybody’s opinion is equally valid. That idea is nonsense. A theoretically physicist should no more regard my opinion of his work than I should regard the opinion of somebody who has never studied basic mathematics on an algorithm I’ve written. When somebody lacks the basic fundamental knowledge of a field their opinion on that field is not equally as valid as an expert’s.
But such facts are irrelevant to democracy since it is a system where a majority of a voting body makes the rules. Here in the United States that voting body is Congress. Congress is composed of members elected by the majority of their constituents. In the end the only qualification somebody has to have to rule on something in the United States is charisma. This becomes a major problem as soon as members of Congress decided to write a law because they — along with their peers — are entirely ignorant on the subject the law pertains to.
Issues revolving around firearms are being decided by people who are entirely ignorant about firearms. When the issue of smart guns arises the problem is compounded by the same people’s ignorance on computer technology. In the end you have people who know nothing about the technology being discussed voting on how that technology is to be used.
Imagine if we applied democracy to an engineering feat such as building a bridge. Instead of having architects, structural engineers, material engineers, and construction workers designing and building a structurally sound bridge we’d have a bunch of ignorant lawyers voting on how they thought the bridge should be designed and built. The only outcome of that would be failure. If we don’t apply democracy to building a bridge why do we think it’s an acceptable means of mandating laws involving technology?
Statutory law, like democracy, is often erroneously held up as a feature of truly great societies. The problem with statutory law is that it’s based on the belief that the decrees of legislators and the rulings of judges are justice. But justice is about righting a wrong as much as possible and statutory law often fails miserably at this. Consider the recent rape case in Oklahoma:
The case involved allegations that a 17-year-old boy assaulted a girl, 16, after volunteering to give her a ride home. The two had been drinking in a Tulsa park with a group of friends when it became clear that the girl was badly intoxicated. Witnesses recalled that she had to be carried into the defendant’s car. Another boy, who briefly rode in the car, recalled her coming in and out of consciousness.
The boy later brought the girl to her grandmother’s house. Still unconscious, the girl was taken to a hospital, where a test put her blood alcohol content above .34. She awoke as staff were conducting a sexual assault examination.
Tests would later confirm that the young man’s DNA was found on the back of her leg and around her mouth. The boy claimed to investigators that the girl had consented to performing oral sex. The girl said she didn’t have any memories after leaving the park. Tulsa County prosecutors charged the young man with forcible oral sodomy.
But the trial judge dismissed the case. And the appeals court ruling, on 24 March, affirmed that prosecutors could not apply the law to a victim who was incapacitated by alcohol.
“Forcible sodomy cannot occur where a victim is so intoxicated as to be completely unconscious at the time of the sexual act of oral copulation,” the decision read. Its reasoning, the court said, was that the statute listed several circumstances that constitute force, and yet was silent on incapacitation due to the victim drinking alcohol. “We will not, in order to justify prosecution of a person for an offense, enlarge a statute beyond the fair meaning of its language.”
According to the judge’s interpretation of the law a woman who is so intoxicated that she has been render unconscious cannot be forcibly sodomized. And Oklahoma’s law very well might be written in that way, which is the problem.
This case should be focusing on the wrong that was performed and the best way to correct that wrong as far as possible. In any sane justice system that would be the focus. The question of whether a person can consent if they’re not in a sound state of mind, for example, would probably be explored if the focus was on the wrong. Most people would likely agree that a person who is so drunk that they’ve passed out cannot consent to a legal control, let alone sex.
But under statutory law the focus isn’t the wrong but on what was written by legislators and ruled by other judges.
Elizabeth Nolan Brown, one of the few remaining writers at Reason worth reading, wrote an article discussing a particular pebble that has been in my shoe as of late — cultural libertarianism:
Today’s “cultural libertarians” claim to be concerned, first and foremost, with free speech and fending off the “illiberal” or “regressive left.” Where they succeed, from a libertarian-no-qualifier perspective, is in igniting the passions of young people toward the protection of civil liberties. Where they fail is by turning off more people in the process than they win over, delighting in the kinds of tactics and stunts that provoke but little else. Going to a feminist rally and holding up signs saying “there is no rape culture” may seem edgy when you’re 20, but most people realize that intruding on private events just to throw shade simply makes you an asshole, not a radical for free expression.
That paragraph sums up my feels quite concisely. While libertarianism certainly allows for individuals to make complete asses of themselves and I would never use coercive force to stop somebody from making an ass of themselves, I do get tired of these libertarians who seem hellbent on making asses of themselves.
Whenever a feminist, social justice advocate, or any other person these libertarian reactionaries have deemed leftists make a statement they are quick to respond. And by respond I mean with as offensive of statements as possible, not anything that would lead to constructive conversation. In addition to make these reactionaries look like asses their behavior is also counterproductive. There is a lot of common ground between libertarianism and feminism, social justice advocacy, and other so-called leftist philosophies.
Consider racism. If you try to discuss the issue of racism you’ll inevitably have one of these reactionaries calling you a social justice warrior and saying various racial slurs over and over in a pathetic attempt to be edgier than my Benchmade. But the fact of the matter is, many laws in the United States do institutionalize racism even though they claim to be neutral on the matter of race. This is a topic libertarians and advocates of social justice could work together against the State.
An important question to ask yourself, if you’re a libertarian, is whether you actually want to move society towards libertarianism. If you do then being edgy isn’t going to cut it (I’m not apologizing for that pun, it’s a damn good pun). The only way we’ll move society towards libertarianism is by making libertarianism appealing (it’s that damn market rearing its head again). This is where socialists tend to succeed over libertarians. A socialist can tell somebody facing oppression that their oppression will be a thing of the past because the socialist government will come down on their oppressors like a bag of hammers… and sickles (seriously, these are good puns, don’t try to tell me otherwise). Libertarians needs to explain how the State, by legislating oppression, is the biggest enabler of oppression. That requires actually listening to people’s stories and working with them to figure out a way libertarian principles can solve or at least reduce their problems.
I, like many libertarians, am a contrarian by nature so I understand that telling a group of feminists discussing rape culture that rape culture isn’t a real thing can sound amusing. But it’s also counterproductive (and a really shitty thing to do). What is far more productive, and I know this because it’s what I’ve done, is to listen to them and try to work with them to achieve mutual goals (which is why I invest so much time in advocating self-defense, because rape is a real problem and everybody should be able to defend themselves against rapists).
Politics is a necessarily collectivist activity. This is why I find the Libertarian Party amusing. Admittedly, of all the political parties out there — with the exception of the Guns and Dope Party — I hate the Libertarian Party the least. But the fact that it must constantly be at odds with itself makes for some top tier comedy.
I was at the Minnesota Libertarian Party Convention this weekend, helping run the Agorist Suite (I wasn’t part of the convention itself outside of giving a security talk), and the topic of John McAfee stating he would not vote for Gary Johnson came up a few times. What I found most interesting is that a lot of libertarians were very upside by McAfee’s statement. Apparently the most important aspect of being a Libertarian Party candidate is loyalty to the party.
These are the kinds of collectivist traps one finds themselves in when claiming to be an individualist but participating in the political process. McAfee’s personal choice to not support Gary Johnson shouldn’t be an issue. He shouldn’t be expected to provide active support to a party that nominates a candidate he doesn’t approve of. Yet his announcement is being treated like high treason by some. Many have even said his statement has convinced them not to support him any longer.
One of the reasons I don’t involve myself in the political process is because I’m not willing to set aside my individualist principles. If somebody says they won’t support a party because of personal objections I’m not willing to harangue them over it. In fact such an action would demonstrate to me that the person is more of an individualist than the people criticizing them.
I can’t help but doubt the feasibility of any means the requires compromising expressed philosophical beliefs.
Those of us living under the boot of the State — which is to say almost all of us — need a little inspiration from time to time. Fortunately, many animals seem less willing to accept their chains that humans. Last week two heroic animals reminded us that freedom is something to always be strived for.
First up was Inky the octopus:
By the time the staff at New Zealand’s National Aquarium noticed that he was missing, telltale suction cup prints were the main clue to an easily solved mystery.
Inky had said see ya to his tank-mate, slipped through a gap left by maintenance workers at the top of his enclosure and, as evidenced by the tracks, made his way across the floor to a six-inch-wide drain. He squeezed his football-sized body in — octopuses are very malleable, aquarium manager Rob Yarrall told the New Zealand website Stuff — and made a break for the Pacific.
Next up was Cha Cha the chimpanzee:
A chimpanzee named Cha Cha escaped from a zoo in Sendai, Japan, and led police and zoo staff on a dramatic two-hour chase through a residential neighborhood, according to NHK, Japan’s largest broadcaster.
Unfortunately Cha Cha was recaptured. But failure usually precedes success so there’s still hope.