Thursday, June 21, 2012

Democratic Congressman Jarel Polis Schools DEA Agent Over Marijuana During Congressional Hearing

DEA official can't answer the questions: Are crack cocaine, heroin, and meth worse than marijuana? 
 

From Andrew Kirwell in Mediaite.com: "Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) made drug reformers proud on Wednesday when he went after Drug Enforcement Administration official Michele Leonhart during a hearing on DEA oversight. Polis refused to allow Leonhart to get away with half-answering questions about the relative health impact of marijuana versus other drugs. 

Rep. Polis is an outspoken advocate of marijuana legalization (last year, he proposed a deficit-reduction plan that involved legalizing and taxing weed). During the hearing, he sought to make Leonhart concede that other Schedule I narcotics are much worse than marijuana — a point drug reformers often use to make the case that pot shouldn’t be classified with drugs like heroin and meth."

Update: From U.S. News and World Report, "Chart: What the DEA Refuses to Admit About Drugs," featuring my chart below:


46 Comments:

At 6/21/2012 2:37 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

we can argue relative harm all day, but i think it's irrelevant.

i keep coming back to one simple question:

why is this any of the government's business?

it seems like this gets framed as a net social good/harm issue all the time when it is really a rights issue.

just because bad things happen is not a reason to punish the innocent.

all this calculus of harm is irrelevant. it's a personal choice and if i want to smoke crack or put a bone through my nose and dress up like raggedy anne, it's no business of yours or the government's until i violate someone's rights.

this is just authoritarian paternalism masquerading as public welfare.

why they you get to decide what is best for everyone?

shall we extend this policy into the rest of leisure activities and dietary habits?

how about your speech?

the "public welfare" standard being used here would never be accepted in these areas. "we have rights" you would exclaim. and you would be right.

so why seek to take the rights of others here? this seems like hypocrisy.

why does one size fits all seem like a good solution here? you are on your own to eat and drink booze, but need a statist dad for drugs?

we make personal choices about the cost/benefit of drinking a big gulp, eating fried food, going hang-gliding, or getting a nose ring. this gives us freedom to do as we like and have a different view on what are individual issues.

yet suddenly, we throw this out the window around drugs. eating fried food has no societal benefit other than the fact that we enjoy it. you don't need it. it's not good for you.

so shall we ban it on social welfare grounds?

it seems inconsistent to allow fried food but oppose drugs.

yet i'll bet most of the anti drugs crowd have had french fries in their lives and would howl if they were taken away "for their own good".

"but i am not fat. i am a responsible french fry user" they might say. or, "well, i'm fat but that's my business" might retort another. but they never seem to then extend this logic to drugs.

did acid destroy the productivity and life of steve jobs?

did smoking pot and using cocaine keep obama (and Kennedy for that matter) from being president?

they seek to take liberty before people do anyhting, violating notions of innocent until proven guilty.

use drugs or get drunk and beat your neighbor up and you should be accused of assault and battery like anyone else. but to assume, a priori, that drugs will make you do that violates due process and offends notions of liberty.

until you violate the rights of another, your recreational activities are your own business.

 
At 6/21/2012 3:15 PM, Blogger FGH said...

I'm addicted to Pringles...should they be illegal too?

 
At 6/21/2012 3:26 PM, Blogger Matticus Rex said...

Oooo Pringles! Now THAT is an addictive substance.... "just one more.... Ok one more little stack....ok I should eat the crumbs off the bottom....Ooops I cracked 3 more, better eat those....ONLY 4 CHIPS LEFT!? I'D BE A FOOL TO PUT THIS ENTIRE CAN BACK IN THE CUPBOARD WITH JUST 4 CHIPS IN IT!!!"

/crunch

Ohh, and Morgan? Well said... /highfive :)

 
At 6/21/2012 3:51 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"eating fried food has no societal benefit other than the fact that we enjoy it."

And enjoying it is the only justification needed.

 
At 6/21/2012 5:40 PM, OpenID Sprewell said...

Heh, watch the reactions of the woman on the left, over the DEA official's right shoulder, pretty funny stuff. :)

morganovich, the argument they will always come back to, as some have on this blog, is that the crackhead will start killing people on the street, therefore you have to stop them before they start doing the drug. Then of course, they are getting rid of trans fats and big gulps in NY, so if you can do that, there are others who see no problem with getting rid of harder drugs. While I agree that your drug consumption is none of the govt's business, it's hard to get worked up over whether someone should be able to get high legally, although all the unnecessary violence associated with drugs is a big issue. In any case, both are dwarfed by the giant waste of trillions in DC, so I wish libertarians would focus on that and not worry about social issues right now. Not on this blog or other blogs of course, where the authors are free to raise any social issues they like, but when Reason goes on TV and says that marijuana legalization is the most important issue during the elections of 2010, libertarians lose credibility when there are much bigger fiscal issues afoot.

 
At 6/21/2012 6:54 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

sprewell-

i have three reactions to your thoughts on this.

1. i agree that if you asked me what they key issue was this election, i would certainly not say drug legalization. however, assuming the reason tv somehow stands for the libertarian movement (and i use a small l here, not a capital one) seems a bit of a stretch. they can say what they want, but that does not mean the speak for me or other small l libertarians.

2. the issue of drug legalization goes far beyond drugs in this case. it's a state's rights issue and THAT is a very big deal. getting away from states rights and more importantly keeping the federal government pared back to its enumerated powers as the 10th amendment requires is likely the biggest deal of the last 50 years. whatever wedge is used to put a crack in the massively overreaching federal edifice at this point is a good one, and, frankly, pretty much all the fiscal issues we have stem from this overreach. they are symptoms of that disease. you can cure a sore throat with salt water gargling, but if you leave the strep bacteria, it's coming right back. one could certainly debate which place is the right one to start this rollback, but to my mind, any of them are better than none but you need somehting better on the table, and i'm not sure i see the will there.

3. liberty is always the most important issue. this is just a facet of that. leaving aside reasons somewhat hyperbolic claims, why must we choose? why not support liberty across the board?

alas, one can make the argument that for all the 10th amendment benefits of a state driven drug vote, this might wind up harming liberty if it brings out more voters from the left who see so determined to impose a socialist/fascist government and revoke economic liberty, but then again, it's not like there was any shot at California not going blue anyhow, so i doubt it will affect the outcomes of the national elections much if at all.

also: i find it easy to get worked up about our drug laws. they are draconian and do massive harm in terms of social violence and staggering incarceration rates and wild constitutional breaches around seizure and sentencing for mere possession of certain drugs (meth, crack) that exceed those for assault with a deadly weapon and, in some cases, homicide.

it's not the only issue worth being worked up over to be sure, but i don't agree with you view that it is, in light of the above, somehow not worth being worked up over.

if you feel that imprisoning citizens that have harmed no other and seizing their property without due process is not worth getting worked up over, then it would appear that we have a wide divergence of opinion on that.

 
At 6/21/2012 8:19 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

She sounded like a total idiot. And I have yet to hear how one can morally justify the state trampling on individual rights. If they can tell you not to ingest dope what next? Will they limit your salt intake? Sugar? Trans-fats? Saturated fats? And for those so-called conservatives, if the majority can tell you what to eat and smoke why is it not entitled to tell you how much of your earnings you can keep?

 
At 6/21/2012 9:16 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

The Thinking Man's Cigarette.

 
At 6/22/2012 7:01 AM, Blogger Ken said...

Sprewell,

the crackhead will start killing people on the street

Can you cite an example of a crack head who just randomly started killing people who wasn't mentally ill? Most deaths surrounding drugs aren't because of drugs or drug use. It's because of the illegality of drugs. Since bad deals and conflicts cannot be resolved peacefully using legal means, the law of the jungle is used.

 
At 6/22/2012 7:47 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

ken-

i do not think sprewell was making that argument about crackheads. i think he was putting it forth as the false argument that other side keeps coming back to.

that was my read of:

"the argument they will always come back to, as some have on this blog, is that the crackhead will start killing people on the street, therefore you have to stop them before they start doing the drug. Then of course, they are getting rid of trans fats and big gulps in NY, so if you can do that, there are others who see no problem with getting rid of harder drugs."

i do not think he was agreeing with it or defending it.

 
At 6/22/2012 7:58 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

vangel-

"And I have yet to hear how one can morally justify the state trampling on individual rights"

nor, i suspect, will you. it's funny how this debate rages on for dozens and dozens of comments when it gets framed as a net harm issue and the drug war proponents can trot out all manner of bugbears and might bes, but that as soon as you ask "so what?" and "why does that mean you can take away the rights of the innocent?" it all dries up.

i think this is WHY they so desperately seek to shift the debate to purported harm. it's a form of rhetorical legerdemain to hide mask the fact that their whole issue is a total loser from a first principles liberty, due process, and presumption of innocence standpoint.

if you watch the rabbit and not the other hand they flourish as distraction, this trick really falls apart.

 
At 6/22/2012 8:24 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

i think this is WHY they so desperately seek to shift the debate to purported harm. it's a form of rhetorical legerdemain to hide mask the fact that their whole issue is a total loser from a first principles liberty, due process, and presumption of innocence standpoint.

if you watch the rabbit and not the other hand they flourish as distraction, this trick really falls apart.


I agree. But the same applies to a number of other arguments too. Where is the moral justification for all of the regulations that government uses to meddle with voluntary transactions? Where is the moral justification for taxation that pays for general 'services' that individuals would not buy from the government?

 
At 6/22/2012 9:24 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

v-

agreed. this same argument applies to dozens of issues from prostitution to kidney sales and the rejoinder is always the same: ignore rights, and draw attention to real or imagined bugbears and postulated bad outcomes.

as for "services" many are even worse. i would happily give up every dime i have paid so far into social security just to be released from making future contributions to that doomed and disastrous program whose NOMINAL much less real returns are negative for me.

i would happily opt out of medicare later in life to avoid paying.

but, being the poor, benighted and stupid subject that i am, the government in all its paternalistic beneficence has deigned to make sure i pay through the nose for these programs that will be gone long before i can use them.

 
At 6/22/2012 9:55 AM, Blogger Nicolas Martin said...

Do the "harm scores" include overdoses and side-effects of contaminants? In other words, how much of the harm of illicit drugs is the consequence not of the drugs themselves but of prohibition?

 
At 6/22/2012 10:57 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

Do the "harm scores" include overdoses and side-effects of contaminants? In other words, how much of the harm of illicit drugs is the consequence not of the drugs themselves but of prohibition?

It gets even more sinister. During Prohibition the government let low quality alcohol that caused blindness and death to get into the marketplace in the hope that it would kill off demand. Look at the ATF fiasco, where they sold guns to the drug cartel so that they can argue that gun sales in the US should be illegal.

 
At 6/22/2012 11:01 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"why is this any of the government's business?

it seems like this gets framed as a net social good/harm issue all the time when it is really a rights issue.

just because bad things happen is not a reason to punish the innocent
"...

Well you stepped in it now morganovich since those so called 'rights' issues can apply to a far wider variety of conditions than to merely drug laws...

I mean the same question can be asked regarding the government and Bernie Madoff...

I think its my right to own and operate an M1 and drive it to work everyday, why should the government interfer?

Your reasoning is at best severely flawed due to your apparent desire not to acknowledge the realites of drug usage...

This video's only real lesson was that of one bureaucrat playing a game of one upmanship with another bureaucrat...

 
At 6/22/2012 11:01 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

but, being the poor, benighted and stupid subject that i am, the government in all its paternalistic beneficence has deigned to make sure i pay through the nose for these programs that will be gone long before i can use them.

That is why some people choose to opt out of the system entirely. If you don't earn a salary it is hard for the government to ask for SS and Medicare contributions or to tax you at the very high rates that it sets. Smart people have chosen strategies that allow them to maximize their after-tax earnings.

 
At 6/22/2012 11:22 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

juandos-

if you seek flawed reasoning, i would look at you own.

"mean the same question can be asked regarding the government and Bernie Madoff...

I think its my right to own and operate an M1 and drive it to work everyday, why should the government interfer?

Your reasoning is at best severely flawed due to your apparent desire not to acknowledge the realites of drug usage..."

your examples are as absurd as they are wrong.

law should uphold 2 things:

1. do as you have promised.
2. do not harm others and their property.

madoff did not do as he promised. he lied. those lies did harm. the rights of his investors were violated. far from my stepping in it, you steeped off the pier and fell in the water on this one. that example could not be less analogous. if i take drugs and dance at a rave, it harms no one else and breaks no promises. if i steal money i promised to keep for you, it harms you and breaks a promise. thus, the former ought to be legal and the latter illegal.

your M1 example is just as absurd and just as wrong. first off, you CAN and ought to be able to own and drive a tank if you like. i have a friend who collects them. he has a half a dozen ww2 tanks that he repairs and drives. but you need to do it on your own land or the land of a willing person.

to drive an m1 up mains st would destroy the street. that destroys the property of others. thus, though it's find to dig up your own yard, you cannot destroy a road that is owned by others.

i am left wondering if a. you even understood what i was saying and b. if you gave any thoughts to those examples at all.

you cannot have a right the requires me to do somehting or takes from me. thus, you cannot have a right to destroy a public road with a tank. you cannot have a right to run a ponzi scheme and steal.

your ideas here are pure illogic and bluster.

if you think madoff and drug use are the same question, then you understand neither.

 
At 6/22/2012 11:35 AM, Blogger Eric H said...

If Mark's chart proves marijuana to be the relatively "safest" of the drugs, couldn't it also be used to prove that the only drug listed that is "legal" is also the most damaging?

I think Morganovich has the best answer because - back to that silver lining of the War on Drugs - one thing that is more addictive than all these drugs in the chart is cash. The government criminals ain't gonna let it go. Doesn't matter if it is more healthy, less dangerous, cheaper or least of all, constitutional. You are interfering with their Sugar Daddy and their toys.

 
At 6/22/2012 12:13 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"your examples are as absurd as they are wrong.

law should uphold 2 things:

1. do as you have promised.
2. do not harm others and their property.
"...

These are the primary flaws of your reasoning morganovich, hence the over the top examples I offered...

"but you need to do it on your own land or the land of a willing person"...

Why? According to your reasoning that's impacting on my rights...

"to drive an m1 up mains st would destroy the street. that destroys the property of others. thus, though it's find to dig up your own yard, you cannot destroy a road that is owned by others"...

Hmmm, and you don't see your 'pro-drug' stance actually accomplishes the samething, right?

Or is it only a matter of degree with you morganovich?

"you cannot have a right the requires me to do somehting or takes from me. thus, you cannot have a right to destroy a public road with a tank. you cannot have a right to run a ponzi scheme and steal"...

Yet apparently YOU think there is a right to steal and kill because unless the government goes into the business of giving drugs (all presently illegal drugs) to those who want them there will be a whole lot of stealing and killing going on...

 
At 6/22/2012 12:55 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

morganovich: ""to drive an m1 up mains st would destroy the street. that destroys the property of others. thus, though it's find to dig up your own yard, you cannot destroy a road that is owned by others"..."

juandos: "Hmmm, and you don't see your 'pro-drug' stance actually accomplishes the samething, right?"

OK, you DO have a right to own an M1 and drive it anywhere you wish until it causes harm to others, which is almost certainly as soon as it enters a public street, at which point you are harming others. Prior to that, you are golden.

You are correct that you shouldn't be forbidden ahead of time.

I don't believe the number of M1 commuters would increase much if it were not forbidden, just as I don't believe there would be a signicicant increase in the number of drug users if drugs were not forbidden.

Your commute might get expensive. :)

 
At 6/22/2012 2:05 PM, Blogger Info Source said...

Ron H Said:
"I don't believe the number of M1 commuters would increase much if it were not forbidden, just as I don't believe there would be a signicicant increase in the number of drug users if drugs were not forbidden."

My Reply: "You are naive beyond belief."

 
At 6/22/2012 2:32 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

I mean the same question can be asked regarding the government and Bernie Madoff...

Madoff is a bad example. His fraud, which he has no right to commit, was made possible by the government that pretended to be looking after his clients. He was busted by a private individual who was ignored by the government for months while good old Bernie was stealing from innocent victims. The extent of his crime would not be possible in a free market.

I think its my right to own and operate an M1 and drive it to work everyday, why should the government interfer?

If you had permission to drive it by owners of the property on which you operated it the government should not interfere because it isn't its business. If you do not have permission then you are trespassing and liable for any damage that you cause.

Your reasoning is at best severely flawed due to your apparent desire not to acknowledge the realites of drug usage...

This video's only real lesson was that of one bureaucrat playing a game of one upmanship with another bureaucrat...

It showed a very stupid DEA administrator avoiding answering simple questions. I see no justification for robbing taxpayers for her to engage in activities not defined by the Constitution. And I do not read one from your corner.

 
At 6/22/2012 2:33 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

juandos-

"These are the primary flaws of your reasoning morganovich, hence the over the top examples I offered..."

say what? those are the basic tenets of a free society governed by rights. where is the flaw you describe? that's a pretty outlandish statement to make and then provide no evidence or explanation. do you actually have an argument there or are you just grandstanding?

"
Why? According to your reasoning that's impacting on my rights..."

again, what? you seem to have no idea what i am talking about and to be missing the whole discussion here. that is nothing at all like my reasoning, just your twisted assumptions.

you act as though i claim you have the right to do whatever you want. i never said that. it's a pure straw man. i said you have the right to your liberty so long as it does not harm others or their property or involve breaking a promise you made.

your illogic and straw men here are staggering. i do not think you are grasping this issue at all.

"
Hmmm, and you don't see your 'pro-drug' stance actually accomplishes the samething, right?

Or is it only a matter of degree with you morganovich?"

and this is the worst nonsense of all. it is NOTHING like the same thing.

if i take drugs on private property and do not harm you or anyhting you own, how is that anyhting like my driving a tank over your lawn?

can you really not grasp this, or are you just trying to be rhetorically dishonest?

what is it that makes you think those are the same?

you keep making these outlandish claims and then not backing them up with anyhting at all.

and this:

"
Yet apparently YOU think there is a right to steal and kill because unless the government goes into the business of giving drugs (all presently illegal drugs) to those who want them there will be a whole lot of stealing and killing going on..."

is so absurd it's hard to know where to start.

i have said explicitly that there is no right to steal and kill. where on earth are you getting that? this just seems like febrile imaginings.

and we're GIVING drugs? where did that come from?

you are taking the totalitarian and paternalistic view that all drug users commit crimes.

is there no guilty until proven innocent in your world juandos? even if you had evidence that drug legalization increased crime, itself an impossibly dubious claim, so what?

merely increasing the likelihood that someone will commit a crime or have a bad outcome is not a crime.

owning a car makes you more likely to engage in hit and run. shall we ban cars? owning a gun makes you more likely to shoot someone. shall we ban guns? hitting puberty makes you more likely to be a rapist. shall we jail adolescents?

you are proposing taking imaginary harm and using it to take away rights to avoid possible crimes. that's the act of a tyrant and then equating a personal choice with public harm.

your arguments are all outlandish assumption, deliberate distortion of the argument, flat out illogic, and bizarre presumption.

you never once touch on the real issue:

if i chosse to use drugs and harm no one (except possibly myself) in so doing, what business is it of the governments.

if i steal or destroy property, that IS the business of legitimate government.

thus far, you have not provided even a single valid argument.

 
At 6/22/2012 2:33 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

i am left wondering if a. you even understood what i was saying and b. if you gave any thoughts to those examples at all.

On a., it is unlikely that s/he wants to understand what was being said. On b., it is doubtful that s/he has any coherent and logical thoughts on the subject at all.

 
At 6/22/2012 2:40 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Why? According to your reasoning that's impacting on my rights...

Not at all. You have the right to your life, liberty, and property. You do not have the right to violate the life, liberty, and property of anyone else.

This is not a difficult or complex argument. The fact that you have trouble following should be troubling for you.

Hmmm, and you don't see your 'pro-drug' stance actually accomplishes the samething, right?

Not at all. A drug user has no right to violate the property rights of others and if s/he does then s/he is liable for any damages just like anyone else who does damage is liable.

Yet apparently YOU think there is a right to steal and kill because unless the government goes into the business of giving drugs (all presently illegal drugs) to those who want them there will be a whole lot of stealing and killing going on...

Clearly you have a reading comprehension problem. Your right to smoke pot if you want it does not give you the right to steal or kill anyone else. And you are also ignorant of the reality. Government is prohibiting drugs right now and that prohibition is causing a lot of stealing and killing. That is what happened when alcohol was illegal. When FDR made it legal, which is why he got reelected, the killing stopped and tax revenues went up.

 
At 6/22/2012 2:42 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

"I don't believe the number of M1 commuters would increase much if it were not forbidden, just as I don't believe there would be a signicicant increase in the number of drug users if drugs were not forbidden."

My Reply: "You are naive beyond belief."


He is neither naive nor stupid. But it is clear that the advocates for prohibition are because they are incapable of following a simple argument.

 
At 6/22/2012 2:45 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

"My Reply: "You are naive beyond belief."

i think you are the naive one info.

do you really believe that there are many people now who want drugs and are having trouble getting them?

now THAT notion is naive.

and do you really think that making them legal and putting an 18-21 year old age on using them would not cut the number of kids using them by 90%?

a 13 year old has trouble buying beer now, but they can buy drugs easily. dealers do not card.

and could you possibly argue that increases in over 18-21 year old harm would be greater than the harm reduction of dropping usage by minors?

that seems even more naive.

decriminalization did not increase use in protugal. the dutch who had legal pot smoked far less than americans did.

and even so, so what?

you start with the assumption that drug use needs to be stopped by taking away the liberty of those who have not harmed anyone?

why?

how can you justify that?

 
At 6/22/2012 3:28 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Info Source said: "My Reply: "You are naive beyond belief."

How many people do yo think are willing to face almost certain arrest every day as they commute to work, and the subsequent jail time and the very expensive lawsuits for damages caused by their choice of vehicle?

If you plan to suggest that it's hard to make a traffic stop of an M1 tank, you are absolutely correct, but the penalty for failure to comply is very high.

Without looking, I'm not even sure there is any law prohibiting driving around in an M1, but the number of people doing so seems to be low, nonetheless.

Seeing how little regard most of us have for traffic laws, there must be some other dis-incentive at work here.

If you are instead reacting to the other part of my conmment that few people would start using drugs if they were legal, you might want to ask around to find out how many people you know or know of, who would really love to use drugs, but don't because they are illegal.

I'll bet it's a really small number - maybe 0.

People who want to use drugs are already doing so. Those who don't, are not. There may be a small number in the margin, but nothing to be alarmed about.

 
At 6/22/2012 3:32 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"owning a gun makes you more likely to shoot someone. shall we ban guns?"

Umm. They're working on it.

 
At 6/22/2012 4:50 PM, Blogger Ken said...

juan,

I mean the same question can be asked regarding the government and Bernie Madoff...

Who is being defrauded if I decide to toke up?

I think its my right to own and operate an M1 and drive it to work everyday, why should the government interfer?

If you're willing to pay for the damage to the road for driving it, of course.

According to your reasoning that's impacting on my rights...

Wrong.

Or is it only a matter of degree with you morganovich?

No.

Yet apparently YOU think there is a right to steal and kill

So to clarify doing drugs is the same as stealing?

 
At 6/22/2012 8:57 PM, Blogger Hicsum said...

Yes, this is interesting but there is an obvious problem. Why is the legislator beating up the law enforcer over laws passed? Isn't it HIS job to change the law and hers to enforce it. Regardless of what she answers, even if she parroted what he wanted to hear, she can't change the law. That's his role. Stop badger and instead propose legislation. That's YOUR job.

 
At 6/22/2012 8:58 PM, Blogger Hicsum said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 6/23/2012 12:42 AM, OpenID Sprewell said...

Ken, since I support the legalization of all drugs, including hard and prescription drugs, and abolishing both the DEA and FDA, Morganovich is right that I am not making the dumb argument that the crackhead will kill you. That is the argument usually made by the prohibitionists, as Juandos is obliquely doing above, I was merely stating that that is their argument.

morganovich, I agree with you that states' rights is the bigger issue here, but when even Scalia rules against state rights when it comes to drugs, obviously nobody cares about that aspect much (other than Clarence Thomas, who wrote the most sensible opinion in that case: thank god for Clarence Thomas). I agree that the drug laws do a fair amount of harm, but like it or not, most people will not get worked up over whether somebody else can get high or not. That it is why I think it is strategically a better decision to set aside these social issues to focus on the biggest problem of all, runaway spending by the federal govt, not on this blog, but in public appearances like that Reason editor was making.

 
At 6/23/2012 12:43 AM, OpenID Sprewell said...

As for your framing this issue as a matter of rights, I don't think "rights" are a very helpful formulation whatsoever. For every one of you or Vangel who believe in rights favoring liberty, there are 3-5 people around the world who believe they have a "right" to a job, healthcare, you name it. There is no right to anything, merely certain principles any given society decides to live by. The framers of the US Constitution chose some particularly good principles, ie "rights," to begin with, such as freedom of speech or the right to bear arms, but there is nothing ordained about those rights, nor do most people think in terms of rights. So you have to make a messier and more complex argument about results, as that is what most people rightly care about, and unfortunately they have been hoodwinked into a belief that they're better off with our current drug laws.

Those of us who favor drug legalization have to make practical arguments about how those drug laws do more harm than good, rather than regressing to simplistic "rights"-based arguments that can be used to argue almost anything, ie I claim I have a right to healthcare, therefore you must pay for it since you have more money than me. Since one can just claim a "right" out of thin air, such an argument is fundamentally irrational unless you can justify your rights on some sound basis, at which point you're probably better off ditching the language of "rights" anyway.

 
At 6/23/2012 3:12 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Sprewell: "There is no right to anything, merely certain principles any given society decides to live by."

Then you don't believe, as did John Locke, then Thomas Jefferson that each of us as individuals have certain "natural" rights as a condition of our humanity or as endowed by our creator that are self evident and inalienable, and include life, liberty, and property?

Do you believe instead that all rights are granted by government?

"The framers of the US Constitution chose some particularly good principles, ie "rights," to begin with, such as freedom of speech or the right to bear arms, but there is nothing ordained about those rights..."

Actually the rights you mention didn't originate with the Constitution but existed long before that in English custom, and were selected as examples, but not as an all inclusive list of rights that government was forbidden to interfere with.

As morganovich is fond of saying, you have all the rights you would have if you lived by yourself on a desert island.

There can't be a right that requires someone else to provide something for you. Those would include a healthcare, food, clothing, shelter, a "livable wage", "meaningful employment", etc. etc.

 
At 6/23/2012 4:47 AM, OpenID Sprewell said...

Ron, I'm an atheist who comes at anarcho-capitalism from consequentialist reasoning, so the whole notion of "natural rights" is silly to me. Rights aren't "granted" by the govt; your society decides what principles to live by and it may enshrine its highest principles as "rights." In the US, that's freedom of speech and the right to assemble. In "communist" Cuba, that's the right to shitty health care and some meager living. I'd obviously rather live in a society that chooses to enshrine better principles, but I don't care for the language of "rights," no matter what they consist of.

Yes, the rights enshrined in the US Constitution often had a long precedent that justified enumerating them, but so do many other irrational ideas. I'm sure Hillary Clinton believes that it "takes a village" to raise a child, and therefore public schools are the only way to educate kids. I know that you and morganovich would only choose a handful of negative rights, ie to keep govts off of you and your property, but the point is that others will choose to claim exactly those welfare rights you deny, the right to "healthcare, food, clothing, shelter, a 'livable wage,' 'meaningful employment,' etc." The entire language of rights is useless because it is pre-rational: it asserts that there are some divine rights that others cannot abrogate, with no argument. Therefore, while you would like to construct these rights to be as freedom-loving as possible, there is nothing you can do to stop others from claiming other rights, as they can just claim they have a divine right to healthcare, which you must pay for. At that point, it all becomes a religious argument about whose rights are sanctioned, with little room for rational debate.

 
At 6/23/2012 4:49 AM, OpenID Sprewell said...

But it doesn't much matter where I come down in that debate, what matters is that, for better or worse, most people do approach these issues from a consequentialist vantage point, on some level. That is why you have to make those practical arguments at all times, because while it may be tempting to lapse into the language of rights, as morganovich notes, those "rights" arguments almost never convince anyone, since your opponents likely believe in very different rights than you do. But most do want to live in a better world and if you can show them how your argument would get them there in a practical way, they can be swayed. So whatever my personal opposition to the whole notion of "rights," the real issue is that such an argument doesn't mean much for most people, who are uninterested in learning about your particular grab-bag of "rights," but are often much more willing to listen to consequentialist arguments.

 
At 6/23/2012 6:24 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

Ron, I'm an atheist who comes at anarcho-capitalism from consequentialist reasoning, so the whole notion of "natural rights" is silly to me. Rights aren't "granted" by the govt; your society decides what principles to live by and it may enshrine its highest principles as "rights."....

According to this logic the concentration guards at Auschwitz were blameless of the crimes for which they were executed because they were doing what society approved of. I don't really think that if you took the time to really consider the argument that is where you want to wind up.

And please don't tell us that their actions were not approved of by society because they did as their elected leaders wanted. We cannot figure out what 'society' wants other than to look at its laws. And if those laws allow slavery, the prosecution of some minority, or theft then all those things must be acceptable. If the 99% decide that all wealth above $10 million should be confiscated and redistributed then we have to accept what 'society' wants.

See where moral relativism leads? And see why the right wing supporters of your logic have not thought through what happens when the left gets to interpret what society values? And vice versa?

Sorry but the moral relativist position that you want to use as an escape hatch cannot stand up to scrutiny for long. There is no independent arbitrator of what 'society' wants and there isn't even such a thing as society. All we have is a collection of individuals who pursue their own goals and have their unique beliefs. History is full of examples where political opportunists have made all kinds of claims about what society wants. All those claims were repudiated when the next wave of political opportunists took power.

 
At 6/23/2012 6:27 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

But it doesn't much matter where I come down in that debate, what matters is that, for better or worse, most people do approach these issues from a consequentialist vantage point, on some level.

Who are these deities who can decide what is a favourable consequence when each act may have victims? Isn't this how we come up with Kelo, Wickard and other such monstrosities?

 
At 6/23/2012 7:22 AM, OpenID Sprewell said...

Vangel, the Germans guarding and killing Polish and Hungarian jews were certainly not blameless according to the laws of Poland and Hungary. And "laws" are not the only moral force in any society, not by a long shot. But yes, any society is free to come up with its own morals and "blame," as the world is fundamentally amoral: we're just motes standing on a blue ball rolling its way through the vast universe. It helps societies to come up with morals and laws to keep order and survive, but these are simply rules of the road, like driving on the right side of the road, and one can go drive on the left side in another country, usually with similar results. The benefits and advantages are practical, not "moral."

Yes, "If the 99% decide that all wealth above $10 million should be confiscated and redistributed then we have to accept what 'society' wants." I suggest you move to Venezuela and argue that you have a right to that $20 million and see how far you get. You can argue your rights all you want, but when the mob is against you, see how far you get. I'm not sure what you think this has to do with "moral relativism," unless you think every society has to live along Vangel's ideal rules. The fact is that every society has its own values and ideal of the better life, and I don't see how or why you would dare impose your views on them or argue that different societies choosing different values is somehow "moral relativism." They are not being relative, they are choosing exactly what they think the best values are.

 
At 6/23/2012 7:26 AM, OpenID Sprewell said...

I suppose you are accusing me of being a "moral relativist" because I wouldn't try to impose some basic morality on all of them? As if such a thing could be done in the first place. There are people rotting all over the world in Pakistani or Argentinian prisons for what you and I wouldn't call a crime, yet there is little we can do about it.

"There is no independent arbitrator of what 'society' wants and there isn't even such a thing as society. All we have is a collection of individuals who pursue their own goals and have their unique beliefs. History is full of examples where political opportunists have made all kinds of claims about what society wants. All those claims were repudiated when the next wave of political opportunists took power."

Yes, which is precisely why we'd better off with no govt and no politicians to pull the levers of govt power. But that is up to every society to learn and decide for itself.

 
At 6/23/2012 9:51 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

Vangel, the Germans guarding and killing Polish and Hungarian jews were certainly not blameless according to the laws of Poland and Hungary.

The laws that they were operating under were those of the occupying German forces. But let us get past the semantics and look at a simplified case. If they killed Jews in Berlin would that have made you happier?

And "laws" are not the only moral force in any society, not by a long shot. But yes, any society is free to come up with its own morals and "blame," as the world is fundamentally amoral: we're just motes standing on a blue ball rolling its way through the vast universe.

This means that 'society' can accept slavery, murder, and theft of minorities as a norm. And that morality is relative so anything can be accepted in any 'society.' There is a big question that you should be able to see coming but I will hold off until we look at the rest of your statement.

It helps societies to come up with morals and laws to keep order and survive, but these are simply rules of the road, like driving on the right side of the road, and one can go drive on the left side in another country, usually with similar results. The benefits and advantages are practical, not "moral."

So murder is wrong for practical reasons that have nothing to do with morality? We can decide to implement eugenics programs for 'practical' reasons because we know that Asians and Jews are not as smart as whites and you would see nothing morally reprehensible with that?

Note that you are assuming that we know what 'society' wants. But how can that be true when 'society' is just a collection of individuals belonging to different groups? In your 'practical' terms there is no such thing as 'society' making laws and rules. There are only the ruling elites who are in power and decide what is and what is not lawful.

See the problem yet?

 
At 6/23/2012 9:59 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

Yes, "If the 99% decide that all wealth above $10 million should be confiscated and redistributed then we have to accept what 'society' wants."

I admire your honesty if not your logic or morality.

I suggest you move to Venezuela and argue that you have a right to that $20 million and see how far you get.

So might makes right? If you have a tyrant who says that the rich should lose what they have he must speak for 'society' and that is OK. Does that mean that when the elite kill him and take over it is OK for them to exterminate those that supported that tyrant? That the hit squads are perfectly fine because that is clearly what 'society' has implemented to take care of social unrest?

You can argue your rights all you want, but when the mob is against you, see how far you get. I'm not sure what you think this has to do with "moral relativism," unless you think every society has to live along Vangel's ideal rules.

It is all about moral relativism. You claim that if the ruling class decides that Jews are to be killed that is what 'society' wants. That if the rich are to lose their wealth that is OK because that is what 'society' wants. In your world there is no morality. There is only power and power is always right.

The fact is that every society has its own values and ideal of the better life, and I don't see how or why you would dare impose your views on them or argue that different societies choosing different values is somehow "moral relativism."

I am not imposing anything. All I am saying is that people own their own bodies. That they own the labour and thoughts that come from that body. That they can use that labour and those thoughts to transform things found unowned in nature to convert them to products that they can trade with others. And that once acquired those others gain title and can do with their property whatever they wish without asking permission from others as long as they do not violate the natural rights of others. Note the consistency and logic of the position that some of us advocate. And note the illogical moral relativism in yours.

They are not being relative, they are choosing exactly what they think the best values are.

I am sorry but I do not see how 'they' can rightfully choose which minority to exterminate, no matter how 'practical' the goals you think 'they' have.

Yours is the morality of tyranny. Mine is the morality of freedom. There is a big difference even if you refuse to see it.

 
At 6/23/2012 10:01 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

I suppose you are accusing me of being a "moral relativist" because I wouldn't try to impose some basic morality on all of them? As if such a thing could be done in the first place. There are people rotting all over the world in Pakistani or Argentinian prisons for what you and I wouldn't call a crime, yet there is little we can do about it.

No. I accuse you of being a moral relativist because you reject the idea that people own their own bodies, their lives, and their property, and that you try to justify genocide on practical grounds.

Without basic and absolute moral rules anything is possible and everything is permissible if you have the guns to pull it off.

 
At 6/23/2012 1:02 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Sprewell: "The fact is that every society has its own values and ideal of the better life, and I don't see how or why you would dare impose your views on them or argue that different societies choosing different values is somehow "moral relativism." They are not being relative, they are choosing exactly what they think the best values are."

I'm not sure "choosing" is the word I would use. Although anything is possible, I don't see "society" choosing what they consider a better way of life in countries like N. Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, 1930s Germany, Mao's China, Stalin's Russia, but instead very powerful individuals or groups imposing their will on others.

It isn't necessary to include a deity in one's beliefs to believe in natural rights, in fact maybe a better definition would be individual rights, that are part of our nature as human beings, and can be observed to allow maximum "happiness" for each person.

Societies are formed when individuals perceive an advantage to mutual cooperation and exchange.

To suggest that groups can legitimately impose their will on others, implies that individual human beings have a relative value. This legitimizes slavery, genocide, female genital mutilation, child prostitution, and every other imaginable use of force against individuals, that most of us - I think - find repugnant.

An analogy to the concept of certain "rights" inherent in human nature would be to consider the inherent nature of birds to fly. A bird fulfills its highest potential as a bird, when it can fly freely. You could say that a bird has a "right" to fly, as it is in their nature, although obviously, it can be prevented from doing so.

It is instinctive in each of us to defend our life, liberty, and property against violation by others. If one acknowledges that others have the same instincts and that they should be treated by us as we would like to be treated by them, then it doesn't seem a stretch to call them "rights".

 

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