Marijuana prohibition gives criminals free reign

When writing about money laundering laws, I’ll sometimes highlight gross abuses by government and I’ll periodically make the usual libertarian arguments about privacy.

But I mostly focus on how the laws simply don’t make sense from a cost-benefit perspective. Anti-money laundering laws and regulations impose large burdens on the private sector, which creates disproportionate hardship for the poor. Yet there’s no evidence that the laws actually hinder criminal activity, which was the rationale for imposing the laws in the first place.

I have the same attitude about the War on Drugs. Yes, I get upset that people are mistreated and it irks me as a libertarian that people aren’t free to make their own choices (even if they are dumb choices) about what to put in their bodies.

But what really gets me angry is the absurd misallocation of law enforcement resources. Consider this info from a recent WonkBlog column in the Washington Post about the ever-expanding efforts of government to harass drug users.
Federal figures on drug arrests and drug use over the past three decades tell the story. Drug-possession arrests skyrocketed, from fewer than 200 arrests for every 100,000 people in 1979 … hovering near 400 arrests per 100,000 people … despite the tough-on-crime push that led to the surge in arrests in recent decades, illicit drug use today is more common among Americans age 12 and older than it was in the early 1980s. Federal figures show no correlation between drug-possession arrests and rates of drug use during that time.
But here’s the part that should upset all of us, even if we don’t like drugs or even if we think they should be illegal.

Instead of focusing on the fight against crimes that actually have victims (such as robbery, murder, rape, assault, etc), the government is squandering an immense about of time, energy, resources, and money on drug arrests.
…arrests for drug possession continue to make up a significant chunk of modern-day police work. “Around the country, police make more arrests for drug possession than for any other crime,” the report finds, citing FBI data. “More than one of every nine arrests by state law enforcement is for drug possession, amounting to more than 1.25 million arrests each year.” In fact, police make more arrests for marijuana possession alone than for all violent crimes combined.
That last sentence is breathtaking. Does anyone think that busting potheads is more important than fighting genuine crime?

Do you want an example of law enforcement resources being misallocated?

Well, this story from New Hampshire tells you everything you need to know.
… an 81-year-old grandmother had been growing … the plant as medicine, a way to ease arthritis and glaucoma and help her sleep at night. Tucked away in a raspberry patch and separated by a fence from any neighbors, the plant was nearly ready for harvest when a military-style helicopter and police descended on Sept. 21. In a joint raid, the Massachusetts National Guard and State Police entered her yard and cut down the solitary plant … authorities are using budgeted funds, prior to the end of the federal fiscal year Saturday, to gas up helicopters and do flyovers … “Is this the way we want our taxpayer money spent, to hassle an 81-year-old and law-abiding patients?” Cutler said.
Gee, I don’t know about you, but I’ll sleep more comfortably tonight knowing that lots of taxpayer money was squandered to seize a pot plant from this dangerous granny!

Still not convinced that law enforcement resources aren’t being wasted? And still not upset that lives are being disrupted and harmed by a heavy-handed government.

Then consider this horror story from Reason:
James Slatic, a California medical marijuana business owner, found out all his family’s bank accounts had been seized by the government one day in January when his 19-year-old daughter tried to buy lunch at the San Jose State University cafeteria and her card was declined. Slatic’s wife tried to transfer money to their daughter, figuring she had simply overdrawn her account, as teenagers are wont to do, but her account wouldn’t work, either. What the Slatics soon learned was the San Diego police had frozen all of their bank accounts: $55,258 from Slatic’s personal checking and savings account; $34,175 from his wife Annette’s account; and a combined $11,260 from the savings accounts of their two teenage daughters, Penny and Lily … The Slatics’ crimes? None. Or at least, the San Diego District Attorney’s Office hasn’t charged them with any in the nine months since it seized their accounts.
His business also was shut down, which wasn’t good news for him or his employees that are now out on the street.
The trouble for James Slatic began five days before his family’s accounts were frozen, when around 30 San Diego police officers and DEA agents raided Slatic’s medical marijuana business, Med-West Distribution, and seized nearly $325,000 in cash from a safe … The raid was a crushing blow to Slatic – not to mention his 35 employees, who lost their jobs and benefits without notice.
Here’s a video detailing this disgusting abuse by government.
There is some good news. Voters in several states voted last week to decriminalize pot.

And for those who worry that legalizing marijuana will be a gateway to decriminalizing harder drugs, I encourage you to read this Cato Institute study on what happened after Portugal legalized all drugs early last decade.
This first appeared at the author's website.
Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell
Daniel J. Mitchell is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute who specializes in fiscal policy, particularly tax reform, international tax competition, and the economic burden of government spending. He also serves on the editorial board of the Cayman Financial Review.
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Why Brazilians Are Demanding "Menos Marx, Mais Mises"

To say that Brazil is in the midst of huge political and economic crises is probably an understatement. Brazilian GDP has decreased for 3 years in a row, unemployment stands at 10.9%, and inflation is high. States like Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais have decreed a “state of fiscal calamity.” Central political figures have been involved in unprecedented corruption scandals. Dilma Rousseff, the former president of Brazil, has been impeached. Members of the political establishment are nervous about being implicated in plea bargain testimonies as a part of corruption investigations. The emblematic former president Lula is very likely to be charged, as is the former head of the Congress, the head of the Senate, ex-ministers, ex-governors and maybe even the acting president, Michel Temer.

As a result, a massive popular movement has emerged and protesters have taken to the streets all over the country. Interestingly, among the traditional “Fora Dilma” (Dilma Out) signs and Lula’s inflatable dolls dressed as prison inmates, it was not uncommon to see Gadsden flags, and “Less Marx, More Mises” and “Olavo is Right” signs. Mises was the leading economist of the Austrian School of Economics, which advocates radically free markets. Olavo de Carvalho is a Brazilian conservative philosopher who lives in America.

A Long Time Coming

The intellectual underpinnings of the recent Brazilian protests are the result of a decades-long movement seeking a deep ideological change in the country. It is said that Hayek advised Anthony Fischer to avoid politics and influence intellectuals instead because he believed that the intellectual arguments would prevail in the long run. Fischer went on to create the Institute of Economic Affairs. Several years later, we saw the rise of public figures like Thatcher and Reagan. Something similar is happening in Brazil.

In the 1980s, Brazil faced hyperinflation, dictatorship, and state bankruptcy. Brazilians who had studied abroad and learned free market economics and understood the importance of individual liberty began to form groups designed to teach these ideas to businessmen. They translated many books by Mises, Hayek, Kirzner and even Ayn Rand. Several “Institutos Liberais” (Liberal Institutes) were created, but the movement remained small and ultimately ineffectual for several years. In the mid-90s, it almost disappeared. Intellectually, the 90s were essentially leftist. Marxist anti-market and anti-globalization views were dominant in virtually all of Brazil’s universities.

A single conservative philosopher began to rise to prominence. Olavo de Carvalho denounced the left’s dominance as a Gramscian cultural revolution strategy. He benefited from the increased availability of the internet and started to gather followers nationwide. As a college professor, Olavo taught while smoking, drinking coffee, and quoting obscure philosophers. As an activist, Olavo pulled no punches against his ideological opponents. He started several private long-distance courses and maintained a website full of libertarian and conservative content, one of few such collections Brazilians could access at the time. Olavo broke with libertarianism after a few years, becoming more conservative. Olavo continued to grow his audience as corrupt practices of Brazil’s Workers Party became known to the public and lent support to his theories. The number of his students and followers (Olavetes) skyrocketed and many other conservatives thinkers have risen to popularity since.

Libertarians, on the other hand, started a movement of their own. Unlike the Olavo’s conservative movement, the libertarians lacked a central ideological leader. In a relatively short period of time, they have achieved very impressive results. Today, libertarianism is growing faster in Brazil than in any other country. The word “Mises” is the subject of more Google searches than either “Marx” or “Keynes.”

Brazil is full of Institutes, websites, and blogs about libertarianism and Austrian economics. Instituto Mises Brasil (Mises Institute - Brazil) has translated several Austrian books and publishes articles every day. Estudantes pela Liberdade (Students for Liberty) holds conferences in hundreds of cities and has become the largest student association in the country by far. Dozens of student discussion groups have popped up in Brazil’s universities. Spotniks publishes daily articles debunking the mainstream media's many statist claims. Instituto Mercado Popular (The Popular Market Institute) discusses market-based solutions to public policies. Instituto de Estudos Empresariais (The Institute of Business Studies) and Instituto de Formação de Lideres (The Leadership Training Institute) hold annual gigantic conferences in five capitals. But the biggest battlefield, of course, is online. Each of these institutions has thousands of Facebook likes and followers. Alongside these, independent YouTubers and bloggers also help to disseminate and popularize the ideas of a free society.

Liberty in Brazilian Politics

This movement has started yielding political fruits. The Novo (New) political party, which holds classical liberal views and refuses to be financed by public funds, has managed to elect four city councilman in four important capitals. The Partido Social Liberal (The Social Liberal Party) is a small party that is gradually being taken over by LIVRES, a bleeding-heart libertarian movement that seeks to align leftist flags and libertarian proposals, but the movement has yet to win over the party establishment.

Public opinion in Brazil has been a mix of Marxist, Positivist and Developmentalist ideas. Many still hold radical communist ideas: the poors are poor because the riches are rich, because of capitalist exploitation, because of the greed of foreign owners of capital. Brazil is also the only country with a positivist church. Comte, the father of positivism, believed technicians and experts should plan all aspects of ordinary life to compulsorily promote science and progress. It is the elitist view that ordinary people cannot think for themselves, that poor people are a lower class to be commanded, and are a problem to be cleaned away. Positivism has been implicit in the minds of Brazilians and explicit in the slogan on our flag “Ordem e Progresso” (Order and Progress). Developmentalism, a tropical mix of mercantilism and Keynesianism, has been the mainstream economic doctrine developed by Latin economists. It asserts that “what is good for rich countries is not good for us.” Its core policies are central planning, interventionism, protectionism, and an expansive state as the motor of development.

Historically, Brazil and Latin America have been stuck between Caudillism and Marxism, between populism and good intentions, between coup d’etat and revolutions, between an extremist left and a militaristic right, between Hobbes and Rousseau. They have never tried Locke. This could be the beginning of something different.

Adriano  Gianturco

Adriano Gianturco
Adriano Gianturco is a professor of political science at Brazil’s Instituto Brasileiro de Mercado de Capitais (IBMEC).
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Closed borders. No free trade deals. Welcome to socialist Venezuela.

Years have passed since the fall of the Berlin Wall. This watershed moment in history was highlighted by images of countless East German citizens joyously celebrating as the infamous Berlin Wall was knocked down, thus marking the beginning of the unification of East and West Germany and the eventual fall of the Soviet Union.

On the fateful day of November 9, 1989, the first pieces of the Berlin Wall were hacked away by demonstrators, effectively setting the stage for the eventual dissolution of the Soviet Union and its totalitarian socialist project. Soon, East Germany and countless other Soviet satellite states would freely join the capitalist world and enjoy its many benefits.

Despite such a milestone in the advancement of human freedom, there are still remnants of Soviet-style central planning in present times.

What Venezuela is facing today is just one of the vestiges of the primitive model of socialism. Just recently, estimates of 35,000 Venezuelans made their way over to Colombia to buy basic goods that are now luxuries in present-day Venezuela. Such images were unheard of in Venezuela in decades prior, when it was one of the most prosperous countries in Latin America. Alas, socialism does not discriminate against countries, rich or poor.

The Wall 

As of August 2015, the Venezuelan government closed its border with Colombia under the pretext of combating smugglers who were purportedly poaching and reselling Venezuelan goods for handsome profits back in Colombia.

The Venezuelan government’s response is standard operating procedure for a regime that looks to scapegoat foreign actors as a way to shift attention away from the destructive policies that brought about these shortages in the first place–exchange and price controls.

When the failures of socialist policies become clear, these governments do everything they can to close off their borders in order to prevent their subjects from experiencing true prosperity in the capitalist world. Once citizens taste the fruits of capitalism in freer countries, there is no turning back.

In effect, socialist governments turn their citizenry into veritable serfs that must be shackled to their land and cannot venture outside in search of better opportunities.  The ultimate purpose of these walls is not just to keep foreign goods and individuals out, but to keep their very citizens caged in.

Like East Germany, Venezuela is no exception to this rule as its citizens must endure a squalid standard of living and increasing degrees of government oppression. On the other hand, its neighbor Colombia enjoys the benefits of capitalism brought about by a decade of reforms that have made it more open to international commerce and investment.

Brain Drain

Nearly 2 million Venezuelans have left the country since Hugo Chavez assumed power in 1999. Naturally, their common places of destination- Colombia, Panama, Spain, United States- enjoy significantly higher degrees of economic freedom than Venezuela currently does.

It is small wonder why socialist countries are marked by large diasporas. As the economist Milton Friedman sagaciously observed, people “vote with their feet” when government policy becomes too oppressive and makes earning a living next to impossible in their country of origin.

The 35,000 Venezuelans that made their way over to Colombia effectively casted a vote of no confidence in Venezuela's irrational, political system. Instead of waiting in an endless line to buy goods or rely on a black market that has become increasingly co-opted by the government, these brave individuals decided to exercise their liberty as consumers and go to a country with a modicum of economic freedom.

More than just a series of economic transactions, the aforementioned movement of people is a veritable form of civil disobedience. Tyrannical regimes despise a citizenry that votes with its feet and take its talents and purchasing power abroad.

Many seem to overlook that the fall of Berlin Wall was not so much a top-down decision made by political elites, but rather an organic uprising spurred by individuals that were frustrated with the totalitarian status quo. It was the determination of the countless individuals who saw through the illusion of socialism that led to the ultimate collapse of one of the most totalitarian systems that the world has ever seen.

Now it’s Venezuela’s turn to knock down its proverbial Berlin Wall and let economic freedom and the rule of law be the order of the day.

Jose Nino

Jose Nino
Jose Nino is a Venezuelan-American citizen that is currently living in Dallas, Texas.
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Feminists look to squirrels for 'posthuman' inspiration

Squirrels in Los Angeles, California, whose victimization has been ignored for too long, have finally gained a champion in the form of Teresa Lloro-Bidart, an assistant professor in the Liberal Studies Department at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona.

Lloro-Bidart's ringing defense of squirrels against the racist human patriarchy appears in the newest issue of Gender, Place & Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography, a journal which is standard reading for... uh, well, maybe about three people.

According to the abstract for this paper, which was printed in the May 7 Wall Street Journal (The paper is titled, ominously, “When ‘Angelino’ squirrels don’t eat nuts: a feminist posthumanist politics of consumption across southern California”), Lloro-Bidart
“juxtapose[s] feminist posthumanist theories and feminist food studies scholarship to demonstrate how eastern fox squirrels are subjected to gendered, racialized, and speciesist thinking in the popular news media as a result of their feeding/eating practices, their unique and unfixed spatial arrangements in the greater Los Angeles region, and the western, modernist human frame through which humans interpret these actions. I conclude by drawing out the implications of this research for the fields of animal geography and feminist geography.”
Among the many human depredations visited upon the squirrel, there is that of being “otherized” on account of its diet:
“...[E]astern fox squirrels [sic] eating of ‘everything’ is viewed as a performance whereby the fecund female ‘other’ risks causing a ‘takeover.’ Such narratives problematically bind the category ‘squirrel’ through a delineation of proper and improper eating practices, forestalling membership in both suburban/urban and wild places.”
And to think this could happen today. In a society that calls itself civilized. And, by the way, wouldn't (as Dave Barry might say) the “Otherized Squirrels” be a great name for a rock band?

According to the paper, squirrels are also subject to being “gendered,” which probably comes as a surprise to squirrels themselves since, being unaware of the evils of gender binaries, they seem to be under the impression that they are exclusively male and female and that there is no problem with that.

In addition, Lloro-Bidart catalogues the manifold ways in which these poor oppressed squirrels, in the process of being “gendered,” are also being fat-shamed by being targeted by stereotypes of women who eat too much. At least, that is how we interpret this statement:
“As feminist food studies scholar Cooks highlights, the metaphor of food as body ‘individualizes the body as the unit of consumption’ and ‘prescribe[s] gender identities via what and how we eat.’”
And by the way, am I the only one less scandalized by the fact that squirrels are being fat-shamed than that universities actually pay people to be feminist food studies scholars?

Of course, it is hard to know what squirrels themselves think of all this, since they communicate using random and unintelligible vocal sounds. But, then again, so do feminist posthumanists who write ridiculous academic articles like this.

This post Oppressed Squirrels Find Champion in Feminist Scholar was originally published on Intellectual Takeout by Martin Cothran.