Tag Archives: war on drugs

Mobility, or, the Marijuana Tax Credit

The Economist has a story which mentions, in passing, that America’s high rates of home ownership (inflated by federal subsidies) hurt the unemployment more than taxes or regulations:

A decade ago Andrew Oswald of the University of Warwick in Britain argued that excessive home-ownership kills jobs. He observed that, in Europe, nations with high rates of home-ownership, such as Spain, had much higher unemployment rates than those where more people rented, such as Switzerland. He found this effect was stronger than tax rates or employment law.

If there are few homes to rent, he argued, jobless youngsters living with their parents find it harder to move out and get work. Immobile workers become stuck in jobs for which they are ill-suited, which is inefficient: it raises prices, reduces incomes and makes some jobs uneconomic. Areas with high home-ownership often have a strong “not-in-my-backyard” ethos, with residents objecting to new development. Homeowners commute farther than renters, which causes congestion and makes getting to work more time-consuming and costly for everyone. Mr Oswald urged governments to stop subsidising home-ownership. Few listened.

America subsidises more than most. Owner-occupiers typically pay no tax on capital gains and can deduct mortgage interest from their income-tax bills. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two government-backed mortgage firms, have squandered a fortune promoting home-ownership among the uncreditworthy.

The other threat to mobility is health insurance. A company can buy health insurance for its employees with pre-tax dollars; an individual can buy it only with after-tax dollars. So although soaring premiums are prompting many firms to drop or restrict coverage, most Americans still get their health insurance from their jobs.

This makes it hard for anyone with a sick child to quit and start a new firm. It also makes it harder to switch jobs, despite a law helping employees to stay in company plans for 18 months after they leave. Scott Adams of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee found that married men with no alternative source of insurance were 22% less likely to switch jobs than those who, for example, could get covered by their wife’s employer.

President Bush deserves blame for much of this. He though the poor, the working class, and politically correct minorities would acquire middle class values if they own a mortgage. This Conservative Social Engineering backfired, when his efforts resulted in a wave of foreclosures and angry cries (from his beneficiaries) that they should not have been trusted after all.

Bush’s failure to make personal health care spending tax deductible is simply inexplicable.

I have hope for a better future under President Obama. I expect Obama to see the greatest collapse in home ownership in American history, easily wiping out the gains that blacks and the working class (among others) made under President Bush. Likewise, I expect Obama to socialize health care much more than it is now.

Presuming that Obama stops making fun of cancer patients, we may even see a day under the Obama administration when purchase of medical marijuana is tax deductible, like spending on other drugs are already indirectly deductible to employers.

Big Pharma not Big Gangs

An excellent short post referencing a story on gang violence in U.S. News and World Report. While there are deep problems with criminality in th United States, in general things have been getting better. The sorts of crimes that are increasing, however, seem to be fueld by the Drug War.

So end the Drug War.

Gangs rule over the most crime-free America in decades Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog
What drives all this competitive destruction? Our failed war on drugs.

By not medicalizing the problem and decriminalizing use, we provide black market opportunities for criminals.

Frankly, Id rather see Big Pharma clean up

The modern approach to complex problems is not to wish them away, or to create a libertarian paradise: it is to regulate them. We have regimes for regulating alcohol and marijuana. Why not regulations for fat… and for drugs?

The Ministry of the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice

Saudi Arabia is not the only country with a Ministry of the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice,” of course. The drug laws in the United States turn city, county, state, and national police into morality enforcers, harassing those who are lazy or permissive instead of catching criminals, terrorists, and ponzi schemers.

I want to thank Soob for pointing me to KopBusters, which apperas to be a show/charity trying to stress the system by demonstrating the dishonesty the war on drugs forces on police departments.

From the description:

“KopBusters rented a house in Odessa, Texas and began growing two small Christmas trees under a grow light similar to those used for growing marijuana. When faced with a suspected marijuana grow, the police usually use illegal FLIR cameras and/or lie on the search warrant affidavit claiming they have probable cause to raid the house. Instead of conducting a proper investigation which usually leads to no probable cause, the Kops lie on the affidavit claiming a confidential informant saw the plants and/or the police could smell marijuana coming from the suspected house.
“The trap was set and less than 24 hours later, the Odessa narcotics unit raided the house only to find KopBuster’s attorney waiting under a system of complex gadgetry and spy cameras that streamed online to the KopBuster’s secret mobile office nearby.
“The attorney was handcuffed and later released when eleven KopBuster detectives arrived with the media in tow to question the illegal raid. The police refused to give KopBusters the search warrant affidavit which is suspected to contain the lies regarding the probable cause.”

Raw footage of the raid, with shows cops taking it in good fun (a cell phone camera is notably present), but the point is serious

This Is Your Brain On Drugs

As noted in gnxp, cognitive doping is not uncommon:

Poll results: look who’s doping : Nature News
One in five respondents said they had used drugs for non-medical reasons to stimulate their focus, concentration or memory. Use did not differ greatly across age-groups (see line graph, right), which will surprise some. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in Bethesda, Maryland, says that household surveys suggest that stimulant use is highest in people aged 18–25 years, and in students.

For those who choose to use, methylphenidate was the most popular: 62% of users reported taking it. 44% reported taking modafinil, and 15% said they had taken beta blockers such as propanolol, revealing an overlap between drugs. 80 respondents specified other drugs that they were taking. The most common of these was adderall, an amphetamine similar to methylphenidate. But there were also reports of centrophenoxine, piractem, dexedrine and various alternative medicines such as ginkgo and omega-3 fatty acids.

As a group, pharmaceuticals are the greatest invention of the 20th century. They join earlier blockbuster molecules in deeply affecting the human condition. From extending life, fighting allergies, deepening concentration, and heightening enjoyment, biologically-targeted chemicals are quite the trick.

Of course, some come with risks of dependence. These can range from the debilitating (methamphetimines), through the physically addicting (nicotine), to those that come with risk of lifestyle dependence (cannabis, ritalin). Just as skin tanners and whiteners help one overcome sub-optimal DNA from parents, compounds like nicotine can lower stress (which is biologically heritable), as ritalin can heighten concentration (ditto).

There’s a good argument to be made that the state has an interest in discouraging use of those drugs that drag down economic productivity. If someone is able to achieve the same sense of contentment consuming an economically small amount of marijuana, say, as in some other higher stress (but more financially renumerative) life, the size of the national economy may suffer. The solution, of course, is a consumption tax. This is true not only of drugs generously, but of all non-capital-improving economic activities (buying a television, going on a vacation, etc.).

The question then becomes what should government policy be to “cognitive doping.” Is cognitive doping a form of human capital improvement? Should it be taxed, let alone, or subsidized?

And what about the children?

Legalize Dope, Annex Mexico

An excellent article by George Friedman

This leaves the option of treating the issue as a military rather than police action. That would mean attacking the cartels as if they were a military force rather than a criminal group. It would mean that procedural rules would not be in place, and that the cartels would be treated as an enemy army. Leaving aside the complexities of U.S.-Mexican relations, cartels flourish by being hard to distinguish from the general population. This strategy not only would turn the cartels into a guerrilla force, it would treat northern Mexico as hostile occupied territory. Don’t even think of that possibility, absent a draft under which college-age Americans from upper-middle-class families would be sent to patrol Mexico — and be killed and wounded. The United States does not need a Gaza Strip on its southern border, so this won’t happen.

The likely course is a multigenerational pattern of instability along the border. More important, there will be a substantial transfer of wealth from the United States to Mexico in return for an intrinsically low-cost consumable product — drugs. This will be one of the sources of capital that will build the Mexican economy, which today is 14th largest in the world. The accumulation of drug money is and will continue finding its way into the Mexican economy, creating a pool of investment capital. The children and grandchildren of the Zetas will be running banks, running for president, building art museums and telling amusing anecdotes about how grandpa made his money running blow into Nuevo Laredo.

It will also destabilize the U.S. Southwest while grandpa makes his pile. As is frequently the case, it is a problem for which there are no good solutions, or for which the solution is one without real support.

.. confirms what I said before.

The Cost of the War on Drugs

An Associated Press story, 3 Charged in PC Magazine Editor’s Death:

Three men have been charged with murdering a senior editor for PC World magazine in what police said was an attempt to steal marijuana that the victim’s son grew in their home for medical use.

Rex Farrance, 59, the San Francisco-based magazine’s senior technical editor, was shot in the chest on Jan. 9 after masked men broke into his suburban home.

Prohibition kills.

South Dakota v. Cuong Nguyen

Teen gets 7 years for selling drugs,” Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 8 July 2005, http://argusleader.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050708/NEWS/507080314/1001.

 

More on South Dakota’s love of freedom.

A Sioux Falls teenager accused of selling drugs to other students is going to prison.

 

A Minnehaha County judge Thursday sentenced Cuong Nguyen, 18, of 237 N. Cliff Ave. to seven years, with an additional eight years suspended.

 

Nguyen was a senior at Washington High School when he was arrested this spring. Police said he was a major drug supplier for local youths.

 

Nguyen pleaded guilty May 5 to possession of a controlled substance and possession of more than 1 pound of marijuana with intent to distribute.

 

Police said that he, another adult and two juveniles were caught with marijuana, hallucinogenic mushrooms and Ecstasy.  Aaron McGowan of the Minnehaha County state’s attorney’s office said he was pleased with the sentence.

 

It’s tough to send an 18-year-old to the penitentiary [link — tdaxp], but it was appropriate in a case like this when you have such large quantities of drugs and distribution going on in this community,” he said.

 

Your people should’ve stayed in Vietnam, Cuong.  Your radical belief in buying and selling is foreign to this neck of the woods.  In South Dakota, the government knows what is best for you.

 

Liberty can be misused, so South Dakota ruins lives and bans it.

 

No word on this from the South Dakota right or left blogs yet.

Conservatives for Medical Marijuana

Medical Marijuana This AM,” by Rich Brookhiser, The Corner, 15 June 2005, http://corner.nationalreview.com/05_06_12_corner-archive.asp#066200.

From the conservative Catholic “hippies” at National Review

Anyone who wants to support the Hinchey- Rohrabacher bill allowing states to permit medical use of marijuana should call his congressman (see below).

Chemotherapy, which I had in 1992, wasn’t all bad. I looked very cool bald; it gave a nice grey perm when my hair came back (why couldn’t it bring more hair back? can’t they cut it with menoxydil?); and it did stop my unpleasant visitor.

But the nausea was not cool, and only the illegal drug worked once the legal ones had failed

John Walters says there is no medical evidence for marijuana’s effects. He is a liar or an ignoramus, probably both.

More Persecution of Marijuana

Marijuana Becomes Focus of Drug War: Less Emphasis on Heroin and Cocaine,” by Dan Eggen, Washington Post, 4 May 2005, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/03/AR2005050301638.html (from Democratic Underground).

At least they aren’t investigating real crimes of hunting terrorism or anything

The focus of the drug war in the United States has shifted significantly over the past decade from hard drugs to marijuana, which now accounts for nearly half of all drug arrests nationwide, according to an analysis of federal crime statistics released yesterday.

The study of FBI data by a Washington-based think tank, the Sentencing Project, found that the proportion of heroin and cocaine cases plummeted from 55 percent of all drug arrests in 1992 to less than 30 percent 10 years later. During the same period, marijuana arrests rose from 28 percent of the total to 45 percent.

It seems to be that the only legal justification for the federal government criminalizing some drugs would be the Amendment XIII

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

A good argument might be made that a severly physically addictive drug is a de facto form of indentured servitude. But as this is a relatively loose definition, and the framers of this amendment had no problem with tobacco, the standard has to be very high

But marijuana? A non-addictive drug? One that doesn’t “cause” violence like alcohol or addict users like nicotine? Why?

The answer is obvious: police puritans. There are movements actually opposed to physical pleasure. And not just opposed, but willing to use police powers to enforce their physically dreary society.

The Global War on Terror, the fight against infanticide, and civil society are all being sacrificed to make physical pleasure a crime.

Fortunately, our new Attorney General may be retooling the fight

The new statistics come amid signs of a renewed debate in political circles over the efficacy of U.S. drug policies, which have received less attention recently amid historically low crime rates and a focus on terrorism since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, for example, has formed a national committee to oversee prosecution of violent drug gangs and has vowed to focus more resources on the fight against methamphetamine manufacturers and other drug traffickers.

But it is not enough. Marijuana, and many other drugs, should be legalized. The current system is absurd.

The Privacy of Marriage

Case to clear up consent to search debate,” by Hope Yen, Associated Press, 19 April 2005, http://www.bradenton.com/mld/bradenton/news/local/11428805.htm.

That the guy is crummy and the gal is a flip-flopper enabler doesn’t matter. That the substantive crime — drug possession — shouldn’t be a crime doesn’t matter. The rights of marriage, the rights of spouses, and the rights of police matter.

Scott Randolph didn’t want police to search his home after officers showed up to answer his wife’s domestic disturbance call. Mrs. Randolph had no such reservations.

Janet Randolph not only let them in – but led officers to evidence later used to charge Scott Randolph with drug possession.

The Supreme Court said Monday it will use the case to clarify when police can search homes. The high court previously has said searches based on a cohabitant’s consent is OK, but it’s not clear whether that applies when another resident is present and objects.

Officers asked to search the couple’s home, but Scott Randolph objected. Janet Randolph, however, consented and led police to the couple’s bedroom where officers saw a straw with white powder.

It’s boils down to using laws to extend implicit horizontal controls. On one hand, the state believes that if searches requires non-objection from both partners, laws will be weakened. People will realize they can be broken more easily, and strong implicit controls will shift to be weaker and more explicit. On the other, marriage should give special rights. In the words of court opinions

When possible, Georgia courts strive to promote the sanctity of marriage and to avoid circumstances that create adversity between spouses,” the appeals court stated. “Allowing a wife’s consent to search to override her husband’s previous assertion of his right to privacy threatens domestic tranquility.” In their Supreme Court filing, Georgia prosecutors said the ruling “focuses arbitrarily on the rights of the objecting occupant, to the detriment of the consenting occupant who was trying to report a crime and who had just as much access and control over the home as her husband.”

Like in the case, the basic question is how important is marriage? Is it just a contract that includes co-occupancy or something more?

It should be something more.