Azure Priest on July 27, 2010, 09:27:52 am
Sorry, Sandy. Making drugs legal will NOT "make dope peddlers go away." There are numerous instances where drugs ARE legal and YET "organized crime" comes into play.

Examples, please. The following situations do not support your thesis.

Tobacco. While it IS legal to smoke in places like Canada and Alaska, police are shot, and killed every day by cigarette smugglers who undersell legitimate tobacco merchants.

Please define, "legitimate tobacco merchants." Define "smuggler." From what you have stated, it would appear that the police who were shot were initiating force against the free market tobacco merchants and were shot in self-defense.

Oxycontin. Yes, it is LEGAL to get Oxycontin with a valid prescription, but because of the dangerous side effects of the drug, (euphoria, chemical dependence, possible nerve deafness, etc.) it has to be dispensed with utmost care.


Gee, I thought euphoria was a benefit, not a "dangerous side effect."  ;)
I live in Panama and I have lived in Costa Rica. Most drugs that require a prescription in the US are available over the counter in these countries. A friend of mine who was a medical practitioner in the US visited me in CR. We went into a pharmacy to get something and her jaw dropped when she saw what you buy without a prescription. "That will stop your heart!" she said as she point to one OTC medication, "and that one can induce seizures!" My response was, "And yet the streets are not filled with the bodies of the dead."

In general, Latin culture believes in personal responsibility. People damned well know they had better educate themselves before they go self-dosing. I was on a prescription medication in the US, but now buy it OTC in Panama. It can cause seizures if taken in excess, so I have titrated my dosage accordingly. Prescriptions are a form of initiation of force, because people are legally forbidden, with threat of fines, arrest, prison and death. There are no prescriptions in an anarchy.

Many "back alley" merchants don't CARE about the side effects and CRUSH the pills either to concentrate the "high" of the narcotic effect OR to distribute the drug to people WITHOUT prescriptions for profit. These folks tend to shoot at cops, "clients," each other, and generally anyone whom they (in their paranoid drug dealer way) think MIGHT be a threat to their "profits."

Like pharmacists don't sell their drugs for profit? Whom you buy from in an anarchy is your choice not some government's. Personally, when I was given illegal drugs in the US, I verified the source. If I didn't and got a bad dose, well, caveat emptor.

And I happen to know this is true first hand because I work in a pharmacy and recently someone with a valid prescription tried to con our store and the police into getting a replacement "fill" because his script was "misplaced." (Turns out, after review of the security footage, the one who wanted a refill had "pocketed the pills" and hidden his prescription bag on the store shelves to make it look like he never got it.)

When people will initiate force against sellers of a commodity, those that want it will not accept the orders of the thugs and will find a way. Good for your would-be customer. I wish more people were willing to resist tyranny.

And for those who say "making drugs legal makes them 'safe.'"

I don't say that; I don't think they are safe now. Fen-phen anyone?  ;D

It should be pointed out that according to the history books I've read, Bert and Ernie's situation is the reason for the Town Sheriff being created as an entity seeing as the US Army couldn't effectively patrol the entirety of the "Wild West." (Hence the name.)

In an anarchy, everyone is the sheriff and the army. By the way, the West wasn't all that wild. Violent crime rates were lower than in the East. I prefer the non-judgmental term, "Old West."

Now as everybody may recall, yesterday I said I would send trolls back to justify the facts and reasoning in their scenarios. Yet I have taken a good deal of time responding to Azure Priest. The reason? He is not a troll. It is clear he is speaking from personal experience and believes what he has written. It is clear he and I do not agree on the issue of drug prohibition. So be it; reasonable minds may differ. I respect Azure Priest because what he brings to the table is consideration, facts and reasoning. Trolls take note. This is how civilized discourse works,
My statements were examples of people "peddling" a legal product. Therefore simply making a substance such as heroin "legal" would not "make the peddlers go away." At least that's my position. Admittedly it is the subject of much debate.

Smugglers vs Legitimate merchants: In the Canada (and Alaska) case, this refers to people who buy cigarettes in large quantities in a low tax area, North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, etc. then sneak across the border into Canada and sell them for a profit but lower than the local Canadian merchants who are doing so paying the fees, taxes, permits, and honoring the international trade agreements. These tobacco smugglers (as Canada sees them) treat the Canadian mounties (at least according to their testimony and court records) the same way people claim "crack" dealers treat  the police in the US. This means, you see anyone in uniform, shoot first, ask questions later. Tobacco is legal in Canada. "Crack" is prohibited in the US.

Legitimate pharmacy vs. Back Alley "pharmacist." In this case, I meant to say that the "back alley" merchant cares ONLY about profit. Pharmacists care a great deal about the patient's or customer's welfare. They WANT the customer to come back (those that do not, don't last very long.) BTW, that "would be customer" was trying to STEAL more pills, not buy them. He had already PAID for the prescription he claimed was "missing" and was trying to get a free "replacement. "It would be like the "runaway" you showed earlier going into the diner, buying a meal, hiding it in a backpack and then telling another server that she "never got her food." Did you say you'd applaud that?

Prescriptions are written for "non-dangerous" items too, aspirin, vitamins, etc.. They are decided not by "tyranny" but by medical evidence as to what dose for what duration works best given your specific medical needs. Ignore prescriptions, and doctor's advice at your own peril. That goes double for the instructions on OVC medicine.

"Euphoria" is a dangerous side effect when talking to about a medication because the term means an altered state of mind with reduced inhibitions, slowed reflexes, and a complete disconnect with the world around the patient. A state that could easily be a danger to himself and others. (Driving under the influence comes to mind.)

I never stated that you, Sandy, specifically stated that making illegal drugs legal would magically make them "safe." There are, however, quite a few posters here and elsewhere that have stated that belief. I wish to point out to everyone making that argument..

1.) The actual history of illegal drugs, Cocaine (Coca Cola anyone?) Aside from chemical dependence, cocaine as a vasoconstrictor (shrinks blood vessels) does have the side effect of causing heart attacks, and death.

2.) Current events showing legal versions of the drug. "Spice" vs Marijuana.

3.) You mentioned "Fen-phen." When it was found too dangerous to use, it was pulled from the market by law was it not?

Personally, I'm of the opinion that illegal drugs are illegal because they're dangerous, not dangerous because they're illegal.

Aside from those who want to abolish all laws except "natural law" (where every man is his own "sheriff"), I have personally encountered three types of people who want illegal drugs made legal.

1.) Driven purely by a misguided sense of "compassion," they think that removing the label "illegal" from the drugs will somehow magically cause all the problems associated with them to disappear. These folks claim that ending Prohibition ended Al Capone's organized crime, "why are we doing it again with drugs?" This completely ignores the facts that Al Capone was brought down by tax fraud, and booze was only one of his organization's many criminal enterprises. Most of which included violence and theft.

2.) Criminal users/ pushers who want to engage in their activity more freely. (Meth labs come to mind here.)

3.) Politicians who see a new tax base or voting block to exploit for their own ends.
« Last Edit: July 27, 2010, 09:34:29 am by Azure Priest »

J Thomas on July 27, 2010, 12:16:05 pm

My statements were examples of people "peddling" a legal product. Therefore simply making a substance such as heroin "legal" would not "make the peddlers go away." At least that's my position. Admittedly it is the subject of much debate.

Smugglers vs Legitimate merchants: In the Canada (and Alaska) case, this refers to people who buy cigarettes in large quantities in a low tax area, North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, etc. then sneak across the border into Canada and sell them for a profit but lower than the local Canadian merchants who are doing so paying the fees, taxes, permits, and honoring the international trade agreements. These tobacco smugglers (as Canada sees them) treat the Canadian mounties (at least according to their testimony and court records) the same way people claim "crack" dealers treat  the police in the US. This means, you see anyone in uniform, shoot first, ask questions later. Tobacco is legal in Canada. "Crack" is prohibited in the US.

Tobacco is legal in Canada, but it's taxed at a high enough rate to attract smugglers who're willing to risk their lives for the profit they can make by evading the tax.

If there were no taxes, this would not happen. In that case people who go to areas where prices are low and transport low-cost stuff to places where prices are high are not smugglers, they're merely merchants. It's government which puts high taxes on some things and then punishes people who don't pay the taxes -- punishes them to the point they're ready to shoot enforcers rather than accept that they've been caught.

I can't tell you precisely how to build a workable society with no taxes, but I'm not ready to say it's impossible.

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"Euphoria" is a dangerous side effect when talking to about a medication because the term means an altered state of mind with reduced inhibitions, slowed reflexes, and a complete disconnect with the world around the patient. A state that could easily be a danger to himself and others. (Driving under the influence comes to mind.)

And some people are susceptible to addiction. Currently our society disapproves of addiction but has no workable strategy to deal with it. I have spent some time around some addicts, and I have a sense of how it works. When a person sees no way to get what he really wants but can get a cheap thrill, then it's easy to say "I can't have what I really want but at least I an have this.". And then when he gets habituated to the cheap pleasure he needs more of it to get the same result. When you want something for itself and it gets less rewarding, the natural thing is to go look for something better. But when you're doing it as a substitute anyway, chasing past that point of diminishing returns doesn't feel as stupid as it would otherwise. So people give up more and more of their property and their lives, and that doesn't seem so bad to them because after all they already believe they can't have the important thing they want.

Addicts make bad employees, and they can sometimes do a lot of damage before they're discovered and fired. So employers and religious folk etc want to eliminate addiction, and they try to do it with coercion, to prevent the market from functioning, and that doesn't work. The obvious way to reduce addiction is to have fewer people who feel like failures. But that's difficult too. If euphoriants were plentiful and cheap we could just live with that. People who wanted them might die of overdoses or disease or exposure before they felt the need to steal etc to get their drugs, and that might actually be less disruptive. Not ideal, but lacking an ideal solution it might be acceptable.

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Personally, I'm of the opinion that illegal drugs are illegal because they're dangerous, not dangerous because they're illegal.

I think it could go either way. A drug which is not dangerous can become dangerous in some ways from being illegal. And it just makes sense to make dangerous drugs illegal. The most dangerous drugs can be thought of as poisons and can be used as poisons. Why make it easy for casual poisoners? That is not a victimless crime.

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These folks claim that ending Prohibition ended Al Capone's organized crime, "why are we doing it again with drugs?" This completely ignores the facts that Al Capone was brought down by tax fraud, and booze was only one of his organization's many criminal enterprises. Most of which included violence and theft.

That's like saying you got rid of your biggest clump of crabgrass with a trowel, so....

To get rid of crabgrass you do better to change the environment to something where it doesn't thrive. Let the other grass grow higher, adjust the pH, etc. The end of prohibition removed an important source of income for organized crime. That was a good thing. On the other hand, poor people could get booze cheaper and were more likely than before to try to work drunk. That was a bad thing.

I think it would be good to be very cautious about sweeping new laws. Try to make sure the good outweighs the bad. For drugs, maybe reduce the federal prohibitions except to assist states that want them to be illegal. Watch what happens in states that relax their laws. Allow individual businesses to fire people for drug use, and to require employees to do supervised urination etc -- if you don't like it you can quit your job and find one that doesn't require that. It would be kind of nice if all employees including top management has mandatory testing if anybody does. Legislators particularly should be required to take regular drug tests and random sobriety tests and the results should be published. Their work is more important than airline pilots. Also police, and judges.

terry_freeman on July 27, 2010, 12:39:35 pm
azure+priest, straw man fallacy alert. Nobody is arguing that, if drugs are legalized, that drugs will disappear.

In fact, it is well known that opium used to be available over the counter, perfectly legal. In some parts of America, it is perfectly legal to purchase alcohol; in others, it is not. At one time it was illegal in all of America. I am reciting facts known to third grade civics students; forgive me if this bores you, but a dose of reality does help to ground a conversation. When these substances were legal, peddlers did not go away.

What did happen is that peddlers, no longer being outlaws, tended to behave in more law-abiding ways. How often do you hear of Rite Aid and CVS engaging in drive-by shootings? The argument is not that peddling will go away, but that many of  the negative consequences of attempting to prohibit voluntary transactions will
tend to go away. There will be fewer shootings; possibly fewer accidental poisonings; fewer corrupt police officers and politicians receiving kickbacks to overlook illegal activities. If what you are doing is perfectly legal, there is little incentive to bribe officers of the law, is there?

The kickback is, in fact, one of the major economic incentives for the continuation of the War on Politically Incorrect Substances. It's a glorified shakedown scam.





SandySandfort on July 27, 2010, 01:12:46 pm
The argument is not that peddling will go away, but that many of  the negative consequences of attempting to prohibit voluntary transactions will
tend to go away. There will be fewer shootings; possibly fewer accidental poisonings; fewer corrupt police officers and politicians receiving kickbacks to overlook illegal activities. If what you are doing is perfectly legal, there is little incentive to bribe officers of the law, is there?

The kickback is, in fact, one of the major economic incentives for the continuation of the War on Politically Incorrect Substances. It's a glorified shakedown scam.

This was brought home to me when I read a bout a sheriff in Northern California (Mendocino County?) who offered to eradicate pot in his county for $100,000. Remember, the government is spending millions to find and eradicate marijuana plantations in Northern California. Did the government jump for joy? They did not. It would have obviated the need for their jobs-for-thugs welfare program.

Not possible, you say? The Sheriff's plan was simplicity itself. The Feds have a cannabis plantation in Alabama. His idea was to take the pollen from the male plants and dust areas where free-market pot farms are known to exist. Pollination stops the production of THC in the cultivated female plants. The quality of the pot drops precipitously and the farmers face minimal or even negative cash flow. "Problem" solved.

Instead of this elegant solution, the government continues to send in narc troops to find the farms, uproot the plants and burn them (while standing down wind, I would guess). Well, it keeps them off the streets.... the narcs, that is.

terry_freeman on July 27, 2010, 06:30:59 pm
An interesting case story of a very minimalist government:

http://consultingbyrpm.com/blog/2009/08/limited-government-in-post-invasion-iraq.html

When asked what they would do about a man who refused to take a voluntary stint as a "police officer" ( or we might say militia service ), the elders responded that it would be wrong to use force; each person has a right to live his own way; that such a person would be shamed for not contributing.

quadibloc on July 28, 2010, 07:07:23 am
When these substances were legal, peddlers did not go away.
I've seen it claimed - by modern-day Prohibition advocates - that during Prohibition, there were far fewer incidents of the peace being disturbed by violent fights in bars, since speakeasies had to keep a low profile. And that public drunkenness was reduced. And that there was less domestic violence, which is often fueled by alcohol.

And, note that the end of Prohibition didn't make organized crime disappear. Instead, it moved to the drug trade.

So people could argue that:

if drugs became legal, the consequences of vastly more widespread drug abuse would be worse than those from the violence in the illegal drug trade, and

the criminals in the drug trade would not become respectable businessmen selling the same substances but with higher quality... instead, they would move on to other forms of crime, and thus cities that weren't suffering from protection rackets before would start doing so. (Since the initiation of force is bad, keeping the Mob's attention away from activities which require it to initiate force is a good thing - their initiation of force would be worse than that which is under the people's control, being carried out by their obedient elected representatives. Which, I know, seems ironic from an AnCap perspective.)

J Thomas on July 28, 2010, 09:26:50 am
When these substances were legal, peddlers did not go away.
I've seen it claimed - by modern-day Prohibition advocates - that during Prohibition, there were far fewer incidents of the peace being disturbed by violent fights in bars, since speakeasies had to keep a low profile.

So, speakeasies had to keep their bar fights quieter? That could be good or bad. Get it over with faster and quieter could be considerably more violent.

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And that public drunkenness was reduced.

Fewer arrests for public drunkenness? I have a few old relatives who told me a little about it, and from their perspective public drunkenness was not reduced. You could get statistics on arrest, but what would they mean?

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[And that there was less domestic violence, which is often fueled by alcohol.

Was there less drinking? How do they know? Was there less domestic violence? How do they know that? Fewer arrests for domestic violence, maybe?

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And, note that the end of Prohibition didn't make organized crime disappear. Instead, it moved to the drug trade.

There will be organized crime as long as there are ambitious people cut out of more lucrative business and there are reasonably lucrative crimes to commit. If you want to get rid of that, get rid of the criminals or stop the discrimination against them or get rid of the opportunities. Ending Prohibition strongly reduced one opportunity, although taxes stayed high enough that some people still ran bootleg alcohol.

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if drugs became legal, the consequences of vastly more widespread drug abuse would be worse than those from the violence in the illegal drug trade

That assumes that there would be vastly more drug abuse. I contend that some responsible people can use some alcohol and drugs without causing many problems. Some people become addicts, and when they are ready to become addicts they will become addicted to whatever is available to fill that role. If we want to reduce that we need to find ways to change their miinds. Or we could find ways to let them go to hell without causing so many problems to the rest of society. Trying to destroy all markets they could use to acquire something addictive looks to me unlikely to succeed.

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the criminals in the drug trade would not become respectable businessmen selling the same substances but with higher quality... instead, they would move on to other forms of crime, and thus cities that weren't suffering from protection rackets before would start doing so.

It depends. If they can't be respectable then they must find something else. Likely not protection rackets which are difficult and dangerous to expand. But the drug trade would be taken over by "respectable" businessmen who would likely sell the same substances but with higher quality. At least it would likely have tamper-resistant seals, and the labeling would make it look like it was higher quality. Every now and then we have a scandal about regular pharmaceuticals....

Anyway, the way we could find out about the effects of legalization would be to try it in some test markets and observe the results. We can make logical arguments and likely leave out important interactions. And independent of the actual results, what will decide whether legalization gets extended will be public opinion. If public opinion is vastly in favor of legalization then the drug dealers and the pastors etc won't be able to stop it. But if public opinion is only mildly in favor then they can stop it. Completely apart from the evidence, it will depend on what voters want.

deliberatus on July 28, 2010, 03:11:56 pm
Traffic signs are a general attempt to regulate (in the sense of 'define' or 'intelligently control') traffic patterns in different areas; stop signs, automated signals, yield signs, one way signs, all attempts to impose a complex set of patterns on traffic flow to minimize problems and maximize utilization of highway resources by the population. Without them, many drivers can still manage in the general- such as coming to a stop and waiting for safe conditions before turning right, yielding to oncoming traffic, driving to the right (or left in some countries) so as not to conflict with oncoming traffic. But when we try to improve utilization with more complex patterns, we find we need to have directions indicating what to do- and in some cases, when to do it. Thus we have electric automated traffic signals.

Does this HAVE to be done by government? Actually, no, most of it is done by contractors, and the traffic engineering is often done by contractors. But the AUTHORITY to do it comes from one source, state government and county government, and in some cases even city government, which avoids confusion by only granting authority TO one exerciser of it to regulate traffic- and so we do not have signals and signs (usually at least, and always is the goal) which conflict, or create traffic snarls.

While most drivers can handle most situations most of the time, it's the minority that really brings the gears of society to a stop. The fewer cases that fail intelligent resolution, the better it is for all of us.

Traffic engineering, traffic signals, road construction and maintenance have all been governmental functions in partnership with contractors to do a lot of the work for many years, usually with acceptable success rates- and when a problem with a contractor comes up, in time we replace them, if only after a certain amount of yelling grousing and complaining.

Likewise, government has done fairly well on fire department services; the fire 'company' is long dead, a thing of the past. Once, a homeowner or business owner contracted to have fire services and had a medallion on the front of the house/building, a 'shield' to indicate subscription. This shield indicated they were protected against fire by the fire company's services. It was not unknown to see a non subscriber standing in the street in front of a home in town haggling with the fire company chief while the house burned! This was simply not acceptable to the remainder of the community, as sparks could start other fires, and towns and cities started establishing fire departments of the government, and companies vanished slowly, but in name; the fire organizations were organized in 'companies' in the sense that the army is in companies.

Some things just work well as government operations. And some things DO NOT.

Charity. Go dig up a copy of Restoring the American Dream by Robert J Ringer. In the back is a study quoted with some startling statistics. It reports that it costs a specialized charity (Heart society, Cancer society, MD Society, Easter Seals) 29 Cents overhead to deliver a dollar or dollars of service to a recipient; it costs a church on the average 31 cents, and it costs THE GOVERNMENT $1.31 to deliver that dollar. That's a fine example of government NOT being the ideal solution to get the job done.

Now dig this: In many places, it is now illegal to collect rain water in a rain barrel. The good rain that falls from the sky is a crime to possess and hoard. Mosquito netting to keep out bugs be damned, you can't store it for your periwinkles for drought season. That's just insane.

I am not an Anarchist, I am a Libertarian. And government is out of control in the real world today, and needs to be placed on an exceeding short leashed and whipped until it whimpers and rolls over. But some people here seem to want to have no government at all, and that's a TOUGH sell.




J Thomas on July 28, 2010, 04:15:08 pm
Traffic signs are a general attempt to regulate (in the sense of 'define' or 'intelligently control') traffic patterns in different areas; stop signs, automated signals, yield signs, one way signs, all attempts to impose a complex set of patterns on traffic flow to minimize problems and maximize utilization of highway resources by the population. <....>

Does this HAVE to be done by government?

I'm sure it does not. If a community of libertarians or anarchists decide that they want their traffic to be more efficient they can create a set of agreements and spread the word. Without coercion. (There might be some lawsuits after accidents etc.)

People can choose how much complication they're willing to put up with to allow faster traffic. And how many accidents they'll put up with. They can work it out. It is not a choice between freedom and tyranny. It's a technical choice that could be made freely.

jamesd on July 28, 2010, 07:01:23 pm
If a community of libertarians or anarchists decide that they want their traffic to be more efficient they can create a set of agreements and spread the word. Without coercion. (There might be some lawsuits after accidents etc.)


In anarchy, all roads are private in that a group that is substantially smaller than "everyone" has to look after them and maintain them.  I am part owner of some private roads, where the people on a road are responsible for maintaining them.  This costs far less than  paying taxes to a council to maintain them.  Sometimes you get problems between neighbors where some neighbors shirk.  Typically the people at one end of the road are far less inclined to maintain the road than people at the far end.

But by and large this works fine for suburban roads that feed dormitory suburbs and farm roads.  The world is full of non government roads, and on the whole they are as good as the equivalent city council roads, and way cheaper.   Non government roads, like non government law, are normal and common.

However, we don't see a lot of non government major roads.  Major roads are a problem for anarchists - not an insoluble problem, but a problem.  I discuss this problem at length in http://jim.com/anarchy/roads.htm

quadibloc on July 28, 2010, 08:10:34 pm
Addicts make bad employees, and they can sometimes do a lot of damage before they're discovered and fired. So employers and religious folk etc want to eliminate addiction, and they try to do it with coercion, to prevent the market from functioning, and that doesn't work. The obvious way to reduce addiction is to have fewer people who feel like failures. But that's difficult too.
I have a solution to this.

I'm somewhat hesitant to even mention it, though, because it's really going to make me sound like a kook. If you think you AnCap guys have it bad in a society that can't imagine anything but statism...

Somewhere on this forum, it's been claimed that Utopias in fiction require that human nature be changed. That may be often true, but I don't think that it's a defining characteristic of the genre. That is, they might require a change in human nature to work in practice, but those proposing the Utopia intend it as a way to produce a good outcome with humans as they are.

We can think of Utopian Socialism as largely a reaction to the miseries of the Industrial Revolution. What was imagined was that if one eliminated factory owners getting very rich, and just had everyone living in communes with a reasonable amount of land and resources allocated to them, relative to the number of people in the commune, then with handicraft-level technology and fixed prices, everyone could have all their reasonable wants fulfilled, and thus only the rare sick individual - instead of the much more common individual who could be pushed into it by dire poverty - would be a criminal.

Competitiveness and ambition are real human traits, but I'm not sure that I can just assume that they're so strong that they're a full explanation to why Utopias don't work. I want to find the real reason, because it might let me do something about the problem.

Air. Water. Food. If you deprive a human being - or, for that matter, an animal - of any one of those, it will fight frantically to obtain access to them. No deliberate decision to act based on an intellectual recognition that these are essential to survival is required. Humans experience hunger and thirst: Nature makes sure that we don't forget about things that are essential to our survival.

For a certain level of population, our technology is competent enough to provide all of those to people. Given the triumphs of Norman Borlaug on the one hand, if we introduced meat rationing on the other (a la Francis Moore Lappe, and, yes, I know that's an initiation of force), every human on Earth could have an adequate diet now. Safe drinking water for everyone is also possible; if the Third World weren't wracked by wars and dictatorships, voluntary charitable donations would likely be sufficient to achieve this.

Our technology is such that we can also easily satisfy desires further up the Maslovian hierarchy. Electronic gadgets are so cheap these days that a private-enterprise funded charitable program plans to give a laptop computer, once a luxury reserved for the rich, to every schoolchild in the poor countries of the world.

What is there, almost as essential to human happiness as the basic necessities of life, that can't just be churned out cheaply on an assembly line in any quantities required by today's marvelous technology?

If you forget to breathe, in a few minutes you will be dead. So nature impels you to breathe.

If you forget to drink fluids, in a couple of days or so you will be dead. So nature subjects you to thirst.

If you forget to eat, in a couple of weeks or months you will be dead. So there is hunger.

Is there anything else that, if you don't do it, you will be dead? Perhaps on a slightly linger timescale.

Let's take 200 years.

What? Everyone alive now is going to be dead in 200 years, no matter what they do or don't do?

Quite right. But remember how evolution works. What happens if we substitute "eliminated from the gene pool" for "dead"? Now then, what other action will nature compel us to do with a force possibly comparable to hunger or thirst?

It compels us to mate.

Noting that, at birth, there are 105 males born to every 100 females, noting that political leaders, revolutionaries, demagogues, trade union activists, policemen, soldiers, and violent criminals are preponderantly or even overwhelmingly male - this has a simple hormonal explanation, of course; cultural sex roles don't explain why bulls are more dangerous than cows on a dairy farm - I think there's a clue here.

In short, "Love makes the world go 'round".

Not some insane compulsion to greed and envy and ambition - but competition with other males for mates, a basic pseudo-necessity - is what drives men to compete very intensely for a bigger share of the pie than can sustainably be allocated to everyone. It's like a game of musical chairs.

Because menopause robs women of their fertility, and hence of what men are selected to regard as physical attractiveness, the more successful men sometimes have more than one wife during their lives, born progressively later.

Women can be sexual assault survivors, with a tendency to be uninterested in mating as a result.

And women don't go into heat every month either; Elaine Morgan, in The Descent of Woman, explains why; rather well, I think.

So, if one's ambition is to build a William Morris style Utopia - or even a relatively free, relatively capitalist, somewhat mixed economy that is prosperous, quiet, and tranquil forever and ever (think of the 1950s and the Cleaver family), without an exponentially growing population size (men marry women on an average 2 years younger than they are, so population growth at 2% per year effectively increases the proportion of women by 4%)... then the solution is to "put something in the water" and alter the human sex ratio.

Then, without elaborate socialistic manipulations of everything else, without massive police coercion, you achieve the desired goal: only a tiny percentage of those rambunctious violent males "feel like failures", and whatever social order you choose otherwise hums along smoothly producing outcomes so good few people are tempted to think things would be fixed if only a completely different social order were put in place.
« Last Edit: July 28, 2010, 08:18:01 pm by quadibloc »

jamesd on July 28, 2010, 09:38:22 pm
We can think of Utopian Socialism as largely a reaction to the miseries of the Industrial Revolution. What was imagined was that if one eliminated factory owners getting very rich, and just had everyone living in communes with a reasonable amount of land and resources allocated to them, relative to the number of people in the commune, then with handicraft-level technology and fixed prices, everyone could have all their reasonable wants fulfilled, and thus only the rare sick individual - instead of the much more common individual who could be pushed into it by dire poverty - would be a criminal.

Competitiveness and ambition are real human traits, but I'm not sure that I can just assume that they're so strong that they're a full explanation to why Utopias don't work. I want to find the real reason, because it might let me do something about the problem.
The real reason utopias do not work is explained in my article "Why socialism needs killing fields" http://jim.com/killingfields.html

Bastiat wrote at about the same time Marx wrote, and he wrote as if he and his readers had seen the killing fields of Cambodia, as if all intelligent people knew that socialists (in their arrogant confidence that they knew what was best for other people) intended a world of terror and slavery, that they intended to crush all who would not fit in to their grand vision, and would be genuinely and sincerely surprised that they needed to torture so many, when they only expected they would need to torture a few.

When the communists held the kulak's child in the fire to force the mother to reveal where the seed corn was hidden, all the good and the great, all the wise progressive intellectuals, told us the kulaks had it coming, and that the communists were benevolently bringing rationality to the benighted peasantry.

Lots of the good and the great, those eager to do good to humanity, visited Stalin's Russia, and reported on how wonderful it was.  Stalin showed them the Gulag Archipelago, and the White Sea canal project, and they loved it, revealing that as Bastiat realized, they always had intended to do good to humanity with whips and red hot irons, had always intended to hold the peasant's child in the fire while the mother was forced to watch, knowing in their wisdom, their goodness, and their greatness, that no lesser means could accomplish all the good that they intended.

quadibloc on July 28, 2010, 10:07:06 pm
Lots of the good and the great, those eager to do good to humanity, visited Stalin's Russia, and reported on how wonderful it was.  Stalin showed them the Gulag Archipelago, and the White Sea canal project, and they loved it, revealing that as Bastiat realized, they always had intended to do good to humanity with whips and red hot irons, had always intended to hold the peasant's child in the fire while the mother was forced to watch, knowing in their wisdom, their goodness, and their greatness, that no lesser means could accomplish all the good that they intended.
It is certainly very tempting to regard H. G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw and Lincoln Steffens as evil men.

I certainly regard Stalin as a very evil man. But I can't seem to find F. D. R.'s killing fields on a map. And I wasn't talking about making socialism 'work' so much as making any system work.

Most people aren't committed to one or the other political philosophy. Rather than supporting a political system because of the soundness of its moral basis, they make their political choices based on outcomes.

Yes, they value freedom. Not only because they don't want to be bothered and bullied, but because they know the power of the vote in a democracy is a defense - against the tyrant stealing your property or your wife.

So, instead of arguing that socialism is more fair, or capitalism is more just, first I ask what people really want from a political system, and then enquire as to how best to get it.

terry_freeman on July 29, 2010, 02:19:43 am
Milton Friedman did a famous study of murder rates. They tend to decline, over long periods of time. During Prohibition, they rose sharply. The declined when it was repealed, and climbed when the War on Drugs began. People were getting seriously concerned in the 70s, the rates were so high. That was when states began liberalizing Concealed Carry laws, making permits more widely available.

Hoplophobes predicted bloodbaths in places like Florida where just about anybody who lacked a criminal record could obtain a CCW permit. Didn't happen.

Don't confuse the propaganda of pro-government folks for reality. They are very creative - and very wrong - when generating excuses to take away your freedom by force.

I have spoken with people who were there. They explained it this way: Organized crime revenues collapsed when Prohibition ended. When Henry Anslinger and his folks started the Drug War, it was like a transfusion for a dying man; it shot new life into the Organized Crime families.
 

KBCraig on July 29, 2010, 02:57:56 am
Addicts make bad employees, and they can sometimes do a lot of damage before they're discovered and fired.

I don't think you intended this as it actually came across, so let's clarify: problematic addicts make bad employees, because they either steal from the employer, or perform inadequately because they're under the influence.

Millions of alcoholics go to work every day and do their best and make their employers happy. Ditto for those addicted to prescription and/or illegal drugs. Addiction doesn't automatically make one a bad employee. I have co-workers who are clinically addicted to pain medication because of injuries they've suffered. Sometimes they're slightly impaired, and it's sad that their legal pain relief impairs them more than some illegal alternatives would.

 

anything