Tuesday, December 9, 2008

On-Line Polls, Drugs, Economics and Other Ramblings.

(this started out going down one path and ended up letting me get a few things out of my system - it's basically a rant and it's probably not the last).

I take a lot of on-line polls. A lot of people do I think because our opinions are so darn important after all. One of the polls I took today was about Guns in St. Louis. And this question struck me as missing at least one important answer:

Which of the following conditions do you think is the most important cause of gun violence in the US?

The availability of guns
The way children are raised
The influence of TV, movies, video games, or the Internet

Availability? Nah, even if outlawed people would own them in violation of the law. I mean, drug dealers still deal drugs, people still speed on the highway, cheat on their taxes, drive without a safety harness on, buy alcohol for underage drinkers.. all illegal. So we know that just making something illegal will not make it go away.

The way children are raised. While I'll admit this is probably a contributing factor, it's not the core reason I don't think. There will always be children that raised either improperly, or who just plain grow up to be bad seeds despite the best efforts of their loving, well educated parents.

The influence of TV, movies, video games or the Internet. Again, perhaps something else that influences people to some degree. But let's face it, watching Han Solo shoot Stormtroopers or Dirty Harry blow away bad guys did not turn me into some mass crazed killer. Congress destroying the financial soundness of our country or the Federal Tax Code might yet do it, but not popular culture.

Anger. Well, yeah, usually somebody got mad or at least had their ego bruised to shoot somebody. I love Chris Rock's skit about high priced bullets. The premise being that if you saw someone laying bleeding in the street you knew they made someone REALLY mad to make them put thousands of dollars of bullets in them.

The answer that was immediately missing to me was drug prohibition. Now I know this can be an unpopular topic, and it's not one I tend to spend much time focusing on; BUT, how many people are shot, killed, beat up, intimidated or who knows what else over territorial distribution rights for drugs. High priced, profitable drugs because the government eliminates most legal, natural competition through legislation thus creating a risk-based profit incentive to get in the drug business? Remember Al Capone? You wouldn't even know that name if not for alcohol prohibition prior to repeal.

How much more harm is done by failed war on drugs than is done by the drugs themselves? Yes, drugs destroy families, careers, savings but so do the the IRS, DEA, ATF and other organizations from time to time. What would happen to the distribution network and the price of pot for example if it was no longer an illegal plant (a plant! if you're religious that would be a plant, placed here by God) that got destroyed on sight by officials of the government? The price would fall out of the bottom if everybody could just grow their own, don't you think? I mean, really, if they want to destroy plants I have some pesky dandilions every year they can pull up and burn - bet they won't stand so close to THAT fire though.

What about those frogs that people can lick to get high? Are government officials going to purposely hunt and destroy them out of existence? I'll bet the Endangered Species folks would have something to say about that. Where are the Endangered Plantlife folks? I guess trees are too big to fail but not smaller plantlife?

And I don't have a horse in that race, it all just seems silly, wasteful and ineffective to me.

So anyway, back to the polls. I especially get miffed when asked in a poll things like:

Who did you support for president?
(o) Barack Obama
(o) John McCain

... huh ... I didn't know I only had two options (I know most people thought so). I didn't support either of the media promoted, status quo, statist candidates who (neither one) knows jack about economics.


What about Bob Barr, Chuck Baldwin or Ralph Nader. Or in the primaries Ron Paul, Duncan Hunter, Mike Gravel or Hillary Clinton? By the way, if you missed Mike Gravel in the debates you missed "how the hell did the rest of them get here" and "I'm ashamed at you Hillary" it was totally worth the time spent to watch.

Of course, I'm still waiting for the news article that points out that if we'd listened to Ron Paul's economic advice years (if not decades) ago we probably could have avoided the big mess we're in now. Make fun of him all you want, he's been right about almost everything but he does lack that certain "American Idol" popularity contest attraction that we now hire our leaders based on. Instead of loud proclamations that, "oh, sorry, yeah he was right" they just have had him on the cable news channels a few times each week whereas BEFORE the election they wouldn't promote him at all.

For me, by the way, economics is probably the most important thing these guys need to understand, mostly so they know to stay out of the market and the economy since all they can do is screw it up, misallocate resources, create bubbles, destroy the value of currency or otherwise frustrate legitimate economic progress.


What is it going to take to get everyone mad enough? I think there is a large but silent minority of people, afraid to do much "outside the box", if you will, that are mad as hell and don't want to take it anymore. Are you tired of the nonsense, overspending, trade deficits, wrecked economies, endless warfare (not one declared since World War II I don't think?)? Are you tired of your spouse having to work just to cover your tax liability, tired of having to earn $2.00 just to put $1.00 in the bank and then having the FED devalue that remaining dollar by 3 to 5% (or more) each year or tired of bickering about same-sex marriage or other issues that shouldn't have anything to do with the government, at least not Federally, while our country goes down the tubes. Are you fed up with politicians like Barnie Frank or John McCain standing up and saying "everything is okay" when in fact, things are totally NOT okay? What is it going to take? Do we sit idly by while the promise of America evaporates away from our Children (current our future)?

I think like many, I'm searching for the answers here as well. There is no place left on the planet for those who want to live free in a capitalist, free market society to go live. Heck, even this place wasn't really ours for the taking, but something has to change. As a friend of mine recently pointed out, BLOG posts and Internet jockey activities aren't going to get it done. I would add that writing books won't do it either and apparently producing DVDs doesn't do it. Do we need a prime-time special for two hours and all the networks? Wonder what that would cost?

The problem is we all have jobs, careers and two-income families. Can't quite put the plow up for the day and venture to D.C. for a few days to give Congress a piece of our mind without asking for time off, finding baby-sitters or who knows what else. Of course, if we wouldn't endlessly centralize stuff in D.C., in complete violation of our Constitution, we could make shorter trips down to our statehouses or county government centers to make our voices heard.

For starters, I invite everyone to visit and sign up for The Campaign for Liberty or to support Atlas!Liberty. I'm not sure what passes for pitchforks and torches these days, but I'm open to suggestions on that angle as well. First, though, in the immortal words of Howard Beale, if you're not already, "You've GOT TO GET MAD." And if you aren't going to get Mad then you're probably part of the problem and need to stay out of the way (and the voting booth). Go watch the scaled down version of I.O.U.S.A at YouTube, mad yet? $53 trillion reasons to be ... and counting.


Joel Harris said...

One thought on drugs. I read an interesting article oh close to 20 years ago by none other than Ed Koch, former Mayor of NYC. Now there are very few things that I agree with ole Koch on, but he made an interesting point. He argued that crime--even violent crime--decreased during prohibition rather than increased. Yes, there was a dramatic increase in gang related activity, but he argued that crime like domestic violence and drunk driving and automobile accidents went down dramatically during prohibition. He continued to argue that much of the violence that DID go up was between people engaged in illegal activities.

So Koch was arguing that prohibition worked.

I'm not making an argument for anything here, but throwing out a datapoint for thought.

Sean Shepard said...

Meant to respond to this a few days ago Joel. It's probably fair to say that people who generally don't do things just because it's the law (speeding, not wearing a seat belt, owning an unregistered firearm or whatever else) would likely not tempt the wrath of the law and, some subset of that group are likely to mean, violent or stupid drunks who are then removed from an activity likely to get them into trouble.

I've often wondered, relative to drugs, if the profit incentive and pushers were gone whether or not that would balance out the increase in people who might partake just because it was legal and/or cheap. OR, would pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies become the new "pushers" ?? (like they already do with all the drugs a third of our children are on or with E.D. [visions of Bob Dole] medications).

I don't really consider it too much different than tobacco or alcohol though, those people just kill themselves slowly with their abuse of a substance.