An epidemic of isolated events

Radley Balko (the Agitator) has published a disturbing study of “dynamic entry” drug raids carried out by heavily armed SWAT teams.

Radley Balko and I disagree about the basic logic of drug policy.

He’d prefer a world in drug consumption was fundamentally unregulated except for ordinary rules about product labeling and perhaps special rules about intoxicated activities, such as driving under the influence. I think the result of that policy would be vastly expanded drug abuse.

Radley, as a libertarian, thinks that if people choose to damage themselves, that’s a problem that calls for private rather than public (i.e., voluntary rather than coercive) intervention. I disagree. We also differ on the likely extent of the increase in drug abuse from replacing the current laws with something closer to the alcohol laws; I’m confident that it would be large, and worried that it might be very large, bringing one or more of the illicit drugs (likely cocaine) to the point of being as big a social headache as alcohol is.

What Radley and I don’t disagree on is that drug prohibition as now managed is hugely and unnecessarily costly, though we differ in our degree of optimism. I’m convinced that it could be made much less costly if we changed our policies about enforcement, treatment, sentencing, and the management of drug-involved offenders; Radley thinks even the residual costs would be higher than can be justified by the reduction in drug abuse.

If giving up on heavy-handed drug enforcement with lots of intrusive investigative technique, extensive use of informants, massive asset forfeitures, and quasi-military tactics risked a big increase in the drug problem, there would at least be a colorable argument for accepting the costs. (The war on the Mafia was well worth winning, and it wasn’t won cleanly. Getting tougher on burglars probably means fewer burglaries.) But in fact there’s no reason to think that the drug problem today is much smaller than it would be with half the drug enforcement effort, half as many dealers behind bars, and much less aggressive tactics. All we’re getting from fighting the drug problem as if it were a war is headaches.

Radley’s latest publication is called Overkill (available as a .pdf on the Cato website or in a very handsome hard copy for $10). It’s a study of the paramilitary, or SWAT, aspects of drug law enforcement, in particular “dynamic entry” and “knock-and-announce” raids on residential property. In a depressing number of cases, the raids are based on faulty information.

The map is especially convincing in showing what Radley calls “an epidemic of ‘isolated incidents’.” What almost all of them have in common is that no one on the law enforcement side was held accountable.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

34 thoughts on “An epidemic of isolated events”

  1. I wonder which social problem is preferable, people high on easily obtainable drugs or military forces breaking down doors and killing at will with the citizenery knowing if they shoot the bastard breaking down their door at 2 am and he turns out to be a cop, then they will end up in prison for life, but if that same cop kills us, he walks and is even welcome to remain a cop……reassuring…….to serve and protect…..what a joke. I vote for easily obtainable drugs, thank you very much. Of course, i know that the investors in the present drug trade, and if you believe i am speaking of the so called drug cartels you beleive in the tooth fairy, who enjoy 1000% and more return on their money will fight to the death to keep their market just as it is. Years ago a list of drug investors in texas was making the rounds…it included drs. Lawyers, and pols, none with names from south of the border….all nice wasp names with some spare cash to invest with the promise of far greater returns than the stock or bond market, so please do not tell me you do not include in your equation of how to change what is presently taking place as the war on drugs some way to take the huge amounts of money out of play, like legalizing and taxing and treating overindulgence as a nonviolent police problem.societies who did this did not experience a greater drug problem than they would have had with the military type control we have seen fit to employ…..drugs will not disappear, no matter how many swat teams we have, so it seems to me that a more intelligent approach is needed.

  2. I think Mark is correct that adopting legalization of, say, marijuania, will result in a wide expansion of use of that drug. The question though is, can we live with that? I would argue yes, since pot is apparently less adictive than alchohol and far less likely to result in violent behavior. Not to mention that legalization will deny the drug cartels (or whomever) from the profits of the illegal trade, a major bonus. I'm sure they are negative effects from legalization that we cannot anticipate, but weighed against the dangers of an expanding police state, they seem a lesser evil.

  3. I tend to be somewhere between Balko and Kleiman. I think the drugs with a high thereapeutic index and a record of little or no chronic brain damage and psychosis under the influence ought to be legal. Naturally this means weed, LSD, and a few others would be legal, while ethanol would be prohibited.

  4. "What almost all of them have in common is that no one on the law enforcement side was held accountable."
    This is probably better directed to Balko, but are we aware of any cases where the law enforcement side was held accountable in any serious way (say as much as misdemeanor assault)?

  5. Sebastian, there was one instance, highlighted by Balko, where the victim of the raid managed to kill one of the invaders. But that's probably not what you were thinking of.

  6. I'm not sure that greater availability of drugs with lesser harm than alcohol would be a bad thing, as it's possible they could drive out a certain amount of alcohol use. That may be entirely wrong, but it's testable.

  7. I agree with your thoughts Mark. But I wonder about your views on Prohibition. Do you think alcohol consumption could have been reduced even more during the period, with different law enforcement techniques? Do you think the individual and social costs of Prohibition were outweighed by the benefits of reduced alcohol consumption?

  8. I have no illusion that drug legalization will lead to some greater amount of addiction and drug use. But the problem with Kleiman's position is he doesn't care about individual liberty. The decision as to what to ingest into one's own body is a personal decision that certainly the FEDERAL government has no business regulating. Especially given that the substances are pleasurable for many people and much of the objection is NOT based on the cost-benefit analysis Kleiman purports to do, but on the simple objection against people taking substances that might get them high.
    And beyond the fundamental liberty objection, there are huge threats to liberty caused by specific drug-related laws– the prohibition on medical marijuana, for instance, and the latest fad, making it impossible or difficult for people to treat their colds and allergies because the pills can also be used to make meth.
    Kleiman's entire enterprise is authoritarian. He thinks the government should make these tradeoffs and tell people what medications they can and can't take. It has become more and more clear that this is something the federal government shouldn't be dictating, becauase they can't be trusted in this area. There's too many bluenoses, and too much honest disagreement about what the real costs and benefits are.

  9. I have no illusion that drug legalization will lead to some greater amount of addiction and drug use. But the problem with Kleiman's position is he doesn't care about individual liberty.
    Serious question: Exactly what does "individual liberty" mean to a junkie?

  10. Exactly what does "individual liberty" mean to a junkie?
    Exactly the same thing as it does to you.

  11. Okay, so "individual liberty" is something that exists in the ideal, without reference to ones condition, right? So "individual liberty" means the same thing to someone in prison, someone starving to death, someone on a desert island, someone in a mansion.
    Do I have this right? It's a one-size-fits-all concept?

  12. That freedom "means nothing" to people who want to do something with it you disapprove of, is such a transparent rationalization for violating liberty, that it's hard to believe anyone takes it seriously.
    Sorry, the "junkie", for all that he exercises his liberties in ways you wouldn't, isn't a subhuman being devoid of free will. For all that that's a convenient excuse for violating his rights.

  13. The phrase you quote, Brett, "means nothing"–who said that? Why do you quote it?
    I'm still asking–exactly what does "individual liberty" mean to a junkie? Put it in practical terms, if ideas scare you.
    (I'm trying here to take libertarian philosophy seriously, which may just be a category error.)

  14. Yes Adam, liberty is a one-size-fits-all concept.
    "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."
    What part of that are you unclear about?
    In practical terms, "individual liberty" to a junkie would mean that if said junkie want's to waste his life away and risk ill health by shooting up ten times a day, he's free to do so. I don't care. (well, I'd care, but I'd have no basis to force him to stop) The junkie's liberty to do as he pleases would only be limited if/when his pursuit of such liberty would infringe on my liberties or property. In simple terms, the junky is free to get high as often as he sees fit, so long as he doesn't physically hurt or rob me to fund his habit.
    Is that what you're looking for?

  15. HippyChimp,
    Not exactly, but it does pretty well illustrate the callousness underlying the "nothing but freedom" ideology–eat shit and die, but not on my doorstep.

  16. Ok, adamsj, seems like you want a serious discussion. I'm not a libertarian, but I believe that some social problems are just worsened and complicated when you try to use the force of law and police powers to resolve them. This is particularly true of drugs.
    Ever try to get an alcoholic, or a drug addict, to stop using when they didn't want to?
    I have. It's pointless and futile, like trying to teach a card trick to a pig. Wastes your time, and annoys the pig.
    No one here said that hopeless addicts should "eat shit and die." I certainly don't beleive that. Drug treatment should be widely available, and should be free or subsidized for those who can't afford it. Still way cheaper than putting addicts in prison. Hell, in many (though not all) cases, it's cheaper to just supply the addict with a maintenance dose of drugs than it is to prosecute and incarcerate him.
    The whole prohibitionist viewpoint is especially ridiculous when applied to pot. yes, some people can't stop smoking it, and it interferes with their life–but that's also true of things like watching tv, eating fast food, and jacking off. Why don't we make those things jailable offenses? Well, some modern day Puritans would, but the short answer is that some folks just can't stand the thought that someone, somewhere is having fun. Prohibitionist thinking is about Control–over people's lives, thoughts, and habits.
    What if I don't drink much booze–what if I like smoking pot? I've got a professional job, a doctorate, a wife and a home. Why would my off-the-job, weekend smoking be an offense against society? Why should my government have the right to bust down my door and haul me off to jail for it? I pay taxes and vote like a good citizen…if I was busted and sent to jail, I'd be a liability, rather than a contributor, to society. It simply makes no practical sense, unless you accept the viewpoint that controlling people's private behavior is somehow a public good.
    It's not. People have always gotten high–the most ancient writings we have sing the praises of beer. People won't stop getting drunk, high, and otherwise altered. It's almost as though the drug war is just an excuse to militarize the police, increase surveillance of the populace, and search and seize people's property on the flimsiest of pretexts….

  17. What's interesting about your reply, Locutor, is how much of it I agree with.
    If I had my way, pot would be legal–not decriminalized, maybe not even regulated, just legal. It's barely harmful enough to make even the minimal argument for regulation. I wouldn't put anyone in jail for simply using drugs, either. That's a bad idea.
    I'm not so sure about the idea that involuntary treatment does no good. I think that's a received, largely untested idea, which no one wants to challenge because treatment is more effective when it's voluntary, and given the lack of funds for treatment for all, why not maximize the benefits by treating only those who seek out treatment on their own? Further, mixing voluntary and involuntary treatment populations would probably make voluntary treatment less effective.
    I would challenge your claim that "No one here said that hopeless addicts should 'eat shit and die'." Here's HippyChimp:
    "In practical terms, 'individual liberty' to a junkie would mean that if said junkie want's to waste his life away and risk ill health by shooting up ten times a day, he's free to do so. I don't care. (well, I'd care, but I'd have no basis to force him to stop)"
    In other words, he kinda cares in the abstract, but the possibility that his own individual liberty might in some way be restricted by acting on that care means that he's not going to act. Better he should, well, eat shit and die. (My own wording, I grant you.)
    Where I fundamentally disagree with libertarian* ideology is that there should be an unlimited freedom to +sell+ drugs.
    Again, with pot, really, who cares? You probably do more damage to yourself by feeding the munchies with McDonald's and Krispy Kreme than by getting high in the first place. Better public policy to regulate fast food, I say.
    But hard drugs? Cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine? Substance D? Poor, addled Bob Arctor had it right: "Kill the dealers.**"
    No, not all of them. But once you get up where organized crime and corporate finance meet, exterminate the brutes***.
    * By the way, the "Wastes your time, and annoys the pig" schtick being a slightly misquoted Heinlein reference, possibly blended with a little Bill Hicks, I'm fairly sure I'd call you some flavor of libertarian, but maybe not one of the loonier ones.
    ** I believe he was probably speaking for his creator, who also had a character speak for him here: "You call grass a drug?"
    *** Assuming you believe in capital punishment, which I don't, but that would spoil the rhetoric to get into just now.

  18. Having grown up in the 70's, my entire life since adolesence has seen and experienced drug use. I've used drugs with doctors, lawyers, judges, and police officers — as well as musicians, artists, etc. People from all walks. The reality is that most people can use drugs, like alcohol, responsibly and recreationally. Some can't.
    The hypocrisy of the laws cause more damage to social order than their target. "Have you used marijuana" is now a disclosure required of every presidential candidate — and I can't even remember the last one who said no. Generations have now grown up understanding that the laws prohibiting drug use are puctuated with a wink and a nod. This carries over into our beliefs on personal freedom and enforcement . Our tax laws are full of the same hypocrisy. Is it any wonder more and more people see everything as relative?
    If you want to find the real government position on drug laws — just propose random testing for congress critters, police, and judges.

  19. "Radley, as a libertarian, thinks that if people choose to damage themselves, that's a problem that calls for private rather than public (i.e., voluntary rather than coercive) intervention. I disagree."
    A willingness to interfere BY FORCE, that is, using VIOLENCE, in the lives of others, because they are making choices you don't like. There's a name for that: evil.

  20. If someone makes the choice to, oh, import a few tons of heroin into the United States, I'm up for FORCE and VIOLENCE to stop them. We're talking corporate-level evil there, and a very workable answer is "exterminate the brutes wearing suits".

  21. Hello:
    I'm a physician sitting in a rural ER right now, waiting for the county ambulence to bring back a farmer "who thinks he's having a heart attack". Likely the contributing factors are the usual; high fat diet, perhaps smoking tobacco. Alot of stoics out here don't seek care for their high blood pressure, or adequately control their blood sugar.
    Why are these unhealthy decisions addressed differently than using drugs?
    Think about what it takes to live in a healthy manner. Eat plenty of fruits and veggies, exercise alot, sleep a full night's sleep each night, maintain your weight proportional to your height, avoid sweets and tobacco, use ethanol recreationally and sparingly, practice safe sex. If you really want to be intoxicated, eating cannibis in known and controlled amounts has the fewest side effects of any drug or route.
    When people fail to follow healthy practices, what do we want to "do" with them?
    Do we just let them make up their own minds? How about teaching people about risks, and safer ways to pursue their habits?
    Or how about punishing people who make unhealthy decisions?
    We could follow the ethanol model. It's a useful one. We know prohibition was a failure across the board and generated organzied crime externalities that are only now, maybe, being dealt with a lifetime later. Ethanol is pure, and in known concentrations. There are rules governing its distribution. (Nicely, you don't worry any more about geting caught in the cross fire between a Coors truck and a Bud truck.) And warnings about risks are widely known.
    We could follow the junk food model. Allow full and free distribution to all ages, and advertising and promotions that are ubiquitous.
    We could follow the tobacco model, our #1 killer. Put some restrictions upon it, warn against it with some vigor, but subsidize the drug growers.
    We might look at Canada and Holland for trends in crime and addiction rates to better understand if decrimminalization or legalization affect them.
    We might delve into history, back in the day when cocaine and marrijuana were in the Merck Manual listed as treatments for "melencholy", to find out just what was going on when you could buy any drug in any drug store.
    We might follow the drug war model for all unhealthy decisions.
    Or, we might rationally look at the true risks of all unhealthy but pleasurable decisions, and ask how can we, a free society of free people, have as healthy a population as possible while living those great words; all men are created equal, they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

  22. adamsj: why do you think heroin is such a terrible drug? Perhaps you should do some reading before you answer. Hint: there is a difference between physical and emotional addiction.

  23. Russell:
    Let me turn the question around: Why do you think people who traffic in large, industrial quantities of heroin aren't terrible?

  24. adamssj:
    How is the question you raised logically relevant to the debate which Professor Klieman is conducting here over whether the state should prohibit some substances by violent and totalitarian criminal enforcement methods including SWAT raids, incarceration, snitches, false propaganda, etc.?
    Let me ask you some questions in response to your last question, in all sincerity. During prohibition, Al Capone sold large, industrial quantities of black market alcohol. Was he a "terrible person" in the moral terms in which you view things? Yeah, probably, because he was a gangster and tax cheat and used bullets to solve business disputes, corrupted politicians, etc.
    But was he a terrible person for selling people the Budweiser and hootch they wanted? Yeah, alcoholism is a terrible "disease" and plague to many…but, still…
    And how about the descendents of Adolph Coors? Are they terrible people for "trafficing in large, industrial quantities" of ethyl alcohol, a drug which addicts more people than heroin.
    Remember my old friend, Phillip Morris. Remember those lying tobacco executives testifying before congress? Remember when four out of five doctors chose Lucky Strikes. Are tobacco executives terrible people?
    Indeed, are people who traffic in heroin so terrible, even if that were relevant to what we're talking about? When Heroine(tm) was sold as a legal pharmaceutical by Bayer? To legal dispensers of heroin or chemical equivalents, such as (dia)morphine?
    Even the street dealers care about their customers more than you think. It's a competitive market, they aren't usually trying to harm their customers…they need the repeat business. One thought here: retail heroin packets are often LABELED with a trade name to inspire positive word of mouth marketing, just like other consumer goods. Do you think dealers would want to harm their customers rather than having them praise "red dragon head" and making potential exposure to criminal enforcement for customers' overdoses easier by trademarking the goods?
    So, no, I think your questions' both irrelevant and wrong, based on false premises and assumptions about the drug market.
    BTW, an aside. The entire modern US system of punishments for drugs is premised on the notion (sold to Governor Rockefeller for the flagship 1971 New York drug laws) that draconian punishments for very small weights of drugs would deter use (it supposedly worked in Japan with heroin addicts) and that anyone who trafficked in amounts greater than daily personal use amounts was a "kingpin" who could be punished as such. Few CONVICTED "kingpins" deal in thousands of pounds of anything, and it is suspected that (like prohibition) those moving thousands of pounds of anything have official cooperation, through corruption.
    You have also heard that our own side dabbles in drugs when it suits other geopolitical objectives of the USG…you have heard this, haven't you? (Read Dark Alliance by Gary Webb). So if the people who traffic in large industrial quantities of heroin are with the CIA or warlords nominally on our side in Afghanistan, are they "terrible people"?
    I think you need a better litmus test for good and evil, even by your own moral reasoning about what the law should be.

  25. jackl,
    A little bit of it is about the possiblity of repressing a drug. In the case of alcohol, it's just too easy to manufacture for there to be any credible case for stopping its distribution. As a practical matter, it's just not doable.
    On the other hand, that's not true of tobacco. If the US government put the effort it puts into eradicating marijuana into eradicating tobacco instead, then there wouldn't be much tobacco around. Tobacco's much more difficult to cultivate.
    So anyway, if the tobacco companies had been breaking civil law, I would've been perfectly happy to see their executives treated like Al Capone. It would've been a salutary example to have a few dozen R. J. Reynolds bigwigs given that last cigarette.
    What it comes down to is I don't share your belief in the sacred American right to make a buck by whatever means available.
    As to your aside, I don't like the current model for drug laws. I don't think anyone should be punished for simple possession or personal use of any drug. It's corporate-level involvement that sometimes deserves severe punishment.
    Those who advocate extremely strong enforcement are probably right that it's easier to make criminal cases via draconian punishments at lower levels, but I don't agree that makes it right to have those punishments. I'm genuinely at a loss for what to substitute for the investigative methods presently used if those draconian punishments were abolished, but making life easier for prosecutors and policemen isn't my problem. I have a feeling they'd come up with ways to cope.

  26. I'm sorry to have arrived late. I've much enjoyed reading this discussion, and I hope that adamsj and a few others will read this.
    Adamsj, I appreciate your attempt, as an apparent progressive, to wrap your head around libertarianism. Your express a valid concern that libertarianism is unethical because it is a "live and let die" philosophy. As someone who started life as a progressive before becomming a libertarian, I would like to try to answer thatn concern.
    Suppose a hyper-intelligent and benevolent race of aliens came to Earth and said: wow, you humans are really wasting your time listening to music, reading novels, hiking, etc. That stuff is bad for you. I presume that, like me, you would find it perfectly acceptable for them to try to persuade you to give up your leisure activities, but would find it morally repugnant for them to coerce you into doing so, even if they could point to clear evidence that people who do as they suggest are more productive and even happier.
    I claim that your moral position vis-a-vis the junkie is the same as the aliens' position vis-a-vis you and me. The fact that you believe that the junkie's preferences are wrong does not give you the right to use coercion to keep him from acting on them.
    The progressive fallacy is to assume that the only way to acomplish good is via the state. (If something is good and yet I don't want the state to do it, I must oppose the good.) But that's simply not true. The vast majority of good-ness in the world is provided not by the state, but by voluntary co-operation. When libertarians say that some area is none of the state's business, they don't mean that it's no one's business and nothing needs to change; they mean that the issue should be settled by persuasion and voluntary co-operation.
    The state's fundamental stock-in-trade is coercion: if something could occur without coercion, we wouldn't need the state to make it happen. If you don't believe that it's morally okay for you to lock up a junkie, I don't see why you believe that it's okay for the state to do so.
    The fact that coercion is the essence of state power is the reason you are at a loss as to how the state should approach drug abuse. If you don't believe drug treatment should be coercive, then you don't need the state to apply it.

  27. David,
    I find it of continuing interest that people, including yourself, keep coming back to the rights of the junkie, on which we have little disagreement, and continue to avoid the question of the profiteers who prey on the junkie.
    As I've said repeatedly, I don't think that anyone should be thrown in jail for simple use or possession of any drug, and that the majority of the illegal drug trade–specifically, marijuana–should just be made legal and be done with it.
    What I don't think is that people who make their living doing harm to others neccessarily have a right to make that living.
    It doesn't matter whether that harm is legal (like tobacco sales) or illegal (like cocaine sales) in my eyes. What matters is the extent of the harm they cause (both directly and indirectly) and the benefits they also cause (and pleasure +is+ a benefit).
    Now, you show me a co-operative of junkies (or tobacco smokers) who've organized themselves to get what they want without pouring profits into the pockets of scumbags, without marketing what they want to people who don't already want it, without mucking up the societies from which they get what they want (whether with subsidized tobacco growing or Columbian death squads), and so on, and I'll agree you probably have an okay form of trafficking in tobacco or cocaine.
    Anyway, you misread me on a couple of points.
    I'm not at a stated loss as to how the state should approach drug abuse, but as to how, in the absence of either criminalized drug use or draconian penalties for small-time dealers, how the state should investigate and prosecute corporate-scale peddling.
    Also, when you say, "The progressive fallacy is to assume that the only way to acomplish good is via the state," you are just plain wrong. I don't know anyone who believes this–I sure don't. If I did, I couldn't support, say, unions, or the ACLU.
    One other thing: Whether or not smoking whatever or reading whatever makes you more or less productive is a minor matter, of little concern to me. I'm neither a means of production nor a consumer. I'm a human being and a citizen with a life to live.

  28. Adamsj: Thanks so much for taking the time to respond.
    The reason that I (and presumably others) keep talking abou the rights of the junkie is that you can't logically seperate the right to buy drugs from the right to sell them. Whenever you want to legally prohit a voluntary transaction, you are stepping on both party's rights. (This same logic applies to minimum wages, rent control, etc.; in all such cases you can very easily sketch situations in which the prohibition harms the party that it was intended to protect.)
    Consider your junkie's collective. (Why do progressives love collectives?) The junkies spend all day growing cocaine and all night consuming it, and that's fine by you. Fine by me, too. So far so good.
    Now suppose next door to the collective is a business that processes paperwork. One day, the business owner and the junkies are talking, and the owner mentions that he really hates paperwork and would rather be a farmer, and the junkies remark that, actually, they are pretty good at paperwork. So they negotiate an arrangement: the junkies will go to work for the businessman doing paperwork, for which they will be paid. The businessman raises cocaine, which he sells to the junkies. The quality and quantity of paperwork improves. The quality and quantity of smak improves. Both parties to the transaction are happier. But you no longer approve, because now the drugs are being sold by a corporation!?
    Have a got that right? If so, that's pretty weird. If not, it's apparently not the corporate organization to which you object. So could you please clarify just what it is to which you object?
    You cite subsidized tobacco and Columbian death squads as evils associated with the drug market. I couldn't agree more. But the solution to that problem is to end the subsidies and the death squads, not to prohibit the market.
    By the way, I am slightly bemused your classification of the ACLU and unions as organizations that do good independent of the state. Not to attack the ACLU — I like them and donate to them regularly — but it's whole raison d'etre is wrapped up in the state. And unions exist only because the state has granted them special legal status. (Granted, it's not inconcievable that labor cartels could arise in a free market without anti-trust law, but it seems unlikely.)
    Much better examples of organizations that address problems like drug addiction without using the state are the churches (both progressive and evangelical) and charities that pass out needles and food to the junkies, while trying to convince them to change their ways. Those are sort of voluntary solutions I have in mind.

  29. Oh, and one other thing (in answer to your one other thing): Why can't the junkie say to you: "I don't care about your ideals of human fufillment. I want to consume drugs and you're trying to cut off my supply. It's real nice that you're willing to let me grow my own or join a collective that does so, but I'd prefer to keep my own house and job and buy from a major corporation whoose quality control and supply chain management I trust. So lay off and mind your own business. Mmkay?"

  30. David,
    Let's start with a simple one. You say, "Consider your junkie's collective. (Why do progressives love collectives?)"
    The word I used was "co-operative", not collective. They're two very different things.
    So my question in return is, "Why can't libertarians read or quote correctly?" The answer is, "Because they're so often dependent on emotionally loaded words, bad logic, and deceptve arguments. Talk about junk rhetoric!
    Anyway, to dispose of your deceptive straw man of the collective which doesn't let you "keep my own house and job":
    A co-operative is an organization run for the benefit of the members. For instance, I belong to a credit union rather than do business with a bank because I want the power of my capital to work to the benefit of myself and my fellow members.
    That's not a collective. Co-operatives are a fine old tradition in America and elsewhere through which people avoid being exploited by organizing their own economic (and other) activities. They're beloved by sane libertarians, among others.
    Anyway, most of the rest of your post is the same old tired crapola that's been argued back and forth on this issue. You don't break any new ground, so I'm not going to mess with most of it, two points of exceptional dufusness excepted:
    First off, the Columbian death squad (much like the Mafia) are libertarianism in it's purest form. Rich people decided they didn't like the variety of justice and policing provided via democracy, so they hired their own killers to do their will. (Yeah, yeah, libertarians are just misunderstood Gandhian pacifists with a big fat waller. Not.) There were some anarchists in Detroit who sold a bumper sticker reading, "Legalize Free-Enterprise Murder–Why Should The Government Have All The Fun?" I'll say.
    Second, the idea that unions got their power through the state is just ignorant and misinformed. They got their power through organizing themselves in the face of armed, violent opposition of those who sought to exploit their labor. (This view of things puts me well to the left of Mark and, I think, the other primary site posters.) The factory owners, like the Columbian right, hired their own muscle–the death squads of their day–and also used state power, such as the National Guard, to fight the unions.
    Some union activity is currently protected by law, but much more is restricted and forbidden. Thanks to the Taft-Hartley act and other repressive legislation, union organizing is harder today than it was earlier in history.

  31. Adamsj: I apologize for mis-quoting you. My bad.
    So you're willing to allow a co-ops to sell drugs, but not corporations. Is that right? Do you apply that logic to banks, too? You want to ban corporate banks and require everyone to bank at credit unions? What about automobile manufacturers? Where do you draw the line? Is it okay for people to buy from a corporation if they own stock in it, since it's then effectively a co-op to them? I'm really quite curious about your proposed societal re-organization.
    It practice, I find only small differences in the market behavior of co-ops and corporations. That's because, in the end, both forms of organization are subject to the same market discipline. For example, I was pleased to see that, as Whole Foods moved in on its market, my local food co-op was forced to go upscale and fire some of the less productive hippies that worked there.
    In any case, I'm happy to let you buy only from co-ops, if that's what you want to do. Too bad you aren't willing to extend the same consideration to people who might prefer to buy from an organization in which they happen not own shares.
    Btw, you are absolutely right that some capitalists have resorted to violence against union organizers. Of course, some union organizers have resorted to violence against scabs in their attempt to enforce their labor-market cartel. But of course neither of those activites are allowed under the law. In legal terms, unions would be flat-out illegal if anti-trust law did not have an exception for them. Beyond that, closed shops and unions dues laws, and myriad NLRB regulations help unions to enforce their cartels. Do you really think that, in the absence of all this regulation, millions of unions members could successfully collude to fix terms of employment? And somehome prohibit outsiders from undercutting them? Well, as I said before, unlikely as it appear to me, I suppose that is concievable.

  32. David,
    When you say, "I'm really quite curious about your proposed societal re-organization," that's because I didn't propose one.
    You have, however, convinced me of one thing by repeatedly misunderstanding plain English: You're arguing in bad faith. Therefore, in the words of a famous libertarian whom I greatly admire, "Ram it, ram it, ram it, ram it up your poop chute."

  33. Adamsj: Proposing that co-operatives be allowed to sell drugs (but corporations not be allowed to) certainly sounds like a societal re-organization to me. Or were you not aware that currently isn't allowed?
    Anyway, the tone of your last response makes clear that you're no longer interested in discussion. Thanks for your time. Bye.

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