Quotulatiousness

July 28, 2017

13 Reasons Jeff Sessions is a @$#/!

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on Jul 27, 2017

Jeff Sessions is on the ropes with Donald Trump. Good.

The president is pissed because Sessions recused himself from the investigation of Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election. But here are a baker’s dozen of reasons to hate the attorney general, including his obsession with restarting the war on pot, his call to jack up mandatory minimums, and his support for civil asset forfeiture. Then there’s his lack of interest in due process, willingness to subvert state’s rights when they conflict with his desired outcome, and desire to lengthen prison terms for non-violent criminals. Also, he might be some kind of statist elf.
—–
During Sessions’ confirmation hearings, Democrats claimed the former Alabama senator was unfit for office because he was a racist, charges that were never really substantiated. But Sessions’ voting record and policy agenda are more than enough to disqualify him from being the nation’s top law enforcement officer.

Mostly Weekly is hosted by Andrew Heaton and written by Sarah Rose Siskind.

Edited by Austin Bragg and Sarah Rose Siskind.

Produced by Meredith and Austin Bragg.

Theme Song: Frozen by Surfer Blood.

July 18, 2017

QotD: Where progressives and libertarians agree

Actually, there are four other big areas where the two ideologies converge.

1. Immigration. Immigration restrictions deprive billions of basic liberties, impoverish the world, and do so on the backs of the global poor, most of whom are non-white.

2. Occupational licensing. Licensing laws bar tens of millions of people from switching to more lucrative and socially valuable occupations, all to benefit richer insiders at the expense of poorer outsiders.

3. War, especially the War on Terror. Since 2002, the U.S. has literally spent trillions fighting the quantitatively tiny problem of terrorism by waging non-stop wars in the Middle East. We don’t know what the Middle East would have looked like if the U.S. had stayed out, but it’s hard to believe it would be worse. And there’s no end in sight.

4. The criminal justice system, especially the War on Drugs. Hundreds of thousands of non-violent people, disproportionately poor and non-white, are in prison. Why? To stop willing consumers from doing what they want with their own bodies.

These four issues are so massive, you’d expect a staunch progressive/libertarian alliance would have been forged long ago. But of course it hasn’t. Why not? Some progressives flatly disagree with one or more of these policies; see Bernie contra open borders. But the bigger stumbling block is that progressives place far lower priority on these issues than libertarians. That includes war, unless the Republicans hold the White House.

Why not? I regretfully invoke my Simplistic Theory of Left and Right. The heart of the left isn’t helping the poor, or reducing inequality, or even minority rights. The heart of the left is being anti-market. With some honorable exceptions, very few leftists are capable of being excited about deregulation of any kind. And even the leftists who do get excited about well-targeted deregulation get far more excited about stamping out the hydra-headed evils of market.

Bryan Caplan, “Progressive/Libertarian: The Alliance That Isn’t”, Library of Economics and Liberty, 2017-06-22.

June 29, 2017

Words & Numbers – Just Say No to the War on Drugs

Published on 28 Jun 2017

Ted Cruz recently asserted that the United States military needs to be sent to Mexico to attack the drug cartels head-on.

This is a bad idea. But so is the drug war itself, both constitutionally and logically.

Forty-six years and one trillion dollars after its start, President Richard Nixon’s War on Drugs is still going, with 300,000 people currently in jail on drug charges. Meanwhile, 26 times as many people suffer from alcoholism as do heroin abuse, and eight times as many die from alcohol abuse as do heroin.

Many who support the war do so with the best of intentions, but has it really helped? Or has it done more harm than good, like the Prohibition of the 1920s? Is this war even legal in the first place?

James Harrigan and Antony Davies discuss these questions in this week’s Words and Numbers. Watch the conversation below or on our YouTube channel, or listen to it on SoundCloud.

May 22, 2017

QotD: The nanny state’s ever-expanding reach

Filed under: Britain, Bureaucracy, Health, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The Royal Society for Public Health is suggesting that unusual, unhealthy or minority pursuits should be criminalised in order to set a good example to others. They want people to be arrested, fined and possibly even imprisoned for being poor role models. In a liberal society, the only appropriate response can be made with two words or two fingers.

Chris Snowdon, “A smoking ban in pub beer gardens? Stop persecuting smokers”, City A.M., 2015-08-14.

May 1, 2017

Math is hard … and in Oregon it can lead to hard time

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Government, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Did you know that you have to be certified by an Oregon regulatory agency to do certain kinds of math? Mats Järlström has discovered just how draconian the state can be about unauthorized mathematizing:

After exploring the math behind traffic light timing, Järlström concluded that the formula, created in 1959, accounted for only two yellow light scenarios: driving straight through the intersection, or stopping.

So Järlström decided to try to improve the math managing the transition time from yellow to red, in order to allow a driver traveling through an intersection with a yellow light to slow down and turn without being flagged for a red light violation. And in early 2015 he shared his proposal with the media, policymakers, and those interested in the traffic technology.

“It’s not rocket science,” Järlström said in a phone interview with The Register. “It took me about 40 minutes to figure it out.”

For communicating his findings in five emails, the Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying in March, 2015 opened an investigation. In August 2016, the rules body found [PDF] that Järlström had engaged in unlicensed engineering and assessed a $500 fine.

Even better, if he persists, he may even face jail time for his unlicensed mathematical crime spree.

Järlström paid the fine but fears his ongoing interest in traffic light timing will lead to further penalties. Violating the Act could subject him to $1,000 in civil penalties, $6,250 in criminal fines, and as much as a year in jail.

April 6, 2017

On legalization the feds are headed the wrong way

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Law, Liberty — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Libertarian Party of Canada leader Tim Moen looks at the public safety aspects of Justin Trudeau’s marijuana legalization plans:

If we are concerned about public safety we need to make it more attractive for people to grow, distribute and consume cannabis legally than illegally so that there is engagement with public safety mechanisms. Right now it is far more attractive for people to grow and consume illegally. Cannabis is easy to produce, you just need seeds and dirt, and there is a high demand for it. A regime that restricts legal supply through onerous licensing and prohibitions will drive up illegal supply to meet the demand.

We were seeing a trend towards improved public safety. Storefronts offered customers a safe place to buy cannabis from businesses that had a vested interest in developing a reputation for quality and safety. Small- to medium-sized growers have been operating in the sunlight where public safety officials like me could inspect and educate. Cannabis was emerging from the shadows and the problems associated with illicit activity were fading away.

All the Trudeau government had to do was notice what was going on and end the rules that made it difficult for public safety to emerge. Instead, over the past month we have seen a hard crackdown on storefront cannabis dispensaries. Coordinated raids have occurred across the country and some business owners are facing financial ruination and life in prison at the same time the Trudeau government has announced legalization by the summer of 2018. The message to the cannabis industry is loud and clear, “Fall in line with the regime, or else.”

The federal government is poised to adopt the report of The Task Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation as the way forward and this is cause for serious concern from a public safety perspective. The Task Force recommends a requirement for a federal license to grow cannabis commercially. If you’re one of the hundreds of small- to medium-sized dispensaries currently operating in the sunlight your days are numbered. If you are a customer of one of these dispensaries you will be faced with a choice of big government-approved corporation or local black market dealer.

It’s not clear why customers would choose the low quality, limited access, unreliable cannabis that a few big government-approved corporations would provide over locally grown craft cannabis. Imagine if growing tomatoes required a federal license and there was a coordinated effort to raid local growers and sellers who did not have a federal license. Would people stop putting tomato seeds in dirt? Would people drive past an unlicensed farmer selling big, fresh, juicy tomatoes from a roadside stand on their way to a licensed grocery store which may have some small, pale, nearly-spoiled tomatoes in stock? It is naive to imagine people are going to follow stupid rules that they can easily avoid following, yet this naivety has permeated cannabis prohibitionism and continues to permeate the thinking of cannabis legislators.

March 31, 2017

The likely impact of legalized marijuana on healthcare costs

Filed under: Cancon, Health, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Colby Cosh, a self-confessed hardcore druggie (okay, he admits “I’m not a big pot smoker, although it is a point of honour with me to admit in print that I have done it plenty of times”), on some interesting aspects of next year’s “Cannabis Day” legalization target:

What leapt out at me in [recently elected MP and former cop Glen] Motz’s stream of consciousness was a claim that “health-care costs are starting to rise” in the recreational-marijuana states. What could this mean? The U.S. doesn’t have single-payer universal public healthcare, and its programs for the poor, the aged, and veterans are all administered federally. But if Motz wants to bring up health-care costs, we can certainly go there.

    They found that when individual states legalized medical marijuana (as 28 now have), doctors in those states began to fill fewer prescriptions addressing medical conditions for which there is some evidence that marijuana might help — anxiety, nausea, seizures, and the like

One of the most remarkable economic findings of any kind on piecemeal marijuana acceptance in the U.S. appeared in the journal Health Affairs last July. It became famous almost immediately as the “Medicare Part D study”: two policy specialists at the University of Georgia in Athens looked at data on 87 million pharmaceutical prescriptions paid for by the federal government from 2010 to 2013. They found that when individual states legalized medical marijuana (as 28 now have), doctors in those states began to fill fewer prescriptions addressing medical conditions for which there is some evidence that marijuana might help — anxiety, nausea, seizures, and the like.

By “fewer” I mean “a lot fewer.” The study estimated, for example, that medical marijuana reduced prescriptions for pain medication by about 1,800 per physician per year. That estimate could be off by an order of magnitude and still be pretty impressive. It is only one study, but when the researchers double-checked their results by looking at conditions that nobody thinks marijuana is indicated for, they found no declines in prescribing.

Marijuana is still an outlawed Schedule I drug under U.S. federal law, doctors even in medical-marijuana states “recommend” the stuff rather than formally prescribing it, and patients have to pay for it. Moreover, pot may be relatively unpopular with the (mostly pension-age) Medicare-eligible population. The Medicare Part D study shows, if nothing else, that American medicine is already making heavy professional use of marijuana. The authors think it might have saved Medicare half a billion dollars over the four-year study period. Perhaps there are concomitant harms that this study does not account for. It is hard for me to imagine what they might be, but I am not a politician.

March 29, 2017

The long political road to a legalized marijuana market

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Law, Liberty — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Chris Selley discusses the federal government’s much-hinted-at full legalization plan which is expected to be implemented in time for Canada Day next year, and what it means for the existing quasi-legal market:

In any event, the legislation will have the benefit of forcing the provinces finally to come to grips with their policy preferences.

[…]

The others will soon have to follow suit. And they should be considering what to do if legalization doesn’t happen, as well. Tabling the legislation and any associated boosterism is only going to energize the open black market that has flourished in Canadian cities’ storefronts under the polite fiction of “dispensaries,” making a hollow mockery of the law.

The cries of injustice when police bust these businesses have been silly. Policing marijuana isn’t a great use of resources at any time, if you ask me, but a Liberal campaign promise isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on; it’s certainly not a legal defence. If you’re a “budtender” working for minimum wage in a “dispensary,” now would be a good time to realize that, under the law, you’re a minimum wage drug dealer.

In Toronto, it has been instructive, if not surprising, to see that the dispensary model works. People value the expertise, the variety of retail environments, the fact it’s not some dodgy dude on a bike who wants to hang out for an hour. The only things wrong with the model are byproducts of prohibition: lots of cash on hand makes them a target for robberies, for example, which often go unreported.

Across the country, people are happily buying marijuana the way people in jurisdictions all over the world (though certainly not in Ontario) buy their other intoxicants of choice.

That’s a lesson for Canadian jurisdictions to learn if the Liberals legalize marijuana: the private sector can handle it. And it’s a lesson if it stays illegal, too. The law is the law, but if Ottawa’s going to encourage people to break it, the ensuing mess doesn’t have to be the provinces’ problem.

Instead of enforcing it very sporadically, they could just not enforce it at all. Better yet, under such a policy, they could try to remedy some of the problems that prohibition creates in the storefront market.

March 23, 2017

Words & Numbers: We’re Becoming a Nation of Pets

Filed under: Economics, Liberty — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 22 Mar 2017

This week, Antony & James take on the idea of “victimless crimes” and discuss the odd and growing trend of governments regulating some private activities such as pornography, while others like smoking marijuana are increasingly allowed. People imposing their values on others seems to boil down to an inability to appreciate that others have different preferences, but it all results in Americans losing freedom and instead becoming a nation of pets.

Learn more here:
https://fee.org/articles/were-becoming-a-nation-of-pets/
http://www.antolin-davies.com/research/trib0217.pdf
http://www.antolin-davies.com/research/philly0317.pdf

March 5, 2017

The three kinds of prostitution

Filed under: Business, Law, Liberty — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Kim du Toit on the world’s oldest profession:

The problem is that there are in essence three kinds of prostitution: the age-old “selling yourself on the street kind” — i.e. to all comers [sic] — and the more formal transactions, whereby women contract for sex on a more formalized basis, or marry for money. In all cases, the motivation is the same: women are trading themselves to men for financial support, only the first kind is frowned upon by society, the second kind winked at, and the last is pretty much the glue whereby society is held together. (As my friend Patterson once commented: “All women fuck for money if they’re going to be honest about it, but they seldom are.”)

And, of course, as with all things, there is a murky area between these two extremes: the “contracted” kind whereby young women (and it seems to be mostly the young ones, for obvious reasons) rent their bodies out to wealthy men in order to pay off college loans, or get through some other adverse financial circumstance — hence the popularity of websites like Sugardaddy. This is what I call a “part-time prostitute”, and the exchange is quite cynical — as are most transactions of this kind. But this is different from the “brief encounter” or street-corner type of prostitution, because older men (usually older, because younger men don’t have the financial wherewithal to pay a young woman thousands of dollars a month just for “companionship”) set up an ongoing financial support system, buying Little Miss Hotbody expensive clothing, jewellery, cars and even sometimes a condo. (Note that I’m not saying that this is better than the street-corner kind of prostitution, just that it’s different. The process is the same — women having sex for money — but the terms of congress, as it were, are dissimilar.) If I’m going to be really cynical about it, I’d call this kind of prostitution a “halfway house” between street-corner sex and marital sex.

[…]

We can argue all day about the morality of the activity of women selling their bodies for sex, and about the disappearance of public morality which allows Sugardaddy.com to exist, nay flourish, but this is where we find ourselves today, for better or for worse. As the modern idiom goes, it is what it is, and it seems like we pretty much have to live with it.

Fine. Let us at least acknowledge that street-corner prostitution presents a greater danger to women — slavery, forced prostitution, human trafficking, violence and murder — than does the Sugardaddy – and Anna Nicole-style prostitution. (We can leave class out of it because, as with most Marxist thought, that’s just an overlay of political theory on an age-old situation, and no class warfare is ever going to “solve” or end street-corner prostitution.) I do think, however, that in this regard there is a real need for law enforcement attention, simply because of the many dangers to which poorer women are exposed. Honestly, though, I think that the law should go after the management of the street-corner prostitution industry — that would be the pimps and procurers of women — rather than the actual participants (the women and their clients), because the former are the ones who generally cause real harm to the hapless women under their control. I’m not advocating State-run brothels because both the concept and likely execution are going to be foul. (To put it in perspective: imagine a State-run restaurant, e.g. managed and staffed by the same kind of people at the average DMV office, and you’ll see why I think State-run whorehouses are a bad idea.) Nevertheless, they are the lesser evil than those managed by the (illegal) private sector, who as a rule do not have the interests of their employees at heart.

January 25, 2017

The “right to repair” gets a boost in three states

Filed under: Business, Law, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Cory Doctorow reports on a hopeful sign that we might be able to get rid of one of the more pernicious aspects of the DMCA rules:

Section 1201 of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act makes it both a crime and a civil offense to tamper with software locks that control access to copyrighted works — more commonly known as “Digital Rights Management” or DRM. As the number of products with software in them has exploded, the manufacturers of these products have figured out that they can force their customers to use their own property in ways that benefit the company’s shareholders, not the products’ owners — all they have to do is design those products so that using them in other ways requires breaking some DRM.

The conversion of companies’ commercial preferences into legally enforceable rights has been especially devastating to the repair sector, a huge slice of the US economy, as much as 4% of GDP, composed mostly of small mom-n-pop storefront operations that create jobs right in local communities, because repair is a local business. No one wants to send their car, or even their phone, to China or India for servicing.

[…]

Three states are considering “Right to Repair” bills that would override the DMCA’s provisions, making it legal to break DRM to effect repairs, ending the bizarre situation where cat litter boxes are given the same copyright protection as the DVD of Sleeping Beauty. Grassroots campaigns in Nebraska, Minnesota, and New York prompted the introduction of these bills and there’s more on the way. EFF and the Right to Repair coalition are pushing for national legislation too, in the form of the Unlocking Technology Act.

January 16, 2017

QotD: The process of de facto legalization of marijuana in Vancouver

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Law, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Despite the fact that I don’t smoke pot — because if I do I will be asleep in approximately three minutes — I have long advocated complete legalization. Largely for libertarian reasons but also because the criminal law is essentially unenforceable. But the medical marijuana regulatory scheme interests me as a grand example of government getting something entirely wrong.

The original medical marijuana regulations allowed people to buy from a single supplier or grow their own or designate a grower. While the system was far from perfect, and found to be unconstitutional, it had the advantage of regulating with a very light hand. But, oh Heavens, there was “leakage”. Medical pot was not always only used by medical users. Yikes.

So Health Canada came up with a regulatory scheme which was going to licence grower/distributors and put the users and their growers out of business. Enter Big Green and a bunch of promoters who sold shares in publicly listed companies based on the new regulations. The promoters made a lot of money using a simple story: there were 45,000 medical pot users in Canada (projected to grow to 450,000 users in a decade) who each used about 3 grams a day and who would have no choice but to pay between $8 and $15 a gram for their “medicine”. You do the math.

To my not very great surprise, people used to paying $0 to $5.00 a gram did not rush to sign up. And, very quickly, at least in Vancouver, pot shops – for registered users only of course – began to spring up. Becoming a registered user was not tough. As the 5th Estate guy discovered, telling a naturopath a charming story about stress and sleep disturbance over Skype gets you your registration. At which point you are free to buy. (I note the 5th Estate did not ask the pot shop owners where they were getting their pot – which is a rather good question because it is certainly not from the licenced growers as they are not allowed to sell except by mail order.)

As anyone who has lived in Vancouver knows, the Vancouver Police Department has better things to do than bust dispensaries. Plus, given the injunction halting enforcement of the Health Canada regs, it is not obvious what they would bust the dispensaries for that would have a chance of getting past the Crown. But even if they did bust the dispensary and even if the Crown brought charges, it is pretty difficult to see how a judge could find a person guilty who was selling to a registered user.

The problem is that the boffins at Health Canada have not quite figured out that their regulations are assuming a world which does not exist. First, they assume that people want to smoke “legal pot”. That might be true if police forces were in the habit of kicking down doors to arrest people smoking pot at home but, I fear, that hasn’t happened in years. (It may occasionally occur as a means of harassment but the probable cause issue is usually sufficient to kick the charges.)

Jay Currie, “Gone to Pot”, Jay Currie, 2015-06-15.

December 30, 2016

QotD: Marijuana prohibition

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Now here’s somebody who wants to smoke a marijuana cigarette. If he’s caught, he goes to jail. Now is that moral? Is that proper? I think it’s absolutely disgraceful that our government, supposed to be our government, should be in the position of converting people who are not harming others into criminals, of destroying their lives, putting them in jail. That’s the issue to me. The economic issue comes in only for explaining why it has those effects. But the economic reasons are not the reasons.

Milton Friedman

July 2, 2016

QotD: They always get their man

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Media, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

There’s this notion, more and more, that if you’re male, you must be guilty.

Guilty…of what?

Not to worry — they’ll find something.

If you’re a man, some seemingly innocuous thing you’ve done is surely criminal. Not because it is. Because they need something you’ve done to be criminal and because they’ll just call you guilty first and work it out later. Um, maybe.

Maybe this sounds like paranoid craziness, but, from the news stories I read — and not just those of the hurt feelz crowd on college campuses — it increasingly seems like what it’s like to be male, if you’re one of the unlucky ones.

Amy Alkon, “We’re Looking A Little Too Hard For Criminals, AKA Men”, Advice Goddess, 2016-06-20.

May 26, 2016

QotD: The weaknesses of laws

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Quotations, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The strange American ardor for passing laws, the insane belief in regulation and punishment, plays into the hands of the reformers, most of them quacks themselves. Their efforts, even when honest, seldom accomplish any appreciable good. The Harrison Act, despite its cruel provisions, has not diminished drug addiction in the slightest. The Mormons, after years of persecution, are still Mormons, and one of them is now a power in the Senate. Socialism in the United States was not laid by the Espionage Act; it was laid by the fact that the socialists, during the war, got their fair share of the loot. Nor was the stately progress of osteopathy and chiropractic halted by the early efforts to put them down. Oppressive laws do not destroy minorities; they simply make bootleggers.

H.L. Mencken, Editorial in The American Mercury, 1924-05.

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