I suppose it’s only logical – in that twisted, perverse way unique to the state – that if the president can now detain citizens indefinitely without trial for suspected terrorist activities committed on U. S. soil, the government would be able to arrest them for merely talking about suspected drug activities abroad:
The House Judiciary Committee passed a bill yesterday that would make it a federal crime for U.S. residents to discuss or plan activities on foreign soil that, if carried out in the U.S., would violate the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) — even if the planned activities are legal in the countries where they’re carried out.
(At this point it should shock no one that the sponsor of this bill is Lamar Smith, the Republican senator from Texas who also backed the free-speech-crushing Stop Online Piracy Act.) So that means if you casually mention to someone that you can’t wait to go to Amsterdam to try some hash – which is completely legal there – you might find yourself detained by DEA agents even before you’ve left the country. It would also conceivably apply to any publications, including blogs, which discuss future drug activity, or even advice about drugs aimed at overseas audiences (such as growing marijuana).
So now the country’s lawmakers are reduced to enacting thought-crime legislation, in the state’s futile attempts to prevent anyone from ever getting high. The only thing that surprises me is that they haven’t named it Whitney’s Law. Because nothing drums up popular support for terrible, unlibertarian laws like naming them after dead people.
(Cross-posted from A Thousand Cuts.)
I am not a smoker. Never have been. Frankly, I admit to thinking it’s a vile habit. Those caveats aside, the treatment of smokers in the U.S. is something of a quandary to me. Here is a group composed of a cross-section of Americana that might be unrivaled in its breadth. Rich people smoke. Poor people smoke. People of color smoke. White people smoke. Men smoke. Women smoke. Young folks smoke. Old fogies smoke. Lawmakers smoke. Hell, even the POTUS has been known to light up a time or two. Truly, everybody is represented on the smoking band wagon. With all that representation, again I ask: Why isn’t there an all-smoking airline? The answer is obvious: because the government says so. The obligatory airline safety briefing contains words to this effect: “Federal regulations prohibit smoking on airplanes.” Why in the hell…?
A decade ago Terence Ball wrote a critique of some Frankenstein-like creature meant to represent free market ideology. He robbed the graves of men and women as diverse as Murray Rothbard, Margaret Thatcher, Robert Nozick and Ayn Rand to put it together and came up with something that no libertarian would endorse, I suspect, but which nevertheless is recognizable as libertarian(ish). It may not be the same species, but it is in the same genus. Or at least the same family.
He imagined a country called Marketopia and described how life would be there, with the purpose of showing us that while markets are good for some things, there are areas where they are inappropriate. As he wrote, “why do some (or perhaps all) Marketopian practices make many – perhaps most – of us uneasy or queasy, or worse?” The great problem with his essay is that he never demonstrates to the reader’s satisfaction that he understands what his own argument is. He claims to be interested in three questions: Why do people get queasy at the practices of Marketopia, what distortions of the language would Marketopia produce and are we already headed towards Marketopia.
About the second question I care nothing at all, and about the third… well, watching a statist fretting over how close we are to a Free Market is a bit like listening to a neocon quaking that Iran presents a military threat to the United States. It would be less embarrassing to watch a grown man sleep with a night light to protect him from the Bogey Man in his closet. The first question bears some scrutiny, however, but I wish I could do it knowing what exactly Dr. Ball had in mind.
Is this Marketopia supposed to be what would always happen if libertarianism ever won the day, or is he just demonstrating how market activity is inappropriate for some relationships? If the latter is his point, I would say he came up with a handful of examples where I agree with him, but what does he propose to do about it? If the former, it should be pointed out that many of these activities are legal now but do not occur.