December 26, 2007

"If you want to find out if someone's really a libertarian, ask him: Do you think children should be allowed to buy heroin from vending machines?"

"A real libertarian will answer: Only if the vending machines are privately owned."

James Taranto retells an old joke (and then lambastes Ron Paul).


American Patriot said...

Let's say that all drugs have been legalized, to the same extent that we have now with alcohol (state governments still require licensing and other measures, but federal agents don't break into your house looking for a bottle of whiskey). Now those who sell do it in the open, and with their activities under the same community awareness as other local stores. And when a particular drug store owner is seen selling heroin to children, word gets around - since we make the obvious assumption that the vast majority of people have issues with such hard drugs getting into the hands of minors.
Do you think it would be more or less likely for there to exist people who sell heroin to children than it is now, with the markets under the radar of both the police and most of the public?

It's a good joke, but it's only funny if you can ignore the hopeless multi-billion dollar fiasco known as the War on Drugs, or assume that heroin was always either illegal or a child's best friend.

Revenant said...

I've always liked that joke. My favorite, though, is:

Q: "How many Libertarians does it take to screw in a light bulb?"

A: "None. The Market will take care of it."

Fred said...

"It's an intriguing counterfactual, but what is most telling is that Paul blames Lincoln for the Civil War rather than blaming the South for starting a war to preserve slavery."

Does he really blame Lincoln for "starting a war to preserve slavery?" I watched the interview and recall hearing him say that war was unnecessary and he didn't believe 600,000 Americans had to die for the cause of slavery. He argued we 'could' have just bought the slaves and set them free...

Considering it took so long post-slavery for segregation to die away, something tells me slave-owners wouldn't have 'sold' their valued possessions without a fight.

"Does he love liberty? Or does he merely loathe the federal government?"

Maybe it's both? People who value liberty above are anti-Establishment by default. Freedom from government intrusion isn't a complex idea. What Ron Paul's promotion of limited government isn't a bad thing, is it? It might help tame liberals and conservatives who gladly spend American taxpayer dollars on their pet projects and favored organizations.

I'm sure most here believe government is too big and fat... big brother needs to go on a diet.

Hey said...

"...he blames Lincoln, rather than blaming the south..." Obviously the South wouldn't have been starting a war to end slavery - they would have been starting a war to PRESERVE slavery. He blames Lincoln for starting a war to oppose slavery - one of the best reasons to start a war there ever was.

So Fred you need to take Reading Comprehension 001 (yes, remedial level) and English 001. That wasn't even a hard sentence to understand and you even quoted it accurately in your post, so I guess we have to assume you have a metric room temperature IQ (21).

The anti-government vs anti Fed question is a good one. He only seems to oppose questionable use of federal powers rather than questionable (I'm being charitable - I mean deeply evil) use of state powers. All government needs to be slimmed down, but it seems that only the proper realms of government get cut back (prisons, defence, police) while the horrible things get ever more money.

Peter Hoh said...

See also this old Onion piece about a libertarian in a hot situation.

With that out of the way, let me say that I think it is possible to be against the War on Drugs (TM) without being for drugs. I'd love to see Paul raise the issue of the futility of the War on Drugs (TM). We need to have a grown up discussion about it in this country.

Steven said...

See, I'm certain South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas seceded from the United States before Lincoln took office, and that therefore there was no actual action by Lincoln which could have served as a causus belli.

I further am certain that the 1860 Republican platform contained no provisions regarding the abolition of slavery in any state where such institution existed.

Additionally, I am certain the Republicans were a minority of the House (116 out of 238) and Senate (26 out of 66). So there would have been no ability for Lincoln to advance any designs, as he would have been inevitably blocked by the Democrats in the Senate.

I'm finally certain that the first shots in the Civil War were fired by Confederate forces, not the Union. There was no initiation of force by Lincoln. All expansions of Federal power by Lincoln were taken not as initiatives by Lincoln, but as exigencies of war taken in a war the Confederates started.

The states of the Deep South seceded not because Lincoln took any objectionable actions, or had any prospect of being able to deprive them of their slaves. Instead, spooked by the fact a Republican won the presidency, they withdrew from peaceable intercourse with their countrymen. And rather than sit back in a stalemate and seek a political compromise, they took up arms and opened fire upon soldiers of the United States.

Yet Ron Paul blames Lincoln for the war.

rhhardin said...

Mike Huckabee earns the coveted Ann Coulter endorsement :

So this little stretch-marked cornpone is either lying, has a closed head injury, is a complete ignoramus -- or all of the above.

Der Hahn said...

I've never seen an anti-drug war comment that didn't implicitly (sometimes explicitly) assume legalizing drugs makes them non-addictive.

George M. Spencer said...


Ah, lightbulbs! The incandescent kind? The kind that give off heat? And real cheap, too?

I remember them the way I remember old fashioned toilets, the kind that actually worked.

I recently heard my son's 15-year-old friend say, "In the future, you won't be allowed to take a shower at home. You'll only be allowed to have one once a week, and it will be at some central government facility."

"Yeah," I said, "when they pry the hot water faucet from my cold, dead hands." I asked him where he had heard that.

"My Mom heard it on NPR. Some professor said that was what should be done about the water crisis."

The root of all evil--Professors on NPR.

Revenant said...

I've never seen an anti-drug war comment that didn't implicitly (sometimes explicitly) assume legalizing drugs makes them non-addictive.

That's interesting -- because I've never seen ANY anti-drug-war argument that assumed that, implicitly or otherwise.

Could you provide a URL to one?

John Kindley said...

Some alternative history for you, from URL

Observers in Britain looked beyond the rhetoric of "preserve the Union" and saw what was really at stake. Charles Dickens views on the subject were typical:

Union means so many millions a year lost to the South; secession means the loss of the same millions to the North. The love of money is the root of this, as of many other evils. The quarrel between the North and South is, as it stands, solely a fiscal quarrel.

Karl Marx seconded this view:

The war between the North and the South is a tariff war. The war is further, not for any principle, does not touch the question of slavery, and in fact turns on the Northern lust for sovereignty.

The South fought the war for essentially the same reason that the American colonies fought the Revolutionary War. The central grievance of the American colonies in the 18th century was the taxes imposed on them by Britain. Colonists particularly objected to the Stamp Act, which required them to purchase an official British stamp and place it on all documents in order for them to be valid. The colonists also objected to the import tariff that Britain placed on sugar and other goods (the Sugar Act).

After the enactment of what was called the "Tariff of Abomination" in 1828, promoted by Henry Clay, the tax on imports ranged between 20-30%. It rose further in March 1861 when Lincoln, at the start of his presidency, signed the Morrill Tariff into law. This tax was far more onerous than the one forced on the American colonies by Britain in the 18th century.

Lincoln coerced the South to fire the first shots when, against the initial advice of most of his cabinet, he dispatched ships carrying troops and munitions to resupply Fort Sumter, site of the customs house at Charleston. Charleston militia took the bait and bombarded the fort on April 12, 1861. After those first shots were fired the pro-Union press branded Southern secession an "armed rebellion" and called for Lincoln to suppress it.

Congress was adjourned at the time and for the next three months, ignoring his constitutional duty to call this legislative branch of government back in session during a time of emergency, Lincoln assumed dictatorial powers and did things, like raise an army, that only Congress is supposed to do. He shut down newspapers that disagreed with his war policy, more than 300 of them. He ordered his military officers to lock up political opponents, thousands of them. Although the exact number is not known, Lincoln may well have arrested and imprisoned more than 20,000 political opponents, southern sympathizers, and people suspected of being disloyal to the Union, creating what one researcher has termed a 19th century "American gulag," a forerunner of the 20th century’s political prison and labor camps in the former Soviet Union. Lincoln denied these nonviolent dissenters their right of free speech and suspended the privilege of Habeas Corpus, something only Congress in a time of war has the power to do. Lincoln’s soldiers arrested civilians, often arbitrarily, without any charges being filed; and, if held at all, military commissions conducted trials. He permitted Union troops to arrest the Mayor of Baltimore (then the third largest city in the Union), its Chief of Police and a Maryland congressman, along with 31 state legislators. When Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney wrote an opinion that said these actions were unlawful and violated the Constitution, Lincoln ignored the ruling.

Lincoln called up an army of 75,000 men to invade the seven southern states that had seceded and force them back into the Union. By unilaterally recruiting troops to invade these states, without first calling Congress into session to consider the matter and give its consent, Lincoln made an error in judgment that cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans. At the time, only seven states had seceded. But when Lincoln announced his intention to bring these states back into the Union by force, four additional states – Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas – seceded and joined the Confederacy. Slavery was not the issue. The issue was the very nature of the American union. If the President of the United States intended to hold the Union together by force, they wanted out. When these four states seceded and joined the Confederacy rather than send troops to support Lincoln’s unconstitutional actions, the Confederacy became much more viable and the war much more horrible.

From the time Lincoln entered politics as a candidate for state legislature in 1832, he championed a political agenda known as the "American System." First advocated by his idol and mentor, Henry Clay, it was a three-part program of protective tariffs, internal improvements, and centralized banking. This program "tied economic development to strong centralized national authority," as Robert Johannsen puts it in Lincoln, the South, And Slavery. Lincoln believed that import tariffs were necessary, at the expense of consumers. He believed that American industries needed to be shielded from foreign competition and cheap imported goods. The "internal improvements" he advocated were simply subsidies for industry, i.e., corporate welfare. Abraham Lincoln was the first president to give us centralized banking, with paper money not backed by gold.

The Constitution of the Confederate States of America forbid protectionist tariffs, outlawed government subsidies to private businesses, and made congressional appropriations subject to approval by a two-thirds majority vote. It enjoined Congress from initiating constitutional amendments, leaving that power to the constituent states; and limited its president to a single six-year term. When the South lost, instead of a Jeffersonian republic of free trade and limited constitutional government, the stage was set for the United States to become an American Empire ruled by a central authority. In starting his war against the Confederate States, Lincoln was not seeking the "preservation of the Union" in its traditional sense. He sought the preservation of the Northern economy by means of transforming the federal government into a centralized welfare-warfare-police state.

John Kindley said...

Regarding the Drug War, I just came across the following pithy quote on the main page of Nevertheless, I think it's clear that giving or selling addictive drugs to minors is a serious crime and should be punished as such.

"Opium and morphine are certainly dangerous, habit-forming drugs. But once the principle is admitted that it is the duty of the government to protect the individual against his own foolishness, no serious objections can be advanced against further encroachments … Is not the harm a man can inflict on his mind and soul even more disastrous than any bodily evils.? Why not prevent him from reading bad books and bad plays, from looking at bad paintings and statues and from hearing bad music? The mischief done by bad ideologies, surely, is much more pernicious both for the individual and for the whole society, than that done by narcotic drugs." ~ Ludwig Von Mises

Thorley Winston said...

American Patriot,

Wouldn’t it just be a lot easier to say that there’s a difference between what rights an adult has and what rights a child has and we will leave it up to each State to set their own age of majority? It’s not that hard to say that consenting adults should be able to do whatever they want with other consenting adults but children are a different matter so yes people who would sell heroine to children or try to put them in pornographic films are evil and should be imprisoned for it.

Seriously once you reject the libertine (as opposed to libertarian) assumption that there are no differences between adults and children, you can spend time trying to persuade people that the WOSD is a bad policy for all sorts of legitimate reasons rather than having to defend ridiculous strawman arguments like the one Tarantino set up.