Governments turn People into Addicts to generate Tax Revenue

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 4th, 2014

Week in Review

During the days of the British Empire Great Britain had a problem.  They loved Chinese tea.  But the British had nothing the Chinese wanted in trade.  Except for one thing.  Silver.  Hard money.  Which was a problem for Britain.  They were running out of hard money.  So they came up with an ingenious way to solve that problem.  By getting as many Chinese hooked on opium as possible.  So they could trade Indian grown opium for Chinese tea.  It worked out great for the British.  But the Chinese didn’t like it.  And fought two opium wars with the British.  Which did not end well for them.

North Korea has a hard money problem, too.  And they, too, turned to drugs.  Crystal meth.  Which North Korea manufactured in state-run labs.  Destined for China.  Where they tried to get as many people addicted to crystal meth as possible.  So they can sell it in exchange for Chinese currency.  Which they could use to buy Chinese food.  To help ward off famine in North Korea.  This worked pretty well for North Korea.  But only gave China another addiction problem.

In the United States the government found other ways to raise revenue.  The first two big sources of addiction-revenue were cigarette and alcohol taxes.  But it soon proved not enough.  They then got people addicted to playing the lottery.  When that revenue proved to be insufficient they then got people addicted to casino gambling.  But government spending had grown so great that this revenue was still not enough.  So the government is looking at other things to get people addicted to (see Why Legalizing Marijuana Is a Smart Fiscal Move by Bruce Bartlett, The Fiscal Times, posted 1/3/2014 on Yahoo! News).

Perhaps the dominant factor driving marijuana legalization is the desperate search for new revenue by cash-strapped state governments. The opportunity to tax marijuana is potentially a significant source of new revenue, as well as a way of cutting spending on prisons and law enforcement. The California Secretary of State’s office, for example, estimates savings in the hundreds of millions of dollars from both factors. The following summary is from a proposed state ballot initiative in California (No. 1617)…

It is not surprising that revenue considerations should be critical in the marijuana legalization movement. That was previously the reason why cigarettes were not banned until the 1920s despite a strong nationwide movement to do so. In the wake of Prohibition, governments simply needed cigarette tax revenue too badly. And when Prohibition ended, the need for new revenue after the Great Depression decimated government budgets was a driving force.

Indeed, according to author Daniel Okrent, expectations of the revenue from taxing legal liquor were so great in 1932 that some people thought it might permit the repeal of income taxes. It’s worth remembering that in 1900, taxes on alcohol and cigarettes constituted half of all federal revenues. Indeed, the only reason Prohibition was possible in the first place was that the income tax established in 1913, which was greatly expanded by World War I, would replace the revenue lost from the liquor tax after Prohibition.

There have been no great cuts to revenue like that following Prohibition.  Government spending has just grown so great that it far exceeds the nation’s ability to pay for it with current taxes and borrowing.  So they are looking to make people addicted to marijuana to help pay for their large public sectors.  As well as their vote-buying welfare state.  And when this proves insufficient they can turn to other sources of revenue.  Such as decriminalizing and taxing heroin.  Cocaine.  Crack.  Crystal meth.  Opium.  Even prostitution.  People are already doing these things.  So they can’t be any worse than marijuana.  As long as only responsible adults indulge in these activities.  Just as only responsible adults will smoke marijuana in Colorado.  For think of the tax revenue heroin, cocaine, crack, crystal meth and opium could generate.  For those drugs are really addictive.  And just think how much old rich men would enjoy 18 year old prostitutes.  Prostitution would be a booming business to tax.  These young women could generate great tax revenue for the government by just doing what consenting adults want to do.

We could do these things to find new sources of revenue.  Or we could NOT make people addicts.  Or NOT sell women into prostitution.  Instead we could cut the size of the public sector and the welfare state.  So we can cut spending.  Which would eliminate the need to produce new tax revenue in the first place.  Allowing people to keep their hard-earned money instead of handing it over to the government.  To pay for generous pensions and retiree health care for others.

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Laws banning Alcohol and Drugs didn’t stop Alcohol Violence or Drug Violence

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 31st, 2013

Politics 101

Prohibition Violence spilled onto the Streets where Gangsters shot up each other with Thompson Submachine Guns

Men have always drunk in this country.  A lot.  After the working day was over they went to their corner saloon.  And drank away their pay.  Getting inebriated.  And making a lot of bad decisions.  Such as drinking away their pay.  Getting into fights.  Engaging the services of prostitutes hanging out at the saloons.  Catching a venereal disease or two.  Taking them home to the wife.  Worse, some of these drunken men were beating their wives.

Alcohol violence was taking a toll on the American family.  In particular on the women in those American families.  This alcohol violence was creating a war on women.  These drunken men were beating their wives.  And inflicting them with venereal diseases.  Causing great harm to their wives.  And destroying their families.  They needed to do something.  And that something led to the temperance movement.  Which ended in Prohibition.  An outright ban on alcoholic beverages.

And it worked.  Alcohol violence on women committed by their husbands decreased.  As did the rate of venereal disease infections on married women.  As Prohibition shut down the local saloons.  And all the problems they caused.  But it didn’t stop everyone from drinking.  There was such a large demand despite Prohibition that others stepped in to meet that demand.  Organized crime.  Prohibition violence spilled onto the streets where gangsters shot up each other, and innocent bystanders, with Thompson submachine guns.  As the profitability of the illicit alcohol trade erupted in violent gang wars.  Allowing crime bosses like Al Capone to take over cities.  And corrupting their police forces.  Causing even more trouble than the original alcohol violence on married women.  So they repealed Prohibition.  And the people could drink once again.  As they always wanted to.

The Illicit Drug Trade picked up where Prohibition left off in terms of Gun Violence

The British were addicted to Chinese tea.  They couldn’t get enough of it.  Or other Chinese luxuries like silk and porcelain.  The only problem was that the Chinese didn’t want anything from Britain.  So as the Chinese goods flowed to Britain silver flowed from Britain to China to pay for their goods.  Causing a huge trade imbalance.  Which the British corrected with the opium grown in India.  And being that opium was addictive more and more Chinese were using opium.  Which reversed the net silver flow.  Allowing the British to enjoy their tea, silk and porcelain.  Which they traded Indian opium for.  Causing an addiction problem in China.  And a destruction of Chinese society.  That the Chinese responded to with the Opium Wars.

Drug addiction has destroyed many families.  And societies.  Throughout the world.  Which is why hard drugs like heroin and cocaine are illegal in most countries.  For they are very addictive.  Drug addicts lose their jobs.  Their wives.  Girlfriends.  And families.  As they sink into addiction without a job they often turn to crime to pay for their habit.  Become thieves.  Or prostitutes.  Where they often suffer abuse.  End up in jail.  Or catch AIDS from sharing needles with other intravenous drug users.  Cocaine use spread in more affluent circles.  While crack cocaine devastated poorer circles.  Which is why most of the world has criminalized these drugs.  Despite this demand remains high.  Cocaine use has fallen in the West.  But only because some users have switched to methamphetamine.  Which is cheaper.  More powerful.  And longer lasting.

Like with alcohol someone stepped in to meet this demand.  Organized crime.  And boy did they unleash drug violence onto the world.  From the street gangs shooting each other (and innocent bystanders) to control turf.  To the cartels higher up the distribution channels.  The illicit drug trade is big money.  Very big money.  Picking up where prohibition left off.  For it is the criminal element that truly benefits from banning anything.  The drug trade is so lucrative that it is now even funding al Qaeda.  Even though Islam strictly forbids the use of drugs.  But they have no problem taking a percent of the drug trade that flows from South America through Africa on its way to Europe.  Where it can destroy European societies.  Something al Qaeda has no problem with.

People already Breaking the Law will not be Stopped by another New Law

There is an epidemic of gun violence in the U.S.  Committed not by people who support and defend their Second Amendment right to own a gun.  For wanting to do that is not helped by shooting lots of innocent people.  In fact if one is prone to conspiracy theories one could say that the rise in gun violence is oddly coincidental to the Obama administration’s pursuit of gun control regulation.  Especially following Fast and Furious.  A program used by the Obama administration to try and stir up anti-gun sentiment.  Like that the current epidemic of gun violence is stirring up.  Which the conspiracy theorist could find a little too coincidental.   But I digress.

The people committing these acts of gun violence are some pretty disturbed people.  They have mental health issues.  Or are extremely angry about something.  Perhaps because they can’t get a job in the worst economic recovery in U.S. history.  Thanks to President Obama’s economic policies designed more for politics and social justice than actual job creation.  Who knows?  The only thing for certain is that this rise in gun violence corresponds with President Obama’s time in office.  For he didn’t campaign on the need for new gun control legislation.  But like his position on gay marriage he evolved to this position.  After witnessing a rise in gun violence during his time in office.

Whatever the cause is will new gun control legislation change anything?  Well, if we can learn anything from Prohibition and the War on Drugs, yes.  It will change things.  It will give organized crime another lucrative illicit trade.  But unlike alcohol and drugs their customers will not be people just trying to get a drink or a high.  It will be hardened criminals.  Who are shooting each other on the streets to defend their turf.  And at all levels of the illicit drug trade going right up to the cartels at the top.  So the criminals will have their guns.  And there will be new gang wars as criminal elements fight each other to control the gun trade.  Which may even increase the gun violence in places like Chicago.  Which is already one of the deadliest U.S. cities.  Despite having some of the most restrictive gun control laws in the nation.

So why do they have more gun deaths in Chicago than most cities?  Because there is a high demand for guns by the criminal element in Chicago.  Will a federal ban change that?  Will it put an end to gun violence?  Did it stop alcohol violence during Prohibition?  Does it stop drug violence now?  No.  A gun ban will not change what’s happening in Chicago.  For guns aren’t causing the gun deaths in Chicago.  It’s the people using the guns.  And people already breaking the law will not be stopped by another new law.

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FT148: “You only know what someone taught you.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 14th, 2012

Fundamental Truth

If we Grew up on a Deserted Island isolated from Hate we’d Probably Grow up Better Adjusted to live with One Another

No one is born a racist.  It’s something you have to learn.  Someone has to teach it to you.  If a parent is a racist chances are the child will be bombarded with racial slurs growing up.  And become a racist.  Just like his or her parent.  But if you raised a bunch of babies of different races together on a deserted island in isolation would any of them grow up to be a racist?   No.  For they wouldn’t even know what racism is.  Because the life they knew would be normal.  It would be normal for black, white, brown, red and yellow to live together.

Catholics and Protestants have spent a few centuries killing each other.  Ever since the Protestant Reformation in 1517.  People have been persecuting Jews since forever.  The Palestinians, Hezbollah and Hamas have been killing Israelis for decades.  Shiite and Sunni have also been killing each other for a very long time.  These people have hated each other so much that they just want to see the other dead.  Yet if you took a Catholic, a Protestant, a Jew, a Palestinian, a Shiite and a Sunni baby from their parents and raised them on a deserted island in isolation they wouldn’t grow up wanting to kill each other.  They wouldn’t even know they were supposed to hate each other.

Europe was just itching to go to war.  Nationalistic fervor was just bursting at the seams.  Germans, Austrians, Hungarians, French, Russians and British were ready and waiting.  Filled with nationalist pride.  Just jonesing to open a can of whup-ass on anyone that wasn’t from their own great nation.  Having learned nothing from the Crimean War.  Or the American Civil War.  Thinking they would march their magnificent armies onto the field of battle, fight a glorious battle and watch the enemy throw down their arms and run away.  Even though tactics hadn’t changed much from the Crimean War and the American Civil War.  Though the weapons were far more lethal.  Making World War I one of the bloodiest wars of all time.  But had you taken a German, an Austrian, a Hungarian, a French, a Russian and a British baby from their parents at the turn of the century and raised them on a deserted island in isolation they wouldn’t have grown up wanting to go to war with each other.  As they wouldn’t know that they were supposed to hate each other.

Of all the Things the State did Poorly perhaps the Worst was being Husband and Father

When our parents grew up they often went to bed without locking the doors to their houses.  Even during the days of Prohibition when armed gangs shot each other in the street with automatic weapons.  Today we have deadbolts and alarm systems.  And metal detectors at our schools.  For kids today are taking guns to school.  And they’re shooting people.  This didn’t happen during the days of Prohibition when gangs were armed with Thompson 45-caliber submachine guns.  Why?  Because during Prohibition there weren’t violent video games, graphic violence in movies & television and rap & hip-hop songs glorifying gun violence.  So even though we have less lethal weapons on the streets today we have more gun violence than before.  Because kids have been so desensitized to violence that killing people just isn’t a big deal to them.  Raise these kids on a deserted island away from this violence in our pop culture, though, and they’re not going to kill indiscriminately.  Instead they’ll stay innocent kids longer.

Add to this violence in our pop culture our secular progressive culture.  The Left’s quest to remove religion and God from as much of our lives as possible.  And their attacks on Christianity.  For imposing their moral code on people.  And opposing free love and abortion.  They have gone so far as to call for the removal of the Ten Commandments from our government buildings.  And our schools.  Because teaching kids things like ‘Thou shall not kill” is a bad thing.  Or any other morality lesson.  For who’s to say what is right and wrong?  Of course when we teach our kids growing up that there are no moral absolutes it sure weakens the argument for them not to do bad things.  It detaches them from society.  And makes them lack empathy for their fellow citizens.  Making it easier to hurt them.  If you pulled these kids out of our public schools and put them and their parents on a deserted island away from this secular progressive culture and filled them with the fear of God for misbehaving they probably could sleep at night with their doors unlocked.  For hurting one another would be the last thing on their minds.

When LBJ passed his Great Society legislation it included Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC).  An unmitigated disaster for poor people.  For it let men father and abandon their children.  Leaving women to turn to the state to act as husband and father.  And of all the things the state did poorly perhaps the worst was being husband and father.  It just decimated poor families.  Single mothers filled housing projects.  Their children, with no male role model, turned to the street.  Got into a lot of trouble.  And into drugs.  Even taking that behavior into their schools.  Which is part of the reason why metal detectors are needed today at our schools.  Forcing organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters of America to pick up the parenting slack.  Had these deadbeat dads lived on a deserted island untouched by AFDC there would have been less fathering and abandoning of children.  Like there was before AFDC.

Keynesian Policies have Historically Resulted in High Unemployment and Painful Recessions

After World War II the world went Keynesian.  Classical economics (that favored savings over consumption, low taxes, the gold standard, little government intrusion into the private sector and responsible fiscal policy as in DON’T spend so much) that made America a superpower went out the window.  In came the disaster we call Keynesian economics (that favored consumption over savings, deficit spending, printing lots of money, high taxes and a lot of government intervention into the private sector.  Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge in the Twenties were the last of the classical economists.  Their policies gave us great prosperity.  JFK adopted policies of the classical economics variety to pull America out of a recession in the Sixties.  Nixon, Ford and Carter were big Keynesians whose policies destroyed America.  Ronald Reagan rebuilt America in the Eighties by returning to policies of the classical economics variety.  As George W. Bush did to pull us out of the bad recession caused by Bill Clinton’s dot-com bubble bursting.

So the record shows the success of classical economics.  And the failure of Keynesian economics.  Yet about half the population voted for the Keynesian policies of President Obama in 2012.  Why?  Why did they vote for more of the failed policies of the past?  Because most Americans learn only of Keynesian economics in their economic courses.  While politicians, economists and the mainstream media endorse Keynesian policies as if they have a record of success.  They do this because Keynesian economics does something that classical economics doesn’t.  Empowers big government.  Sanctions class warfare.  Giving them the moral high ground when raising taxes.  And printing money.  Despite these actions causing the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression.

President Obama won reelection for one of two reasons.  Either people want more free stuff.  Or they don’t understand economics.  Or the consequences of handing out all that free stuff.  For if they understood economics they would not have voted for a Keynesian.  For Keynesian policies have historically resulted in high unemployment and painful recessions.  So even if you’re voting for the free stuff you’d vote for the classical economics candidate.  For without people working there is no income to tax to pay for all of that free stuff.  But few people understand economics.  Which is lucky for President Obama.  In fact, few people understand the disaster that has been the liberal agenda as the liberals control the public schools, our colleges, the mainstream media and the entertainment establishment.  So few are learning the long record of liberal failures.  Which helps liberals win elections.  For you only know what someone taught you.  And if the liars are in charge of teaching us the only things we will learn are their lies.  Unless, of course, we can find some deserted island to grow up on where their policies can’t reach us.  Then when we come back we can make the world a better place.  A place with sound economic policies.  With no racism, no religious intolerance, no blind nationalist fervor, no culture of gun violence and no epidemic of deadbeat dads.

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LESSONS LEARNED #84: “The bigger and more complex government gets the more unintended the consequences.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 22nd, 2011

Prohibition had Popular Support from Wives, Progressives and Organized Crime

The Progressive movement began changing our lives in the beginning of the 20th century.  Thanks in large part to the American Civil War.  After a generation of American fathers were killed by the ravishes of war a lot of sons grew up without a manly role model in their lives.  They had no father to learn manly chores from.  To go hunting with.  To beat the crap out of them when they misbehaved.  To toughen them up for the real world.  Instead all they got was the loving and nurturing stuff from their mothers.  And when they grew up they wanted to be mothers, too.  And nurture the American people.  For mother knows best.

When these children grew up they changed government.  Instead of it being the limited government of their fathers they wanted an activist one.  To make our lives better.  More fair.  And safer.  Which is why they supported the temperance movement.  And took it to Prohibition.  To save the American family.  To stop drunken husbands from beating their wives.  To prevent poverty by keeping the money in the family.  And out of the saloons.   To stop the epidemic of venereal disease.  Spread by prostitutes who frequented saloons.  Trying to get some of that family paycheck.  Before the saloon owner got it all.  So Prohibition had popular support.  From wives.  Progressives.  And organized crime.

This was an unintended consequence of Prohibition.  For the law prohibited “the manufacture, sale, or transportation” of booze.  But not the drinking of it.  And when there’s a will there’s a way.  There were people who still wanted to drink.  And could without facing any consequences for it if caught by the law.  So they kept drinking.  And there was a booming demand.  And a willing albeit illegal supply network to meet that demand.  So life was good.  For those who liked to indulge in inebriating beverages.  And for those who provided those inebriating beverages.  Especially the providers.  Because when you make anything illegal that is in high demand means only one thing.  High profits.

There’s a Profit Incentive for Criminals because Illegal Stuff Costs More than Legal Stuff

At first everyone laughed as they flaunted the law.  It was, after all, a victimless crime.  People wanted to buy.  And the underworld wanted to sell.  No harm.  No foul.  For awhile.  Until the gang violence spilled over into the public streets.  When innocents saw this violence up close and personal.  Some even dying in the crossfire.  Like in Chicago.  Owned for a time by Al Capone.  King of the bootleggers.  Who killed off the competition.  The Valentine’s Day Massacre being the tipping point.  When the cops started fighting back.

The FBI eventually got Capone.  On tax evasion.  But it didn’t end the violence.  You know what did?  The repeal of the 18th Amendment.  And letting the people drink again.  Which they really needed during the depressing New Deal programs of FDR.

By decriminalizing alcohol they removed the profit incentive for criminals.  Because illegal stuff costs more than legal stuff.  So there’s no market for bootlegged liquor anymore.  So the gangs turned to another illegal substance.  Drugs.  Whose criminalization has far worse unintended consequences than Prohibition ever had.  We can trace most violent crime in the U.S. to drugs.  From theft to support a drug habit.  To Capone style gang warfare to protect turf.  To the unspeakable horrors on and south of the US-Mexican border.

The Decriminalization of Drugs:  Damned if We Do.  And Damned if We Don’t.

So what is one to do?  Decriminalize drugs?  Not quite the same thing as ending prohibition.  Drugs are a little more potent than alcohol.  Especially methamphetamine.  Crystal meth addiction destroys lives.  Which is why it’s such a lucrative drug.  You can manufacture it anywhere from chemicals.  And it’s addictive.  Addiction provides a steady demand.  And its chemistry provides a readily available supply.  That you can hide.  Unlike Coca fieldsPoppy fields.  Or marijuana fields.

Meth has a strong foothold in the drug-taking community.  Despite it being illegal.  One shudders what would happen if we decriminalized drugs.  Like meth.  It’s potent.  Addictive.  And popular with the kids.  It takes a fake ID to buy alcohol when underage.  Because there are few pushers selling cases of beer and wine coolers on the street.  But if an adult can buy it legally it could be hard for a drug dealer to pass up the underage market.  I mean, there are no empty bottles or cans to trace back to a store.  And if you’re caught carrying, hey, it isn’t illegal.

So we’re damned if we do.  And damned if we don’t.  The war on drugs has a devastating cost on society.  But the drugs are so harmful.  And helping users break their addiction also costs society.  Broken families.  Lost jobs and careers.  Children addicts can no longer provide for.  Infectious disease.  Overdose.  Violence.  Criminal activity.  And decriminalizing drugs won’t make any of that better.

The Poorer You are and the More Children You Have the More Money You Get on Your EBT

America has been fighting another war.  A war on poverty.  Which probably has been more destructive than the war on drugs.  Economist Thomas Sowell blames the welfare state for the destruction of the black family.  By subsidizing failure.  Providing incentives not to succeed.  A disincentive to be responsible.  The very programs to help the poor have destroyed the poor.  With unintended consequences that have destroyed generations.

This video was from 1980.  Fast forward to today and you can see this put in another way.  Perhaps a little less elegantly.  But it reinforces Dr. Sowell’s argument.  There’s a video on YouTube that praises the EBT card in California.  A program to help poor single people with children.  Depending on the number of children and your circumstances, the government loads a dollar amount on the EBT card.  You then use it like a debit card.  At any store that accepts EBT.  The government then reimburses the store owners.

So the poorer you are and the more children you have the more money you get on your EBT card.  As Dr. Sowell pointed out, this may be a disincentive to be responsible.  And the YouTube video shows this.  We should note, though, that the rapper who made this video said that “it was meant to be satirical and poke fun at a real issue.”  Some have called it inappropriate.  You can judge for yourself after you watch the video.  (NOTE:  If you’re at work or are in a public place you probably should wait until you get home to watch this video.  It contains very graphic language (as in the ‘f’ word).  And may be racially insensitive.  Please exercise due discretion when viewing It’s Free, Swipe Yo EBT.)

Government may have Meant Well but the Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions

Prohibition made it harder to manufacture and distribute alcohol.  But people still drank.  Because it wasn’t illegal to drink.  At first it was just a game.  Imbibing at the speakeasy.  Then buildings exploded.  And bodies littered the street.  Much like they are in Mexico today.  And along the US-Mexican border.  Because well organized enterprises are trying to meet a lucrative demand north of the border.  That our drug policies made lucrative.  Just like Prohibition made bootlegging a lucrative business.

Unintended consequences are a bitch.  And whenever government tries to fix something we often get something worse.  Prohibition and our war on drugs have given us organized crime to deal with.  And our war on poverty has destroyed poor families.  By incentivizing irresponsible behavior.   And making generations dependent on government.

At every time, though, government meant well.  They always say that they had nothing but good intentions.  But we should remember what they say about good intentions.  That the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

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LESSONS LEARNED #29: “The problem with doing what is best for the common good is that few can agree on what the common good is.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 2nd, 2010

COYOTE UGLY

We’ve all heard the joke.  What’s coyote ugly?  That’s when you wake up with an extremely ugly person in bed lying on your arm.  After a night of heavy drinking.  You’re fairly certain you had sex.  You’re not 100% sure because you can’t remember anything.  But here the two of you are.  Naked.  The circumstantial evidence is pretty damning.  You want to get out.  Fast.  Instead of waking your lover, you chew your arm off so you can slip away quietly.  Like a coyote will do if caught in a steel-jaw trap.

The lesson here is, of course, to drink in moderation.  For when we drink to excess, we sometimes do things we wouldn’t normally do sober.  But we do.  Drink to excess.  And get drunk.  And, boy, when we do, some of us really do.  Make a real mess of their lives, too.  You see, drunken husbands do not make happy wives.  Or good fathers.  Especially when drunken husbands beat up their wives, spend their paychecks at the corner saloon, have sex with prostitutes and catch syphilis (which they then pass on to their wives and soon to be born children). 

For these reasons, wives have been behind various temperance movements throughout history.  And they have had modest success.  If you ever found yourself in a dry county thirsting for an adult beverage, you can thank these ladies.  But Prohibition?  That’s a different story.  That took Big Government.  The Progressives.  Who thought they knew best what was for the common good.

DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DO

Wives have suffered unfairly from the affects of alcohol.  But during the 19th century, their power was limited.  They had to rely on grass-roots movements.  And their churches.  Which had moral authority as we were much more religious back then.  Most drunken husbands knew they were behaving poorly.  When sober.  But things changed in the 20th century.  The powers of the government grew.  This power and new sciences (like eugenics) made some believe they could make a better society by passing enlightened laws.  (And make better people in the case of eugenics).

We call it social engineering.  Using the power of the state to change human behavior.  Well, change it for those who are not apparatchiks of the state.  The elite Progressives, including the ladies of high society, still drank.  For it wasn’t illegal to drink adult beverages.  Only to manufacture, sell, or transport them.  So it was the poorer elements of society who felt the impact of Prohibition.  And the immigrants.  Who the social elites blamed for all the drinking woes.  For people in their strata of society didn’t have drinking problems.  So there was no reason to punish them.  The elites.  They weren’t the problem.  It was the poor.  And the immigrants.  They’re the ones government needed to keep from drinking themselves to ruin.

So while the elites still enjoyed their intoxicating beverages in the safety of their mansions and clubs, Al Capone and other bootleggers fought for turf.  For control of the illegal liquor trade.  Shooting each other with Thompson Machine Guns in our public streets.  That’s a .45 caliber round.  It makes big holes.  And shatters bone.  A lot of these rounds were flying through our public streets.  And they hit more than just gangsters.

Prohibition modified some behavior.  But at great cost.  Congress repealed it in 1933.  In part to stem the liquor violence.  And part because the Great Depression was too depressing sober.

JUST SAY NO

I once worked at a small office in a bad part of town.  One day a woman knocked on the door.  She asked if that ‘short guy’ that opens the gates in the morning was around.  I said no.  Then she asked me if I wanted to have a little fun.  I said, “Thank you, but no.”  My secretary had come to the door while I was talking to her.  After I closed the door, she told me that woman just lost a lot of weight.  And that she probably had AIDS.

Women like her were common in the neighborhood.  They sold sex for drug money.  When they weren’t with a John they were getting high.  Men, too.  One time, this 6-foot-plus behemoth in a skirt was walking in the street shouting something incoherent.  Our driver discovered he was a guy.  When he lunged through his open window while turning at the corner.  I don’t know what scared him more.  The assault.  Or the fact that she was a he. 

By the way, that short guy that opens the gates?  He was married.  And had a couple of daughters.  God only knows what he gave his wife.

Drug addiction is not good.  No one’s life ever got better by being addicted to drugs.  None of these people ever planned on drug addiction.  It just happened.  Somehow.  One day you’re just partying with some friends.  Then the next thing you know you’re turning tricks or stealing to support your habit.  If you have money it’s a different story.  Then you can party until you kill yourself.  John Belushi overdosed from a heroin/cocaine cocktail called a speedball.  Chris Farley, too.  It’s unlikely that the speedball was their first high.  They probably started out with something less potent.  Like marijuana.  The entry drug of choice.  Only when that drug loses its charm do people step up to something a little more potent. 

Of course, if you don’t start, chances are you won’t move up to something more potent.  This was the idea behind Nancy Reagan’s anti-drug program.  Stop the kids from starting.  To resist peer pressure.  To just say no.  Her program did modify some behavior.  Kids did use fewer drugs.  But she was Ronald Reagan’s wife.  The Left didn’t like him.  Or her.  So they ridiculed her program as being simplistic.  Discontinued it.  And drug use by kids increased.

GANGSTA’S PARADISE

Like Capone and his fellow bootleggers, the illegal drug trade is controlled by gangs.  And they, too, fight over turf.  But those involved at the street level of the drug trade today are a lot younger.  During the days of Prohibition, kids played with toy guns.  Today, they’re playing with real guns.  Not so much playing but killing each other.  And innocent bystanders.  In drive-by shootings.  Why?  Because drugs get you money.  And money gets you power.  Put all that together and it’s very seductive to kids from broken homes in the hood.  Who have nothing.  And have nothing to lose.  It’s almost romantic.  Fighting.  And dying.  A regular gangster.  Living in a gangster paradise.

Once in, though, it’s hard to get out.  The song Gangsta’s Paradise (by Coolio featuring L.V. from the 1995 Movie Dangerous Minds) laments about that paradise.  “Tell me why are we so blind to see.  That the ones we hurt are you and me.”

You get higher up in the echelon and the violence gets worse.  You can see that on America’s southern border.  And further south.  Kidnappings.  Beheadings.  And other unspeakable things.  Because of the big money in illegal drugs.  Like there was in bootlegging.  Make something illegal that people still want and will buy, and that something becomes a very profitable commodity indeed.

DAMNED IF YOU DO, DAMNED IF YOU DON’T

So what’s the answer?  What is the best course of action for the common good?  We can keep drugs illegal.  And continue to fight the war on drugs.  And watch the violence escalate as people fight to control this illicit trade.  Or we can decriminalize drugs.  Make them easily accessible.  And cheap.  The drug gangs would go the way of the bootlegger gangs.  And the crack/meth whore in the street won’t have to perform as many sexual acts to support her habit.

Alcohol is legal today.  And there are a lot of social costs because of that.  But the majority of people who do drink are not driving under the influence or beating their wives.  Or getting syphilis from a prostitute hanging out at the corner saloon.  Wouldn’t it be the same for drugs?

Kids drink.  Even though they can’t legally buy alcohol.  But the worse thing they can do is kill someone while driving a car.  Or get killed in a car driven by another drunken kid.  Or kill themselves from binge drinking.  Or get pregnant because they got drunk at a party.  Or get infected with a venereal disease because they got drunk at a party and had sex.  These are very bad things.  But they’re not an addiction.  Sure, you can become an alcoholic, but a lot of kids don’t like the taste of the adult beverages they’re consuming.  They’re just doing it for the party buzz.  And vomiting after.  It takes awhile, for some, to get over that hump where those awful tasting beverages don’t taste so awful anymore.  But drugs?  They’re tasteless.  There isn’t a delivery system ‘hump’ to get over.  Which makes the addiction process that much easier.  And where there is only one kind of drunk, there are all sorts of highs.  New and different drugs to explore.  When you get bored with the drug du jour.  So, no.  It probably wouldn’t be the same with alcohol.  It would probably be worse.

THE LESSER OF EVILS

Often the choice comes down to a lesser of evils.  So, to do what is best for the common good, we just need to determine which is the lesser evil.  So which is worse?  The violence from trying to keep something illegal?  Or the social costs of decriminalizing something that is already causing a lot of harm while being illegal?  It comes down to what you, as an individual, think.  And that is, must be, a subjective decision.  And therein lays the problem of choosing what is best for the common good.  It’s an opinion.  Choices aren’t right or wrong.  There’re just different opinions.

And that’s why so few can agree on what is best for the common good.  Different people think different things are better.  And different things are worse.  And, at best, they can agree to disagree.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #26: “If we need Big Government to protect us from ourselves, then our public schools can’t be the best place to learn.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 10th, 2010

IT’S A PARADOX.  You can’t have both.  Great public schools.  And a Big Government nanny state.  The public schools can’t be the best place to learn if we graduate hopelessly incapable of taking care of ourselves.  You cannot reconcile the two.  It is impossible.  The need of Big Government is an indictment on public education.  It sucks.  It sucks so bad that our only hope to survive is by a dependence on government.

The Founding Fathers did NOT want a Big Government nanny state.  So they tried to limit its money and power.  The nation’s capital ended up in a swamp because Thomas Jefferson wanted to keep it out of the big cities (such as New York and Philadelphia).  History has shown that wealth (the big cities) and power (sovereign authority) combine to make the worst of governments. 

And they believed in the importance of education.  A real education.  History.  Math.  Science.  Architecture.  Engineering.  Economics.  For they believed an educated constituency was the greatest protection against Big Government.  They knew it.  Just as well as the proponents of Big Government knew it.  Know it.

So is it a coincidence?  That the rise of Big Government corresponded with a fall in the quality of public education?  If we need Big Government to be our nanny, we obviously are not well educated.  Otherwise, we could take care of ourselves.  Like we did for the first century or so of our existence.  So, did our poor public school system give life to Big Government?  Or is it the other way around?  Did a growing Big Government protect itself from the danger of a well educated constituency?

STUDENTS GRADUATE TODAY without being able to do the most simple of tasks.  To point to Australia on a map.  To identify the three branches of government.  To name a current member of the U.S. Supreme court.  The current Speaker of the House.  To identify the allies during World War II.  Or even tell us who’s buried in Grant’s tomb.

Few can define compound interest.  Or calculate it.  Few can make important investment decisions for their retirement.  But they can tell you how Christopher Columbus raped the indigenous people in the New World.  How America ruthlessly expanded westward, stealing land from the North American Indians.  How we cruelly enslaved a race to build a nation predicated on liberty.  You’ll find these in the curriculum.  And in the schools’ libraries.  But you won’t learn much about how Martin Van Buren created the Democrat Party to prosper on political spoils and patronage.  Or that the Democratic Party was the party of slavery.  The party of the KKK.  The party of Jim Crowe laws (the legal segregation of blacks after the Republicans ended slavery).  That it was the Democrats who enacted Prohibition because they knew what was best for us.

No, instead, students today learn about the importance of being sensitive to other people’s feelings.  That we should be our brother’s keepers.  That Big Government is good.  Important.  And necessary.  We teach them that FDR’s New Deal programs ended the Great Depression.  That massive government spending on make-work government jobs restored the economy.  It didn’t.  They learn that LBJ’s Great Society ended racial discrimination and poverty.  It didn’t.  These programs failed.  As many Big Government programs of compassion do.  But that’s not in the curriculum. 

Worst, most students haven’t a clue about economics.  What makes economic activity.  What hinders it.  The consequences of monetary and fiscal policy.  So they haven’t a clue about how all those compassionate programs of Big Government often lead to unemployment and recession.  So when they are old enough to vote, they are compassionate.  They approve of expanding the nanny state without any idea of the economic impact.

WE SPEND A fortune on public education.  Per student expenditures are among the highest in the world.   But the money we spend is never enough.  They always ask for more.  For the children.  So, to help the children, they raise taxes (property, sales, etc.).  For the children, they get the poor to gamble away what little they have (the lotto).  More money than ever before is collected.  For the children.  But it’s still not enough.  Which begs the question, where is all that money going?  Clearly, it isn’t to the children.

And because the children are so precious, they’re good leverage.  There’s nothing like a good strike at the beginning of the school year to get a better contract.  Why, they even have our precious children carry picket signs.  Because it’s all about the children.  Of course, unions protect dues-paying members.  And the last I heard, children don’t pay union dues.

But the teachers are underpaid and overworked, aren’t they?  If they are, they are the only union workers that are.  It’s why you join a union.  For leverage.  For negotiating power to get better salary and benefit packages.  And they do.  Your typical public school teacher does better than your typical salaried worker.  And they work less to get it.  Oh, they talk about ‘non-compensated’ hours worked after school.  That means approximately anything more than an 8-hour day.  The real world typically pays a salaried worker for only a 40 hour week when they often work 50 hours or more.  And they often don’t get the Friday after Thanksgiving off.  Or a Christmas break.  Or a winter break.  Or an Easter break.  Or the 3 months of summer off.   When you factor in the actual time worked and the benefits, they do very well.  Far better than private school teachers.  And private school students outperform public school students.  Hell, some of the most stalwart defenders of public education send their kids to private school.  Because they can.  The poor do, too.  When they can.  When they have access to school vouchers.  Everyone, when given the choice, chooses private school over public school.  If that ain’t an indictment on the public school system, I don’t know what is.

So where does all that money go?  To the teachers.  Their unions.  And the public school bureaucracy.

WE SPEND MORE money on public education.  But private school students do better than public school students.  And private school teachers make less than public school teachers.  So when we pay more we get less.  A more poorly educated student.  So what conclusion can we draw?  We are spending more money than we need to on public education.  And if we’re spending too much right now, spending more money sure isn’t going to make anything better for the children.  The teachers, perhaps.  But not the children.  Because the truth is this.  It’s not about the children.

The public schools are not educating.  They’re indoctrinating.  They’re producing good liberal democrats.  Because Big Government knows that an educated constituency is the greatest threat against their power.  So they control education.  They take care of the union teachers who, in turn, teach the students to love Big Government.  It’s rather Orwellian, really.  Elites taking care of elites.  At the expense of the children.  And our future.

Conspiracy?  If it wasn’t so much in the open, perhaps.  But the Democratic Party hasn’t changed much since the days of Martin Van Buren.  It’s about getting power.  And keeping power.  And you do that with patronage.  And dependency.  Big Government has given us Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment benefits and numerous welfare programs.  And now the holy grail of them all.  National health care.  The larger these programs, the greater the dependence.  The larger the dependency, the greater number of loyal Democrat voters. 

SO IS THERE a paradox?  It depends on your point of view.  From outside of the public school system, yes.  If you think it’s about the children, yes.  But from inside the public school system or from inside of Big Government, no.  Because, there, it is not about the children.  It’s about well paid teachers.  And an uninformed electorate.  And the systems in place work very well in achieving these goals.

So, no, our public schools are not the best place for children to learn.  But it’s a pretty good place to indoctrinate them into loving Big Government.

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