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Mexico supreme court rules ban on marijuana use unconstitutional (theguardian.com)
199 points by forloop on Nov 4, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 130 comments

> The move potentially puts Mexico at the forefront of an international movement to decriminalize drugs – despite a decade-long militarized crackdown on drug cartels which has cost the lives of around 100,000 people.

This is a sane and direct response to exactly that.

Drug cartels don't make there money selling to people in Mexico, the real money is in the US market.

> Drug cartels don't make there money selling to people in Mexico, the real money is in the US market.

This decision is not sufficient, but if mexico completely legalised drugs, including manufacture, sale and distribution, the cartel violence in mexico would mostly stop, because they'd be legitimate businessmen who could rely on police protection.

The US wouldn't like it, but hey, that's their problem (in theory - in practice they'd make sure this never happened by meddling in foreign affairs as they always do).

I'm a US citizen, and I'm ashamed of what my government does in my name. I was born here: no choice in that matter. My taxes are used to fund horrid and despicable things in our collective name, including messing in others sovereign affairs, going to war, causing war between 2 different parties, and all the things wrong with "War on ____" (just add in the word representing the next 15 minute hot button issue).

I, as a citizen, do vote against politicians who either publicly have those views or have voted on those lines.. But what else can I do, other than emigrate? And that takes money, an advanced degree, and lots of luck to be accepted.

If you are ashamed of America you should emigrate, continuing to be a hypocrite while profiting from the system is untenable if you are actually believe what you say. There are plenty of countries where it is a lot easier to become a citizen than the US.

And still be affected by their policies? Doesn't sound like a good plan.

The cartels can probably rely on police, military, media, and other institutional support more than any other set of businesses in Mexico now. Legalization would undercut cartel violence in Mexico because it would open up more competition and drop prices in the US market, so that the flow of money that supports their empire of corruption and violence would be shut off.

The cartels would not just become upstanding taxpayers and the US is legalizing weed. Anti-American comments will always get you up votes but your scenario is very unlikely.

The cartels are a business. The main reason they use violence is that they can't rely on police protection, so they have to provide their own.

I am quite sure that the cost of providing their own security is considerably more than any taxes on legitimate businesses in mexico. So it makes sense for them from a business perspective. Obviously it won't happen overnight. Some of them will adapt and work within the system, others will find that their old ways are not competitive with the legitimate businesses, who have lower overheads.

Obviously there will still be crime, and the cartels that don't adapt will find other criminal enterprises to pursue. But it's hard to see another market that will provide them with comparable income.

It was not my intent for the comment to come off as "anti-american". Just saying that mexico making this change would move the problem to the US, which would then be forced to act, hopefully by following through with a full-on legalisation of their own (not just for marijuana).

It is complete fantasy to say that the cartels are just businessmen, they would rather murder someone than pay them.

What do you think business is? When it's overall cheaper to murder someone than pay them, it's good business to murder them.

Some businesses will kill people to save money, look at Volkswagen.

Not to worry, we're working on decriminalizing it in the States as well. Just think how little violence there'd be if we just manufactured the drugs (legally) here.

should be noted that

decriminalization != legalization

an important distinction, too. I really do think that decriminalization is a logical path to legalization, but it offers many less benefits to society by direct comparison.

all the criminal infrastructure and the ills that go with it don't go away after decriminalization alone, but it does at least offer some protection to the end user.

ideally, it needs to eventually be properly legalized and regulated so it can be produced, transported and sold legally while (also ideally) being taxed along the way.

And it should also be noted that what the US is moving toward is legalization (eliminating some or all prohibitions on drugs and making them not contraband, though there may be restrictions as with other legal medical drugs or recreational substances), not decriminalization (eliminating criminal penalties for small-quantity possession while maintaining the general prohibition such that the drug is still contraband.) While decriminalization has happened somewhere, state-level legalization of either medical use (making it, from a state perspective, analogous to other legal medical drugs, except with an ad hoc regulatory regime because it is still federally prohibited which prevents it from working with existing protocols for medical drugs) or more generally (making it more like, e.g., alcohol, with the same caveat) and there are currently-active proposals at the federal level for both medical and general legalization.

How much money is in marijuana compared to harder drugs? I mean, does this put much of a dent in the organized crime economy?


says "In 2010, Mexican officials estimated that cannabis now provides the cartels with as much as half of their revenue."

I have also seen this 50% figure from various sources but I find it hard to believe, although I have no specific knowledge that would refute it. As far as I know, it's mostly low-grade weed that comes over the border, and while some grow operations within the US are cartel-run, I still am so surprised it would equal their profits from cocaine and methamphetamine combined.

I think another aspect is, that the mexican cartels can grow the marijuana themselves and gain full profit off it, while cocaine or coca plants/paste have to be imported from south america.

it is also vastly more popular

They are most likely diversifying (or have done so by now). Which means every year the USG allows them to maintain their monopoly on pot and other drugs just makes the cartels stronger.

Volume vs. profit margin. Somewhere around 20 million people in the US use marijuana, which is a pretty damned big market.

I was watching a documentary and I believe I saw that 60% of Cartel income is from marijauna. Sorry I don't have a source.

I never thought this would happen so quickly. Latin America has a drug problem that holds all development back, the problem is that drugs are illegal. I'm happy that Mexico is being so brave. viva Mexico cabrones!

my last comment still applies though... https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10503260

What shocked me about this article was the poll showing 77% of people in Mexico are opposed to legalization. Why? Social conservatism? Do they not understand that prohibition benefits the cartels and funds their violence?

I will try to answer from my limited point of view.

IMHO, Mexicans simply do not see marijuana users the same way Americans do. For Americans, marijuana seems like a soft drug young people often try and later grow out of it. Sure, there is this argument about the gateway drug and all that, but at the end of day many conservative boomers did have first or second hand experience in the 1960's. So it's not a big deal.

Not so for the Mexican people. Specially in the urban population (which I suspect is overrepresented in the poll) the term "mariguano", describes not just a cannabis user, but a deviant user of any low cost drugs. It is low status, so it is easy to demonize, much like "crack-head" or "meth-head" in the US.

So, people is afraid of mariguanos. They do marginal jobs, if at all, then some end up resorting to petty crime to fund their habit. There is also a correlation between drug use and violent crime. I personally think that deviant types will display both higher use rates and higher violence rates than the general population, but most people assume causation right away.

It also does not help that the Catholic Church has taken a very clear cut stance about that. That is not the root cause of people feelings; if the Church took a similar stance against alcohol abuse, literally no one but a handful of old ladies would listen to them. But the Church (as a political agent) is scoring cheap points on the Supreme Court now, and there is very little cost to do that, so they keep doing it.

Therefore, the results of the poll reflect a feeling from the Mexican people: that the government is failing to protect them - again, - and betraying their interest - also again.

The cartels make most of their money selling drugs to people in other, richer countries.

If the US does not legalize those drugs, then Mexico will have to take the cost of legalization without it's biggest benefit.

Why? There will still be criminals tradficking drugs to the US... They just won't be ceiminals in Mexico any more!

If those people are still criminals in the US, they will have to deal with organized criminal organizations to export to US instead of using the official channels.

One big benefit of legalization of drugs was that the organized criminals wouldn't be able to make money off it, but most of their business is in the US anyway.

Isn't that the whole point? If legalization goes through and the crime is only localized to the U.S., then Mexico's supreme court reduced crime in Mexico.

Reducing crime by not calling something a crime doesn't help very much.

The crimes Mexican people most want to reduce are the violent crimes, the corruption, etc, all caused by people having to deal directly or indirectly with cartels if they want to produce/sell/consume drugs.

As long as the US keeps drugs illegal in their market, people will have to deal with the cartels to be able to sell there, and the US is the biggest market.

Well, guess what, that's exactly what helped in the US, ending the prohibition. Violent crimes, corruption etc. happen because people (drug users and drug sellers) can't conduct business legally. When they can, they use the police to resolve problems and generally abide by regulations, because it's simply cheaper to do business that way.

Yes, that's what I was trying to say... I see no "cost of legalization" for Mexico, only benefits.

Oh yeah... duh. For some reason I thought you and the parent comment were the same person. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

> Do they not understand that prohibition benefits the cartels and funds their violence?

Maybe they understand that argument, but disagree with it.

I personally think it rather unlikely that legalization will lead to the dissolution of the cartels. In fact my first (paranoid, almost certainly wrong) thought was that the cartels had some sway with the Mexican Supreme Court.

Most of the time the people who disagree with you are not simply stupid or ignorant, but have different values and don't share all the same assumptions.

Why would the cartels want to see Marijuana legalized in mexico?

Cartels are practically part of the government. Top level officials throughout the Mexican government have been identified as cartel members, from law enforcement to members of Congress. Hundreds of thousands of Mexican soldiers defected to the cartels.

The 'war' in Mexico is mostly cartel vs cartel, not unaligned government vs cartel.

So what do they have to lose? That means possible more consumption and possibly less pressure from the non-corrupt portions of the government and/or less legal power for one cartel to wield against another. (They'll have to stick with charges for the rampant human trafficking and slavery by the cartels.)

The idea that the cartels will just dissolve away upon the emergence of legal marijuana and a subsequent Free Market Flowering of the marijuana industry just seems hopelessly naive. Yes, the mafia was, perhaps, not happy about de-Prohibition. But guess what: the American mafia and is still responsible for the majority of organized crime in its area of influence. [1] The legalization of alcohol did not stop the mafia. And the cartels are far more ingrained in Mexican society than the mafia ever was in America. Even assuming someone unaffiliated with a cartel starts growing and selling, and the cartels don't just kill him, they would certainly run protection rackets.

[1] http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB100014240527487041154045760963...

> less legal power for one cartel to wield against another

I did not consider this, i think that makes a lot of sense.

Ok, let me try to clarify, because lots of nonsense have been spoken here already.

Mexico's Supreme Court has no right to say a thing with regards to US law, US policy or US Constitution. The article is talking (very briefly) about Mexican Constitution. One would think that was obvious, but apparently even at Hacker News, gringo's arrogance knows no limit. We do have our own laws and institutions in other countries in case you never have bothered to notice.

Second, it is a very interesting legal case which the article does no justice to (it rather gets lost reporting on the war on drugs, and the posture of conservative elements in society). There is this group of activists (SMART) that made a request to COFEPRIS - a branch of Mexican Government that is roughly equivalent to NIST - so that cannabis can be produced, stored and consumed with no profit motive. This request was obviously rejected, which is what SMART intended.

Since there was a decision of the government that affected their interests, it was possible under Mexican law to demand a "Jucio de Amparo" which can be roughly translated as a "Sanctuary Trial" and it similar to suing the government but not quite. IANAL, but the bottom line as far as I know is that you can demand the court to evaluate and interject decisions from other branches of government if you think your rights are being violated. The SMART activist group did win that trial.

What you are seeing talked about is the last appeal to that trial, which was ruled by the highest court in the country, and which the activists won again. The end result is not legalization, but undermining of the Mexican Government - and in particular law enforcement - ability to crack down on marijuana users with possession charges. If is of course open to debate whether that will benefit society at large or just some interest groups, or who those interest groups might be.

In the long term, this also creates a precedent that might or might not result in the legalization of soft drugs... but it is too early to tell at this point. At the very least the subject, which was taboo not that long ago, is being openly discussed now.

> gringo's arrogance knows no limit

Your first two paragraphs are a seriously unfair characterization of this thread. Obviously Mexico's Supreme Court is ruling about Mexico's constitution.

The remainder of your comment is factual and fine.

I think my comment was extremely fair at the time when I wrote it. I am glad to see that more intelligent debate is going on now, but please go see the nonsense written at the bottom of the page and judge by yourself. I'd rather not point specific examples.

And thanks for your compliments too.

This potentially derails the conversation, but also falls within your ire of fellow US citizens' thoughts.

What can I do, aside voting and emigration, that will make the US not "export democracy" and in general, not tamper with laws and rulemaking in other sovereign states?

If your argument is that you, as an American, feel farfrom your government, imagine what it's like for the rest of the world.

I realized today that it's a privilege to watch prohibition die; it gives me faith in the future to witness the end of a profound injustice in my time.

Morality aside, I think widespread drug legalization will greatly increase usage rates. It could lead to a more dystopic future where a very large portion of people are using various drugs.

If anything, certain illegal substances, like hallucinogens, have opened my eyes and gotten me out of depression, by making me see what's important in life. Without it, I might have committed suicide, or at least be still stuck (or even deeper) in a situation I don't want to be in.

Cannabis and mushrooms, to name some, have been considered and succesfully used as versatile medicine for thousands of years, only to be banned about half a decade ago. Only the last few years this is starting to change, as more and more research shows the medicinal benefits, while debunking most of the lies that have been spread.

Psychedelics 'cure' consumerism, make one more sovereign, enable independent thought, and help you break destructive patterns, by making one see through their life-long conditioning. They make us better people, but worse consumers who need less medicine.

It's quite obvious why these substances are banned, as it's not in the interest of the state to have a flock capable of independent thought, that does not consume a lot and doesn't buy words of division and fear. To clarify even more: the only legal substances are those that cloud our thoughts and make us stupid and dependent, like alcohol or prescribed anti-depressants.

If you excluded cannabis from your comment, I'd agree with you 100%. Cannabis can be both, but for me, and a lot of people I know, regular use just promotes bad habits and lifestyle choices. But to each his/her own.

(btw I support legalization of cannabis and other psychs)

I know what you mean. I've used cannabis a lot in my past, and my life was basically standing still. But without, my life felt unbearable. It turned out that changing what I was doing with my life eliminated the need completely, and without any signs of withdrawal effects.

It was also the case that it's not cannabis that introduced bad habits, it was that the bad habits led to (the need of) cannabis use to ease my mind.

Now, I use it as a tool for creativity, when I'm working with my music.

I would also like to share this video, about how addiction seems to work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ao8L-0nSYzg

I probably would have never started smoking pot if there wasn't that edgy/cool/illegal vibe to it. Once pot is legal, the stigma around recreational use will probably turn into something like drinking cough syrup for the DXM.

It won't be that lame, but I do expect some of the cool factor to fade a bit. There will be something like the craft beer scene and some aficionados and mostly a lot of people who might smoke it every once in a while but not often. Unlike, say, alcohol or heroin, it is not physically addictive. It can be psychologically habit forming but so can everything else.

I personally never liked it that much so I can't see myself being a frequent customer. Haven't touched it in years despite it being 'around.' I will probably go have a first legal toke though when it's legal here (California) just because.

We will wonder why on Earth we ever spent billions of dollars and locked people up in prison to suppress something so... trivial. On the bright side, when it is made legal and nothing much happens all the histrionic drug warriors will look unbelievably stupid and everyone will laugh at them. That's a good thing.

Ah, yeah true. I could kind of see it going the way of wine.

Yea Holland and Portugal are as dystopic as they come?!

I think as a society is more progressive/efficient to help and support those with drup problems as apposed to locking them up and creating an industry for the trade of 'illegal' drugs. What a waste of time and resource playing cops and robbers for 'drugs', I hope more and more policing groups are noticing this and feeding back over time.

Th evidence shows otherwise. Besides, there is already an endless supply of booze, television, junk food, and empty consumerism for those who want to null out consciousness and distract themselves while they wait to die.

We have lived in such a dystopic future for a long time. Almost everyone in the western world consumes caffeine on a daily basis.

Ethanol and nicotine consumption are pretty prevalent too.

Yes and no.

Alcohol is legal in most countries and is widely consumed, certainly much more so than it would be if it were illegal. It can be very addictive, and it an be very destructive, like many drugs which are currently illegal.

I agree use of drugs would probably increase overall, but that society can adapt without collapse. Many people take illegal drugs now from time to time, and are able to function and live normally, have jobs, and not have their world implode.

"If people let the government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny." --Thomas Jefferson

I suppose you'd like to take FDA-unapproved medication? I wouldn't.

I would.

(I would, however, be looking to other sources of approval. Take Daraprim, the infamous $750 pill - at the time of the price hike, it was trivially available from perfectly safe foreign suppliers at <$1, just not with the FDAs approval. It's only available in the US now at that price because some people found a regulatory loophole that allowed them to sell it without the FDAs approval.)

You say it like there's a choice.

You say that like there's a sane and safe alternative.

What if you don't care? If I were terminally ill, dying in a few months, I would definitely be interested in trying the latest experimental drugs. I mean, what's the worst that can happen? (Although legalizing euthanasia would help too.)

This is already happening, even with agencies like the FDA in place. It's called off-label use: http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/tre...

Going just by the title, it's obvious. I was really amazed when I learned that use of illegal drugs is prohibited (punishable offense) in US. It makes absolutely no sense in a civilized society.

Not sure why you were downvoted. I assume you mean you didn't know that it was illegal to be under the influence of drugs, as opposed to it being illegal to have drugs in your possession?

Yes, that. Use or influence as opposed to possession/distribution.

edit: And as for downvotes, I'd say the "going just by the title" part is a bit offensive :)

Not to sound cynical, but (even if marijuana was legal to grow and consume) what's to stop a cartel from simply threatening the lives of anyone else who grows it?

The same that stops the mafia from threatening anybody who brews beer or distills liquor: the target can now call the cops.

It wasn't the poor moonshiner's ability to finally squeal for daddy that pushed the mafia out of the liquor business... it was the fact that they could not compete in the market place. Sure they could have went on a rampage and wrecked a bunch of legit distilleries, but all the while they would be hemorrhaging cash. Killing people aint cheap.

Most people would switch to legal providers therefore drying up one of the money pipelines for cartels. Most of their power comes from their relatively large economic influence.

Large corporate interests could leverage legit logistical infrastructure and take over, plus large corporations are rich and connected enough to get the police to actually enforce the law for them against threats.

The cops who work for the cartel [1]?

[1] http://time.com/3490853/mexico-massacre-students-police-cart...

Edit: Downvoters, I would love to hear why I am wrong. I only know what I read about Mexican law enforcement, no personal experience dealing with them.

Imagine alcohol was illegal in Mexico, was suddenly legalized, and then the booze mafia and the corrupt cops on their payroll go around threatening home brewers selling their wares.

Then Anheuser-Busch comes along and plunks down $100 million to build a brewery. Which side is any cop with half a brain going to opt for: the mafiosos trying to cling onto their obsolete business model, or the legit megacorp who'll be paying "facilitation fees" for decades to come?

What's to stop a cartel from doing the same for corn growers?

What is to stop Facebook buying corn farms in the USA? Nothing except it's not what they know and not as profitable.

>"In a 4-1 ruling, the court found that prohibitions on using marijuana violated the 'right to the free development of personality'"

Perhaps that is out of context, and I don't know their constitution as a whole, but I am not finding a lot of sense in that sentence.

If drug use can be considered a "right to the free development of personality", then how else could America's "right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" be interpreted?

The Declaration of Independence, where that phrase comes from, is basically marketing bullshit. It's full of rhetorical flourish that Jefferson got away with precisely because it has no legal significance. After all, that same document says that "all men are created equal" while the Constitution enshrined the institution of slavery for another few generations.

The closest analogue in the Constituon is the idea that due process protects those fundamental rights inherent in "ordered liberty."

There is no analogue in the Constitution because the Constitution enumerates the specific powers granted to the Federal Government. Drug prohibition is not one of them, and the entire Federal war on drugs is held up by the lynch-pin supreme court case Wickard v Filburn... where the Supreme Court decided that "interstate commerce" applies to goods literally not involved in any commerce whatsoever.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wickard_v._Filburn https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gonzales_v._Raich

Wickard v. Filburn isn't the lynch-pin of the Federal war on drugs. It's a ridiculous case, but it's also a narrow one: does the Commerce Clause cover marijuana grown for personal use. That is obviously not interstate commerce within any sensible definition of the concept.

However, the drug trade in general is archetypal interstate commerce. Almost nobody grows and processes their own weed or their own cocaine. It all happens through cross-border commercial transactions.

Possession is illegal at the Federal level. All drug commerce that does not cross state lines is also illegal. There could be no federal war on drugs at all without the interstate commerce power the supreme court has derived.

Going further, the purpose of the interstate commerce clause was to give the power to regulate tariffs (and other taxes) between the states, not make entire trades illegal because sometimes those goods are sold elsewhere.

> There could be no federal war on drugs at all without the interstate commerce power the supreme court has derived.

For states where the state's laws agree that the drugs are illegal (i.e. most states now, and all states until relatively recently), there could be a (legal) federal war on drugs so long as the state government does not object. As to the practicality of the enforcement of such objections, we're seeing it play out right now with the states that have legalized it.

> Almost nobody grows and processes their own weed...

Er... really? In my experience, it's quite common.

weed is maybe a bad example. I think heroin would be more apt here, since that is usually grown and processed overseas before being imported.

where I'm from, growing and processing (curing and trimming) your own weed is very common.

this time of year is harvest season in fact.

plenty of odd jobs trimming marijuana pop up seasonally around here because of it.

I know more pot growers than pot buyers and I'm not even in a decriminalized state.

I know one person who grows their own weed. But I live in the city. In any case, marijuana and possession generally are a small part of the federal drug war.

The constitution was agnostic on slavery so far as I can recall. Article and section please?

Article I, Section 9, cl. 1 (which was among the provisions explicitly shielded from Amendment prior to 1808 by Article V.)

For the lazy

>The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.

Also Article I, Section 2, Paragraph 3 (the 3/5ths clause).

"Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three."

or to put it in terms that this forum would appreciate

  representatives = {NH:3, MA:8, RI:1 CN:5, NY:6, NJ:4, PA:8, DL:1, ML:6, VA:10, NC:5, SC:5, GA:3}

  def census(state): #call this in 3 years, and again in every 10 years
     result = 0
     for i in state.persons:
        if i.free or i.bound_to_service:
           result += 1
        elif not(i.indian and not i.taxed):
           result += 0 #included for clarity
           result += 3/5
     return max(int(result / 30000),1)
Note the 3/5th compromise is reached by way of "no other category applies" rather than an explicit "slavery" condition. Make of that what you will. Unrelated note: imagine if all law were written as programming.

As far as I'm aware that phrase isn't anywhere in the US constitution -- just the Declaration of Independence. It doesn't have any legal force.

The phrase "el libre desarrollo de la personalidad" however is present in the Mexican constitution, although in its context it isn't clear to me how it applies.

True, but people still basically accept it as a canonical element of American philosophy and believe it should be used to justify governmental actions. The Constitution contains the very similar phrase "promote the general welfare".

Sorry, HN is full of morons who like to downvote.

The Declaration of Independence has indeed been cited by the Supreme Court to give evidence of the intent of the drafters of the Constitution, where the phrasing in the Constitution is ambiguous. So you are perfectly correct.

They have used other documents from the time period for the same reasons. The point is it does not have direct legal Athority only incite into the way people thought.

Ah, I see.

Unfortunately the Supreme Court can't find laws unDeclaration-of-Independance-al.

People use statements from the Founding Fathers to justify anything they want. For example, since the Preamble to the Constitution specifies that it was set up to "promote the general welfare", there are many people that believe the government's job goes beyond providing favorable conditions for free markets and keeping them reasonably fair all the way to literally owing them a wage just for breathing, since the "general welfare" is not helped by some people being poor.

The fact of the matter is that if you're in a position to justify something you strongly believe in, no matter how high, visible, or supposedly rationally-based that position is supposed to be, you're going to find a way to push it through. Look at the ruling in Obergefell; even liberal publications said the legal basis cited for it was rubbish. In the general case, people will use whatever pretense they can to get what they strongly believe in, and justify it by saying that they're making something good happen (that is, the ends justify the means). Social sciences are like 90% this, and from thence comes the phrase "never trust a statistic you haven't faked yourself".

It's not universal, but it happens way more often than most of us want to admit, in every field.

It just baffles me how people keep trying to use "maybe the government should protect people who can't protect themselves" as a self-evident example of egregious governmental overstep, instead of the fundamental reason we invented government.

We invented government to provide a fair and equitable structure that everyone could operate under. The idea is that everyone can conduct their affairs in peace under our laws, and that those laws will allow (note, not guarantee, as the government can't force someone to be productive or useful) individuals to prosper and flourish by protecting their fundamental natural freedoms.

Government does not exist solely to "protect those who can't protect themselves". Whether a person has substantial physical resources with which to "protect himself" or not, that person can petition the government for relief and participate in the democratic process.

The thing here is that "protect people who can't protect themselves" is so generic it can mean anything, just like "the pursuit of happiness" or promotion of "the general welfare". Do you mean protecting employers against employees that want to steal time or goods? Do you mean protecting workers against idlers who want to consume their resources without having done anything to earn them? What about protecting companies against frivolous lawsuits from people just trying to get a big settlement? These likely aren't the problems you're thinking about, but they're the problems some people out there are thinking about.

See what I'm saying? People are going to bias their opinion to favor their individual circumstances, but again, we all have to live under the government's rule, and it needs to be as fair and equitable as possible for everyone. Not just rich people and not just poor people; not just atheists and not just theists; not just healthy people and not just sick people. The interests must be well-balanced to maintain social order.

It's never about what the laws say, but rather about who interprets the laws.

I've always hated that a "law" can be interpreted really.

This is your engineering or science background clashing with reality. I, for one, am glad that laws are interpreted and not taken as hard rules. Stupidity would reign otherwise, because it is impossible to create a hard and fast rule that will stand the test of time in a changing civilization.

Unfortunately, I have met too many CS types that are surprised by the concept of law interpretation. That's why liberal education is important.

I was following and agreeing with you (and was going to upvote you), until the last 2 sentences. You could have made your point without bashing "CS types" and CS/engineering education.

Don't you think it is scary to invest that much power in a post that is unelected and for life?

Not possible for it to be otherwise. Also, not desirable.

The law is not like an OS that society runs on, that's a very dangerous but sadly pervasive idea. The law is a tool that society uses for its own betterment, hopefully in the service of justice and liberty.

That's the nature of communication. There can be no communication without interpretation.

We do have some separation between eval (legislative) and apply (executive) though, but that mostly only works for a few things like presidential pardons.

Without it, our Constitution would be almost worthless. Segregation was brought down by the Interstate Commerce Clause!

I would argue that the ICC is something that seriously diminishes the Constitution, as the courts have applied such tortured logic so as to allow the federal government to regulate virtually anything.

The veneration of the Constitution is a weak point in American government. It's riddled with policy mistakes (see: Impeachment, where the Vice President would cast the deciding vote in his own trial should there be a tie) and rediculous vagaries (Judges serve for life so long as they remain "in good behavior"), not to mention the validation of the fundamental evil of slavery which was, at the time, already a point of contention.

Rather than an objective framework for government, the Constitution has morphed into a shield against discourse, a talisman wielded to justify policies that deserve to be questioned. It's our National Bible, where things are right because see, it says it right there.

You hit the nail on the head. We Americans are religious folks, and the Constitution is our own home-grown religious text.

Look at the veneration for the founding fathers, even elsewhere in these comments. That's religion, not thoughtful political discourse!

> It's riddled with policy mistakes (see: Impeachment, where the Vice President would cast the deciding vote in his own trial should there be a tie)

As mistakes go, this one is purely cosmetic. It has no actual implications; there would be nothing even minorly surprising about saying "the impeached party wins ties".

Not sure what gives you that impression. During the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, Chief Justice Chase cast 2 tie breaking votes on procedural issues. The purpose of this provision (Article 1, Section 3 - Chief Justice presides over the trial of the President in cases of impeachment) was separation of powers but the authors appear to have overlooked that value when it comes to the Vice President.

It doesn't matter. At worst it says that impeachment issues have to win by 2 votes. That doesn't damage separation of powers in any way. It's just an oddity.

I don't think the VP can vote unless there's a tie, so it just says impeachment issues have to win.

I personally think the Constitution should be thrown out and start over. It's an archaic document reflecting a radically different society.

Some love to treat it as sacred, but if it's so sacred how come we've had to amend it so much? Though come to think of it I wouldn't mind a few amendments to the Bible and Koran.

I always wondered why amendments weren't MORE common.

Consider how poorly the legislature works and then look at the process for amending the Constitution. I'm amazed there were so many!

Wow, who downvoted you for that? Wickard v. Filburn, seriously.

What else would you do with it?

Why don't we stop enumerating specific rights (which leads to picking winners and losers and inconsistent application) and refactor them into a few basic principles. Such as the basic property right of self ownership. Since you own your body, not the State, you may use marijuana. Simple.

We actually have such an amendment:

   The powers not delegated to the United States by
   the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the
   States, are reserved to the States respectively,
   or to the people.
Unfortunately the Supreme Court treats it like a fucking joke[1]:

Even though the woman grew cannabis strictly for her own consumption and never sold any, the Supreme Court stated that growing one's own cannabis affects the interstate market of cannabis. The theory was that the cannabis could enter the stream of interstate commerce, even if it clearly wasn't grown for that purpose and that was unlikely ever to happen (the same reasoning as in the Wickard v. Filburn decision). It therefore ruled that this practice may be regulated by the federal government under the authority of the Commerce Clause.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenth_Amendment_to_the_United_...

I like to think of it more as a Ninth Amendment issue:

  The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights,
  shall not be construed to deny or disparage others
  retained by the people
Just because a "right to the free development of personality" isn't specifically listed doesn't mean we don't have it.

Then every court case becomes a philosophical argument about the meaning, bound, and effects of those 'few basic principals.' Without a steady legal framework with predictable outcomes large society binds up pretty quick.

You think vague principles like "self ownership" are going to make for consistent legal frameworks?

How about we throw out our constitutions and make "be a good person" the law and leave it at that.

Those words are from the Declaration of Liberty, not the Constitution.

I'm not sure how/if SCOTUS uses the Declaration in their decisions. But it certainly does illuminate the feelings of the founders.

You people do realize that the Mexican Supreme Court does rule about the Mexican Constitution, right?

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