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America Has a Black-Market Problem, Not a Drug Problem (theatlantic.com)
141 points by jseliger on Mar 17, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 157 comments



And maybe we could do something about our policing problem at the same time... What, with using national (military) spying apparatus to go after drug dealers, police seizing assets from private citizens who they often don't accuse of a crime, the rampant militarization of domestic police forces...

Well, it's nice to dream.


Every cop should be required to were a gopro on their chest. Anyone who has any encounter with a cop should have protected rights to access and review that video as material evidence in their case.


A few different police departments in California are trying out camera systems. I've only heard about Rialto, but I know they're being tried out in the Bay Area, and I think wider Los Angeles.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/04/california-poli...

These aren't "GoPro" systems, so I wouldn't expect stunning HD.

I'm not sure about access at all though.


... then maybe people will realise how unfairly vilified the police are, and what a tough job it actually is.


Is it a tough job? You bet. Are they unfairly vilified? Not a chance: police should be held to a higher moral standard than the general public, as they're the ones enforcing it.

The best part of them wearing a GoPro is that everyone wins: civilians get to feel much safer, and police get to show that they're not as bad as they're made out to be.

The issue arises when the cops have that introduced, and accusations of excess force drop dramatically... that sort of shows that yes, they are as bad as they're made out to be...


I largely agree, but to act as a devil's advocate, what about cases when a police officer needs to resort to more heavy-handed methods when their life is in danger? In a dangerous area, a camera cannot capture the entire environment that a police officer must take in, contextual clues to a possibly dangerous situation drawn from a career of near brushes with disaster. So you might see corner cases where a police officer either (a) disregards their gut feeling to exercise caution and speed when apprehending a suspect because they fear being captured on camera, and the officer is injured as a result, or (b) follows their gut feeling, exercises due caution and speed, perhaps is rough on a criminal who has violent intent, and then must allow the criminal to go free even if that caution was necessary, because the jury was more sympathetic to the video of so-called "brutality" than they were to the officer's justifiable mental model of the situation, which cannot be presented so elegantly.

Would this system work for less dangerous areas? Probably. For more dangerous areas, I wouldn't want to be a police officer and have this forced upon me. Because corner cases here can be deadly.


What if the officer is being filmed by a cellphone camera? There is an even greater chance of the incident being taken out of context. Especially if the police cameras are in a standard location for most officers (say pen pocket), then that fact can be used extensively and easily in video analysis.

Secondly, I very very rarely here of juries being "too hard" on police. The current culture is that most police can't be touch even if everyone knows they did it AND has evidence. In a lot of cases, they are untouchable unless their peers want to throw them under the bus or a separate, usually federal service looks into the matter.

There are people that, while wearing a camera in a dangerous situation, can remain calm, cool, and collected. If anything, that should be one of the first requirements of becoming a cop, not an argument against cameras.


> I largely agree, but to act as a devil's advocate, what about cases when a police officer needs to resort to more heavy-handed methods when their life is in danger?

In those cases the safest thing for the police to do is to withdraw to a safe location and wait for backup, which is what they're supposed to do. Engaging in the sort of aggressive behavior that could be "mischaracterized" as police brutality in response to a potentially dangerous situation only serves to escalate the situation and make it even more dangerous.


>> cases when a police officer needs to resort to more heavy-handed methods when their life is in danger

The accused have a moral right to have a jury decide what was appropriate for the officer to do in a given situation. Keeping the data private by its nature detracts from the goal of having a fair judicial system.

NB: to your read, the laws may need to be adjusted to allow officers to legally be more brutal to people who have not been convicted of crimes. That does not change the fact that police work should be able to be done in the light. Nobody benefits when police to feel like they don't have to become criminals to do their jobs.


So your argument is for less data?


And the current system is deadly, for police officers and civilians. I highly doubt those corner cases you're discussing will create more violence than already exists, in my opinion.


The proportion of bad cops to good cops is probably about the same as the proportion of pervert sexist programmers who like to sexually harass their female coworkers to non-perverted programmers. If your only exposure to either profession is what you see online, you'll have a dim view of both professions.

It's true that there is a large number of bad cops--but that's simply because there are a lot cops. Most cops hold themselves to a higher standard, but never show up in the news because it's not newsworthy when a cop does his job.


Sorry, but I don't think this is even remotely true. Cops overwhelmingly don't testify against other cops. And, in my book, cops that put up the blue wall of silence are bad cops. Not as bad as the cop they're defending -- I don't mean to equate them -- but still bad.

While something like that may exist in some engineering-heavy workplaces (I've heard stories but never seen it), it's nowhere near as common or institutionalized.


The problem is a bad cop can cause much more damage...

Bad programmers don't have weapons and authority to kidnap people legally.


This exactly. Really tough and often thankless job. As shown in Rialto everybody wins when the police wear cameras. Complaints down 88%, use of force down 60% http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/04/california-poli...


> Complaints down 88%, use of force down 60%

Which really just shows how much better cops behave when they know they're being watched and justifies complaints about their corruption.


It would also be a drop in spurious complaints which have no merit. If there is recorded evidence, and the potential complainant knows that exists, then they are less likely to make things up.

Many of the people who deal with police on a frequent basis are skilled liars. They know how to stymie investigations by tying the officers up in paperwork. Having video evidence would prevent spurious complaints.


> It would also be a drop in spurious complaints which have no merit.

Fair point. However, I was a cop, and I know better than to trust cops.


It will also make people less stressed when dealing with cops (as they know the cop will behave well), and it will discourage people from resisting arrest / attacking the police, because they know they'll be caught on camera.


It would also be a drop in spurious complaints which have no merit.

That's great too! Win-win!


Police are not unfairly vilified; they deserve vilification because they protect their own even when guilty. This is wrong.


Sure, and people who are victims of dishonest police can have evidence to support their claims. Everyone wins.


The police are a case of when it goes wrong, it goes REALLY wrong. Instagram down? Not a big deal. Space shuttle software bug? Possible death, explosions and millions of dollars of destruction. The two software systems are developed very differently as a result.


... then maybe people will realise how unfairly vilified the police are, and what a tough job it actually is.

You would think police departments would jump at the opportunity to wear cameras for this very reason, but they have routinely fought it.

A town I lived in the cops fought dash cams for a long time saying they couldn't get enough money to install them. Finally the state supreme court stepped up and started throwing out all DUIs without dash cams and amazingly all squad cars had them installed very quickly.


It would show good cops to be good cops, and the few murderers to be murderers. Sounds good to me.


My dad was a cop in Oakland ca, during the 70s... I would not agree with your statement until i have videos proving otherwise.


This is an opinion and not based on any real evidence.


With a battery life of <2 hours, they're gonna need a different camera /s


Larger external battery on belt. Have a jack in the squad car they connect to wheneversitting in the car. Have an alarm that goes off and logs all times the charger is not connected.

Run it off beaglebone or rasberri the whole device and system is less than $500.

Steam that shit to the cloud. Want me to price that for you?


Ok and who will pay for that?


It's a dream to think that law was enacted to put an end to those kinds of troubles.

Law is made by the representatives to keep the problems in tact for various reasons by various people in the chain.

Politicians do not want to solve all problems and find out that since they solved the problems, they are not needed anymore.

The military and arms industrial complex certainly do not want to solve the problems, if they actually do, how will they get budget enlargements and lucrative deals?

The intelligence industrial complex thrives on laws that forbid things like drugs, if drugs werent lucrative and made expensive by these laws, then how would they finance their little and big schemes without having to be accounted for it?

Nobody in the rich class, the political class, the military class and the intelligence class is interested in solving these matters

Get real people!!

Law isn't about morality, it's about oportunity, don't let anybody try to fool you that it is about morality.


So politicians are in a conspiracy to not stop problems? Sounds unlikely to me, I think it's more like:

* Many politicians, like most people, are idiots. Partly because many voters are also idiots.

* Politicians don't have strong incentives to stop problems. (But they don't have strong incentives to preserve problems, either. They're only incentivized to be popular.)

* Principal-agent problems. Even if a politician comes up with a brilliant solution, the people lower in the chain won't execute it well, because they often don't have strong incentives to.

Anyway, there was a conspiracy to preserve problems, any particular politician could start solving problems. This would likely place him above his peers. Then his peers might backstab him, but they also might join him, since he'll have increased popularity. Essentially, we have a sort of iterated n-player prisoner's dilemma; or rather, at each step we choose m people (non-randomly) to together participate in an m-player prisoner's dilemma. It might be interesting to try to model this mathematically.


Inertia. It seems fairly established that privatized prisons pour lobbying money into political pockets to push for arbitrarily harsher sentencing. You can't just reverse this or you are painted as "soft on crime". Even when the actual social impact of these policies are tremendously negative and only benefit a small number of private investors.

I thought The Wire's "Hamsterdam" episode was a great parable on what would happen in America if an influential politician fought inertia and tried to implement socially responsible drug policies: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamsterdam


I think the influence of the private prison operator while real is overstated. It makes a good story but they have less that 4% of US prisoners.

Much more influential are the prison guard and police unions and organizations. In California alone they oversee more prisoners than all the private prison operators combined and they are very active in strengthening sentencing[1].

But as stated by others the main problem is the politics. There are real problems and politicians can score points with naive voters by "doing something". On the other hand reducing sentences is a very risk position for politician to take.

Blame the politicians and voters as it is their responsibility to set the rules of the game. All the other parties are simply acting in their self-interest.

[1] http://www.policymic.com/articles/41531/union-of-the-snake-h...


This report argues that private prisoner percentages are much higher if you include all forms of state detention[1], eg "more than half of Louisiana’s 40,000 inmates are housed in prisons run by sheriffs or private companies as part of a broader financial incentive scheme."

I don't think it's as easy as blaming the voters. The political system seems caught in a negative feedback loop, greased by lobbyist money and with no clear offramp.

[1] http://www.propublica.org/article/by-the-numbers-the-u.s.s-g...


What makes you think there is a conspiracy? It's about oportunity.

I wasn't bitching about those people, just explaining how things work on this planet.

You know, like a manual.


That's a very black and white view of the world. I agree with many of your points though, that many problems are more profitable unsolved. However, many laws indeed have a basis in some (possibly twisted) form of morality (preventative or punitive).


No, GP's comment is a black-and-black view, as it allows for no possibility for improvement.


Nope, a realistic view, and there is a posibility for improvement when it is oportune.

Don't fool yourself with romanticizing history, history is very dark and grim.

And of course you should try to make a lighter and fairer future, but people are people and nature/evolution isn't fair at all.


Aw. You think wisdom is the same as cynicism.

Grow up.


I am probably older than you, but I am not cynical, I am just not a person with his head in the sand.

My experience and wisdom is what made me thrive for this long, I am far from cynical, I am in fact a happy person. :-)


I expect a comment like this on Reddit, not HN.


America has a prison industrial complex and corrupt justice system problem. There wouldn't be black markets for drugs if we stopped jailing people for victimless crimes to begin with. No victimless crime should result in criminal charges. Going to jail should never be a possibility when there's no victim.


Victimless is hard to define. By victimless I think you mean non-violent really. Even if there is a victim, if there was no violence, putting the perpetrator into a jail/prison will create more violence.

Also repeat offenses of non-violent crimes might be needed but most can be solved economically. For instance take someone who does some financial crime, why lock them up and have the public on the hook for 30k per year or more when they could be making money back they stole and mark them for some period of time similar to jail time. Why cost the public 30k+ per inmate at all if it isn't a violent crime? What a waste.


No, I meant what I said. Victimeless, and no it's not at all hard to define. Drugs, sex, gambling, bigamy, etc; basically laws based on Christian morality that try and tell you it's wrong to do things that only involve consenting adults.

Non-violent is another category, but I agree with you on that category, prison should be for the violent.


> No, I meant what I said. Victimeless, and no it's not at all hard to define. Drugs, sex, gambling, bigamy, etc; basically laws based on Christian morality that try and tell you it's wrong to do things that only involve consenting adults.

I generally agree with you, and do not at all believe Christian morality is a good basis for laws. That said, I have to play devil's advocate

> Drugs

In a world where the government provides health care as a service (which is where we're trending, eventually), abusing your own health does have a victim: the taxpayer. Granted, we don't like to think about it this way, and when we do it's usually for political showmanship instead of a real reason. But in the same way, building/living in a house that isn't up to fire or earthquake standards is a 'victimless' crime..... until my house catches on fire and burns down the whole block

> gambling

Gambling is often predatory to the poorer classes of society. Depending on how you're defining victim, low-income-earners could be seen as victims of gambling

> bigamy

Bigamy is historically correlated with misogyny. Also, ironically, bigamy is not a violation of christian morality; there are myriad examples of one-man-many-woman relationships in the Bible


> Also, ironically, bigamy is not a violation of christian morality;

While the Old Testament contains many examples of polygamy, all of them are neutral or bad examples. Jesus strongly implies that a man should have one wife and Paul explicitly says so, at least for leaders of the church.

From a practical standpoint, widespread polygamy (which usually means polygyny) can lead to imbalances in marriage opportunity between the rich and poor, men and women, young and old, etc. Banning bigamy is a way to regulate the marriage market, in a way. If tax evasion is harmful to society, polygamy is harmful to ugly, poor men.


> From a practical standpoint, widespread polygamy (which usually means polygyny) can lead to imbalances in marriage opportunity

So can widespread monogamy in certain circumstances. In fact, that's pretty much why polygamy usually manifests as polygyny -- in societies with norms favoring men fighting, or engaging in other high-risk activities and protecting women (and children, usually, but while that's important to the motivation, its irrelevant to the effect), after certain types of events, such as large scale (for the community affected) conflict, an exclusive monogamy rule means most women have no mates and prevents a society from rebounding (and makes it more likely that there culture will die out).

This is also probably why in history polygamy loses acceptance as a general norm as the scale of society gets larger and these kind of events affecting a whole society become less common.


Excellent points.


> If tax evasion is harmful to society, polygamy is harmful to ugly, poor men.

It's less than desirable for ugly poor men, but doesn't mean victim. There is no victim involved in not being chosen as a mate by a women. If 5 women choose to marry the rich man, that's a choice between consenting adults and it harms no other party.

No one is victimized by some other people getting married, whether it's because they're gay or because they're polygamists.


In an age of mass communication and easy global travel I could see it scaling up far beyond a rich guy marrying 5 women. It wouldn't be surprising to see certain superstars building harems counted by the hundred.


Nothing wrong with that as long as the women agree.


Where on Earth have we ever seen large-scale polygamy with all the women entirely agreed?


Not relevant as I clearly stipulated only if the women agree.


> abusing your own health does have a victim: the taxpayer.

Both this and your gambling example lead us down a very scary path where the government is in charge of your health. I hate to use words republicans use when they don't apply, but that's a nanny state at best or a 1984-style dictatorship at worst. Perhaps we shouldn't be subsidizing poor choices in the first place. In any case, there are better solutions than the use of force and criminal penalties.

As for bigamy, I think you'll agree that a historical correlation doesn't imply an inseparable causality.


Most people, even today, believe they own themselves rather than believing that the state owns them and they are merely paying rent on themselves.

"Victimless crime" pretty much means a voluntary act which directly harms only the actor. Sure, you point to indirect harm from the actor harming themselves. But if I fricken own myself, you cannot claim that my harming myself is any sort of crime. And the people counting on others not to harm themselves better give them an incentive not to do it rather than imposing a prohibition.


> In a world where the government provides health care as a service (which is where we're trending, eventually), abusing your own health does have a victim: the taxpayer.

An almost fair point... if and only if we get there, I'm not yet convinced we will, however drug use is not drug abuse. To call it a health issue it'd first have to affect your health negatively. If it does, that can be seen by the doctor and noted and then maybe you can be taxed higher to compensate, but use is not abuse.

Also, serious abuse could save tax payers money by killing you. So just because something affects your health negatively doesn't mean it costs more over your lifetime.

> Gambling is often predatory to the poorer classes of society. Depending on how you're defining victim, low-income-earners could be seen as victims of gambling

I reject the notion that you can be your own victim. If you choose to make decisions that hurt you, you must suffer the consequences; it is not the state's place to protect you from yourself. Jumping out of a perfectly good air plane is legal, and has a very high chance of killing you compared to other hobbies but we don't outlaw that.

> Bigamy is historically correlated with misogyny.

Not a reason to make it a crime. I'm allowed to hate things.

> Also, ironically, bigamy is not a violation of christian morality; there are myriad examples of one-man-many-woman relationships in the Bible

It's a violation of modern Christian morality; times change and so do the church's sense of morals.


> I reject the notion that you can be your own victim. If you choose to make decisions that hurt you, you must suffer the consequences; it is not the state's place to protect you from yourself.

Forget the state for a moment and try to scale it down. In a village where everybody knows and depends on each other, what would you do if an outsider came along and tricked one of your fellow villagers out of all their means?

When winter came, would you let that person die? No, you would use your own means to keep them alive.

Now, the next time this trickster came to town, would you just let them prey on the less perceptive of your fellow villagers again?


You're talking about fraud, I am not, your example does not apply. People like to gamble, they know they're probably going to lose, they are not being defrauded or lied to by being allowed to gamble.


There are countless problems with your analogy, however I will focus on one. Smoking pot recreationally cannot be equated with a trickster fooling someone out of all their money.


> If you choose to make decisions that hurt you, you must suffer the consequences; it is not the state's place to protect you from yourself.

1. Not ever? Surely you don't think that the age of majority/consent is 0-years-old?

2. Taxation for Military defense falls under that same umbrella! Normally, people would never pay any taxes to support it until they feel threatened... And then it's too late, and they suffer from their own short-sighted penny-pinching. Are you saying the government should not collectively protect them from their own decisions?


> Surely you don't think that the age of majority/consent is 0-years-old?

Need I preface everything I say with "between consenting adults?"

> Taxation for Military defense falls under that same umbrella

No it doesn't because taxation isn't a la carte; it's a fictional scenario.


> Need I preface everything I say with "between consenting adults?"

No, because it wouldn't help your argument anyway: The point (which I think you've tacitly acknowledged) is that sometimes the government SHOULD protect non-competent humans from making bad decisions... the only question is which shade of grey you think society should draw the line on.

> No it doesn't because taxation isn't a la carte; it's a fictional scenario.

Please read it again. I'm describing the system we DO have, and explaining how it is already preventing the society from making quote-unquote-"wrong" choices with their money.


Yes we should protect those who can't make those choices for themselves, but that's already the norm, there'd be a legal age no matter what we come up with. The interesting debate is what we allow adults to do, I consider the children a red herring.

Ok, I reread it, and I'd say providing for national defense was always a core job of government, it's in our constitution. The same is not true of these other things, we've not agreed by an amendment level of agreement that victimless crimes deserve jail. It's just wrong, there's no justification for jailing someone for anything related to what they ingest, who they marry and in what numbers, or anything else where the only direct victim is themselves. I own my body and no one has a right to claim otherwise.


> In a world where the government provides health care as a service (which is where we're trending, eventually), abusing your own health does have a victim: the taxpayer. Granted, we don't like to think about it this way, and when we do it's usually for political showmanship instead of a real reason.

This is a very dangerous line of thinking. You end up with a totalitarian nanny state that doesn't let anyone go outside or do anything with any degree of risk.

There have been science fiction stories written about that very future!


"In a world where the government provides health care as a service"

No need to dwell on hypotheticals. We can revisit this when the government starts paying for our healthcare. Regardless, this is a financial issue where the logical punishment is a fine, not prison.


Lots of countries do have public health care.


This article is specifically about America, however.


Yes, but we can learn from how other governments are dealing with problems like these. (Britain, for one, doesn't fine people for injuring themselves, I believe.)


All marriage is historically correlated with misogyny. Yet, the polyamorous folks I know are a lot less misogynistic than the ones who would want to keep polygamy illegal. (Needless to say, a woman should have the right to marry multiple husbands as well!)


Ok but defining victimless definitions would be a nightmare and ripe for abuse, violence is easy to define.

Drugs are only violent if they are illegal, rape is violence, gambling is sometimes legal-- noone should ever be locked up for gambling -- it is not violent. Morals should not be used, civil rights and not affecting others rights should be the metric. You start involving morals, a bunch of religions have different ideas of that. Violence and invading others personal rights is easy to define. The reason why we have a black market problem is defining things on 'morals'.


I could make the same argument about violence by talking about mental abuse. And as I said, morals are already involved, these crimes exist because of morals, not because they hurt people.

The fact is, victimless is as easy to define as violence is or easy enough to have a pretty clear line.

Consuming drugs hurts no one but the consumer. Having 5 wives hurts no one as long as they all consented. Gambling your own money should be your choice.

While there may be the occasional things on the margin, most are quite clearly victimless.


I agree with you but I feel like playing devils advocate.

>drugs hurt no one else

what about the family of the abuser? should a child grow up in the home of a heroin addict? doesn't society have the responsibility to protect children?

>gambling

humans are just dumb monkeys. we have psychological weaknesses to stuff like gambling. how many fathers will gamble away their grocery money?

>5 wives

is it really consent if a girl is too poor and uneducated to get a job and is forced into a polygamist marriage for subsistence?


If you allow widespread polygamy, degenerate gamblers and addicts won't tend to attract many wives, and will generally have far fewer children.. Boom, fewer children stuck with problematic non-providing parents. Thanks, market forces!

Devil's advocate back at ya.


I guess we'll have to agree to disagree. I think much of that type of thinking is what led to the black markets we have even though you use a smart way of defining victim. It can be interpreted all sorts of ways though. Civil rights and violence is much easier to define. Also as time goes on and systems change, the definition of victim might change i.e. in war, terrorism etc. If it is based solely on violence and civil rights then there is a clear line. But good discussion, sometimes in discussions people have different points of view and that is ok.


Yes, we can agree to disagree. Violence is also murky to define, I feel you're glossing over that a bit. All kinds of abuse exists that don't involve physical violence that are quite easily argued as violence.


We disagree on the detail and metric used to define it but I agree we are locking up way to many people and the punishment is cruel and unusual if it goes beyond the crime i.e. non-violent crime resulting in being locked up with criminals who are violent to me is cruel and unusual punishment and a rights violation.


I agree completely with that, and did in my first response. Non violent criminals should never see prison.


Drugs? Victimless? You may want to ask the Mexicans about that. The way I see, drug usage as an act itself may be victimless (though highly unlikely), but the way it reaches it's costumers is sure as hell isn't.


Those problems are not created by the drugs, you need to stop falling for this propaganda. Those problems are created by the laws against drugs. Legalize and those problems evaporate, buy your drugs from the pharmacy.

Prohibition creates crime, this is well known, and a lesson we should have learned with alcohol and gangsters.


> Drugs, sex, gambling, bigamy, etc; basically laws based on Christian morality

I'm curious what you say to the argument that manufacturing and profiting off extremely addictive and harmful drugs (ie meth or heroin) is a victumful crime?

Many people get "hooked" on drugs like this, and it often ruins them both physiologically and financially. How can you justify ignoring such people as victims? Especially if they were young or even children when they started?


> extremely addictive and harmful drugs

Like alcohol? Should we make it illegal again to protect its victims?


> Like alcohol? Should we make it illegal again to protect its victims?

It is very possible to use alcohol recreationally without becoming physically dependent on it.

You can't say the same for drugs like heroin or meth.


Actually, you have to use heroin regularly for months to become physiologically addicted. The time is shorter than for alcohol but not instantaneous.

What catches people is a psychological addiction: heroin high just feels incredibly good (disclaimer: I did not try it so I translate other peoples' opinions). But the same can be said about alcohol, sugar, games like the infamous 2048, and great many other things.

Of course there are substances that would kill the user quickly and harm even from one use, like PCP or the infamous krokodil. But the same can be said about methanol, or sulphuric acid, or many other hazardous substances. These substances are appropriately packed, abundantly labeled with warnings — but their use is not banned.


> Actually, you have to use heroin regularly for months to become physiologically addicted.

I don't think I'm remiss in saying that most who start using heroin do in fact get to that point, am I?

> These substances are appropriately packed, abundantly labeled with warnings — but their use is not banned.

Comparing sulphuric acid to heroin is a huge stretch for me. Sure, injecting sulphuric acid into your arm is definitely going to be a lot more harmful than heroin... but heroin is intended to be used as a drug, and is harmful when used as intended. The acid is not.


Though I don't have any stats ready on how many heroin users end up as addicts that actually hurt their health, and how many recover later, you don't seem to have it either. Before we have some kind of numbers, I don't think discussing this can lead anywhere constructive.

I'm pretty sure that most users of nicotine (as smoked tobacco or in electronic cigarettes) get physiologically addicted pretty quickly, and in a pretty hard way. Though this is inconvenient to them, it usually does not bother people around, because nicotine is not a behavior-altering substance (unlike alcohol or cocaine). AFAIK, heroin is not a behavior-altering substance either. It's the lack of a dose what dangerously alters the behavior of a heroine addict (or an alcohol addict).

Since heroin is outlawed, users have far lower thresholds to pass to act unlawfully in other regards, since they feel like criminals already. A heavy nicotine addict may suffer immensely without a fix, but usually stays a lawful citizen despite it.

Take insulin: it's also intended to be used as a drug, and improper use can quickly kill you. Thats why it's a prescription-only substance, but a completely lawful one. Quite a few over-the-counter drugs can kill you, or at least severely cripple you, if used improperly. Do you think outlawing them is a good idea? (Hell, 3/4 pound of table salt, if ingested quickly, would kill you. I hope you exercise reason when adding salt to your food.)


> Quite a few over-the-counter drugs can kill you, or at least severely cripple you, if used improperly. Do you think outlawing them is a good idea?

No, of course I don't: making something illegal because it is dangerous when misused or used contrary to its intended purpose is silly. I'm not arguing that.

What I am arguing is that a substance that is created to be used in a specific manner, and causes known substantial harm when used in that manner should not be tolerated by society.

That's what a cigarette is: it's this thing that is made to be used in a way that has been shown without a shadow of a doubt to contribute to many fatal ailments in a major way.

I put heroin and meth in that category: dangerously addictive substances that are known to cause substantial harm when used as intended.


You've confused drug use with drug abuse. You've demonized recreational drug use and decided people shouldn't be allowed to decide for themselves what they put in their own bodies. You are the reason we're having this ridiculous drug war and you are the problem with this country.


> You've demonized recreational drug use and decided people shouldn't be allowed to decide for themselves what they put in their own bodies.

There's an enormous difference between prohibiting individual use of a dangerous drug, and allowing somebody to manufacture and sell a dangerous drug for profit. The latter troubles me deeply, and that's what I'm talking about.

Profiting off of human suffering is not something society should ever tolerate.

> you are the problem with this country.

Oh boy! Do I get a sticker?


> There's an enormous difference between prohibiting individual use of a dangerous drug, and allowing somebody to manufacture and sell a dangerous drug for profit.

No there isn't, if it's acceptable to consume, it's acceptable to sell; you can't allow one without the other and claim any sort of logic behind it, it's simply stupid.

> Profiting off of human suffering

And once again confusing use with abuse. Drug users are not suffering.


this is an argument against alcohol, not for other drugs. And personally I think society would be better off without it.


Well, sure, if you're pulling assertions out of thin air that agree with your narrow-minded views, and declaring them fact.


1. when did i pull an assertion out of thin air? I stated my opinion, I didn't "assert" anything. 2. why am I narrow-minded for disagreeing with you? that seems pretty "narrow-minded" to "assert" that. 3. I never said we should outlaw alcohol but I don't think anyone would disagree that society would be a lot better if alcohol didn't exist.


Not only that, people consuming illegally acquired drugs are empowering drug cartels and here's the kind of situations it leads to

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3nIfE0AUys

P.S The video contain very explicit images and commentary.

Here's a roughly translated quote to give you an idea: "During December there were 14 girls between 11-12 year old raped"


If those drugs were legal those bastards would never be able to compete with Merck or Bayer, and would go away forthwith.


So, you're advocating putting cigarette manufacturers in jail? If not, why not?


Hell yes. For life.

That we as a society allow groups of men to make billions selling a tremendously addictive product that has unequivocally been shown to kill its users is, for me, absolutely heinous.


What about brewers and distillers? Alcohol is responsible for 10s of thousands of deaths in the U.S. alone.

Or maybe you like a drink now and then....


> Alcohol is responsible for 10s of thousands of deaths in the U.S. alone.

Nope: _Abuse_ of Alcohol is responsible for 10s of thousands of deaths in the U.S. alone.

You don't have to abuse cigarettes: you just use them, and they kill you.


The _abuse_ of anything is bad. Alcohol is still a societal danger. If you really want to protect people you should make it illegal.

But I bet you like a drink now and then, so you're willing to let other people die so you can get a buzz on.

Edit: can't reply to your reply so I'm appending here:

Your non reply confirms my guess. Because you like your drug of choice you are ok with it being legal, but other people can get fucked. Do you really think people are protected from drugs by making them illegal?

Have you ever given a moments thought to the death and destruction that comes from the War on Drugs itself? Do you have any notion of what a powerful weapon it has become in the war on humanity?

Or are you just a sanctimonious narcissistic nanny-stater? This madness continues because of support from people like you, you twit.


> Your non reply confirms my guess. Because you like your drug of choice you are ok with it being legal, but other people can get fucked.

Alcohol is not my drug of choice. You're assuming a lot here...

> Do you really think people are protected from drugs by making them illegal?

Do I think prosecuting individuals for using drugs makes sense? Not at all, and that has never been my argument here.

I don't want Meth4U Inc. getting people hooked on meth, ruining their lives, and making a massive profit off of them. That is unconscionable.

So decriminalize the use of all drugs. I don't care. I never said I did. Going after individual users is a ridiculous waste of money and human capital.

However, I feel very strongly that the manufacture and sale of dangerous drugs like meth and heroin (or cigarettes) should not be tolerated by society. Will people still find a way to get away with it? Probably, but it's quite a bit harder to make and keep a profit if it's illegal.

> Or are you just a sanctimonious narcissistic nanny-stater?

I think that profiting off of human suffering is not something society should ever tolerate. If that makes me a "nanny-stater", so be it.


> The _abuse_ of anything is bad. Alcohol is still a societal danger. If you really want to protect people you should make it illegal.

There is a huge difference between things that are fatal if abused, and things that are fatal if used as intended.

Surely you must see the difference?


crazy libertarians always find their way into every discussion. try not to get so worked up bud.


So, what do you say about McDonalds?


> So, what do you say about McDonalds?

Come on...

Same answer: _Abuse_ of food kills people.

Occasionally eating McDonalds on road trips isn't good for you, sure, but it's not going to meaningfully harm you in the long run unless you do it frequently.

I've read articles pointing to physically addictive effects of fast food, but comparing that to nicotine is silly.


OK, first, leave children out of this discussion. That's a play on emotions and doesn't belong in a discussion about what consenting adults should or shouldn't be allowed to do. As with all things children related, we can have different laws for them; giving children drugs is victimizing them as they're not capable of making those choices legally or emotionally.

Now, to your point. No one forced anyone to try drugs; I reject any notion that you're your own victim. If you choose to put something in your body, that's a choice, you were not victimized by anyone. That it can and does often ruin people both physiologically and financially are called consequences of your actions. No one forced you, there is no victim here.


> OK, first, leave children out of this discussion. That's a play on emotions

I'm not meaning to play emotions; however, I don't think you can just write it off: if all drugs were legalized, you would see use among youth increase (just as you would likely see an increase in any other subset of the population).

> If you choose to put something in your body, that's a choice, you were not victimized by anyone.

For me, very physiologically addictive substances are a different category: in that case, you have somebody with full knowledge of the danger and addictiveness of the drug knowingly enticing others to start using it with the end goal of causing them to become addicted and making a lot of money off of them. I see that as a very low form of extortion.

I will not try meth because, despite whatever curiosity I have about the drug's effects, I know I am probably not capable of willing my way out of a very real physical addiction. Somebody less educated and rational is much more likely to say, "Sure, I'll try it once", and go downhill from there. For me, that person is being victimized. Sure, they made the decision, but it was an uninformed one.

Now, I have no idea how to solve that problem. I think that the US's ridiculous drug policy probably ruins more lives than the drugs would if they were legal. But whenever I think about blanket legalization, I can't escape feeling uneasy about the above.


Then offer medical help, but outlawing drugs is a failed solution and that applies to all drugs. Prohibition creates more problems than it solves and it makes the state an enemy of its own citizens. Prohibition doesn't work, it does not work.

That uneasy feeling is called cognitive dissonance, you're realizing the propaganda you've been fed is wrong but you haven't yet accepted its complete failure even though you know it intellectually.


You didn't leave religion or sex out of the discussion, so getting ticked off at someone else's pandering seems a bit hypocritical.


I didn't get ticked off, and religion and sex are relevant, children are not as I've been clear about "between consenting adults" for precisely this reason.


In Internet argument fashion, a bunch of people will just jump all over you, and take your words through every useless permutation of meaning they can think of, for which they can contrive a shallowly plausible counterargument. I grow more and more convinced that very few people read to comprehend.


I understood what he said. But nice fallacious empty message here. Tell me how you define victimless? How do you define violent? Which one is easier to define in court? Or would you rather just invade discussions with fallacies and attacking the messenger? Also didn't you just jump all over my message?


> I grow more and more convinced that very few people read to comprehend.

As do I. I find myself continually defending things I didn't say because people are more concerned with arguing with what they think I meant rather than reading what I actually said.


Fraud is non-violent but people are hurt by it.


So would you rather have the fraudster go to jail costing the tax payers 30k per year, or have them out and working to make back that money?

If you like the former then fraudsters allow the entire taxpayer base to absorb their fraud with a fee on top to keep them locked up (more losses), that will happen either way but it would be nice if they were working for that back rather than locked up.

If you commit fraud you are also marked for some time after like probation but no jail time unless you repeat offend or cause violence. Making fraudsters work is probably more of a fear than jail for some.


Should Bernie Madoff have gone to jail? I think so. There's no way he would have worked off his debt.


There is no way to work off a debt that big. But adding 30k plus per year to that debt (probably much higher for his luxury suite) is even worse. His debt to society is being paid with more debt to society.

What Bernie should have to do is work for x amount of years at a lowly job, or some job that he'd never take in life to earn back as much as he can during his sentence outside of the prison (not talking about a debtors prison but fraud). Financial fraud would re-think if they needed to work at McDonalds for years after during their sentence rather than their comfy suite. It is not like they wouldn't also be marked just like a normal locked up criminal is.


The point isn't paying off his debt (neither are fines, by the way). The points include justice, deterrence, and rehabilitation, depending on your moral viewpoint.

Also, what you describe is basically indentured servitude, which is a pretty old-fashioned form of punishment.


I am not talking about debtors prison, that is someone who goes to prison to pay off debts because they are in over their head and becomes a servant. I am talking about rehabilitation for a crime committed against others who worked hard for their money. There is a difference.

If you run a ponzi scheme, you are incurring large debtors prison type effects on others (taking their rights they earned -- they lose their hard earned money and have to work harder to get it back). The punishment should be the same for ponzi fraudsters at that level. They need to work throughout their sentence at a job to feel what they have done to others. They would also maybe get more insight out of it and rehabilitate more in life feeling the effects of what they have done. I am talking about cases for high profile fraud, again not debt prison for non-criminals but more like a fine that fits the crime just as we do today with that not costing us room and board.

What would be better for a guy like Bernie Madoff? Sitting in an everything provided cushy prison after stealing everyone's money or having to work back that debt through a job in society? He'd get alot more rehabilitation seeing how hard it is for the duration of his sentence. It will never happen but it is more closely rehabilitation than sitting in a prison costing tax payers even more. It would also keep him away from other high profile criminals. Locking him up and costing yearly to do so might make some feel good but it is a net loss further in many cases.


1. Can everyone come to an agreement about what counts as a victim?

2. Maybe no victimless crime should result in jail time, but there are a lot of penalties for "victimless" crimes (tax evasion, illegal production of controlled substances) that justly result in fines.

EDIT: OK. I typed too quickly with the child support bit. In retrospect, that was a bad example. I also added scare quotes to emphasize that justice can be served in criminal court even if nobody goes to jail.


Tax evasion hurts society as a whole by reducing available resources for the programs that aid our country, and failure to provide child support harm the children and mothers that the child support was intended for in much the same way. Neither of these are victimless crimes. Victimless crimes are typically things that only harm the person/people involved in the crime, i.e. prostitution, recreational drug use, or gambling.


> Tax evasion hurts society as a whole by reducing available resources for the programs that aid our country

That argument only works if taxation provides a net benefit to society.


> That argument only works if taxation provides a net benefit to society.

How about this one then: At any given level of government spending and borrowing, tax evasion requires higher taxes to be imposed on those not engaged in tax evasion.


That is making the assumption that government spending is constant irrespective of tax revenue. If tax rates and public debt remain constant then tax avoidance will lead government spending to fall. This may mean fewer immoral actions conducted by the government such as wars or arresting people for victimless crimes. In this way, tax evasion can be not only harmless but a moral imperative.


Do you not see where this is going? You could make exactly the same argument in favor of stealing government property.


Tax evasion hurts society as a whole because you're free loading off the system and stealing from your fellow citizens who are paying their taxes.

This argument is valid regardless of whether taxes benefit society or not.


>stealing from your fellow citizens who are paying their taxes.

You are confusing who is stealing from whom.


No I'm really not; taxes are perfectly constitutional. Call it theft if you like but you're just being ridiculous.


Theft existed before the constitution, and the constitution didn't change what it means.


Property is a social construct, society decides what is or isn't theft, not you. Taxation is not theft, and I'm not interested in the least in debating this, it's childish. You don't believe in government, I get it, and I don't care.


I believe in government, I just don't approve of it, because I believe it has a net negative impact on society. My primary concern is not whether you or anyone else cares about my option, but rather what sort of societal organization might have the most positive impact on society.


Tax evasion and failure to provide child support are perfect examples of crimes with real victims. The perpetrator is victimizing society, and their own child in these cases.

Do you have some better examples you would like to use?


I was unclear, but I didn't necessarily agree with those examples, so I added scare quotes. My point was that there should be some crimes that result in fines but not jail time.

Better examples? Practicing medicine without a license (assuming good medicine otherwise). Trespassing (assuming no other damages). Criminal endangerment (assuming no actual harms). Production of controlled substances. Ownership (not use) of unlicensed firearms.

Again, I don't necessarily agree that those are all victimless. The point is that they are arguably benign crimes that shouldn't necessarily require jail time.


I said should never result in jail or criminal charges; civil courts should handle such issues. However, not paying support has a clear victim, the mother and child that have to do without what they legally have a right to. Ditto for tax evasion, you're robbing your fellow citizens.


There is a victim when child support is not provided: the child(ren).


I'd assume you do agree that excessive speeding constitutes a crime as a it raises the chances of inflicting injury on others. If there was a statistical link between a drug and increasing the chance of the user committing violence would you still consider drugs victimless?

I raise the point as someone who is quite happy to support marijuana and alcohol use, but believe the definition of victimless is not an easy one.


Raising the chances of is not at all the same as happened. Excessive speeding can be a civil violation punishable by fines, not jail. Civil infraction != crime.

> If there was a statistical link between a drug and increasing the chance of the user committing violence would you still consider drugs victimless

Yes I would. Consuming drugs never creates a victim, that is an indisputable fact, you cannot victimize yourself. If you commit violence against another person, that's already illegal and already punishable and is a crime regardless of why you did it.

Drug use is not drug abuse and we don't need pre-crime in our world. Punish people who actually do the bad things, not those who might do something bad, otherwise we should start locking up all poor people because they might statistically commit more crimes than the rich. This is a dangerous line of thinking.


Is there any action that is potentially dangerous enough that an instance of it in which no one happened to be harmed should be a criminal offense?

Say I walk down the street firing a gun randomly, but I don't strike anyone with a bullet. Civil remedies only?


I think we have laws that cover those cases. Attempted murder not being the same as actual murder even though the only difference might be bad aim and all that.

If by firing randomly you were assured nobody else would be hurt, would anyone still care? The real problem with firing randomly is that you can't ensure nobody will get hurt.

Taking drugs is two steps removed from that. The idea being that by taking drugs, you are more likely to walk down the street firing a gun randomly, therefore a criminal. Doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.


> Say I walk down the street firing a gun randomly, but I don't strike anyone with a bullet. Civil remedies only?

Why not? If you are in actual fact endangering people then you are risking the severe criminal penalties that would be imposed if you hit someone. That is enough to deter anyone acting rationally. On the other hand, if you are not deterred because you have somehow ensured that your actions will cause no damage, why should your actions be prohibited?


Incentives that apply perfectly to rational actors have a pretty poor track record of influencing human behavior in the desired way.


Yes. The fact that no one was hurt should make it not a criminal offense, maybe it's still severely punished civilly, but it should not incur being jailed.


> I'd assume you do agree that excessive speeding constitutes a crime as a it raises the chances of inflicting injury on others.

That is a poor assumption. The government is incompetent (and corrupt) to choose what course of action best manages risk.

The better answer is to make people (and their insurance carriers) liable for the damage they actually cause. If you drive too fast and kill someone, you should be liable for a Very Large sum of money. If you drive 90MPH and cause no damage, you should be left to your devices. If driving fast has a high correlation to causing damage then insurance companies will figure out a way to charge higher premiums to people who take more risks (with risks defined scientifically by statisticians rather than corruptly by politicians), and the higher premiums will either deter the risky behavior to the extent that the damage caused by the risk is in excess of the value of getting there faster to the driver, or alternatively cause the driver to pay money in the amount necessary to compensate for the risk being imposed on others.

There is no need for criminal penalties, which do nothing but create animosity between the police and the population, encourage lawbreaking, encourage the police to issue unwarranted citations (and set inappropriate speed limits or unsafely short yellow lights) in order to generate revenue, etc.

The same applies to illicit drug use. If there are negative externalities then require purchasers to carry insurance, or impose a tax, and use the money to mitigate or compensate for the damage actually caused.


How do we estimate a fair market price on what the average person is willing to be paid to be hit? Let's not forget to price in what people would accept for you taking away a loved one through reckless behaviour. I'd hazard in a lot of cases the cost they would settle for given a choice would be your blood. Maybe a fair market value considering this fact is your time in jail.


Society is obviously willing to accept a certain level of loss of life as the cost of faster transportation, otherwise we wouldn't have motor vehicles whatsoever.

You can't actually give someone your life. Killing the perpetrator doesn't bring back the victim, it's just revenge. And revenge is never justice.

What benefits the victim more? Setting the perpetrator on fire, or making the perpetrator [carry insurance sufficient to] pay the victim the most accurate estimate we can make of the monetary value of the damage caused? I know people hate assigning dollar figures to human life, but in the absence of some technology capable of resurrecting the deceased, how else do you propose to compensate the victim's loved ones?


The point is that value is not directly mutable for a person. For instance you would probably happily give up all your property in exchange for surviving something that would otherwise kill you but would not do the same for some John Doe. Just like the victims may be happy to exchange the wrongful death fee in exchange for punishment and a millionaire might happily pay a wrongful death fee to drive around town so drunk that he can't stand up.

Then there is the key point that jail costs time which is proportional to the individual fined rather than the victim. In a proportional payment system there would be an even larger perverse incentive to get hit by moneyed people if the fine was in anyway punitive.

"But it costs society to incarcerate and is a net negative from the point after the accident on", Yes but we decided that prisoners shouldn't incur debt for being imprisoned for some very good reasons.

What of the victims? What benefits the victims more than giving them money after the fact is reducing the risk of it happening in the first place. A payment system has either a more harsh proportional punishment than the current system to decrease this happening further, or reckless driving will increase because it is more tenable for the drivers (or people are irrational when assessing jail time and money as punishment and the deterrent affect is not proportional).

So my main point is while I agree that it may be utilitarian to lower the cost to society after the fact there can be even more utility to play the ultimatum game before the event.


Microeconomics 101.

Better enforcement leads to higher prices leads to a more profitable black market profits leads to more criminal behavior.

BTW when people say "foo 101" they usually mean "it is basic". But this time that really was the course where I learned this. (Black markets are an elementary application of supply/demand curves.)


Better enforcement leads to higher prices because costs of trafficking increase substantially. The higher prices are necessary to maintain profit margins, so they don't lead to a more profitable black market. Rather, as history has actually shown us, it leads to worse profit margins, followed by mergers and "acquisitions" between cartels. In LA and other Southwestern cities, increase enforcement has even prompted drug gangs to shift to less enforced income streams, such as prostitution.


Not quite. Better enforcement leads to reduced supply. Reduced supply shifts you to a higher price on the demand curve.

Typically for a black market that will wind up being a higher profit margin, and the margin is required to tempt people to run the risks of enforcement. The better the enforcement, the higher the risk, and the better the profit margin that is needed to get people to do it.

The consolidation that you are referring to happens because there are substantial economies of scale to be had for importing and distributing illegal commodities. Particularly once you add into the picture the fact that criminal organizations do their own anti-competitive enforcement...


TFA lets the general off too easily. Sure, he's not the one who originally decided to waste our lives and resources on prohibition, but he does exhibit the typical officer-class moar is bettar antithinking. If you replace the 10' fence with a 20' fence, they'll just bring a longer ladder. If you deploy more helicopters, they'll change tactics so that helicopters aren't so effective. In the meantime, the taxpayer has purchased a bunch of unnecessary helicopters. I'm sure that's good for someone.


We don't have a black-market problem, we have a demand problem: if people didn't demand drugs, there wouldn't be a market at all.


You seem to be implying that we should focus on reducing demand. That could be true, but "X implies Y" does not necessarily imply that the best way of eliminating Y is to eliminate X. For instance, "We don't have a murder problem, we have a "people exist" problem."


We don't have a black-market problem, we have a people problem: if people didn't misuse drugs, there wouldn't be a problem at all.


Is doubly embarrassing when you realise that the side that is winning the war on drugs is totally wrecked all the time.


The line between legitimate enterprise and an illegal business is perhaps thinner than that between genius and insanity.

Of course the US has a black-market problem. I have meet many young businessmen who just ignore the law because the legal landscape is too complex. And I cannot blame them for their actions.


A black market by definition is a free system. Doing anything to the contrary (i.e. applying any policies regarding exchange) will naturally foster it.


Yep. A black market is actually a solution to the problem of trade restrictions.




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