Category Archives: Culture

Cato Report: Portugal’s Seven Year Experiment with Drug Decriminalization “a Resounding Success”

greenwald_whitepaper

In July of 2001, Portugal tried something which would horrify policy makers the world over: the decriminalization of all drugs. As a result, Portugal turned into a country overrun with drugs, stoners, drug tourists, and criminals…right?

Not according to a report by Cato’s Glenn Greenwald entitled Drug Decriminalization in Portugal: Lessons for Creating Fair and Successful Drug Policies. Greenwald concludes:

“The data show that, judged by virtually every metric, the Portuguese decriminalization framework has been a resounding success. Within this success lie self-evident lessons that should guide drug policy debates around the world.”

While this result may shock most people, this comes as no surprise to Libertarians. The question is, will the rest of the world learn from Portugal’s experiment with drug decriminalization?

More Information on this report:

Click here to view the Cato policy forum event related to this report.

Keeping What What We Make Away From the Tax-man

The furor over the Tea Party movement has been quite exciting. While I love watching government officials and their sycophantic propagandists energetically denounce people for daring to suggest that people should be permitted to keep their earnings, I, like others, think the protests – in and of themselves – are insufficient to meaningfully change the vampire economy that has seized the U.S. in its fangs.

The people protesting are not, however, wrong. The basis of a free society is the independence of the people: their ability to choose how to conduct their lives, what professions they will pursue, where they will live, how they will order their lives. The more resources a person has at their disposal, the wider the range of choices available to them. Freedom from taxation is as fundamental a human right as choosing whom we love. Obviously, for the majority of us, freedom from taxation will never actually happen, instead if you’re wanting to have more resources at your disposal, and have a wider range of choices available to do as you please in your life, instead of no longer wanting to pay taxes – taking a look at something like these 8 tricks to improve your finances could possibly leave you feeling more fulfilled as well as more financially stable. At the end of the day those taxes help your government and people that are much less fortunate, so why would you want to stop paying them?

The protesters are, however, seemingly oblivious to the real problem, the control the state has over the institutions of finance, banking and trade. It is this control that not only allows the state to plunder without any limits, but also encourages people to acquire wealth through dishonest means – through rent seeking, wealth distribution, or other forms of special privilege.

If we wish to be a free people, we must build the institutions and the cultural habits that encourage individuals to amass these resources through peaceful commerce and production. The fundamental act by which people stockpile these resources is called saving. In a simple economy, such as an agrarian one, the importance of having people stockpiling seed-corn, or hay for feeding their herds during winters or periods of famine is obvious to everyone.

In a complex economy, people typically stockpile money, since there is a degree of uncertainty as to how those savings will be put to use in the future, and money is provides them with the most options when looking to consume savings to satisfy some present need. Unfortunately, people have stopped saving, largely because the current monetary regime makes saving a sucker’s game. A dollar stuffed under a mattress exponentially loses its value. A dollar deposited in a bank also steadily loses value, albeit at a lower rate; the bank typically makes up much but not all of the losses do to inflation by paying interest.

The story of the 20th and 21st centuries are, if nothing else, the capture of the banking system by the state. It is becoming increasingly difficult for people to amass wealth that is securely theirs. Bank accounts can be confiscated. Their money can be held hostage via a banking holiday. Regulators can learn intimate details of the private affairs of individuals by reviewing the banks’ records.

Those of us who wish to reverse the trend towards an ever more powerful and intrusive state must take the lead to restoring the ability of people to stockpile savings.

How can we do this? There are several ways:

  • Create new forms of money that are easily stockpiled. This does not have to be gold and silver, but can be things like cell-phone minutes
  • Create new markets to trade without interference
  • Create new systems for storing forms of money safely

Building these institutions will not be easy. They cannot be imposed from outside. They cannot depend on some messianic leader to encourage their adoption. They must attract users who have no interest in the political agenda, but because they satisfy the users’ personal needs. It is important to bear in mind that this regime has existed so long that for most of us who are alive today have no idea that it could ever be otherwise. Furthermore, the public is the target of a pretty comprehensive propaganda campaign that pervades all forms of mass media that distorts history and aggrandizes the growth of the state. At this point, the vast majority of people are absolutely convinced that a free society is at best doomed to economic collapse and in all likelihood a violent, brutish, dog-eat-dog dystopia.

While I don’t have a particular “magic bullet” to restore the vital freedom to amass wealth without having to fear government confiscation or debasement, I do have some suggestions:

  • Accept as wide a variety of currencies and goods as payment as you can.
  • Likewise be prepared to proffer as wide a variety of goods and currencies as possible.
  • Store some of your savings in places that others do not have access to. Limit knowledge about the size of your savings on a strict need to know basis. Loose lips sink ships! (NB. Safety Deposit Boxes don’t count; FDR had his thugs systematically go through people’s safety deposit boxes throughout the country, confiscating the newly illegal gold) .
  • Do not cooperate with the state any more than your conscience, or willingness to engage in civil disobediance permits. Keep in mind, though, that principled non-cooperation with the state can easily lead to being thrown in jail, beaten, or even murdered.
  • Keep your eyes peeled for new ways of doing business, new products, and new marketplaces that increase your independence. When you find something, publicize it as widely as is appropriate.

In the end, the current system cannot last. The United States Government is consuming resources at a rate that is unsustainable. Using the collapse of other states as a guide, it is quite likely that its officers will wreck a large portion of the U.S. economy in their efforts to delay the inevitable. How destructive the collapse is, how vulnerable people are to the destructive edicts issued by government officials will be a function of how well we do in fostering the growth of alternate institutions. Shielding ourselves from harm is but a first step. If we wish to avoid experiencing that which Germans did 100 years ago – the destruction of an enlightened culture by a voracious predatory state leading to totalitarianism, death and war (see here for the illustrated version)- we must also figure out how to shield our neighbors too.

So I have a homework assignment for you, dear reader, what will you do to build the institutions that make it easier for you and your neighbors to keep what they make away from the tax-man?

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

You are “The Rich”, and you didn’t even know it

Video From Reason.TV:

A lot of folks hear numbers like “the top 5%” of income earners, and they think that means Bill Gates, and fortune 500 CEOs etc…

No, although that’s exactly what the government, and the media, would love for you to believe.

It’s how they pit us against one another. It is a very deliberate divide and conquer strategy for class warfare; and the fact that 52 million people voted for it shows just how well it’s working.

It works, because “The Rich” is always the other guy. You aren’t “The Rich” after all, you’re “working class” or “middle class” whatever those mean (and who exactly says the “middle class” don’t work?).

Nobody wants to pay more taxes (well, except some of the extreme left), and very few people would vote to increase their own taxes; so they employ this class warfare rhetoric to get you to support tax increases on “The Rich”, which will supposedly favor you, and “the less fortunate”.

The only problem is, according to the government, there’s a pretty good chance that You (yes You, with a capital “Y”) ARE “The Rich”.

How can that be? They’re always talking about the “top 1%” or the “top 5%”, and again people start thinking about Bill Gates, and bank CEOs, and Wall Street traders…

Actually, the top 5% likely includes a lot of folks you know. Theres a fair chance it includes you. It almost certainly includes people you interact with every day.

When we get down to as low as say, the top 15%, most folks would think that got to be people making like $250,000 a year right?

No, actually people who make $250,000 a year are the top 1% (in fact, anyone over about $180,000 a year is in the top 1%. $250,000 puts you into the top .8% or so).

Wait a sec… the top 1% is just $180,000 a year?

Yes, yes it is.

The estimated individual income numbers for 2008 (actuals wont be available for another two years. Also don’t confuse these with household numbers, which account for multiple incomes) look like this:

The “top 1%” of earners in this country, is everyone who makes over about $180,000 a year.

The top 5% is everyone who makes over about $152,000 a year

In case you were interested, $100,000 is the top 5.63%

The top 10% is everyone who makes over $76,000 per year.

The top 15% is everyone who makes over about $64,000 a year.

The top 25% is everyone who makes over about $46,000 a year.

The top 50% is everyone who makes over about $32,000 a year.

So when somebody says “we’re going to tax the richest 15% to pay for the other 85%” what they’re really saying is anyone who makes more than $32 an hour.

Ayup, if you make more than $32 an hour, guess what, YOU are “The Rich”.

If they say “we’re going to tax the richest 25%” that means anyone who makes more than $23 an hour.

So, let me ask you, are you rich?

The top 15% pay more than 85% of all income taxes.

The top 50% pay more than 96% of all income taxes.

The bottom 50%, pay less than 4%.

The bottom 40% pay nothing at all.

The bottom 30% are actually PAID BY THE GOVERNMENT (and I don’t mean civil servants).

Plumbers, carpenters, electricians, mechanics, pretty much anyone with more than 10 years experience in any mid-level or higher job, in any professional career field or trade; that most likely puts you into the top 15% or so. Are you rich?

If you own your own business, the government ALMOST CERTAINLY classifies you as earning in the top 10% or higher… of course how much of that you actually KEEP is another story. Are you rich?

If you’re reading this right now, demographically speaking, it’s very likely you are in the top 15%. Are you rich?

If you have a college degree, live in or near a major city, and have more than 10 years experience in your career field, you are very likely to be in the top 5%, and almost certainly in the top 15%. Are you rich?

I’ll tell you right now, I’m in the top 5% of income earners, and with my wifes income we’re in the top 5% of household earners (in fact, the top 3%); and we are very definitely not rich.

We don’t live an extravagant lifestyle. We have a 1600 square foot house in an old neighborhood in Scottsdale (not one of the McMansion areas), two used cars that were both under $30,000 each when we bought them, and we send our two kids to Catholic school that’s subsidized by the parish, or else we couldn’t afford it. We don’t have a vacation home; no RV, no boat, no vacations to Switzerland every six months…

We’re not rich.

As far as the government is concerned though, we are “The Rich”.

In fact, it’s very likely that you are “The Rich” too.

What they’re really saying when they talk about “taxing the rich”, is taxing you. Because as far as the government is concerned, unless you’re taking money from them, hey, YOU’RE RICH.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Reforming America’s Prison System: The Time Has Come

Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) in his recent article calling for a major reform of America’s prisons in Parade Magazine brought some very disturbing, eye opening, statistics about America’s prison system to light. In summary this is some of what he found:

-Since 1984, America’s prison population has quadrupled from 580,000 to 2.3 million

-Though the U.S. accounts for 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. accounts for 25% of the world’s reported prisoners

-Local, state, and federal spending on corrections costs the U.S. taxpayer about $68 billion annually* (California spent nearly $10 million on corrections last year by itself!)

-16% (350,000) adults in prison or jail are mentally ill

-3/4 of drug offenders in state prisons are non-violent offenders or in prison solely for drug offenses

-47.5% of all drug arrests in the U.S. were fore marijuana offenses

-Despite insignificant statistical differences regarding drug use among races, Blacks (accounting for 12% of the U.S. population) account for 37% of all drug arrests, 59% of which are convicted and account for 74% of all drug offenders sentenced to prison

Perhaps for the “tough on crime” types, this is all good news but for anyone else who thinks critically of these statistics, I would expect that most would be concerned if not horrified. In response to these statistics, Sen. Webb makes the following observation:

“With so many of our citizens in prison compared with the rest of the world, there are only two possibilities: Either we are home to the most evil people on earth or we are doing something different–and vastly counterproductive.”

For regular consumers of the evening news, it may seem that the first possibility could be true. Without fail, the evening news reports stories of violence, vandalism, kidnapping, rape, child molestation, and murder both locally and nationally. There is also no shortage of true crime programs** detailing the most heinous crimes one could imagine being committed against other human beings; it’s all very disturbing. Our jails and prisons surely must be overflowing from these creeps!

One would think that roving bands of murderous thugs are on every street in America, yet we each almost always make it to and from work, to and from running errands and eating out unmolested. Our odds of being killed in an auto accident*** are many times greater than being victim to this roving band of murderous thugs. How can this be? In most auto accidents, the victim may try to find an accident attorney to seek legal advice or take legal action.

While we should each be vigilant and aware of our surroundings and always use common sense, the perception that our prisoners are overflowing with mostly violent criminals just isn’t true. Figure 1 shows the U.S. prison population under the purview of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. The BOP population accounts for 202,493 of America’s 2.3 million prisoners.

Figure 1

Source: Bureau of Prisons as of February 2009

Source: Bureau of Prisons as of February 2009


» Read more

Open Thread Question of the Day: How Can We Fix Our Prisons?

Our prison system, holding nearly 25% of the worlds reported prisoners, may seem like an April fool’s joke but certainly is not a laughing matter. I’m in the early stages of writing a post in response to Sen. Jim Webb’s (D-VA) recent article in Parade entitled: Why We Must Fix Our Prisons.

Sen. Webb is looking for some recommendations on how to reform the prison system so I thought it would be interesting to solicit some ideas from readers and fellow Liberty Papers contributors. The following is the specific questions Sen. Webb wants to answer:

I am now introducing legislation that will create a national commission to look at every aspect of our criminal justice system with an eye toward reshaping the process from top to bottom. I believe that it is time to bring together the best minds in America to confer, report, and make specific recommendations about how we can reform the process. This commission will be tasked with giving us clear answers to hard questions, including:

Why are so many Americans currently in prison compared with other countries and our own history?

What is this policy costing our nation, both in tax dollars and in lost opportunities?

How can we reshape our nation’s drug policies?

How can we better diagnose and treat mental illness?

How can we end violence within prisons and increase the quality of prison administrators?

How can we build workable re-entry programs so that our communities can assimilate former offenders and encourage them to become productive citizens?

How can we defend ourselves against the growing scourge of violent, internationally based gang activity?

The more specific your answers, the better. I’ll refrain from posting here as I will answer these questions and more in my upcoming post.

1 47 48 49 50 51