Quotes Suitable for Framing: William Graham Sumner

Sunday, December 22, AD 2013

 

 

The type and formula of most schemes of philanthropy or humanitarianism is this: A and B put their heads together to decide what C shall be made to do for D.  The radical vice of all these schemes, from a sociological point of view, is that C is not allowed a voice in the matter,  and his position, character, and interests, as well as the ultimate effects on society through C’s interests, are entirely overlooked.  I call C the Forgotten Man.  For once let us look him up and consider his case, for the characteristic of all social doctors is, that they fix their minds on some man or group of men whose case appeals to the sympathies and the imagination, and they plan remedies addressed to the particular trouble; they do not understand that all the parts of society hold together, and that forces which are set in action act and react throughout the whole organism, until an equilibrium is produced by a re-adjustment of all interests and rights.  They therefore ignore entirely the source from which they must draw all the energy which they employ in their remedies, and they ignore all the effects on other members of society than the ones they have in view.  They are always under the dominion of the superstition of government, and, forgetting that a government produces nothing at all, they leave out of sight the first fact to be remembered in all social discussion – that the State cannot get a cent for any man without taking it from some other man, and this latter must be a man who has produced and saved it.  This latter is the Forgotten Man.

William Graham Sumner, The Forgotten Man

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10 Responses to Quotes Suitable for Framing: William Graham Sumner

  • Practical example (inspired by Evangelii Gaudium):
    A = Catholic Church
    B= Gov’t of some country (Bangledesh, example)
    C = Major clothing retailer
    D = garmet workers who work for C in the country of B.
    So, let us say that C is making substantial profits on clothing produced by D. The working conditions of D are wretched and lack even the basic safety equipment for a clothing factory of its size: No water sprinkling system to activate in the event of a fire. Only one exit by which dozens and dozens of workers would need to escape in the event of a fire. No management of combustible materials in the vicinity of hot surfaces, etc.
    “A and B put their heads together to decide what C shall be made to do for D.”
    Who better than B is suited for the job of forcing C – against his will – to spend some of his profits to improve the fire safety working conditions of D? The alternative C has is to leave the jurisdiction of B (which we can explore later). The required improvements are easily affordable from what D is producing there.
    Who better than the leader of A to point out to the faithful their obligation to speak up on behalf of D? And if B won’t listen to A, why not refuse to purchase from C until they make improvements of their own? And if C moves out of the jurisdiction of B, are they beyond the reach of A?
    Evangelii Gaudium says A should take advantage of every opportunity to proclaim the Good News to B, C and D, including via financial and economic interactions.

  • “Who better than B is suited for the job of forcing C – against his will – to spend some of his profits to improve the fire safety working conditions of D?”

    Actually D would be by going on strike. They could then determine what they want: more pay or better working conditions, or a combination of both. Usually there is a trade off in such negotiations between labor and management, with many workers prizing more money above better working conditions. Often what the government wants is not what a majority of workers want when dealing with management directly, rather than government imposing a solution.

    Your analysis of course also overlooks the advantages to B by a growth in the size of government with additional bureaucrats to enforce the Bangladesh Fire Sprinklers’ Act of 2013. Caesar rarely acts out of purely eleemosynary goodness. It also overlooks the members of D who would be unemployed as a result of C paying for the new safety equipment, not to mention the bribes to members of B that are part and parcel of safety regulations as most people who have owned businesses in major cities in this country could attest. Left out from the Equation also are E, potential competitors to C, who will now be priced out of starting up businesses, employing more of D, due to increased costs because of the new safety regulations. Feel good legislation always comes at a price, but A and B in your example could care less, because they will not be paying it.

  • So D’s choices are to organize a union and strike; or quit; or keep working in dangerous conditions that could easily be solved with profits made by C. I am doubtful that D is aware of the danger they are in. No one expects them to be experts in fire safety (or air quality, etc). They just sew garmets.
    And you are saying A has no business telling B or C that their workforce is more precious than the garments they produce and more than a line item on an expense sheet? Benedict XVI (among others) says we should speak up: “Among those who sometimes fail to respect the human rights of workers are large multinational companies as well as local producers.” Caritas in Veritate (22)
    If D opts for more pay in lieu of better conditions, only to die horribly in a fire for that choice, can we as Christians do more than just mourn for a minute and hope that the next batch of workers chooses better?

  • D’s choices are to look out for their interests Spambot and not rely upon government to do it for them. That is almost always a bad option.

    “And you are saying A has no business telling B or C that their workforce is more precious than the garments they produce and more than a line item on an expense sheet?”

    Shorn of your histrionics Spambot, the Church has the perfect right to use moral suasion on anyone. What it normally is an error to do is for the Church to attempt to call upon Caesar to correct social inequities since there are normally a host of unintended consequences when that is done. Consider ObamaCare. Without the desire of Obama to have abortion paid for and to compel employers to pay for contraceptives, I doubt not that most Catholic clergy would have thought ObamaCare was a grand idea. They of course would have been clueless as to all the problems that would ensue. Too often when clerics meddle in these types of matters good intentions are supposed to compensate for calling into play governmental action with evil consequences that the clergy are either unable to predict or simply indifferent to.

    “If D opts for more pay in lieu of better conditions, only to die horribly in a fire for that choice, can we as Christians do more than just mourn for a minute and hope that the next batch of workers chooses better?”

    I rather suspect Spambot that Christians, if they use the brains that God gave them, might come up with much better solutions than depending upon government coercion, and what a weak reed that is to rely upon, to solve problems. For example they could protest the business of D, impose a boycott, patronize his competitors, etc. See, that wasn’t so hard was it? Depending upon Caesar tends to make Christians forget that many evils in this world can be dealt with without yet another government program. Unfortunately the Church in recent times has gotten too used to calling upon Caesar in these matters, which considering the history of relations between the Church and Caesar is remarkably short sighted.

  • and E who will want to be A and B with the power to push C and D around. Involuntary charity is extortion. The virtue of charity is a voluntary practice of the individual person. The bishops may encourage people to charity but to submit the people to the extortion of the state is not good even for the poor, the recipients of the involuntary charity. To impose freedom upon a person without his free will consent is still tyranny. It is still totalitarianism, the state owning the people.
    “if they use the brains that God gave them” to enter into free enterprise and their common sense to govern themselves…they will secure the Blessings of Liberty…”

  • William Graham Sumner seems to gloss over a man’s needs to live and the man’s wishes for what he wants.To give the poor the means to live is Justice. The vineyard owner gave the last hired the same pay, a day’s pay necessary to keep him alive until tomorrow, as the first hired; Justice for the worker and the practice of Justice for the vineyard owner. The last hired wanted to work, intended to work. Giving the man his wishes, no matter how noble, is not required for Justice, only the man’s needs and wants to sustain life are, and that of any and all persons.

  • “The vineyard owner gave the last hired the same pay, a day’s pay necessary to keep him alive until tomorrow, as the first hired;”

    Yep, and he did it all by himself with no input from Caesar. Today the Vineyard Owner, meant to be God in the parable, would find himself up before the National Labor Relations Board for unfair labor practices.

  • In Evangelii Gaudium, in the much discussed paragraph 54 Pope Francis disputes the notion that “economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will by itself succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world.” That is not all the exhortation has to say on the matter.
    In paragraph 199, the pope says we have a bond with the poor: “The poor person, when loved, ‘is esteemed as of great value’ [quoting St. Thomas Aquinas], and this is what makes the authentic option for the poor differ from any other ideology, from any attempt to exploit the poor for one’s own personal or political interest. Only on the basis of this real and sincere closeness can we properly accompany the poor on their path of liberation. … Without the preferential option for the poor, ‘the proclamation of the Gospel, which is itself the prime form of charity, risks being misunderstood or submerged by the ocean of words which daily engulfs us in today’s society of mass communications’.”
    At 205, he quotes Benedict XVI to effect that relationships with the poor form in everyday ways such as within small close-knit groups, but also among large groups who have indirect interactions with each other. I understand these indirect interactions (“macro-relationships”) to include a relationship between the consumer of a particular product and the people who create, sell and distribute the product.
    At 187 comes our responsibility to all those we interact with: “Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society. This demands that we be docile and attentive to the cry of the poor and to come to their aid.” That exhortation does not reduce to ‘give the poor money’. It includes promotion of the cause of the poor when they are helpless to act on their own behalf.
    Again at 191: “In all places and circumstances, Christians, with the help of their pastors, are called to hear the cry of the poor.”
    |
    [None of this requires the big hand of government. I’m getting to that.]
    |
    At 203, the pope has praise for employers and entrepreneurs, calling it a “noble vocation”, especially when they promote the common good. I presume that the common good includes creation of good jobs, which is a form of economic growth and fulfills his plea for ‘liberation and promotion of the poor’.
    In fact at 192, he explains: “We are not simply talking about ensuring nourishment or a ‘dignified sustenance’ for all people, but also their ‘general temporal welfare and prosperity’.” [quoting Pope John XXIII]
    At 204, we are reminded that “growth in justice requires more than economic growth.”
    At 182 and 183, Christians must intervene, as necessary, to promote the common good, this growth in justice. “No one can demand that religion should be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without influence on societal and national life, without concern for the soundness of civil institutions, without a right to offer an opinion on events affecting society. … For the Church’s social thought is primarily positive: it offers proposals, it works for change and in this sense it constantly points to the hope born of the loving heart of Jesus Christ.”
    |
    If we purchase a product and if we have knowledge that people were exploited unjustly in the process of bringing that product to market, but we go through with that transaction anyway, then we have failed in a significant obligation. That is my read of Evangelii Gadium. If we can act without government getting bigger or more powerful, that would be great, but we still have an obligation.

  • “In Evangelii Gaudium, in the much discussed paragraph 54 Pope Francis disputes the notion that “economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will by itself succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world.” That is not all the exhortation has to say on the matter.”

    Actually the Pope says it never brings it about. He is factually incorrect on that. Increasing prosperity as a result of free markets have routinely improved the material conditions of people, something the Pope just does not want to acknowledge at all. In his explanation of 54 in the La Stampa interview he said, “Instead what happens when it is full to the brim, the glass magically grows, and thus nothing comes forth for the poor.” The Pope simply does not know what he is talking about in this area.

    “In paragraph 199, the pope says we have a bond with the poor: “The poor person, when loved, ‘is esteemed as of great value’ [quoting St. Thomas Aquinas], and this is what makes the authentic option for the poor differ from any other ideology, from any attempt to exploit the poor for one’s own personal or political interest. Only on the basis of this real and sincere closeness can we properly accompany the poor on their path of liberation. … Without the preferential option for the poor, ‘the proclamation of the Gospel, which is itself the prime form of charity, risks being misunderstood or submerged by the ocean of words which daily engulfs us in today’s society of mass communications’.”

    The best way of loving most of the poor is to hire them at a job by which they can ultimately gain financial independence. Free markets are the best way to accomplish this.

    “At 205, he quotes Benedict XVI to effect that relationships with the poor form in everyday ways such as within small close-knit groups, but also among large groups who have indirect interactions with each other. I understand these indirect interactions (“macro-relationships”) to include a relationship between the consumer of a particular product and the people who create, sell and distribute the product.”

    Yeah, the check should not bounce by the purchaser so that people get paid their wages, that is the best connection between consumers and those who produce the goods that they are purchasing.

    “At 187 comes our responsibility to all those we interact with: “Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society. This demands that we be docile and attentive to the cry of the poor and to come to their aid.” That exhortation does not reduce to ‘give the poor money’. It includes promotion of the cause of the poor when they are helpless to act on their own behalf.”

    The best way to reduce poverty is to support free markets and economic growth. Really, this should not be a controversial proposition.

    “Again at 191: “In all places and circumstances, Christians, with the help of their pastors, are called to hear the cry of the poor.””

    I agree. Christians should demand an end to government policies that restrict economic growth and prevent the flourishing of free trade. That is the only way to cure poverty.
    |
    “[None of this requires the big hand of government. I’m getting to that.]”

    Funny, but when clerics preach on the economy, somehow big government programs usually seem to be their preferred solution. Evangelii Gaudium has several statements that mandate government control of economies.
    |
    “At 203, the pope has praise for employers and entrepreneurs, calling it a “noble vocation”, especially when they promote the common good. I presume that the common good includes creation of good jobs, which is a form of economic growth and fulfills his plea for ‘liberation and promotion of the poor’.”

    Employers could do immensely more of this without the dead hand of the State continually frustrating their efforts. Minimum wage laws alone prevent hordes of start up enterprises coming on line.

    “In fact at 192, he explains: “We are not simply talking about ensuring nourishment or a ‘dignified sustenance’ for all people, but also their ‘general temporal welfare and prosperity’.” [quoting Pope John XXIII]”

    We know how to do that, but the Pope does not like the solution of free markets.

    “At 204, we are reminded that “growth in justice requires more than economic growth.””

    If one is concerned about reducing poverty economic growth is absolutely essential.

    “At 182 and 183, Christians must intervene, as necessary, to promote the common good, this growth in justice. “No one can demand that religion should be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without influence on societal and national life, without concern for the soundness of civil institutions, without a right to offer an opinion on events affecting society. … For the Church’s social thought is primarily positive: it offers proposals, it works for change and in this sense it constantly points to the hope born of the loving heart of Jesus Christ.””

    The bigger the government the less the Church is allowed to play that role, as we are currently finding out in this country.
    |
    “If we purchase a product and if we have knowledge that people were exploited unjustly in the process of bringing that product to market, but we go through with that transaction anyway, then we have failed in a significant obligation. That is my read of Evangelii Gadium. If we can act without government getting bigger or more powerful, that would be great, but we still have an obligation.”

    People who are forced to work at gunpoint I agree with you. It is shameful that the products of Chinese labor camps are ever allowed to be sold in the West. No trade should be conducted at all with slave states like Cuba or North Korea. Otherwise, I believe that the best way to improve the lot of the poor around the globe is through free markets and trade.

  • “Yep, and he did it all by himself with no input from Caesar. Today the Vineyard Owner, meant to be God in the parable, would find himself up before the National Labor Relations Board for unfair labor practices.”
    Isn’t this precisely why God has been removed from the public square, to give Caesar a free hand at subjecting the people to its power, without Justice, without common sense?

The Forgotten Men & Women of America

Monday, November 26, AD 2012


In 1883, William Graham Sumner published an essay titled “The Forgotten Man” (originally titled “On the Case of a Certain Man Who Is Never Thought Of” – not quite as catchy) which is as relevant today as it was when it was written. The essay is a great exposition of the laissez-faire understanding and approach to social problems and articulates what I believe many on the libertarian right and within the Tea Party believe today. From a Catholic point of view, there is much I find agreeable within it, though there are certain tangents, unnecessary to the main argument, that I would take issue with.

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14 Responses to The Forgotten Men & Women of America

  • “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” – CS Lewis

  • Bureaucracies, militaries, etc. are unproductive but necessary to varying extents.

    No, the civil service and the military perform useful services. They are not, however, services that emerge from market transactions, hence the resort to public agency.

  • Useful does not = productive. Unproductive does not = useless.

  • ” . . . the civil service and the military perform useful services.”

    Truth. The military destroys things and kills people in order to prevent such evils from being inflicted on the citizenry. It does not (since they stopped issuing letters of marque) produce wealth, goods, or servicers. It takes assets, economic resources, wealth from the producers. Similarly, the civil service/bureaucrats do not produce but take from the productive sectors.

    And, above the two are politicians that deal in coersion and fraud; and have devolved into latter-day Gracchi trading bread and circuses for votes.

    Some thoughts:

    This rewards bad behavior.

    See Zerohedge, PA has issued a study showing how a family of four on various welfare entitlements has higher disposable income than the similar family that grosses $69,000 a year.

    There is no such a thing as a free lunch; or something for nothing. Someone pays for it.

    It’s always other people’s money.

    Nations reach breaking points when producers/taxpayers become outnumbered by dependents/tax takers.

    Symptoms of national disaster include the tax-taking segments growing more rapidly than the wealth-producing sectors, they call it “The evil, unjust private sector.” In 2011, the US national debt grew by more than did the evil, unjust private sector GDP, and that is just one part of the increases in government taking.

    Voting for abortionists, sodomists, and class hate-mongers (they promise to take more from somebody else that you hate whom they charge isn’t paying his “fair share”) to feed the Obama-voting moron bloc is not one of the Corporal Works of Mercy.

    Let’s have some fun. List the public utils produced by various bureaucracies.

    I’ll start with the EPA: higher prices for elecricity, gasoline, home heating oil; and shortages to boot.

    Feel free to jump in.

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  • Seeing as salty truth-tellers of old are the elixir of choice in these parts, I offer, for your edification, from 1872…

    http://archive.org/details/publicschooleduc00ml

    Michael Muller, while a favourite of some (what are now thought to be) fringe Catholic groups, has in his other works great insights into prayer and the faith. Well worth a read, IMHO. Deeply rooted in the 32nd Doctor of the Church, St. Alphonsus Liguori.

  • “Vice is its own curse. If we let nature alone, she cures vice by the most frightful penalties.”

    He ignores the penalties inflicted on the innocent bystanders. No man is an island. No action happens in a vacuum. Every vice has a societal cost. The idea of victimless crime is non-reality.

    You read Sumner’s quote and see an affirmation of natural law. I see a justification of natural selection, which wouldn’t be surprising since such thought was rising to the forefront of academic thought in his time.

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  • Darren O.,

    I’m familiar with Michael Muller. He’s the theological equivalent of 90-proof alcohol – drink it only if you’re sure you can handle it.

    Kyle,

    Some things labeled “victimless crimes” really do have victims. Others really are harmless. Marijuana does not post a greater risk to society than alcohol; both should be prohibited or both should be legalized. In my opinion, both should be legal, not one person ought to ever be molested by the state for possessing or indulging in them. We can and should still punish crimes resulting from intoxication, but not everyone, not even the majority, will abuse these substances to the point that they pose an actual threat to someone else (to the point where the police need to become involved, that is).

    Sumner’s point and mine is that you cannot save people from themselves, and that what motivates the majority of intervention by the state is not so much a concern for society as a self-righteous delusion that enlightened elites will save the lower classes from themselves and elevate them. I reject this fantasy on moral and practical grounds.

  • “Marijuana does not post a greater risk to society than alcohol; both should be prohibited or both should be legalized.”

    There is a point when risks becomes too costly for society. While alcohol comes with its costs, introducing another intoxicant into the market will simply increase the harm incurred. And while the one indulging won’t be prosecuted in a legalize all vices society, everyone else would be punished in some form.

    This is the problem I have with the Ron Paul crowd and its obsession with legalizing narcotics. It is their belief in the license to participate in vices as the ultimate example of real freedom. Their freedom is embracing the worst habits of us and not the free exercise of what makes us a great citizen, community and country.

    “Sumner’s point and mine is that you cannot save people from themselves”

    It’s true the decision to do good or bad ultimately lies with the individual. However, law can have a positive effect in deterring one to do harm to him or herself. Absent the law, the tempted individual sees license to partake of legal activity without a true understanding of serious, even dire, consequences.

    You acknowledge there is a risk to legalization, but your interpretation of Sumner’s point makes risk evaluation pointless. For no matter the risk, you can’t save people from themselves. The result is a society where there are no personal limits. All narcotics are legalized, and no societal costs until harm to another party is done. That’s a difficult argument to make to a mother crying over a child killed by a school bus driver who showed up to work hung over from a crack high.

  • Kyle,

    I question whether or not the costs of prosecuting people for marijuana are greater than the alleged harm that these people cause society. It is a grave thing to take away a person’s freedom, or to otherwise interfere in their life, and it is all done at the expense of the taxpayer (i.e. forgotten man). Is it justifiable to cause real and lasting harm to moderate drug users? Because that is what happens when the state arrests, prosecutes, fines, monitors and ultimately imprisons a man. It is harm to a real individual, who may have dependents, who may be a worker paying taxes, who may have any number of social roles.

    So when you say that the “harm incurred” would be increased, I see that it would be decreased.

    “It is their belief in the license to participate in vices as the ultimate example of real freedom.”

    That’s really just not true. I think Ron Paul and many of us supporters would be the first to acknowledge that those who sin, are slaves to sin, that those who are addicts are not really free. This isn’t about suggesting the best means to personal freedom, but rather defining the role and the limitations of the state and the rights of the individual. We believe people ought to be free to make bad choices, though I honestly don’t see the substantial difference between having a drink (which we all regard as morally neutral, not being Puritans) and smoking a joint.

    It is also about, again, the forgotten man – the taxpayer, who has to cough up the dough to finance the criminal justice system that prosecutes all of these people for their own good. I don’t want my tax dollars spent on this. America was fine when marijuana wasn’t a controlled substance, and it will be fine again when these absurd laws are finally scrapped.

    “However, law can have a positive effect in deterring one to do harm to him or herself. ”

    Whenever you use the word “law”, I see “coercion”, because that is what we are really talking about, and in my view the use of force against a person requires a much greater justification than “they have a bad habit we need to stop for their own good.” And I have to tell you, from personal experience, that I’ve known maybe one, two at the most people who were afraid to smoke marijuana because it was “against the law.” It is a non-factor for most normal human beings. Many more people I knew refused to smoke because of drug tests or even lie detector tests that current or potential employers might subject them to.

    Believe it or not, freedom does work. Because freedom includes the rights of employers not to have potheads for employees, especially when people want to join the police or firefighters or military. This idea of the coercive state as our nanny, telling us what is best for us, though, is a degradation of human dignity. We have enough people throwing away their dignity all on their own, and we don’t need the state adding to it.

    “Absent the law, the tempted individual sees license to partake of legal activity without a true understanding of serious, even dire, consequences.”

    What I just said really proves this false. People lose their jobs, their friends, their money, their homes due to drug addiction. These are punishment enough, and they are all imposed by organic social institutions, not the artificial Leviathan. On the other hand, people who use drugs and can retain all of these things have demonstrated that they have a handle on it, and it is stupid and vindictive to punish them for it.

    “That’s a difficult argument to make to a mother crying over a child killed by a school bus driver who showed up to work hung over from a crack high.”

    She should be mad at the school for not screening their employees. Do you really think a crackhead cares that crack is against the law? To even become a crackhead you would have already have to have broken dozens of laws. Crackheads should be removed from the streets and put in rehabilitation facilities (not prisons where they can be gang-raped by unchecked prison gangs), not because they violated some absurd Puritanical rule against intoxicants, but because they do pose a threat.

    But a casual pot smoker is not a crackhead, and less of a danger than an alcoholic.

  • Hi Bonchamps. Had to step away and get some things done. Back to the discussion…

    You and I agree there are reasonable limits on freedoms. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean you can yell fire in a theater. Right to bear arms doesn’t mean you can possess a nuclear missile in your backyard. The debate is where to draw the line.

    You mentioned the costs to enforce the drug laws as a justification to cease the prohibition. It is my belief that the rightness or wrongness of a law is never based on its enforceability or its costs.

    If we, as a society, decide sex trafficking is wrong and should be illegal, does it matter the cost to enforce it? At what budgetary line does a harmful activity became non-harmful? Is sex trafficking bad when enforcement is $1 million but licit when enforcement costs $1 million + $1?

    How much has been spent on stopping and prosecuting murder? By the legalize narcotics standards, we should cease those laws. They are simply ineffective and too costly. Murderers will murder anyway. Or, is it possible the very existence of the law provides a beneficial deterrence to would be murders?

    You say the drug user’s addiction is punishment enough. If you have known, worked with, lived with, been the victim of, etc. an addict, you know that person is not the only one punished. Those people are the real forgotten men, the trail of victims the addict leaves behind. Those who have to live with the costs incurred by an addict’s habit. Don’t forget those forgotten men.

    In regards to Ron Paul supporters, I know very well how they think and what issues are important to them. The Paulistas rally around narcotic legalization as the ultimate example of freedom. Yet, finding such fervor about the rights of the unborn and religious freedom is virtually silent. They claim to be freedom fighters, but their motivations are really selfish. “Let me smoke my pot. Erase my debts you evil big banks.”

    I could go on and on about the problems of Paulistas. I have 2 in the family and have seen endless postings by them and their friends. You are the sanest one I’ve ever met, probably the only sane one.

  • “You mentioned the costs to enforce the drug laws as a justification to cease the prohibition. It is my belief that the rightness or wrongness of a law is never based on its enforceability or its costs.”

    Well, I don’t share that belief. I think it is morally wrong to not consider the practicality or the costs, because if they are worse than the problem that the policy claims to address, you are imposing unfair and unnecessary burdens on people. Costs matter, especially when you are proposing to confiscate people’s private property to pay them. There is rightness and wrongness to consider every step along the way. When you say you don’t care about costs, you’re basically saying that you don’t care about the consequences of your actions. How is that anything other than sociopathic?

    “If we, as a society, decide sex trafficking is wrong and should be illegal, does it matter the cost to enforce it? ”

    Yes, it does matter. It absolutely matters. There is a hierarchy of needs and priorities. I don’t know exactly where sex trafficking falls on that hierarchy, but I’m pretty sure that there are things higher than it that need to be addressed before that issue can be addressed.

    “How much has been spent on stopping and prosecuting murder? By the legalize narcotics standards, we should cease those laws. They are simply ineffective and too costly. Murderers will murder anyway. Or, is it possible the very existence of the law provides a beneficial deterrence to would be murders?”

    The state exists to protect natural rights. Laws against murder reflect the fact that we have a natural right to life that no man is justified in violating. Laws against marijuana, on the other hand, prevent people from engaging in behavior that AT BEST might theoretically cause someone else harm. At worst they are proposed to save people form themselves, which is a violation of human dignity and free will.

    The law does not exist to “instruct.” It does not exist to make us better people. That is the role of religion, of society, of our families. The law exists to protect our rights against would-be violators. That’s all.

    “You say the drug user’s addiction is punishment enough. If you have known, worked with, lived with, been the victim of, etc. an addict, you know that person is not the only one punished. Those people are the real forgotten men, the trail of victims the addict leaves behind. Those who have to live with the costs incurred by an addict’s habit. Don’t forget those forgotten men.”

    First of all, I have.

    Secondly, the state doesn’t exist to help those people. That is what families, churches, and local organizations are for. The state shouldn’t have a thing to do with what ought to be a private matter.

    “I know very well how they think and what issues are important to them. The Paulistas rally around narcotic legalization as the ultimate example of freedom.”

    Well, this is at stereotype. I am a Ron Paul supporter, and I don’t believe that. Neither does Judge Napolitano, Tom Woods, Chuck Baldwin or any number of conservative religious Ron Paul supporters.

    “You are the sanest one I’ve ever met, probably the only sane one.”

    Check out the guys I mentioned.

  • Again, and with reference to Blackadder’s contention, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has a budget of $6.9 bn, of which the Department of Justice attributes $3.5 bn to the cost of incarcerating people for whom the top count was a drug charge. Federal prisoners account for about 11% of the nation’s inmates, but a much higher share of those incarcerated for street drugs (~30%). The federal Drug Enforcement Administration has a budget of $2.4 bn. Overall, around 20% of the sum of costs for law enforcement at all levels of government is attributable to the gross costs of enforcing the drug laws. Not 10% of all public expenditure is lavished on police, courts, and prisons. About 2% of all public expenditure can be fairly attributable to drug enforcement.

    (While we are at it, libertarians, around 15% of all public expenditure is allocated to the military, and somewhat under 30% of all soldiers are billeted abroad, so “the empire” accounts for just north of 4% of public expenditure).