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reason: Disaster socialism. I mean the amount of public money that floods into New Orleans and the way that that it gets diverted from meaningful purpose is part of the show.
Simon: Where do you think it went? You think it actually got to people?
reason: I know that it came from the government and it came from taxes. I think we’re talking about twin sides of the same process.
Simon: Let’s journey down this road together because Louisiana is the jurisdiction in the world that jails more human beings per capita than any other state. That’s pure market forces. There’s profit to be made. They’ve monetized the poor down there. That’s what they’ve done. Laissez-faire. We’re all paying for that. But people are getting rich.
reason: I would say again, and I’m not shifting jurisdictions here, but in California the single most powerful group in state government is the state prison guards union. And they’re not lobbying to get people out of jail.
Simon: Right, and they damn near bankrupted the state. Look at the Rockefeller drug laws. Look at the drug war. There are some things that the market is not supposed to dictate.
reason: But is it the market?
Simon: Of course it’s the market!
reason: In the case of immigrant incarceration and deportations, it’s the Obama administration, which has doubled the rate.
Simon: Absolutely. Very disappointing.
reason: I understand where you’re coming from, but these people might be drafting off of policies that were put in place ahead of time. Nelson Rockefeller didn’t need drug laws to get rich or to make his cronies rich. He was doing that already.
Simon: No, he needed them to get elected, but I absolutely agree with that. It has got to be across the board. Politicians will follow the path of least resistance if you let them and reward them for that. The whole idealized notion that the private sector can do this better than government—I don’t want the private sector doing prisons better than government. I want government doing it reluctantly. I want my prison department. I want my corrections department in the state of Maryland or any state that I’m in to be a reluctant agent of government.
reason: About drug laws, do you see any positive trends? I mean there’s marijuana legalization initiatives out there.
Simon: I do. The only positive trend that I see that really matters is that I think more people are calling bullshit. And this is where at some point during the run of The Wire I became a fellow traveler of the libertarians. And then a great disappointment to them. But the libertarian position on drugs absolutely works. It absolutely works on personal privacy because it’s morally correct.
reason: Do you take Obama at his word that The Wire is his favorite show because it seems odd that he and Attorney General Eric Holder would have watched the show and then be pursuing the policies they have.