'Minor Disagreement': You Say Arrest 2 Million Americans a Year for Fake 'Crimes'; I Say Don't

I gather from Dave Weigel's interview with former Republican congressman Bob Barr that his views on drug policy have not changed much, if at all, even though he has taken on a leadership role in  the Libertarian Party, which steadfastly opposes the war on drugs. As I've said before, even when the L.P. was pretty plausibly identifying him as "the worst drug warrior in Congress," I admired Barr as a libertarian-leaning conservative who was not afraid to buck his party and mainstream opinion to defend constitutional rights. But it's hard for me to see how a libertarian (or Libertarian) can support drug prohibition. Contrary to what he says in the interview, this is no "minor disagreement." Not only does the war on drugs directly violate the basic right to control one's body and mind; it leads to exactly the sort of wide-ranging civil liberties violations, especially in connection with Fourth Amendment rights, that so concern Barr when it comes to the war on terrorism—and at least protecting us from hijackers and suicide bombers, unlike maintaining the purity of our bodily fluids, is a legitimate function of government. Barr's stance is especially puzzling given that a number of prominent conservatives, including the National Review crowd, have turned against the war on drugs even without switching their party registrations.

As I argue in my book Saying Yes, the one way to reconcile libertarian principles with drug prohibition is to buy into voodoo pharmacology—the idea that (some) drugs take control of people and compel them to behave badly. If that were true, the war on drugs would be a literal battle against the evil forces residing in certain chemicals, aimed at preventing their aggression against drug users. Does Barr, who left the Republican Party because it was insufficiently dedicated to individual liberty and too accepting of overweening government, believe something along these lines? If  so, is there no one at the L.P. who can set him straight?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Christopher Monnier||

    I don't understand how someone could call themselves a libertarian and not see how fundamentally un-libertarian the War on Drugs is.

  • ||

    I am all in favor of a pragmatic approach to politics - ideologues are the biggest threat to our republic - but the war on drugs is the biggest threat to our civil liberties. Barr must be brought into the fold on this issue. Agreeing to disagree is not an option.

  • ||

    Bigger tent, folks. There are pro-choice Republicans, pro-death penalty Democrats and all other variants. While I disagree with Barr on the drug war (as most here do), the man obviously sees some merit in it. I'll wait until I know about the man as a whole before I make up my mind. One issue doesn't disqualify someone from calling themselves a libertarian. If libertarians were this type of "one-issue-and-you're-out" types, then LP candidates would be fringe wackos. Oh wait....

  • ||

    Yeah it is no minor disagreement. And the Drug War is one issue the LP seperates itself from the other two parties. Its a good issue for the LP -- If presented in the right way (and thats a big if for LP activists) I meet almost no one who supports the war on drugs as it is currently being waged -- soccer moms, nascar dads, creepy uncles, you name it and if you present it right they will agree with you on major tenets of drug reform: med mj/decrim, mandatory minimums, forfeiture, plan colombia, etc.

    I'm not sure where Barr helps the LP. He won't bring in a lot of conservative leaning libertarianish folks, and he sure as hell won't bring in lefty boing boing libertarians like me.

  • ||

    I think it's useful to agree to disagree -- for now.
    It usually takes a while to change someone's mind, and you can't accomplish this without engaging in dialog.

    So welcome to the LP, Bob. Let's talk.

  • Christopher Monnier||

    You can be pragmatic while still being philosophically opposed to the War on Drugs. If, as a public figure, you support things like medical marijuana, making marijuana enforcement the lowest legal priority, etc., you can avoid the "whacko" label and still effectively increase liberty.

  • ||

    I don't think disagreeing on the drug war is a small point, but I agree with MarkV. Now that Barr's under the LP tent, maybe he will be more open to changing his mind on the drug war than he would've been before as a Republican. Especially since he will, ostensibly, be surrounded by anti-drug war libertarians. Having a seasoned former politico helping out the LP certainly has advantages that shouldn't be discarded easily.

  • ||

    The only thing I know for sure is that Barr and/or LP officials had to show some flexibility on an issue where both sides have been pretty firm in their stances, and I'm genuinely curious as to who became flexible and why.

  • Christopher Monnier||

    The downside of Barr leading a part of the LP is that it adds to the misinformed stereotype that libertarians are "ultra conservatives," which most people interpret to be some type of neo-con George W. Bush / Karl Rove supporter.

    Wouldn't it be neat if the LP added a former prominent Democrat to lead some division? I don't know if there is such a person out there, but this would go a long way towards conveying to average Americans that libertarians are *not* conservatives, at least with the word's current meaning.

  • ||

    I'm with Sullum. This is one of the very few non-negotiables.

  • ||

    the idea that (some) drugs take control of people and compel them to behave badly. If that were true, the war on drugs would be a literal battle against the evil forces residing in certain chemicals

    That is most definitely the truth.

    Drugs are the biggest threat to our country, period, end of discussion. That is why all governments in all countries have a WOD.

    You say you want the "right" to get hi, but what about my right to live in a drug-free country? What about all the downstream afects on society they cause?

    As far as the 2 million, so what, everone always gets what they deserve. Don't want to go to jail, drink instead.

    2 million is a start, we need at least 20 million to support a prison based economy.

  • ||

    So, the drug war is a bad thing. All right, what does that mean? Does that really mean that anyone who disagrees with that proposition is unwelcome? Just because you accept people who disagree with some principles, doesn't mean that you abadon those principles. It just means you take your friends where you find them. The drug war is not the only important thing. If Libertarians had a chance to say do something about property rights or MADD driven DUI mania, does anyone here honestly believe that they should forgo accomplishing one of those other goals if doing so means working with people who believe in drug prohibition? I sure don't.

  • ||

    Jane, you DO have a right to live in a drug-free country. I hear Saudi Arabia is hiring....just try drinking THERE.

  • Thomas Paine\'s Goiter||

    Jacob,

    can you link to your book on Amazon.com with the Reason referral?

  • ||

    A better question for Mr. Barr might be to ask him what he feels the Federal Government must do to reign in states whose citizens have decided to allow medical marijuana. I imagine he would say that was up to the states' to decide.

    That right there would be refreshing. Of course, if he supports the status quo, I'll join in with the Barr skeptics. Until then, I'll say "welcome"

  • ||

    "As I argue in my book Saying Yes, the one way to reconcile libertarian principles with drug prohibition is to buy into voodoo pharmacology-the idea that (some) drugs take control of people and compel them to behave badly. If that were true, the war on drugs would be a literal battle against the evil forces residing in certain chemicals, aimed at preventing their aggression against drug users."

    The problem is Jacob is that is what people believe. It is called addiction. Talk to any committed drug warier and they will tell you that drugs are poison that take over people's lives and destroy them. That is why so many people who are otherwise distrustful of government believe so whole heartedly in locking up drug dealers and throwing away the key. You will never get rid of prohibition until you get rid of the idea of addiction.

  • Jennifer||

    I don't understand how someone could call themselves a libertarian and not see how fundamentally un-libertarian the War on Drugs is.

    Simple--he is (or perhaps was) one of those libertarians for whom a low tax rate is the single most important human right, and all else takes a back seat to that.

  • ||

    Or how 'bout Cuba? (wait - they have Weed there too. Good shit I hear. Not even Castro can stop it. Doesn't that tell you something?) Oh well, there's always Pakastan.

  • ||

    As long as the LP insists that unrestricted drug use should be a right, they will always be consigned to the back of the bus (so to speak)

  • ||

    I'm willing to allow someone who disagrees with the LP on the drug war into the party or allow them the label of 'libertarian', not that my authority means jack but...but if Barr still believes doctors who recommend mj and patients who use mj should be arrested, I got issues -- I mean he's gotta take a couple steps in our direction at least -- what is conservative about asset forfeiture? No-knock seearches, etc.

    The drug war is a very big issue, its tangled web affects everything from foreign policy to scientific research, culture, education, criminal justice, civil liberties, property rights, little things like that.

    All the conservative libertarians on here are trying their best to make Barr seem ok - but what if some prominent leftist joined the party and said: 'I'm a libertarian except I like gun control and I believe private property should be abolished' lets see everyone on here welcome that person with open arms.

  • ||

    "All the conservative libertarians on here are trying their best to make Barr seem ok - but what if some prominent leftist joined the party and said: 'I'm a libertarian except I like gun control and I believe private property should be abolished' lets see everyone on here welcome that person with open arms."

    Good point. I think the medical marijuana use is a good line to draw. It is one thing to think that perhaps crack ought to be illegal. That is entirely different from saying that some cancer patient should not be allowed to smoke a joint. I think that and the insane supersition against the use of pain killers ought to perhaps be non-negotiable.

  • ||

    Lamar | December 18, 2006, 1:06pm | #
    One issue doesn't disqualify someone from calling themselves a libertarian.
    =======
    The drug war isn't just "one issue." It is a whole complex of issues. The main libertarian goals are individual liberty and self-ownership. So, Mr. Barr, how does continuing to prosecute the drug war achieve those libertarian goals? And if it doesn't -- if it actually keeps those goals from being achieved -- how can you, as a libertarian, support it?

    Jane | December 18, 2006, 1:36pm | #
    You say you want the "right" to get hi, but what about my right to live in a drug-free country?
    ======
    You don't have such a right. You have the right not to have people accost you in public or invade your home, whether or not they are engaged in the sale or use of drugs. Sellers and users of drugs also have the right not to be accosted in public or have people invading THEIR homes, either. It's just that THEIR rights aren't being respected by the government or by people who think as you do.

    John | December 18, 2006, 1:41pm | #
    So, the drug war is a bad thing. All right, what does that mean? ... Just because you accept people who disagree with some principles, doesn't mean that you abadon those principles. It just means you take your friends where you find them.
    =====

    Friends, fine. But going steady or getting married? That's not wise until long-term compatibility has been confirmed, and a meeting of the minds has been reached. I'm all for linking arms with Mr. Barr in those areas where he and the LP have common cause -- and I agree with others that there is a lot of common cause these days. But a leadership position implies that the leader will actually lead the organization in the direction of his agenda, and be perceived as an exemplar of that organization. In the case of Mr. Barr, is that what Libertarians really want or need?

  • ||

    A minor point, but I frankly could not care less about the 2 million people being arrested. If drugs should be legal one is too many people. If they only threw a few thousand unlucky bastard in jail a year for drug use would libertarians not care? I would hope they would care. On the other hand, if drugs should be a crime, than who cares if 2 million people go to jail? If there two million burglars being arrested every year, I wouldn't be too worked up about the Burglarly laws.

  • ||

    You say you want the "right" to get hi, but what about my right to live in a drug-free country? What about all the downstream afects on society they cause?

    I am not sure you have a "right" to live in a drug-free country (if by that you mean you have a right to impose on everyone else around you your desires about how people should recreate), any more than you have a "right" to live in an alcohol-free country, a chess-club-free country, or a Hall-and-Oates-free country. Regarding the second "point," one of the main insights of libertarianism is that, in many cases, prohibition of an activity tends to exacerbate the problems associated with that activity, so the "downstream affects [sic]," as you put it, may be worse under the Drug War. So if you are interested in making things better (and I am not assuming that you are so interested), you should be open to the possibility that the Drug War should be ended.

    As far as the 2 million, so what, everone always gets what they deserve. Don't want to go to jail, drink instead.

    The first sentence seems false to me, and to everyone else with a brain stem. People right now are serving decades-long sentences for possession of marijuana, a drug far less harmful than alcohol--the drug you recommend. If that doesn't bother you, then you simply aren't interested in justice.

  • ||

    The LP could set him straight, but that would require a spine and some degree of effectiveness. I think the LP higher-ups still get a stiffy if there's an Onion or Simpsons joke about the party.
    In an age of cheap web-space and basic-cable advertising, the LP's failure to produce even the hint of an impact during a period in history when making a lot of angry noise should have been nothing less than a calling is shameful. The fact that the best face the Lib movement in general has is this site and the assorted masturbatory offshoot boards it has spurred is an embarrassment.

  • edna||

    what's all this stuff i hear about the 'librarian party?' why do they need a separate party? what if the police formed a 'police party?' or doctors formed a 'doctor party?' it just doesn't make sense. why, i think that...

    ...what's that?

    .... libertarian?

    oh, that's very different. never mind.

  • No one||

    For those who say you can be a libertarian but not agree on an issue (the war on drugs) I would characterize the situation differently.

    There's really only ONE issue that defines a libertarian, and that's a belief in the human right to freedom. It's complex enough that a single sentence can't describe it, but basically if you believe that it's ok to initiate force against someone else, you're not a libertarian. The opposition to the drug war isn't an issue by itself, it's part of the single issue, and therefore anyone who endorses the drug war does NOT believe that it's wrong for the government to initiate force against folks who wish to live their lives free and peacefully.

  • ||


    If they only threw a few thousand unlucky bastard in jail a year for drug use would libertarians not care? I would hope they would care. On the other hand, if drugs should be a crime, than who cares if 2 million people go to jail?


    It is relevant as a means of determining the scope of the problem. I would certainly still be angry if the number of jailed, nonviolent drug criminals was reduced to a few thousand, but given the option, I'd rather it be a few thousand than a few million. 40 some innoncents killed by SWAT teams in botched drug raids is definitely about 40 too many, but you can definitely bet it would bother me a lot more if 2 million innocents had been killed by SWAT teams.

  • brian423||

    I think Barr's new friends in the LP stand a decent chance of changing his mind about the drug war over the course of many private conversations. My journey from "liberal" Democrat to registered Libertarian started with disgust for left-wing puritanism over issues like tobacco and fast food. But my openness to other libertarian viewpoints, like opposition to the minimum wage, largely developed after my change in self-definition, not before. The company we keep, physically and intellectually, influences our point of view over time.

  • Warren||

    AMEN Jacob. Spot on.

    Allowing a difference of opinion on an issue or two is one thing. Allowing not only a proponent but a leader in expanding the WOD is a whole different matter.

    Prohibition is THE Libertarian issue. It is the one thing where we are SO right and EVERYBODY else is so very wrong. And contrary to conventional wisdom, taking a strong stand against prohibition is not keeping the LP marginalized. As others have pointed out, the grassroots anti-prohibition movement is gaining ground and growing. If anything Libertarians are too limp-wristed in their call for legalization. LP candidates inevitably will concede the premise of the WOD by prefacing with "I think putting poison in your body is a bad idea, but..." or some such think. Instead we should be saying something more like "Parents should teach their children about responsible drug use".

  • ||

    Well most everyone you talk to might think the drug war is wrong.

    But almost everyone everyone that I talk to cringes when I say crack should be legalized. It should, there are simple legal and moral reasons why, but I'm willing to bet that a vast majority think legalizing crack would ruin the country.

    So if we could get mr Barr to oppose the part of the drug war that goes against MJ users. And maybe some of the more 'violating civil liberties' part of the drug war. That would be a good start.

    To some of your friends 'libertarian' means 'ultra conservative' to some people I know it means libertine and hedonist.

  • ||

    Gosh, after reading these posts, I wonder why the LP hasn't been able to accomplish much in the past 30 years...?

    (DISCLAIMER: I am not a member of the Libertarian Party.)

  • ||

    Gosh, after reading these posts, I wonder why the LP hasn't been able to accomplish much in the past 30 years...?

    JKP,

    The "Gosh" beginning your statement indicates sarcasm to follow, but I must ask:
    What do these comments say to you that make it clear why the Libertarian party "hasn't been able to accomplish much"?

  • ||

    JKP,

    What, exactly, have the other political parties "accomplished?" I mean, besides maintaining power.

  • Jennifer||

    What, exactly, have the other political parties "accomplished?"

    The Republicans have in the past few years done an excellent job of turning Iran into the main regional power in the Middle East. And the Democrats have done an excellent job of saying they hate Republicans. Ooooh, if only the libertarian party had such dazzling successes to put on its resume.

  • ||

    If they only threw a few thousand unlucky bastard in jail a year for drug use would libertarians not care?
    =====================================

    Perhaps, if we wanted to be serious about rights and equality, we'd care more. Especially since most of them would likely be black and almost all of them would be too poor to afford proper lawyers. The drug war is bad, but I think it's a symptom of a larger problem. The larger problem is a piss-poor justice system. Nepotism and racism are huge roadblocks to justice. Were the American people more aware of Jury Nullification, the drug laws themselves might be rendered irrelevant.


    fija.org

  • ||

    who cares if 2 million people go to jail?

    I do. They are not there on the free room and board plan, we are paying for it.

    If there two million burglars being arrested every year, I wouldn't be too worked up about the Burglarly laws.

    I wouldn't either, especially since burglary has a victim. The act of attempting to purchase, transport or consume a drug does not.

  • Warren||

    Jennifer,
    You didn't even mention the exploding deficit, huge new entitlement program, and the federal takeover of k-12 education.

  • Larry A||

    You will never get rid of prohibition until you get rid of the idea of addiction.

    Actually addiction is one of the stronger arguments against prohibition. The current prohibition is not preventing addiction. Therefore we should stop what isn't working, the WoD, and try something, like medical treatment centers, that might actually help people kick their addictions. The information that prohibition isn't working could be our strongest practical argument.

    If there two million burglars being arrested every year, I wouldn't be too worked up about the Burglarly laws.

    I would be once I glanced at the Uniform Crime Report and found out that there were only about 700,000 burglaries reported for 2005.

  • ||

    Last Friday I heard Bob Barr say "When you pass a law . . . assume your worst enemy is going to enforce it."
    Just keep reminding him of that and there shouldn't be an irredoncilable problem.

  • ||

    As far as the 2 million, so what, everone always gets what they deserve. Don't want to go to jail, drink instead.



    Jane, alcohol kills over a hundred thousand people in the US alone, due to overdose and drunk driving. Marijuana kills exactly -zero-. So, you're an idiot.

    But that's not the point. I have the right to do whatever I want with my body. I can put whatver I'd like into it, regardless of what the government says. My smoking pot has zero impact on you.

    Sorry to be rude, but you should get your head out of your ass and *think*.

  • ||

    I agree that the LP could use Barr to advance its cause, particularly since he claims not to be seeking an office.

    But to me, like many who also arrived here from the left, the WOsD is the most obvious example of the curtailing of civil rights in this country today. From no-knock raids and asset forfeiture to jailing pain docs and cancer patients, the government shows no bounds to its zelousness with regards to prohibition. The WOsD is the one place where the LP, and libertarians in general, split from any other major voting group.

    Sure, some Dems want MMJ legal but not cigarettes or crack. They care about "the sick" not the right to determine your own destiny, health risks be damned. Additionally, they want to appear as "tough on crime" as the other side of the aisle. Repubs are all about "personal destiny" and freedom to choose unless it interferes with their idea of "civil morality", including drugs, gambling and prostitution, and are perfectly willing to extend the police state to obtain that "perfectly moral society", regardless of how high the tax rates get. Supporting the WOsD is supporting a police state and a carte blanche to raising taxes for the "moral or physical well being of the nation".

  • ||

    "The information that prohibition isn't working could be our strongest practical argument."

    No one is going to buy the "let the drug dealer out of jail, spend billions of tax dollars trying to rehabilitate the addict arguement." If you buy into addiction, then drugs are a poison that take away people's will. Sullum is right when he says that that assumption makes for a libertarian argument for prohibition. If people really can't help themselves and are addicted, why shouldn't it be a crime for some fuck to get rich getting them hooked and selling the stuff to them? The send them all to rehab not jail argument at best gets you to decriminalizing addicts, it doesn't get you to full legalization. Only the realization that people's behavior in choosing to use drugs irresponsibly, not the drugs, gets you to legalization.

  • ||

    I'm on the 'non-negotiable' side. It's not a matter of having a big tent, of being inclusive of varying viewpoints. Support for the WOD indicates a fundamental failure to understand what libertarianism is all about.

    "Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken."

  • ||

    In reference to Barr's views on the WOD, Grand Chalupa said,

    "I'm with Sullum. This is one of the very few non-negotiables."

    So what are the non-negotiables of being in the LP, or at least being a leader in the LP?

    Is it that Barr supports the way the WOD is currently being "fought?" I mean it sounds like Barr is going beyond just giving pragmatic support to something that most people support. No, he seems ideologically committed to something that is becoming more and more unpopular (the WOD).

    But what if someone came along and tried to decriminalize marijuana? Isn't that, like, a more realistic step in the right direction that coming in and calling for the legalization of drugs in general? The WOD may be unpopular, but with the way our presidential and congressional electoral system is laid out, it may be that it is politically risky to call for full legalization. I mean, are we sure that VOTERS would favor full legalization? Cuz sometimes polls can't tell the difference between the citizenry at large and the voting public.

    The primary system would make it difficult for a republican to call for legalization, and democrats would be labeled weak on crime if they called for it in a general election. Hell maybe it wouldn't work that way, maybe everyone would shout hallelujah if someone proposed that drugs were legalized, but it seems risky. So it seems like first things first would be wise. What would the LP think of a candidate who proposed a more incremental policy on drugs?

    Anyone?

  • ||

    Jay,

    How about legalizing medical marjuana, and home growth and possession of say three or fewer ounces for personal use combined with an end to minimum mandatories for drug offenses? That to me would be a reasonable start on things that would have a chance at attracting some voters.

  • ||

    But what if someone came along and tried to decriminalize marijuana?

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't decriminalization preferable to legalization? Legalizing implies that it would be taxed and regulated by the gov't. We don't want more laws, we just want the bad ones off the books.

  • ||

    John,

    That sounds great to me. Do you think the LP would be OK with a presidential candidate who advocated an incremental approach like that? Or has there been one recently?

  • dhex||

    jane is the anglicized version of juanita, just so you all know. don't feed the trolls, etc etc and so forth.

  • ||

    This is probably going to be an issue on which it takes a long time to win over the public (assuming it happens at all, which I hope it does).

    Most people probably don't percieve their lives to be affected by this issue. Or if they do, there is a good chance that they fear the idea of widespread drug use; and thus see drug prohibition as advancing their interests. And while there are (I think) good principled arguments against drug prohibition, not everyone will be exposed to them. And not everyone who is so exposed will give them serious consideration.

    It will take alot to get most people to conceptually distinguish between preventing drug use and preventing harm to others associated (or allegedly associated) with drug use. Convincing people to favor policies aimed at the later which don't prohibit or unduely burden responsible adult drug use will also be difficult. But I think its worth the effort in the long run.

  • ||

    While I'm Not A Libertarian (hence my username), I consider myself a conservative with libertarian leanings.

    I think the libertarian stance against the WOD, perhaps more than anything else, is what keeps the LP from being taken seriously. Any individual who has a very strong stance against the WOD is immediately thought of as someone who "just wants to smoke pot" and is considered a wacko. I think the best thing the LP could do is to drop any reference to the WOD and concentrate on their other big issues (small government, low taxes, gov't fiscal responsibility, free trade, anti-gun-control, anti-AA, pro-abortion, pro-gay-marriage, etc.) Once they get more established, they can then start to integrate the anti-WOD stance.

  • Warren||

    Jay J,
    An incrementalist would be fine. Sure you'd hear some carping. And more-libertarian-than-thou type, such as myself, would want them to move to a more "pure" position. Still, the overwhelming response would be to present her with a laurel and hearty handshake "Welcome to the Party".

    But a drug warrior like Barr. I can see letting him in the room. But letting him have the podium? Not until he repents, and I want to see tears.

  • ||

    I think the libertarian stance against the WOD, perhaps more than anything else, is what keeps the LP from being taken seriously. Any individual who has a very strong stance against the WOD is immediately thought of as someone who "just wants to smoke pot" and is considered a wacko.


    I think you're right. However, many Libertarians, myself included, see drug laws as absolutely, completely, and 100% insane and horribly immoral. That's part of what makes me a Libertarian. I'm completely and totally unwilling to compromise on issues such as this one, and I know that most other Libertarians feel the same way. It's high time that the drug warriors are shown to be the wackos that they are.

    If the Libertarian Party compromised on this issue, I wouldn't be a Libertarian.

  • ||

    So, Warren, would you like to see Santorum's daughter at the LP podium as much as I would?

  • ||

    I don't know, BG; I'd think by now almost everyone has had a nephew, cousin, child, or neighbor's kid grabbed and persecuted for having some weed. While some undoubtedly think "they deserved punishment," many others- the ones the LP should target - are outraged by the cops, the fines, the judges, and even the jail terms.

  • daksya||

    I think the best thing the LP could do is to drop any reference to the WOD and concentrate on their other big issues

    Won't work. The LP is already associated with the WoD. Even if they dropped it, the opposition will simply force the issue on them, come election cycle.

  • ||

    """As long as the LP insists that unrestricted drug use should be a right, they will always be consigned to the back of the bus (so to speak)""""

    Or the concept that your job has a right to be your nanny. (I believe what you do on your own time is none of your jobs business. I seem to be a little too pro-individual freedoms for the LP)

    I don't really like Barr, but I agree that he shouldn't be excluded for his belief on one issue.

    BUYER BEWARE!!! He might simply be using the LP name for his own agenda. After a couple of years in the LP, the LP might have buyer's remorse.

  • Warren||

    highnumber,
    hahahaha You know, that picture is worth a thousand words. I mean that literally. I'd be willing to assuage my guilt over the juvenile giggles I got from that, by listening to her say anything she wanted.

    Of course it's to be hoped that she would start out with "You people are so mean!" and then slowly break down to sobbing hysterics ala Tammy Faye.

  • ||

    Gosh, after reading these posts, I wonder why the LP hasn't been able to accomplish much in the past 30 years...?

    (DISCLAIMER: I am not a member of the Libertarian Party.)


    Uh, is anyone here a member of the LP?

    The biggest libertarian benefit of Barr joining the LP might just be the final destruction of that organization.

  • ||

    The problem for candidates of a political party is that potential voters will ask you your opinion about inconvenient issues. You may want to finesse your answer when queried about drugs, abortion, the death penalty, gun control, and other "hot button" issues, but waffling and trimming will be seen for what it is. I've been a candidate, and been confronted with I'd vote for you if you only agreed with me on X on a number of occasions. If one is a down-the-line libertarian, the best you can do is try to frame the issue so you give the other fellow a chance to see where you and he share values, even if you fundamentally disagree on others. When people demanded that I admit that drugs were a plague on their community, and had to be fought, my response would be along the lines of "We've tried that for decades, and failed. Even if I shared your premise that anti-drug laws are moral, they just don't work. Let's try something else."

    Do folks remember why smoking crack was invented? It was a way to get a stronger effective dose than snorting powdered coke, and was promoted in response to a crackdown that had driven up the street price of the drug. The crack plague was The Law of Unintended Consequences working on overdrive. Anytime law enforcement has success on limiting access to bulky drugs, more compact versions are concocted to make smuggling equivalent doses easier. Bootleggers made white lightning and bathtub gin for much the same reason. There's nothing wrong with a coalition between those of us who consider prohibition a violation of our human rights, and those who just want to give up on it because it seems futile, and are tired of paying the costs in blood, treasure and violations of our other rights.

    I'd hope that the LP insiders who brought Barr into the fold keep working on him.

    Kevin

  • NAL||

    Frank: I think you're right. However, many Libertarians, myself included, see drug laws as absolutely, completely, and 100% insane and horribly immoral. That's part of what makes me a Libertarian. I'm completely and totally unwilling to compromise on issues such as this one, and I know that most other Libertarians feel the same way. It's high time that the drug warriors are shown to be the wackos that they are.

    Okay, that's reasonable and admirable, but it puts you (and any LP candidate with similar views) in the vast minority (using US voters as reference base). So the WOD goes on...meanwhile fiscal irresponsibility rules the day, government gets ever bigger, American ingenuity and creativity are stunted, etc.

  • allan||

    Bob Barr is the ring leader behind holding Wash DC voters ballots hostage in 1998 for 10 months because they passed a medical cannabis measure. DC's Measure 59 passed by 2/3 vote.

    How does seizing ballots measure up to any party's standards? Seizing ballots... wouldn't want that on my resume. Unless of course I was applying for a job w/ Kim Jong Il.

  • ||

    "What, exactly, have the other political parties "accomplished?" I mean, besides maintaining power."

    Other than that, how'd you like the play Mrs. Lincoln?

    Getting elected and being able to pursue whatever policies you happen to believe in seems to be one essential purpose of running for office. The other would be to enrich yourself from holding public office. Both are much easier to accomplish when you win elections.

    So on that score the major parties seem to be accomplishing considerably more than the LP. The LP does accomplish a lot of righteous indignation though.

  • ||

    TrickyVic,

    Do you see how libertarians would say that they stand for freedom for all, not just the employee, but also the employer?

    I mean, you're perfectly free not to work for someone who asks to see your pee-pee. A libertarian may say that it's property rights in general that allows employers to require their employees to be drug-free, and that property rights for individuals will be better protected if they're protected accros the board.

    As for you as an individual, libertarians are all for you being able to get high, they're just not for telling someone that they can't use their money and property to pay only people who pass a pee-pee test.

    At least that's what I think a pure libertarian view would be.

  • Locutus of Borg.||

    You WILL be assimilated

  • ||

    Jay - the only problem there is that the gov't has totally leaned on the private sector, whether directly or indirectly, to make pee testing as widespread as it is today.

    Which is why I find myself leaning more and more to an anarcho-capitalist worldview.

  • Sam Franklin||

    As I argue in my book Saying Yes, the one way to reconcile libertarian principles with drug prohibition is to buy into voodoo pharmacology-the idea that (some) drugs take control of people and compel them to behave badly.

    Another way to reconcile the contradictory imperatives here is to understand that marijuana should only be legal if it would economically benefit the companies that actively lobby the government (I mean lobbying with perks here, not just wel-meaning petitions).

    It is these well-off companies that should be be maximizing the profitability of mj, for the sake of both the private economy and the tax supported economy.

    If the controls on mj are ever such that trade in mj can be placed securely in the hands of big business, then it will be time to decriminalize and regulate. until then, any profits are likely to go to fries too small to kick that money back the way big business would.

    sadly, we don't yet have a way to reliably ensure that big pharma will capture the mj market, so the lobbying voices that get heard ($$$) are not pushing for it. If that changes, I am sure Bob Barr will be ready to help deliver the mj market to the people who actually see fit to pay him for that privilege, if and when somebody does see fit to pay him for that privilege.

    I call this brand of libertrian, the anti-McCain-Feingold libertarian because these kind of libertarians are likely to see the McCain-Feingold act as the central political drama of our times (which makes them easy to pick out in a crowd).

  • ||

    """I mean, you're perfectly free not to work for someone who asks to see your pee-pee. A libertarian may say that it's property rights in general that allows employers to require their employees to be drug-free, and that property rights for individuals will be better protected if they're protected accros the board."""

    Your perfectly able to live in another country too. So one could argue if you don't like USA nannyism, move to another country! It's social contract theory ethics.

    You job has the right to tell you what to do while your on the job. They have no right to dictate what you do off the job.

    Nannyism is nannyism. Does it really make a difference if it's the Feds, state or your job?

    I back drug testing if the test determines if you on drugs WHILE at work. When your at work it IS the jobs buisness. When your at home, it's your """I mean, you're perfectly free not to work for someone who asks to see your pee-pee. A libertarian may say that it's property rights in general that allows employers to require their employees to be drug-free, and that property rights for individuals will be better protected if they're protected accros the board."""

    Your perfectly able to live in another country too. It goes to

    Your job has the right to tell you what to do while your on the job. They have no right to dictate what you do off the job.

    Nannyism is nannyism. Does it really make a difference if it's the Feds, state or your job? Off the clock, you do not belong to your job and it should be beyond their scope.

    I back drug testing if the test determines if you on drug WHILE at work. When your at work it IS the jobs """I mean, you're perfectly free not to work for someone who asks to see your pee-pee. A libertarian may say that it's property rights in general that allows employers to require their employees to be drug-free, and that property rights for individuals will be better protected if they're protected accros the board."""

    Your perfectly able to live in another country too.

    You job has the right to tell you what to do while your on the job. They have no right to dictate what you do off the job.

    I back drug testing if the test determines if you on drug WHILE at work. When your at work it IS the jobs business. When your at home, it's your business.. When your at home, it's your buisness.

    Nannyism is nannyism. Does it really make a difference if it's the Feds, state or your job?

  • ||

    Wow, what happened to my post!!! lol.

  • ||

    Lamar - There very well may be "pro-choice Republicans and pro-death penalty Democrats", but there are no anti-liberty libertarians.

  • ||

    Ok, TrickVic, makes sense.

    You're opposed to Nannyism in all its form, sounds good.

    You seem to be focusing allot on rights. I suppose I agree that employers don't have, like, a moral right to know what you do in your free time. But if one puts a premium on property rights, and thinks that they are best protected by not allowing government to interfere with employer-employee relationships on private property, then it seems like allowing employers to ask for such things is a necessary evil.

    If you accept a public/private distinction at all, then I would think that would lead you to call most businesses "private." It's true that you have your private life, and it's true that you have the power to deny employer access to your private life. But perhaps it's not true that you have the right to deny employers the ability to ask about your private life. You know you too can ask for the employer's urine. They can say no, just like you can.

    I suppose what I'm getting at is this: what legitimacy do you find in using government to prevent employers from asking for pee-pee? I mean I know you believe what happens in your private life (away from work) is your business, and if I was a business owner I would probably agree with you. But let's just say that businesses still want to see your pee-pee. It's their property, it's their money, and it's their company.

    Do you not see any danger whatsoever in using government to step in and override property rights like that?

    I mean, at your house, you can ask to see folk's pee-pee too. And they can refuse.

    I really don't know what you mean about having the right to live in another country...sorry.

  • Sam Franklin||

    ,i>If you accept a public/private distinction at all, then I would think that would lead you to call most businesses "private."

    Not if they are corporations. Corporations are a government prescribed form of doing business that excuses the owner for liabilities they would otherwise have in a more "natural," les regulated business environment.

    I think it is perfectly fair and rational for government to say to business that if they poke around in their employees private lives too much, then the government requires that the company give back the gift of using the corporate form (or at least its favorable parts, like favorable tax consequences and decreased types of liability). Since the government has given corporations the gift of having the corporate form, it seems fair to me for government to threaten to take away that gov't-issued perk when the corporation behaves bad. Nothing unlibertarian about revoking a gift bestowed by gov't in the first place.

    here is a question for you Jay J. (inspired by a good thd at yesterday's Inactivist board):

    What if an employment contract (with, say, Halliburton) required the employee to prospectively disclaim any and all Constitutional rights?

    Under your analysis, I get the feeling that this would be cool with you. Would it?

  • ||

    Hi Sam Franklin,

    Good point about corporations. I suppose if I apply the logic I used before, I have to say that a corporate employer could ask to see your urine only if they are willing to give up their cherished corporate status. In which case, they would choose not to give up this status, and would refrain from testing you for drugs.

    I was kind of thinking about "Mom and Pop" stores and the like. With the way the Commerce Clause has been used over the years, virtually no business is free from the hand of the federal government. According to the assertion about rights in one of the earlier posts, even little craft shops in the rural countryside shouldn't be able to test you for drugs because the only justification used is that they don't have some nebulas "right" to do that.

    That's really what I was getting at originally. The poser I responded to asserted that no one had the right to know what an employee did on their own time. I sort of agree, which is why an individual is free to deny an employer access to their private life, and an employer is free to fire an employee in response. If the only thing preventing employers from testing urine is that they don't have the "right" to, then I'm afraid we're going to have to do better than that.

    You asked about Halliburton. I should tell you first that I'm not a libertarian. But I am concerned about legitimizing government action before we authorize it. I'm sort of a New Democrat type. I'm not an economic populist, social conservative, like some of the Dems elected in this last election. No, I'm more of a Robert Rubin, socially liberal type, kind of like an old fashioned New England Republican.

    To answer you question, I would be opposed to Halliburton asking you to sign your rights away, since they are a corporation right? I accept your point about corporations.

    See, when I asked TrickyVic about the legitimacy of government action, it was more than just a rhetorical question. It was a literal question as well. I really am, like, open to suggestions.

    To push your question further, I really would like to say that "Mom and Pop" businesses shouldn't be able to test you for drugs, because I happen to agree with the somewhat ethereal assertion that employers don't have the right to know what goes on in my private life. But since I can just deny these employers access, I have a hard time justifying government intervention into this non-corporate employee-employer relationship.

  • ||

    Ooops...I meant to refer to TrickVic as a "poster," not a poser. My bad...

  • ||

    Highnumber wrote:
    "Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't decriminalization preferable to legalization? Legalizing implies that it would be taxed and regulated by the gov't. We don't want more laws, we just want the bad ones off the books."

    WRONG. Every legal product comes with some regulation, to ensure safety, taxation, etc. A regulated market is necessary in order to end the black market. When alcohol prohibition was overturned, they didn't just say, ok, Capone et al, go ahead & keep selling alcohol & killing eachother over territories. Aside from the assault on personal liberties, the biggest societal cost of the drug war is the violence emanating from the black market. Tax & regulate and there is no more demand to support criminal enterprise. The growing of natural plants for personal consumption should be the only substances allowed on a personal level (In other words, in home Meth Labs would still be illegal). The rest should be sold through licensed manufacturers & retailers, just like OTC drugs & alcohol, but possibly with tighter controls, like porn has -- 21 & over stores only.

    Libertarians aren't anarchists -- I think most realize there have to be some regulations (like age limits, food & toy safety) on things for safety purposes.

  • Sam Franklin||

    . . . a corporate employer could ask to see your urine only if they are willing to give up their cherished corporate status . . . I was kind of thinking about "Mom and Pop" stores and the like.

    Some background on me. I am Hit and Run comments section "antitrust libertarian." In other words, I don't like government regulation of business, with the important exception of consolidation problems (which I see as economically huge, fiercely destructive and underacknowledged). When Uncle Miltie (what libertarians call Milton Friedman) flipped on antitrust, I failed to flip with him. because I think capaitalism requires competition and competition requires lots of mom and pop business competing with respect to every business decision that is made.

    To map my antitrust libertarian perspective back on to the situation at hand: when a mom and pop drug tests, then you can get a job with a mom and pop employer who tests to the extent that you, the employee, prefer. However, when a few corporations loom large as employers in your chosen field, then they tend to act in concert and drug testing ensues. As often argued here at Online Reason, it is not economically rational to test, but that is what consolidation does -- it enshrines lots or irrational economic decisions by virtue of reducing competition.

    This abstract mindset meshes pretty well with my real world experience. The largest companies I was employed by were TI and IBM. these were also the only two employers to test me for drugs. One time a smaller employer (500-1000 person firm) tried to institute drug testing. I left in protest. After I left, the company had to withdraw its proposal in light of employee resistance (other employees besides me). Why did things play out differently at TI and IBM than at this smaller firm? You know why and the answer has a lot to do with the corporate form and the degree of routine business consolidation it facilitates.

    IN CLOSING:

    I was going to respond to some of the other things you said, but I have nothing to add. i get the feeling that we pretty much see eye to eye on the problem of employer drug testing and our preferred solution to the problem.

    I guess I do have one thing to add. In my time here at HnR I have come to the conclusion that much of what passes for libertarianism actually amounts to defending the right of large companies to further consolidate. People like Eric Dondero think of that as "property rights." I think that this is one reason libertarians and democrats have such an uneasy relationship. Many libertarians are highly selective as far as which economic rights they want to protect and it tends to be economic rights that favor the rich as a class.

    Frankly, I think the right of a person to a competitive marketplace is more important than the right of a business to incorporate or the right of a large corporation to get larger. sadly, this puts me at odds with many of my fellow libertarians (and some even curse the very name of Sammy Franklin!).

  • ||

    Sam Franklin,

    Very interesting stuff, I'm a newbie in Libertarian land. Do you have any books, articles, websites that would explain views like yours on antitrust versus those of "Uncle Miltie?"

    I'm ambivalent on antitrust and looking for ideas.

    I'm out for the rest of the day, so thanks in advance.

  • Sam Franklin||

    Very interesting stuff, I'm a newbie in Libertarian land. Do you have any books, articles, websites that would explain views like yours on antitrust versus those of "Uncle Miltie?"

    My views on antitrust were formed two ways.

    One was by working for a company that supported large insurance companies do their business.

    The other source was reading Professor Areeda's case book on antitrust. the book (1967 or 68 ed.) was mostly excerpts on 20th century antitrust court opinions. Professor Areeda adds mostly rhetorical questions to the writing of various judges. probably not a great book for those who haven't been to law school and aren't familiar with judge speak.

    I only recently became aware that Friedman had flipped on antitrust. When he died, I did some internet searches and found a a couple brief statements (circa the Microsoft antitrust trial) when he said that he thought the largest firms invariably hi-jacked antitrust law and used it as an anti-competitive tool. So I am guessing that either that was his real reason, or else he wanted a job in the Reagan administration.

    The problem with being an antitrust libertarian is that I am the only one in the whole world so far as I can tell. Since I don't have tme to write books or articles, the dedicated literature is sparse and located mostly in the archives of HnR and the Inactivist blog (little bit at Logan Ferree's place too).

    I can understand a lot of ambivalence about antitrust. Bill Clinton's doj made the antitrust case be about silly issues, about micromanaging business practices. My preferred version of antitrust is more aggressive and brutal. Specifically, I say that if the company has too large of a market share, then you simply break the company into many pieces, and don't worry so much about who is talking to whom or what Microsoft is or is not tying its browser to. Clinton's DoJ made antitrust into a moral issue (replete with incriminating secret emails and Bill Gates sweating a videotaped deposition). That is what not what antitrust should be about. rather they should simply have noted Microsoft's market share and asked that Microsoft be broken up simply on the basis of size. They didn't need to talk to Gates, and they didn't need to be poking around all the emails. They simply needed to do to Microsoft what they did (with such glorious results) to AT&T back in '79.

    The problem with large market share companies is not that they hire evil ppl with black hearts (they don't do that any more than anybody else does). rather, the problem with large market share companies is that they squeeze out other companies who would make business decisions (eg, product design, hiring of undocumented workers, drug testing, open source, etc, etc, etc) in ways differently than the large share company they partially supplant. These alternative ideas are then tested in a competitive setting and efficiency is enhanced in the long run because of this trial and error thing that happens when there is comptition, but does not happen when there is not.

  • ||

    Jay J. | December 19, 2006, 12:43pm | #

    ...I have to say that a corporate employer could ask to see your urine only if they are willing to give up their cherished corporate status.

    =========

    On the other hand, perhaps the "cost" of corporate status (created and enforced by the government, after all) is the requirement that the corporation has to obey the same rules that constrain government: the Bill of Rights, the various court decisions, etc. In effect, by granting corporate status, along with its privileges and immunities, the government would be "deputizing" the enterprise.

    What a neat and tidy way THAT would be, to grease the slippery slope, accelerating the slide into national socialism. Wheeee!

  • Sam Franklin||

    If businesses thought that following the Bill Of Rights, just as a government actor would, would somehow make them into Nazi's (a dubious proposition), then they can recast their business as a partnership (not limited liability partnership, but the older, purer more traditional form of a partnership. If that was the only way to prevent the business from sliding into Nazism, then I would argue that the corporation actually has a moral duty to do that. Or was that Nazi talk a joke and I missed it somehow.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement