Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

While watching the show Weeds, I had a thought about the effects that prohibition have on the nature of the substances that are prohibited.

During Prohibition in the 1920s, the quality of alcohol was often very low because production was forced underground.  Moonshine was distilled in rural locales and was often very dangerous to consume.  Now, people can buy liquors in stores without worrying about going blind.  Microbreweries across our country brew very unique, complex beers.  Society benefits from all the choices.  During Prohibition, beer production was probably non existent because of the facilities required for brewing beer.

In the same way, before abortions were made legal, they were very dangerous because they could be performed in sterile facilities by qualified professionals (b.n. Whether or not abortion is ethical is an entirely different issue).

What if marijuana were legalized, and marijuana began to have their own versions of microbreweries?  Like with microbreweries, users could have greater access to much more diverse products.  They would benefit because of higher quality goods, as well as knowing that their marijuana is safe (like drinkers know their liquor does not contain poison because they bought it from a liquor store).  Furthermore, as alcohol is regulated, marijuana would be regulated, and therefore would be safer.

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I just got done reading an article by The Economist (http://www.economist.com/node/16591136), and it got me thinking.

The article was about legalizing or simply decriminalizing marijuana consumption in California.

It was interesting to me because of how it could affect the economy.  In the article, the RAND Corporation predicted that the retail price of an ounce of marijuana would decrease by 80%.  This decrease can mean many different things.  It would be very bad for business for dealers and distributors because of the loss of revenues.  I recently started watching the Showtime show Weeds, and this point was further reinforced when Nancy’s distributor Heylia expressed disdain for legalization or decriminalization.

Another less obvious point that comes from this decrease in retail price is the ability of governments to tax purchases of marijuana.  If the retail prices does in fact decrease by 80%, then that is all the room government has to tax the marijuana without distorting consumer behaviors.  Furthermore, they would still have the room to levy a tax that would still make the price lower than when it was illegal, which could increase consumption, and thereby increasing tax revenues.

I am not an expert on tax policy, but these points are definitely something for policymakers to consider when dealing with near bankrupt state governments.

Of course, as many economists and analysts have stated before, legalization could decrease crime because of the elimination of marijuana’s black market.  Furthermore, cost to government to incarcerate “criminals” would decrease.

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I recently participated in a Twitter debate (http://twitter.com/#search?q=%23wdys), and the topic was whether or not governments DNA fingerprint their citizens.

I, like many others in the debate, disagree with governments doing this.  One point was made in clarifying the topic was if you have nothing to hide, then you should have nothing to fear.  Although I understand the rationale behind this, I strongly disagree.  Doing something solely because it leads to an end does not justify the action.  If everyone subscribed to the “if you nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear” logic, then government could expand rapidly into every facet of our lives, and we might become enslaved by the government.  People arguing for big government intervention are thinking idealistically; believing that government is benevolent and would have to reason to abuse their power.  However, I am thinking realistically; government is made up of people, and everyone is pursuing their own self interest.

One point I made against DNA fingerprinting was that government has a plethora of ways to identify people (i.e. drivers’ licenses, birth certificates, social security numbers, passports, etc).  If government used something as invasive as keeping records of everyone’s DNA, then they might as well go another step further and force people to allow government officials to install some type of tracking chip in everyone’s person.  With DNA fingerprinting, government severely reduces any anonymity among its citizens.

Another, more idealistic, point made by http://twitter.com/ender227 was that freedoms are seldom recovered after they are taken away.  I strongly agree with this.  Look at the growth of the American Federal government.  It has grown rapidly since after WWII, and is always difficult to scale back.  I am not saying that growth of government in this case is necessarily a usurpation of popular freedom, but the same idea holds.

In my opinion, the role of government is to solely protect the unalienable rights and freedoms of its populace, and I can see how it moves to that end when keeping records of all citizens’ DNA.

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