Wednesday, November 29, 2006

There is No War on Drugs

There is no war on drugs, but there are drug warriors. They wear the drug warrior badge proudly; they brag about it at parties. They create an environment in which vast sums of money are traded for controlled substances. They allow the very worst citizens of the world to amass untold economic gains, fund their arsenals of weapons, and permit them to trample on the lives and liberties of the rest of the population.

Many drug warriors have family members who are drug users or dealers; many are drug users themselves. The most ardent drug warriors are scared of their own weakness; they don’t trust themselves to “Just Say No”. They also know that the drug battles won’t be fought in their neighborhood or by their children.

Instead of fighting the battles they create, drug warriors appropriate tax dollars to hire enforcers: border patrol, customs agents, drug enforcement agents, treasury agents, prosecutors, police, and para-military SWAT teams. Because it’s these enforcers and their families that will actually face the danger, drug warriors feel free to ratchet up the rhetoric and policies.

There is no war on drugs, but there are drug suppliers with armies of soldiers. They are the captains of industry in the black market. Like any industry, they have vendors, distributors, transportation networks, and retailers. They compete for business and profits. They collude to set prices high and monopolize their territories. As with all unnatural cartels, the incentive to cheat is high and the collusion frequently breaks down, usually in a hail of bullets.

Drug suppliers are extremely adept at collecting and leveraging information. They know their competitors and they know the drug warriors. They know their names, where they live, and what schools their children attend. They know what time they go jogging in the morning, and the route they take to work. They know information about the drug warriors that the drug warriors would not want public. They know that any drug warrior that actually posed a threat to their operation could be easily discredited or eliminated.

But, the black market for drugs is high stakes because it is high risk. Drug suppliers know that their enormous profits come not in spite of the environment created by the drug warriors, but because of it. They recognize drug laws for what they are – protectionism. They applaud and encourage the anti-competitive actions of governments around the world and thank the drug warriors for erecting high barriers to entry in their market.

There is no war on drugs, but there are spies and double agents. The soldiers of drug suppliers are better-paid and more heavily armed than the enforcers of the drug warriors. Looking the other way for an hour can earn an enforcer more than a life-long career of enforcement. Even the most principled enforcer recognizes the danger posed against his family and possessions by the soldiers of the drug suppliers. Even the most strident enforcer knows that any victory produced by all-out combat would be pyrrhic at best and personally devastating at worst.

The enforcers are also adept at using information from spies and double agents. They know that the weakest participants in the black market can be exploited as informants, but only if they remain in the black market. The stronger, more violent participants can also be exploited in return for plea deals and reduced sentences. The price of information is aid and comfort to the enemy.

There is no war on drugs, but there are weapons laboratories. Drug profits fund research and development for stronger drugs and designer drugs. Drug suppliers fund R&D on cheaper, more addictive substances (meth and crack cocaine being the most notable examples) to expand their customer base. Despite that evidence, drug warriors are often found on the same stage as pharmaceutical companies swearing that prescription drug R&D will only happen if taxpayers fund it.

It bears repeating: meth and crack cocaine would not exist if not for the policies of the drug warriors. The demand for these sickening substances only exists because pharmaceutical-grade cocaine is not available for purchase at the local drug store. Additionally, it is probable that alcohol and tobacco-related deaths would be much lower if marijuana cigarettes were available at every convenience store.

There is no war on drugs, but there is collateral damage. Houses of innocent people are burglarized, convenience stores are knocked over, and cars are stolen to provide the cash for drugs. Innocent bystanders are wounded or killed by stray bullets from drive-bys and police shoot-outs. Family pets are executed in drug raids. Life savings are invested in homes, only to find that the structures are contaminated from the production of methamphetamines. Farmers’ fields are burned and salted.

Drug warriors are re-elected and their enforcers are paid by the assets seized from innocent, law-abiding citizens. Sometimes the assets are seized for the “crime” of transporting cash; mostly it’s seized through excessive taxation. These assets are diverted from drug treatment and education. The collection plates of churches are lighter and community centers have fewer basketballs because these assets are appropriated to enforce the policies of drug warriors.

The destruction of innocent, law-abiding families is the most egregious example of the collateral damage. If drug-related crime is not visited on them directly, they are subjected to higher insurance premiums because of it. Because so much of their money is taken by the government, parents must work longer and harder to afford health care, clothes, food, housing, and education for their children. The extra time spent at work comes directly out of family time; not surprisingly, that decrease in parental supervision results in more children coming in contact with and joining the drug trade. This cruel cycle is complete when the drug warriors decry the erosion of family values and pledge to spend more family dollars prosecuting a “war on drugs.”

There is no war on drugs even though there are armies, weapons, tactics, spies, and collateral damage. There are no definable or achievable objectives, no overwhelming force employed, and no ground gained or lost. The phrase “war on drugs” dehumanizes the victims: enforcers, families, farmers, legitimate businesses, and, yes, drug users and the soldiers. The phrase provides a smoke screen for the profiteers: drug warriors and suppliers. It’s time to start naming and exposing the people and quit using the phrase.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Cancelling Your Influence

Boortz spent a lot of time on pre-hype of his book today. Specifically, he talked about a recurring theme of his: I Will Never Listen To Your Show Again. It's self-defeating; if you're not going to listen to the show any more, why should Boortz change his mind to suit you?

The same effect happens when you go to the bank and say, "I'm taking all my money out and putting it in the bank across the street because you did _____." Or, when you call a magazine and say, "The last cover article was crass! Cancel my subscription." At the point where a company has lost you as a customer, they have also lost all benefit in trying to satisfy you. If you really want the bank, magazine, or cable company to make concessions or change the way they do business, you have to be either a customer or owner. A much better approach is to say, "I've been a customer since 1994 and I really enjoy your product, but _______ issue has really soured me. I would like some assurance that this won't happen again."

We have seen the "not a customer anymore" effect over and over with UN trade sanctions. The offensive notion that my government should "allow" or "disallow" my trade with another nation aside, limited sanctions may goad some desired effects, but strong sanctions just don't work. If a nation has close trade ties with other nations, they will change their behavior to maintain those trade ties. But, once relations sour to the point that strong sanctions are levied, there is no partnership to salvage; those nations are no longer customers of the offending nation.

Yet, that's not stopping anyone in the US government from pushing for more sanctions against Iran and North Korea. For obvious reasons, they recognize that the strong sanctions that are already in place haven't worked. I'm stupified by their suggestion that even stronger sanctions somehow will!

Hello? McFly? If you want to affect the governments of Iran and North Korea, you MUST be a valued trade partner. It is quite obvious that they are not scared of your stronger sanctions, guns, planes, and bombs. They would be scared of limited sanctions if they had economies that were dependent on trade with other countries!

The Consumer Goods Bomb has drawbacks, I admit. Mississippi residents won't think too kindly of its nation filling Iranian households with refrigerators and dishwashers when they are still rebuilding from Katrina. Without severely hobbling the government's ability to piss other nations off, a Consumer Goods Bombing policy will get very expensive, very quickly. But, given the disgusting cluster-f**k our foreign policy has become, use of the Consumer Goods Bomb in Iraq, Iran, and North Korea is the ONLY VIABLE PLAN.

Friday, November 17, 2006

From the "Unclear on the Concept" Desk

No, no, no! That's just going back to "stay the course".

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. funds intended to promote democracy in Cuba have been used to buy crab meat, cashmere sweaters, computer games and chocolates, according to a U.S. congressional audit published on Wednesday.


To protect recipients from prosecution, none of the money from the U.S. Agency for International Development or State Department is paid in cash to people in Cuba. A Cuban law sends citizens to jail for receiving money from the U.S. government.

Instead, the funds are distributed to Cuban-American groups in Miami, the heartland of opposition to Cuban President Fidel Castro, and in Washington, and used to buy medicines, books, shortwave radios and other goods that are smuggled into Cuba.

See, you have to drop a Consumer Goods Bomb directly on every household. If you run through a middle man, CG Bombs will just be used to trade political favors (no different than the rest of the taxes you pay). And no luxury items; once you've dropped the CG Bomb and the recipient has responded to all the credit card offers, then THEY can purchase the luxury items. Get it?

More Money Mean More Power

The Pentagon is set to ask congress for $127-160 billion for the Iraq war, over and above the $378 billion already approved. This is great news! The only logical conclusion is, the Pentagon immediately recognized the wisdom of the Consumer Goods Bomb!

Follow me through: to date, we've spent $343 billion on the war. We have appropriated $378 billion, so $35 billion of that remains. Add $160 billion from this request, and the Pentagon will have $195 billion with which to win the war. Divide $195 billion by the 5.2 million households in Iraq. The result is $37,500 per household.

That just happens to be the cost of a Consumer Goods Bomb without a car plus a 10% contingency!

To ride the wave of the coming boom in government spending, I suggest you go long all appliance and auto makers immediately!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I Miss Him Already

Milton Friedman opened a whole new world to me. Without his teaching, his easy-going way of bringing complicated concepts back to earth, and the verifiable truths he and Ms. Rose brought to the world I'm not sure I would have the same love of the science and philosophy of economics. I know I wouldn't think or act with such vigor or clarity of purpose.

Thank you, Professor. You will be missed.

Update: Love for Uncle Milty - Reason, Cato, Mises, Balko, Coyote, Kirkendall, Tabarrok, Warbs, Maticonis

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Bombing the Axis of Evil

I've been kicking around an idea for a while. It involves the merciless bombing of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea with a new weapon I've designed. The effects of this weapon are insidious - it has the ability to completely eliminate the will of the people to fight. I'm sure I'm not the first person to conceive of this weapon, but I know it's an original design (because I just finished the design this morning).

I estimate* that it will take 5.2 million of these bombs for Iraq, 4.6 million for North Korea, and 13.6 million for Iran. While the per unit cost of the bomb is low (compared to $200,000 for a Tomahawk) the large numbers will make them very expensive. But, given the raw power of this weapon, the bang for the buck is tremendous. Furthermore, my cost estimates are based on the retail price of the components. Even the US government should manage to get some sort of quantity discount for 23.4 million units!

It's important to note that the power of the bomb's components are proven and well documented. To my knowledge, however, they've never been combined in this way - I can only estimate the power of the weapon based on the sum of the demonstrated effects, but I would not be surprised if the combined effect is some order of magnitude higher than that.

Components: All of the components of the bomb (I call it the consumer goods or CG bomb) are readily available off the shelf. In fact, you could easily assemble one in your home without drawing any attention from authorities. Here's the list: a refrigerator, a washer, a dryer, a free-standing range, a range hood, a microwave, a television, a window heater/air conditioner, a dishwasher, a satellite dish, a desktop computer, a blender, a mixer, a toaster, a five-piece dining set, a five-piece living room set, three 4-piece bedroom sets, three queen mattress sets, a car, and a truck. The quality of the individual components is only marginally important. Note: do NOT buy any extended warranties.

Assembly: First, do NOT throw away the documentation that comes with the components. All the warrantee registration cards, user manuals, credit card applications, videos, software, etc. that comes with the components will be important in the implementation phase. Assemble the components in a compact package. For example, put the big stuff in the truck and the smaller stuff in the car.

Implementation: Drop a CG bomb in the middle of the house of each family in each of the offending nations. Walk away with a sly smirk, knowing you've just defeated the enemy. By the time these poor, unsuspecting bastards figure out that you've doomed them to a life of sitting on hold with customer support reps and worrying about their credit reports, the US government will have ticked off a whole new set of people!

CG Bombing Cost: At retail, I figure** the unit cost of a CG bomb at $50,000. If CG bombs would have been used in Iraq, the country would have saved $125 billion (based on current appropriations of $378 billion). Even if a reduced-cost CG bomb were used today (delete the car, truck, and one of the bedroom sets) we could save $1.6 billion over current appropriations with little decrease in weapon effectiveness.

Total cost to carpet CG bomb Iran: $660 billion. North Korea: $222 billion.

CG Bomb Damage Assessment: Complete loss of will to fight the US. Overthrow of tyrannical governments. Credit card debts out the wazoo. Of course, that's just the first wave. Wait'll the publicly-traded home builders and mortgage companies get ahold of them!

Collateral Damage: Unfortunately, very high. Once we show a willingness to CG bomb offenders, France and West Virginia will provoke us just to get bombed! But, you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.

* Googled the population of each country and divided by five to estimate the number of families.
** Googled each of the components and added up the low-cost version of brand-name products.

Update: Coyote's asking for a third option from "Stay the Course" or "Cut & Run". The CG bomb IS the third option - it will win the war in Iraq!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Drag Racing

This post sponsored by and earns $10 for the American Red Cross!
Here's how.

I've never thought of myself as a race fan. I've always liked to fly low and fast, I love working on mechanical things, and appreciate the sheer lunacy of spending that much money just for the thrill of it, but I've still never had the patience for NASCAR, IRL, or NHRA. During my annual pilgrimage to see the World's Fastest Motorsport this year, however, it occurred to me that maybe I AM a race fan.

Since the airplanes were going as fast as they were going to go with pistons and props, I've spent the last couple of years designing and building engines - from scratch, from billets I've poured. This summer, however, the attention turned to performing undetectable mods to 50cc Comers to help a friend's kid gain an edge in Kid Karts. I stared raptly as my partner in crime dumped a ton of money into a 135 inch motor for his Dyna - to race. I nodded appreciatively as that same guy picked up an 11-second Camaro - to race. It all hit home as I stood among the pit crews readying their airplanes for the next day's races, and got regular updates from the drag strip as the Camaro inched below 11 seconds - I guess I am a race fan.

There're worse things. An all day marathon of PINKS followed by the premier of PINKS All Out on Speedtv isn't one of them (November 23). Drag Racing Clips

Update: Pinks video for your watchy pleasure!