My Stubborn Libertarian Streak

No doubt we have lots of problems in this country. One of the biggest is our shameful incarceration rate. The country as a whole has become like Texas, where everything is big. This is not good. (We'll leave military spending and murder for another day.) The US has five percent of the world's population living within its borders. Yet, we have 25% of the world's prison population. (NY Times, April, 2008) Shame! We had 2.3 million people behind bars last year. That's 2,300,000 human beings. The number today is no doubt higher. This is madness. (I just found a good blog entry on this topic. Follow this link.) A large percentage of the crimes that got people put into jail are drug related. (I wrote about this a little back in April of this year.) And yet Congress and state legislatures do nothing. Well, occasionally they do–they make the problem worse by coming up with more stupid, self-righteous, populist legislation. Typically there is some horrendous crime and people feel, quite rightly, outraged. Get out the sledge hammer! Let them rot in jail! No one should be in jail for being a drug addict. That's really stupid. Let's legalize. Marihuana: legalize it. Cocaine: legalize it. Heroin: legalize it. And regulate. In Pennsylvania if you want a bottle of wine you have to go to an "official" store run by the state. The state employee makes sure no one under the legal age purchases the wine. Good. And you pay a hefty tax. Good. (The selection is not great, not so good, but that could be improved...) Let's do the same with recreational drugs. Want to smoke a joint? Go to an official, state sponsored "Recreational Drug Distribution Center." There will be lots of brochures on the health risks. You'll have to prove you are over age 21. The product will have quality assurances. And the state will have a hefty cut. States already take advantage of general stupidity with gambling. To not do the same with drugs is hypocrisy. And bad public policy. 
Prostitution is another sad, very sad, reality. (And closely tied to the world of illegal drugs.) Police are not going to make it go away. Legalizing prostitution doesn't mean we think it's a good thing. It's not. It's horribly sad. But let's get prostitutes the medical care and social services they need and stop treating them like criminals. I'll write more about this in another entry...

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