If the rich and powerful were forced to do time in prison for doing drugs, there would be a stronger incentive to end the drug war.

We often hear a lot, especially from those who want to tear them down, about the top 1 percent. We don’t hear nearly as much about the bottom 1 percent. Who are they? Where are they? Why are they in the bottom 1 percent? And what should we do about them?

It turns out that about two thirds of the people in the bottom 1 percent are in U.S. prisons. And of these people, a few hundred thousand are there for victimless crimes. Letting them out would help them and save us taxpayer money. That’s a win-win.

via The Bottom One Percent, David Henderson | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty.

Hitchens: Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.

[M]y interpretation of Rand’s core principle has always been “Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you” (Hitchens 2001: 140).  I know neither if Randians agree with my interpretation of her nor if Hitchens, were he still among us, would appreciate me interpreting his words as expressing a foundational principle endorsed both in the Bible and in Rand’s philosophy.

And note that even if many adults are eager – even when taking a long-run perspective – to enter with other adults into a pact of mutual slavery (“I’ll live to sacrifice myself for you if you live to sacrifice yourself for me”), this fact does not morally require those of us who don’t wish to live to sacrifice ourselves for others to follow in the footsteps of these mutual enslavers.  Hitchens’s – and the Bible’s – wise moral advice is followed by those of us who do not wish to sacrifice ourselves for others if we simply and consistently do not expect or force others to sacrifice themselves for us – and by our resisting, in every prudent way possible, attempts by the mutual enslavers to draft us into their pact of mutual sacrifice, as well as resist their efforts to portray us as immoral because we refuse to be enchanted by their collectivist creed.

via Quotation of the Day….

Why I Refuse to Vote for Barack Obama – Conor Friedersdorf

I am not a purist. There is no such thing as a perfect political party, or a president who governs in accordance with one’s every ethical judgment. But some actions are so ruinous to human rights, so destructive of the Constitution, and so contrary to basic morals that they are disqualifying. Most of you will go that far with me. If two candidates favored a return to slavery, or wanted to stone adulterers, you wouldn’t cast your ballot for the one with the better position on health care. I am not equating President Obama with a slavery apologist or an Islamic fundamentalist. On one issue, torture, he issued an executive order against an immoral policy undertaken by his predecessor, and while torture opponents hoped for more, that is no small thing.    

What I am saying is that Obama has done things that, while not comparable to a historic evil like chattel slavery, go far beyond my moral comfort zone. Everyone must define their own deal-breakers. Doing so is no easy task in this broken world. But this year isn’t a close call for me.

He says if he votes at all, it will be for Gary Johnson. Please read the whole thing. Via Why I Refuse to Vote for Barack Obama – Conor Friedersdorf – The Atlantic.

Freedom of Expression Means Self-Control — For The Audience

If a Republican physically attacked a Democrat, or a Democrat a Republican, after one said something with which the other strongly disagreed, would it be any defense for the attacker to say, “He knew perfectly well that I detested his views”? Freedom of expression requires not so much the exercise of self-control in what is said as its exercise in reaction to what is said. I can hardly look at a book these days without taking offense at something that it contains, but if I smash a window in annoyance, the blame is only mine—even if the author knows perfectly well that what he wrote will offend many such as I.

via Freedom of Expression, Without the Expression by Theodore Dalrymple – City Journal.

What Is The War On Terror? Well, What Do You *Want* It To Be?

if we let it, the government will define the War on Terror however it wants.

The United States government, under two opposed increasingly indistinguishable political parties, asserts the right to kill anyone on the face of the earth in the name of the War on Terror. It asserts the right to detain anyone on the face of the earth in the name of the War on Terror, and to do so based on undisclosed facts applied to undisclosed standards in undisclosed locations under undisclosed conditions for however long it wants, all without judicial review. It asserts the right to be free of lawsuits or other judicial proceedings that might reveal its secrets in the War on Terror. It asserts that the people it kills in drone strikes are either probably enemy combatants in the War on Terror or acceptable collateral damage. It asserts that increasing surveillance of Americans, increasing interception of Americans’ communications, and increasingly intrusive security measures are all required by the War on Terror.

But the War on Terror, unlike other wars, will last as long as the government says it will.

via How I Convicted A Man For Helping Terrorists Who Now Aren’t Terrorists | Popehat.

America Really Is Exceptional

A few minutes later, I heard a Dutch audience member make a similar, if stronger, point.  The average American, he said, is much worse off than the average Swede.  Why can’t America be more like Sweden?  

I actually don’t think that the latter point is true; if you plucked an average American (mean, median, or modal) out of Kansas City or Aurora, and plopped them down in the middle of Gothenburg, the average American would be very unhappy.  Yes, they’d have generous social benefits and lots of vacation, but they’d also be crammed into a small apartment in a very small country.  They wouldn’t be able to afford services that average Americans take for granted, like lots of restaurant foods and extremely high levels of customer service, which means they’d spend a lot more time doing basic housework, childcare, and so forth.  They would find it very expensive to fuel their car, and the insular, almost formal culture would make them crazy.  

This is also true the other way, by the way; the average Swede would not be happy living in America.  Sure, they’d have a huge house, filled with cheap consumer goods, and they could drive their car everywhere, particularly to their incredible array of dining options.  But they’d miss their vacation and find America’s looser safety net both terrifying and inconvenient.  They would hate the inefficiency of our government services, and miss their cozy circle of friends and family.  Part of the reason that we have different systems from the Swedes and the Germans is that we place different emphasis on various possible sets of amenities, and of course, the availability of various amenities changes what we think of as the basic package for a decent life.  In most of America it includes a house, preferably detached, and a car.  In Sweden it includes a year of mandated maternity leave and a well-run streetcar system.  Losing any of those amenities is usually more painful for people than getting whatever the other folks have–which is why most expats are some combination of young, unhappy in their home country, or wealthy enough to buy the stuff they miss.  

via America Really Is Exceptional – The Daily Beast.

Police State: Virtual House Arrest Ordered for Minors in East St. Louis

Angered by the recent murders of four young people,  the mayor announced today that police are going to impose drastic new measurers to keep teens off the streets.

“There is something going on in the community at this point that we’ve got to safeguard them and keep them off the streets,” Mayor Alvin Parks said. “There are people shooting at each other for no reason whatsoever.”

Among the new rules:

**Minors are to be off the streets at ten o’clock on both weeknights and weekend nights.

**Minors on the street during school hours will be arrested on sight.

**Police will also perform I.D. checks on street corners and conduct gun searches, and Parks says he won’t hesitate to call in the National Guard if the spike in violence continues.

East St. Louis Mayor Alvin Parks announcing crackdown on youth violence

“The loiterers will be arrested, not warned, but arrested. Those who are hanging out at 11th and Bond, 15th and Lynch, 38th and Waverly, wherever you happen to be, if you are loitering, you will be arrested.”

“Articulable suspicion” is now “walking around after 10pm” and gets you searched on a whim. Papers, please! Via Virtual House Arrest Ordered for Minors in East St. Louis « CBS St. Louis.

Islamist Vandalizes Poster, MTA Responds By Prohibiting Posters

Just one day after an Islamic activist attempted to cover over private property in spray paint (and a woman who got in her way), the Metropolitan Transit Authority in New York has announced they will amend their rules to prohibit the types of advertisements that offended her.

The New York Times reports the MTA will prohibit any advertisements that it “reasonably foresees would imminently incite or provoke violence or other immediate breach of the peace.” Those “viewpoint” ads that do not meet this criteria will be allowed, so long as a disclaimer is included saying the MTA does not endorse them. The MTA met on Thursday to discuss the rules, which were approved unanimously 8-0. 

Maybe Christians should start spray-painting over speech they find offensive, too. Via NYC Prohibits Controversial Subway Ads in Wake of Islamist’s Vandalism.

Obamacare Failing to Keep Health Care Costs From Rising

There’s been a lot of trumpeting about how health care spending has been slowing. Some attributed that to the economy, others to the ACA. Some of us, on the other hand, have been more skeptical. I hate it when cynicism is rewarded. Here’s a sampling of the bad news:

Per capita health care spending for under-65 year olds with employer based insurance went up 4.6% to $4547

Per capita health care spending for children went up 7.7% to $2347

Per capita out-of-pocket spending went up 4.6% to $735

Surgical admission average facility price went up 8.5% to $29,858

Emergency room average facility price went up 5.4% to $1381

Via And this morning was looking so promising… | The Incidental Economist.

As a followup, Megan McArdle


I had a somber conversation with an economist of my acquaintance about what health care cost moderation might mean. If Obamacare’s boosters were right, it would mean more money to spend on other things–at least, for those of us who are not doctors or nurses. But if they were wrong, and the moderation in cost growth indeed resulted from the economic slowdown, any long term moderation in cost growth would also be accompanied by long-term moderation in economic growth–a cure worse than the disease. Health care costs that grow at 3% when the economy is growing at 1% are not better than health care costs growing at 5% when the economy is growing at 3%. They are much, much worse.

The Green Party Candidate Is To The *Right* Of Obama? On Work, Anyway.

I was talking with Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party presidential nominee, the other day; she offered a different approach, one that harkens back to President Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Back in the Great Depression, FDR was more focused on getting people back to work than on handing out money. He set up the WPA and the CCC to provide employment for out-of-work Americans — jobs building needed infrastructure: bridges, post offices, courthouses and other federal buildings.

The idea was that taxpayers should get something out of helping the unemployed.

The Green Party’s Stein has a similar suggestion, and comments: “If you don’t have work, you’d go to an employment office, not an unemployment office, and you’d get a job, not sit home, depressed, with a check.”

Emphasis in original. Via Barack Obama v. Jill Stein on dependency—Glenn Reynolds – NYPOST.com.