Category Archives: Georgia politics

I Don’t Hope

I have a confession to make. I play the lottery. Yes, I understand math implies I have a better chance of being struck by lightning than of winning the jackpot, but it’s only a couple of bucks a week and ultimately somebody has to win, so who knows. I reveal this dark secret in order to set the stage for a demonstration of the ineptitude of government agency running a business: The Georgia Lottery Commission. Although to be fair it would appear the Georgia Legislature had an equal hand in the stupidity I am about to reveal.

A few years ago the GLC actually did something beneficial for their customers, they added the ability to buy lottery tickets on line. You can buy nearly everything else on line, why not lottery tickets? The process itself was a bit convoluted, you couldn’t just pay with a credit card or Paypal, you had to open a pseudo-Discover debit card called the “iHope Card” that you had to first fund from a bank account before you could play. However the card acted like a debit card so you could in theory get at your money whenever you needed it. More on that later.

In the beginning the process worked well. Every 3 months I’d buy 26 draws of the same number and then not think about it for another 3 months. Click and forget, very easy. Occasionally if jackpots got huge I might pick up a few more tickets from the comfort of home. Unfortunately that has all ended. In the past few months either a new law was passed or the GLC simply got around to enforcing an existing law. The upshot is that one must now be physically located in the state of Georgia to buy a Georgia lottery ticket. This is where we enter the Twilight Zone. Only government would craft its business model around the ideal of striving toward FEWER sales and LESS revenue by artificially restricting its customer base. I thought the revenue raised by the lottery was for funding in-state education. If people in other states want to send money to Georgia voluntarily to help educate children here, exactly what is the problem with that?

In any event, in order to ensure this asinine edict is upheld the GLC implemented a new software check that attempts to determine one’s computer location based on a combination of IP address and local Wi-Fi networks. Sounds simple enough to the uninitiated, but for those who work in IT like myself it is evident that such an approach will be fraught with false negatives. I know because I was caught up in their net and became intimately familiar with the methods they are using. One must have two (or possibly many more, they really don’t know) Wi-Fi networks nearby (this cuts out anyone not living in a dense urban environment). Likewise, one can’t be running the Mac OS because the GLC software mistakes a core function of OS X (Remote Management) as something that might interfere in location determination (it can’t). The GLC even laughably suggests one buy a Wi-Fi extender to find more networks – that’s like suggesting one buy stronger binoculars to see better in the dark. GLC’s new motto: It is better that a thousand Georgians be inconvenienced than for one Alabaman near the border to buy a lotto ticket. Brilliant.

The second act in this drama gets even more interesting (all lawyers pay close attention to this one). Seeing as how I could not use my account to buy tickets on line anymore, I opted to transfer funds back to my bank account and close the iHope account. Alas, I soon discovered you are only allowed to transfer WINNINGS out of an iHope account to a bank account (this fact confirmed by calling support when I was unable to transfer all funds). Any money that you originally transferred to it from a bank account cannot subsequently be transferred back. So what’s the problem? Well, first, that is an idiotic artificial limitation, but secondly, that information is not disclosed anywhere. I scoured the account agreement (where it should have been) and do not see any mention of this fact. Astoundingly enough their website FAQ clearly contradicts their policy by stating that


“CAN I TRANSFER MY WINNINGS FROM MY IHOPECARD ACCOUNT TO MY BANK ACCOUNT? Yes. Transfer your winnings, or any funds originating from your bank account, to your registered bank account.”


Repeated attempts to inform their tech support their FAQ was wrong resulted only them parroting the FAQ back to me. I would characterize this blatant omission and ongoing contradiction of a material fact regarding how the iHope account functions as fraud. Any interested class action attorneys – I will leave you to it.

Fantasy Island

Consider the following scenario: You have just received an invitation in the mail from a friend. He is inviting everyone he knows to his beautiful tropical island. All are welcome to visit any time and stay as long as they want. There is just one catch: marauding pirates will attack anyone that comes near the island. The pirates patrol the skies above and the waters below as well as the surface. If you somehow do manage to outwit the pirates and make it to the island, your friend offers an additional warning: he has armed guards that will shoot anyone seen crossing the perimeter beaches. But – if you can make it past all of that – you are quite welcome there.

Now as schizophrenic as this sounds – “please come visit me, I’ll kill you if you try, but please come visit me” – it is not too far removed from the scenario that the government of the state of Georgia has just put into play with the passage of HB1 (also known as “Haleigh’s Hope Act”) and subsequent signing into law by Governor Nathan Deal last week.  HB1 legalizes the “possession” of medicinal marijuana. But only in the cannabis oil form. And, only if it is under 20 ounces. And only so long as it contains less than 5% THC. Caveat, conditions, and exceptions – “you can have this…except when… and only if…and as long as…” The politician’s lawmaking cookbook – liberally sprinkled qualifying conjunctions.

Ok, ok, well at least there is now a glimmer of hope for those that have a medical need for it, right? Well, almost. As long as one’s medical condition is on the short “approved” list of ailments: cancer, ALS, seizures, MS, Chrohn’s disease, mitochondrial disease, Parkinson’s disease and sickle-cell anemia. Funny, I thought Republicans were opposed to the government interfering in the doctor-patient relationship. In any event, if one is unlucky enough to suffer from one of these ailments that still may not be sufficient to qualify. A patient’s case must be considered severe or terminal… not in the opinion of one’s doctor mind you, but rather in the opinion of some faceless state bureaucracy to whom your doctor must now, on bended knee, plead your case whilst kissing its ring.

If a patient makes it past all those hurdles, then they can qualify for a registration card. This is their de facto “get out of jail free” card if they are ever found by police to be in possession of sub-20 ounce 5% dilutions of cannabis oil. But don’t get caught with 21 ounces or a 6% solution, otherwise it’s off to the big house you horrible menace to society you!

So while HB1 offers an invitation to an oasis of potential pain relief (the tropical island) it does not eliminate the marauding pirates or the armed guards. It is still illegal to grow or buy marijuana in Georgia (you know, the stuff you need to actually make the cannabis oil). It is likewise a violation of both Federal and Georgia state law to cross state lines to buy cannabis oil or have it shipped into the state. So to be clear on this: it is legal, pursuant to numerous conditions, to possess cannabis oil, however, all methods of actually acquiring the oil are still illegal. Well, magic as a method is legal. Perhaps the legislature envisions patients performing a Harry Potter style invocation to acquire their needed oil?

I will assume that the bill’s author (Rep. Allen Peake) and its sponsors did not set out to write a bad bill. I suspect they truly do want to help people suffering from the above (and many other unlisted) conditions. The problem is the compromises one must make in politics that whittle otherwise well intentioned legislation down to hollowed out cores of absurdity. This bill is a prime example of the fallacy that compromises are de facto evidence of a principled balancing of interests. If you believe all illegal aliens should be shot and I believe none should, then it is hardly a principled balancing of interests to say we shall only shoot half of them. Likewise if I believe that any substance that can relieve pain and suffering should be obtainable without artificial barriers but you believe that the risk of even one person getting “high” outweighs the pain and suffering of millions, then it is a meaningless compromise indeed to say patients can legally possess those substances but that actions aimed at possession are illegal. Empty, hollow rhetoric – nothing more.

Mix one part irrational fear with one part representative democracy and you get a society with needless pain and suffering. None should ever be allowed to suffer because of fears of what might be, lest we become prisoners entombed behind the bars of potential acts.

Minority Report

It would appear that the Georgia General Assembly is under the impression that police officers in this state are endowed with wizardry skills, namely the ability to divine the future and see beyond this physical realm into the invisible and incorporeal dimensions. The Georgia House voted last week (the Senate similarly approving it a month earlier) to approve Senate Bill 94.  In broad terms this bill’s stated purpose was to modernize many of Georgia’s statutes under Title 17 relating to criminal procedures. There do appear to be some genuine improvements to the law in this piece of legislation. For example Section 17-20-2 covers procedures for witness identification lineups. It is now forbidden that the person conducting the line up have any knowledge of the identity of the actual suspect. This ensures a true “double-blind” outcome free of unconscious cues directing the witness to the “correct” choice.

However there are other aspects to this legislation which take a decidedly two-steps forward one-step back approach to improving the state of criminal law in this state. Perhaps the most egregious is Section 17-5-22, which now includes language that warrants may be issued if probable cause can be shown that a crime is about to be committed. Yes you read that correctly – about to be committed. Taking a page out of the movie “Minority Report,” Georgia now has a “pre-Crime” clause in its criminal code. We are fortunate that police officers in this state can now exercise a power none of us mere mortals posses: the ability to see into the future. Nostradamus would be proud. So, that leaves an open question – can the state get a conviction for a crime that was about to be committed but then because of the warrant was not? What are the standards of evidence? Is merely possessing a weapon “proof” you were about to commit a crime? If I have a gun or knife on me does that mean I am about to commit the crime of murder? Armed robbery? Assault? Which one? All three perhaps? If I own an analytical balance does that mean I’m about to commit the crime of drug distribution? I wonder how much easier it will be for the police to harass someone they have it in for if any of a number of innocuous items could be used to commit a crime. Let me just interject here now to say I don’t mean the Oconee County Police – they are the best and would never do anything like this! Ok, that was mean to be a bit of levity, but I’m also serious, I am fortunate to live in a county with a police force that does not engage in the sort of shenanigans you sometimes hear about on the news – they truly are top-notch.  So, what am I complaining about you might say, none of these legislative games affect or are likely to affect me? Because I can see beyond my own little world, and I can see how although some officers would not abuse the power granted in this new law, I can also see how it could easily be abused by those with personal vendettas or discriminatory inclinations. We’ve all heard the phrase “driving while black” – can you imagine how much easier it will now be for officers with racist inclinations to concoct suspicion of some “pre-crime” when they fail to find any evidence of an actual crime? I believe the question answers itself.

On the lighter side of inanity contained in this bill, there is a change in the definition of “property”. Section 17-5-1 now defines property to encompass “intangible, … incorporeal… or invisible” things. Hmmmm… so are they going to confiscate my invisible friend? That doesn’t seem very respectful of the rights of invisible, incorporeal beings. Ok, I know what they mean; they are referring to digital media (well I hope that is what they mean, otherwise someone let Casper know about this). The intent here is unclear but one could imagine that it allows them to now collect a physical device (phone, hard drive), copy all the data off, and then erase it and return it to you empty. That way they can say they returned your physical goods and kept as evidence the “incorporeal” digital evidence. Of course if making a copy of someone’s property” is supposedly a crime then haven’t the police just committed the same crime by copying your copy? Perhaps if the General Assembly used the correct definition of property, e.g. scarce, rivalrous resources, it would free up police manpower to go after actual property crimes (theft, rape, murder) rather than acting as referee in disputes that amount to nothing more than schoolyard disputes over who said something first.

Knock, knock – Who’s there?

A pair of nearly identical bills (SB 45, SB 159) has been introduced this session into the Georgia legislature concerning “no-knock” warrants. Apparently all those no-knock raids we’ve heard about recently in Georgia (a toddler nearly killed in Habersham County, the murder of David Hooks in Laurens County) were illegal. Under Georgia law (O.C.G.A 17-5-27) officers must give “verbal notice” before force can be used to execute a warrant. Huh. Imagine that, words on a piece of a paper didn’t stop those in power from doing whatever they wanted – and since there was no accountability in either case, apparently the current law prohibiting no-knocks is of little practical value. So, let’s see, how could we possibly remedy this situation? I’ve got it – make no-knock raids LEGAL! Now when officers engage in this practice they won’t be breaking the law anymore, problem solved.

Why stop there? Why not make rape, murder, and theft legal? That would lower the crime rate in Georgia to the point where there would be no need for no-knock raids. Oh, right that wouldn’t help because no-knock raids aren’t about catching actual criminals (rapists, murders, and thieves). No, they are about nabbing the low hanging fruit of drug “crimes” where mere possession of “stuff” is all that is needed to close a case. Smash, grab, arrest. Wash, rinse, and repeat. Detective work is so tedious – this is much easier. I have a suggestion for these politicians. If you are so keen on legalizing that which was formerly illegal in order to control it better, then try this: repeal all drug laws. Now there is no need for no-knock warrants.

Now, just to clarify, both bills’ proponents claim the bills prohibit no-knock raids. One (SB45) even goes so far as to call itself “Bou Bou’s Law” (after the toddler that nearly had his face blown off). Because both bills would greatly increase the probability of another “Bou Bou” type incident, this particular appellation is about as disconcertingly insulting as naming a rape legalization bill a “Women’s Rights Law”.

What the declaration giveth (“No search warrant shall be issued which contains a no-knock”), the exception clause taketh away (“unless the affidavit or testimony supporting such warrant establishes by probable cause that if an officer were to knock and announce identity and purpose before entry, such act of knocking and announcing would likely pose a significant and imminent danger to human life or imminent danger of evidence being destroyed.”)

“Significant and imminent” are the weasel words that will build the foundation of every manufactured excuse to engage in this practice. Honestly, if the degree of danger is that serious do you really think an extra 5-10 seconds will provide an absolute measure of safety? If the danger level is truly “imminent” no one should be entering, announced or unannounced, if officer safety is the primary concern. Surround and siege is a much less dangerous alternative for all involved. Likewise, the phrase “evidence being destroyed” is code for “drugs flushed down the commode”. Thus upon this rock one may build the excuse for every drug case being a no-knock case.

Opposition to these bills is not “anti-cop”. Quite the contrary. Officers tend to get shot when they break into people’s homes unannounced. That’s just a fact. The goal should be to eliminate such raids, not increase their use through legalization and specious pleading of “oversight.” The only situation where a no-knock raid would ever be warranted is if someone’s life inside the residence is in danger (think serial killer situation). But to risk the lives of officers and innocent bystanders inside in order to potentially get a few grams of dope off the streets – that is simply reckless and the Georgia senate should be ashamed of themselves for attempting to codify under the color of law this outrageous practice. Please contact your Georgia Senator to voice opposition to these bills.

The Silent Majority

If one is a believer in the democracy and voting, then this demands at a minimum a respect for the concept of a quorum, that is, a minimum level of participation of those members (citizens) eligible to vote. Although the US constitution does not provide any specific requirements for a quorum with regards to voting by citizens, it does provide some insight into the minds of the founding fathers with respect to the importance of voter participation. Specifically, the 12th Amendment states that a quorum of at least two-thirds of the members of the House of Representatives should be present if they are called upon to decide a presidential election (when the electoral college produces a tie). Given that voter turnout has never exceeded 67% in a presidential election it could be argued that none of our elected representatives are “legitimate”. Voter turnout in presidential election years hovers around 60% and 40% in off years. Therefore, 40-60% of the population found all options so distasteful they chose to abstain from casting a ballot. In other words, at last at the national or state level, no elected official has ever received majority support of those citizens eligible to vote. This inconvenient truth is ignored for the simple fact that were it respected it would be impossible for those “in power” to govern at any level greater than city council (and even that is in question). To truly respect the wishes of those not voting requires either providing a NOTA option on all ballots or to assume a tally of a vote for NOTA for each person not voting (NOTA= None Of The Above).

To the apathetic voter then I say take heed of the power you hold. If those of you who do not vote do so because you believe it won’t make a difference, then the fact that your constituency is 60% of the population should tell you otherwise. If you are tired of the status quo of the left and right wings of the officially sanctioned State Party – the party that stays in power no matter who “wins”, then seize this opportunity and vote Libertarian this election. Now I could write a book about why Libertarians are the better choice, but honestly, how could it be any worse? The two party duopoly has given us nothing but a soul crushing welfare-warfare state liberally sprinkled with either economic or civil rights violations. At least the libertarians are ideologically in alignment with the majority of Americans. That is to say, when people are polled on issues rather than candidates, they overwhelming choose libertarian positions (“I can’t believe this is instant coffee!”) Yes libertarians are the Folgers of politics. Try them, you’ll be surprised how much you like them.

In Georgia we have several libertarians running at the state level: Andrew Hunt for Governor, Amanda Swafford for Senate, Ted Metz for Insurance Commissioner. Some have tried to pin the “spoiler” label on them claiming that since no libertarian has ever won a high level office they have no chance and thus should not even bother. That’s a great message – if it’s never been done before then that means it can’t be done. Of course an actual election “spoiler” is someone who draws votes away from one or more candidates and thus alters the outcome of the election. But, since Georgia employs a run-off system it is mathematically impossible for additional candidates to play the role of spoiler; the top two vote getters (assuming no one got more than 50%) compete head to head in a run off. Some have said that third party candidates just waste public money by forcing expensive run-off elections. Well whose fault is that? Citizens exercising their constitutional right to run for elected office or lazy legislatures that refuse to implement Instant Runoff Voting. IRV not only eliminates additional costs with run off elections but it also negates the distasteful practice of “strategic” voting found in plurality voting. Such strategic voting only serves to further marginalize third party candidates so it’s hardly surprising why Republicans or Democrats would never promote such a system.

So to all of those in Georgia that have sat on the sidelines, now is your opportunity to send a message to our oligopolic status quo rulers: vote Libertarian and show the country that the “impossible” is possible. Vote Folgers.

Oconee Liquor Referendum: A Vote Less Traveled

“Shall the governing authority of Oconee County be authorized to issue licenses to sell distilled spirits for beverage purposes by the drink, such sales to be for consumption only on the premises?”


This is a difficult question for the principled libertarian. It’s a bit like asking the antebellum electorate whether a law requiring slave-owners to not separate families should be passed. Obviously that would be an improvement but the very asking implies consent with the legitimacy of the immoral institution of slavery. Likewise allowing business owners slightly more flexibility in what they are permitted to offer to their voluntary, paying customers is a step in the right direction. But, one must also recognize that such approval implies acquiescence to the right of existence of a “governing authority” that can by decree or popular vote dictate what some people may or may not do with their own justly acquired private property within the invisible lines that define this particular segment of planet Earth as Oconee county. Ethically no such “governing authority” should exist.

To understand why this is so consider the following: People of different religious beliefs can all live side by side in the same community without any (well almost) desire to force their neighbor to conform to their particular set of beliefs. But when those beliefs are secular in nature suddenly it makes perfect sense that the beliefs of the majority are the ones that should govern not merely that majority, but all who live amongst that majority and within an arbitrary boundary. There is no logical basis as to why one type of belief should be respected and another type ignored when it comes to majoritarian impositions on one’s neighbors.

If you don’t want to imbibe a real tequila based margarita, then don’t, but you have no more of a right to tell someone else that they cannot than does an old school Catholic have the right to tell you that you can’t eat meat on Fridays or the Jew to tell you that you must power down all electrical devices for the Sabbath. Indeed it is curious that one extreme segment of the Christian community is so vociferous in their opposition to this referendum. Setting aside the ecclesiastical distortions that lead some to the opinion that alcohol is evil; there is no evidence Jesus ever said his teachings were best enforced by state decree. Following His word willingly is the only gift we can give Him. But a gift given under duress is no gift at all. Such laws rob others of the opportunity to make that willing gift. But, I digress.

Although on the one hand most Americans will espouse support for the ideas of liberty, respecting the rights of the individual and generally minding our own business, when they go into the voting booth those same Americans will engage in a process that is the antithesis of those concepts. Consequentialism, utilitarianism, call it what you will, but that is the thought process that drives many. Rights are important, but if people exercise the right to do X then that might result in Y, therefore WE can’t allow this. The ends justify the means and our rights are trimmed on the altar of Might Be. Recognizing possible deleterious scenarios and working to minimize them is fine – as long as the methods employed do not resort to aggression, that is, the initiation of violence against another. That is what law, ordinances and licenses are – implied aggression. Implied aggression becomes actual aggression if the ordinance or license is ignored.

“But without ordinances and licenses there would be chaos” is the usual rejoinder. No, there would not be chaos. There would simply be a different outcome. Different does not equal chaos. Chaos is simply code for “not the outcome I personally want to see.” But the individual is not powerless to prevent that which they fear in a world of voluntary societies free of coercive “governing authorities”. If you don’t want to see certain kinds of businesses or land use patterns within a certain distance from your residence then you can join like-minded people and put your money where your mouth is. Buy up all the land around you, and then you are free to decide how it is used. If that is too expensive then this is society’ way of telling you that it values other uses for that land more highly than you value it for the purpose you desire. Who are you to argue with society? After all, the people have spoken.

The Voting Games

We are now less than two months from Election Day and the usual furor over voting has moved from low simmer to boil. Wisconsin’s voter ID law was reinstated last week setting off the usual liberal chorus about limiting votes. And in our own back yard, Georgia Republicans are chiming in to their own refrain about too much voting. It seems Dekalb County will now have Sunday voting. The Republicans have taken a perplexingly tone-deaf stance on this issue. Their oppositional argument amounts to: Sunday voting enables more minorities to vote, minorities don’t vote Republican, so this is bad. If the Republicans had any kind of political savvy they would come out in full support of Sunday voting and in fact should one-up the Democrats by supporting Saturday voting as well. It may come as a shock to some, but most people work on Tuesday (the traditional voting day). Perhaps, just perhaps, voting should occur on the day (or days) that maximizes the availability of the majority of the population. If Republicans truly are the friend of business they purport to be, then they would support weekend voting since weekday voting is invariably disruptive to business operations.

On one thing though the Republicans have a point (although not the one they intended nor the one they are being skewered for). Georgia Senator Fran Millar stated “I would prefer more educated voters than a greater increase in the number of voters.” He is of course using the term “educated” in the sense of specific knowledge about the candidates or issues even though his opponents would like to frame his comment to imply minorities voters are simply “uneducated” in a broader sense.

I agree with Senator Millar – the voters should know whom they are voting for and why – and toward that end I propose that in order to be compliant with state law regarding campaigning near a polling place, that all notations of party affiliation be stricken from the ballot during a general election. That means no more “D” or “R” or even “I” (incumbent) next to names. These notations are a form of campaigning insofar as it achieves the same effect that campaigning would: the transmission of information to the voter about a candidate, even if in broad terms. If a voter cannot be bothered to know the name of their candidate, then they truly have no business voting. Such voters are muddling the process with noise and diminishing the voice of those that did take the time to become educated. Imagine the outcome of a vote on the best baseball player if 70% of the people voting know absolutely nothing about baseball? How valid do you imagine those results would be?

With respect to Voter ID laws I have never understood the controversy. In every other organization that uses voting as a means of decision making (clubs, unions, corporations, etc) no one would ever think of allowing someone to vote without first validating that they are indeed a member of said group. Why does this generally accepted principal vanish when it comes to voting in elections of the state? If you are a “member” (i.e. citizen) of the state, then show your membership card (this by the way is the only legitimate place a state can ask its citizens for ID). Why are some so concerned with the rights of others that those others apparently hold in low regard (seeing as how they can’t be bothered to exert even the minimal effort needed to obtain a voter ID card)?

Some argue that little evidence exists of voter fraud involving non-citizens or double voting so why bother checking ID. That argument is specious; it’s parallel would be the operation of a business with unlocked doors and no cashiers because that business determined its shoplifting problem exists only to the extent they occasionally happen to witness someone shoplifting. As the Russians say, “trust, but verify.”

So maybe we can reach consensus here, if we can agree that only citizens should vote, then it follows that once proving one’s citizenship, the form, manner, timing or location of said vote casting is immaterial.

Where’s the harm?

If you’re anything like me you’ve likely always had a strange sense when buying a car that something wasn’t quite right, a sort of tingly spidey-sense that that you were the punch line to an inside joke. New car dealerships are a fraternity unto themselves. But unlike college fraternities, they work hard to keep newcomers from joining their ranks. The Internet has done much to reveal what the exclusive walls of membership formerly protected. It is not just information that has been freed, but also new modes of doing business. But last week we learned the lengths that these old school fraternities will go to in order to fight change and retain the power structure of their very unique cartel (cartel – get it?). The Georgia Auto Dealers Association filed a complaint last week  with the Georgia Department of Revenue claiming that Tesla Motors (a manufacturer of high performance, all electric cars) should be barred from selling any of their vehicles in Georgia because Tesla apparently violated some byzantine state statute that limited manufacturer owned auto outlets from selling more than 150 cars in a year. Tesla sold 173. Yes, I know, what monsters. Off with their heads.

Whether or not Tesla actually sold more than 150 is immaterial. The fact that such a law exists brings into shocking relief the ends to which automobile dealers in the state of Georgia (and indeed many other states, Georgia is sadly not alone) will go to in order to protect their own financial self-interests. Of course protectionist fervor is not how the dealers spin this. They claim they are only trying to protect the public (what selfless servants they are). Without independent dealers, manufacturers would be able to set strict non-negotiable prices, ignore warranties, and otherwise cause the marketplace to collapse into a top-down manufacturer driven oligopoly (according to a bit of NADA propaganda). So clearly in order to protect competition we must limit competition.

What these manufacturers fail to realize is that were these fascist, depression-era laws repealed it would not result in the overnight demise of the independent dealers. Rather it would mean dealers would have to compete with manufacturer outlets on price, service, or quality. Likewise the manufacturers would have to compete in precisely the same manner. At the end of the day the manufacturers don’t really care how their cars are sold, they just want them sold. If independent dealers can offer a manufacturer the ability to sell its cars more efficiently than that manufacturer can sell them (dealerships are a large capital investment after all), then they’re going to choose the cheaper, and thus more profitable route.

In short, the dealers are afraid of competition. And I don’t necessarily blame them. Who wouldn’t love to have one’s ability to earn a living protected by state sanctioned violence? Who wouldn’t love a system that created an artificially high barrier to market entry in order to keep out newcomers with new ideas that might otherwise eat into your 1940’s business model. But cartels, syndicates and state protected oligopolies are not consistent with the principals of liberty; namely that unless I’m using violence or the threat of violence to influence your actions, then you have no right to interfere in my actions irrespective of whether or not you believe it may “harm” you in the future. All competition “harms” another (whether it be economic, social or sport). But the “harm” of competition has a beneficial silver lining. It compels one to work harder, to do better and thus benefit the consumer and themselves in the long run. But if possible “harm” to someone becomes the litmus test for state intervention then I dare say we all belong in jail.

Health of the State

The War on Drugs is perhaps the most unjust “war” ever waged. It is not, as in conventional warfare, a conflict between states, but rather a conflict of a parasite (the state) against its host (the people). Just as cancer grows by attacking its host, so too does state power expand as it attacks its citizens in the name of saving them. The tumor that is the drug war is but one variant of the cancer that is state power.

It has been said that war is the health of the state (Randolph Bourne). If that is so, then traditional wars (against people) are far too fleeting as a means to bolster state power. The end comes relatively soon as both sides are worn down through attrition. In order to have unending war the state must fight an enemy without form, substance, or soul. This is achieved by waging war against thoughts, emotions, and things; for these things can never be conquered, and thus is ensured the eternal health of the state.

The colorful imagery of a “War on Drugs” suggests perhaps we are battling against anthropomorphized weed and poppies as they brutally attempt to intoxicate us by crashing through our doors and up our noses. Yes, I’m being facetious – now I shall be sarcastic: the real criminals in this war are those who possess these vilified substances.

The police will almost never stop a murder, rape or robbery in progress, but gosh darn it they sure as heck can find a crime in progress if the crime is mere possession. What is the easiest way to capture a criminal? Declare random object X illegal and then find people who happen to possess X. Such prohibitionary lawmaking has led to a perversion of policing incentives. The police now have two choices: Demonstrate effectiveness in catching real criminals through laborious detective work that rarely pays off, or, invent new and interesting pretexts to see if dear citizen is in possession of a verboten substances. Which one is more likely to yield results? Exactly. And so focus shifts to the quick and easy result at the expense of the more difficult task of meting out authentic justice.

This truth has engendered the most sinister aspect of the drug war: the no-knock raid. If the police knock then the suspect might stealthily comply with the law and cause himself to no longer possess the banned material. So on the premise that it is better that a thousand men die than one guilty drug user go free, we have seen the birth of the no-knock raid. Yes, sometimes they’ll get the wrong house, sometimes they’ll accidentally shoot totally innocent people (or almost routinely shoot innocent dogs), but it’s all worth it if it prevents a drug possessor from sometimes getting away. No-knock raids are a breeding ground for all manner of confusion and mistakes. To wit, just last week in Cornelia, Georgia a no-knock raid resulted in a 2 year old suffering massive burns over his face and body when a “distraction device” (aka flash grenade) was tossed into his crib, inches from this face, by the invading SWAT team. Naturally this was a mistake; they never intended that to happen. Procedurally they did nothing wrong – everything was by the book. That fact alone should scare the hell out anyone. Who will be next? Maybe someone that matters to you.

Even if we were granted a wish that all recreational drugs were forever vanquished from this planet and the only price would be the life of one innocent, that price would be far too high. The irony is that those in charge of this wretched war are killing people who would never have used drugs in order to possibly save those who actively seek to use them. But what would you expect from the state? States have always sought to butcher civilians in order to persuade others to change their behavior. Sound familiar? But the ends justify the means, so that makes everything ok.

The Pedagogical-Socialists Fear Competition

It can be particularly challenging to carve out a pseudo-market based approach to K12 education when the framework must rest squarely upon an overtly socialist system. In Georgia we are bearing witness to such an attempt with the passage of the “Georgia Private School Tax Credit” (HB 1133) in 2008. This bill set up a system whereby private individuals and corporations can make limited charitable donations to a “Student Scholarship Organization” (a type of charitable entity authorized through the bill). These organizations in turn grant scholarships to K12 students (typically needs based) so that they can attend a private school of their choice. Private entities donating money to help needy children get a quality education, what could be wrong with that? Well a whole lot according to groups like the Southern Education Foundation. This group and others feel that this program is diverting funds from public schools to private schools. The SEF is currently assisting in a lawsuit aimed at having the entire law declared unconstitutional.

Their assertion is true, untrue, and entirely irrelevant. To explain requires a bit of background. I will attempt to not bore you to tears so I will move quickly and gloss over some details. Essentially a taxpayer with a $1000 tax bill to Georgia can choose to send that $1,000 to an SSO of their choice instead of to the state of Georgia as long as they have permission from the state. Each year the state allows people to do this until an aggregate cap ($58 million for 2014) is reached. The benefit to the taxpayer is that while it does not change their Georgia tax liability it may lower their Federal liability in some situations. Although the state does indeed receive $58 million less than they otherwise would have absent this program, there is nothing in the law that says the education budget must be debited an equal amount. The legislature is the ultimate arbiter of funding. So decreased tax revenue could put pressure on them to decrease funding, in which case their charge is true. Or, to avoid such political backlash, they may not cut funding at all, in which case the charge is untrue. The only thing one can say for certain is that decreased tax revenue means that programs on the margin will receive less funding or that taxes will be raised to make up the shortfall.

Of course to suggest that reduced funding is a bad thing is completely wrongheaded. This is precisely what it SHOULD be doing. In essence this program is a backdoor to incremental privatization of the socialistic state run school system. To the extent that this program incentivizes parents to pull their children from public schools and move them into private schools it then follows that those public schools should require proportionally less funding. If the public school has 100 students and costs $100 to run, then if 50 students leave it follows that that public school does not still need $100 to run. Even if we assumed all $58 million got carved from the 2014 education budget that would be only a 0.5% reduction.

The goal is that the SSO’s act as a private version of a state education budgeting agency. In other words, given that many different SSO’s have sprung into existence all competing with each other for donations, it follows that those that are the most efficient at maximizing the student to dollar ratio (more students educated for fewer dollars) will excel. Why? Do you prefer to give to an efficient or inefficient charity? So the public school proponents should welcome this change. It will mean that if 50 students leave they will take with them only $25 leaving $75 for the remaining 50 public school students. How can they get by with only $25? Because they’ll get $50 worth of value due to competition driven market efficiency.

Of course in a truly market based system it would not be necessary to have all sorts of complicated tax credits and state chartered charities. Until the pedagogical-socialists let go of their superstitious fear of freedom that compels them to believe the only possible way to educate children is through gun-enforced collectivist redistribution, we will be stuck with the timid attempts of the state to emulate market based solutions to problems created by the state.