Oh, Crap! I Agree with John Stossel!

Townhall is a fundie opinion site that carries a lot of conservative commentators. Or maybe it’s a conservative site that carries a lot of fundie commentators. Whichever it is, they favor a giant church/state amalgam.

So it was there that I found this commentary by John Stossel. I haven’t really thought of Stossel as a fundie, but if he’s going to hang out on a church-equals-state website, he’s fair game for this blog.

The article is titled “Big, Big Government”, so I had assumed that it would be an attack on the Democrats. That’s the usual knee-jerk connection they make (I don’t think Republicans are able to say the word “Democrat” without prefacing it with the words “tax and spend” (or possibly “America-hating”)). Actually, the article is about how the federal government has grown too big.

Two weeks ago, U.S. drug agents launched raids on 11 medical-marijuana centers in Los Angeles County. The U.S. attorney’s office says they violated the laws against cultivation and distribution of marijuana.

Whatever happened to America’s federal system, which recognized the states as “laboratories of democracy”?

For the first time, Stossel doesn’t come across as a raving lunatic!

According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, 11 states […] have eliminated the penalties for physician-approved possession of marijuana by seriously ill patients.

But the U.S. government says its drug laws trump the states’ laws, and in 2005, the Supreme Court agreed.

This is not the way it was supposed to work. The constitutional plan presented in the Federalist Papers delegated only a few powers to the federal government, with the rest reserved to the states. The system was hailed for its genius. Instead of having decisions made in the center — where errors would harm the entire country — most policies would be determined in a decentralized environment. A mistake in California would affect only Californians. New Yorkers, Ohioans, and others could try something else. Everyone would learn and benefit from the various experiments.

Where Stossel and I might disagree would be on the matter of which powers the federal government should have. I would advocate that in addition to the obvious things like providing for the common defense, the federal government’s role would also include defending the rights of the citizens against a misguided state. A good example of this would be the forced desegregation of the South in the 20th century. We certainly do not need a federal government that thinks its role is passing nationwide mandatory seat-belt laws.

It made a lot of sense. It still does. Too bad the idea is being tossed on the trash heap by big-government Republicans and their DEA goons.

“Big-government Republicans”?! Has the Earth tilted on its axis? Have we fallen into Bizarro-World? Have the glaciers melted? (Oh wait; that last one is true!)

Drug prohibition — like alcohol prohibition — is a silly idea, as the late free-market economist Milton Friedman often pointed out.

Ah! That’s the secret behind this seemingly common-sense article. The conservative saint Milton Friedman has decreed it!

Something doesn’t go away just because the government decrees it illegal. It simply goes underground. Then a black market creates worse problems.

But, of course, that would never happen with abortion.

Alcohol prohibition in the 1920s gave America Al Capone and organized crime. Drug prohibition has given us South American and Asian cartels that finance terrorism. Even the government admits that the heroin trade bankrolls terrorists.

So we Americans need to determine which is the bigger menace: drugs or terrorism.

Despite my reservations about medical marijuana, the states’ experimentation is still better than a brutal federal one-size-fits-all crackdown. There is no role here for the federal government. If the people of a state want to experiment by loosening drug prohibition, that should be their right. Washington should mind its own business. The feds and rest of us should watch. We might learn something.

Note the key phrase, “Despite my reservations about medical marijuana”. So Stossel is a somewhat reasonable guy after all. If more conservatives were willing to bend a little to see if other approaches work, there would be a lot less polarization in this country. Maybe we’d even make some progress toward solving many of our social ills.

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