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Monday, November 24, 2008

Conrad Black thinks war on drugs is money "squandered"

160_conrad_black3_051125 Western Standard publisher Matthew Johnston posted about Conrad Black's surprisingly radical piece in the Times Online earlier today.

There's almost a temptation to conclude that Black's become something of a libertarian while going through his ordeal. You might call it the libertarian "scared-straight" program -- for the thoughtful, prison might be the ultimate conversion tool.

What I thought warranted a separate treatment was Black's apparent disapproval of the war on drugs. Here's the relevant excerpt:

The US is now a carceral state that imprisons eight to 12 times more people (2.5m) per capita than the UK, Canada, Australia, France, Germany or Japan. US justice has become a command economy based on the avarice of private prison companies, a gigantic prison service industry and politically influential correctional officers’ unions that agitate for an unlimited increase in the number of prosecutions and the length of sentences. The entire “war on drugs”, by contrast, is a classic illustration of supply-side economics: a trillion taxpayers’ dollars squandered and 1m small fry imprisoned at a cost of $50 billion a year; as supply of and demand for illegal drugs have increased, prices have fallen and product quality has improved.

Unless I'm misinterpreting him, it looks to me like Black thinks money spent on the war on drugs is money "squandered." That in spite of blowing through ridiculous sums of money, there is just about nothing to show for it.

Conrad Black understands what Milton Friedman said so long ago: "The war on drugs is a failure because it is a socialist enterprise." It always amazes me that there are still so-called conservatives who manage to somehow reconcile opposition to social engineering and big government, with the ultimate social engineering and big government program: the war on drugs (of course, the more subtle, intelligent, and thoughtful conservatives have long ago abandoned the war as anything other than an out-and-out socialist program) .

Separately, it's worth mentioning Pierre Lemieux's "three witches" column from the Western Standard in this connection. Published on Feb. 13, 2006, Lemieux compares Bruce Montague, Marc Emery, and Conrad Black. He dubs them the "three witches" that the state is determined to burn.

Here's an excerpt:

Yet there are crucial similarities. The three men are attacked for crimes that did not exist a few decades or even a few years ago, before the state defined them as crimes. All three defended some aspects of our traditional liberties: Bruce Montague has fought the wicked gun controls directed against peaceful citizens; Marc Emery has campaigned for the right of adults to consume what they want; and Conrad Black, despite his association with liberticidal establishment figures, has given a voice to libertarians in the newspapers he bought or created.

The state is going after these men with its full force and enormous resources. They are all liable to spend several years in jail--decades in jail for the two who are prosecuted by the U.S. government. Their travel is restricted by court order; two of the men (Montague and Emery) even had to hand in their passports. Black and Montague have had property seized or frozen before judgment. Black and Montague have been explicitly forbidden to have guns (as was Emery, but under a previous minor conviction), probably because guns are the ultimate symbol of the free man. Associates or friends of Black and Emery, and Montague's wife, have also been prosecuted. This is the state in all its glory.

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on November 24, 2008 in Marijuana reform | Permalink


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I met a fellow on a train in the US years ago who was on his way home to Kentucky from San Fran area. He had been sentenced to 5 years for possession of pot and had just been released.
Initially he did 3 years of the sentence and was released due to overcrowding. He went home started a small business, got married and had children. About 3 years later, they came and got him to finish the remaining 2 years of his sentence. Apparently the prison was now not so crowded and they needed bodies to fill the cells.
His wife left him and naturally his small business tanked but he was also now in arrears to the IRS. A young man's life completely ruined.
This is quite simply not justice, its all about money and could not be more perverse.
And I know some of you are actually screwed up enough to think that this is all his own fault.
It isn't...it's a system gone insane...

Posted by: JC | 2008-11-24 7:45:16 AM

Sounds like Conrad isn't happy in jail. Oh well.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2008-11-24 8:14:16 AM

Conrad Black by all accounts is a superior intellectual person.
Sadly his ego seems to have overridden that intellect, eventually to cause his current situation.
However that situation appears to have focused his attention very clearly on issues that the common folks deal with every day in a corrupt system which makes deals with the likes of equally guilty Radner, his former partner.
Immunity from prosecution for squealing is not the cornerstone of true justice.

Black makes excellent points from his disheartening currnt circumstance.

Posted by: Joe Molnar | 2008-11-24 9:14:59 AM

Re: the drama Witch analagy--

A little over the top for 21st century literate people, but hey- that's OK... felons wearing witch T shirts under their street clothes,= Mr Emery attacked by the evil state for crimes the state invented that didn't exist a few decades ago-

That's right- Emery sort of invented that offence all by himself; setting up a vast criminal industry to develop, create and market pot seeds intrenationally,. True, he did not invent
" manufacturing marijuana or money launderings.. " his other charges, but he did engage in these unlawful activities full time/ bigtime, and admits to doing so.

" Mr Emery campaigned for the right of adults to consume whatever they want " - thats an abstract concept which is not against any law- what's NOT an abstract concept, and what clearly IS against the law is Mr Emery & his gang openly promoting & selling criminal science hybrid pot seeds at a staggering profit to anybody with money and openly encouraging his mail order clients to overgrow the governments in several nations with drug plants & sell these controlled substances to anybody with money '- AKA good old fashioned dope racketeering of the Reefer Madness ilk

So the RCMP took away his passport- good move- The Prince of Pots' hero- dread kingof LSD , Mr. Tim Leary bolted from justice prior to sentencing and hid out in Algeria with the Black Panthers-

Here we have Third World traveller / Copycat radical Prince of Pot as a likely candidate to bolt from justice prior to his sentencing and perhaps arrange a confederate to deliver $15,000,000 in a suitcase..Seizing Mr Emerys' passport was the least the RCMP could have done. Travel is a privlidge- not a right

As for the restriction on owning a gun- Mr Emery wears glasses and is likely a pretty bad shot .. Al Capone never carried a gun, he didn;t have to..his anti prohibitionist stooges did all his heavy lifting for him, especially around Valentines day

Guns are not symbols of freedom- they are very real machines of destruction- be that firepower directed at a paper target or some lliving being- animal or human.

Now Lord Conrad Black is playing the game of " my enemies' enemies are my friends " - & here he is writing from jumpsuit junction.. playing Hip Hop scotch with the criminal underclass, talk about peer pressure- and this, on a Peer !

Indeed, the rich are not like us- think of Paris Hilton, snotty dope smoking law breaking brat who comes back from jail an even worse revengeful little bitch than when she went in. ( see: Witch )

Posted by: 419 | 2008-11-24 9:21:49 AM

Guns are not symbols of freedom- they are very real machines of destruction- be that firepower directed at a paper target or some lliving being- animal or human.
Posted by: 419 | 24-Nov-08 9:21:49 AM

Agreed. They are not "symbols" of freedom. They are "tools" of freedom. And yes they are tools of destruction, and as long as criminals and the government have them, individual citizens "must" have them to prevent crimes and tyranny.
Are you a soccer Mom? :) Because they get very "emotional" about firearms.

Posted by: JC | 2008-11-24 10:10:54 AM

One hopes that Conrad Black can continue to use whatever influence he can to further the cause of liberty by exposing the ridiculous human warehousing (for nonviolent commerce and political non-crimes) of the justice system. And yes, guns are the greatest symbol of freedom to all but goose-stepping brown-shirts or their wannabes. If you can't trust your fellow citizen to own a gun how the hell can you trust him to vote.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2008-11-24 10:12:32 AM

No I am not a soccer mom, I am an asshiole- just like you

Posted by: 419 | 2008-11-24 12:53:21 PM

Conrad Black and liberty in the same sentence?! Thanks for the laugh...

Posted by: rbk | 2008-11-25 11:57:01 PM

JC, you should know better than to take a story like that at face value. Once a man has been released from prison, even before the end of his term, he cannot simply be seized and re-imprisoned unless he violates the conditions of his parole. And "needing bodies to fill the cells" makes no sense at all. Every additional prisoner is an expense that needs to be fed, clothed, and maintained in good health. We WANT our prisons to be near-empty, but only because people are behaving, not because we've lost the will to punish lawbreakers.

As for Conrad Black, it doesn't take Sigmund Freud to spot the bitterness in his musings. If not for the fact that he is currently the taxpayer's guest himself it seems unlikely he would ever have had anything to say about the "war on drugs," which is merely a subset of the "war on crime," with which it shares many similarities--including expense and the fact that it can never be won. That doesn't mean we fire all the cops and judges and open up all the jails.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2008-11-26 7:38:57 AM

419, guns are not symbols of anything. Symbols are what you want them to be. Guns are simply tools. Tools of destruction, yes, but then again, so are axes and shovels.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2008-11-26 7:42:02 AM

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