Tag: prohibition

How to End the Loophole Surrounding Federalism

By Jack Shields | United States

The drinking age in most states in the United States is twenty-one. This fact is a great disappointment to me having turned eighteen this year. But the fact the age is twenty-one rather than eighteen isn’t even the most disappointing part. It’s the reason why the drinking age is twenty-one. Most states have this as their drinking age because they were coerced into doing so by the federal government using a technique that was held as constitutional in the case South Dakota v. Dole. The decision handed the federal government a mechanism by which they may go around the very idea of federalism and force the states to submit to their will, and must be overturned.

The Effects of Prohibition

In 1919, we as a nation decided that legislating morality was a good idea, and ratified the Eighteenth amendment prohibiting the sale of alcohol at a federal level. Unsurprisingly, Americans did not respond well to being told what to do, and the disaster that was prohibition was finally ended with the ratification of the Twenty-First Amendment in 1933. Section Two of the Twenty-First amendment clearly stated that states had a right to regulate alcohol if they so choose, but the federal government no longer had a say in the matter. Yet, when has a constitutional provision ever been enough to stop our federal government from expanding their scope of power and informing us ignorant, ordinary people what is moral and right to do?

Congress passed a law in 1984 which required the Secretary of Transportation to withhold five percent of federal highway funds for states that did not adopt a drinking age of twenty-one. This was challenged by South Dakota, which at the time had a drinking age of nineteen. The Supreme Court ruled that this law did not violate the spending powers of Congress or the Twenty-First Amendment. Their logic for this was because the law was for the general welfare of the nation, and the way Congress went about achieving this was reasonable, then the law was within Congress’s constitutional bounds even if they were indirectly trying to achieve a goal not within the purview of Congress or the federal government in general.

The Abandonment of Federalism

This logic has now been widely accepted. In my Government class, we had to create our own bills and have our own Congress as an assignment in order to learn how Congress worked. Our teacher informed us that we didn’t have to worry at all about the fact the federal government has very few enumerated powers. We could make our bills about any subject as long as, instead of just creating the policy at the federal level, our bill listed what we wanted and what we would be willing to take away from the states if they didn’t comply. This is not federalism. This is the system my parents had for me when I was little, where if I didn’t obey them then Santa would not be coming that year.

The federal government and the states should not have a parent-child relationship. The way it was supposed to go was the federal government would have a small list of enumerated powers in which their laws would be the Supreme Law of the Land. These were policies that needed to be uniform throughout the states in order to have one country such as a single currency and regulating trade with foreign nations. But other than that, everything was left up to the states. The states were their own independent government, and with powers not enumerated to the federal government, the states’ law was the Supreme Law. That is the very idea of federalism and of limited government, and sadly we do not have that right now because of this decision.

If the federal government is supposed to have limited, enumerated powers, and nothing more, then indirectly forcing the states to do something not within the scope of their power is clearly a loophole that needs to be shut. But how? The federal government currently gives funding to the states for many things. And both the states and federal government feel the need to legislate morality on many issues like alcohol, marijuana, and many others. Whether either of these things is good is an issue for another time. It’s how things are and a fix to this problem needs to fit into that reality. So the federal government is giving funds to the states and giving money inherently grants the authority to withhold money. What should justify withholding said money?

The Solution

It should all be based upon the federal government’s enumerated powers. This is the most logical conclusion, which is clearly seen when looking at this type of situation with any other entity. If you have a phone, you have a deal with a phone company wherein they provide you with a data plan and you pay them for it. If you disobey their terms and conditions pertaining to the purchase of the data plan, it is completely reasonable for the company to cease to provide you with those things. But if you didn’t pay your rent that month, it would not be an appropriate justification for the phone company to cease to provide their services because that has nothing to do with the relationship between you and the phone company. The relationship between the federal government and state governments should be the same way.

From 1919 to 1933, it would have been appropriate for the federal government to withhold funds for disobeying their will pertaining to alcohol. Regulating it was an enumerated power and their law is the Supreme Law. But it is not an enumerated power anymore, and therefore they have no place in regulating it. Funds should only be withheld in cases wherein that pertain to an enumerated power. If the federal government wants to withhold funds because states are disobeying immigration laws, they can. Because that’s a federal power. But if the federal government wants to withhold funds because a state doesn’t pay teachers enough, that would not be allowed as that is not an enumerated power of the federal government and is therefore outside the natural bounds of the relationship between the federal and state governments.

If we are to have a system of federalism and not a system of a parent like authority dictating to their children what is okay and what isn’t we must close all loopholes by which the federal government may overstep both directly and indirectly, their natural, enumerated powers. In order to do this, it is clear South Dakota v. Dole must be overturned and replaced with a standard by which federal funds may only be withheld in cases wherein the federal government wishes to directly influence a state’s behavior pertaining to an enumerated power of the federal government.


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Tobacco 21: The War on American Liberty

By Jason Bracewell | United States

It’s no secret that tobacco consumption is linked to cancer and other health issues. The question is, though, does the government have a role to play here? Activists for Tobacco 21 think so. Their goal is simple: to raise the tobacco purchase age to 21. Their movement is picking up steam recently, and six states (California, New Jersey, Oregon, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Maine) have already raised the purchasing age. 340 plus localities have followed, including New York City and Chicago.

Tobacco 21 is a nonprofit that first started in 1996, and is officially called the “Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation”. They actively push for an age increase to 21 for buying tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.

The American Heart Association, American Medical Association, and more have all endorsed the group. Despite their fairly long tenure, they’ve only recently begun to break through in their fight against tobacco legalization for the 18-20 age bracket.

In American society, young people begin legal adulthood at age 18, of course. However, politicians have been pushing more age requirements to 21 as time progresses. Alcohol purchases, for example, require individuals to be 21, as do certain firearm purchases. Moreover, the Credit Card Act of 2009 made it increasingly difficult for adults under the age of 21 to obtain credit cards.

Good intentions exist with each of these laws. But in reality, they simply encourage people under these age requirements to seek alternative methods for obtaining the prohibited items. Now, the organization is hoping to send tobacco down the same road.

Tobacco 21 is mostly pushing this agenda in Democratic states and cities but is still gaining ground. This April, the Illinois state legislature passed legislation to raise the tobacco consumption age as well.

Many legislatures are expected to bring similar bills to the table in 2019. This could eventually culminate a federal age increase in the near future.

This may not seem the most pressing issue in America, but it is a part of a much larger problem in
American politics today: the restriction of personal freedom in the name of safety. From gun bans to health regulations, the government is starting to turn Orwellian. This is just one more
battlefield for individual freedom.

As further-left social democrats such as Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Bernie Sanders gain popularity, Americans are increasingly depending on the state for protection. The DEA, SNAP benefits, and the PATRIOT Act all serve as prime examples. Most politicians, but especially social democrats, would only increase this, especially in the area of social programs.

The concept of tobacco restrictions polls high with voters. In 2016, the Texas Medical Center Health Policy institute conducted a poll of over 5,000 respondents. 80% of them viewed an age raise for tobacco purchases positively.

In this survey, Republicans viewed the ban more favorably than Democrats. However, the age restrictions still had clear bipartisan support. Even 18 to 21-year-olds olds showed a 69% support rate. While troubling, it is no secret that the two parties are more alike than different, further showing a combined effort to stifle individualism.

These numbers show an increase in Americans wishing to legislate their beliefs onto others. Worst of all, it reveals a desire for government to further restrict our natural rights as individuals. These restrictions will not stop at tobacco. As the state expands more, its grip will go beyond trivial consumer issues, eventually infringing on more civil liberties than ever before seen in American history. The time to stop this, though, is now. Tobacco 21 represents a dark step forward and rejecting it may finally set the precedent of liberty.


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Agency is Libertarian. Marijuana and Alcohol Aren’t.

By Ryan Lau | @agorists

The time is ten past three, and John Doe is enjoying himself. A college student, some older friends invited him to a massive party for the first time. However, John is not likely to remember many of the events of the night, for at that party, he consumed a rather unsafe amount of alcohol. He also ingested some edibles and, without realizing a thing, fought his best friend.

A fictional character, of course, John represents the loss of agency that a mind-altering substance commonly brings. Too many in the real world fall victim to John’s same situations, whether at parties, at a formal social gathering, or crying alone at night. The many Johns of the world are victims of lost agency.

Naturally, agency in this sense of the word is considerably different than its common use. Essentially, agency is the capacity of an actor to act consciously in a certain situation. In other words, agency is a form of personal responsibility, a trait essential to libertarianism. Drugs and other mind-altering substances, on the other hand, are antithetical to the same doctrine. As they rob people of their sense of agency, they are detriments to a free society.

Commonly, supporters of libertarianism state that the movement is about doing what so ever makes you happy. They often attack the state, saying that it robs that people of their right to live freely. In a broad sense, they are not wrong. However, they miss what is perhaps the most essential part of this message, the thing that makes freedom a sustainable goal: agency.

A world without agency will quickly dissolve into pure chaos, and there is no denying this. In modern society, the vast majority of people know that it is wrong to kill and steal from others. Also, they recognize the various social norms that we as a world adopt. These range from things as simple as wearing proper clothing, to situations as complex as how to behave in a romantic relationship. All such cases require a clear head and a sense of responsibility.

When people abandon this sense, they are often no longer aware of their own actions. In a sense, they are acting on the terms of something else besides themselves. Without a doubt, society condemns forced action between individuals. When one person holds a lethal weapon to the head of another and says to act, we know that is wrong, as it robs someone of their agency, and ability to freely act on their own terms.

Yet, we seldom are able to apply this logic beyond the confines of humans. Simply put, a human is not the only thing capable of robbing someone of their agency. An alcoholic or drug addict has little more say over their actions than does the person with a gun to his or her head. In fact, the situations are, in many ways, nearly identical.

When someone is addicted to a drug, it of course is quite hard to quit. The hardships range from physical to mental, and both can be viciously strong. Many people hooked on hard drugs need them to live their normal, day to day lives. By giving in to this power, they lose their sense of agency. Mental struggles can be nearly as difficult. Though no physical addiction exists for some drugs, such as marijuana, this does not mean a mental dependency cannot form. When it does, it can be incredibly difficult to break.

As a result, people using these substances often act much differently than they otherwise would. It is no secret that alcohol, for example, can cause severe anger. All addictions cause a compulsion to continue feeding them. In many cases, this leads to lying, sneaking, or even stealing to continue the path. Stealing does not occur in a truly free world.

Now, some may argue that these actions are extreme measures, and that moderation is the key in order to avoid them. While one can safely use in moderation, the fact of the matter is that most people simply will not do so. Yes, one can wisely stick to a drink or two and preserve agency.

However, it is better to say that none at all is the best approach, rather than condoning small amounts. With the latter, it is inevitable that people with different levels of will and tolerance will become addicted. Obviously, substance abuse has caused the destruction of countless families and lives. But, it is still important to note that a lack of agency, rather than the drugs themselves, are the real issues. Just as some can safely use in moderation, others can dangerously become addicted to other things besides drugs or alcohol.

Society should not draw the line at alcohol or marijuana or hard drugs. Instead, it should focus on eradicating addiction through recovery programs. All such programs should make clear that a clean life involves living with proper agency.

Thus, it is imperative that we recognize agency as a central tenet of freedom. Without it, freedom has little meaning, and will not last. Without legal pressure, another force must exist to maintain order in society. That force is agency. With it, we can truly set up a model of lasting freedom.


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Drug Prohibition is Not the Government’s Responsibility

By Andrew Lepore | United States

Drug prohibition is the attempt to do the impossible through the mechanism of violence. Drug prohibition is The attempt to quell the vices passions of man do the iron fist of the state. The Tyranny of the drug war has Ruined millions of lives, torn apart families, destroyed communities, built the largest prison population in human history, and in the process, cost taxpayers billions.

Despite its inefficiencies and impossibilities, those factors are not the underlying problem of drug prohibition. As it’s supporters will say “Are just going to legalize violent crime because it’s impossible to fully stop?”

No, the main problem with the drug war is the total immorality of it. A great hypocrisy of the state is that what would be done by individuals or by the private sector that would be seen as immoral when done by the government or the public sector is seen as not only justified but fully moral. Drug prohibition is a prime example of this phenomenon. Given some critical thought, anybody can see that the war on drugs is unapologetically immoral.

The entire war on drugs is based on the assumption that we do not own our bodies, and we are not directly responsible for the consequences of our actions. The very nature of the drug war assumes that we need some politician or bureaucrat to write a law telling us what we can and can’t put in our bodies.

If you ask any person on the street if they own themselves, and the consequences of their actions, 99% will say yes. So why is it that most people support drug prohibition? Why is it that people will like acknowledge self ownership and direct responsibility for self action, yet believe that there should be a strong centralized government around to throw people in a cage that make risky decisions?

Another pure moral hypocrisy of drug prohibition is the underlying mechanism of enforcement. If you ask any individual on the street if initiating violence is a moral means to achieve in end, most people will say of course not. Yet again most people support drug prohibition which uses this underlying mechanism, the initiation of violence.

A sovereign individual using the substance of his or her choice, regardless of its Unfavorability, is not hurting anybody else. Now of course if that person goes out and Hurts another individual or steals another individual’s property, that person has now initiated force and has become a different story. But the action of simply using a substance is a peaceable action, and attempting to forcefully stop that by enforcement of the law is an initiation of violence and morally unacceptable.

Imagine if such action was engaged upon in the private sector. Imagine if some individual or company went around and started arresting people and throwing them in cages for eating at McDonald’s. Better yet, these people were saying it is for the benefit of the people they are arresting because McDonald’s is extremely unhealthy.

What if they started arresting McDonald’s employees for distributing unhealthy food and locking them in human cages for decades on end and claiming it was for the betterment of society. Would this be morally acceptable? Only if carried out by the state Because it’s okay for only it’s employees to use violence I guess.

People must stop believing that use of force when carried out by the state is absolutely any different than when carried out by private individuals or groups. The drug war is just one area, be it a large one, that this problem plagues the opinions of the population.

Was Murray Rothbard a Sexist?

By Mason Mohon | USA

Multiple times throughout the years, Murray Rothbard has criticized many women-oriented movements. To anyone first stepping into libertarianism, this is a seemingly obvious red flag. One of the most pronounced and influential libertarian theorists of modern times has literature rife with what looks like sexism. Who in their right mind could support the teachings of a man who was against the women’s suffrage movements of the 1830’s and stood against the women’s liberation movements in the 1970’s? Should Rothbard be completely disregarded for his sexist comments?

In short, not at all. There are two main writings by Rothbard I would like to focus on, and these two writings are writings usually cited when people are making accusations of sexism. The first of these is his essay Origins of the Welfare State in America and his article Against Women’s Lib, which can be found here and here respectively.

In the first place, Rothbard’s essay Origins of the Welfare State in America should be focused on. The intent of the essay was to make an analysis as to how the welfare state has expanded, hence its name. Right off the bat, we can see that Murray Rothbard did not title this essay “Why Women are Bad.” Rather, the article’s entire intent was to analyze how the welfare state arose.

The reason people see this article as a sexist one is first that of the section titled “Yankee Women: The Driving Force.” What this shows us immediately that Rothbard was linking a women’s movement to the impacts of the welfare state, rather than the impact be women’s rights itself. This legion of Yankee women strongly pushed for the right to vote, because they knew that they would be the first to the ballot box, seeing as that Catholic women saw their place as an individual who is the homemaker. The Catholic women would not care about political issues, while the Yankee women would, and the first thing on their agenda was prohibition.

Susan B. Anthony, an ardent women’s suffragist, was also the founder of the first women’s temperance movement. In the early 1870’s, this spurred into a large organized movement, with “Women’s Crusades” taking to the streets. These marches became widespread, but rather than marching against a president, they were marching for dangerous prohibitionist political action. According to Rothbard, though, this wasn’t the end to it, for in the following decade “the WCTU was pushing, throughout states and localities, for a comprehensive statist program for government intervention and social welfare.” These female suffragist movements didn’t want to be able to vote just for the sake of equality. Rather, their goal was political action, most notably prohibitionism, which was disastrous for American society, and the welfare state, which has also had absolutely horrible impacts.

Clearly, Murray Rothbard was not criticizing the ability for women to have equal rights with men. Rather, he was against the political action immediately following the success of these movements. The alcohol prohibition era is looked at fondly by very few, so why are its most staunch historical supporters held in such high esteem? If someone is a supporter of equal rights solely for the sake of the perpetuation of political violence, they are no hero in my book, and neither are they in Rothbard’s.

Moreover, Murray Rothbard’s article titled Against Women’s Lib should be discussed. He opens the article by comparing it to environmentalist movements in that they were both making a sudden surge in the 1970’s. One other similarity should be made clear, and that is why Rothbard opposed them. Murray Rothbard was very against environmentalist movements, not because he hated the environment, but because all of their proposed solutions were phenomenally statist. The same holds true for Murray Rothbard on women’s rights; he doesn’t hate women, but he is against the movement for reasons within the movement itself, not its ultimate goal.

The Women’s Liberation movement at the time was eerily similar to modern feminism in that it is vague and no specific adherence other than a fight against sexism. Today, feminists are the declared enemy of the patriarchy, and it was the same idea in Rothbard’s time. There was a faceless entity of sexist oppression which was being attacked by a mob that had no specific agenda except to defeat it, and whatever happens between point A of the status quo and point B of destroying the patriarchy is acceptable.

Rothbard made the claim that the oppressors are staying strangely silent, attempting to make the point that no institution of oppression exists. The ‘patriarchy’ has never made any official statement. Ever. Because it can’t, for it does not exist.

The similarities to Women’s Liberation and modern feminism do not end there, though. Rothbard faced his own time’s wage gap, which was much larger at the time. At the time, reports were that women only made 58% of what men make, rather than today’s 80%. He quickly made the economic explanation for this occurrence, debunking the idea that it is because of a shadow oppressor.

The strongest attack, though, comes in Rothbard’s defense of capitalism, which is as follows:

It should be emphasized that, in contrast to the Women’s Lib forces who tend to blame capitalism as well as male tyrants for centuries-old discrimination, it was precisely capitalism and the “capitalist revolution” of the 18th and 19th centuries that freed women from male oppression, and set each woman free to find her best level. It was the feudal and pre-capitalist, pre-market society that was marked by male oppression; it was that society where women were chattels of their fathers and husbands, where they could own no property of their own, etc. Capitalism set women free to find their own level, and the result is what we have today.

Clearly, Murray Rothbard has never articulated any disdain for females as a category of humanity. His attacks on the suffrage movement were not based on its goal of the ability for women to be able to vote, but rather, they were well founded on distaste for prohibition and welfare. Furthermore, Rothbard attacked the Women’s Liberation movement for the same reason libertarians widely attack feminism today; Women’s Lib and feminism are ill-defined, turning them into destructive societal forces rife with economic fallacy. These two Rothbardian writings should not be a turnoff when looking for liberty, and Murray Rothbard should not be seen as a sexist woman hater.