You Don’t Have to Talk Turkey Today!

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By Mike Cronin

Are you dreading Thanksgiving dinner for fear conversation will turn to politics and/or ideology and lead to acrimony?  Perhaps we can steer the conversation in interesting yet non-acrimonious directions. Here are some prompts:

Whether we are liberal Democrats or conservative Republicans, or centrist moderates, or fringe Libertarians or Greens, maybe we can all at least agree that we live in the best time in human history, and in the best location on the planet. For example:

Absolute poverty has been reduced by more than half world-wide. More than half of the world’s 7 billion-plus people are now in the middle class.

Thanks to technology, the average American today has a more luxurious life than the elites of 100 years ago. Our biggest health problems are caused by abundance, not scarcity!

The part of North America we call the United States has more navigable waterways than the rest of the world combined. Much of these waterways overlay the central US – the largest contiguous piece of arable land on the planet.  Thus, our country has had a wealth-generation engine built in almost from the start: a vast region of agricultural and industrial productivity with an integral low-cost transportation network.

Generally speaking, we live under the rule of law, the highest of which is expressly designed to protect our inherent rights.  We certainly have differences of opinion, and we often object to what our elected representatives and other “thought leaders” do and say – yet we can still have the debate. When the traditional fora for doing so, such as college campuses and media panel shows, stop offering balanced debate space, new structures, such as the “Intellectual Dark Web,” rise to replace them.  We have a system and culture that, paraphrasing Milton Friedman, makes it possible for people who hate each other to do business and live in the same proximity without killing each other. (Yes, it happens sometimes anyways, but it’s not the rule, and it’s not tolerated).

We draw closer and closer to the day a fusion reactor finally puts out more energy than it consumes.  At that point, the single greatest barrier to the problem of providing clean, cheap energy will be conquered.  Until that day, we have enough resources, including now-profitable shale oil, to be energy-independent – in fact, we will very soon be a net exporter of energy.

Illegal immigration is a hot topic, but legal immigration is one of America’s “secret weapons.” While many of the world’s leading economies experience declining birth rates and aging populations as wealth rises and the middle class grows, a continuous stream of immigrants to our shores help to pad our birth rates and refresh our talent pools.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

War Wears On

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Today marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could celebrate the end of all war?  I’d love it if my day job ceased to exist because war became a thing of the past.  Of course, that’s not going to happen any time soon. There are too many groups with irreconcilable differences and different valuations of human life. And let’s face it, war is good for business.  Even if we discount the obvious, such as the war against ISIS, or the threat of war against North Korea, China, or Russia, our politicians like a good war to keep the gravy flowing.  If there isn’t one handy, they’ll make a problem into a pseudo-war in order to generate a little fervor: The War on Poverty. The War on Obesity.

When I’m feeling cynical, I find it too easy to believe that our politicians actually create problems in order to give the appearance of solving them. The solutions never seem to end the problem, only “combat” it.  We are supposed to keep reelecting the politicians so they can keep perpetuating working on the problem. For example:

The “War on Drugs.”  It’s arguably worse for the country than the drugs themselves. Let’s compare:

Legalized Drugs

The War on Drugs

Some people become addicted to harmful substances Some people become addicted to harmful substances
Addicts immiserate themselves and those close to them Addicts immiserate themselves and those close to them
  Drug prohibition causes prices to skyrocket, incentivizing organized crime
  Gangs take over urban ghettos, immiserating entire communities
  Turf battles yield higher gun violence & homicide rates. More misery
  Many addicts must turn to crime to obtain funds to afford their drug – yet more property and violent crime, often with guns, sometimes including homicide. More misery
  No taxes are collected on drug sales
  More police are required
  Police must become more militarized in order to do their jobs – and get killed in the line of duty more often, immiserating their friends and families
  Courts get clogged with possession cases
  Prisons get clogged with non-violent offenders. America tops list of incarceration rate among developed countries. Overcrowded prisons – here and abroad, harden convicts instead of rehabilitate them. More misery
  Cartels form in source countries and often outgun the local and national government – and/or they corrupt same. Homicide rates soar, immiserating the country
  Illicit trafficking networks multiply in transit zones – drugs, weapons, people, & money get moved “underground.”   More misery
  Illegal immigration and other border crime issues multiply. More misery
  Politicians take a “tough” stance and promise to increase funds to “win” the war on drugs – with better equipped and/or more police, stronger sentencing laws, more prisons, asset forfeiture laws (which violate the 4th Amendment), gun laws (which violate the 2nd Amendment AND disarm the innocent), border walls, surveillance states, and so on – year after year, election after election.

I don’t have any desire to use drugs for recreation, and I don’t want my kids or other loved one to use them, either.  But making the drugs illegal has done nothing to reduce the chances of that happening. The chance that my kids will be exposed to drugs still exists, but now it’s in the shadows. I have fiends and family in law enforcement – I don’t want them harmed in no-knock raids, or shot by a panicking addict. I work for the Air Force.  I’ve met and worked with fellow Airmen from Latin American air forces.  I’d much rather partner with them to help disaster victims that to learn they’ve been killed by cartels.  Perhaps the best way to end the War on Drugs is to stop fighting it.