Just Another Facile Politician

by Don Boudreaux on March 27, 2011

in Crime, Hubris and humility, Politics, Reality Is Not Optional, Seen and Unseen

Here’s a letter to the Boston Globe:

Jeff Jacoby nicely documents Newt Gingrich’s flippancy over U.S. military intervention in Libya (“Gingrich vs. Gingrich,” March 27).  The former House Speaker has a long history of such thoughtlessness cloaked as deep reflection – most notoriously, I believe, is his 1995 proposal to execute drug dealers.

Never mind that drug dealers – like furniture stores, bagel shops, yoga instructors, and all other merchants – sell only to willing buyers; so Mr. Gingrich would execute people for engaging in consenting capitalist acts. Even supporters of the drug war should see that making drug-selling a capital offense carrying the same penalty as murder would remove a major incentive for drug dealers to avoid acts of heinous violence. What incentive, were Mr. Gingrich’s proposal enacted, would a drug dealer have to refrain from murdering anyone he suspects might reveal him to the police?  He can’t be executed twice.

A Gingrichian world in which drug dealing is punished as harshly as murder is a world in which there are no disincentives for drug dealers also to become murderers.  That the former Speaker of the House either missed this fact or ignored it testifies to the true depth of his intellect.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux

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Frankie Barbella March 27, 2011 at 9:01 pm

Indeed, Mr Gingrich also has the tendency to be blowing his political rhetoric in the same direction as the rest of the populous. I seem to remember he and former speaker Pelosi sitting on a sofa, on a beach discussing anthropogenic global warming in black and white. I have not doubt to Mr. Gingrich’s intellect, my doubts lie in his fidelity to principle. If I were to put a dollar value to that, I would say he is in deficit to the tune of 15 trillion!

WhiskeyJim March 27, 2011 at 9:48 pm

Newt’s green energy foray was distasteful. His flip flops are legion.

Unfortunately we have a President who takes it to an art form, and the post-modernist left considers it a strength in redefining the culture.

Mark March 27, 2011 at 10:09 pm

Every politician says what he believes his constituency wants to hear. However, Mr. Gingrich represents the worst of this trait common to all politicians.

Like you, I don’t doubt his intelligence, though I probably do not agree with him on most issues. However, he has proved himself to be a man lacking in principle, who will say or do anything to put his hands on the grip of power.

SheetWise March 27, 2011 at 11:18 pm

“… who will say or do anything to put his hands on the grip of power.”

And other things.

vikingvista March 27, 2011 at 9:06 pm

It would be disincentive to become a drug dealer, and fewer drug dealers would be expected. But it would be a disincentive for those who do become drug dealers to refrain from murder. Indeed, it would be a great protection to the most violent drug dealers who already unhesitatingly commit murder, as their less violent competitors would decrease. So the violence of the drug trade would worsen, and since demand would not be affected, the most violent offenders would become far richer and more capable than they currently are.

Ryan Vann March 28, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Especially useful to those with legal immunities, namely the CIA.

vidyohs March 27, 2011 at 9:24 pm

I will go to my grave saying again that one does not eliminate the desire for consumer goods by trying to close stores.

This is a regional reference, but acting on the logic of the drug warriors, if we force the Blue Bell Ice Cream plant in Brenham, Texas to close……why of course no one would want ice cream any more.

nailheadtom March 27, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Has Gingrich come up with a position on the penalty for adultery?

SheetWise March 27, 2011 at 11:20 pm

I believe he’s for it.

vikingvista March 28, 2011 at 12:39 am

He doesn’t think there should be penalties for hobbies.

Steve Perreira April 2, 2011 at 5:37 pm

He talks the Bible-Belt lingo when around his hometown zip codes. I do believe that Bible he carries around during campaign season repeats often the prescription – the death penalty. Who’d of thunk Newt’d be in with pushers. Oh yeah, he’s a politician; now it makes sense.

Mark March 27, 2011 at 10:05 pm

Remember, that Gingrich was the strongest cheerleader for the indictment of Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal, during a time when Mr. Gingrich himself was not faithful in his own marriage. So given Mr. Gingrich’s background, it surprises me not when I hear dribble spewing out of his mouth. He is as much of a political opportunist as Clinton ever was.

Gingrich would tell you (as he did this morning on the Sunday shows) that his stance on Clinton was correct, in spite of Mr. Gingrich’s own marital indiscretions because Clinton lied to a grand jury. While this is true, for Gingrich to push the investigations as far as he did when the center of the investigations was Clinton’s affair (which I always saw as a personal matter), still drips with hypocrisy when Mr. Gingrich himself was no beacon of Christian morality.

Gingrich is the biggest reactionary in the republican party. fiscal conservatives do not take him seriously. Due to his personal indiscretions, social conservatives dont like him either. Combine the two, and we cannot be more thankful that he will not be the next president of the united states.

vikingvista March 27, 2011 at 11:51 pm

I like sex as much as the next guy, but I’ll never understand you people who think it should excuse legitimate crimes.

brotio March 28, 2011 at 2:53 am

If I remember correctly, Clinton was impeached for perjury, and subornation of perjury. Gingrich was correct to believe those to be impeachable offenses.

vidyohs March 28, 2011 at 6:12 am

A personal matter, Mark? Masturbation is a personal matter as it involves only the person.

Sex between Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky involved at the very least, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Monica Lewinsky, and service in the highest public office in the land. Hardly seems personal does it?

kyle8 March 28, 2011 at 6:47 am

As bad as Gingrich is, I am not thankful that Obama is our president. I would take Newtie over that ridiculous and inept socialist any day of the week.

Libertarian March 28, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Why am I suddenly remembering a South Park episode regarding a shit sandwich and a douche bag?

Ike March 28, 2011 at 11:32 am

See, here’s the piece that bugs me.

Gingrich becomes this Straw Man of Hypocrisy, which really obfuscates the real issue of Lewinsky:

1) Clinton was being deposed in a case regarding sexual harassment. (Should he have been forced into the deposition while sitting? I don’t know. But he did, and he did so under oath.)

2) Sexual Harassment is defined as unwanted advances in the workplace, and has been expanded to include ANY workplace relationship where there is a clear imbalance of power. (I would say “US President” and “unpaid intern” is about as unbalanced as you will find.)

3) Clinton (who probably shouldn’t have been asked about any of this anyway) lied about it. He lied. And it wasn’t a little white lie in the context of saving his Presidency or his reputation — it was a lie told during a deposition regarding his pattern of behavior, in a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment.

Gingrich is a non-sequitur in all this — one who inserted himself for political gain, only to have it boomerang because of his own personal failures and peccadilloes. But his stance on Clinton/Lewinsky was indeed correct, even if his glee for pursuing it had nothing to do with a love for jurisprudence, or for the institution of marriage.

(I guess I am just tried of the re-framing of the whole affair to make it look like something it wasn’t…)

richard March 27, 2011 at 11:34 pm

In the same interview, he said:

“I say put it on the ballot and say either legalize them or get rid of them,” he said of drug dealers. “But quit playing the game that enriches the evil, strengthens the violence, addicts our children, and makes us look pathetic and helpless.”

That doesn’t sound like a nutcase?

vidyohs March 28, 2011 at 6:16 am

To me it does, because it presents reality in reverse. Drugs are a consumer good, as long as consumers clamor for the good, a store will open some where to serve the demand.

If there is a problem with ingesting goods into one’s own body, then the problem is with the one doing the ingesting not the one from whom he bought it.

A store with no customers is simply a storage facility that drains the resources of the one who owns the store.

JohnK March 28, 2011 at 8:30 am

The whole idea that drug dealers are responsible for their customers’ behavior is an attempt to avoid personal responsibility.

Devil made me do it!

vidyohs March 28, 2011 at 9:28 am

Exactly, and that denial of responsibility is the result of socialist enculturation, it is a cornerstone of the religion that the state has the responsibility, the individual has none.

Matt March 27, 2011 at 11:50 pm

” What incentive, were Mr. Gingrich’s proposal enacted, would a drug dealer have to refrain from murdering anyone he suspects might reveal him to the police?”

The disincentive would be the loss of a potential paying customer, same as any capitalist.

vikingvista March 28, 2011 at 10:03 am

Customers? Is that who they murder? How about this: The disincentive is that drug dealers love their mothers, same as anyone.

Since Newt’s law didn’t pass, and drug dealers do commit murders, maybe you should rethink your response.

cassyfa fuluopsan March 28, 2011 at 1:52 am

If I had my way, I would create a new genre of scientists who behave like real seekers of wisdom and truth and not as a bunch of geeky and unpleasant charlatans.
African Mango Plus

Daniel Kuehn March 28, 2011 at 3:40 am

Drugs can be dealt in a way that is consistent with free choice, but given the actual behavior of many (not all) actual drug dealers, I’m not sure I would reach immediately for the yoga instructor analogy! It’s a relatively coercive trade, at least under current American prohibitions.

JohnK March 28, 2011 at 8:26 am

How is it a coercive trade?

I’ve never seen a dealer say “buy my drugs or I’ll shoot you!”

Have you?

(tv and movies, otherwise known as fiction, don’t count)

Daniel Kuehn March 28, 2011 at 10:09 am

I haven’t *seen* one say this, but I’m quite confident that many dealers have said “sell my drugs or I’ll shoot you”, and I’m quite confident many have said “if you sell drugs where I am selling drugs I’ll shoot you”.

In criticizing Gingrich on drug dealers one doesn’t have to sugar coat the current drug trade. Indeed, the coerciveness of the current drug trade and what that coerciveness does to communities is one of the strongest arguments for ending the drug war.

JohnK March 28, 2011 at 10:39 am

RE:I’m quite confident that many dealers have said “sell my drugs or I’ll shoot you”

I don’t share your confidence.

Daniel Kuehn March 28, 2011 at 10:10 am

Your question doesn’t even make sense? Why would someone willing to shoot someone bother selling that product to that person. It seems more efficient to say “give me your money or I’ll shoot you”. Why would you expect to see a dealer say “buy my drugs or I’ll shoot you”, JohnK??

JohnK March 28, 2011 at 10:13 am

I guess I’m not sure what you mean by “coercive trade”.

To me that sounds like coercing someone into making a trade – buy my drugs or I’ll shoot you.

To answer your question, there are urban legends of dealers shooting people up to get them addicted so they’ll come back for more.

Daniel Kuehn March 28, 2011 at 10:20 am

Trade is more than consumption, JohnK.

A lot of coercion goes on in the drug trade through supply and distribution. My point is I’m not sure why your mind jumped to the consumer. Of course it doesn’t make sense to hold a gun to your customers’ head. If you’re willing to put a gun to the customers’ head, then you oughta just rob him – who threatens someone into buying a product?

The coercion of the drug trade happens above the retail level (or between different retailers).

JohnK March 28, 2011 at 10:31 am

Since dealers cannot resolve disputes in court they settle matters themselves. I wouldn’t call that coercion. Coercion means “do this or I will do violence upon you”. What you are calling coercion is more like “do this and I will do violence upon you.”

You should understand the subtlety there, Mr Nuance.

Daniel Kuehn March 28, 2011 at 10:37 am

Violence in the drug trade isn’t coercive because they’re just resolving disputes? Are you shitting me?

- You can’t trade here because I don’t want you to.
- You have to sell this for me and you have to give me the proceeds I want out of it.
- I’m going to hurt you because you’re obstructing my profit seeking.

The first one we usually call “protectionism”, the second one we usually call “slavery”, and the third one we usually call “mercantilism”, and usually we consider them all coercive. The first and third one disturbs market functioning in retail trade, the second one disturbs market functioning in the labor market.

Do you think before you write or do you just decide that whatever I say you are going to come in and disagree with no matter how absurd the claim is?

JohnK March 28, 2011 at 10:46 am

I would only consider the second one to be coercive because it is an initiation of action. The first and second are in reaction to someone else.

Coercion requires an initiation of action. Reaction is not coercive.

Do you think before you write, or do you just assume that because you are the smartest person in the room, in any room, that you are correct in all things?

JohnK March 28, 2011 at 10:49 am

*first and third*

Methinks1776 March 28, 2011 at 10:54 am

DK: “…who threatens someone into buying a product?”

As far as I know, only the government.

Methinks1776 March 28, 2011 at 10:57 am

DK:” – You can’t trade here because I don’t want you to.
- You have to sell this for me and you have to give me the proceeds I want out of it.
- I’m going to hurt you because you’re obstructing my profit seeking.”

Also sounds like government. I’m seeing a trend.

Daniel Kuehn March 28, 2011 at 11:03 am

To use Don’s bagel shop example – you don’t think it would be coercive for one bagel shop owner to walk next door to another bagel shop owner and tell him to stop selling bagels or he’ll shoot him.

Are you serious?

And how is this not an initiation of action???

I haven’t said or thought that I’m the smartest person in the room or always right. Stop dodging. You’re simply wrong on this. It is a very reasonable generalization to suggest that drug dealers are extremely coercive.

JohnK March 28, 2011 at 11:13 am

DK,
You are equating all violent action to coercion.

“- You can’t trade here because I don’t want you to.”

Presumably you are trading there first. Someone else initiates action by setting up shop. You react with violence to resolve a dispute in absence of access to courts.

“- I’m going to hurt you because you’re obstructing my profit seeking.”

You are seeking profits. Someone else initiates action by obstruction your profits. You react with violence to resolve a dispute in absence of access to courts.

Not all violent action is coercion.

Is self defense the same as vigilante justice?

The distinction is subtle. I would think you would get it since you’re the king of nuance.

Daniel Kuehn March 28, 2011 at 11:18 am

JohnK -
Of course not all violent action is coercive. But I ask you again – how is violently preventing one person from freely trading with another not coercive? What definition of “coercion” are you working from that makes my forcing two people to trade example “coercion” for you, but my preventing two people from trading example not “coercion”???

Clearly self defense is different from vigilante justice. Clearly not all violence is coercive. Your repetition of these trivialities doesn’t get us anywhere. Why do you think two competitors have to work anything out in court (what would the charges/allegations be?) and how in God’s name is violently forcing someone not to compete not coercive?

You’re either digging in or you’re very confused.

JohnK March 28, 2011 at 11:32 am

“and how in God’s name is violently forcing someone not to compete not coercive?”

How does one violently force someone not to do something?

One can violently react to someone doing something you told them not to do, but that is not the same as threatening violence if they do not do something.

Coercion is compelling action. You can’t compel inaction. That makes no sense.

Coercion is “do this or else”, like the health insurance mandate.

“If you do this I will react” is not coercion.

Daniel Kuehn March 28, 2011 at 11:38 am

Are you just pulling my leg now?

JohnK March 28, 2011 at 11:58 am

“Are you just pulling my leg now?”

You honestly do not see a difference between “If you don’t do this I will hurt you” and “If you do this I will hurt you”?

I see a world of difference. The first is coercion, the second is not.

Daniel Kuehn March 28, 2011 at 12:10 pm

So if someone walked up to you on your computer right now and said “if you keep typing I will hurt you” there wouldn’t be anything at all coercive about that?

But if, instead, he said “if you don’t leave your desk and walk across the room I will hurt you” that would be coercive???

JohnK March 28, 2011 at 12:35 pm

If I said “Don’t go to Antarctica or I will hurt you” would I have succeeded in coercing you into not going to Antarctica?

How can you coerce someone into not doing something they never intended to do?

“if you keep typing I will hurt you”

I could stop typing and claim that I had every intention to stop typing on my own.

You do not draw a distinction between coercion that compels vs coercion that deters.

I see them as being very different.
Especially in context of actors within the drug trade not having access to courts to resolve disputes. Give them access to courts by making the stuff legal and the violence, coercive and otherwise, would disappear.

Daniel Kuehn March 28, 2011 at 12:48 pm

“How can you coerce someone into not doing something they never intended to do?”

Who cares?

We were talking about drug dealers who coerce other drug dealers into not being drug dealers anymore. You suggested they were just working out something that would otherwise have been worked out in court, and that since it was a reaction to an action, rather than an appeal to do an action it wasn’t coercion. I’m still baffled at you.

“Give them access to courts by making the stuff legal and the violence, coercive and otherwise, would disappear.”

Or at least be reduced. Right, this was my initial point. It doesn’t change the fact that one person putting a gun to another person’s head and saying “I don’t want you to do that anymore because it’s bad for my business” is every bit as coercive as one person putting a gun to another person’s head and saying “I want you to do this because it’s good for my business.”

Clyde Dotson March 28, 2011 at 10:51 am

While I believe drugs should be decriminalized, I don’t believe making drug dealing in the current situation gives the dealers a pass on murder. It’s sort of like 1st degree and 2nd degree burglary. The police put much more effort into arresting 1st degree burglary suspects than they do 2nd degree. I suspect they would put much more effort into arresting murderers than dealers.

Libertarian March 28, 2011 at 6:48 pm

I will never get the horrific, terrifying phrase, “Gingrichian world” out of my brain. Please cancel my subscription.

2010 Acura Zdx parts April 4, 2011 at 3:34 am

Its a cornerstone of the religion that the state has the responsibility, the individual has none.

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