February 16, 2005

homeland offense

Americans realized long before its repeal in December, 1933 that Prohibition had created new and far more dangerous problems than it could have ever been calculated to solve. As the few remaining Americans of the era of speakeasies would tell you, the impact on America was overwhelmingly negative. The affects of Prohibition were bad not simply because of the gangland violence but because of the artificial dichotomy that was created wherein otherwise “good citizens” were routinely flouting the law.

It was a hard lesson in governance, but America learned and moved on.

Or at least, America had moved on until enough time had past that the lessons could be largely forgotten. It is truly amazing to read the Prohibition era stories and see how thoroughly relevant they still seem. The story of the young man determined to end the rum running on the road in front of his house, thwarted by a wise father who took his gun and admonished him to stay out of other people’s business, sounds eerily similar to the stories I hear from the inner city. Not similar in detail obviously: that was a simpler and much different era. Rather, I speak of the similarity of how prohibition set in motion powerful forces with which ordinary people dare not trifle. The similarity of parents who wish to keep their children away both from danger and the dangerous. If you just stay out of the way it seems, the dangerous will most likely leave you alone.

But the dangerous do affect each of us whether we try to stay out of the way or not. The War on Drugs has extracted a price that while hard to precisely total in dollars, is much easier to discern in intangible ways. It can be measured in resources diverted from homeland defense, lives wasted in jail cells, insecurity while simply going to your car at the grocery store, and liberties squandered due to the tactical and strategic exigencies of a phony war.

One may not be able to hang a price tag on these things, but the price is dear none the less.

According to information from the White House, about half of all prisoners in US jails are incarcerated because of the War on Drugs. You have to dig to sort all of that out, but it is worth your time if you doubt the number. Using the White House data, by my rough calculations approximately $18 billion is spent each year to keep these prisoners behind bars. Compare this to the President’s 2005 budget figure for the Department of Homeland Defense of $34 billion (which interestingly includes $6 billion for the Coast Guard, one of the prime players in drug interdiction). I’ll leave it for a person with time to spare to come up with a more thorough accounting, but it is clear that once you add in other expenses, which include a vast array of law enforcement activity from Federal down to local entities and large expenditures in other branches of the military who have been partially co-opted, that we are spending at least as much on the War on Drugs as we are on Homeland Defense.

Eventually we may all be seeking illicit drugs to help us cope with our muddled national priorities.

In my mind, however, the ridiculous expense in financial and human capital of the War on Drugs is not itself a sound argument for the legalization of controlled substances. There are some things that must be illegal if society is to function and what the content of the law is should not be determined simply by what yields a net profit. The exorbitant cost instead should give urgency to the need to commit to drug legalization not because it is a pragmatic good, but because it is the right thing to do.

While legalization is, I am convinced, the morally and legally correct choice, if I am to be totally honest, I must tell you that I truly hate illicit drugs. My personal opposition is, in part, because of moral obligations imposed by my faith, and in part out of my ordinary human fallacy of fearing being out of control. Alcohol, in my view, however, is like liberalism and conservativism: it is OK if consumed in moderation. For me personally, the difference between the two is that moderate alcohol consumption does not lead to inebriation.

But I understand well that others disagree with me on the acceptability of alcohol consumption: the “intellectual” heirs of Billy Sunday are the stock from which I was raised. I know that there are those who would gleefully rob me of my right to enjoy my pint of stout and this is why the principals of Natural Rights are so crucial to building a free society.

When one is certain that they have a clear understanding that particular behaviors are destructive, it is only natural to want to intercede on behalf of the unwitting. But, unlike the majority of Americans, I really do believe in Liberty. As I have said before, I stand for human rights without regard to one’s personal viability, color of skin, religious creed, level of intelligence or unrepentant sinfulness. Free people must have the liberty to make choices that you or I might deem unwise or immoral.

The temperance tyrants sometimes argue back that it is not about controlling the behavior of others, it is about the cost to society of addiction and dangerous behavior under the influence. But I follow the facts where they lead me and not where I wish them to lead, and the obvious fact is that forty years of the War on Drugs has done absolutely nothing to curtail their use or reduce the impact of addictive behavior on society. The reality is that we currently have locked up over 3% of adults and by my conservative estimate annually spend the equivalent of the Gross Domestic Product of Paraguay and yet the cost of drugs continues to decline and the use of drugs is unabated.

The greatest expense borne by Americans in the prosecution of the drug war is the cost in human life and livelihood. Lives which are squandered by poor kids muling or dealing to try to make it in the world no matter what the cost of living in the shadows. Lives of non-combatants who are caught in the real and virtual cross-fire. Livelihood which is squandered by the rising tide of property crimes committed by addicted people seeking money for their next high. Then there is what is perhaps the largest line item on the expense ledger: the lost opportunity to deal with real and pressing issues.

All of this insanity is juxtaposed on the established fact that treatment has been proven far more effective than incarceration. Even the Drug War champions in the White House admit this. It is time to act on reason and end the insanity which is the War on Drugs. Time to give Freedom a chance here in the Home of the Brave.

It is way past time to put a priority on mending broken lives rather than building more jails.


Blogger Brackenator said...

When I read this post I am reminded of many arguments I have heard from Libertarians and Objectivists. In general, they propose that very few things are illegal and pour the money from law enforcement and incarceration into education so that the public at large can make up it's own mind on how to handle such things.

They have a point. If we were all educated about how utterly destructive certain addictions can be, with concrete examples of the lives it ruined in its wake, maybe that would be more effective. The problem is that I have know many people at various stages of addiction, from deep in the ruins they created for themselves to those many years clean.

The common thread for their reform is they could not believe how far their lives evolved from them being in control, to the urge or fix being in control. I have not known anyone that gave up drugs because they were arrested or feared legal repercussions from using.

For me, between my religious beliefs and the movie, “The Kid with the Golden Arm" were enough to keep me from trying anything. The other factor was working with people recovering from addiction. One girl I knew commented on the commercial where the girl has the cast iron skillet saying this is your life on heroin while she beings to list of litany of things that you destroy besides your life and smashed the entire kitchen. She said it made a point, but heroin is so consuming that nothing else matters. She said suicide would be a quicker fix and do about the same thing to your life.

On the subject, I would suggest the same thing that the Libertarians and Objectivists say. Educate the American public and let them make an informed decision.

3:26 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


You kept sounding like you were going to disagree with me, but unless I missed it, I don’t think you did. Darn.

3:40 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Good title. :)

It all seems simple to me. Everyone should be free to do anything they want Unless doing that thing Significantly effects others. Smoking cigarettes next to me in a public place significantly effects me. Same if you pull out a joint at the restaurant. Smoke the same cigarette or joint at home... your business, not mine. If you conduct business on your cell phone at the table next to me in the restaurant, that is irritating as hell, but not enough to say you don't have the right. Same situtation, but at the movies... yeah it's enough to say you don't have the right to use your cell phone. Drinking your pint of beer (even that motor oil Plank drinks) is his business until he drinks several of them and gets into his car. (which rasises an interesting question - can one test a pot consumption threshold like alcohol?) It's about judgement calls when individual liberty actions reach a threshold of significantly effecting others... it has nothing to do with individual morality.

I have been for legalizing drugs for a long time. I think the War on Drugs has been hypocritical and a complete waste of money. Part of the individual liberty society judgements, by definition, has to include practical matters like cost and benefit.


4:12 PM  
Blogger stilldreamn said...

I heartily endorse your position, but our society is so far down the road to controlling unhealthy (but legal) behaviors that adding a new class of legal but bad, BAD substances will only add to the rolls of the unemployable and shunned. It would, however, raise a vast amount of tax dollars which could be put to use "educating" newly fired workers like those at Weyco that would rather smoke than work. And it would create many new health nazi jobs, such as neighborhood watch groups who could inform employers about their workers' unhealthy habits. Sure, legalize dope, tax users to death, fire them; they'll long for the good ole days when it was illegal. Then again, maybe the brouhaha over the dope will make our social overseers forget about the fat in my beloved Big Macs, and I can eat in peace.

6:50 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


I agree. It is very scary where we are headed. Soon, they will be regulating nicotine, caffeine and trans fats. The rationale of the War on Drugs definitely applies because it is based on an erroneous belief that prohibition controls the behavior. I just don’t see the logical distinction wherein you control marijuana but not caffeine. Maybe someone can enlighten us.

Personally, I fear the day that I have to go visit the guy on the corner in a Tommy Hilfiger coat so I can hand over a pile-o-cash in exchange for a dime bag Mickey-D’s french fries. Laugh now if you want, but that is where we are headed as a society.

9:26 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

As it turns out, Wally must be a Republican.

1:32 PM  
Blogger David M. Smith said...

I wish there wasn’t such a thing as recreational drugs. I’ve never know anyone who used street drugs without having a decrease in their joy, attitude, and aptitude. I would hate to live in any society where the use of recreational drugs was considered acceptable. However, I place a very high value on personal liberty and I can see where drug laws are also having a very negative effect on our society.

2:39 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


Unlike you, I have known a few people that have used recreational drugs and been social upright valuable contributors to society. I agree with you to an extent because I know far more people whose lives have been destroyed by the direct effects of drug use or indirect effects resulting from the abuse of others. The point is, generalizing is extremely unfair.

I personally would be shocked if we moved to a place where recreational drug use is viewed as acceptable in mainstream society. I would add a caveat for marijuana because the numbers tell us that marijuana use is pretty mainstream.

You get to the main point: is the destruction wrought by the war itself worth the resulting reduction in drug use. Given the widespread abuse of illegal drugs, it is hard to imagine it being worth it. And this doesn’t even get us started on the abuse of legal drugs.

3:41 PM  
Blogger stilldreamn said...

"The reign of tears is over. The slums will soon be a memory. We will turn our prisons into factories and our jails into storehouses and corncribs. Men will walk upright now, women will smile and children will laugh. Hell will be forever for rent."

Sound familiar? That optimistic prediction was by Rev. Billy Sunday at the beginning of Prohibition. Too bad it didn't work, and even worse that we've forgotten it.

"Back in the day...." (oh, how my kids cringe when they hear that) I used to listen, enthralled, at the stories my grandparents and their friends told of their bootlegging escapades hauling booze from Canada, often by boat. They were young - it was the thrill and glamour that appealed. Fast forward to my youth, marajuana rampant and prohibited; also thrilling and cool. Dear Grandma's response: it's just like Prohibition when I was your age. She was unimpressed with the problem, and remarked that "some people are just going to be addicted no matter what and you can't do a thing about it."

One last disconnected thought: IF drugs were legal here, what effect would it have on "imports" from Mexico and South America? Drug lords out of business?

7:47 PM  
Blogger yoshitownsend said...

To the last guy, I do think legalizing drugs could seriously hurt the Latin American exporters. They make a fortune simply because the stuff is so hard to get everyone has to pay a premium.

I think if people are addicted to drugs, that's a reflection of them, their deep-rooted problems, and not the drug. I have seen people ruin their lives smoking pot all the time, and also people ruining their lives on alcohol.

I think drug use is just the symptom of the problem, not the cause.

We live in a society which tells us to eat sugar cereal all day, then we should dress and look like Britney Spears, play Sony video games, and drive an SUV. We should all be nice, complacent, conforming, un-thinking, worker bees. Self-reflection is highly discouraged. You get kids early enough, and you literally "buy their soul." So when they get in their teens, and start to realize that life is something more than being a customer, you start finding a spirituality in drugs.

Personally, I used LSD and Mushrooms and Ecstasy quite a bit. I would still use them from time to time, if I got my hands on them. Probably not ecstasy, but the other two. Ecstasy I would agree probably does a little more harm than it's worth. But overall it's still relatively not that bad.
(You know, the army originally developed it as a truth serum.)

Believe me, if you want to do some self- reflection, to find out what really matters in your life, take some psychadelics.

I credit these drugs with saving my life in many ways. I'm much more conscientious about the environment, my own health, others around me. I have empathy towards others, I've learned how to have emotions, how to be honest with myself, etc. I think I'm a 100% better person.

I'm ten times more evolved than most of my family members, and I attribute a lot of that to the simple fact that I just used the optimal amount of psychadelic drugs.

I can assure everyone I could use any drug and not develop an addiction to it. Although I did struggle with Dr. Pepper a while.

On the other hand, I have friends who have lost a lot of years being addicted to smoking pot and taking downers. They never got their educations, and always took the drugs that "blot out" reality as opposed to my drugs that "intensified" reality.

I think the difference between their negative experiences and my positive experiences were that I was simply more disciplined and emotionally secure than they were. I managed to always keep my head on my shoulders.

I think any adult on this site could use any drug out there and maintain his thinking the whole time, realizing the drugs per se aren't so bad.

Anyway, I guess the point of all this is....

I sure would like to get some mushrooms around here. I need to get in touch with my soul again :)

11:38 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


You said, “I used LSD and Mushrooms and Ecstasy quite a bit.” Well now, that explains a few things. :-D

I know, it was a cheap line, but I just can’t resist low hanging fruit.

BTW, one of the people I have known that was not ruined by illegal drugs was an LSD guy. He and his roommates made LSD in college, but never distributed. They were busted and he did hard jail time (seven years). This guy was one of the smartest people I have ever met and a true asset to society. Drugs are clearly more complex than the black and white people like to paint it as.

I don’t know that legalization would end the black market. First, there will always be the market for the under-aged crowd. I personally think we would need age restrictions just like with alcohol and tobacco. And, I’m sure we would regulate drugs sufficiently to add enough to their price that we would have people trying to beat the regulation and taxes. All that said, it will not be nearly as lucrative and I think the worst of the drug distribution chain would disappear. We would also have to raise the pay of law enforcement because they would no longer be able to run their side business.

I agree that certain people are going to find their addictive substance whether we legalize things or not. I think your Grandma was wrong about modern prohibition being the same but only as to a matter of degree. Prohibition has been going on for so long now that the business has kept getting bigger and the stakes higher. I think we have corruption at the highest levels because the profits are so huge. Alcohol prohibition would have been just as bad if it had been left in place, but it was wisely ended.


You know, it is a shame that I don’t have any anti-legalization posts here. I have heard people make credible cases and it would be fun to have a good discussion. I think that what I am seeing here at the Disenfranchised Curmudgeon is that people who don’t agree with me don’t read regularly or post enthusiastically. This has always puzzled me because I have found few things more fun than charging into the blazing guns of the opposition. Now there has certainly been some spirited debate here at times, but I sense that most of the folks reading this are in agreement. Bummer.

9:24 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Looks like your little survey here supports legalization of drugs and Yoshi is a mushroom man. Who knew? :)

10:12 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


I wouldn't exactly call this sampling representative. Where are Prof and TexaCon when you need them? I can't imagine that they have finally succumbed to reason.

10:16 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...


A related discussion/debate/argument is the frickin drug testing at work thing. I think it's outrageous that one has to go pee in a cup for employment. Before the argument kicks in, I also think it's outrageous for a company to be held accountable for an employee who causes harm because of drug use, unless previous actions were obvious signs of problems. Employee drug use should not be "assumed guilty"... where are the libertarians when they could finally be useful. I expect to see those signs on the corner of intersections soon... "I will pee for work".

10:37 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


Well, you are touching on one of the weaknesses of libertarianism. You won’t see Libertarians howling about employer drug tests because in their view, being an employee is a voluntary contract. If you don’t like the pee test, you are free to go elsewhere. We all know the reality is that jobs are not that fungible even were they available. And, with the rising tide of employer pee-tests, pretty much you aren’t going to be employed if you don’t submit.

Mind you, this has zero direct personal impact on me. But, I do think it is overboard. I’ll give you an example from a couple of weeks ago in my life. I had a case of the flu and I was taking cough syrup. I didn’t think twice about it and I frankly don’t know why I did think of it, but it occurred to me, what would happen if I was summoned for a random pee-test. I had a slight panic until I found the bottle and verified that the stuff I was taking was alcohol free. Now maybe my short lived panic doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things, but I have to imagine lots of folks have been impacted by unnecessary worrying at times. Or even necessary worrying by someone who used drugs recreationally over the weekend and then lays awake wondering how long it stays in their system and whether they will be random tested.

I, for one, do not think employers should be liable for workers who are under the influence unless they have highly hazardous duties that would endanger others in the ordinary course of business. The law has long made a distinction for companies engaged in transportation and their are probably other exceptions if we took the time to make a list.

10:52 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

I, for one, do not think employers should be liable for workers who are under the influence unless they have highly hazardous duties that would endanger others in the ordinary course of business. The law has long made a distinction for companies engaged in transportation and their are probably other exceptions if we took the time to make a list.I don't think the company should be involved in any employee benefits (other than salary/bonus/compensation) or policing society's laws. Let me exlain. On the compensation front, a company-employee involvement should end at agreement on salary compensation. This should have nothing to do with other benefits like health insurance. Health insurance is a common good need of all citizens and should have nothing to do with your employer. The company doesn't take an employee on to raise, it should be a simple agreed to pact regarding work and compensation. (I side point would be a company has no business pressuring employees regarding charity... the pact is about work and compensation.. not some company moral compass).

So back to the "pee test point". Your point is that "some jobs should require pee testing". Who decides that... the employer? They are all sheep... the first one to require it forces everyone to require it. I think an employer should have zero employee policing obligation other than following federal law. If federal law says "this job requires a pee test", then so be it. If federal law requires "suspicious employee actions" be reported, tested, including employee suspension... so be it. I want employers completely out of the "discretionary policing" business. Any true capitalist should back me on this. Business should be about business... not the parent or the policeman. Ironically, in this case, bigger government would serve business.

12:00 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


I would definitely have federal standards for the pee-test required occupations. Notice I say occupations and not employers. Just because Greyhound is required to test drivers does not mean that the janitors should be tested as well.

Big government is almost always a good for big business. That is the key thing that liberals tend to miss.

I would agree that we need to get employers out of the health care system. Ending employer provided plans and zero dollar coverage (except of course for the poor) are the start of the reforms that would help straighten out our health care disaster. And it is a disaster as anyone who is not one of the privileged few in this country knows.

12:59 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

"Big government is almost always a good for big business. That is the key thing that liberals tend to miss."

I chose the wrong words. I should have used "government regulation" instead of "big government". Conservatives are always screaming about "getting government regulation out of business" (you are right, they aren't screaming about not getting special favors from government). You wouldn't play a football game without rules... why would you conduct capitalism without rules?

1:56 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


Your change doesn’t affect much. I would argue that regulation is great for big business. It is bad for small business. Increasing large companies look at regulation as a tool for developing a competitive edge. This works two ways. First, big companies have the resources to buy favorable regulation (mostly indirectly through lobbyists and campaign contributions). Second they have the resources to respond to onerous regulatory burdens.

2:04 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...


We aren't disagreeing that big business owns the US government today... but to clarify:

"Your change doesn’t affect much. I would argue that regulation is great for big business. It is bad for small business."

Perhaps the term "regulation" is still too generic. My point started with "business shouldn't be in the health insurance business". Government measures (regulation, laws, etc.) which tied health insurance to an individual rather than the employer (that's the ownership society I want, not the trumped up BS about owning by Social Security insurance) would be good for both large and small companies. Changing our laws so no company is on the hook for employee criminal behavior helps both large and small companies. Government regulation/rules which makes sure a startup with a better mousetrap can always take on the big companies and avoid monopolies.

No doubt there are examples of regulations that only help big companies... it's those big companies and their lobbyist that write the laws. I would guess the biggest criminal behavior by large companies is getting government to drop regulations. Large coal miners contribute to Bush 43, next thing you know Coal mining EPA regulations disappear.

3:37 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


I am only following up to clarify. Yeah, the coal companies might take an end to regulation as first choice. But, what they seek is regulation that gives them a competitive advantage. Things which squeeze the smaller competition out can be more beneficial than no regulation at all. And this isn’t idle speculation or conspiracy mindedness: this is in fact what is happening. Check the results of various environmental regulations over the last few decades. For example, when was the last Mom and Pop gas station you saw? What happened? Environmental regulation that big industry was firmly behind. The big brands had the resources to put in the new tanks, the Mom and Pops did not. That is just one example.

But let me be crystal clear: if you read the internal mission statements of many large industrial companies, they explicitly tie themselves to using environmental regulation as a tool for competitiveness. They don’t try that hard to hide it really because they can spin it as a positive in the public eye. If you don’t believe me, ask someone else with first hand exposure.

3:45 PM  
Blogger stilldreamn said...

"business shouldn't be in the health insurance business"

AMEN. I would argue that insurance coverage of any health care raises the price of it. Twenty, thirty years ago practically no employer-sponsored insurance covered doctor visits or prescriptions (course we didn't PAY any part of the premiums, either)and yet even a pink-collar worker such as myself could afford to drag in to the doc and get a shot if I needed it. As I recall, it DID cost me nearly a day's pay (which really sucked considering I wouldn't get "sick pay" without a doctor's slip). Fast forward to 2005 -- sick as a dog, I crawled in to the doctor's office and paid my $20 copay (after also paying a share of the insurance premium) and that same visit, now accompanied by tests of every bodily function imaginable would have cost me TWO DAYS PAY--and I have a much better job than I did in 1980. Not to mention the prescription -- interestingly, the exact same drug I took years ago, and with the same result.

Did I NEED all those tests? No, but you can bet that they were ordered to insulate the clinic from malpractice. I sure wouldn't have submitted if it was coming out of MY pocket (but your pocket is OK). What I needed was an antibiotic. You know, a heavier-duty version of what they lace our food with.

What we need is CHOICE. Why can't we have generic "pay cash" health care for the simple stuff? Wasn't that the push behind HMOs, etc? Yes, I'd buy catastrophic care insurance, just like I have high deductible home-owners insurance because there's a level of risk I'm prepared to pay for. Especially if my pay package gave me back some of the bucks being spent on womb to tomb benefits.

And let's talk about Medicaid and nursing homes, while we're at it. Why don't folks buy long term care insurance? Because most don't need it -- Medicaid is pretty strict about qualifying workers (after all, their employers are supposed to furnish insurance, right?) but quite liberal about enrolling folks into the elder-warehouses. If you can't figure out how to shelter your assets to avoid the mandatory spend-down, there are lawyers aplenty to help you (oh dear, I said the "L" word).

If somebody else is paying for it, everybody wants it, and more is better.

7:40 PM  
Blogger stilldreamn said...

DUH!! Here's the answer: encourage streetcorner druggists to carry things like penicillin (and maybe a 'shroom or two, just for Yoshi) They could buy generics from Canada so their pharmacies don't go out of business.

Maybe "patent medicine" will make a comeback. Don't you just know Bayer aspirin was REALLY effective when it contained heroin? You were still sick, but you didn't care.

8:15 PM  
Blogger yoshitownsend said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:57 PM  
Blogger yoshitownsend said...

If anyone needs help on their personal life, a tough decision, or just a self-reflecting, cathartic experience.... think about this idea....

Yoshi's Legal peyote experience Link

11:58 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Stilldreamin... you did know I didn't want to get rid of health insurance just because I don't want employer's involved? :)

Remember... I am still the liberal here... pooled risk across the population with VERY progressive taxation. On some things "opting out by the individual citizen" is not ok. We choose to treat folks at emergency centers that don't have health insurance. It would be immoral to leave them in the parking lot. Why not be smart about it and cover all of these people up front in a pooled health coverage system which minimizes the most expensive coverage (i.e. emergency centers). BTW... some doctor office "testing" actually saves money because you catch stuff earlier when it is cheaper and easier to treat. That said, I agree docs have to do way too much CYA testing. That costs everyone. The catastrophic only insurance is just fine for those of us who can pay for it. For those who are poor, covering the $7500+ deductible could be catastrophic for their families.

But hey, we can start with both agreeing to get employer's out of the health insurance business.

8:48 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


With the thermostat hovering around 85, I think they need to upgrade the old swamp cooler. Or does being drenched in sweat help the spiritual experience? And the thunder bucket in the last pic makes me think that you might be “moved” in ways you weren’t exactly desiring.

8:54 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


I am a long time proponent that we need to get employers our of the health insurance business. You are correct about the insidious affects of first dollar coverage. We have some friends with two children and a gold-plated employer provided health plan. They are at the doctor almost as frequently as we are at the grocery store. They are constantly going to the doctor, and getting medications. Now these are good people and I don’t begrudge them the extra care they are getting in any personal way. But, it is undeniable that people like that are driving up the total cost of health care.

Now, the problem with the liberal position is that if you make the health care totally free, you drive a lot of the same type of behavior. If it is free and you might be sick, it is awfully easy to go. There are answers to this like skilled nursing triage and using more physician’s assistants, but it is something to think about for those of us who advocate free health care.

Lastly I will add that I am also a proponent of ending the restrictions on prescription medication. This is for two reasons. First, it is not consistent to allow someone to get cocaine freely but have to have a prescription for Flonase or some-such. Second, there are many times when people have experience or knowledge and they simply don’t need a physicians input. I have actually seen many examples where the patient has to educate the physician. One example is when I have a sinus infection. They never culture you to determine the right anti-biotic, they just take a best guess. Now, those guesses aren’t bad, and generally they work. But the one of the most common antibiotics has been consistently ineffective for me. Also, there is a very cheap anti-biotic ($10 flat with no insurance) that works great, but doctors are reluctant to prescribe it because you have to take it three times a day. Physicians call that a potential “compliance” issue. But if I were in charge of my own health care, I’d be able to remember to take my pill every eight hours if that meant a $10 expense versus $100. This is just one example in my own experience where physicians are an obstacle to effective reasonably priced health care.

All of that said, antibiotics might be the one area where we should not let people have free access because the potential abuse could lead to serious health problems due to the more rapid development of resistant strains.

9:10 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


Yeah, we need to make some types of tests and treatment cheap and easy. This new drug I just took, Tamiflu, is a good case in point. They have simple and inexpensive tests for the flu that can be done on the spot. If Tamiflu is taken very quickly after the start of symptoms or better yet, after EXPOSURE to the flu, the progression of the virus can be halted completely. It is amazing stuff let me tell you. Anyway, how much total savings would we have as a society if there were clinics where you could drop in, a PA could administer the flu test and hand out the Tamiflu?

Our healthcare system is totally warped in many different ways. Too bad that so many, especially in the GOP, want to put there head in the sand and chant to themselves “we have the best healthcare in the world. We have the best healthcare in the world...” Repetition does not make it so.

9:15 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Did the Post/Preview window change for everyone on this website? Maybe you just get this condensed version when the site is overloaded. ??


We have the best healthcare system in the world IF YOU HAVE ACCESS TO IT. If you are poor, many nations have better systems for you. Lines in Canada is better than no healthcare... but maybe not better to hanging out in the US emergency care centers. Yesterday on the News Hour they showed Americans that were flying to Thailand for healthcare. One layed off IT guy w/out health insurance got a knee operation for $5000 that would have cost $20,000 here.

On the so called "liberal free healthcare" position, whatever that is.... I look at it like this:

1) Quality healthcare should be a right, and quality should be equal regardless of economic class
2) Healthcare providers and drug companies shouldn't get a capitalism pass on profits... we have a right through our government to control/mitigate costs.
3) Those who can pay for their healthcare, should. Blanket coverage where people get stuff done just because they can doesn't make sense... then again, avoiding something one really needs because of costs doesn't make sense either. None of that matters if you are poor... how exactly are you going to control the poor "getting too much stuff done in our healthcare system". Some form of cheaper delivery or up front screening in fine and makes sense as long as it applies to all of us, even if we can afford to pay more (i.e. I wouldn't be on board for any n-tier healthcare coverage based on income level). Everytime I here someone talk about healthcare in terms of personal choice on "what kind of policy" my head starts to hurt. Read my lips... Wealthy people should not be entitled to better healthcare on this planet.
4) As stated, get employer's out of the health insurance business.
Health insurance should be tied to an individual and healthcare provider/government. No way a moral system doesn't have the government involved. Limiting this to the profit motive will never work... poor and sick people are often not profitable.

One funny/ironic story related to your point about "first dollar" coverage. I have a high deductible insurance policy, so I tend to avoid doctor visits. Recently I some pretty bad shoulder pain, either from my tennis, or lifting, or both... not sure. No way I wanted to go to a Sports doctor and pay those outrageous charges, so I researched the problem on the internet. It became apparent pretty quickly I either had tendonitis or a rotator cuff tear. Now it would be nice to know which one, but I assumed it was just bad tendonitis because it wasn't stopping me from playing tennis (maybe should have, but that's another story). Anyway, there was tons of info on the net about rototar cuff tendonitis... stretching and strength exercises, icing, warmup, anti-inflamatory drugs, etc. One month later, and I am pretty much shoulder pain free. I guess it could have gone the other way, and I may have made the problem worse if it actually was a rotator cuff tear. So, is this an example of good incentive, or a sitution where the average Joe shouldn't have to try and avoid a doctor.

Well, anyway, here is the funny part of the story. My 70 year old mother calls, and say she just went to the doctor and he said she has rotator cuff issues. She is getting cortozone shots, doctor suggested on MRI, and she is scheduled for weekly therapy... i.e. gold plated coverage.

So, should we all have gold plated coverage and not avoid the doctor... or should we all be forced to become google self-diagnose-rs?

10:35 AM  
Blogger yoshitownsend said...

Tony wrote:
"With the thermostat hovering around 85, I think they need to upgrade the old swamp cooler. Or does being drenched in sweat help the spiritual experience? And the thunder bucket in the last pic makes me think that you might be “moved” in ways you weren’t exactly desiring."

Well actually I think you have their giant Arizona ranch to yourself, so you wander around in nature the entire time. You don't stay in their rooms, you have the whole day to yourself in silence and the desert. I haven't done it yet, but Spring Break is coming up.....

And yea, I think you would certainly be "moved." I prefer to think of it as a "purging" though.

5:16 PM  
Blogger stilldreamn said...

I was pondering just how we managed to segue from legalizing drugs to healthcare, then realized that of course the common thread is MONEY. Who pays for all this?

As a "democrantarian" who is first and foremost a Christian, my beliefs are all over the map on the proper role of government. Our duty to the poor, as individuals, is clear---government's role is less so. Unclogging our courts and prisons would free up significant sums to spend on the uninsured. I think you can buy a pretty fair bit of healthcare for the cost of one incarcerated individual.

Tennessee has been struggling with their plan of universal care for more than a decade and it is, finally, nearly bankrupt. Tenncare now consumes nearly 25% of the state tax revenues (and healthcare in the US is nearly 14% of the GNP) and STILL people are uninsured. Based on the state's figures, it apparently costs about $6,700 per Tenncare patient per year ($8.7 billion spread over 1.3 million participants). In contrast, my employer spends (purportedly) some $10,000 PER EMPLOYEE for health care, bearing in mind that many employees have multiple dependents (such as ourselves, with 6 minor kids)and yes, CG, we do have gold-plated coverage right down to dental and vision. We pay a very modest $200 per month, plus co-pays. Our employer even extends these same benefits to PART-TIME workers, and still manages to offer a stellar ROI to the stockholders.

Clearly, the government doesn't run their healthcare "business" efficiently. A Tenncare family of 8 would consume $53,000 worth of medical care........and get less of it.

Except for Oxycontin, that is. THAT is the number one prescription written for Tenncare patients. I understand it has a high "street value." Can we say "fraud?"

A single payer system would be a wonderous thing, but who runs it?

7:10 PM  
Blogger stilldreamn said...

Let me make haste to acknowledge a flaw in my figures---the mere fact of being an employee implies a certain level of health that the Tenncare patient may not have. Then again, many of these Tenncare subscribers are children who, if they enjoyed a normal health status wouldn't cost much, either.

Anyone want to tackle healthcare rationing? Tort reform? They're part of the puzzle, too.

And Yoshi, I checked out the link and must say it has a benign sort of appeal. Serene, even. Maybe a national healthcare plan could cover it as "alternative medicine." At $200 it's pretty cheap.

7:57 PM  
Blogger yoshitownsend said...

200 bucks is pretty cheap. I'd rather pay it myself though, it's part of the pilgrimage process that way. Kind of like fasting 24 hours before hand.

Though as I mentioned earlier, it's no cure-all panacea. Different people are in different phases in their lives, and all will have a different experience.

I've never been to this Peyote place but I have been on "new age" retreats that are similar. There are some flaky people out there. They call themselvs Reverends and Rabbis and Shamans, etc. Nothing wrong with that per se, these are certainly nice people, but their solutions to the world's problems seem a little naive usually.

Common Good, remember when Ali G goes to meet those Hippies in California? These are the kinds of people I'm talking about.

But that doesn't mean level-headed guys like ourselves couldn't get a lot out of the experience. What's to lose? Do your reseach and determine if there is any danger whatsoever involved with using peyote. It would sure beat most other Travelocity weekends you see advertised. I'm going to try it myself if I can get out that way sometime.

Once I was at a Youth Group and this 300 lb. priest tried to give me a lecture about mushrooms. I told him if he could find me ONE single example of someone dying from psychadelic mushrooms I wouldn't use them ever again. (Freaking out cause you realize that everything your Grandma told you about the Virgin Mary appearing to all the little kids was a bunch of bulls**t and you lose your mind temporarily because everything you've been told about reality up until that point has been a lie doesn't count :)

That bet was made in 1999. And guess what? I'm still waiting on the results from his "research". Apparently he was wrong in his assumption of mushrooms. (Of course I knew ahead of time he would be able to find nothing, so it was a loaded bet.)It was always frustrating having more knowledge about nearly everything than my elders. Who's a young guy to emulate?

The Curmedgeon seems like a good place to learn, however. There is certainly much more credibilty here.

12:41 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


Wow. Learning at MY knee? Surely that is a desperate act.

I don’t know much about mushrooms. Personally, I’d be afraid of the poisonous kind...not that I see myself going the psychedelic path any time soon.

Peyote brings up interesting Constitutional issues. I’m not up on the most current law (there may have not been any developments, either-I don’t know), but I’m pretty sure it is illegal even as a part of religious practice. There is a Supreme Court decision that is blatantly against the spirit and intent of the Constitution if I ever read one. Yet another example of the War on Drugs run amok. We have no business as a society dictating to Native Americans what their religious practice should be, but that is exactly what we do.

Interestingly, during alcohol prohibition, there was an exception for sacramental wine (My hunch is they filled the little communion cups a bit fuller during that day). By dictating that there is no exception of sacramental peyote were have added yet more layers of hypocrisy to society.

As I’ve said, people here believe in freedom as long as it means freedom to be like everybody else.

1:08 PM  
Blogger yoshitownsend said...

Yea, certainly there is a difference between the "drugs" I seem to be advocating and the hard "drugs" of heroin and crack cocaine, etc. Peyote and Mushrooms should have some exemption for spiritual use. Freedom of religion, right? The common theory is that the government passes laws against these drugs because they encourage non-conformity and non-consumer driven philosophies in its users. The theory makes sense to me. What other reason would they make it a crime to use these drugs. As Tony said, "freedom to be like everyone else."

I nonchalantly mentioned wanting to find mushrooms to "get in touch with my soul" earlier, but to be honest that statement is actually quite true. It is a religious experience. It seems ridiculous that the police would give you a serious problem over possession of such a thing.

On a related note,
I know a someone who is an illegal alien here, working illegally. That person is a "server" at a restaurant, and some police officers are that person's regular customers. Now, the police really have taken to this "server," and know that he(or she) is illegal.

It seems so hypocritical that they overlook the "law" when it's convenient for them. Similarly, I assure these same police have some friends who smoke a joint at the SuperBowl parties and they overlook these offenses. But when they get on the COPS t.v. show these same police officers will get all self-righteous and give lectures about drug use and breaking the supreme "laws." Worse is when, and they always do, take the most desparate, pitiful people to jail for minor offenses like drug possession or being illegal. I say minor because these police overlook these things when it affects them on a personal level.

Basically they give you this line about "the law, blah, blah, blah," as if they are based on some kind of absolute moral universal principles, and upon closer inspection the "laws" are actully just these semi-arbitrary rules that benefit some of the more powerful at the expense of the marginalized sector of society. -Like me when I get pulled over :)
Basically whether or not a crime is committed depends on what mood the police happen to be in on that particular day.

Anyway, back to my orginal point, there should, in my opinion, at least be some flexibility allowing Native Americans or just open-minded individuals to use certain drugs for "sacremental use."

7:15 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


It is unbelievably simple common sense, isn’t it? The Supreme Court opinion that ruled against sacramental peyote couched itself in terms of regulation that was neutral as to religion. I.e., since the drug laws were not aimed at religion, they did not interfere with one’s free exercise. I understand the legal point, but clearly the free exercise of religion is being abridged by the law.

Of course, I am over-simplifying because there has to be some limit on what can be characterized as religious practice. If someone believes in the practice of child sacrifice for instance, there aren’t many who would feel even slightly uncomfortable abridging the free exercise of religion with respect to that particular activity. The point is, the murder statutes are reasonable laws because they prevent the infringement of the human rights of others. Only when you start criminalizing activity that should be allowed in a free society do you run in to absurdities such as the outlawing of sacramental peyote.

10:36 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...


That last post of yours... huh? I obviously agree with you about legalizing drugs, but one can't be allowed to violate ANY law by claiming "religious practice or belief".

"since the drug laws were not aimed at religion, they did not interfere with one’s free exercise. I understand the legal point, but clearly the free exercise of religion is being abridged by the law."

That should have been stated as "laws that are not aimed at religion are a legal interference of one's free exercise of religion".

5:23 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


No, I said it correctly. I was trying to state the Supreme Court’s position (which is of course the law of the land) when I said that they said that if the regulation was neutral as to religion, then it did not rise to the level of a violation of the free exercise clause. I don’t agree with where they drew the line. I would draw it at criminal acts and of course do not think consumption of peyote should be illegal.

12:31 PM  

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