Posts Tagged With: Published Work

Class Debate – Drug Legalization

"Ladies and gentlemen, legalization of hard drugs like cocaine and heroin may at first glance feel uncomfortable. It may seem like a dangerous and unsafe policy. The affirmation today will show that the opposite is the case: banning these drugs is the unsafe policy. Because the drug market is illegal, we cannot control or regulate who plays and by what rules. Legalization of hard drugs will eliminate the obscene profits organized crime rackets make from importing and selling cocaine and heroin. It will rid our streets of much of the drug-related crime that plagues our impoverished neighborhoods. Furthermore, it will help reduce budget deficits and prison overcrowding. The affirmation would like to legalize possession of recreational amounts of Schedule Two drugs like cocaine, heroin, and LSD. To keep corporations and their greed for profits away from these addictive substances, government will Purchase, Regulate, Tax, and Distribute these drugs, similar to the way medical marijuana is distributed now. No drugs will be sold to pregnant women or to persons under 21 years of age. Our current policy is to ban these drugs and imprison anyone who sells or uses them. This War on Drugs, despite costing the taxpayer nearly $40 billion a year, has had a negligible effect on consumption and sale of hard drugs. Our inner cities are full of people selling and using these substances. It is time for government to wake up. Thank you.” Ladies and gentlemen, the Prohibition era of American history was expected to reduce crime and corruption, reduce the number of alcoholics, reduce the number of prisons and poorhouses, and improve health and safety. When Congress banned the sale of alcohol, evangelist Billy Sunday gathered ten thousand people together and proclaimed, "The reign of tears is over. The slums will soon be only a memory. We will turn our prisons into factories and our jails into storehouses and comcribs. Men will walk upright now, women will smile, and the children will laugh. Hell will be forever for rent." Unfortunately, Prohibition increased consumption of alcohol, marked the beginning of organized crime, pushed prison systems past their capacities, and deprived the government of a source of revenue. These problems did not go away with the end of Prohibition; they are still here, because of our bans on various other drugs. Addicts commit half of all street crimes today. The Mafia and other organized crime rackets make huge sums from importing and selling cocaine and heroin to addicts. Turf wars erupt over profitable street corners. We ignore, imprison, and impoverish addicts, the people that need our help the most. Legalization would eliminate turf wars and the incentive for crime bosses to import drugs. Government regulation and taxation would make consumption safer for users - remember 35% of new AIDS cases come from illegal drugs. What's more, we could spend the $40 billion we're now spending in a drug war on antipoverty and rehabilitation measures. Yes, legalization might increase the number of addicts, but this is not a clear cut conclusion. And if adults want to become addicts, we don't have the right to stop them. As Milton Friedman said, "Reason with the potential addict, yes. Tell him the consequences, yes. Pray for and with him, yes. But we have no right to use force, directly or indirectly, to prevent a fellow man from committing suicide, let alone from drinking alcohol or taking drugs." Our attempts to plan society in the 1920's had miserable consequences, and our attempts now have been about as successful as the Soviet Union. While legalization may be uncomfortable to some, it creates a better situation for the addict, and makes society better off. It is by far the best policy option. Thank you for your time.

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An Open Letter – what do you think?

To whoever's willing to listen: In my humble, college-freshman opinion, the failure of Congress boils down to a matter of incentives. Congressmen want to get themselves re-elected and make sure their party's in power at all times. However, the purpose (I assume?) of Congress is to increase the welfare of the American people and protect the Constitution. This failure has two consequences - extreme short-sightedness, and the political gambit-izing of legislation. I don't know if it matters so much anymore what a piece of legislation says, as long as Democrats will say 'it's all a political ploy' and each side will claim victory. The loser is the public interest. Take for example the recent decision by GOP leaders to shelve the Vietnam free trade vote, which was supposed to be a rebuke to the White House from the Republicans in Congress. The American people just lost, because this vote is now going to fail. What concerns me the most is the apparent lack of consideration for whether or not American people would be better off with a free trade agreement from Vietnam. I propose two solutions. The first is to make every Congressional vote anonymous. This would free people to vote rationally (or as rationally as they can, given all the noise from the Cato Institute about how we vote), rather than to vote in fear or with some external motive. This would also decrease the effect of lobbying and of voting as a bloc. As I see it now, with econ 1 analysis, there are two cartels in Congress preventing vote equilibrium. If we made votes anonymous we would see more of how people actually feel and less of two talking points. Moreover, politicians would no longer be able to blame "the other side" for failures. Furthermore, I feel that 20 years down the road we won't be able to elect anyone, because of Facebook and weblogs. The public will very quickly learn that no one's perfect, and attack ads will have loads of material to work with (Drunk pictures, questionable opinions, etc). Our candidates, I believe, won't have personalities or opinions (besides "I'm against crime, for democracy, and for education"). Making votes anonymous would stop attack ads based on decade-long voting records. My second idea is for mandatory 30-year prediction and long-term goal statements, updated every 4 years (this has no way of passing, because it sounds similar to the old Soviet central planning idea). My goal here is to get Congress to realize that problems like "our budget is unsustainable," "global warming is something we need to deal with," and "many Americans and Iraqis are dying every day" are statements that can't be passed from session to session without action. Let me know what you think. Thanks for reading this. Kevin

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New Article Preview: Cutting Back on Energy Consumption

This one's running Friday in the Danville Times. According to the World Factbook, the United States is the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels despite having less than 5% of its population. Partly this is due to interstate highways and low density, but also because we use gasoline as a convenience and frequently waste it. For the past four or five months I have worked to reduce my oil consumption considerably. Cutting down on gasoline use leads to a healthier, safer lifestyle and will help America stay competitive in a global economy. Moving from right to left across the political spectrum, I list five reasons why you should cut down on the amount of gasoline you use. Oil addiction jeopardizes national security. According to the Wall Street Journal's Fred Kempe among many others, Iran has used its oil money to fund Hezbollah, which in turn has thrown the Middle East into chaos by firing rockets at Israel. Iran has also funded Shi'ite political groups in Iraq. Iran also supports Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical cleric in Najaf who criticizes the US, enjoys local support, and would turn Iraq into a religious theocracy. Individuals in Saudi Arabia, flush with oil money, support extremist and terrorist organizations. The fact remains that if oil was cheaper, if there is less demand, Iran and Saudi Arabia and individuals in those countries would have less power, and less ability to influence world events. High prices restrict our ability to spread freedom around the world. Every time we pay for gasoline we contribute to worldwide demand for gas. As demand inches closer and closer to maximum supply levels, the price of oil skyrockets and suppliers like Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Iran profit. Because we depend on the oil they produce, they can and do use their production as leverage. Vladimir Putin, the prime minister of Russia, has slowly undermined democracy there while America and European nations, scared to jeopardize their supply, watch. In Saudi Arabia, women experience severe discrimination and civil liberties like freedom of speech or the right to a fair trial are non-existent. The less we depend on Russia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia for oil, the more we'll be able to spread freedom around the world. High gas prices are bad for our economy. Said Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank in testimony to the Senate, "The increase in energy prices is clearly making the economy worse off both in terms of real activity and in terms of inflation. There is no question about it." When we pay at the pump, we help keep demand high and energy prices higher. Furthermore, it costs more to transport goods across the country and fuel airplanes, and these costs are transferred to you, the consumer. $3-a-gallon-gas is expensive. High gas prices drain my wallet of cash, if not yours. Fossil fuel emissions hurt the environment. Global warming is a well-documented trend whose validity is doubted by a fraction of one percent of scientists worldwide. Unfortunately, in search of 'balance' in the media, the dissenting fraction has been exaggerated. The carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxide cars emit all have harmful effects to our environment, and contribute to rising ocean levels and warming of the atmosphere. Here are some ways that you can cut your energy consumption, Danville-style: Stop driving your kids to soccer practice. Make them walk, bike, or carpool instead. It's a great way for them to start getting in shape for the upcoming season. I bought a bike off Craigslist for $80 and at savings of 15 cents a mile over my car, it's well on its way to paying itself off. I make the trip from Livorna Rd. to Sycamore Field in just over an hour on my bike. Start using alternative energy. There are numerous federal deductions for buying alternative energy products like hybrid cars or solar panels. Bonneville Environmental Foundation ( takes a creative approach by 'taxing' your fossil fuel production – you can buy Green Tags to offset your carbon dioxide emissions by investing in wind and solar power. Keep the Escalade in the driveway for trips to the grocery store. Unless you need to transport seven or more people, plan to do a significant amount of off-roading, or feel a burning need to show off your status at a party/fundraiser/function, you can and should drive a car that gets better gas mileage. Moreover, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, SUV's are more likely to roll over in crashes and have higher death rates than passenger cars. Use your gas more efficiently. Cars lose fuel efficiency at speeds over 55 mph. It is unpractical to drive this slowly on the freeway, but slowing down saves gas and reduces the risk of accidents. Rolling up windows, turning down the A/C, keeping your tires inflated, using cruise control, and turning off your car for stops longer than 30 seconds all keep gas waste to a minimum. In sum, using as much gasoline as we do is unhealthy and dangerous for our country and the world. We need to start cutting back on our addiction, and the sooner we do the better and stronger we will be. In light of a government that is unwilling to take the necessary unpopular steps to curb our excess consumption, we must take it upon ourselves to ensure America, and the world, will be habitable for our children.

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