Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Libertarian Author Interviewed On Tea Party Politics

He terms the "War on Drugs" a cruel and useless exercise, exceeding the Constitution

A prominent and well-respected philosopher with impeccable conservative credentials blasted the federal government's role in packing prisons with non-violent offenders at a time when money is too tight to mention.

The conservative daily blog "Daily Bell" interviewed Tibor Machan about Tea Party politics. His answers were far ranging and provocative, to say the least.

Dr. Machan was smuggled out of communist Hungary at the age of 14 in 1956. An early influence on his thinking came from the writings of Ayn Rand.

Daily Bell: Tea Party candidates seem to be squeezing out middle-of-the-road Republican opponents in favor of those who say they want serious tax cuts and a much smaller US federal government. Of course, the final results won't be known until November, but the trends seem obvious now, don't they?

Tibor Machan: I am no spin-doctor, but it occurs to me that if the Tea Party is to have a solid chance at influencing American politics and public policy it will have to pare down its message to certain fundamentals and express this publicly in palatable ways. The one principle that is truly representative of America as the Founders conceived of it is limited government, limited by the principle of individual liberty. Perhaps turning to this message with a clear emphasis on not trying to impose anything else on the country could be successful.

If a Tea Party candidate or leader is pressed for views on matters other than the proper scope of government, the answer should be: "No comment on that since it isn't a part of politics proper, not in a free country!" Yes, it is judicious, prudent to simply refuse to get caught up in all the issues that people may bring to the political table by teaching the lesson that they really aren't political, even if they are on the minds of millions of people.

It is also feasible to look at the Tea Party as a moving target. That is, the Tea Party is not what it was two years ago or even last year. If the movement continues to grow, and there is some evidence that it is, then some of the issues that have been identified with it may subside. Candidates may become more sophisticated and the general literacy level regarding freedom may rise.

Tibor Machan is currently Professor Emeritus, Department of Philosophy, Auburn University, Alabama, and holds the R. C. Hoiles Endowed Chair in Business Ethics and Free Enterprise at the Argyros School of Business & Economics, Chapman University. He is also a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. Machan, who earned BA (Claremont McKenna College), MA (New York University), and Ph.D. (University of California at Santa Barbara) degrees in philosophy, has written numerous books and papers in the field of philosophy, including on issues surrounding the free-market. Machan was selected as the 2003 President of the American Society for Value Inquiry, and delivered the presidential address on December 29, 2002, in Philadelphia, at the Eastern Division meetings of the American Philosophical Association, titled "Aristotle & Business." He is on the board of the Association for Private Enterprise Education.

The American Philosophical Society was founded by Benjamin Franklin and other members of his “junta” at Philadelphia long before the Declaraation of Independence was signed in 1776.

Daily Bell: Should the drug war be on the agenda as something that should be ended as well?

Tibor Machan: Here is a good one – if the Tea Party could come out four-square against the vicious War on Drugs it might gain some respect from most serious Americans. I am old enough to remember Baby Boomer attitudes to the War on Drugs from the 1960s and 1970s and I have a hard time believing that those who participated in the youth culture of that generation have changed so much that they now believe people who smoke marijuana should be incarcerated. The Drug War consensus is manufactured in this regard. If the drug laws were repealed tomorrow I do believe that the only constituency that would be upset would be law enforcement. Just like Prohibition and alcohol, the War on Drugs is a manufactured consensus, not one that has a great deal of grass-roots support. It is also a terrible tragedy for those who have been caught up in its destructiveness.

Compared with other countries, the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. As of 2006, a record 7 million people were behind bars, on probation or on parole, of which 2.2 million were incarcerated. The People's Republic of China ranks second with 1.5 million. The United States has 5% of the world's population and 25% of the world's incarcerated population.
In terms of federal prison, 57% of those incarcerated were sentenced for drug offenses. However, the federal prison population is a very small percentage of the massive state prison population, which also holds numerous people convicted of drug offenses. Currently, considering local jails as well, almost a million of those incarcerated are in prison for non-violent crime. In 2002, roughly 93.2 % of prisoners were male. About 10.4 % of all black males in the United States between the ages of 25 and 29 were sentenced and in prison by year end, compared to 2.4 % of Hispanic males and 1.2 % of white males.
Many sociologists and Criminal Justice Academics argue that this disparity in prison population is reflective of discriminatory sentencing. In a study conducted by the Rand Corporation, it has been estimated that Blacks and Latinos received longer sentences and spent more time in jail than their white counterparts who were convicted of similar crimes and with similar criminal records. One particular example revealed the state of California statistically imposed sentences that averaged 6.5 months longer for Hispanics, and 1.5 months longer for Blacks when compared to white inmates.

Aizenman, N.C.. "New High in Prison Numbers". The Washington Post February 29, 2008: 1-1.According to the Washington Post, More than one in 100 adults in the United States is in jail or prison, an all-time high that is costing state governments nearly $50 billion a year and the federal government $5 billion more. With more than 2.3 million people behind bars, the United States leads the world in both the number and percentage of residents it incarcerates, leaving China a remote second, according to a study by the Pew Center on the States. For example, Florida, which has almost doubled its prison population over the past 15 years, has experienced a smaller drop in crime than New York, which, after a brief increase, has reduced its number of inmates to below the 1993 level.

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