Who Knew Punishing the Law Abiding Could Have Consequences

Everybody will die from opioid addictions if something isn’t done! We must roll over and let legislators and law enforcers do whatever is necessary to stop this threat!

That’s how I’ve been reading the news as of late. Opioids are the current boogeyman for the War on (Some) Drugs. Whenever a chemical becomes the boogeyman in the War on (Some) Drugs new legal restrictions are placed on it. Unlike many previous boogeymen, opioids are legally prescribed and many overdoses have been caused by legally prescribed drugs. In response to this, government busybodies have been putting pressure doctors to prescribe fewer opioids. The result of this pressure was predictable:

A report published yesterday by the health care consulting firm IQVIA shows that the total volume of opioids prescribed in the United States, indicated by the green area below, fell by 29 percent between 2011 and 2017, from 240 billion to 171 billion morphine milligram equivalents. Last year’s 12 percent drop was the largest ever recorded. The number of opioid prescriptions and the number of patients receiving opioids for the first time are also declining. The report notes that “decreases in prescription opioid volume have been driven by changes in clinical usage, which have been influenced by regulatory and reimbursement policies and legislation that have been increasingly restricting prescription opioid use since 2012.”

But as you can see in the graph, the total number of opioid-related deaths counted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, indicated by the blue line, is not falling along with opioid prescriptions. To the contrary, it has risen sharply in recent years, driven by dramatic increases in deaths involving heroin (orange) and illicit fentanyl (the main component of “other synthetic opioids,” the category represented by the gray line). The CDC has not released final data for 2017 yet, but more increases are expected.

People addicted to opioids aren’t going to suddenly stop being addicted when their doctor refuses to renew their prescription. Instead they’ll seek out other ways to acquire opioids. Enter the black market. However, black market opioids are dangerous. Since opioids are the current boogeyman, people who deal in opioids face greater risks than those who deal in, say, cannabis. These risks necessitate concealment. The best way to conceal a chemical substance is to make it smaller and the best way to make a chemical substance smaller is to make it more potent.

Heroin and especially fentanyl are highly concentrated forms of opioids, which means they generally need to be diluted before use. Failing to dilute fentanyl properly can lead to a deadly overdoes. So the government has created the perfect storm by declaring opioids a prescription only medication and then taking away many of those prescriptions. And like typical government busybodies, instead of admitting that their policies may have been in error, they have doubled down, which is only exacerbating the situation.

Promises, Promises

There was a lot of anger when Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson were arrested for, apparently, being black in Starbucks. Some people have claimed that there were other grounds for the arrest but form what I’ve found, and I admit that I hasn’t spent much time digging deeply into this so I could be incorrect, the arrest was for being black in Starbucks. But the reason for the arrest is irrelevant. What matters is the public’s perception of the arrest. That perception has caused a not insignificant amount of heartache for both Starbucks and the City of Philadelphia, which employs the law enforcers who performed the arrest. The City of Philadelphia, not surprisingly, decided to settle the matter with a payoff. However, it got off cheap:

Two black men arrested for sitting at a Philadelphia Starbucks without ordering anything have settled with the city for a symbolic $1 each and a promise from officials to set up a $200,000 program for young entrepreneurs.

Emphasis mine.

Promises from politicians aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. Nelson and Robinson would have been better off taking the $200,000 and setting up the program themselves because I guarantee that the city is going to sweep its promise under the rug as soon as the public forgets about the entire matter. If Nelson and Robinson somehow do manage the make the city go through with its promise, the officials tasked with doling out the money will certainly find a way to disqualify everybody who isn’t politically connected. That’s how government programs work.

Overall, this was good news for Philadelphia and bad news for black people who frequent Starbucks because now neither the city nor its law enforcers have any motivation not to arrest people for being black in Starbucks.

Private Gun Registries

Gun control advocates haven’t had as much success politically as they had hoped. While a few states took measures to punish gun owners who did nothing wrong, the federal and most state governments left well enough alone. However, politics is just one way to forward your agenda. Some gun control advocates, the ones in actual positions of influence, are looking into implementing a private solution:

The financial companies have explored creating a new credit-card code for firearms dealers, similar to how they code restaurants, or department stores, according to people familiar with the matter. Another idea would require merchants to share information about specific firearm products consumers are buying, some of the people said.

Such data could allow banks to restrict purchases at certain businesses or monitor them. The talks, which are informal and might not lead to any action, have occurred against the backdrop of the national debate around guns in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., high-school shooting, which left 17 dead.

While the article notes that such a mechanism could be used to restrict gun purchases, it could also be used to establish a private registry.

A national gun registry has been at the top of the gun control advocates’ wish list. They know that confiscating firearms in the future would be far easier if gun owners were known to the State. But the politicians have so far been wary of implementing such a registry. If, on the other hand, financial institutions tracked which of their customers made firearm purchases, they would possess a de facto registry. Moreover, it would likely be a registry accessible to the federal government since it could subpoena the information.

Admittedly, this kind of registry would be easy enough to avoid by just paying cash for firearms. But such a strategy would only work if cash remained legal tender, which is something government busybodies are working to change.

Encouraging Black Market Alcohol

Have you heard the news? Prohibitionism is trendy again! It shouldn’t surprise anybody that alcohol has landed in the crosshairs of world governments again. After all, these governments have been waging a multiple decade war against every chemical substance that brings an ounce of joy to people’s lives. The latest strike by neoprohibitionists is Scotland’s decisions to set a minimum legal alcohol price:

It is the first country in the world to implement such a law, with the Scottish government believing its introduction will save lives.
The new legislation sets a 50 pence (approximately 70 cents) minimum price per unit of alcohol. Anyone licensed to serve alcohol in the country — in shops as well as bars and restaurants — will need to follow the new pricing laws.

One unit is 8 grams of alcohol, which in terms of drinks is equal to a 25-milliliter shot of 40% alcohol, such as whiskey, or 76 milliliters of wine at 13%. A standard 175 millileter glass of 14% wine in the UK is 2.4 units. In the United States, a standard drink is 14 grams of alcohol, equal to 148 millilters of table wine.

I can only assume that the politicians who passed this law are actually secret agorists. This law, like all forms of alcohol prohibition before it, will result in more alcohol business going underground.

Anybody who has researched Prohibition in the United States is well aware of the fact that alcohol didn’t cease to exist during that era. Alcohol actually flourish. People made their own bathtub gin, built their own stills, brewed their own beer, opened speakeasies, and found other ways to get the alcohol they desired in spite of the law. A lot of gangsters made a literal fortune from bootlegged alcohol.

People don’t stop consuming alcohol when a bunch of government busybodies decide to ban it or make it prohibitively expensive. If legal alcohol becomes too expensive, people opt for tax-free illegal alcohol instead.

Revealing Anonymous Political Activists

It’s difficult to participate in politics anonymously. When you donate money to a political campaign, that donation is made publicly available. When you participate in a political protest, your face will appear on any number of cameras recording the event. When you think that you’re being clever by participating behind the scenes, your identity is a single lawsuit away from appearing in public court documents:

Anonymous fans of a white nationalist podcast network could have their identities exposed as a result of a lawsuit against the men who promoted the so-called Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year.


One figure named in the lawsuit is Mike “Enoch” Peinovich, a prolific white supremacist podcaster. Peinovich runs a racist but influential podcast network called The Right Stuff, which currently hosts scores of different shows focused around building a country for only white, non-Jews. Most of the fans who comment on the network and its related forum are anonymous, but that could change through the process of discovery in the civil suit against him and others.

A federal court judge denied two motions this April filed by Peinovich to stop court orders requesting information related to individual users that visit his website—strengthening the odds that anonymous fans of The Right Stuff could have their names and whereabouts made public as a result of conversations they had in the lead up to “Unite the Right.”

Smart individuals who are pushing a widely reviled agenda would use an online anonymity tool such as Tor to conceal their identity in case a lawsuit like this forced the people running their online communities to hand over user information. But conspiracy theorists who think every ill in society is caused by the Jews generally aren’t the smartest bunch so I won’t be surprised if a lot of them end up being named in public court documents.

While I couldn’t care less if the identities of a bunch of white nationalists become publicly known, the lesson being taught here is important for anybody active in controversial political activism to learn. For example, if you are a sex worker who was advocating against the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, it’s feasible that the people running any online communities in which you participated could be coerced into turning over any information they have about you. If you used an online anonymity tool such as Tor, there will be less personally identifiable information to surrender (since Tor doesn’t stop you from posting personally identifiable information, it cannot stop all personally identifiable information from appearing on an online community).

Just because you’re not making campaign contributions or working as a staff member on a campaign doesn’t mean your participation in politics can’t be made publicly accessible information.

Reliving the Good Old Days of Colonialism

Colonialism is dead, or is it? France seems to be trying to relive the good old days where it would plant a flag in a foreign land and claim it as its own:

A French-born American has now sued his home country because, he claims, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has illegally seized a domain that he’s owned since 1994: France.com.


However, sometime around 2015, that very same ministry initiated a lawsuit in France in an attempt to wrest control of the France.com domain away from Frydman. Web.com locked the domain, and Frydman even roped in the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard Law School to intervene on his behalf.

By September 2017, the Paris Court of Appeals ruled that France.com was violating French trademark law. Armed with this ruling, lawyers representing the French state wrote to Web.com demanding that the domain be handed over.

I guess we can all take some solace in knowing that if this form of colonization turns out like the original, France will end up losing everything in the end.

This story is absurd on multiple levels. First, Jean-Noël Frydman has owned the domain for 23 years. I think it’s fair to say that if an entity doesn’t defend its trademark for 23 years, it should loses it. Second, it’s ridiculous for a nation that calls itself democratic to claim a trademark. The philosophy of democracy states that a government is ultimately owned by its people. That being the case, the people of France should be able to use the name, image, etc. of their country however they desire. Third, having a court French court rule on the matter is inappropriate because it can hardly be considered impartial in this case.

Ultimately, I think the biggest thing to be said about this story is that the court’s decision was really enabled by the centralized Domain Name System (DNS) on which the Internet currently depends. Courts are able to enforce their decision on matters such as this because there are centralized organizations that can be identified and coerced. If DNS records were managed by an anonymous decentralized mechanism, it would be far more difficult for decisions like this to be enforced.

Open Textbooks

I enjoy helping individuals educate themselves. In pursuit of this goal I try to find sources of free educational material and share them with as many people as possible. Recently I stumbled across the Open Culture website, which has a page listing freely available textbooks.

I haven’t had an opportunity to dig through all of the listed textbooks nor am I qualified to determine the accuracy of the material in many of the listed books. However, of the few textbooks I have perused, they appear to be good quality and were written by credentialed professors.

Feel free to go through the list and download anything that piques your interest.

Two Seasons

Here in Minnesota there are two seasons: the season where the roads are unusable due to snow and the season where the roads are unusable due to MnDOT:

This week’s ramp closures and detours are just a foretaste of what’s coming in mid-June. That’s when the Minnesota Department of Transportation will shut down the main ramp leading from northbound Interstate 35W into downtown Minneapolis — for four months.

MnDOT, city officials and many downtown employers are bracing for epic traffic jams and urging commuters to take transit or work at home — and even dangling huge parking discounts for carpools.

The I-94/I-35W interchange is being rebuilt as part of a $239 million makeover of I-35W between downtown and 43rd Street. But that is just one of four work zones that I-35W drivers will encounter this summer. Overlapping projects with lane closures of their own will be underway simultaneously in Burnsville and Roseville and just past the I-35W/35E split in Forest Lake.

The last sentence probably illustrates the biggest issue with Minnesota road construction. It’s not just that parts of a major artery are shutdown but that multiple parts of multiple major arteries are shutdown simultaneously. MnDOT representatives are always quick to tell commuters to use alternate routes but oftentimes no alternate routes exist because MnDOT has shut them down as well.

As a libertarian I’m required by law to answer the question, without government who would build the roads? I will answer that question with another question. Without government who will shutdown the roads? Here in Minnesota it seems like we’re forced to pay a lot of taxes to build roads that we’re never able to use.