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URL:  http://boards.fool.com/clearly-weve-screwed-the-drug-thing-up-but-i-30689183.aspx

Subject:  Re: smaller government, DrB? Date:  5/17/2013  1:59 PM
Author:  Windchasers Number:  423152 of 445507

Clearly we've screwed the drug thing up, but I don't think making tobacco illegal and ecstasy legal is exactly the answer. The theory needs a lot of work.

It's not to say that I'd use that chart, since obviously there are other aspects of "harm" besides just physical harm: mental harm, impaired driving, etc. But it's clear that our current drug Schedules are not evidence-based, not even close, and that's the main thing I want to change.

There's no reason that possession of 1g of heroin and 1g of ecstasy should be punished similarly, when there's a lower death rate and fewer health problems from ecstasy than from alcohol. That is just absurd. Not to say I want to make alcohol illegal, either! I just want a rational approach to drug laws.


Oil gets a massive subsidy in the form of "armed services", how do you end that?

Did you see my cuts to the military?

But really, to the extent to which the military subsidizes our oil, we should put a tax on it to pay for that. Let's make the market pay the real, unsubsidized price of oil. And while we're at it, let's put a carbon tax on oil and coal and gas, for global warming.


Electricity: Hoover Dam, TVA, Grand Coulee, Niagra Falls and hundreds more.

Oof. Hydroelectric, while amazingly efficient, has all sorts of environmental and civil rights problems that I can't really address. For instance, over a million people and 1200 villages were displaced to build the Three Gorges Dam, and it also helped drive a few local species to extinction. Yes, it's going to bring a huge amount of electricity to the region, and is a net good for the country as a whole, but.. if I already fear the government overstepping on privacy and human rights, how should I deal with the government overstepping on property rights and environment?

Too hard to answer. Next?


If you want to have your economy play in the future, maybe you need some subsidies in the present to get things going. Where would the internet be without all that initial government research? How about satellite communications? GPS?

I'm all for government research. I want to increase it, and I'd even double our basic research (as % of GDP) from what we spend now. But whereas research works best by being public and open, technology development works best when handled by companies. They're better at bringing products to the market at an affordable cost.

With the Internet, the government laid the groundwork and did the basic research, and private citizens and companies took it live and made it what it is today. That's how it's done. So, I think we'd lose very little if we doubled our research into how to make fundamentally better solar cells, but left the actual production and sales completely up to the market. No picking winners or losers. After all - how much research could our loans to Solyndra have funded?

Hm. And, thinking of Solyndra, I'd wager that the root of the problem is this: whereas research funding is appropriated by peer review, by people who know what ideas are worth exploring and which ones aren't, subsidies and loans are often doled out as political favors. That means more of the money gets shuffled towards unproductive programs. Plus, because of their political aspect, we often get stuck with subsidies long after they should have expired, whereas research funding of a not-great field will taper down after a while.


And when Mississippi decides to put religious curriculum in public schools, then what? When Louisiana's school boards decide evolution is bunk and the Bible has it right, then what?

See my replies to SoFaking. I don't want to give all control to the states, only room to experiment around with some new methods of teaching. (And trust me, creationism-as-science has already been tried and found wanting. It's not new.) As we accumulate good, solid data about what methods work, then we enforce that on the states.


The reason the Federal Government is in the loan business is because students couldn't get them - unless their parents would secure them. That left 2/3 of the country out of luck for higher education - but we saw what great things can happen when people do get a degree: with the GI Bill in the 1950's. Banks won't loan to people who are risky and who don't have assets. Simple economic fact.

First: The financial industry has changed a huge amount in the last 60 years. There is a substantial student loan industry right now, even for loans not backed by the federal government. What was true 60 years ago may not be the case today.

But a more basic point, really: I'm not sure we should be encouraging risky loans. Haven't we had enough trouble with that recently?
Okay, some people might complain about taxpayer money going to unproductive projects, and that's one aspect of it.. but the bigger problem is that by backing the loans, we encourage too many students to go to college, even if they'd be better suited going to a trade school. Plus, this higher demand inflates tuition prices.

To add insult to injury, since these loans are backed by the federal government, obviously we can't let kids get rid of them in bankruptcy, right? 'Cause then the taxpayer would just foot the bill. So, we made them non-dischargeable in bankruptcy.

And then look what happens: During boom times, you have millions of kids going to college, many of them for relatively-useless degrees, who would otherwise have gone to trade schools. During bust times, these kids are stuck with the debt they picked up, and that debt acts as a drag on their lives and on the economy for years.

That's really not a good situation.
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