Yet Another Drug War Failure

by Ted Galen Carpenter,, April 23, 2024.


Despite such spectacular policy failures, drug warriors in the United States and other countries cling to hard-line strategies and refuse to face an inconvenient economic truth.  Governments are not able to dictate whether people use mind-altering substances.  Such vices have been part of human culture throughout history.  Governments can determine only whether reputable businesses or violent criminal gangs are the suppliers.  A prohibition strategy guarantees that it will be the latter – with all the accompanying violence and corruption.  The ongoing bloody struggles among rival cartels to control the lucrative trafficking routes to the United States merely confirm that historical pattern.

And a great last line:

Ecuador is just the most recent proof.  Prohibition is akin to expecting long-term victory in a game of Wack-a-Mole.

I’m a little picky about language. I would have said “Ecuador is just the most recent evidence.”


The Jones Act: Consequences of a Destructive Industrial Policy

by Timothy Taylor, Conversable Economist, April 24, 2024.


The United States has had an industrial policy aimed at boosting its domestic shipbuilding industry since the passage of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, commonly known as the Jones Act. Whatever the arguments for the passage of the bill a century ago, it has over time been a disaster for the US maritime industry, and continues to impose significant costs on other parts of the US economy. Colin Grabow goes through the arguments in “Protectionism on Steroids: The Scandal of the Jones Act” (Milken Institute Review, Second Quarter 2024, pp. 44-53).


2) The higher costs of Jones-Act-compliant US shipping naturally impose heavy costs on places like Hawaii, Alaska, and Puerto Rico. Weird consequences result, and Grabow provides a number of examples. Puerto Rico gets its liquified natural gas from Nigeria, because there are no Jones-Act-compliant US ships to transport natural gas within the United States. US lumber producers complain that they have a disadvantage vs. Canadian firms, because the US lumber producers must use higher-cost Jones Act ships to send their products to US destinations, while Canadian lumber producers can use cheaper international shipping companies.


It’s Time to Take a Hard Look at Public Libraries

by Marc Joffe. Cato at Liberty, April 25, 2024.


Like mom and apple pie, the public library seems so intrinsically good that it should be beyond criticism. But like any institution that consumes millions of tax dollars, public libraries should not be free from scrutiny. And the facts are that neighborhood libraries have largely outlived their usefulness and no longer provide value for the public money spent on them.

Consider the situation in Northern California, for example. In this fiscal year, four Bay Area counties (Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, and Santa Clara) are collectively spending $270 million to operate their library systems, with some cities chipping in extra to finance extended operating hours. Contra Costa County is spending $20 million of state and county funds to build a new library in Bay Point, and El Cerrito voters may see a sales tax measure on the November ballot, part of which will go to building a new library as part of a transit‐​oriented development near a Bay Area Rapid Transit station.

The public library’s historical functions of lending physical books and enabling patrons to view reference materials are being made obsolete by digital technology. An increasing proportion of adults are consuming e‑books and audiobooks in addition to or instead of printed books, with younger adults more likely to use these alternative formats.


There’s a kind of racism embedded in DEI

by Erec Smith, Boston Globe, April 19, 2024.

Unlike traditional racism — the belief that particular races are, in some way, inherently inferior to others — prescriptive racism dictates how a person should behave. That is, an identity type is prescribed to a group of people, and any individual who skirts that prescription is deemed inauthentic or even defective. President Biden displayed prescriptive racism when he said “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, you ain’t Black,” a statement that implicitly prescribes how Black voters should think.

“Prescriptive racism” is probably a new term for most readers, but it’s not exactly a novel concept. It has a historical analogue: the concept of the “uppity Negro,” a Black person who dared to act like an equal to whites. One of this term’s most famous usages is attributed to Lyndon B. Johnson, who apparently said: “These Negroes, they’re getting pretty uppity these days and that’s a problem for us since they’ve got something now they never had before, the political pull to back up their uppityness.” Clearly, “uppity” was meant to describe people of color who exercised “agentic” power — that is, they were competent and did not need a white person’s heroism. These “uppity” Black people were forgetting their scripted lines, as it were.