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Platform Adoption Statement #1 of the Nevada Transhumanist Party: Religious and Non-Religious Doctrines, Beneficial and Detrimental Technologies, and Voting in Accordance with Individual Conscience

Platform Adoption Statement #1 of the Nevada Transhumanist Party: Religious and Non-Religious Doctrines, Beneficial and Detrimental Technologies, and Voting in Accordance with Individual Conscience

The New Renaissance HatG. Stolyarov II
October 4, 2015
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NTP-Logo-9-1-2015

The following sections are hereby added to the Nevada Transhumanist Party Platform. Pursuant to Article I, Section XXV, these sections are not officially considered part of the Nevada Transhumanist Party Constitution at this time, but shall have equivalent standing to the Platform Sections within that Constitution. It will be possible to officially amend the Nevada Transhumanist Party Constitution to include these statements during periodic biennial filings of Certificates of Continued Existence with the Nevada Secretary of State.

Section XXVI: The Nevada Transhumanist Party welcomes both religious and non-religious individuals who support life extension and emerging technologies. The Nevada Transhumanist Party recognizes that some religious individuals and interpretations may be receptive to technological progress and, if so, are valuable allies to the transhumanist movement. On the other hand, the Nevada Transhumanist Party is also opposed to any interpretation of a religious doctrine that results in the rejection of reason, censorship, violation of individual rights, suppression of technological advancement, and attempts to impose religious belief by force and/or by legal compulsion.

Section XXVII: The Nevada Transhumanist Party is furthermore opposed to any interpretation of a secular, non-religious doctrine that results in the rejection of reason, censorship, violation of individual rights, suppression of technological advancement, and attempts to impose certain beliefs by force and/or by legal compulsion. Examples of such doctrines opposed by the Nevada Transhumanist Party include Stalinism, Maoism, Neo-Malthusianism, the death-acceptance movement, and the doctrine of censorship, now prevalent on many college campuses in the United States, in the name of “social justice”, combatting “triggers” or “microaggressions”, or avoiding subjectively perceived offense.

Section XXVIII: The Nevada Transhumanist Party holds that the vast majority of technologies are beneficial to human well-being and should be enthusiastically advocated for and developed further. However, a minority of technologies could be detrimental to human well-being and, as such, their application, when it results in detrimental consequences, should be opposed. Examples of such detrimental technologies include nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, mass-surveillance systems such as those deployed by the National Security Agency in the United States, and backscatter X-ray full-body scanners such as those used by the Transportation Security Administration in the United States. Furthermore, the Nevada Transhumanist Party is opposed to the deliberate engineering of new active pathogens or the resurrection of once-existing pathogens, whose spread might not be able to be contained within laboratory settings. While it is impossible to un-learn the knowledge utilized in the creation of such technologies, the Nevada Transhumanist Party holds that all such knowledge should only be devoted toward peaceful, life-affirming, rights-respecting purposes, going forward.

Section XXIX: The Nevada Transhumanist Party holds that each of its members should vote or abstain from voting in accordance with that member’s own individual conscience and judgment. If an official or candidate of the United States Transhumanist Party or the Nevada Transhumanist Party expresses a preference for any particular non-transhumanist candidate for office, then no national or State-level Transhumanist Party, nor any individual transhumanist, ought to be in any manner bound to support that same non-transhumanist candidate.

Adopted on October 4, 2015:

Mr. Gennady Stolyarov II, ASA, ACAS, MAAA, CPCU, ARe, ARC, API, AIS, AIE, AIAF

Chief Executive, Nevada Transhumanist Party

Why Transhumanists Should Not Endorse the Two-Party Political System – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Why Transhumanists Should Not Endorse the Two-Party Political System – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance HatG. Stolyarov II
September 26, 2015
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“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

Extensive discussions have recently occurred in transhumanist circles on the desirable strategies, tactics, and directions for transhumanist political activity in the United States. One question in particular has stood out among these discussions: Is it a wise or prudent choice for a transhumanist, especially a prominent one, to endorse a Presidential candidate from one of the two major political parties (Republican or Democratic) and to actively work to support that candidate’s election, when that candidate has not expressed strong sympathies with the transhumanist vision of overcoming human limitations through scientific and technological progress? Some transhumanists may believe that such an endorsement would gain them influence within the political mainstream, perhaps eventually leading to advisory positions and the ability to direct political elites toward decisions that are more conducive to accelerating technological progress or removing barriers to the arrival of radical life extension.

However, this expectation is mistaken. Here I outline several major reasons why, to achieve the best possible outcomes, transhumanists should stand apart from the two-party political system. Instead, transhumanists should pursue their advocacy goals – be they policy-oriented or focused on education of the general public on emerging technologies – through their own independent organizations and voices. This approach does not rule out collaboration with other, non-transhumanist institutions and individuals, nor does it prevent one from acknowledging both the merits of certain non-transhumanist candidates’ positions and the flaws of some transhumanists’ chosen strategies. However, it is imperative to avoid the perceived compulsion to subordinate oneself to the two-party political system just because it is there.

(1) The existing two-party political system in the United States is an obstacle to transhumanism and cannot be effectively used as its instrument. The two-party system is designed to preserve the very institutional status quo which puts forth barriers to technological advancement and causes the rate of progress to currently lag far behind its potential. Both the Democratic and the Republican political machines primarily exist to protect those with political connections, who might be dislodged from positions of economic privilege by dramatic technological change and the attendant reshuffling of the social order. As such, the rhetoric of the major political parties tends to be concentrated on relatively minor differences in governance styles, personalities, accidents of history, and “hot-button” issues over which elected officials have little substantive influence (for instance, abortion, religion, and gun ownership). This is a strategy of distraction, used to keep the public focused on matters largely outside of any politician’s control, thereby leaving the dominance of today’s politically connected special interests intact by default. At the same time, the fundamental questions raised by transhumanists about possibilities for dramatically improving the human condition, deliberately go unaddressed on the campaign trail. Mainstream politicians do not wish to discuss the colossal changes that could and should be wrought by emerging technologies.

(2) Current major-party candidates would never accept transhumanism anyway. Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, or any of the others running with an “R” or “D” next to their names will not change by an iota if endorsed by even a prominent transhumanist. All of these candidates will disregard the transhumanist endorsement, each for their peculiar mix of reasons, but with a strikingly similar outcome. No matter how strongly a transhumanist endorses these actual or would-be politicians, their mainstream advisors will not let transhumanists into their circle. This is actually a compliment to the transhumanists, who stand apart from and above the political status quo. It is not the transhumanists who must bend to the political status quo. Rather, the political status quo is precisely what transhumanists must overcome in order to achieve their aims. The way to bypass the establishment’s grip on politics is not to join the establishment, but rather to shift the discussion and climate of public opinion so as to render the establishment reluctantly compelled to follow the currents of change, made possible by emerging technologies in a hyper-pluralist society.

(3) Endorsing an establishment candidate will alienate the transhumanist base. Instead, a prominent transhumanist would do much better to pay attention to and leverage the ideas and projects originating from the natural constituencies of transhumanism – futurists, researchers, technology entrepreneurs, philosophically inclined laypersons, and “digital natives” of the millennial generation. Through a bit of organization and creative marketing, a prominent transhumanist could harness the energies of these creative, talented, and industrious individuals into major intellectual, infrastructural, and public-awareness victories for the transhumanist movement. The impetus for a movement such as transhumanism – and, more generally, any ideological movement that seeks radical societal change – is precisely the lack of accommodation for that movement’s ideals in the current society. The energy of the movement’s base will be lost if they see its direction as one of sacrificing its core distinctiveness and ideals in order to fit within the mainstream political mold and to seek acceptance by political elites to whom the movement’s ideals are completely foreign. If Hillary Clinton or Ben Carson (or any mainstream candidate who comes to mind) suddenly achieved philosophical enlightenment and announced strong personal support for transhumanism, then this would be a victory for transhumanism and a sign that the candidate is worthy of serious consideration. But for a transhumanist to endorse a mainstream candidate without that kind of gesture on the candidate’s part is simply a signal that the candidate does not need to change in order to gain or retain the support of the transhumanist.

As an analogy, consider the very different fates of Ron Paul and his son Rand. Ron Paul – a libertarian and Constitutional conservative whose views are profoundly incompatible with those of the Republican Party establishment – only ran as a Republican to raise the profile of his educational efforts in favor of individual liberty and limited government. But he never endorsed one of his Republican rivals for the nomination, even after dropping out of the races in 2008 and 2012. He did not agree with the policy stances of John McCain and Mitt Romney, so he simply stood aside and continued to express his principled views. He remains highly esteemed in many libertarian and constitutional conservative circles today. By contrast, Rand Paul endorsed Mitt Romney in 2012, thinking that this was a stepping stone to securing the Republican nomination in 2016. However, this decision alienated Rand Paul’s natural libertarian political base (which despised Romney). At the same time, Rand Paul is still far too libertarian to be accepted by the Republican elite, in spite of all of the compromises he has made over the past few years in order to appear “electable” and palatable to establishment media commentators and pollsters. As a result, he is a minor contender for the Republican nomination, quite unlikely to win or even advance his standing.

By analogy, the transhumanist movement is extremely unlikely to show even a modicum of concerted support for a particular establishment candidate – whether Hillary Clinton, Carly Fiorina, Bernie Sanders, or Bobby Jindal. (As noted above, this is also a justified outcome, since none of these candidates would accommodate the vision and objectives of the transhumanist movement.) On the other hand, an explicit transhumanist – Zoltan Istvan – has rallied many transhumanists behind his candidacy, but he can only maintain their enthusiasm in the political arena for as long as he remains in the running. Istvan has been able to garner considerable sympathies from transhumanists who are otherwise extremely varied in their political persuasions and metaphysical worldviews. However, once a transhumanist candidate is no longer running, his supporters will go their separate ways. The libertarian transhumanists will either abstain from voting or endorse the Libertarian Party nominee (as I, for instance, did in 2008 and 2012). Many of the democratic, egalitarian, and socialist transhumanists will strongly support Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton. A few might even favor the Green Party nominee. If Istvan stays in the race, however, many of these transhumanists will be tempted to support him until the end. Even if they do not get to cast a ballot for Istvan, they could help with activism, crowdfunding, and publicity-raising initiatives.

(4) Endorsing an establishment candidate will be seen as a defeat for transhumanism. If a prominent transhumanist advocates for the election of a particular front-runner, this will essentially be perceived as a concession to the political mainstream and the two-party system. Transhumanism only has a chance if it remains independent of the Republican/Democratic hegemony and instead continues to be an outside voice, gradually influencing politicians to change their ways – not because transhumanists have joined them, but because the evolution of society and public opinion leave them no other choice. If instead the establishment’s favored pundits get to say, “Aha! Even the starry-eyed, utopian transhumanists recognized the futility of their lofty dreams and decided to come down to Earth and join us sensible people” – then this will be seen as a major blow to visionary transhumanist ideals.

(5) Because transhumanists do not hold primaries, nothing prevents them from remaining independent voices until the end. It is understandable that, as the electoral season unfolds, both Republican and Democratic contenders would eventually drop out to support the leading candidate of their party. Transhumanists, however, are under no such compulsion. For instance, Zoltan Istvan has no rivals for the Transhumanist candidacy, and can formally remain in the race for as long as he wishes. He does not even need to have a massive fundraising base to do so. Even if he eventually ends up with $0 for campaign purposes, he could make a few statements, write a few articles, give a few interviews now and then, to stay officially in the running and in the public eye. No matter what happens at the polls, he will then be remembered as a pioneering transhumanist candidate who never gave up or gave in. This legacy could secure his place in history, much like Ron Paul’s principled, unyielding character and actions secured his.

For all other transhumanists who are not running for office, there is absolutely no need to endorse a candidate who is the last man (or woman) standing after the primary processes of the major parties are concluded. Voting should not be about backing someone whom one expects to win, but rather about expressing one’s own ideals and aspirations for superior policy decisions and outcomes.

As I pointed out in my original endorsement of Zoltan Istvan’s campaign,

In fact, much of the sub-optimal equilibrium of the two-party system in the United States arises from a misguided “expectations trap” – where each voter fears expressing his or her principles by voting for the candidate closest to that voter’s actual policy preferences. Instead, voters who are caught in the expectations trap will tend to vote for the “lesser evil” (in their view) from one party, because they tend to think that the consequences of the election of the candidate from the other party will be dire indeed, and they do not want to “take their vote away” from the slightly less objectionable candidate. This thinking rests on the false assumption that a single individual’s vote, especially in a national election, can actually sway the outcome. Given that the probabilities of this occurring are negligible, the better choice – the choice consistent with individual autonomy and the pursuit of principle – is to vote solely based on one’s preference, without any regard for how others will vote or how the election will turn out. One is free to persuade others to vote a certain way, of course, or to listen to arguments from others – but these persuasive efforts, to have merit, should be based on the actual positions and character of the candidates involved, and not on appeals to sacrifice one’s intellectual integrity in order to fulfill the “collective good” of avoiding the victory of the “absolutely terrible” (not quite) candidate from one major party, whose policy choices are likely to be near-identical to the “only slightly terrible” candidate from the other major party. While an individual’s vote cannot actually affect who wins, it can – if exercised according to preference – send a signal as to what issues voters actually care about. Whichever politicians do get elected would see a large outpouring of third-party support as a signal of public discontentment and will perhaps be prompted by this signal to shift their stances on policy issues based on the vote counts they observe. Even a few thousand votes for the Transhumanist Party can send a sufficient signal that many Americans are becoming interested in accelerating technological innovation and the freedom from obstacles posed to it by legacy institutions.

In order to preserve the desirable role of voting as an expression of genuine individual preferences, the least constructive course of action is to vote for someone just because others might, or because that person is considered by establishment media and pundits to “have a chance of winning.” Ultimately, whether a transhumanist ends up voting for a third-party candidate, a major-party candidate, or not at all, is not so important as whether that transhumanist actually voted according to his or her individual conscience and principles.

A Vision for Transhumanist Political Involvement

Given that support of the two-party system should be a non-starter for transhumanists, what is a better way? The best approach is to gradually shape the external environment to which politicians respond, instead of playing the game of politics by the rules at which establishment politicians are adept. Conventional politicians seek to get elected and re-elected and must therefore cater to multiple constituencies, often with contradictory interests and preferences. But this does not need to be the way of politics. Ron Paul, for instance, was a pioneer of the educational campaign – the use of the publicity attached to political involvement as a means primarily to spread a message and change the climate of public opinion, rather than to win office. The educational campaign is more resilient than the conventional campaign, since it does not need to be concerned with weekly poll figures or donations from special interests who seek special favors. Zoltan Istvan has also endeavored to pursue this approach through his numerous writings, interviews, and the Immortality Bus campaign. As an incredibly energetic, determined, and active individual, he has been able to attract major publicity on a minimal budget. Istvan’s educational campaign should continue for as long as possible – ideally all the way up to Election Day 2016. His continued presence in the race would give many transhumanists a compelling reason not to acquiesce to the two-party system with cynical resignation.

But, far beyond the 2016 election season, the formation of a Transhumanist Party infrastructure in the United States creates the possibility of a much longer-range strategy for influencing public opinion toward an enthusiastic embrace of emerging technologies and the imperative of technological progress. Indeed, the possibility exists to take the concept of an educational campaign a step further. Instead of having the election of candidates to office as its primary objective, a transhumanist political party – be it the United States Transhumanist Party or a State-level affiliate – should instead focus directly on education, activism, and policy recommendations. We do not so much need politicians in office with a “T” next to their names, as we need the climate of public opinion to be favorable to the vision of the future that we advocate.

NTP-Logo-9-1-2015It is with this vision in mind that Wendy Stolyarov and I formed the Nevada Transhumanist Party on August 31, 2015. (See the officially filed Constitution and Bylaws here and a searchable version here; also join the Facebook group here, as Allied Membership is open to any person, anywhere, with a rational faculty and ability to form political opinions.) While an initial impetus for this decision was to further raise the profile of Zoltan Istvan’s Presidential campaign, the long-term benefit of establishing an infrastructure for discussion and activism among transhumanists is even more important to us. The Nevada Transhumanist Party is a State-level political party unlike any other. While we support the efforts of the United States Transhumanist Party, we are also independent from it in governance and decision-making. We will not be fielding our own candidates or funding any campaigns in the foreseeable future. Rather, we will use volunteer efforts to coordinate educational events – both online and in person – and connect individuals who are interested in the possibilities made available by emerging technologies. Over time, we will build a network of support and will encourage participation by as many people as are interested. Indeed, the Nevada Transhumanist Party Constitution explicitly embraces the concept of making alliances with others to attain specific objectives without sacrificing principles or independence. We also aim to achieve the maximum possible inclusiveness in terms of party membership, receptiveness to member input, and delegation of authority to members who are interested in undertaking beneficial projects that help advance the principles and objectives expressed in the Nevada Transhumanist Party Platform. We will enthusiastically endorse any worthwhile project that is consistent with these aims. Our goal is not to win any particular election, but rather to move toward a society in which any elected official will need to respect the transhumanist vision and do nothing to impede it, in order to attain office and remain there. This allows us the luxury of a long time horizon, consistent with the long-term vision that transhumanism itself holds for our hopefully long-lived future.

If more of us reject the notion of politics as a winner-take-all horse race and replace responses to day-to-day poll fluctuations with a steady, principled effort toward securing the long-term prospects of transhumanism, then we will have won a lasting victory against politics as usual. In the process, we might just create the better world that conventional politicians keep promising, but never deliver.

This essay may be freely reproduced using the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike International 4.0 License, which requires that credit be given to the author, G. Stolyarov II. Find out about Mr. Stolyarov here.

Third Interview of Gennady Stolyarov II and Wendy Stolyarov by Roen Horn of the Eternal Life Fan Club – May 2, 2015

Third Interview of Gennady Stolyarov II and Wendy Stolyarov by Roen Horn of the Eternal Life Fan Club – May 2, 2015

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II and Wendy Stolyarov
September 6, 2015
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ELFC_DIW_Third_InterviewNote by Mr. Stolyarov: On May 2, 2015, a hot spring day in Roseville, California, Wendy Stolyarov and I visited Roen Horn of the Eternal Life Fan Club and had a lengthy discussion with him on a wide variety of subjects: life extension, our illustrated children’s book Death is Wrong, healthcare policy, criminal punishment, and the political prospects of the Transhumanist Party and third parties in general. This was Roen’s third interview with us (watch the first and second interviews as well), and his skillfully edited recording offers a glimpse into its best segments. This conversation occurred approximately four months before Wendy and I took the step to found the Nevada Transhumanist Party, but my comments in this interview are a good example of the evolution of my thinking in this direction, as I was already inclined toward endorsing Zoltan Istvan’s 2016 Presidential run.

Watch the interview here.

Join the Nevada Transhumanist Party here.

Illiberal Belief #17: Democracy is a Cure-All – Article by Bradley Doucet

Illiberal Belief #17: Democracy is a Cure-All – Article by Bradley Doucet

The New Renaissance Hat
Bradley Doucet
May 14, 2013
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I know it is sacrilege, but that is all the more reason to say it, and say it loud: Democracy is not the be-all, end-all, Holy Grail of politics that many imagine it to be. It is one, but only one, of the ingredients that make for good societies, and it is far from the most important one. Why point this out? If democracy is a good thing, why stir controversy by questioning just how good? Because the widespread, quasi-religious devotion to democracy in evidence today has some very nasty consequences. Democracy means “rule by the people.” The people usually rule by electing representatives, a process which is called, simply enough, representative democracy. Sometimes, as in the case of a referendum on a specific question, the people rule more directly, and this is known as direct democracy. Actually, though, “rule by the people” is a bit misleading, since “the people” are never unanimous on any given question, and neither are their chosen representatives. In practice, democracy is rule by majority (i.e., 50% + 1), or even mere plurality (i.e., more than any one other candidate but less than half) when three or more candidates compete.
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Long before any nation had experienced anything even approaching universal suffrage, people concerned with human liberty—thinkers like Alexis de Tocqueville and John Stuart Mill—expressed concerns that the fading tyranny of kings might merely be replaced by a “tyranny of the majority.” They worried that majorities might vote away minorities’ hard-won rights to property, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and freedom of movement. Majorities with a hate on for certain minorities might even vote away their very right to life.

History has given these worries ample justification. Democracy by itself is no guarantee of peace and freedom. Adolf Hitler’s victory in democratic 1930s Germany is only the most glaring example of popular support for an illiberal, anti-human regime. The people of Latin America have a long and hallowed tradition of rallying behind populist strongmen who repay their fealty by grinding them (or sometimes their neighbours) beneath their boot heels, all the while running their economies into the ground. Their counterparts in post-colonial Africa and certain parts of Asia have shown similarly stellar political acumen.

As writers like Fareed Zakaria (The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad) point out, in those parts of the world that have successfully achieved a respectable degree of freedom and prosperity (basically Europe, the Anglosphere, and Japan and the Asian Tigers), sheer democracy has been supplemented—and preceded—by institutions like the rule of law, including an independent judiciary; secure property rights; the separation of church and state; freedom of the press; and an educated middle class. Indeed, instead of supplementing democracy, it is more accurate to say that these institutions limit the things over which the people can rule. It is enshrined in law and tradition that neither the people nor their representatives shall be above the law, violate the lives or property of others, impose their religious beliefs on others, or censor the freedom of the press. These checks on the power of the people have created, in the most successful parts of the world, not just democracies but liberal democracies.

According to Zakaria, societies that democratize before having built up these liberal institutions and the prosperity they engender are practically doomed to see their situations deteriorate instead of improve, often to the detriment of neighbouring countries, too. Liberty is simply more important than democracy, and must come first. We who are fortunate enough to live in liberal democracies would do well to remember this when judging other nations, like China, and urging them to democratize faster.

We would do well to remember it when thinking about our own societies, too. Thinkers like economist Bryan Caplan, author of The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies, argue that even in the most liberal countries, democracy often works against liberty. Economists have been saying for a few decades now that political ignorance is an intractable problem that undermines the beneficial effects of democracy. The argument is that since a single vote has practically no chance of affecting the outcome of an election (or a referendum), the average voter has no incentive to become informed. Defenders of democracy have replied that ignorance doesn’t matter, since the ignorant essentially vote randomly, and random ignorant votes in one direction will be cancelled out by random ignorant votes in the opposite direction, leaving the well-informed in the driver’s seat.

Caplan agrees that if average voters were merely ignorant, their votes would cancel each other out, and the well-informed would be in charge and make good decisions. His central insight, though, is that voters are not merely ignorant, but irrational to boot. Voters have systematically biased beliefs, to which they are deeply attached, and those biases do not cancel each other out. Specifically, the average voter underestimates how well markets work; underestimates the benefits of dealing with foreigners; focuses on the short-term pain of job losses instead of the long-term gain of productivity increases; and tends at any given time to be overly pessimistic about the economy. These biases lead voters to support candidates and policies that undermine their own best interests.

The alternative to democracy, Caplan emphasizes, is not dictatorship, but markets. The market is not perfect, but it works a lot better than politics, because in my daily life as a producer and a consumer, I have an obvious incentive to be rational: my pocketbook. This incentive is lacking when it comes time to go to the polls, because of the aforementioned near-impossibility that my vote will determine the outcome. Given this asymmetry, we should favour markets over politics whenever possible. For those things that must be decided collectively, democracy may be the best we can do, but we should strive to decide as many things as possible privately, resorting to politics only when no other option is feasible. In other words, we should recapture the wisdom of the American Founding Fathers, rediscover the genius of constitutionally limited democracy, and reclaim some of the liberty previous generations fought so valiantly to secure. If we don’t, it might not be too much longer, in the grand scheme of things, before the Western world ceases to be a model worth emulating.

Bradley Doucet is Le Quebecois Libré‘s English Editor. A writer living in Montreal, he has studied philosophy and economics, and is currently completing a novel on the pursuit of happiness.
US Gone to Pot, but Not Completely – Article by Mark Thornton

US Gone to Pot, but Not Completely – Article by Mark Thornton

The New Renaissance Hat
Mark Thornton
November 12, 2012
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The only good thing about the 2012 campaign — other than its being over — is that much progress was made on marijuana policy. Marijuana was legalized in two states, Colorado and Washington. Medical-marijuana legislation passed in Massachusetts. Marijuana was decriminalized is several major cities in Michigan and Burlington, Vermont, passed a resolution that marijuana should be legalized. The only defeats were that legalization failed to pass in Oregon and medical marijuana was defeated in Arkansas.

This is a stunning turnaround from the 2010 campaign when Prop 19 in California failed to pass despite high expectations. I explained in detail why Prop 19 failed here. It was an unfortunately common story of Baptists, i.e., people who oppose it, and bootleggers, i.e., people who profit from black-market sales, who stopped the legalization effort.

With regards to the legalization victories in Colorado and Washington, Tom Angell, Director of LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) called the election a “historic night for drug-law reformers.” Paul Armentano, the deputy director of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), called the Colorado and Washington victories “game changers,” noting that “both measures provide adult cannabis consumers with unprecedented legal protections.” He noted that “until now, no state in modern history has classified cannabis itself as a legal product that may be lawfully possessed and consumed by adults.” Writing for the Marijuana Policy Project, Robert Capecchi called Colorado and Washington “historic victories,” saying that they “represent the first bricks to be knocked out of the marijuana prohibition wall.”

Following is a list of all marijuana measures on the 2012 ballot as provided by LEAP:

Colorado Marijuana legalization Passed
Washington Marijuana legalization Passed
Oregon Marijuana legalization Failed
Massachusetts Medical marijuana Passed
Arkansas Medical marijuana Failed
Detroit, MI Decriminalization of adult marijuana possession Passed
Flint, MI Decriminalization of adult marijuana possession Passed
Ypsilanti, MI Marijuana to be lowest law enforcement priority Passed
Grand Rapids, MI Decriminalization of adult marijuana possession Passed
Kalamazoo, MI Three medical-marijuana dispensaries permitted in city Passed
Burlington, VT Recommendation that marijuana should be legalized Passed
Montana Referendum restricting medical marijuana Likely to pass

Some readers might not be fired up at the prospects of legalization, decriminalization, and medical marijuana, but the benefits are higher than you might think. First of all, the economic crisis is a great opportunity to get this type of reform passed. There are several economic dimensions at work here. The most obvious thing that comes to mind is that legalized marijuana might be a source of tax revenues and possibly excise taxes and license fees. It would also be a source of jobs, although the net gain in jobs and incomes is probably initially small.

A major benefit would be a reduction in the size of government. Marijuana prohibition results in hundreds of thousands of people being arrested, tying up police, jails, courts, and prisons. When the city of Philadelphia decided to make marijuana prohibition a low priority and treat it like public intoxication ($200 fine), they ended up saving $2 million in the first year.

One of the most important benefits of these measures is that they make for a more liberal society in the Misesian sense. Marijuana prohibition is public violence, prejudice, and partiality. Legalization and liberalism is private property and public tolerance. As Ludwig von Mises wrote,

The essential teaching of liberalism is that social cooperation and the division of labor can be achieved only in a system of private ownership of the means of production, i.e., within a market society, or capitalism. All the other principles of liberalism democracy, personal freedom of the individual, freedom of speech and of the press, religious tolerance, peace among the nations are consequences of this basic postulate. They can be realized only within a society based on private property. (Omnipotent Government, p. 48)

The key thing, economically speaking, is that more liberalism is good for business, jobs, and prosperity. Legalizing marijuana, along with things like same-sex-marriage laws, may be appalling to some people, but when companies are looking to get started or establishing new operations, those are some of the things that are looked at, just like taxes, schools, crime, etc. States that are competing for the best companies that offer the highest paying jobs are the same states that are liberalizing their policies.

Therefore, it should come to no surprise that a state like Washington legalized marijuana even though it does not have a history of marijuana-reform activism. Washington needs to compete with other states for computer programmers, engineers, and technicians for Washington-based firms like Boeing and Microsoft. Do not be surprised if what happened in Colorado and Washington spreads to other states in coming elections.

The most important aspect of the victories in Colorado and Washington is that the people of those states stood up and voiced their opposition to the federal government and its policy of marijuana prohibition. They are directing their state governments to no longer cooperate with the federal government. You can bet that federal officials will seek to intimidate local officials and businesses as they have done in California. They seek to use fear and violence to maintain their power.

However, demographically and ideologically, they are fighting a losing battle. Supporters of legalization are younger, smarter, better educated, and have above-average incomes. The leaders of the reform movement do not seem to view their efforts as “pro-marijuana,” but rather as anti-prohibition, and they realize that the benefits are in terms of health, public safety, and prosperity.

When my book The Economics of Prohibition was published 20 years ago, I was often asked my opinion if marijuana should be or would be legalized. My stock answer was that medical marijuana would start to be legalized in 10 years and that marijuana would start to be legalized in 20 years, probably during an economic crisis. My only prediction in print was that the reform process would begin around the turn of the century. The first reform was actually a medical-marijuana law passed in California in 1996.

Mark Thornton is a senior resident fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, and is the book review editor for the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics. He is the author of The Economics of Prohibition, coauthor of Tariffs, Blockades, and Inflation: The Economics of the Civil War, and the editor of The Quotable Mises, The Bastiat Collection, and An Essay on Economic Theory. Send him mail. See Mark Thornton’s article archives.

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Copyright © 2012 by the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided full credit is given.