In the last couple of days, it’s become widely know among certain libertarians and anarchists that someone they knew and trusted in Philadelphia was arrested for drug sales and coerced to become a government informant. A lot of people are very angry with her for betraying them in order to cut a better deal for herself. I’m surprised that anybody is surprised.
If you’re curious about the situation, you can read more here, but I’m not really interested in getting into the details and the blame. The bottom line is that police arrested a young woman and then released her after they blackmailed her into worked for them. (Oh, wait. It’s not supposed to be blackmail when the state does it, I guess.) She was set loose to inform on her friends about their drug purchases and to set up people selling drugs.
When police had enough evidence, they arrested a bunch of people and they eventually found out that the friend they had trusted was the one who set them up. They’re angry and hurt. She’s trying to justify what she did.
All I can say is that when someone holds a gun — metaphorical or otherwise — to your head, you’re probably going to do what the people with the gun ask you to do. This woman betrayed her friends to save her own skin, but I have trouble getting too upset about it and I certainly can’t act surprised about it. That’s what almost everyone does in the same situation. It’s easy from the safety of our homes to pontificate, but it’s a very different thing when you’re sitting in a jail cell facing the prospects of losing everything. Self-interest almost always kicks in. Right or not, that’s just reality.
The important lesson here is simple. If you decide you want to do something illegal, don’t let anybody know. The people you’re sure you can trust today can be the ones who lead to police knocking your door down tomorrow. I think people should be able to use and sell whatever drugs they want, but the reality is that if you do it in this country today, you have a very good chance of bad things happening to you — especially if you’re selling.
I’m fortunate that I have no interest in recreational drugs. (I don’t even use alcohol, which I consider the most dangerous of the recreational drugs — and it’s the legal one.) I think you’re smarter to stay away from them, but if you choose to, remember that the current legal and political culture means that every friend or associate who knows what you’re doing has the potential of destroying your life. Is it worth that risk? I don’t think so, but your answer might be different from mine.
If you hold anarchist or libertarian views, do you give up the moral right to use current law in disputes with others? On this week’s EconTalk podcast — which I’m going to write about soon if I find the time — I heard an interesting story about libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick. He’s the author of the 1974 book, “Anarchy, State, and Utopia.”
He was renting an apartment in New York City from author Richard Bach (who wrote “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”). Bach had been raising the rent each year, but Nozick found out that the apartment was supposed to be covered by rent control — so Bach wasn’t legally entitled to raise the rent.
Nozick went to Bach and pointed this out, but Bach waved a copy of “Anarchy, State, and Utopia” at him, saying that his libertarian ideas had waived his right to claim anything under the rent-control law. Nozick disagreed and sued him. Bach lost and had to pay the money back.
So the question is this. We don’t believe that it’s moral or pragmatic for the state to control rent (or set other prices). Is it reasonable for someone to insist on what current law allows him? Or is he morally required to give up an advantage written into unjust law?
It’s a tough moral question, in my view. I can see a valid argument for both positions. On the one hand, you can say that if you’re required to live under rules that take away from you in some areas, you have to compensate by getting what you can where the law allows. On the other hand, you can simply say that you’re not going to hold anyone to anything he wouldn’t be held by in a completely free world. I think you have to decide this one on a case-by-case basis, but it’s messy. Do you have any thoughts about it?
If someone is routinely identified in newspaper stories as a “community activist,” odds are pretty high that the person is nothing but a troublemaker. There’s a guy like that who’s a hanger-on in Birmingham city politics. He’s the political equivalent of an ambulance chaser — always looking for a controversy that will allow him to get in front of a TV camera demanding answers. I just wonder how these gadflies manage to support themselves.
You know how the U.S. Postal Service keeps saying that it’s going to shut down some of the little-used rural post offices that are costing so much money? Because there’s always political pressure, the USPS caves in and leave them open — and that’s happened again. A cost-saving plan that was expected to shut down some tiny and costly offices will close exactly zero post offices, but reduce the hours that many of them are open. Isn’t it time to just sell off the behemoth and let private companies operate whatever it’s profitable to operate — and kill the rest?
I have one last story to tell about Thomas, who died Monday. He used to sleep on the bed with me at night sometimes, but then (years ago) he started staying downstairs with a couple of the other cats at night. Since he started going downhill in January, he started sleeping in the office with Lucy and the “office cats.” He hasn’t slept with me in the bedroom for years.
But for some reason, he wanted to stay on the bed Sunday night. He started out at the foot of the bed, but when I woke up not long after going to sleep, he was up next to me as close as he could get. This surprised me considering how weak and lifeless he had been, but I was glad to have him sleep next to me for the first time in a long time.
After he died Monday afternoon, it hit me that it’s amazing he slept right next to me on his last night alive. It’s almost as if he knew he was dying — and wanted to be close to me again. I’m probably superimposing human thought and emotion on him, but it somehow feels right. I like believing it, whether it was true or not.