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State Governments Are Becoming the Biggest Drug Lords of All

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The so-called war on drugs—actually a war on certain people associated in various ways with certain drugs — has served since the Nixon administration as a major profit center for governments at every level. Owing to the ostensible efforts to suppress the possession, use, and commerce in these drugs, governments have been able to justify great increases in their staffs, budgets, and power. Of all the interest groups that have devoted themselves to propping up this social, economic, and political catastrophe, the government itself stands prominently above the others, especially the police, the prosecutors, the prison guards, and the unions that represent the police and the prison personnel. 

Despite substantial efforts by various private groups opposed to the war on drugs and despite the growing public disapproval of the war on drugs, especially the marijuana laws, the government groups have remained steadfast in their opposition to any slackening of the established actions to cut off drug supplies and punish everyone engaged in the industry, whether as producer, consumer, or middleman. 

At present, President Trump, his attorney general, and his secretary of homeland security are all voicing support for not only retaining, but ramping up the national government’s war on drugs, including its enforcement of the federal marijuana laws.

In recent decades, however, a growing number of states have liberalized their drug laws, especially those related to marijuana.

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Total National Security Spending Is Much Greater than the Pentagon’s Base Budget

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In a recent publication of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, “Defense Spending Extends Beyond the Pentagon’s Budget,” Veronique de Rugy presents a valuable compilation of data for fiscal year 2013, showing how much of the government’s national security spending appears not in the base budget of the Department of Defense, but elsewhere in the government’s budget. This point is important because in debates about Pentagon funding, those who favor giving the Pentagon more money generally rest their arguments on references to the amount appropriated for the Pentagon’s base budget alone, ignoring the substantial amounts that appear under other rubrics in the government’s overall budget.

De Rugy shows that for fiscal year 2013, the Pentagon’s base budget alone amounted to only 68 percent of the grand total for all national security spending. In her accounting, the grand total also includes amounts spent primarily by the departments of Defense (for war, budgeted separately from the base budget), Energy (for nuclear weapons programs), State, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, and the Treasury (for a portion of the military retirement budget). By excluding these huge amounts of funding ($358 billion), the drain on the nation’s financial resources is greatly understated and hence the debate badly distorted.
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The US Government Makes a Mockery of the Principal-Agent Relationship

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The philosophical and legal foundation of the US government (and some other governments) is that government officials are the agents of the citizens—in the familiar phrase, those who govern have the “consent of the governed.” An agent, of course, is someone I authorize to act on my behalf. For a host of reasons, this doctrine has always been more or less absurd, but its absurdity has been placed in stark relief recently by the government’s mass spying, which violates the Constitution, various statutes, and many official declarations and promises.

Imagine that I have an agent—for example, I currently have a building contractor in Mexico to whom I have given a legal power of attorney to act in specified ways for a specified duration in carrying out various transactions related to the construction of my house there. Now suppose that my agent refuses to give me full information on his activities performed on my behalf and—outrageous as it might seem—undertakes to spy on me.

Then, when I challenge his defective agency and his unauthorized actions in court, he has the impudence to defend himself on the grounds that I lack standing to sue him and that the secrets he keeps from me are legally unblemished because they are “state secrets.” Obviously no one would tolerate such an agent; nor would any court uphold such blatant highhandedness.
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