I was so right

Yesterday, I argued that in the 1960s, the Supreme Court effectively made good police work impossible. I went on to argue that the war on drugs was the (unfortunate but) necessary response to the (obvious) consequence of a massive increase in crime. The war on drugs has put lots of people behind bars for long periods of time. Crime rates have consequently fallen dramatically.

Surely, the progressives won’t stand for this.

As if on cue, today’s Court continues the work of the ’60s Court by ordering California to release more than 40,000 criminals because their feelings might conceivably be hurt in prison.

What’s really happening here is that the Courts are saying that California must provide nice facilities for prisoners. If there are too many prisoners for the existing facilities, the prisoners must be released. It doesn’t matter if someone breaks the law. If their prison cell isn’t nice enough, they must be let go.

This ruling effectively ends the drug war.

Looks like we may get a chance to test the libertarian thesis vs my thesis. Are the libertarians right? Will California turn into a bastion of liberty? Can we expect a surge in the economic output of California as these productive citizens are freed from the restrictions of over-bearing drug laws? Or am I right? Will the state turn into (more of) a burned-out wasteland? Anyone care to place bets, perhaps related to whether violent crime rates in California will increase?

33 Responses to I was so right

  1. Gurf says:

    1. In a previous post about the Warren Court thing, you linked to a wikipedia article section, which mentioned Miranda warnings, public defenders, and the presumption of innocence. How do any of those things damage policing? I’m not saying it’s impossible (except Miranda — I’m firmly convinced that Miranda is harmless), but I can’t follow your logic.

    2. A libertarian would predict net positive effects from the release of 40,000 non-violent offenders who led productive lives before they were arrested. The problem is that what we’re going to get will more likely be a few thousand of them, and quite a few thousand more violent thugs who grew up in and around violent drug gangs. The drug war created violent drug gangs. Genes may predispose men to violence, but growing up in a violent environment plays a very great role. The level of violence in a given culture can vary drastically over a few generations without any significant immigration: Consider Mexico now, compared to Mexico 20 years ago. Of course it was never exactly the Hamptons, but it’s gotten massively worse. Genes cannot be the only driver of violent criminal behavior.

    So libertarians have some sane reasons to blame drug prohibition for the violence around the illegal drug trade. I hope that doesn’t mean they’re stupid enough to expect hardened violent criminals to turn into nice people overnight when the drug laws go away. That’s not what happened when Prohibition ended: They just took the capital Prohibition allowed them to accumulate, and invested it in other rackets.

    But even if we accept that the gangsters we’ve got will remain gangsters regardless of changes in the law, is that a valid reason not to try to diminish the rate at which we create new ones?

  2. Gurf says:

    P.S. Of course I think you’re right that the rate of violent crime in California will increase measurably. None of what I said above is meant to suggest that letting 40,000 existing violent gangsters out of prison is a good idea.

  3. Red says:

    The problem we have has nothing to do with banning drug rather it has everything to do with us not banning criminals*. Most drug users don’t commit criminal acts while high but criminals far are more likely to commit criminal acts while high. Ban the criminals and you effectively fix the problem. Same goes for guns, alcohol, bad neighborhoods, drunk driving, ect.

    We try over and over again to deal with the problems that progressives create by their refusal to properly ban criminals or allow us to deal with criminals in the proper fashion(I.E. Lynch them). We fight these stupid wars on drugs, on drunk driving, on guns all because we can’t do the sensible thing and ban criminals.

    *Banning criminals means once it’s clear someone is a criminal you either a remove them to a penal colony, lock them up in a jail for life, or execute them. Almost all criminals start small and work their way up to big crimes. Ban them early and the problem goes away.

    • Foseti says:

      I don’t disagree at all. The fact is that criminals are much more likely to use drugs. So, if the Supreme Court bans punishing criminals but not punishing drug-users, punishing drug-users is a pretty good proxy for punishing criminals.

      I’m not saying that the status quo is good. I’m merely suggesting that we can’t end the drug war without lots of negative unintended consequences.

      • Alrenous says:

        They’re more likely to use drugs because criminals don’t specialize. If drugs were legal, criminal use of drugs would go down.

      • aretae says:

        Oh COME ON, Alrenous…

        Criminals are more likely to use drugs because they have crappy traits. Their Conscientiousness, IQ, Impulse Control, Self-Efficacy, and Expectations for the future all SUCK. Has NOTHING whatsoever to do with drugs being illegal.

        IF legalized, drug usage would go UP for the low-value folks, because the price would drop like a rock. It’s not like Alcohol use is low among that population.

      • josh says:

        I’d also like to point out that the Cathedral has been manufacturing criminals at least since the 60s. People are born with certain traits, but they need not manifest themselves in criminal behavior. How many 19th century writers talks about the docility of the American Negro? (Carlyle has some very nice things to say about “Quashee” “when the soul is not killed in him!”) Agitation tends to agitate, and most serious criminals seems themselves as striking back against the oppressors. Some gangs even have had official sponsorship. See the the case of the Blackstone Rangers of Chicago.

      • Alrenous says:

        Sadly this was published before my comment, you only have my word that I didn’t read it until now.


        “The paper, published by Cato in April, found that in the five years after personal possession was decriminalized, illegal drug use among teens in Portugal declined and rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing of dirty needles dropped, while the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction more than doubled.

        “Judging by every metric, decriminalization in Portugal has been a resounding success,” says Glenn Greenwald, an attorney, author and fluent Portuguese speaker, who conducted the research. “It has enabled the Portuguese government to manage and control the drug problem far better than virtually every other Western country does.””

        Referenced paper.
        E.g. search up “prevalence.”

  4. Red says:

    And I live in CA and I can’t get a concealed carry permit in LA county(You have to rich or know the sheriff personally) so it’s effectively impossible to legally defend myself. I am effectively disarmed with 40k new criminals on the street. Screw California and screw the supreme court.

    • YR says:

      Don’t worry too much, most of them will probably leave CA immediately in favor of Arizona, Wyoming, Idaho, etc

    • Retired guy says:

      I too pay the premium to live in California’s paradise. Penal code 12031 allows you to carry an unloaded pistol on your belt with the bullets in your pocket. What a neat way to get in to trouble.

      • Openly carrying an unloaded pistol would be suicidal, but with practice it is possible to produce, load, and cock a concealed pistol very rapidly.

  5. Sardonic_sob says:

    There is nothing libertarian about a system which allows people to commit antisocial acts and not have to make restitution.

    • Foseti says:


      Unfortunately, if you believe that you’re firmly in the Mises camp and out of the *Reason* camp.

      • Sardonic_sob says:

        I honestly believe that libertarianism could work and would produce, if working, a society superior in every way to the one we have now or any other which has ever existed.

        That being said, it’s a problem, as the farmer said, of not being able to get there from here. Even most modern libertarians think more about rights than responsibilities and it doesn’t work that way. ANY system where authority is roughly equal to responsibility is roughly equal to accountability will work. It doesn’t mean that it will be a good system, it simply means that it will work. But as is often noted, you cannot cut off ANY leg of a tripod and expect the thing to stand. Attempting to grant authority without requiring accountability and imposing accountability will make libertarianism fail just as spectacularly, if not more so, than previous social structures.

        Which camp am I in now? You obviously know way more about the formal structures than I do, I don’t read Reason and I haven’t read any of the Big Books.:) lots of articles and essays but none of the Killer Tomes of Liberty. (Though I did read Atlas Shrugged just so I could say I had.”

      • Sardonic_sob says:

        That should say “requiring responsibility and imposing accountability.” As always, counting one leg twice will not a tripod make. 🙂

  6. Alrenous says:

    It depends on whether the Warren crime wave was actually a coincidence. It was the 60s.
    My amoral scientist brain is going, “Yay, controlled experiment.” Reproducibility ahoy!

    By the way, doesn’t your theory somewhat depend on progressives understanding that the drug war reduces crime? To me it looks like an accident due to the progressive’s compassion for criminals over their victims. This ruling specifically is spiced with the belief that drug crimes aren’t crimes, so they’re probably not criminals at all.

    On that ‘don’t talk to police’ video the cop ends with, “But I only put away bad guys.” If that’s true, then crime will get a nice kick.

    If not, then the effect will be small.

    It seems to me that police should be able to work without the things Warren outlawed.
    Or, for instance, a healthy society would admit that certain currently illegal searches are in fact necessary for effectively catching criminals. Either way, ours has issues.

    If it were my police company, I would simply give officers discretion in exchange for responsibility. They won’t be blamed for bad outcomes if they follow the rules, but… And, they’d be rewarded for breaking the rules constructively.

    I especially like this because it breaks the excuse, “That’s policy, sir.” Yes, but you won’t be fired if you don’t follow it, so stop being a dick.

    • Foseti says:

      “By the way, doesn’t your theory somewhat depend on progressives understanding that the drug war reduces crime?”

      Not really. It only depends on the person or people in charge of policing knowing that locking up criminals would reduce crime. A stretch perhaps, but not too much of a stretch I think.

    • jmanon says:

      From Scalia’s dissent:

      “many will undoubtedly be fine physical specimens who have developed intimidating muscles pumping iron in the prison gym.”

  7. aretae says:


    Surely you jest. California…broke-ass state with more regulations than soviet russia, a huge GINI coefficient, obscene marginal tax rates, and led by moonshine Jerry Brown…and you think 40,000 drug criminals in a state of 50M is going to make a difference?

    California is up shit creek on a socialist raft, and nothing short of Rick Perry can fix it.

    • Foseti says:

      I’m less worried about the 40,000 today and more worried about the fact that the state can’t arrest any more people.

      • josh says:

        The 40K is symptomatic. California is obviously terminal.

        This whole situation demonstrates why the right can’t win. The war on drugs really is indefensible on its own terms and can’t be argued for publicly as a war on criminality. Further, the left control the terms of engagement and gets to decide which *atrocities* should be reported. Another war designed to fail.

        Incidentally, do you think the WOD will be kept around as a counter-revolutionary bogey-man? A failing right-wing war, full of horrible right-wing atrocities is a huge boon to the left so long as it doesn’t become successful.

  8. Taggart says:

    I’m always somewhat of a defeatest when it comes to these topics. The various ways this data will be skewed can “prove” an infinite number of points. Ending the wod will possibly result in fewer arrests (overall, not in specific categories of violent crimes and thefts), therefore “crime goes down”, fewer minority arrests therefore providing “equality before the law”. Even if you look at rising violent crime rates after the end of the wod, your message will end up so muddled it won’t really be of any impact. So even if one subscribes to your theory (which I do), I’m afraid even when supported with a large and varying data sample policy will never be set in regards to the “correct solution”.

  9. sardonic_sob says:

    It may have started out as an alternate approach to banned policing methods, but it doesn’t end up that way. See:


    Five demerits if your first response is “but seizing assets hurts the dealers more than seizing the drugs.”

  10. Vladimir says:

    Looks like we may get a chance to test the libertarian thesis vs my thesis. Are the libertarians right? Will California turn into a bastion of liberty? Can we expect a surge in the economic output of California as these productive citizens are freed from the restrictions of over-bearing drug laws? Or am I right?

    Sounds like the Californian policy is now quite similar to the British one. Our prisons are also full, our policy is to use prison as an absolute last resort only for irredeemable villains, and our war on drugs exists only in the minds of right-thinking progressives and paranoid stoners. Meanwhile, we have about half a million drug addicts, many known to (and ignored by) the police.

    You *are* most likely right. But whatever happens, the progressives always argue that the “reforms” haven’t gone far enough and the very fact that some drugs are still technically illegal is responsible for the obvious lack of improvement. This is the Universal Excuse for any failed progressive idea.

  11. james wilson says:

    There are 161,000 convicts in California prisons. The State of CA could easily separate 36,000 illegal alien convicts from that total for shipment to D.C., and disgorge them by the Lincoln Memorial with $200 spending money. What possible legal argument could be left remaining for refusing them, especially if they were volunteers?

  12. sconzey says:

    It does depend. If some of the released criminals are drug *users* I would not expect any increase in violent crime, consistent with Reason’s hypothesis.

    With that said, it’s entirely consistent with Libertarianism that drug *dealers* are criminals who inefficiently use violence to enforce contracts and maintain a territorial monopoly. If those folk are released then I would expect an increase in violent crime.

    • Red says:

      Most people who are locked up drug charges because it’s the easiest charge to prove and the easiest charge to plea to. Generally the person being locked up for drug charges (80% by a reliable estimate) are guilty of many more crimes that the cops either can’t prove or want to take the time to prove.

      Letting lots of drug convection felons go will greatly increase the crime rate. Legalizing drugs would over time reduce the over all crime due to lack funding from drugs thus limiting criminal scope and motivation to commit crimes. But there would be an initial spike as we release these criminals from the system(It could be huge). Similar to prohibition but probably worse considering how bad our jails are today.

  13. Red says:

    Foseti have you considered that the war on drugs is a progressive war? Like all their wars they really are not interested in winning them as much as they are interested in gaining more power. Both the feds and police have gained enormous powers through this war. I want it ended because the longer it goes on the the more powerful our police state becomes.

    The cops used drug convictions as easy way to comply with the public’s desire to lock them all up and at the same time continue the progressive war on drugs. Of course the progressives will eventually stop locking criminals up as the public stops worrying about crime but the drug war will continue and their power will continue to grow.

    Modern progressives always fail at meeting every goal besides their primary: Gaining more power.

  14. RS says:

    > It depends on whether the Warren crime wave was actually a coincidence. It was the 60s.

    Sure, the attack on morality also did something to the crime rate. Not just the court. But the court still did something, I’m pretty sure.

    Differential dysgenesis probably also did something. Josh mentions much better Black behavior in the 1800s. The changes have had more than one cause, but it’s likely that the American Black gene pool has suffered a lot more than the White one since 1900. Blacks presently are losing IQ 2x as fast as Whites. Something fairly similar may have been the case for sometime before the 60s. It’s likely they are losing C faster as well. If we postulate that each race is losing C at the same rate that it is losing IQ, then Black ability would be declining 4x faster than White ability, because ability is IQ * C.

    If it is really quite that bad (really hard to know — for one thing, is there, or has there ever been a Flynn-like effect for C?) then it is a sort of epic crime on Blacks to block study and discussion of these things. It could well be compared to chattel slavery.

    I would speculate that the genotypic A of American Blacks may also have declined, once monogamy was less forced upon them by mores. In Africa we can imagine that A was more or less under balancing selection, though it may have been increasing very slowly. A is somewhat reciprocal to dominance, and dominance is positively sexually selected, but low A is also a cause of altercations which bring injury and death. Under a state of law, this downside of dominance and of low A is reduced. Thus I would expect some decline of A in all classes of Blacks in the past. Since 1990 or so, this decline may have greatly slowed in the two quartiles of Blacks with lower overall ability and income, because the disadvantages of low A have increased for them. But for the wealthier two quartiles of Blacks, these disadvantages are less forceful, so they may still be losing A.

    But that’s genotypic A. It seems obvious that A increases with wealth/income, and maybe also with growth of income per capita in a nation. For example it seems like most White boys used to engage fistfights, and now it seems like the great majority don’t. I expect our economy to decline and everyone’s A to decrease.

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