Failure of Prohibition: A History and a Prediction

There have been times when government tried, but failed, to remove from society certain consumer products.

The Prohibition era began with the passage of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution in 1919, outlawing all manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcoholic products. Prohibition of such “crimes” began on January 17, 1920 and lasted until December 5th, 1933 when the 21st Amendment repealed the practice. It did not eliminate the consumption or demand for alcohol, however, but only drove the supply out of public sight. Numerous people, otherwise innocent, were prosecuted, fined, jailed, or simply killed outright as a consequence of this policy.

In April, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order outlawing private ownership of gold coins, bullion, and certificates. He prosecuted and punished a few people, using well-publicized methods, to ensure that everyone else got the message and relinquished their holdings. Ultimately, however, all that was accomplished was that privately held gold went underground. Eventually, in 1974, President Gerald R. Ford lifted the ban and allowed gold to circulate freely, as it has done since.

In the 1970’s, President Richard M. Nixon’s administration declared the ‘War on Drugs’ to eliminate all illicit drugs from private ownership and usage. Today, millions of people are in prisons and jails, not because they are criminals, but because they possessed and/or used certain items which the government had disallowed. Like alcohol and gold in the early part of the century, however, illegal drugs did not go out of existence. They simply went underground and disappeared from public view. Currently, marijuana is legal in some form or another in a majority of states throughout the country and will eventually be legal everywhere, probably regulated like alcohol is.

So it will be for guns if private ownership is outlawed, prohibited, or regulated in an extreme manner. Guns, like alcohol, gold and drugs, will not simply disappear from society, instead, they will be driven out of sight. People who own them will be vilified, prosecuted, jailed, and fined, perhaps even killed, not because they used those guns against others violently, but because they possessed an item the government decided they shouldn’t have. If gun control is ever seriously legislated, scores of millions of Americans will be forced to choose between giving up what they consider to be their rightfully owned property or run the risk of heavy-handed punishment, up to and including the loss of their lives and freedom.

Government can regulate any consumer item out of the visible, public market, but it cannot destroy the demand for it. There always will be a market for alcohol, gold, drugs, guns, and many other items, which people consider valuable. The demand for such items is private and individual and can only be eliminated by private, individual choice. It cannot be extirpated from society by collective will or force, but may only be suppressed for an indefinite period of time, during which the relevant demand will be met–illegally, undercover, and quite often, violently.

Diabetes and Gun Violence: The way we treat disease.

As America grapples with the menace posed by mass shootings and (seemingly) random violence, it is worth noting that the phenomenon can be considered an indication that our society is sick. Sick, getting sicker, with no way to heal the body except for a dramatic transformation in the way we live. This is similar in scope to many physical diseases prevalent today, for instance, diabetes.

Think about the way modern society treats illnesses today. A person gets sick, goes to see a physician, gets a diagnosis, a prescription for a drug, an assurance that this will put her right, and goes home, trusting completely on the pill to cure the problem. Depending on the situation, the drug might or might not restore her to health. Quite often it only masks the symptoms.

In the case of diabetes, she contracts the disease, perhaps as a result of years and years of gorging herself on fast, junk food and a lack of exercise to work off the excess. There may be little or no attempt at all to lose the obesity or a change in diet to bring it under control. In situations like this, the medication is expected only to treat the symptoms by keeping the blood sugar at a tolerable level, but it is not meant to cure the underlying disease. It is essentially nothing more than a bandage over a hemorrhage.

(Note: Diabetes can be contracted by people who are serious about maintaining a healthy lifestyle through strict adherence to diet and exercise. This article is not meant for them. They have my respect and I wish them well.)

The approach to mass shootings is pretty much the same. Feed society on the idea that young men and women can join the military and shoot other people they don’t know. Feed society on Hollywood movies which glorify gun violence as a means of solving problems. Feed society on video games marketed to young children which depict gun violence as a pleasurable game. Feed society on the idea that if you wind up pregnant, you can make the problem go away by killing the unborn child. Feed society on the philosophy that all morality is subjective to the individual person and situation. Feed society on political divisiveness and hatred. Feed society on personal irresponsibility and refusing to teach children about the consequences of their actions or to hold them accountable from an early age.

I could go on, but you get the idea. These things (and many more unmentioned) are the junk food that America gorges itself on daily, year after year, decade after decade. Then, inevitably, when a symptom (mass shootings) shows up, address it by prescribing a treatment (background checks, red flag laws, gun restrictions, etc.) which have the effect of assuring the patient (society) that the disease (violent behavior) is being treated effectively.

This treatment, however, will have as much lasting effect as that of an obese, inactive person taking a pill to counter and control diabetes, while refusing to change her lifestyle in a meaningful, positive way. Modern medicine treats the symptom of the disease, but does not address the cause. So too with modern society.

An obese, inactive person can overcome diabetes by adopting a radical change in lifestyle. It will be difficult, but it can be done. It will require, not only the obvious changes in diet and exercise, but also the attitude of personal change—the idea that unless personal action is taken to correct the problem, nothing at all will change. Nobody else can do it.

So too with America. Because society is composed of individuals acting personally, society can be transformed by individuals changing their attitudes and lifestyles in meaningful and positive ways. It will take time. It will not be obvious immediately, but in the long run, it will be noticeable. And well worth it.

I can’t do anything about the random acts of violence which are perpetrated in society on a regular basis, but I can make the necessary changes to minimize and eliminate violence in my own life. This will require, first of all, a change in the way I think about myself, my relationship to other people, and my relationship to God. After that, it is simply a matter of living it out.

Loans, Bad Loans, and Usury

I read Zero Hedge on a daily basis. I like to know what’s going on in the world without having to resort to mainstream or social media. Many of the articles are well written. Some aren’t worth the ‘digital paper’ they’re written on. However, this one concerning usury caught my eye today.

Obviously, the author has some experience in finance and did his best to make sense of the definition of usury. Unfortunately, I think all he did was to muddy the waters, so I made a comment, which may have made the matter worse. Who knows? I can’t say that I know exactly what usury is, but this is what I think. Whether it is correct or not is debatable, but many dictionary definitions attribute a moral value to the concept, as do I.


“Usury is a loan when the borrower is subtracting equity.”–Monetary Metals

This statement makes it sound like when you’re making money off the loan, you’re not engaging in usury, but if you lose money, then you are. In reality, this is throwing the unwise borrower under the bus, because it’s his fault that he didn’t make sound business decisions. Or maybe borrowed the money to take his wife on a vacation to Tahiti, with no way to pay it back when he returns. Stupid, yes, but not a legal matter.

No one is forced to borrow money at interest. There is always a time when the borrower can just say no. Borrowing at interest is a voluntary transaction and because of that, there are no limits to the amount of interest which can be charged–as long as the borrower is willing to pay. If he can’t, he suffers the consequences.

My definition of usury is that it is the practice by a lender to loan money at interest to a person who is destitute and desperately in need of help. Think homeless person today. He has no collateral, no property, no job, no income, probably sick and starving, at the end of his rope. We’ve all seen them.

To offer this person a sum of money on the promise that it will be paid back with interest is, biblically speaking (Old Testament) criminal. Any interest at all, even a very low percentage, would be outlawed. In fact, a loan under these conditions would not even be proper or wise since the payback would be impossible for the recipient to fulfill. Instead, the person with the money was expected to simply give the down-and-outer whatever he might need in order to survive–at that moment, but only at that moment. It was not a long-term welfare program. 

There is nothing wrong or immoral about interest in a normal situation, but interest charged to anyone who has nothing except his life and probably only a tenuous hold on that is usury. The people who commit it are those who do not hesitate to squeeze the last drop from anyone who is desperate, so that they can become richer. To put this in modern terms, it would be like taking away the shopping cart, the tent, the blanket, and the trash bags filled with stuff–all to satisfy a loan with interest added.

The practice of usury is a moral, not a financial issue. What is needed here is compassion and generosity. We can all develop those.

Killing and the Question, Part 2

To add to the article I posted yesterday, if you are interested in researching the issue of mass shootings, why they happen, what we can learn from them, and what we can do in the future to prevent them, then check out the following links. Zero Hedge, Lew Rockwell, James Howard Kunstler, Michael Rozeff, Warren Farrel, WND.

Each one of these authors is level-headed and reasonable. You will not find any hysterics here nor any sense of trying to whip the public up into a froth emotionally. Some arguments I agree with wholeheartedly, about some I have my doubts, but I will consider all of them. As should you.

Feminists For Life have a saying that “Abortion is a reflection that we have not met the needs of women.” If this is true in the case of abortion on demand, then a paraphrased version of it would also be true. Mass shootings are a reflection that we have not met the needs of young men. As a society and a culture, we should consider that both these are linked in one inextricable way—both situations exhibit a callous disregard for innocent human life.

We have to figure out a way to meet the needs of both pregnant women and young men. Our world’s survival depends on it.

Killing and the Question

Within the space of one week, there have been three mass shootings (see here, here, and here) across the United States which have killed more than 30 people and left many more wounded. Shootings like these are a shock to our system, which relies on trust and cooperation in order to function. After all, if you can’t go to a Garlic Festival or a Walmart without worrying about being shot, then there is no place which is safe.

Many people will be clamoring to strengthen and rewrite existing gun laws, with the professed intention of bringing this irrational violence to an end. Will this work? If history is any guide, probably not. Anyway, the argument over guns is a strawman which will have little or no effect on the violence which is playing out in our country and around the world.

People are killed in mass shootings, aggressive wars, the deliberate driving of trucks or delivery vans into crowds at an outdoor cafe, stabbings, gang warfare, police brutality, drug related murders, and abortion on demand, which killed over 600, 000 innocent unborn children last year in the US alone. All of these (and more) have one thing in common–the complete and utter lack of respect and honor for human life.

Jacob Hornberger has attempted to identify a cause of the violence we are learning to live with. His theory is that the war mentality America has inculcated in her citizens over the years is coming home to roost.

“I believe that America’s forever wars, sanctions, embargoes, and assassinations overseas are triggering some sort of mechanism within the minds of people who are bit off kilter mentally, which is causing them to wreak the same sort of violent and deadly mayhem here at home that the U.S. government, specifically the Pentagon and the CIA, is wreaking in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.”

Hornberger may be right, but he doesn’t go far enough.

Violence and the use of deadly force is as American as apple pie. It is endemic in our culture. It has been part of America from the very beginning. For those who are doing the slaughtering, human life is worthless. The sanctity of human life means nothing. It spans the spectrum of society from the streets of Chicago to the killing rooms of Planned Parenthood to the callous attitude of Madeline Albright, who, when asked about 500,000 dead Iraqi children as a result of crippling sanctions imposed by then-president Bill Clinton, responded that she thought the price was worth it. Throw in video games, psychotropic drugs, the Hollywood effect, and many other contributing factors and it’s no surprise that we are seeing individuals randomly acting this way.

The killing (in whatever form it takes) will not stop unless and until we grasp the concept that human life is precious, priceless, and not to be held in contempt. Human life, from the very beginning to the very end, must become something which is esteemed and valued. The lack of respect for it is a primary cause of all killings and, if we are ever going to bring this senseless violence to an end, we must absorb and live the understanding that human life is too valuable to simply destroy.

It won’t do any good to pass more laws or to increase the penalties. Giving the government more power will not help. This is a heart attitude and must be changed there, at the individual level, within the conscience of what is right and what is wrong. It has to begin with me. It has to begin with you.

A Conversation on Socialism

The following Letter to the Editor appeared in the Missoulian, one of the largest newspapers in western Montana. It is well-written, researched, and reasoned. I answered it. See below.

“All this current agonizing over the concept of “socialism.” Republicans cringe at the word and hold up their crosses to divert the horrors of it.”

“I got curious. What of socialism around the world? According to the United Nations, seven of the 10 happiest countries in 2019 are Finland, Denmark, Norway, The Netherlands, Sweden, New Zealand and Canada. FYI: The U.S. ranked 18th.”

“According to the Peerform website, among the 10 most socialistic nations in the world today are Denmark, Finland, The Netherlands, Canada, Sweden, Norway and New Zealand.”

“Interesting overlap, do you not agree?”

“On thelibertarianrepublic.com website, the blogger listed the most socialist policies of the USA. They were Social Security, the Federal Reserve, endless wars, farm subsidies, public schools, corporate welfare, income taxes, Medicare/Medicaid/Affordable Care Act, public transportation, public security, and the Food and Drug Administration. Allowing for the obvious libertarian leanings in what got included in the list, which of the listed policies would you be willing to give up?”

“Maybe we can all agree on giving up the “endless wars”!”

–Linda Holtom, Missoula

(This is my reply. Note that the links I have posted do not show up in the paper, so the content below is not exactly the same as the version submitted.–RM)

Socialism. Republicans cringe at the word. I agree and consider them to be inconsistent. While they speak against socialism, they advocate for and enact socialist policies, including all the items Linda Holtom listed in a Letter to Editor, Missoulian, 7/28/2019. See here and here for an extended version of my opinion on Republican hypocrisy concerning socialism and government.

It is interesting that the blog post she referred to, Peerform, had a large graphic at the top of the article showing Lenin, Marx, and Engels—all of whom were instrumental in bringing about the ‘worker’s paradise’ known as the former Soviet Union, socialism taken to the extreme. She also neglected to mention that one of the most socialist countries, according to this blog post, is China, with the attendant photo of armed soldiers lined up, ready to enforce compliance with socialist law.

Holtom asked a question. It deserves an answer. I would give up all of them, starting with the FED, which finances every form of socialism in this country. This action, by itself, would inevitably change or eliminate every other item on her list, including the endless wars.

There is only one alternative to socialism—liberty, in which the freedom of people and their property is considered sacred and off limits to government. Everything else is socialist.

End of letter. I expect some pretty harsh criticism, from both the left and the right.

It seems that Holtom has equated socialism with happiness. After all, most of the most socialist countries in the world are also the happiest, at least according to the sources she mentioned. What she never said anything about is that the most socialist countries this world has ever known, the USSR, Maoist China, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Nazi Germany, etc., have also been the unhappiest, filled with an immense amount of human suffering and misery.

All of the countries she listed have a few things in common. There are probably more.

  1. They are small, population-wise.
  2. Many of these populations are indigenous and closely related.
  3. They have no large military expenditures, relying instead on the United States to keep the “bogeyman” away.

One thing which should be obvious is that they are more similar to each other than they are to the US, which has a large, rapidly growing, rapidly diversifying population and is acting as policeman to the world. Apples to oranges. They are not the same.

So, to wrap this up, let me ask you the same question Holtom did. Which of the listed policies would you be willing to give up? I will reveal mine in the next post and explain why I put them in any particular order.

Consistency: The Winning Factor in Politics and Life

I grew up in a conservative Republican home and learned early on that ‘liberal’ was a dirty word. It affected my political viewpoint for many years until the day arrived that I realized this wasn’t the whole story. Eventually I came to the conclusion that it’s pretty hard to throw mud unless you’re right in the middle of the puddle yourself. Or, as the saying goes, it takes one to know one.

There are two major wings of the statist party, Conservative and Liberal, with a third, Progressive, building up steam and set to demolish the Democrat Party. I have no use for any of them, but I do have some grudging respect for both the Liberal and Progressive factions. This shouldn’t be construed to mean that I accept and support their premises (I don’t), but only that, in my opinion, they are consistent with their stated philosophies and, consequently, will probably come out on top in the scramble for government control—at least for a short while until they manage to completely destroy the United States.

It is a known fact that both the liberals and the progressives call for wide-ranging policies which would require massively increasing the size of civil government in order to implement them. It is also known that both are willing and ready to accept this growth and even advocate for it. In this respect, they are honest. They are consistent. They practice what they preach.

Not so the conservatives. They are hypocrites, mouthing one thing, enacting another. They SAY that they are in favor of small government and lower taxes, but push for more all the time. They SAY that they are in favor of outlawing abortion on demand, but never make any concerted effort to end the slaughter when they have the power to do so. They SAY that they are in favor of free trade, but then work out deals which benefit large corporations and the people who control them at the expense of everyone else. They SAY that they support individual freedom, but work to bring everyone under the control of the State.

And on and on and on. I could do this for a long, long time.

George W. Bush was elected President, due partly to the belief among conservative Republicans that he was a decent, devout, Christian man who would do the right thing and Bush encouraged them to think so. He was not shy about professing his Christian faith in public, yet he never hesitated to abandon the principles he espoused when they came into conflict with his political policies. “Love your enemy”, “Do good to those who hate you”, and “Do not bear false witness” are maxims of the Christian faith, but Bush deliberately and repeatedly lied in order to take America to war against Afghanistan and Iraq, killing millions of people in the process.

I have more respect for Adolf Hitler. He knew what he believed in, he said what he believed, and he pursued his beliefs to the end, without conflict between his words and his acts.

Jack Kerwick recently posted an article on Lew Rockwell which said that conservatives could win the political battle against the liberals and progressives, except that they will not fight for what they believe in. He mentions Rush Limbaugh’s immense wealth and says that if that was put to good use, it would have a profound effect on society. This may very well be true, but why would Limbaugh do that? He makes his millions by exploiting the suckers who take his words at face value. Limbaugh and others like him are con men, using the gullibility of their followers as a cash cow to be milked, laughing all the way to the bank.

I don’t agree with Kerwick’s assessment. Conservatives don’t need to “fight” with the liberals and progressives to win. All they need to do is to be consistent, on a regular basis, with what they say they believe. That would be more than enough.