About Nicholas Hooton
- Website: http://nicholashooton.com
- Profile: Nicholas Hooton is an editor and strategist for Utah Liberty Alliance.
Before Brigham City doctor Dewey MacKay had even been criminally charged with illegally prescribing pain killers, federal prosecutors began seizing his assets, including his truck, SUV, and over $1 million of his retirement savings. That is because civil asset forfeiture legislation enables prosecutors and police to seize property without ever charging the owner with a crime. They simply must suspect that the property was used in illegal activity.
Now prosecutors are seeking a hearing with a judge to seek seizure of the doctor’s business property and assets. No one should be surprised by this. The “war on drugs” actually has little to do with drugs and more to do with plunder. It has given legislators and government agents strong incentive to criminalize and ruthlessly prosecute as many drugs and drug-related acts as possible.
In a document prepared by the ironically named U.S. Department of Justice as a guide to police officers, the real motivation behind the drug war is spelled out quite plainly under the heading, “The Need for Forfeiture”:
“For many years, law enforcement agencies around the nation have faced shrinking budgets. Police administrators have been forced to develop creative budgeting strategies, such as securing federal grants and partnering with community foundations. Though it is an enforcement tool, asset forfeiture can assist in the budgeting realm by helping to offset the costs associated with fighting crime. Doing what it takes to undermine the illicit drug trade is expensive and time-consuming. Forfeiture can help agencies target these difficult problems, sometimes without the need to seek additional outside resources to offset their costs.”
As usual, the “justice” imposed upon individuals by the State is focused not on retribution to the victim, but on funding State concerns. Indeed, the State’s actions cannot award damages to the victim when there is no victim. Drug use, production, and exchange by and between consenting adults are not criminal activities precisely because there is no victim. There is no harm in these activities to which consent is not given, and the actual crimes normally associated with these activities (gang violence, theft, etc.) are largely the results of drug prohibition, not drug use.
The State’s function is to benefit itself. This always has been its function and always will be. To pretend otherwise is intellectually dishonest at worst and naive at best, but always counterproductive to the pursuit of mankind’s welfare. The real criminal is the State as it uses force to prevent voluntary relations and transactions, seizes property from non-criminals, and seeks the lengthiest prison time possible as an example to others and as a source of revenue to the private prison companies that are so generous in their political donations.
Voluntaryists assert that the State’s monopoly on crime is illegitimate, that the use of violence against non-violent people is the true crime here. While voluntary transactions between two parties necessarily result in both parties being better off, the State’s system of coercion can only operate at someone else’s expense, and the costs can be dear.
[Warning: this talking point contains references to Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. This means that many will completely shut their minds off upon hearing those references, so use with caution.]
Those who have put in time promoting a stateless society have likely encountered what has come to be known as argumentum ad Somalium. It sounds like, “Hey, if you hate government so much, just move to Somalia.” It is implied that, since Somalia has been without a centralized State since 1991 and since economic conditions there are poor compared to our own and since statelessness obviously caused said poverty and no other factors could possibly have contributed and things were so much better when they had their disgustingly corrupt State — it is implied that you should go reap what your philosophy supposedly sews and leave the place the local State claims control over. If you stay, you consent to be governed.
A great reply to this, courtesy of a Redditor, is that Hitler was appointed Chancellor by a democratically elected President in a Constitutional Republic. The laws and programs persecuting, deporting and eventually slaughtering Jews were all perfectly legal. If the Jews didn’t like it, they could leave Germany. By remaining, the Jews consented to being persecuted and killed. Therefore, the German government was not to blame. It was the Jews’ own fault.
Those who champion the “social contract” often do so with their own nation in mind and not the myriad other authoritarian dictatorships extant today, not to mention those throughout bloody history.
After replying with the above comparison, I like to continue, “You can see how absurd that is when you apply it universally. Now, would you like to engage in a conversation with me and address my assertion that the State is illegitimate, or are you just going to dismiss the whole matter by telling me to move?”
Groups such as the Utah Symphony/Utah Opera are feeling “lucky” to be receiving millions in “Zoo, Arts and Parks (ZAP)” tax money next year to help fund their financially faltering organizations. Of course, when it comes to State welfare, luck has nothing to do with it.
It is a foregone conclusion in modern America that the arts must be supported with tax dollars; otherwise, how would they survive? The underlying — but always unspoken — assumptions associated with this view interest me more than the assertion itself. For example, it is assumed that the arts are valuable. This raises several questions. Which arts are valuable? Who decides which arts are valuable and which are not? We know from a logical examination of human action that value is subjective. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, as the saying goes.
In 1965, the federal government created the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and answered these questions for us: public funding “must ultimately serve public purposes the Congress defines.” On its surface, this makes sense. Public funds should serve public purposes. However, there are two problems with this. First, the funds aren’t public. The money Congress has to throw around is extorted from a minority of the population under threat of further property confiscation and jail time, with the promise of violent force in response to any resistance. These victims do not get to choose what the money is spent on. Second, there is no possible way for Congress to decide what is a “public interest”. Interests are subjective and individual. No interest can serve each individual’s purposes. Every expenditure must be made at the expense of something else.
So if Congress (or some other body of elected officials) is to decide what is in our best interest as far as art is concerned, what factors do they consider while making such sweeping and presumptuous decisions? To answer that, let’s look at a case study. Reagan had planned to eliminate the NEA upon entering office in 1981. What changed his mind? Those put in charge of a task force dedicated to the job stacked the group with such figures as Charlton Heston, good friends of Reagan who were able to convince the higher powers not to eliminate federal funding of the arts. To answer our question, then: State entities in charge of determining which arts serve public purposes consider the same factors that guide every decision they make, and those factors are special interests (particularly corporate interests).
Just as it is impossible for central planners to rationally distribute resources in an economy without the price mechanism of a free market, so is it impossible for central planners to determine which arts are valuable and which are not. If a particular artistic endeavor is unable to survive without public funds, it necessarily follows that not enough individuals in society value it; therefore, allocating public funds to such an endeavor is necessarily a wasteful expenditure as it involves using public funds to support something that the public does not value.
I understand that some may accuse me of not valuing the fine arts upon learning of my opposition to public funding of such. This is a common fallacy employed against many libertarian positions (if I’m against nationalized health care I must be opposed to good health, or if I’m opposed to federal prohibition of marijuana I must favor recreational drug use, etc.). Those who know me, however, know that my passion for the fine arts has annoyed friends and family ever since I was very young. While my brothers blasted ’80s metal, I basked in the invigorating rhythms of Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman. And I have an unhealthy passion for opera. My idea of heaven is a Cavalleria rusticana/Pagliacci double-bill.
No matter how vibrant my passion is for opera, though, I could never (and would never) seek to impose that passion upon others. Such a notion is not just impractical but impossible. Just as it is impossible to legislate morality, as the nature of morality requires that it be freely chosen; so is it impossible to legislate artistic taste. If I value opera, I am free to dedicate my own time, energy and resources to its development and proliferation, and it brings me joy to do so; but it repulses me to consider forcing others to do so against their will, just as it would repulse me to be forced to support something like rap music with my money.
I call upon the artistic organizations of Utah to refuse public funding and attempt to stand on their own feet. I realize that this may result in many organizations closing shop, but failure is a necessary part of a free market. To some, this sounds cold. To those with a reverent respect for their art, the word “free” ought to be a source of pride. Artists and those who appreciate their work ought to be disgusted by the thought of disgracing and polluting their work with the ugly stain of political force and intrigue, knowing that even if they cannot convince another living soul of the value of their work, their own love for it is infinitely better than artificial support.
On July 5, 2011, Kelly Thomas was beaten to death by police officers in Fullerton, California. No legal action was planned, and no local media outlets would touch the story — until local bloggers got involved. Their efforts resulted in the first murder charge against a police officer in Orange County history.
Traditional media no longer effectively serve their primary purpose as government watch dogs. The importance of keeping a camera handy and having the courage to record public officials cannot be overstated in these times.
If you see or record State officials (police officers, elected representatives, etc.) engaged in unethical, corrupt or destructive behavior, and local media won’t touch your story, consider Utah Liberty Alliance your resource for getting the word out.
We are pleased to launch the only forum specifically for Utah voluntaryists, ancaps and agorists (that we know of). We intend to use the forum to discuss voluntaryist philosophy (even if you disagree), liberty activism, and just have fun.
You can register for an account here. We welcome comments, suggestions and feedback as we work out the technical bugs and moderation process.
Utah Liberty Alliance does not normally concern itself with federal affairs, but a House bill ending federal marijuana prohibition desperately needs our support! If you are not opposed to participating in the political process, we urge you to contact your legislator to let them know they must do everything they can to get H.R. 2306 passed.
Drug Policy Alliance has a customizable form letter that automatically sends your message to your representatives based on your address information. Obviously, you should customize the message to reflect your own thoughts and feelings on the bill.
If you visit the bill’s page on OpenCongress.org, you can click “Support” in the right column to write a message to your representatives based on your address information.
From DrugPolicy.org’s message concerning this issue:
Multiple federal agencies are working in tandem to assault medical marijuana patients and providers. The DEA is raiding licensed and regulated dispensaries that are legal under state law. The ATF is discriminating against medical marijuana patients by prohibiting them from owning firearms. The IRS is rejecting standard business expense tax deductions from legitimate medical marijuana providers. And federal threats have intimidated banks and landlords into refusing to do business with the medical marijuana industry. Even free speech is under attack — at least one federal prosecutor is threatening to target newspapers that accept medical marijuana advertising.
Last week, for the first time ever a Gallup Poll found that 50 percent of all Americans want marijuana legalized. We have reached the tipping point — now let’s seize this opportunity!
Utah Liberty Alliance seeks to bring about a free society through journalism and activism, starting right here at home.
Repeal Stupid Laws
Does your city have stupid laws on the books? It is amazing how sacred people consider the laws of the State to be until they consider the law absurd. You can help delegitimize the State by contacting us with information about the stupid laws in your city. We'll contact elected officials to urge them to repeal.
Recent Forum Posts
In development: Utah Copwatch (utahcopwatch.org)
posted in forum Incubator by Dallin Crump on August 14, 2012 at 1:09 pm
In development: Utahns for Privatized Education (u4pe.org)
posted in forum Incubator by Dallin Crump on April 30, 2012 at 1:54 pm
Utah juror information
posted in forum Incubator by Nicholas Hooton on April 30, 2012 at 8:56 am