Archives: 10/2008

President of Honduras Calls for Drug Legalization

It seems that there is a growing trend in Latin America to openly challenge Washington’s war on drugs. Yesterday, Manuel Zelaya, president of Honduras, openly called for the legalization of drugs as a way to tackle drug-trafficking violence. The venue for Zelaya’s plea couldn’t be less welcoming: a ministerial summit of the UN Office of Drugs and Crime.

However, Zelaya is not alone in Latin America. In Argentina, the current government of Cristina Fernández is promoting the decriminalization of drug consumption. In Mexico, where drug related violence is tearing the country apart, the PRD, the biggest opposition party, has also openly called to legalize drugs. And this is not just a left-leaning phenomenon. Felipe Calderón, Mexico’s conservative president, has recently proposed decriminalizing small amounts of some drugs, including cocaine and marijuana.

There are several factors that explain why Latin American leaders are now calling for a different approach to the U.S. international war on drugs. First, the left-leaning governments that don’t enjoy good relations with Washington are less concerned with upsetting it. Second, drug-related violence and corruption are reaching highly disturbing levels, especially in Mexico and Central America and are overwhelming law enforcement authorities. In Guatemala the local army recently admitted that there are portions of the country’s territory under the control of local cartels. Washington’s war on drugs is threatening the stability of these democracies.

However, another important factor is that many Latin American countries are now less susceptible to punishment from the United States, thanks in part to free trade agreements. A decade ago, all Latin American countries but Mexico depended on unilateral trade preferences to export to the U.S. market. Upsetting Washington could represent losing these preferences. Today, 11 Latin American countries have implemented (or are in the process of implementing) permanent trade agreements with the United States that ironically gives them more stability in their relationship with Washington.

As Ted Galen Carpenter recently explained in an op-ed, the stakes are too high for stability and security not only for Latin American countries but also for the U.S. Let’s hope that more leaders in the region raise their voices against the failed international war on drugs, and call for sensible policies such as drug legalization.


Michael Barone on “The Coming Liberal Thugocracy:”

In September, St. Louis County Circuit Attorney Bob McCulloch and St. Louis City Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce warned citizens that they would bring criminal libel prosecutions against anyone who made statements against Mr. Obama that were “false.” I had been under the impression that the Alien and Sedition Acts had gone out of existence in 1801-‘02. Not so, apparently, in metropolitan St. Louis. Similarly, the Obama campaign called for a criminal investigation of the American Issues Project when it ran ads highlighting Mr. Obama’s ties to Mr. Ayers.

These attempts to shut down political speech have become routine for liberals. Congressional Democrats sought to reimpose the “fairness doctrine” on broadcasters, which until it was repealed in the 1980s required equal time for different points of view. The motive was plain: to shut down the one conservative-leaning communications medium, talk radio. Liberal talk-show hosts have mostly failed to draw audiences, and many liberals can’t abide having citizens hear contrary views. …

Corporate liberals have done their share in shutting down anti-liberal speech, too. “Saturday Night Live” ran a spoof of the financial crisis that skewered Democrats like House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank and liberal contributors Herbert and Marion Sandler, who sold toxic-waste-filled Golden West to Wachovia Bank for $24 billion. Kind of surprising, but not for long. The tape of the broadcast disappeared from NBC’s Web site and was replaced with another that omitted the references to Mr. Frank and the Sandlers. Evidently NBC and its parent, General Electric, don’t want people to hear speech that attacks liberals.

Read the whole thing. Conservatives are not well-positioned to lodge complaints. Especially McCain.

Today at Cato

Cato Law on the Road

Now that we’ve released the Cato Supreme Court Review and the Court has started its new term, I’m on the road quite a bit giving speeches and participating in debates.  Here’s the schedule for my next trip, which starts tomorrow in Atlanta.  All events are open to the public (though the lawyers’ events charge admission):

10/14 at 12pm - Atlanta Federalist Society Lawyers - Kilpatrick Stockton, 1100 Peachtree St.

10/14 at 4pm - Emory Law School - 1301 Clifton Rd., Atlanta

10/15 at 12pm - University of Florida Law School - 2nd Ave. & 25th St., Gainesville

10/15 at 4pm - Florida State University - 425 W. Jefferson St., Tallahassee

10/16 at 11:30am - Florida Coastal School of Law - 8787 Baypine Rd., Jacksonville

10/16 at 5:30 pm - Orlando Federalist Society Lawyers - The Citrus Club, 255 S. Orange Ave., 18th Floor

10/20 at 12pm - University of Miami Law School - 1311 Miller Dr., Coral Gables

If you come to one of these events because you learned of it from this blog post, please do come up and introduce yourself.

A Libertarian Dilemma

In the November issue of Liberty magazine I write about one factor that I think reduces the political impact of libertarian-leaning voters: the fact that they’re all over the map about which party or faction represents the lesser of the evils:

One reason why libertarians underperform politically is that they are politically split, not just between radicals and incrementalists, as can happen in any political movement, but also among various political movements — while being too small to influence any of them very much.

It seems to me that libertarians come in several political groupings:

(1) Those who care primarily about free markets and thus support conservative Republicans. Given the candidates on offer, that means helping to move the GOP to the right on social issues (and war and civil liberties) as well as on economic issues. This group would include the Club for Growth, Republican “Leave Us Alone” activist Grover Norquist, many donors to free-market thinktanks, and probably most libertarian-leaning politically active people.

(2) Those who want to make the GOP more socially tolerant and thus support moderate Republicans, which effectively means Republicans who aren’t very free-market. This would include Log Cabin Republicans, pro-choice Republicans, and lots of Wall Street and Silicon Valley businesspeople.

(3) Those who think the GOP is irredeemably bad on social issues and civil liberties and thus support Democrats. This would again include some Silicon Valley businessmen who are pro-entrepreneurship and fiscally conservative but just can’t support a party that is opposed to abortion rights and gay rights. A dramatic example is Tim Gill, the founder of Quark, who calls himself a libertarian but has contributed millions of dollars to Democrats because of Republican opposition to gay rights. There are also broadly libertarian people involved in the ACLU, the drug-reform movement, and other civil libertarian causes.

(4) Those who support the Libertarian Party. They don’t get many votes, but they include a large percentage of libertarian activists.

If only some candidate or movement could bring them all together.