John Tierney wrote his Saturday New York Times column from Amsterdam, where he found that contrary to what U.S. drug warriors would have us believe, lenient Dutch drug policy hasn’t wrought the end of Dutch society.
I do think, however, that libertarians should hesitate before citing the Dutch as a model. Last year, I attended a forum at the Dutch embassy on drug policy in the Netherlands. I was underwhelmed.
The Dutch treat drug use a little like the way the public health crazies in this country would like to treat obesity. That means there is freedom to ingest some illicit drugs, but with massive government intervention, oversight, and a panoply of PR campaigns and state‐funded treatment, and very little in the way of holding users responsible for using drugs, well, responsibly.
At the forum I attended, Dutch officials were quick to correct any misunderstanding Americans might have that Dutch citizens are actually given any real freedom over what they put into their bodies. The Dutch government, they assured us, loathes and despises marijuana every bit as much as the American government. They just prefered to steer the Dutch people away from it with propaganda and heavy regulation.
That’s certainly a step up from no‐knock raids, mandatory minimums, and confidential informants. But it’s still a far cry from a government that treats its citizens as adults capable of making their own decisions about intoxicants.
I have received hundreds of incoming emails in response to my articles suggesting that federal civilian workers are overcompensated (see here and here).
Many emails have been rants claiming that I’m an idiot or don’t know what I’m talking about. Very few of those opposed to my arguments expressed any interest or curiosity in the actual underlying government data.
Some emails have been supportive. Here are two that suggest reasons why federal pay has been growing much more quickly than private pay.
This one came from a federal worker in Maryland:
I thoroughly enjoyed reading your 13 August opinion piece in the Washington Post–thanks!! As a senior military officer in a command that employs a large number of civilians, I have become increasingly frustrated at the excesses of the civil service system. Not only have the salaries gone up through the cost of living increases, we’re also paying more because of little control on promotions which has resulted in significant “grade creep.” Until your article, however, I continued to hear the confusing mantra that our civil servants were underpaid. I am grateful because you have provided me with some ammunition for my next command personnel discussion.
Here’s another from a retired federal worker in Virginia:
I would like to offer what I think are contributing explanations for the problem of excessive pay and benefits among the members of the Federal workforce.
First, the most salient explanation for overgrading in the Federal civil service is the conflict of interest posed by having the personnel function embedded within each Federal agency. Directors of personnel of Federal agencies report directly to their respective agency heads, all of whom have a vested interest in having as high a graded workforce as possible. Reporting to the directors of personnel are specialists called position classifiers. To be cynical about it, the responsibility of the classifiers is to write job descriptions that justify whatever grade levels that their respective managements want the jobs under them to have. In short, classifiers are wordsmiths who rationalize with contrived language raising position grades, almost never lowering grades. The result is that, over time, Federal job grades (and often titles) bear little relation to the real duties and responsibilities of the jobs to which they are applied. (Classifiers are a kind of inside joke among Federal employees.)
The remedy, it is obvious, is to take the personnel function out of the agencies and place it solely in an independent agency responsible to the White House, at least indirectly. Once that is accomplished, all the jobs in the Federal workforce should be reclassified and given realistic and appropriate grade/pay levels.
Social Security may still be something of the political third rail in this country, but the rest of the world continues to turn away from the traditional government‐run model for retirement programs. A new survey by HSBC of industrialized countries finds that only 30 percent of their citizens believe that government should be primarily responsible for funding their retirement, compared to 43 percent who believe that individuals should bear the cost of the own retirement.
Regardless of country, there is little confidence in Social Security. Just 29 percent believe that their governments will be able to pay the benefits it has promised. When asked how to reform their country’s Social Security systems, 37 percent favored the introduction of some form of mandatory savings or personal account program, while just 13 percent would increase taxes to pay for promised benefits.
From today’s Best of the Web:
“A Jefferson County [Colo.] geography teacher was placed on paid administrative leave on the second day of school for hanging several flags from other countries in his classroom,” Denver’s KMGH-TV reports.
The school district placed Eric Hamlin, a teacher at Carmody Middle School, “on administrative leave for insubordination, citing a Colorado law that makes it illegal to display foreign flags permanently in schools.… The school’s principal escorted Hamlin out of class Wednesday morning after he refused to remove the flags of China and Mexico.”
A district spokesman tells the station: “Under state law, foreign flags can only be in the classroom because it’s tied to the curriculum.” And what subject does Hamlin teach?
Uh, world geography.
Hat tip to James Taronto — who, interestingly enough, shares the name of the Canadian capital.
[Editor’s note: Though he spells “humor” without a second “u,” Andrew Coulson was born and raised in Canada. He is aware that the nation’s capital is Ottawa, and that its Prime Minister is not Tim Hortons.]
TheNewspaper.com reports that several towns in South Texas are ratcheting up money and property seizures from motorists:
In the South Texas city of San Juan, population 26,200, police have begun seizing ever greater amounts by taking both cash and vehicles from motorists. In 2005, officers collected $4400. This year, however, the force has collected $67,000. Pharr, with a population of 47,000, collected $422,000 last year. McAllen, a bigger city with 106,000 residents, collected $484,000. A federal appeals court ruling this week concluded that driving with a large amount of cash is sufficient justification for police to confiscate it, even if there is no evidence that a crime has been committed.
Guess what these towns are apparently doing with the money?
On a related note, a number of cities and towns across the country have apparently been given between $100,000 and $200,000 in Homeland Security funding to purchase armored personnel carriers for their SWAT teams. If I remember correctly, the Department of Homeland Security was supposed to be a government agency charged with fighting terrorism and responding to natural disasters.
I suppose it’s possible that places like Lake Canyon, Idaho, Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and Tuscaloosa, Alabama are high‐risk terror targets. But my guess is that their new federally‐funded military‐grade toys will primarily be used for routine enforcement of drug laws. This quote from an official in Eau Claire seems to confirm my suspicions:
An armored truck isn’t necessary for all situations where SWAT teams are used, Matysik said.
“But because it’s available, we’ll probably use it just to be cautious,” he said.
The militarization of domestic policing continues.