My girlfriend Ann Coulter, who I am known in libertarian circles to have a man-crush on (if only she were a real boy!), intrigues me with her acerbic commentary and confrontational style. I believe that’s the real her, and not a marketing strategy. She’s not just the Madonna of the right.
I even enjoyed sitting a few rows away and watching Ann be interviewed before 1400 mainly very unsympathetic libertarians this past weekend at the 6th Annual International Students for Liberty Conference in Washington, D.C. (Living within walking distance of the several locations where all 6 have been held, I’ve been lucky to attend 4 of them.). The interview was a taping for John Stossel’s show, and she was interviewed in a two hour sequence of interviews that included Congressman Justin Amash and former Ambassador John Bolton (who was also interviewed last year). I believe these will be aired as the next two Stossel shows, one tomorrow night, and one the following Thursday, on Fox Business, with various insomniac broadcasts on both Fox Business and the Fox News channels.
Like Bolton, my girlfriend Ann always pitches herself as a libertarian, “but….” She wants a world of nations where people have maximum individual freedom except where allowing it would diminish it. She’s Hegelian even though not Marxist. Bolton of course worries about civil liberties and non-intervention allowing tyrants abroad to gain power, a worthy debate but one where he would have more cred if he had spent more time in the past calling for defunding tyrants.
Ann’s hang ups include worrying that people using pot will become slackers, and end up on welfare adding to the oppression of all of us tax serfs. It’s similar to the somewhat more credible fears that illegal immigrants will be used to oppress taxpayers, especially since we now know illegal immigrants are using $2 billion in tax funded health care, set to explode under fully government controlled medicine.
Here’s the problem though – we don’t have any accurate statistics on the budgetary and opportunity costs of the drug war or of illegal immigration. I just ran for office in DC and I tried to find numbers on arrests, incarcerations, and budgets, either for the drug war as a whole or for pot specifically. I’m not sure anyone knows. Nor do I think anyone knows how many people have criminal records for non-violent drug crimes, nor how many have been prevented from obtaining employment because of them, such that they did either end up on welfare, or have much reduced life term earnings and careers.
Clearly Ms. Coulter knows everyone who smokes pot isn’t a slacker; at one point in the Q&A she replied to someone who asked why she so often smeared libertarians as stoners that “you’re not stoners, you’re nerds.” So apparently some people can smoke pot and still become successful IT entrepreneurs.
Likewise we don’t know how many red blooded, native born, Americans, or even legally immigrated ones, can only make a living running farms, restaurants, and construction companies because they have access to illegal immigrant workers. Maybe in both cases we need to make the economy more vibrant, and the tax funded benefits more meager, so that stoners and illegals will simply find it more attractive to get a job, start a business, or have a career. In the free market community Ann, which you are welcome to join, we call those incentives.
Both Bolton and Coulter have a blind spot (which doesn’t mean they can’t argue that their opponents have their own blind spots, and ask whose is bigger). They see the problems of welfare parasitism or Islamic violence, but don’t ask if our policies are funding and fomenting it. Is the only evil that lazy slackers go on welfare, or is it also an evil that government schools, government regulations that keep poor people from starting small businesses, and the drug war that gives them criminal records, keeps them from ever getting out of welfare. Thereby incidentally leaving whatever opportunities do remain available for nice girls from suburban Connecticut schools who have the grades to get into law schools (and access student loan programs and other forms of upper middle class welfare). Most of these Connecticut girls end up being the Elizabeth Warrens who perpetuate the system, living in DC on their 6 and 7 figure salaries as regulators and lobbyists, blocks from the people they have condemned to lives of poverty and illiteracy. Ann’s path is better, but not good enough.