The Reality of UK Uncut

What is it like at a UK Uncut demonstration? What do they stand for? What do they think? What are they like to talk to? I set out to find out. I had an opinion in advance, like Richard Carey I was not fond of them. You could say I was looking for problems with them and had made my mind up, perhaps so, but it was not hard to find problems.

As you can see, I found they were actually fairly civilised and put up a good argument when I debated them. Debating them alone was hard going though. Obviously this video focuses on the gaps in their thinking, but they are not stupid. They just haven’t considered all the alternatives or properly thought through what they are doing.

They have managed to undermine the rule of law in this country by pressuring a company active here into paying tax at a rate decided by them, not by law. You might argue that Starbucks already did that, and their dishonesty is part of their problem, but before it was between them and the tax man, now it is a matter of mob rule. This mob is quite civilised, but it can only get worse.

I’m not sure if UKUncut really think about this in a deep way, but advocating for the force of the state to be applied, other than in self-defence, is fundamentally aggressive. They probably see themselves as just talking and “exercising their right of protest”.

Of course, it isn’t universally true that UK Uncut are civil. I was at Vigo Street, but there were people who wanted to violently force their way into the Conduit Street store and even the spokesperson in the store seemed to be being deliberately loud and disruptive in a way that she must have known would have stopped the business trading. There is an interesting philosophical diversion to be had about whether that kind of stoppage, which seems to need force to be resolved, is force as much as tax is, but it isn’t pretty in any case. Vigo Street was also closed and I know they got into the store, but have no idea if it went down the same way.

The main problem I have, and what the video focuses on, is that the numbers don’t stack up. Their avoidance loopholes would save 15% of the deficit if they were closed, but it would take 115% cuts, relative to the deficit, to pay off the accumulated debt in 37 years. Thirty seven years of services being trimmed will not work, I appreciate why they fear that, but what we really need is radical pro-growth policies and alternative sources of funding wherever it can be done. Democracy has failed to run its bank account properly. We need to bail it out, pay off the debt, and cut the responsibilities which we entrust to its institutions.

Towards Sound Money

The segue, how to get from here to there, has been a major part of my thoughts regards Libertarianism. One area is the issue of Sound Money and how to get away from a fiat system.

The route is well trodden: Free Banking, sound money and, ideally, gold-backed offerings.

Free Banking – the ability for entities to set up their own currencies and offer currency competition is basically the beachhead against a de-facto fiat currency geographic monopoly. In addition, banks should not be allowed to get away with the sleight of hand that is the fractionally-reserverd “demand deposit” account, however, without telling customers that their bank statement is just a record of lending to the bank and that the bank cannot guarantee to repay that amount on demand. This is basically down to an issue of misrepresentation, of basic contract fraud.

In all honesty, I do not believe enforcing transparent contracts in itself will solve anything. People will be blind to it. “Free” bank accounts offering near-current services will be offered and life would return to “normal”.

So, Free Banking in itself is likely not to be enough on its own. There needs to be Sound Money, even better, a fully-backed gold currency.

While a State-run gold currency can be a tempting option, it flies in the face of consistent Libertarian reasoning. If it will be viable, other entities will try, so State involvement is a distortion. If it is not, how to justify and fund a loss-making endeavour? Either way, it is still none of the State’s business. The only exception might be if the State decides to set up its own currency for the storage of its own wealth, so as to be independent of privately-run vaults. It would need good justification for doing so, but cannot be dismissed out of hand.

But what of migrating the existing currency from fiat to gold? As discussed many times, and most recently for me, here, the shift of a particular currency from fiat to gold has many obstacles. Apart from the basic logistical ones of conversion, pegging, convertibility and bank runs during the transition, the very concept of Free Banking and/or hard currencies are anathema to the State. It prevents governments from practicing invisible taxation via inflation and of pushing spending today onto the earnings of children as yet unborn.

Logistics are trifles compared to the politics of hard currency backed by gold that strips the State of arbitrary, opaque power. The State will not let go of such power unless it is prised from its cold dead hands.

There is no point just moaning about this or dreaming that the State will suddenly not think of its own narrow vested interests – solutions are required. Well, I want a solution, even if nobody else does!

A Taoist Approach

Taoists have been said to be the worlds first Libertarians. We need to not just think of a frontal assault, but work around the problem to achieve our goal. Not the end of fiat money, but an end to being forced to use fiat money and thus robbed by its controllers.

Setting up a new currency requires Free Banking and that, in turn, requires, I believe, a Libertarian victory in the polls or the overthrow of the State, for the reasons I have given above. Before even a chance of that, we are likely to descend into chaos if, or it is increasingly looking to be, when, the fiat money system collapses in on itself. I fear that the replacement of our existing system will not be kittens and cushions. It is as likely to be disorder, corruption and risk of a “Strong Man” gaining power to bring “order”. We have seen how Libya and Egypt have turned out. We saw how a convulsing Russia panned out from 1917 and Europe a few years later. In other words, it is unlikely to be very pretty.

But what if we could allow people to use gold as a store of wealth without all the downsides – risk of counterfeiting, storage and transportation? Something that applies to individuals, banks and to international and national trade alike.

One Potential Solution

I envision a series of vaults containing gold reserves accessible via a charge card.

As with currency reserves now, entities would conduct transfers between each other at a series of central clearing and settlement vaults, netting off transactions unless absolutely necessary, by electronically re-allocating the ownership of the gold intra-vault and inter-vault. Of course, lending of depositors’ gold to satisfy short term inter-bank or inter-vault shortfalls is not an acceptable mechanism unless the depositors are aware of the limitations on access and, one would suspect, commensurately rewarded. All parties would work to ensure as little lending as possible is needed, so as to reduce the need to secure sufficient time deposits of gold in advance. To lend without permission, to say gold is on demand when it was not, would be fraud and theft.

There would be no notes or specie in general circulation. The accounts would be accessed via a charge card. Just as a Sterling or Dollar-denominated credit card can buy goods in another currency, your gold card could buy goods denominated in any currency. All the apparatus for charging and conversion exists already. We have the means here and now to handle such operations.

All transactions can be performed in gold. If the seller wants to redeem in currency, then they have the option to do so at the point of exchange. It would smooth the adoption of the system if the seller could know precisely how much they would get in fiat currency, if that is what they wanted. Therefore, the option to have the sale performed by the buyer at that moment should be provided.

And what has Peter Schiff of First Pacific Capital done?

Peter Schiff has, via First Pacific Capital Bank, created a “real” gold and silver card, which is linked to a personal gold or silver trading account. It requires you to first buy your gold in this account, then sell your gold or silver to charge up your card in a particular currency when you wish to purchase something with it.

Half-way is better than no-way

The First Pacific Bank does not function as a clearing and settlement operation for gold exchange, and so its Gold Card relies on fiat currencies for the actual transaction. Each account is just for buyers, so direct buyer-seller transactions are not supported. However, the logical progression is there for all with eyes that see and wits about them. Introducing this card will stimulate others, who are in a position to do so, to make the logical steps necessary and provide more integrated services.

The vision of transferring wealth denominated in gold, electronically, from anywhere to anywhere, to use it to buy goods almost universally, has made a big step forward. The ability to be free from rapacious controllers of monopoly fiat paper currency gets closer.

Peter Schiff should be applauded.

Video: Libertarianism is not simple to argue for

After a record short wait, the latest video from the Rose and Crown meetup is online. I would like to claim that my effectiveness at video editing has greatly improved, or that the talk required less encoding time than other talks or less editing, but the real reason was that I did it while off sick with a sore gut. Woe is me, but the rewards are yours:

Brian prefixed his talk with the warning that he wasn’t sure that it was worth listening to, or why it was worth a listen, but by the end the value of his message was abundantly clear: since libertarianism is so very hard to argue for, consider another approach. Don’t argue for it, but instead explain what it is and focus instead on building the libertarian community. Having an explaination and a label for the theory and basic policy directions is enough to raise up the flag and gather together all the people that already agree with them. This is surprisingly useful, he argued, becuase it will help to develop the talents that can take on the detailed work of bringing libertarianism to the detailed areas.

He gave an example of James Tooley, a visitor to some the the earliest libertarian meetups in Brian’s own home who now researches the work of private enterprise in bringing education to the very poorest people in the world, an example of a detailed policy area that needs to be explored to address the second “arguing for it” phase.

That word “phase” was not Brian’s but was rather introduced into the Q&A by regular meetup participant James Rigby who, with Richard Carey, floated the Pro-Liberty Party at the meetup in September. The fact that that earlier launch happened does tend to prove Brian’s point about developing the community, but James’ point brought a new dimension to the evening for me.

Perhaps it is true that a focus on defining the movement is sufficient to grow it, at the moment, but there will come a second “phase” when the movement has grown to it’s natural maximum and action is required to expand it’s potential; to grow beyond natural libertarians. That phase will be much harder, take much more time, will require much more specialist knowledge, it’s more likely to be a career than a hobby and if’s a hobby then you will be lucky to die having completed your small part of it. Fortunately the two phases are, I think, already happening in parrallel at different ends of the battle front.

If there is one thing to take away from Brian’s talk it’s this: know that there is a variety of different ways to fight for liberty and choose your targets according to your strengths.

No Bigots, No Christians, No Dogs

Libertarians are an argumentative bunch, so I shall await possible contradiction to this statement: there is only one libertarian position to take with regard a particular, high-profile legal battle, and that is to support the right of the Christian B&B owners to turn away the custom of the gay couple, due to the fact that it is their business and their private property. As such, the law which has been used to punish them is unjust and contrary to liberty.

In a free society, business transactions take place voluntarily between two parties. If one party does not wish to undertake business with the other, they have every right to abstain from the transaction.  As customers, we do this all the time by frequenting the businesses which have treated us well in the past and avoiding those which have not.  Businesses also – in a free society – are within their rights to abstain from serving potential customers for whatever reason they choose.  The laws which violate this principle, by prohibiting some grounds for discrimination are an attack on fundamental property rights, notwithstanding the good intentions which inspired them, nor the fact that most reasonable people would not seek to discriminate in such ways that fall foul of the law.

As usual, such laws are selectively enforced. This is partly due to the fact that they do not rest on clear principles, but rather the necessarily-vague notion of ‘reasonableness’, as interpreted by our somewhat inconsistent judiciary. Therefore, the women-only establishment, or indeed the exclusively-gay hotel, escape legal action, even though the exact same arguments which have been used against the Christian B&B owners can be made.

The notion that a law should be respected even when it is contrary to justice is not one that a moral individual can subscribe to. Accepting that there may be consequences for breaking an unjust law is one thing. This is merely facing reality, but, if we are moral individuals, we may be obliged by our conscience to defy an unjust law. I am sure that my dear readers are able to furnish their own examples of unjust laws from the past if not the present, but let us consider a particular one which is somewhat germane to the discussion: the prohibition of homosexual acts between consenting adults.  Are there any amongst the gay rights lobby, who have attacked the Christian couple, who would agree that that old law should have been obeyed without question whilst it was in operation? In fact there are many countries where such a law is still in operation today, and I very much doubt that Stonewall is exhorting homosexuals in those countries to obey.

The old principle of the Common Law was that the law is discovered, not legislated into existence. It was also said that the law is just, and if it aint just, then it aint the law. Such high-minded principles will not protect you from the prosecution of unjust laws, but it should serve to remind us that the law is only a means to an end, and that end is justice.

If you are going to defend private property rights, it is likely that you will be confronted with something along the lines of: “I suppose you think that people should be able to put signs up saying; ‘No Irish, no Blacks, no dogs’, just like in the bad old days?”

© Daniel X. O’Neil

The honest, consistent answer is of course; Yes. No doubt, you will then need to run through various clarifying statements, expressing your personal disapproval of such exclusions, your belief that such exclusions would be very rare in this day and age, and that the businesses which applied such exclusions would be punished in the market place, by the loss of trade, not only from the potential customers explicitly excluded, but by many more people who would choose to boycott the business. The loss which such a business would sustain would be matched by a gain by other, more inclusive businesses. This is certainly the case with the gay couple, with rival businesses coming forward to offer the gay couple accommodation.

However, the confusion between those two distinct entities, society and state, is such that many people cannot conceive that it is enough for society to punish such a business, through boycotting and stigmatisation, both of which are non-violent, so the call goes up for the force of the state to be brought to bear on such transgressors.

Money matters

Recent developments in the Republican Presidential platform debates in the US have been most encouraging to proponents of sound, commodity-based money. Regardless of whether anything substantial materialises from them in the short-term, the mere fact that gold standards and central bank audits are being discussed openly and seriously at the heart of a major political party is a positive sign that the debate is heading in the right direction for those of a libertarian or conservative persuasion.

With this American narrative in mind, it is perhaps a good time to re-consider the arguments in favour of a return to a commodity standard of money (be it backed by governments or produced privately on the free market) and why a commodity standard is essential for a sound economy, more stable prices and for keeping the growth of government firmly in check.

To those visiting the site for the first time and who are perhaps new to free market economics, I hope this article will form a useful introduction to the question of money from an Austrian school perspective.  For others, it is merely intended as a starting point for further discussion on an issue which is sometimes thought of as an interesting aside (albeit never on Libertarian Home, whose focus on Hayek and currency competition is laudable ).

Commodity v Paper

© Tax Credits

Whilst there are various reasons why printing more money can be politically expedient in the short-term, its longer term consequences usually result in some economic or currency disaster or just the plain old expansion of government.

Thus the three major problems with the paper standard and a “flexible” paper money supply in general are:

1) Distortions in economic calculation, causing the boom and bust cycle;

2) Price inflation (and in extreme cases, hyperinflation), causing hardship;

3) The inevitable growth of government.

Taking each of these points in turn.

Booms and Busts

The logic of the Austrian Theory of the Business Cycle (ATBC), as this theory is also known, is beautiful in its simplicity. In short,  ATBC teaches that any artificial expansion of the money supply (whether by governments or by its central bank proxy) causes the market price of interest to be lower than it would be otherwise on the free market, in turn sending misleading  economic signals to producers who consequently invest and cause a boom in all sorts of interest-rate sensitive industries such as housing and construction. As the real savings and resources in the economy needed to sustain such projects do not really exist, the projects must inevitably be unwound, at which point can it be said the “bust” part of the cycle has kicked in.

Thus can it be said that the responsibility for the devastating booms and busts witnessed in the Wall Street crash stock of 1929, the doc.com “tech wreck” of the early 2000s, and the housing market collapse of 2007/2008 rests squarely at the feet of the central bank and the paper standard.

Needless to say, a return to a commodity standard would take the printing presses firmly away and thus remove the ability of central planners to foster such malinvestment and havoc.

Price Inflation

An inevitable consequence of continuously increasing the money supply, a paper money standard reduces the purchasing power of people’s savings over time and erodes their standard of living. Indeed, since the establishment of a universal paper standard in the twentieth century the value of national currencies relative to the goods and services they can buy has suffered an inexorable decline.  In the bygone days where gold or silver were in official use as currencies, people saved for retirement knowing that the purchasing power of their currency medium would be preserved. Not so today, where people who would stuff their hard-earned paper notes under the mattress would right be viewed with genuine human concern.

Whilst a return to a commodity standard would not abolish year to year fluctuations in the price of goods and services, there is little doubt the purchasing power of the circulating medium would be much better retained over the long-term.  James Turk, founder of the precious metals bank GoldMoney, often uses the example of how 2 silver dimes are able to buy the same amount of petrol at the station today as when a child his parents would fill up the family car.

Growth of Government

Perhaps most insidious of all, paper standards facilitate the sort of government expansion that would simply not be possible under a commodity standard. For with a licence to print, resting with the government itself or its central bank proxy, the political class is no longer forced to make the difficult case for raising taxes or increasing borrowing but can instead turn to this imaginative and more invisible third way of funding itself.

Under such an arrangement all sense of financial reality is abolished, that critical impediment to the inexorable growth of government. The secret darling of socialist ideologues and power-hungry political elites, a paper standard means there is no longer any real requirement to deliberate on the affordability of going to war, increasing state benefits or creating a new government agency to run some bold new initiative.  Money, it appears, does grow on trees after all.

Under such an arrangement there is no limit to the growth of the state and its concomitant influence over the lives of its people.  The opposite is true for a commodity standard, which at the very least forces a degree of transparency from the central planners who, forced to rely on more traditional methods of self-funding, have to appeal to the people directly anytime they wish for more government largesse.

Transition

Assuming then the superiority of a commodity standard over a paper one, the tricky question comes over the process of implementation. Leaving aside the question of the political obstacles that would have to first of all be surmounted, what would the new system look like? Should governments introduce a new gold standard to back their national currency? Should they permit gold and silver to trade freely in the market place in competition with their national currency? Should they remove themselves from the business of money production altogether, turning it over to a free market system of currency competition, as advanced by Hayek?

Whilst many of us would like to see the Hayekian solution, a return to a government-backed gold standard would be a step in the right direction. Yes, governments cannot be relied upon to keep their promises (i.e. to stay on the gold standard once on it) but if such a change were to ever take place it would have to be a reflection of a radical change of thinking amongst the populace at large (either through education or as a result of a financial crisis) who might just help to keep the government in check.

Whilst a new gold standard might be far from perfect, any system that might restrict the government’s ability to cause harm through excessive money printing should be given due consideration.  Such a new gold standard could serve as the first step towards re-integrating the notion of commodity money into society at large and paving the way for the complete privatisation of money production. Most importantly, it would serve to debunk and deposit that failed notion of a paper standard into the ash heap of history, where so many actual paper currencies have wound up in the past, again and again.

 

 

 

Philosophical Sleight of Hand

Most philosophers and politicians are too clever to admit what they’re advocating. They don’t say “man has a right to take what he wants” they say “man has no right to keep what he has” and they leave the rest to implication.

They don’t praise thieves, they merely damn property. They don’t advocate theft, they merely condemn ownership. They don’t mention robbery, they merely say you have no right to lock the door. They don’t advocate murder, they just say it’s selfish to want to live.

“We don’t want to take your freedom, we merely demand you do your duty”, “We don’t want to rob you, you’re just a monster if you don’t give away your wealth.”

Of course, the historical progression is eventually what we see — the veil is ripped away from all the fine language, and it becomes an open demand for free stuff provided by everybody selfish enough not to have given everything away already.

It’s very hard to convince a man to murder someone else and take his wealth if you put in in those terms. But convince someone that the wealth is his by right, that the other is immoral for keeping it, that the owner not the thief is the selfish monster, then you have someone who will slit a throat gladly and with a sense of rectitude.

It astonishes me that a man can think the way to get more private property for himself is to abandon the principle of private property — that he will bend it to steal a little from the man above without realizing he is also putting out a welcome mat for others to take the little he does have.

Drugs, Morality, The Law & Peter Hitchens

I expect I have more time for Peter Hitchens than many libertarians.  Credit where credit’s due, I say; the man has been on the right side of a great many issues over the last few years, such as the defence of habeas corpus, jury trials and other hard-won limitations on state power; he has been resolutely against ID cards and other ‘Big Brother’ measures; and he has denounced the foreign military adventurism of this and the last government with greater logic and principle than the likes of George Galloway and the far left. So far, so good. This is the part of the journey which the libertarian shares with the Burkean conservative. That journey does however start and end in different places.

Nothing is more indicative of this than Hitchens’ lone knight attack on the state’s failure to prosecute a war on drugs.  Perhaps this is not a solitary tilt, but Peter breaks away and makes his primary targets cannabis, not crack or heroin, and users, rather than suppliers. Judged solely as a strategy to win the drug war, his logic may well be correct. With regard to the latter target, he is identifying the demand, not the supply. If the demand could be curtailed, through draconian law enforcement, then the supply ceases to be problematic.  As for cannabis, perhaps it is the generally-held view that it is not harmful, and that it is tolerated by a large part of society, which saps the moral fibre of those required to enforce the prohibitions.  Therefore, Hitchens’ has set himself the task of presenting the case that cannabis is far from harmless, most notably with regard to the evidence of a link to mental illness, but above all his denunciation of drug use is on the grounds of immorality.

Let us accept this latter charge for the moment, and define drug use as immoral. Without wishing to fully make the case, I will suggest that this could be based on drugs as a deliverer of pleasure, where no pleasure has been earned. Without drugs, we must strive to achieve goals, and when we do so, then we feel happiness. We may of course feel happiness due to good fortune, but even in this case, the happiness derives from a rational appraisal of our situation. The drive to improve our situation is the basis of all rational human action, but with drugs, no such effort is required, and pleasure can be attained notwithstanding the absence of the conditions a rational mind would see as satisfactory. The junky may be living in squalor, but feels on top of the world, at least for a while.   The drug user melts away the lack of satisfaction in his everyday life, and dissipates his motivation to better himself, and thereby wastes his talent and fritters away his life.

Furthermore, a drug abuser can cause a great deal of mental anguish to his family and friends, who see him harming himself but they cannot stop him, and upon whom he makes himself a burden, incapable of supportinghimself, and by extension of supporting others, for whom he may be obligated to support.  How is this wastrel’s life not immoral?

So, as before, let us accept without further quibble, that drug-taking is immoral. The question is; so what? That does not make it a crime. To be a crime, there is a higher bar to jump; namely that you have committed an act which aggressed against someone else’s physical person or property, or that you threatened to do so. It’s not a crime to give yourself over to cheap pleasure, and no matter how harmful that may be, if you do it to yourself, if it an act of informed consent, then no crime has taken place.

Back from this likely come two ripostes. The first will be the link between other crimes and drug use, i.e., crimes committed under the influence of drugs or the influence of a drug addiction.  This becomes irrelevant, if the actual, proper crime is properly dealt with. It is this failure of the criminal justice system to punish actual, proper crimes which needs addressing. The same story plays out over and over again:

Criminal: I’m sorry for the string of burglaries, I was out of my head at the time, the drugs made me do it, but I’m trying to clean myself up now.

Judge: That’s very brave of you to face up to your issues. You know, prison doesn’t work anyway, so I’m going to give you another chance.

When judges stop treating a claimed drug addiction as a mitigation, then criminals will stop claiming it is. This isn’t to say that there aren’t criminals with drug habits which would benefit from treatment, but it should be a separate matter to the necessity to punish them for their crimes, and seek restitution for their victims. Contrary to what the judiciary may believe, crimes like robbery and burglary are very serious, not least because everyone has a right to defend themselves and their property even unto death.  How more serious could something be? The law should recognise this and treat such vile acts accordingly.  But what equivalence can be found between the act of house-breaking or putting a knife to someone’s ribs and demanding their money when compared to someone taking a pill or smoking a joint?

I’ll give you a choice of neighbours; one is in his parlour, smoking himself a rung up the ladder to serenity; the other is breaking down your kitchen door and plundering your possessions.  There’s not even a choice. The first, you don’t even know about it, except by perhaps a faraway smell.  The second, you will know about it. It will change your life, at least in the short time as you patch your place up, cancel everything, get the door fixed etc.  It may make you hate the place you live. You may be coming home for months to come, nervous of what you will find. A weak parry of this point could be; it’s probably the same neighbour! The guy smoking the drugs is most likely the same one who robs you. The answer is above; punish the real crime.

What, then of the second moral argument? Have I not admitted that drug abuse does indeed harm others, such as the family and friends of the abuser? Here, the key word is ‘harm’.  It does not at all mutilate the English language to say that a drug abuser harms his family, but when we are dealing with the law, we must be clear in our definitions.  There are degrees of harm.  If the ‘harm’ we are considering comprises a criminal act of violence or theft, or perhaps in the case of a drug-addled parent, one of child neglect, then we have the laws already written expressly to deal with such occurrences. But if we are talking only of the mental anguish that is inflicted on caring relatives, this alone, immoral though it is, is not enough to constitute a criminal offence.

This in no way belittles the reality of the suffering families of drug addicts, but drug abuse is just one on a list of things that if you do them it may cause your family anguish. We can add alcohol for a start, and gambling. We could add adultery and divorce. We could even add converting to another religion, or terrifying your mother by buying a motorbike. They can be dangerous too.

So, surely we all agree that there is a limit below which causing mental anguish ceases to be a matter for the law.  I say; let that be the limit already given, by the ordinary criminal laws against violence and theft.

All that aside, is Peter right about cannabis being so very dangerous? I certainly wouldn’t say it was harmless, but unlike heroin, cocaine and alcohol, you can’t take too much and die. Yes, you may fall off a balcony, but you’d have to eat your own body-weight to risk overdose.

The link to mental illness seems to be closely linked to a particular type of cannabis, high-strength grass, broadly called ‘skunk’.  It crops up in the politician’s cliché, about smoking once when they were a student, but they didn’t like it and they didn’t get stoned, but this new stuff the kids are smoking nowadays is something else entirely.  Indeed it is different, but if anyone claims you couldn’t get high in the ‘70s and ‘80s smoking Moroccan black , they’re lying.  The effects of cannabis, the same as with alcohol, depend on the dose.

Prohibition led to a higher consumption of stronger  alcohol over the weaker kind .  If you’re going to smuggle a barrel of beer, it might as well be whiskey. The same applies now to cannabis, and skunk is its ‘bathtub gin’, grown fast and harvested early. This is not a product marketed on its delicacy, but the power of its punch.  Due to the way it’s grown and cut, a certain chemical preponderates, which would not be the case if the plant was allowed longer to mature, and it is this chemical balance which I believe is most responsible for the negative effects on mental health observed in many people.  But who would buy ‘bathtub gin’ if a decent bottle from a distillery of repute was readily available instead? In a legal market, people would not be buying solely for concentration and quantity, but for quality.  On these grounds, the worst of the grass would disappear.

And one final thing must be said for cannabis; that there is no more versatile plant ever cultivated by man.  It can be used to make paper better than wood-pulp; textiles stronger than cotton; plastics, fuel, cooking oil; the seeds make high-protein food, and it has medicinal uses which have been practiced for centuries.  Furthermore, the plant is basically a weed, and will grow with very little assistance, needing far less fertiliser and pesticide than cotton, it counters soil erosion, and you can smoke it and get high.  I defy any God-fearing man, as Mr Hitchens is, to refute that this is a gift from our Creator. If that merely scalps the air, let him consider, drawing upon the naval tradition which runs in his blood , if I am not mistaken, how would this island’s navy had fared without its hempen ropes and sails (and a lash and bottle o’ rum)?For all these reasons, any law prohibiting such a plant is ridiculous, nonsensical, even blasphemous!

None of the above applies to crystal meth, for which we must fall back to earlier arguments.