Sunday, April 12, 2009

Introduction and Party Platform


There is a website out there,, that claims to represent the spirit of our great nation. In truth it is an ultra-right wing site, and this blog is designed to be partly a rebuttal to the specious claims on that site. It is also half-satire since I, Ajax the Great, have quite a sense of humor, as you will soon find out. We may agree on some stuff but most we do not. Do not confuse us one bit. Captain Boycott, you met your match.

Here you will see our party platform, and our vision of an even greater United States of America that fully lives up to ALL its original ideals set forth by the Founders as well as contemporary voices of liberty and justice for all. Unfortunately, America is currently adrift (technically, bankrupt) due to decades of bad decision-making from the past five or so generations of leaders who put party (and money) over country. From fiscal to social to foreign policy, we the People dug ourselves a massive hole by electing the same kinds of incompetent leaders time and again. We have lost numerous freedoms along the way as well, mainly since 1984 and especially since 2001, piece by politically correct piece. This blog is from the perspective of a member of the Millennial generation (Generation Y), the last hope to undo the damage and confront head-on the crises on the horizon. And the True Spirit of America Party (TSAP) represents the way out.

The party can be classified as "moderate," somewhere between Green and Libertarian. It shares many values from both. It is the best of both, and more.

WARNING: This blog is not for the faint of heart. This blog is NOT pornographic or a hate site, nor encourages drug or alcohol use, or reckless behavior, but nonetheless many viewers with strong ideologies, prejudices, or preconceived notions will be offended by at least some of the things I say. If I offended anyone, GOOD. That's what happens in a free society. Those that can't handle living in a free society should take advantage of the greatest freedom such a society has to offer--the freedom to leave.

Core values of the True Spirit of America Party

Liberty (of mind, body, and spirit)
True patriotism
Live and let live
Social and economic justice
Equal rights for all
Equal opportunites for all
Personal, social, and ecological responsibility
Real grassroots democracy
Future focus and sustainability
Respect for diversity
Consent, not coercion
Nonviolence first, self-defense if necessary
Youth rights and empowerment

NOTE: If you think that some of these values are mutually contradictory, you came to the wrong party!

Party Platform

Here is the preliminary party platform, based primarily on simple common sense:

1) End our addiction to (mostly foreign) oil ASAP! Stop global warming before it's too late and we get scorched earth. Increase alternative energy and conservation, and rebuild our passenger rail system to eventually rival Europe's. Raise the gas tax by a penny a week (using the money for public transportation and alternative energy) until we change our ways for good. How quickly we forget.

2) Two words--National Initiative. A real democracy. Power to the people!

3) Fight overpopulation, one of the worlds biggest problems. Optimum population size is 150-200 million for the USA, 2-3 billion for the world. Yeah I know it's taboo to say, but we gotta shrink the population gradually by encouraging Americans to voluntarily have fewer kids (2 or less). Then the fertility rate will be 1.5-1.9 children per woman, below the replacement rate of 2.1, and we will reach the optimum in roughly 100-150 years. The only ethical way to do it. We need REAL, honest sex education and better access to birth control. Give $1000 to anyone in the world, male or female, willing to get sterilized. The Earth will love you for it too.

4) Reduce immigration by 80% or more. No more immigrants entering per year than the number of emigrants leaving. That would be roughly 200,000 people at most. Otherwise the population will keep growing. And enforce our immigration laws for once as well. You say we need to take in over a million immigrants a year to do the jobs Americans won't do? I say put down the pinot grigio and quit flogging the servants!

5) Lower the drinking age to 18, and raise the beer tax to $2.00/gallon. That's gotta be more lucrative, and combined with honest alcohol education should help reduce America's alcohol problems in the long run. If you're old enough to go to war, you're old enough to go to the bar. Stop the MADDness!

6) Crack down on drunk driving like never before. The terrorists of the highway. Lower the BAC limit for driving to 0.05, and have graduated penalties. Repeat or high BAC offenders lose their license forever and have to wear size 29 clown shoes, pantaloons, and a d**k mask in public, as well as to bed. And a shirt that says "I'm a drunk driver. Please kick me in the groin."

7) Legalize, tax, and regulate cannabis and most other recreational drugs. Increase education and treatment, but let natural selection run its course. Watch the crime rate plummet by 50% or more. Watch the recent violence in Mexico slow to a crawl.

8) Abolish the Feral Reserve, and go back on the gold standard. A real, full-reserve gold standard this time, with no funny money. Goodbye inflation!

9) Nuclear renaissance--build 1,000 nuclear plants or more by 2030. That will create millions of high-paying jobs. Make no mistake--it's the ONLY way we will get off fossil fuels, when combined with solar, wind, biofuel, tidal, and geothermal energy. The irrational anti-nuclear paranoia has to end NOW. Dump the waste in Yucca Mountain, Nevada. No one lives there. In the meantime, lets work on fusion shall we? And irradiate all meat as well.

10) No income tax or payroll tax for anyone making less than $100,000 per year. Replace with a 25-30% value added tax (VAT) on virtually everything, with a prebate for everyone equal to at least 20% of the poverty line to pay for the tax on basic necessities. Like the FairTax, only better. But make the income tax 25% on every dollar over $100,000 and 50% on every dollar over $1,000,000. No loopholes for the rich anymore. They benefit the most from the government, whose job it is to protect them (and their massive property) from the poor, so they should pay more. Even Adam Smith would agree. Tax only individuals, not corporations, which are really just legal fictions. Real small businesses that have employees will pay NO taxes. Watch the economy grow 10% in the first year alone. A REAL stimulus package for once.

11) End the only two legal pyramid schemes. Raise the full retirement age to 70 for those born after 1964. Use the VAT (see above) to pay for Social Security and Medicare instead of the FICA tax, means-test both programs, and replace the FICA tax with 7-8% compulsory savings in a national 401(k). A government-guaranteed one, backed by a new, means-tested Social Security. And invest at least some of the current trust funds in the stock market rather than IOUs. The market is low now. Buy low, sell high!

12) Pay off our $11 trillion (and growing) national debt in two years. Call it the Donald Trump Wealth Tax. 15% of the net worth of everyone with a net worth of $10 million or more each year for two years. And add a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution as well. No more deficits EVER, save for in extremis.

13) End the war in Iraq NOW. We got no business being there, we can't afford it, and they want us OUT. In fact, we never should have gone in the first place. We did what we could. Not ready after 6 years? Well THEY need to get out of the baby seat and into the driver's seat. Complete withdrawal within 12 months. Do the same in Afghanistan. Let God sort it out. Do you rip the band-aid off quick or slow? How do you ask a man (or woman) to be the last to die for a mistake?

14) Stop policing the world. Retire now from that position. The Founders are rolling over in their graves as we speak. We were NEVER designed for that, and the world got along just fine before we transitioned from a Constitutional republic to an unconstitutional empire starting with the Spanish-American War in 1898, fought under false pretenses. In 1917, the transition was complete when we joined WWI. This foreign policy often does more harm than good. Warmongering gets us nowhere in the long run. New (old) foreign policy: neutrality unless attacked or an imminent threat of foreign attack. Take care of our own first. Let other countries fight their own battles. Natural selection writ large.

15) Do NOT bring back the draft. It is involuntary servitude and thus violates the 13th Amendment. And end draft registration while we're at it, saving $26 million a year. A country than needs a draft to defend itself deserves to lose. But if we must bring it back, draft people in their 40s and 50s as well. They're the ones who start the wars, while the young do all the dying. And include women too. You want equality, you got it, buddy! And everything that goes with it.

16) Stop blindly supporting Israel in the Palestinian conflict. Both sides have blood on their hands and are equally to blame. That's a good 75% of "why they hate us" in the Islamic world. The rest is our warmongering, and of course the fact that we're infidels.

17) One million dollars combat zone death benefit for soldiers, and $500,000 per lost limb or vital organ. They earned it. Plus, that'll make our leaders think twice!

18) Abolish "don't ask, don't tell." Some of our most talented troops are as queer as a three dollar bill, and it is both unfair and foolish to kick them out for that.

19) Cut defense spending by 50% or more since we will no longer be an empire, but increase combat pay and veterans' benefits by at least 100%. Maintain armed neutrality.

20) Our healthcare system is broken. Let's join the rest of the civilized world and have free, universal, single-payer healthcare for everyone. No more greedy HMOs. We all have the right to live, no matter how poor one is.

21) Make college tuition at public colleges $1000 per year or less, or better yet make it free.  It's ridiculously high now, and has grown faster then inflation for decades, even as college has become more and more of a necessity. No one should ever be too poor to go to college. Plus, college-educated folks of all backgrounds are less likely to breed like jackrabbits, thus less overpopulation. Education is the ultimate contraceptive.

22) Put a heavy tariff on nearly all imports, especially cheap junk from China made by slave labor. Use the revenue to create jobs over here. Outsourcing is un-American. Buy American first!

23) End the cycle of poverty. We're the richest country in the world. Make work pay a living wage. Raise the minimum wage to $9.50/hr, equivalent to what it was in 1968 in real dollars.

24) If you need to be on welfare for more than a year, or unemployment benefits ran out, and still can't find a job, one will be given to you by the state. You will even get free childcare if necessary. Turn it down, and you just proved yourself a parasite. You're cut off for good. No more soup for you. NEXT!

25) No more corporate welfare or bailouts. No more rewarding bad behavior, greed, and stupidity. Those people are parasites too. Rich ones. No one is "too big to fail." Let them ALL fail--that's capitalism, buddy. Take your debt and choke on it, you greedy bastards!

26) Get tough on REAL crime. We'll have a lot more police and court resources, not to mention prison space, available to do so after abolishing laws against consensual, victimless crimes. Sentences should mean what they say. No more coddling murderers, rapists, muggers, white collar criminals, corrupt politicians, and their ilk. No "honor" killings, rape, domestic violence, child abuse, incest, or pedophilia can be tolerated from anyone in a civilized society. I don't care if it's part of your "culture" or religion. Do the crime, do the time. And bring back chain gangs while we're at it.

27) One American, One Vote. One dollar contribution per person maximum. Natural persons only. Get the big money out of politics for good.

28) Let Native Americans patrol the borders. They have the experience. They've been fighting terrorism since 1492!

29) All politicians should have to take a lie detector test when trying to make a case for war, and during all campaign speeches as well.

30) Abolish all or most of Title I of the federal Gun Control Act of 1968. Let states regulate most types of firearms instead, patterned after low-crime Vermont. Concealed carry for law-abiding citizens in all 50 states. Watch the crime rate drop even more. That's right--more guns, less crime. Hey ladies if you really wanna take back the night, support concealed carry.

31) Tax the hell out of bullets. No more 17-cent discount bullets at Wal-Mart. Chris Rock was right. Expensive bullets = no innocent bystanders.

32) Abolish all racist and sexist policies, including the type of reverse discrimination better known as "affirimative action." That works great at first, but before long it does more harm than good for all concerned. End it now. Hold everyone to the same standards, and do not exclude anyone based on the demographic group to which they belong. Enforce anti-discrimination laws like never before, without overcorrecting this time.

33) Two words--TORT REFORM. Shakespeare knew exactly what the problem was 500 years ago, and it is still a problem today--LAWYERS. That's one of the reasons healthcare costs are so high, and that pushes up insurance costs as well. Trial lawyers cannot treat patients. Also, every other aspect of life is negatively affected by lawsuit abuse.

34) Censorship sucks. No restrictions on TV programming after 11 pm. We got the V-chip don't we? And stop blaming rock, rap and video games for crime. Violent crime actually plummeted since 1991, especially among young people, and media of all kinds got progressively raunchier and gorier during that time. Teen pregnancy and even teen sex dropped as well, regardless of what the media pundits say. Bad parents are the real problem--let's hold them accountable for once!

35) Take young people seriously, and let them have at least as much freedom as the ruling Boomers had when they were young in the 1970s. Pretty soon Millennials will be in charge. Be nice to your kids; they get to choose your nursing home.

36) Either abolish all student, workplace, and government drug testing (except to determine acute intoxication/impairment), or start "non-punitively" testing members of Congress. And publish the results in the newspaper (and online) for the voters to see. Let the voters decide if Senator Snort Face should keep his job. Funny how drug-warrior and surveillance lover Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) voted against such an idea. Makes you wonder.

37) Let smokers smoke and obese people eat themselves into an early grave. European studies show that they actually SAVE society money by dying 10-20 years earlier than the rest of us. It's counterintuitive, but health care costs and Social Security will actually benefit from that. And smokers pay a lot in taxes as well. But roughly equalize the cigarette taxes among the states to discourage interstate smuggling, which is big money for Mafia and terrorists.

38) Say NO to smoking bans in bars. They're un-American. If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen!

39) Reject junk science and pseudoscience. It's a disgrace to real scientists everywhere, such as myself.

40) Get all the bad drivers, jerks, and reckless morons off the road. They're more than just a nuisance, they're a major public safety hazard as well. Two moving violations of any kind (other than seatbelt law) and your license gets suspended for up to 90 days. Three and it gets revoked for a year or more. The second revocation in 10 years will be permanent. Road test for new (and revoked) drivers should be like the British model--a study-proof, hour-long driving test that includes major highways. Not like the 5-minute parallel parking joke we have now. Driving on public roads is a privilege, not a right. Other countries understand that, so why can't we?

41) Maintain strict separation of church and state. It's what Jefferson would have wanted. Religion should never be the sole or primary justification for any public policy.

42) Abolish the Electoral College. It's an antiquated system that serves no useful purpose anymore. It gave us eight years of incompetence, debt, lies, and endless world strife, and we still have not recovered. Let the people decide, preferably by instant runoff voting to guarantee that any president elected will have majority support.

43) End the two-party system. Have proportional representation in the House of Representatives to give third parties a chance. But leave the Senate as is, with plurality voting, to remain a stabilizing force.

44) Above all, we shall preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. It is NOT just a piece of paper--it is the law of the land. And it trumps ALL other laws.

A Bill of Responsibilities

Our Constitution is great, but many feel that something appears to be lacking, even if you cannot quite put your finger on it. As Bill Maher said, "We have a Bill of Rights. What we need is a Bill of Responsibilities." For example, India's constitution has a section called "Fundamental Rights," similar to our Bill of Rights. But they also have a section called "Fundamental Duties," which, though it does not have force of law, is treated as a basic ethical code for the nation. In a similar vein, we propose the following Bill of Responsibilities, a list of patriotic duties which applies to all citizens and the government as well:

1) Be not a cancer on the earth. Leave room for nature, lest it not leave room for thee.
2) Be not a burden on future generations. They did not ask to be born, let alone born into debt.
3) Uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity, and integrity of the United States of America.
4) Safeguard public property and abjure violence other than immediate self-defense.
5) Defend the nation when necessary.
6) Value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture.
7) Develop the scientific temper, humanism, and the spirit of inquiry and reform.
8) Renounce all forms of racism, sexism, religious hatred, and any other types of prejudice and discrimination that are antithetical to a free and civilized society.
9) Leave the nation in better condition than you found it.
10) Above all, abide by the Constitution of the United States, and respect its ideals and institutions.

FAQ (Frequently Annoying Questions)

The following list of questions/answers can be divided into the following topics in this order:

Environment and Energy
Alcohol Policy
Drug Policy
Foreign Policy
National Service
Crime and Punishment
Higher Education
Civil Rights
Gun Control
Vehicle and Traffic Issues
Tort Reform
Science and Public Policy


Q1) So, are you pro-choice or pro-life?

A1) Both. We are pro-choice on virtually everything. What you do to your own body or mind is your own buisiness, not the government's. The general rule is that as long as you do not physically harm the person or property of nonconsenting others, or otherwise initiate force (or its cousin fraud) on others, you may do as you please. That is the essence of a free society. Live and let live. But YOU are fully responsible for the consequences, good or bad. Responsibility is the flip side of freedom. And the flip side of "live and let live" is "live and let die"--we must accept that some stupid people will eliminate themselves through natural selection. That is a given in any free society. And thus society evolves. Or for those with a more religious outlook, "let God sort it out."

At the same time, the TSAP is pro-life in the broadest sense of the term. Yes, abortion is at best a necessary evil, but banning it (or unduly restricting it) does more harm than good. We value quality of life more than quantity. We realize that not everyone should have kids, and doing so just because you think you have a duty to breed or whatever is foolish. Hey, if you really, really hate abortion, then you should (like we do) support free and easy access to birth control for all ages, emergency contraception, and honest sex education--the very things that "pro-lifers" often cringe at. Despite the fact that 90% of the population will fornicate at some point. And fix our ailing economy to reduce the financial pressure to abort. And then of course there's adoption. Do all these things and abortion really will be safe, legal and rare. We also understand that parental consent or notification laws often do more harm than good--illegal abortions still occur as a result in several states, with often fatal consequences. The Netherlands is a good model to follow instead of the hopelessly archaic one we have now.

It's also funny how many "pro-lifers" support the war in Iraq and the death penalty. We support neither, nor do we support the draft. You do not suddenly lose the right to live at 18 (or any age) that you had before. We also support measures to break the cycle of poverty, which causes far too many unnecessary deaths as it is. And finally, we recognize that overpopulation is one of the world's biggest problems, and, left unchecked, may very well lead to ecological disasters culminating in a population crash or "gigadeath" of BILLIONS a few decades from now. And that's to say nothing of the other species we share the planet with. Would allowing that to happen really be pro-life?

In a nutshell, we DO value life, but also liberty and pursuit of happiness. The very things that make life worth living. Live free or die!

Q2) But what about the children?

A2) What about them? I love these vague questions since they have an infinite number of answers. Most likely those who ask that question refer to our controversial stance on various consensual activities. When TSAP says "pro-choice on everything" we are generally referring to adults unless otherwise noted. Adults, by definition, have reached the age of consent for everything. Children, however, have not. Some things are perfectly fine for children to do. Other things are absolutely not. Still other decisions are best left to parents and not the government. I think John Stuart Mill said it best in his treatise On Liberty.

Q3) So at what age do you draw the line?

A3) Finally, a question that is not so vague. The TSAP believes that the age of majority means exactly what it says--an individual gains majority control over his or her life. Any and all remaining powers that parents have up until that point are transferred to the individual in full. Most (47) states have chosen 18 as the age of majority, and so does the TSAP. Our society has also agreed, for better or worse, that 18 is the voting age and the age to go to war, among other things. The Supreme Court even decided in Roper v. Simmons (2005), based on what they believed to be sufficient brain development, that 18 year olds can be executed. So 18 is the age of adulthood and therefore the general age of consent. Some age limits (or ages of consent) for certain activities may be lower than 18, but no age limits can be higher in a free society except for senior citizen age limits, or certain professions in which adulthood alone is necessary but not sufficient (e.g. President of a nuclear superpower). Those are the only exceptions. Anything else is unjust age discrimination. One cannot simultaneously be a minor and an adult. Obviously, this means that the drinking age should be no higher than 18.

Q4) But what about this gray area I've heard about called "adolescence"?

A4) Good you asked that. It is very gray indeed. For starters, many experts cannot even agree on a single definition of adolescence. Ages 12-18 is one, 10-20 is another, 8-24 is still another. We do not pretend to know the exact answer, nor affirm or deny that there may be some overlap with adulthood. But since we define adulthood at 18, and not a day later, we will stick with the first definition when answering the question.

Adolescents are not adults, but they are not children either. The word "adolescence" does not mean "abstain from everything." Rather it comes from the Latin word for "to grow." And how can one grow if one leads a completely sheltered life? It does them no service to leave them unprepared for adulthood. The gray area comes into play when we consider that, physically, psychologically, and emotionally, such individuals are not fully developed. There is a huge amount of development that occurs during these years. That said, our schizoid society currently gives adolescents the least amount of freedom (relative to adults) anywhere in the world, while routinely punishing them as adults (or worse) when they mess up. Our culture treats teenagers as children when they are good, and adults when they are bad. In most other industrialized nations, and even some semi-industrialized countries, nearly the opposite is true. And those civilizations have not collapsed as a result.

Q5) Hold on there, pinko. You sound really anti-American. Are you?

A5) Absolutely not! We love this country, yet we do not view it the way a 4 year old views his or her mother. We see all the cracks in the facade left by the past few generations of leadership. We see the absurdities that other countries laugh at. We see why we have so many problems. And we see what needs to be fixed. Thomas Jefferson said it best: "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism."

Q6) But dissent is NOT patriotic when it is calculated to provide aid and comfort to the enemy. That's Treason, and we hang people for that!

A6) Calm down there, killer. Calculated to provide aid and comfort to the enemy? It's always funny when people take the Constitution out of context. For the record, the TSAP has no intention to assist anyone who means harm to this country. We have our views on various issues, and we simply state them as is for all to see. Nothing is "calculated," and we adhere to no enemy of America. We would LOVE to see Bin Laden's head mounted on a wall in the Oval Office. If an enemy interprets our views the wrong way, or the "war effort" is somewhat hindered, so be it. That's the principle of double effect, and a downside to living in a free society. And we can't afford to let such fears have a chilling effect on the free exchange of ideas. If we need to do that to win a war, we would deserve to lose. That's un-American, and the Founders would be rolling over in their graves.

Q7) What do you mean by "consensual crimes"?

A7) We borrow the term from Peter McWilliams, who wrote Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in a Free Society. The term "victimless crime" has been misused and abused so much that McWilliams coined the new term in 1996. Basically, consensual crimes are currently illegal acts (among adults) that do not involve physically harming the persons or property of others, or otherwise using force or fraud on them. Examples include gambling, prostitution, pornography, drug use, underage drinking (ages 18-20), unorthodox medical practices, unusual religious practices, illicit sex, public drunkenness, loitering, vagrancy, jay-walking, skateboarding, and concealed carry. The term does NOT include drunk driving, reckless driving, trespassing, vandalism, disturbing the peace, obstructing traffic, littering, unlawful dumping, shoplifting, embezzlement, bribery, graft, tax evasion, insider trading, child abuse or neglect, deadbeat parents, harassment, or similar activities that some people consider to be victimless (all of these acts by definition have some victim somewhere).

Q8) What do you mean by "status offenses"?

A8) Status offenses are roughly the underage equivalent of consensual crimes. A status offense is any act that is illegal for a minor (under 18) to do, but legal for at least most adults. The term only refers to acts in which the minor himself is punished for participating in, and only acts that are illegal solely because of age. Examples include underage drinking (17 and under), underage smoking, underage possession of alcohol or cigarettes, underage gambling, curfew law violations, parental consent law violations, loitering, runaway, truancy, or some cases of the catch-all offenses of "disobedience", "unruly child", or "delinquency." The term also includes any acts that are illegal for both minors and adults, but are punished more severely for minors who commit them. The TSAP believes most status offenses should be decriminalized for the minors who engage in them, and some (such as curfew laws) should be stricken from the law books entirely.

Q9) What is the Law of Eristic Escalation?

A9) Borrowed from the pseudo-religion of Discordianism, the Law of Eristic Escalation states that imposition of order leads to escalation of chaos (disorder). Fenderson's Amendment further says that the tighter the imposed order is, the longer it takes chaos to escalate (but the more it does when it does). Thus a "chaos deficit" is created that will compound until it is paid off. By "imposition of order" is meant arbitrary and/or coercive imposition of order. After learning this, even the biggest moron on the planet can now understand politics to a large extent.

While the TSAP is not affiliated with Discordianism, we see that this law is empirically valid, and consistently so. Almost as consistent as the law of gravity. We observes that several concrete examples of such imposition of order from on high include Prohibition, the War on Drugs, gun control, censorship of any kind, and the 21 drinking age. And they all lead to escalation of chaos eventually without exception, though the new chaos may come in a different form.

Q10) But you support a "culture of death!" Not only do you want to keep abortion legal, but you want to legalize other harmful and sinful things!

A10) What exactly is a culture of death, anyway? Death is a part of life, so the dichotomy between a "culture of life" and a "culture of death," as usually defined, is a false one. Instead, we see it as a choice between a "culture of consent" and a "culture of coercion." We believe in a society with the least amount of coercion (government or private) possible for a civilized society to exist. That's why we're pro-choice on most issues, and support government coercion only when it is the lesser evil (relative to the private coercion it prevents) and narrowly limited to what is necessary. Unfortunately, sometimes self-determination leads to self-termination. But that is a small price to pay for liberty, with such natural selection being a side effect of such freedom. Live and let live, and live and let die--that is the essence of free will.

Q11) What is this "private coercion" you speak of?

A11) Unlike the Libertarian Party, we recognize that non-governmental entities, such as individuals, corporations, institutions, and organizations are capable of exercising undue coercion on individuals, which can be just as bad or worse than government coercion. Even the family, which is supposed to be a "haven in a heartless world," can have a dark side at times. As a result of this understanding, we find it appropriate for the state to take moderately coercive measures to prevent such private coercion, so long as the net effect is a reduction in overall coercion. Examples include minimum wage laws, anti-discrimination laws, and laws against domestic violence and child abuse. Also included are the various programs that make up the social safety net, that libertarians hate because they are funded by taxes (a form of government coercion).


Q1) You talk of overpopulation and the need to reduce it. But I was taught that's a myth! Spread by the evil population control conspiracy/eugenics movement/abortion industry/whatever. Worse, the real problem is that we aren't having enough kids to sustain the population, and we will have an underpopulation and aging crisis as a result. It's just like you selfish, hedonistic party animals that are really just too busy having fun to have kids, but hide behind "ecology" when you shirk your God-given duty to procreate. How could you be so blind?

A1) We're the ones who are blind to a crisis? Come on now. Here are the facts:

Overpopulation is NOT a myth! It's the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. And an aging and/or shrinking population is the LEAST of our problems, if it even is a problem. The UN predicts that, if the world's total fertility rate (TFR) drops to 1.85 children per woman (replacement is about 2.1 for developed countries, 2.4 otherwise) as predicted, the world's population will peak at around 9 billion, then gently decline afterward. But if the fertility rate stays as is, at 2.6, we will keep growing, surpass 12 billion by 2050, and even reach the trillions by 2300. Obviously, such growth is ridiculously unsustainable, and even the current size of 6.7 billion is well above the world's carrying capacity according to several scientists. Cornell scientist Dr. David Pimentel (and others) argue that the world's carrying capacity can handle at most 2-3 billion in the long term at a fairly decent standard of living, or 1 billion if everyone lived like us wasteful Americans. The optimum size for the USA is 150-200 million, like it was in 1950. Peak oil, global warming, deforestation, soil erosion, pollution, food shortages, water shortages, disease--you name it, overpopulation will make it WORSE. And every cause will become a lost cause with runaway population growth. Do finally you get it now?

It is true that Europe (TFR 1.5) and Japan (TFR 1.2) have sub-replacement fertility, and are either shrinking now or will shrink fairly soon. But that's GOOD--have you seen how crowded it is in those countries? It's like a fat person needing to lose weight. However, America is 2.1, right at replacement, despite falling to 1.7-1.8 in the 1970s, and due to massive immigration we will keep on growing from the current 308 million to 450 million by 2050. We will both age and grow--not exactly the best combination. And while most of the Third World has had declining fertility, it is still well above replacement. In fact, Africa still has fertility rates of 5+ in several countries. And that is part of the reason (not the only reason of course) they are stuck in the vicious cycle of severe poverty.

As for hedonism and selfishness, if that is the reason people are having fewer kids (or delaying childbearing), so be it. Such people make terrible parents anyway. And natural selection will weed such people out since they will be outbred by the unselfish, assuming selfishness is the primary reason for reduced fertility. Surely a less selfish human race would be preferable to the one we have now?

Doctors have their own word for the oxymoronic term "sustainable growth." It's called CANCER.
Q2) OK. But a shrinking population, or even just an aging one, would surely destroy the economy, and even Western Civilization. How could you be for that?

A2) First of all, Russia, Japan, and Germany both grew economically and shrank demographically at the same time in the early and mid 2000s, until they joined the rest of the (still growing) world in recession. While the potential for GDP growth will be reduced by a shrinking population, GDP can still grow if productivity per worker (caused by technological growth) continues at its current rate. Efficiency may even increase with a smaller population. And even if GDP declines, GDP per capita (more important) will most likely increase, as long as the population shrinks faster than the economy. Pyramid scheme pensions (that's what they really are) can be reformed, and so can healthcare. Taxes need not rise as much as predicted to pay for the old folks, if at all. Infrastructure, roads, parks, schools, hospitals, police, fire departments--remember that all these things cost more the bigger a population is. Even population aging has some benefits--reduced crime, reduced violence, fewer crazy radicals.

And what if the economy did stop growing? Would that really be the end of the world? We NEED to end our addiction to growth for the sake of growth. We cannot keep growing forever, even economically. Resources are finite. Growth once used to be a means to an end, now it has become an end in itself. And with a stable or declining population, economic growth will no longer be necessary, and we could have a steady-state economy with no inflation, low interest rates, low unemployment, and reduced resouce consumption.

Q3) But isn't the real problem just overconsumption? Can't we just cut that?

A3) Hey, are you willing to live like the Amish? Or the Third World? Because otherwise even our current population size, let alone any larger, is unsustainable in the long run. The ecological benefits of a shrinking population cannot be overstated. And it is GOOD that the developed world will shrink in population first and fastest, since they have the greatest impact due to their gargantuan consumption patterns (too bad America is not shrinking as well). This is progress, people! Yes, per capita consumption needs to go down as well, If we cut our consumption in half, but allow the population to double, we've made zero progress despite a reduced standard of living. And yes, we still need cut America's currently excessive consumption and improve efficiency, as well as gently shrink our population.

Q4) How would you reduce the population?

A4) It would be done through a combination of education, non-coercive tax and financial incentives, and easy availability of birth control. The TSAP does not believe in the use of force for the purposes of population control. It violates the principles of a free society, and we condemn any society that uses such methods.

Q5) Are you part of the eugenics movement?

A5) No. Eugenics is the practice of selectively breeding humans, similar to the way we breed animals, to produce desirable traits. It is artificial selection, and the TSAP does not believe in that as it inevitably requires coercion to some degree. We do, however, believe in allowing natural selection to run its course as long as individuals do not violate the rights of others. We refuse to deprive the general population (or entire demographic groups) of liberty just to protect the dumbest from themselves. That is not the government's job. We believe in a level playing field for everyone, but we reject paternalism as that is antithetical to a free society.

A common myth is that Charles Darwin supported eugenics. In reality he did not, but his cousin Francis Galton did. In fact, Galton coined the term himself.

Q6) What is your position on euthanasia and assisted suicide?

A6) The word "euthanasia" (literally, "good death" in Greek) has more than one meaning. The TSAP unequivocally condemns all forms of non-voluntary euthanasia, whether passive (e.g. plug-pulling without a living will authorizing it) or active (e.g. injecting with a deadly drug). Non-voluntary euthanasia includes anyone who is forced, coerced, deceived, incompetent, or under the age of majority (18). Even for truly voluntary euthanasia, we do not support any active methods in which the patient is killed by another person as that has much too high a potential for abuse. The TSAP does not take a position on assisted suicide.

Q7) It's people like you who believe everyone should have healthcare and such that are responsible for the inevitable coming world collapse due to overpopulation. Why don't we just raise healthcare costs, let the poor die off due to lack of healthcare, and let the rich control the resources?

A7) Because that would be unethical. Either lowering the birth rate or raising the death rate will reduce the population. Encouraging others to voluntarily having fewer kids is the only ethical way to do so. Deliberately raising the death rate, or culling by poverty, has no place in a civilized society.

Q8) But won't technology save us all?

A8) The cornucopian view does not take into account that resources are finite, and there is no "planet B." However, the neo-Luddites have also got it wrong. We support all beneficial technology, but we also realize that technology has its limits. In logical terms, it is necessary, but not sufficient. Technology will be very important to solving our problems for sure, but it won't be decisive. We need to reduce our population and excessive consumption as well.

Environment and Energy

Q1) Why do you support nuclear power? Nuclear is dangerous and bad for the environment. Let's stick with solar and wind, shall we?

A1) Because it is the ONLY practical way we will get off of fossil fuels, which are much worse for the environment and will run out eventually. Renewables can only make up a fraction of the energy needs currently filled by fossil fuels, and it is a pipe dream to assume otherwise. A mixture of both is therefore essential. The "everything nuclear is bad" meme needs to die NOW. The dangers of nuclear energy are grossly exaggerated, and any plants built today will be even safer than the ones that currently exist. A coal-fired power plant, even "clean coal," emits more radiation than a properly functioning nuclear plant. Nuclear power also has a very low carbon footprint, even lower than solar photovoltaic. The waste could be put in Yucca Mountain, but the powers that be don't like that, so it has not been done yet.
Unless we're willing to live like the Amish, of course.

Q2) How will you reduce global warming and other ecological crises?

A2) Quite simply, we will tax the hell out of energy sources that contribute the most to such problems (oil, coal), and use that to subsidize the cost of renewables and nuclear power. We will "de-de-regulate" energy production as well to ease the burden on the less fortunate. Energy rates will be graduated so those that use the most (energy hogs like Al Gore) pay the highest rates. Some of the tax revenue will go to research and development of alternative energy as well.

The federal gas tax per gallon will go up by a penny each week until we change our ways, and when the national average average pump price of gas goes above $3.50/gallon, a monthly prebate of $25 will be sent to every licensed driver with an annual income below the poverty line, or below $50,000 and who has to commute a distance of 20 miles or more to work four or more days per week (or drive the equivalent mileage on the job). Revenue will be used to subsidize public transportation and alternative energy, as well as highways.

CAFE standards will be raised to 40 mpg by 2012, 50 mpg by 2015, and 100 mpg by 2030. With no apologies to GM or Ford. Plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles will be subsidized, as will natural gas vehicles to help get us off of oil.

We will put a stop to deforestation, and gradually reverse it. For every tree felled for any reason, we must plant several more. We will tax non-recycled paper products to encourage conservation. We could switch to industrial hemp as a replacement for wood as well.

And of course, our population really needs to not just stop growing, but eventually shrink as well. See Population section for more info.

Q3) What will we do about oil?

A3) Unfortuately. America is addicted to oil, mostly of the foreign variety. However, going cold turkey will lead to an economic collapse, and failure to develop alternatives will result as well. Business as usual, on the other hand, will eventually force us to go cold turkey when we are on the other side of the peak. The withdrawal is just too bad. As crazy as it sounds, we actually need oil to get us off the stuff. Or at least some kind of liquid fuel that is plentiful, relatively cheap, and can easily replace it. The latter does not yet exist except for coal-to-liquids, which is worse for the environment than petroleum and should only be a last resort. Remember that even nuclear will take time to build all those plants, and for the next few decades there will still be some need for liquid fuels. Manufacture of solar panels, wind turbines, and uranium mining/extraction all require fossil energy, at least at first. We have to be realistic.
Foreign oil is the worst thing to be dependent on since it is a national security risk, and we need to phase that out first. That will be the TSAP's highest priority for energy policy. Our methadone will be drilling for oil in Alaska and offshore, as well as extracting shale oil from the Rocky Mountains. If done responsibly, that will likely tide us over until the majority of cars on the road become electric and all the new nuclear plants are built and all renewable energy is fully developed and online. We hope to have a 100% clean-energy economy (including nuclear) and reach ZPG or less by 2030 at the latest. With enough political will, we could do it.

Other sources of non-conventional oil include algae-derived green crude, as well as thermal depolymerization of garbage.

Q4) How about biofuels? Are they part of the solution as well?

A4) That depends, since biofuels are a mixed bag overall. Corn ethanol is clearly a joke, as is the idea that used french-fry grease will power all the nation's diesel vehicles. Corn ethanol subsidies should be cut as it is wasteful. Sugarcane ethanol is 8 times more efficient than corn in terms of EROEI, and the tariff on imported ethanol from Brazil should be lifted at once. We can even grow our own sugarcane in 4 states, and grow sugar beets (the next best thing) in every state south of the Mason-Dixon line. Yeah, the price of sugar may go up, but we eat too much sugar anyway. Cellulosic biofuels (switchgrass, agricultural waste, municipal solid waste) need to be better developed as well. And we should also look into butanol, a biofuel that can be put into many gasoline engines neat with no modification, unlike ethanol. But all traditional crop-based biofuels require land, water, and, yes, fossil fuel energy inputs. All of which are also needed for the food supply. So there are serious limiting factors to consider.

The best form of biofuel will be algae fuel. Ethanol, butanol, biodiesel, biogasoline, and even crude oil can be made from certain kinds of algae. Wastewater works just fine in the tanks, and it provides nutrients for the algae to grow. Growth media can also be reused. And it requires only 1/10 of the land needed to make the same amount of fuel as traditional biofuels.

But remember, we must not let biofuels become a distraction from the numerous other things that need to be done to save the planet and secure our energy supply. Obviously, we should not cut down forests just so we can grow more biofuel crops, as is done in some countries now.


Q1) You talk about taxing the rich more heavily. Why in the world would you want to punish success? Do you have class envy? Or are you just a pinko?

A1) Ah, the most common straw man arguments. It's not about envy or punishing "success." The rich often say, "Waaaahhh, I don't waaaaanna pay taxes, waaaahhh!" Hey buddy, taxes are the price we pay for civilization. Get used to it. The rich can damn well afford to be taxed a LOT more than they are now, with all the intricate loopholes we have. They benefit the most from the government since they have so much property to protect. They get tons of social advantages (dare we say privilege) from simply having a lot of dough. And so it's only fair that they pay more than the rest of us, regardless of how they got their wealth. Even Adam Smith, the father of capitalism, would agree. And he's no "pinko" or socialist.

Q2) Rob from the rich, destroy the economy. Am I wrong?

A2) Yes, you are very wrong indeed. The poor and middle class are the ones most likely to spend any money they don't pay in taxes, while the rich tend to save and/or invest it. Consumer spending is 70% of the GDP, government spending (from taxes) is 20%, while investment is a mere 10%. So whose money really holds up the economy? You do the math. It's also better for business to tax the super-rich CEO's themselves instead of corporate profits. With little or no corporate tax, America will once again become a tax haven for business.

Q3) But wouldn't a flat tax be better? Everyone would pay an equal percentage, right? And a person who makes a million a year would pay 100 times as much as someone who makes $10,000. Even Russia has a flat tax.

A3) The rich would pay more in dollars, like they do now, but remember that the value of money is relative. Taxing a poor person at a rate of even 10% hurts them significantly more than taxing a millionaire at 50%. A progressive tax just makes more sense than a flat tax. A person who makes, say, $2 million a year and pays 50% would still be rich, while a person who makes $10,000 a year will have $1000 less that they would otherwise use to pay for rent or food if taxed at 10% on every dollar. Ouch. And to be revenue-neutral with a flat tax (without a VAT or sales tax), we would need a rate of at least 25%, or higher if there is a standard deduction. And that assumes there will be at least some corporate tax too, and no loopholes either. Russia's flat tax is 13% AND they have a VAT of 18%. Since they don't have a prebate, that combination is really hard on the poor. And their economic miracle of the early 2000s could best be explained by oil, not the flat tax.

Q4) We tried the Gold Standard before. And it led to the Great Depression. Why should we bring it back?

A4) The Depression happened because the Feral Reserve printed WAY too much paper money in the 1920s, more than there was gold with which to back it. So it was NOT a true gold standard, but rather a fractional reserve system. When a fairly mild recession occurred in August 1929, the Fed raised interest rates instead of cutting them, all to prop up the overvalued dollar. The stock market crash in October 1929 was caused by a speculative stock bubble bursting (popped by the Fed), and the recession was caused by the normal business cycle after a period of unsustainable growth. That knocked the dollar down even more, and gold was trading for much more than the legal price on the black market as a result. But there were too many dollars in circulation relative to gold, so the Fed choked off the money supply just as the economy desperately needed MORE liquidity. The Jow Dones began rising in 1930. But the Fed kept on raising rates, in a futile attempt to prevent a run on the dollar, even after the Dust Bowl in 1930. And so it became a depression rather than the relatively mild recession it should have been. In 1933, FDR signed the Gold Act, confiscating all the people's gold bullion to store it in Fort Knox (it's still there now), and the gold standard was subsequently abandoned. Without the yoke of the fractional gold standard, the Fed finally cut interest rates (printed more money), and the economy slowly recovered.

Then in 1946, an international quasi-gold standard, the Bretton-Woods system, was instituted. By 1971, the Feral Reserve was printing too much money yet again to pay for the Vietnam War, stagflation began, and Bretton-Woods failed. Nixon severed any link between the dollar and gold, and allowed our currency to "float." Stagflation worsened to the point where the Fed in 1982 engineered a recession to stop the double-digit inflation. It worked, but inflation still existed, and rebounded in the 2000s. The dollar is worth a lot less now than it was even a decade ago as a result. A dollar now is the equivalent of a NICKEL 100 years ago. And it is not backed by anything tangible at all!

What we propose is a full-reserve, true gold standard, with maybe a secondary metal like silver. Every single dollar in circulation will have enough precious metal to back it up. And no more Feral Reserve either. Their responsibilities, money supply and interest rates, will be returned to their rightful owner, Congress. As per the Constitution. And the Treasury is the only "national bank" or "lender of last resort" we really need, and the only one authorized by the Constitution. Say hello to real stability, prosperity, and freedom.

Q5) The VAT you propose sounds complicated. Why not just a national sales tax?

A5) To replace the income tax for the bottom 95% of the population, have a prebate, and be revenue-neutral, we would need a sales tax rate of at least 25%. That's like the FairTax idea of 30%, but we will have an loophole-free income tax for the rich, so 25% should suffice. Problem is that when the rate goes north of about 11%, evasion skyrockets, and so a sales tax of 25% would not collect anywhere near as much as it should, especially in the Internet age. No state has been able to circumvent this problem to date. A VAT, on the other hand, taxes each stage of production, so the entire supply chain would have to be in collusion to meaningully evade such a tax. In contrast to a traditional sales tax, numerous countries (such as in Europe) have a VAT in the 20-30% range with minimal evasion. And since it would be included in the posted price, there is no sudden sticker shock at the register. If implemented gradually over a few years, it will feel no different than moderate inflation during those years, and then it will become the "new normal." Just so you know, the end consumer pays the same under a 25% VAT as they would under a 25% traditional sales tax.

Q6) What will be taxed under the VAT you propose? And what will the "prebate" be like?

A6) Virtually all goods and services for which money is exchanged will be taxed at a rate of 25% with an additional 5% for luxuries. The only exceptions will be rental real estate, financial services, legal fees, investment purchases (stocks, bonds, gold, silver, etc.) and tuition at public schools/colleges. All those are much too awkward to tax via VAT, and part of the rent you pay already goes to pay the landlord's property taxes. Unlike the FairTax, we will refrain from taxing the first three, but we will tax tuition at private colleges (a luxury) to help pay for public ones. Items sold over the Internet will be taxed the same as those sold in brick-and-mortar stores, and states that choose to "harmonize" their sales tax with the proposed federal VAT will finally be able to tax Internet sales for which such states the goods are the destination.

Generally, paying the tax will ultimately be the responsibility of the seller if it fails to be collected at the point of sale, rather than the buyer. But individuals and businesses who buy and import items from overseas worth more than $100 each, or totaling more than $1000 a year, that will be used within the United States, will be required to remit directly to the government the difference between the combined federal/state tax and the sales tax or VAT paid to the other country.

To make the VAT less regressive and more progressive, we borrow from the FairTax the concept of the "prebate." It will be enough cover the tax on basic necessities at the poverty line. It will be calculated from the official Federal poverty line as updated each year, and will be an annual rate of 20% of that number (remember that rent will not be taxed). The monthly payment will be 1/12 of that each month. So if you are living below the poverty line, you will pay negative taxes, but it will be a LOT simpler than the earned income tax credit. If you have children under 18, they will be counted in the household for determining the rate. After 18, they will not count toward the parents' prebate, but they can claim their own prebate if and only if they receive less than 50% of their financial support from a parent or other older relative. So if you're 30 and are still mooching/leeching off your parents, you get no prebate, and thus effectively pay more in taxes than an independent person the same age (who will get the prebate). That's only fair.

Q7) You say you want to raise the minimum wage to reduce poverty. By my economics professor told me that will increase unemployment, hurting the very people it is supposed to help. Who should I believe?

A7) The short answer is, relax. The long answer is a bit more complicated. A minimum wage is the equivalent of a price floor for labor, and many experts say if the minumum is above the market equilibrium, it will reduce demand for labor, leading to unemployment. The equilibrium chart you see in textbooks is somewhat flawed in that it fails to take into account monopsony (or oligopsony) power. With one buyer of labor (employer) and many sellers (employees), they can easily drive the equilibrium prices (wages) way down, distorting the curve and leading to a "race to the bottom." Monopsonies (oligopsonies) will always pay as low as they can legally get away with, especially for unskilled workers that have little political clout and can be easily replaced. Yes, you can always price some jobs out of the market if you raise the floor high enough. But the majority of minimum wage jobs are "support" jobs with very low elasticity of demand, and such workers will still have jobs regardless of how high the minimum is, but will be paid more. The rest may or may not be reduced, but only the worst jobs would be eliminated, the kind that are really better off being automated (and likely will be). Most likely, roughly the same number of better jobs will be created as well. And only those workers with less than a high school education need worry at all about being priced out of the market--so don't be a fool, stay in school. Also, the greater purchasing power of low-wage workers will help the economy since they are more likely to spend their money than the rich CEOs. And besides, we can always repair the social safety net as well for those who need it.

In other words, on balance, raising the minimum wage will benefit everyone in the long run, especially the poor.

Q8) You mean $9.50/hr for a 17 year old working part time at McDonalds? That's ludicrous! Kids these days are spoiled enough already!

A8) That's a pretty sweeping (and ageist) generalization about "kids these days." First of all, not all 17 year olds are spoiled, and the ones that are generally don't work since they get so much dough from their parents. Second of all, most people who work at minimum wage jobs are adults who work full time, many of whom have families to support. If some people get more than they deserve in the process of raising the standard of living for those who depend on those jobs, so be it. It's better than the alternative. And plenty of rich people make salaries that are many times what they really deserve, often to the detriment of their overworked and underpaid employees.

Teenagers are not hired preferentially by most companies; in fact the opposite is often true since there are so many restrictions in terms of labor laws for them, and many adults hate and/or fear that demographic group. So most of the benefits of raising the minimum wage will go to adults who actually need the jobs, and teenagers may even be priced out of the market. The best way to solve this issue would be to have a somewhat lower rate (say, $8.50) for workers under 18, and even less (say, $7.50) for the first 90 days. Workers under 18 have special restrictions which can burden employers, and turnover is high for this age group as well, so it is reasonable to have a lower minumum wage. And they would still be making more than they do now. Of course, too much lower would dramatically undercut adults who desperately need those jobs to survive. For those over 18 (or whatever the "unrestricted" age shall be), however, it should be equal pay for equal work, the same as a 30 year old would get.

Q9) But won't the "invisible hand" of the free market guide us all in the right direction? Why is any type of economic regulation or intervention necessary?

A9) The "invisible hand" often is beneficial. But sometimes it can snatch your wallet, or worse. Let's face it, markets are amoral. To prevent the rich from preying upon the poor, and the strong from preying upon the weak, some degree of regulation is necessary. Think about what would happen without antitrust laws. The rich and powerful would form monopolies, and/or vertical integration, and have no check on their massive power over resources. They could economically coerce anyone they want using such power. Does that sound like a "free market" to you? Or more like a giant game of "king of the hill" in which nearly everyone loses in the end? Fear of constraints is sometimes a constraint in itself. Of course, overregulation causes its own set of problems, and therein lies the balancing act.

Q10) You sound like a real tax-and-spend liberal. How dare you!

A10) We may have some things in common with the archetype you mention, but we do not consider that to be an insult. At least we're not borrow-and-spend (pseudo)conservatives like Bush and Cheney, who incessantly mortgaged the future and thus screwed the next few generations.

Q11) But won't America, and indeed the world, be better off with free trade than with tariffs?

A11) First of all, what some people call "free trade" is really not "free" when you think about it. Huge multinational corporations control such trade in the age of globalization. These companies are loyal to no one country. What we have now is in effect an oligopoly of goods/services and an oligopsony of labor employment.

Second of all, America now has a massive trade deficit, the largest in the world. Because of the numerous things we do not manufacture anymore, but rather import from overseas. And even "American" companies outsource manufacturing to countries where people work for next to nothing and environmental laws are lax. The rich get the benefits, while the rest of us get laid off as jobs go to China or India and never come back. First it was the blue-collar factory workers that got hosed by all this. But now, the some erstwhile complacent white-collar workers are meeting the same fate. We are now a two-tier service economy--highly paid paper pushers and highly skilled and educated professionals at the top, unskilled low-wage workers at the bottom (want fries with that?), and a rapidly shrinking middle class. It used to be that the average high school graduate with even a C average had a good chance of landing a decent job and doing at least as well as their parents, even without going to college. Now, not even a college degree with a decent GPA is a guarantee of anything anymore. Social mobility has but one direction now--DOWN.

Anyone who says that we will all be paper pushers or professionals in the "new economy" has their head in an anatomically impossible position. We need our middle class, blue-collar jobs back NOW. Or at least stop the bleeding. And the best way to do that is with protective tariffs. And the revenue can either be used to create jobs over here, or replace the lost revenue from cutting corporate taxes over here. Of course, in the long run, only education will save us from getting left in the dust by other countries. So let's get to work!

Alcohol Policy

(For more in-depth info about the drinking age, see our other blog, Twenty-One Debunked)

Q1) You gotta be insane to want to lower the drinking age! If anything, we should raise it. Do you really want to see more teenagers getting killed on the highways? Because that's what would happen, all else being equal.

A1) No, we don't want to see more teenagers getting killed, on or off the highways. And who says all else has to be equal, anyway? We doubt that there would be any increase in fatalities in the long run. But just in case there's a short-term increase, all else being equal, we have built-in safeguards to our alcohol policy (raising the beer tax, increased education, cracking down on drunk driving, etc.) to prevent this from occurring. We could also lower the age gradually as well. Thus the net effect of our policy will likely be death reduction, not increase. And who would be against that?

Your fears are based on junk science and misinformation. See question 2 for more information.

Q2) Studies have proven that the 21 drinking age law saves lives on the highways. Science speaks for itself. Why would you want to get rid of it?

A2) Which studies are you referring to? The ones quoted by MADD ad nauseum? Not all studies agree on the matter. Anyone who says "science" is entirely on one side of an issue should make our collective antennae go up immediately. In fact the studies are almost evenly split on the matter. Take a look at the following studies that debunk the myth of 21 saving lives:

Males (1986)
Asch and Levy (1987)
Asch and Levy (1990)
Dee and Evans (2001)
Miron and Tetelbaum (2007)

Asch and Levy found in their first study that the drinking age had no significant (or even perceptible) effect on either 18-20 year old traffic fatalities or all-ages fatalities. Even when single-vehicle nighttime crashes were studied. Their second study did not show a conclusive relationship between drinking age and fatality rates. Dee and Evans found that, after controlling for several confounders and fixed effects, a drinking age of 21 did reduce fatalities slightly for 18-19 year olds, but increased them for 22-24 year olds, merely shifting the deaths a few years into the future. No net lifesaving effect. Males got similar results using different methodology, finding that there is not only a "seesaw effect" between age groups, but a higher age leads to a net increase in fatalities overall. The TSAP speculates that the longer the drunk drivers live, the more of a chance of killing others in a crash. And Miron and Tetelbaum found that, after controlling for numerous confounders and fixed effects, only the first few states to raise the drinking age to 21 voluntarily saw any statistically significant reduction in 18-20 year old fatalities, while many of the coerced adopters saw no change or even increases. And even for the early adopters, there was a rebound after the first two years of the higher drinking age. Again, no net lifesaving effect in the long run. These studies essentially prove the Law of Eristic Escalation (See General Question 9 for more info).

But what about high school kids? Contrary to popular opinion, Miron and Tetelbaum also found little to no effect of the drinking age on high school drinking as well after controlling for confounders. It appears that they are willing to drink regardless. In fact, they found that the higher the drinking age, the more 17 year old (and under) driver fatalities there were!

Still don't believe us? Even in some of the studies that do suggest lifesaving effects, we also learn that the beer tax has a lifesaving effect as well. Ponicki et al (2008) even found that, while the drinking age does have a small effect, there is a negative "interaction" between the drinking age and the beer tax: the higher one is, the less effective the other is in reducing fatalities. Their model suggested that if the beer tax is high enough, the drinking age becomes irrelevant or even counterproductive. The TSAP recommends raising the combined federal and state beer taxes to $2.00/gallon in conjunction with lowering the drinking age to 18. Another reason to take a chill pill.

As for why we want to lower the drinking age, here's the top ten list of reasons:

10) Legal age 21 doesn't work. The odds of being busted are about 1 in 1000. 90% of the population will drink at least once before turning 21. Even 8th graders can get their hands on alcohol, and more easily than even cigarettes.
9) Legal age 21 is such a failure that it requires more and more ancillary laws (e.g. dram shop, social host liability, keg registration, etc.) to prop it up, creating their own set of problems.
8) Legal age 21 turns alcohol into a "gateway" drug.
7) Legal age 21 creates big profits for the fake ID industry, which supports organized crime and even terrorism.
6) Legal age 21 forces drinking underground, leading to more dangerous and/or deadly drinking. 5) Attempting to enforce legal age 21 is a huge waste of resources that could be better spent on education, treatment, and DUI enforcement, which are currently under-resourced.
4) Legal age 21 blurs the line between responsible and irresponsible drinking, and even encourages the latter at the expense of the former. Stupid drinking is common partly because intelligent drinking is illegal.
3) Legal age 21 makes criminals out of otherwise law-abiding citizens, and breeds disrespect for law and authority.
2) Because 18-20 year olds are adults. And adults are sovereign in body and mind, and shouldn't have to be protected from themselves. That alone is reason enough.
1) It's a cliche, but if you're old enough to go to war, you're old enough to go to the bar. Anything else is un-American.

Many of these are the same reasons America decided to repeal Prohibition in 1933. How quickly we forget the hard lessons of that unfortunate era. When you criminalize normative drinking, you inevitably normalize dangerous drinking. And we are all paying a heavy price for it.

Q3) How about making it so 18-20 year olds can get a provisional "drinking license" or "learner's permit" after taking an alcohol education course? That way it will be like driving, and those who abuse the privilege will lose it. Surely that would be better that letting them have full drinking rights at 18?

A3) The TSAP does not support the idea of a "drinking license" or "drinking learner's permit" of any kind for legal adults. We believe that 18 year olds, as full legal adults, should have all the same rights that 21 year olds currently have. And yes, unlike driving on public property, sovereignty over one's own body is a right, not a privilege. And the power to license a right is the power to take it away, often arbitrarily. Ok you say, but what if all adults were required to have a license to drink? And what else should we license? Breeding? Leaving one's house? And there's the slippery slope. Furthermore, no country in history has ever had anything like that before--it is a completely unprecedented, ivory tower idea. And a huge can of worms. Do we really want to turn drinking into the same kind of rite of passage that driving is? How would we possibly be able to enforce it if we can't even enforce the policy we have now? Enter Big Brother.

As for alcohol education, it would have to begin a LOT earlier than 18 to be effective. Parents are the ideal alcohol educators, and they should thus be allowed to give their kids alcohol as they see fit to introduce them to it gradually before they turn 18. That's what is done in Europe, and it appears to work fine. But that would obviously not be the case for everyone, or even most kids, so the schools have to step up to the plate as well to provide honest and accurate alcohol education (without handing out booze of course). And such education would be funded by the increased beer tax we propose. Those who say education doesn't work are basing their judgments on the current failed temperance-oriented approach.

Q4) But America is not Europe. We got a lot of problems with alcohol, and lowering the drinking age will just make them worse. They may very well be able to handle it just fine over there, but we can't.

A4) True, America is not Europe, but we're not New Zealand either. We have no illusions that lowering the drinking age will magically transform our drinking culture overnight into one like France. It should be noted that that line of reasoning is also a straw man. It does not follow that things will necessarily get worse by legalizing what most 18-20 year olds already do illegally. Fortunately, we have a yardstick for what would likely have happened had we not raised the drinking age in the 1980s, and we need only look north to see it. It's called Canada. They have a similar drinking culture and drinking history to the United States, and they are a car culture like us as well. And they saw an equivalent alcohol-related fatality decline as us, without raising the drinking age to 21. Their civilization did not collapse. Australia saw an even faster decline, and their drinking age has been 18 since the early 1970s. And they party pretty hard down under. But they're tougher than we are on drunk driving. And in both countries, the drunk driving fatality rate is half of what ours is.

Q5) But we don't have the public transport infrastructure needed to handle all those 18 year olds drinking legally. Nor could we afford it. What makes you think they won't drive drunk given the lack of options?

A5) And you think Canada (see above) or Australia does? Do you think we have the infrastructure needed to handle all those 21+ year olds drinking legally, which greatly outnumber America's 10 million 18-20 year olds and are more likely to have cars? Or all those under 21 who currently drink illegally as we speak? Come on now! And a lack of public transit options is no excuse to drive drunk and endanger the lives of innocent people. Get a designated driver, call a cab, or even walk if you have to. Or don't drink--nobody's got a gun to your head. And why punish all for the actions of the few?

(As an aside, you should also read point #1 of the TSAP platform if you are as interested in improving public transportation as we are.)

Q6) But wouldn't a higher beer tax be punishing the moderate drinking majority for the actions of alcohol abusers?

A6) The tax burden (as a percentage of income) would fall hardest on the heaviest drinkers, as it should. They are the ones who generate the largest social costs, so they should pay more. Moderate drinkers would not be hurt by paying an extra dollar on a six-pack, but someone who has a six-pack every day would be set back a bit. True, the majority of drinkers drink in moderation, but the majority of alcohol is consumed by heavy drinkers. 20% or the population consumes about 80% of the alcohol. Partly because booze is so cheap in America compared to other countries. Numerous studies have shown that demand for alcohol, and its attendant social problems, is inversely related to price. In other words, unlike the 21 drinking age, a higher beer tax would encourage moderation, not punish it.

Q7) But alcohol taxes are regressive, and they hurt the poor. Why would you want to do that?

A7) Technically, the tax burden (as a percentage of income) will be somewhat higher on the poor, assuming they drink like those with higher incomes do. (Actually, the affluent tend to drink more than the poor.) But you would need to drink quite a lot to actually be hurt by a beer tax of $2.00/gallon. Alcohol is a luxury. If you are willing to spend ludicrous amounts of money on ludicrous amounts of beer when you can barely afford rent or food, that's your problem. If you can't afford to get trashed on a regular basis, maybe you should cut down.

Q8) We tried lowering the drinking age in 30 states the 1970s, and alcohol-related fatalities went up among teenagers. So much so that they had to raise the drinking age later. What makes you think that won't happen again?

A8) First of all, we don't really know if that statement is even true to begin with, and we probably never will. Only a few decent-quality studies examined the years 1970-1975, the years in which 29 of the 30 states lowered the drinking age (Oklahoma did in 1976). The Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), which gives detailed reports about traffic fatalities, was not even created until 1975, and state-level data were not available through that system until 1976. So any conclusions drawn from state-level data for 18-20 year olds before 1976 is questionable at best. And any "alcohol-related fatality" data before 1982 is unreliable since FARS did not make this distinction until that year, and a state that tested even 50% of fatal crash drivers for alcohol was considered stellar back then. Garbage in, garbage out.

From 1970-1975, any alleged increase in fatalities was imperceptible in the aggregate data. Using data from the National Safety Council, national 15-24 year old fatalities peaked in 1969, then declined sharply until 1975. From 1976-1980, fatalities rose somwhat, and declined from then on. The same was true for 18-20 year olds after 1976, when that group was separated out by FARS and the two groups are highly correlated. But the increase in the late 70s also occurred in states like California, which kept their drinking age at 21 throughout.

So all state-level data for 18-20 year olds before 1976 must be gleaned from other sources, and some states had data problems for this period. And here's the grain of truth of it all. It is true that some states that lowered their drinking ages saw increases in reported 18-20 year old fatalities from 1970-1975. But other states that lowered their drinking ages saw either no significant change or sharp decreases in such deaths. And North Dakota saw an increase despite keeping their drinking age at 21, while South Dakota (who lowered their drinking age from 19 to 18) saw the largest decrease of any state. The state-level data are completely patternless. Clearly, other factors were involved. And any increases are not clear as to whether they reflect true fatality increases or simply changes in how fatal crashes were reported.

Regardless of what happened or didn't happen in the 1970s, it is essentially irrelevant today. Back then, drinking ages were lowered against a backdrop of falling real alcohol prices, higher adult per capita alcohol consumption than today (and rising), permissive and toothless DUI laws, social acceptability of drunk driving, no seat belt laws, ignorance about the risks of alcohol, and a generally cavalier attitude toward safety. The term "air bag" meant a person who talked too much. The term "designated driver" was not even in our vocabulary until the 1980s. Drunk driving was not just tolerated back then, it was expected of you if you were the least drunk person in the group (to drive everyone else home). Things are very different today. So it's comparing apples and oranges. And your question about the 1970s is therefore academic.

Q9) But alcoholism rates will skyrocket! The earlier you drink, the more likely you will become an alcoholic.

A9) There is no significant correlation between a country's legal drinking age and its alcoholism rate. If anything, it is slightly positive rather than negative, but that could be due to reverse causality. Interestingly, in the United States in the late 1970s, states with higher drinking ages had lower adult per capita alcohol consumption rates, but higher rates of alcoholism. So your claim has no basis whatsoever.

Q10) Science has shown that the brain is not fully developed until 21. From a public health perspective, we can't afford to risk alcohol-related damage to developing brains by lowering the drinking age.

A10) Actually, the latest studies suggest that the brain is not "fully developed" until 25. Maybe even later--remember that until recently we used to think the brain was fully developed before adolescence even began. I wouldn't be surprised if in the next 10 years they say 30, and eventually say that it never really stops changing. So 21 is an arbitrary drinking age. But let's assume you're right and the process is complete at 21. So you're basically saying that young people should wait until their brains are fully developed before destroying them? And that public health trumps civil rights? Thought so.

These fears are unfounded. The idea that drinking before 21 is somehow more harmful than drinking after 21 has no real scientific basis. The only human study on the matter that controlled for amount of drinking and number of years drinking (Demir et al. 2002) showed no brain differences between those who began drinking before 21 and those who began after, even for heavy drinkers. All other human studies either lacked an over-21 comparison group or focused on truly heavy drinkers who began drinking earlier than 18, often much earlier. While truly heavy drinking for prolonged periods is indeed harmful to the brain for anyone, age appears to have very little to do with it. So consider this one debunked as well.

Furthermore, it is safe to say that while the 18 year old brain is still not 100% finished developing, it is very close, and any further development is really just the last finishing touches. Adolescence is a period of major brain development, but the most critical development occurs before 18, chiefly between 12 and 15. So critical, in fact, that intelligence stops increasing and levels off at 16, and even "executive functioning" levels off at 17. Interestingly, the brain reaches its maximum weight around 13 and actually shrinks from then until the early 20s. Changes that occur after 15 are primarily pruning away the excess neurons and forming more efficient connections.

Honestly, think about what the world would be like if the pro-21 crowd was right. We have entire countries that begin drinking way before 21, often in their early or mid-teens. In some of these countries, the majority drink on a daily or near-daily basis. And an entire generation of Americans in 38 states was allowed to drink legally before 21 back in the 1970s and early 1980s. In 11 states, even earlier generations did as well. Surely they would all be brain-damaged alcoholic felons by now if the pro-21 argument was sound. The fact that they're not is reason to take a chill pill.  But please drink in moderation if you do choose to drink, regardless of age.

Q11) OK, I see your point on lowering the drinking age. I took my chill pill. But wouldn't 19 be better than 18 to keep it away from the high school kids?

A11) Lowering it to 19 (or even 20) is a step in the right direction, and the TSAP would not object to any stepping stone that leads to a drinking age of 18. But it would still be a year higher than the age of majority in 47 states. And the TSAP believes in treating 18 year olds as full adults. A drinking age of 19 would not be fair to those 18 year olds who have already graduated. And 19 is an awkward age to begin drinking legally (though not as awkward as 21 of course). Either way, alcohol would be just as illegal for those 17 and under.

As for high school kids, remember that 10th graders (and even 8th graders) right now can get alcohol more easily than cigarettes (which are 18 in 46 states, 19 in the rest). It is hard to imagine booze being any more available in high school than it is now. But the current underground supply networks for high schoolers are highly unpredictable (feast or famine), and so they do not know when they will get the next opportunity to drink, so they are more likely to really overindulge. With often dangerous consequences. And some 17 year olds would be willing wait a year to stay within the law if the drinking age was 18, rather than be asked wait four years and saying why bother waiting even a minute? So even if alcohol did become slightly more available to 16 and 17 year olds under a drinking age of 18, it would hardly be an unmitigated evil. 18 is low enough to enable high school seniors to learn to drink in a safer environment before going to college, while it is still high enough to not make it significantly easier for, say, 13 year olds to get. And those under 19 tend to have more parental supervision than those over 19.

Q12) How about it be 18 for beer, 21 for liquor? Many states used to have that back in the day. Seems like a good compromise, right?

A12) It's a good start, and the TSAP would not object to that as a stepping stone. But we never really understood the point of that since you can get just as drunk on one as you can on the other. Alcohol is alcohol is alcohol, period. In fact, beer is the drink of choice for drunk drivers ("Hey I can drive fine, it's only beer"), and when behind the wheel it is just as dangerous as liquor. Even states that sell low-alcohol "3.2 beer," such as Oklahoma, find that it is disproportionally implicated in alcohol-related fatalities relative to stronger beverages. A split age may even perpetuate the false sense of security about driving after drinking "just" beer.

Q13) What about blood borders? Don't states that lower their drinking ages hurt their neighbors by creating an incentive for their neighbors to drive drunk across state lines?

A13) Although not all studies agree on whether they are even significant, in the 1980s, "blood borders" was one of the excuses given for the feds forcing states to raise their drinking ages to 21 to create a uniform drinking age. While a uniform drinking age does reduce one incentive to drive drunk, the same would be true for a uniform drinking age of 18. Problem solved. Other alternatives that do not violate states' rights include making drunk driving across state lines a federal crime, or simply increasing roving patrols or sobriety checkpoints near the blood borders. The latter worked wonders in New York and Vermont (which border on Quebec), and border-related fatalities are currently very low as a result. Nowadays with all the concern over drunk driving, blood borders should not be as much of an issue. Drinking and drunk driving are two separate issues and should not be conflated.

In reality, blood borders between higher drinking age states and lower drinking age states are really no worse than the blood borders between dry counties and wet counties. In fact, the latter is worse since it involves a much larger percentage of the counties' population (everyone over 21 versus 18-20 year olds). And yet we let counties decide for themselves whether to be wet or dry. You never see dry counties attempting to force their wet neighbors to go dry (in fact some states actually forbid wet counties from going dry). Nor do we say that wet counties are "hurting" their dry neighbors; rather, we see the dry counties as hurting themselves. That's exactly how we should view it on the state level. Like dry counties, states that refuse to recognize 18-20 year olds as full adults would catch the brunt of any cross-border fatalities, and they would reap what they sow. And it is their responsibility, to protect their own citizens, especially ones not yet considered full adults (paternalism works both ways). It's the price we pay for federalism. Instead, they whined to the feds to protect them from the logical consequences (border hopping) of their own failed policy of age discrimination.

Q14) How could the TSAP alcohol policy possibly solve our teen drinking problem?

A14) First of all, there is no "teen drinking problem." What we have is an American drinking problem that affects all ages. Of all the children under 16 killed by drunk drivers, 90% of them were killed by a driver over 21. The 21-24 year old age group is the most likely to drive drunk as well as to drink heavily. Alcohol abuse is quite high among middle-aged folks as well, with 40 year olds being worse overall than 17 year olds. Yes, some (but not all) teenagers do drink irresponsibly as well. But there has never been a society in which adults drink but teenagers do not, nor has there been one in which teenagers drink but adults do not. The pink elephant in the room is the abusive drinking of the adults around them, which is the strongest influence of all. Are we really so fixated on age that we fail to see the forest for the trees?

The TSAP alcohol policy is an inversion of America's current one in some respects. Instead of targeting all drinking by people under 21, we target irresponsible drinking by people of all ages, and hold individuals accountable for bad behavior. History has shown that is the only way, and America's unique obsession with age is counterproductive. Cigarette use declined dramatically since its peak in 1976, with the only significant public policy measures being education, taxation, and advertising restrictions. America did not raise the smoking age to 21 (in fact, the current age limit of 18 in 46 states is poorly enforced). Yet that was a real success story. With something similar to that for alcohol, as well as getting tougher on drunk driving and drunk violence, and increasing treatment for alcoholism, we will likely see the American drinking problem decline in the long run.

Q15) As far as taxes are concerned, why are you picking on beer?

A15) Because the liquor taxes are already much higher, and cheap beer is disproportionately found in drunk driving fatalities and other alcohol-related deaths and injuries. Beer is the drink of choice for drunk drivers and underage drinkers, partly because it is so cheap (when bought off-premises at least). Currently, the cheapest brands cost less than a dollar per standard drink (especially when bought in bulk, such as for keg parties) in most states, meaning the average adult could get very drunk for $3.00-$5.00. That's why this amount is the typical "all you can drink" admission fee at your typical kegger, while when it comes to serving liquor the hosts much more stingy. Also, most of the studies of the effects of alcohol taxes focused on beer.

It may also be a good idea to raise the liquor and wine taxes as well, since all alcohol taxes have lagged behind inflation, but beer is the most important one to raise as it has lagged the most since 1951.

Q16) What is your position on keg registration laws?

A16) The TSAP does not take a position on keg registration laws. But studies of their effectiveness have been rather inconsistent.

Q17) You say you want to lower the blood alcohol limit to 0.05? But most alcohol related fatalities occur at 0.15 or higher. How dare you punish responsible social drinkers!

A17) You mean like responsible social drinking 18-20 year olds are currently punished for drinking period, even if they never set foot behind the wheel? Absolutely not. That is a straw man often used by alcohol industry groups who are afraid that demand for their product will wane if stricter BAC limits are used. Science shows that driving impairment begins well below the current limit of 0.08 (about three drinks for the average adult). A limit of 0.05 will allow for one or two drinks before getting behind the wheel, and remember even that can produce some impairment. 0.05 is the standard used by Australia, and several other countries, and it seems to work pretty well. Remember, a truly responsible person will not drive with any alcohol in his or her system, let alone several drinks in a row.

It is true that most fatalities occur at BAC 0.15 or higher. That's why the TSAP supports a graduated penalty scheme, not unlike what is done with speeding. There's a huge difference between two drinks and ten. Here's how it would most likely go if the TSAP was in power:

0.05-0.08 $500 fine, license suspended for 90 days. No jail. (Administrative only)
0.08-0.10 $1000 fine, license revoked at least 1 year, up to 6 months jail. Misdemeanor.
0.10-0.15 $5000 fine, license revoked at least 5 years, mandatory 6 months jail (maximum 1 years). Misdemeanor.
0.15+ $10,000 fine, license revoked at least 10 years, mandatory 1+ year jail (maximum 5 years). Felony.

0.05-0.08 repeat offenders lose their licenses for a year. 0.08+ repeat offenders will lose their licenses forever, $5000+ fine, forfeit their vehicles, and get mandatory 1 year or more in jail (felony). 0.10+ repeat offenders will get mandatory 5 years in prison as well as the above.

Anyone who gets their revoked license back after a DUI at any BAC will be required to have ignition interlock and drunk driver plates forever.

Forced treatment, if necessary, will be in addition to the penalties. For first-time offenders, jail sentence may be reduced below the mandatory minimum or replaced entirely with electronic monitoring if treatment is completed successfully. But you won't get your license back any sooner.

Fines listed are minimum amounts on a sliding scale based on income. That is what college students would pay. Wealthy drunk drivers, such as Congressmen, would pay even more!

Kill or maim an innocent person in a drunken crash and get mandatory minimum 10 years in prison if it is determined to be your fault. If you're an alcoholic, you get to dry out in prison.  (Failing that, you can drink yourself to death with pruno while inside)

Additionally, we support keeping a Zero Tolerance law for drivers under 21. For 0.02-0.05, $250 fine, license will be suspended 90 days, violation. For 0.05-0.08, suspension will be at least 6 months. Or better yet, apply Zero Tolerance to all drivers with less than 5 years of licensed driving at any age, and again for those whose licenses have been revoked. That would be stricter, but much less ageist. The TSAP favors a ZT limit of 0.02 over 0.00 to avoid false positives (the body naturally produces alcohol).

Of course, we must avoid the pitfall of targeting the plentiful low BAC drivers more than higher ones, and should prioritize enforcement toward the highest BAC drivers. And besides, it would be much more lucrative to target the latter when you consider the schedule of fines above! Setting the BAC limit low will scare the crap out of most people even with minimal enforcement, but not so for the hardcore drunk drivers. Clearly, enforcement must be stepped up in order to get the latter. Roving patrols will work better than checkpoints at getting the worst ones off the road first.

Drug Policy

Q1) What exactly do you mean by "legalize, tax, and regulate"? Do you mean they should sell crack in the supermarkets, and heroin in the vending machines? That would be insane!

A1) Almost as insane as America's current drug policy. We do NOT support having drugs of any kind in vending machines, or otherwise made easily accessible to children. That would be going too far, and it is frankly a straw man that the drug warriors constantly use to discredit us. However, remember that they sell cigarettes and (in most states) alcohol in supermarkets, and those substances can be pretty harmful indeed. Some countries, like Japan, even have beer in--yes--vending machines. It's funny what people assume when we say "legalization." Remember that Tylenol, coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, and morphine are all currently "legal," yet their respective methods of regulation could never be confused for one another. And every drug presents a different situation.

The TSAP drug policy of regulated legalization would consist as follows:

1) Soft drugs like cannabis would be treated similar to the way we currently treat cigarettes and alcohol. License required to sell or grow commercially, purchase age limit of 18, adulteration strictly prohibited, quality control, excise tax equivalent to cigarettes on a gram-for-gram basis, potency listed on the label. Sold in Dutch-style cannabis cafes, liquor stores, and possibly other types of stores as well. In addition, much like beer, wine, and even tobacco, cannabis self-cultivation for personal, non-commercial use (within reasonable limits) would be legal for all adults as well, and untaxed, provided it is not sold for profit. For cannabis, this is also known as the MERP model.

2) Psychedelics, entheogens, and nootropics would be sold in a somewhat similar fashion, but only in specially designated stores. They could be called "psychedelicatessens" or "smartshops" or something like that. Such substances include mushrooms, LSD, peyote, salvia, and DMT.

3) Harder drugs like cocaine, raw opium or opium tinctures, ketamine, MDMA (ecstasy), and amphetamines (but not meth) would be sold only behind the pharmacy counter by a licensed pharmacist, similar to what we do now with codeine cough syrup in some states. No prescription required, but still tightly regulated. Limits on quantities one can buy per 48 hour period, logbook signing and ID required, and no sales to non-US residents. Again, age limit of 18, very strictly enforced. Some of the more potent substances of the previous category (such as LSD) may be included here as well if deemed appropriate.  Unlike the morning after pill, individual pharmacists may conscientiously object to selling one or more such drugs as well if there is no prescription for such drugs.

4) The hardest narcotics, such as heroin and morphine, would only be sold in clinics designed for that purpose, similar to the current methadone clinics. They will be open only to registered addicts. Switzerland is currently experimenting with this rather promising idea. The substances must be consumed only on the premises, and it will be strictly supervised. Some studies have found benefits to both the users and the community.  Also, heroin could be used in hospitals (for medical use) the same way morphine is used now. Heroin and morphine are equally addictive (in fact, they're almost as addictive as nicotine), and heroin is about twice as strong a narcotic as morphine. Synthetic narcotics such as hydrocodone (Vicodin) and oxycodone (OxyContin) will remain prescription-only as they are now.

5) The following "ultra-hard drugs" would be best kept illegal to sell, except perhaps for veterinary use only: Roofies, crack, PCP, methamphetamine, and various fentanyl derivatives. Notice that these drugs are by far the strongest and/or most dangerous versions of their respective classes of drugs. Many states currenly ban Everclear (190-proof grain alcohol) for the same reasons.

6) Ibogaine (an herbal psychedelic that can actually cure addictions, often with only one or two doses) will finally be legalized and available at ibogaine clinics in every major city.

Use of any formerly illegal drug in public (streets, parks, beaches, etc.), especially in front of children, will still be illegal unless it is a designated area for that particular substance.  Hefty fines will result, with other penalties possible for repeat offenders.

Driving under the influence of any formerly illegal substance will remain illegal, and treated the same as driving under the influence of alcohol. Per se blood concentrations of the most popular drugs will be codified. Driving under a combination of alcohol and other drugs will be an aggravating factor, and a lower BAC threshold will be used for this purpose. Saliva testing will be used in conjuction with standard field sobriety tests on those suspected of driving while stoned, and the results will be confirmed by blood test if a person fails.  Penalties include loss of driver's license, hefty fines, and jail time.  For confirmed addicts, drug courts (with forced treatment) may be used as an alternative to jail time.

No drug will be illegal to simply possess in small amounts. Thus no one will be arrested just for that alone.

Harm reduction measures, such as needle exchanges, will be implemented.  The weight of the evidence shows that such programs reduce the spread of HIV and other bloodborne diseases, without increasing drug use.  The same is true for allowing over-the-counter sales of syringes in pharmacies.

Tax revenues from drug sales would be used to fund drug education and treatment programs, as well as law enforcement and general revenue.  The same will be true for fines.

All crimes committed under the influence (this also includes "flashbacks") will be punished to the fullest extent of the law. No excuses if the drug use was consensual. Get loaded, do the crime, do the time. Period.

Q2) Drugs are bad. Why on earth would you want to legalize drugs?

A2) The War on Drugs is worse than even the worst drug. Here is the top ten lists of reasons why we want to end it for good:

10) The War on Drugs is a miserable failure. People still use drugs, always have, and always will. You cannot put the genie back into the bottle.
9) Prohibition creates organized crime and supports terrorism.
8) Prohibition creates disrespect for the law and authority by making criminals out of otherwise law-abiding citizens.
7) Prohibition inhibits social cohesion and community by creating second-class citizens, hatred, and violence.
6) Prohibiton breeds corruption in law enforcement and government.
5) America's drug policy is not based on sound science. If it was, tobacco would be illegal (and Schedule I).
4) Prohibition cannot be adequately enforced without violating the Constitution.
3) Prohibition costs a ludicrous amount of money--40 billion a year! That's enough to provide basic healthcare for everyone in the world, all 6.8 billion of us. Legalizing, taxing, and regulating drugs would be far more fiscally conservative.
2) Our prisons are so full of drug war prisoners that we let real criminals (murderers, rapists, robbers) out early to make room for more.
1) Most importantly and fundamentally, individuals of full age are sovereign over their bodies and minds, and for the state to violate that sovereignty is un-American.

Furthermore, drug use per se is NOT the problem. Drug abuse (and addiction) is the real problem, as is the case with alcohol abuse. Yet this meme will not seem to die in our culture. There is a huge difference between an occasional recreational user and a hard-core addict whose only motivation is getting his or her next dose. Some start out like the former and then become like the latter, but most do not (except for nicotine, which addicts a majority of repeat users).

That said, the TSAP is not "pro-drugs" (or "pro-alcohol" for that matter), but rather "pro-liberty" and "anti-paternalism." We do not recommend or endorse any sort of substance use, but we believe legal adults have the right to decide for themselves what they put into their bodies.  Anything else would be tyrannical and frankly un-American.

Q3) Who pays for the indulgences of legalized drug use?

A3) The same people who pay for the indulgences of legalized chainsaw use.

Q4) You say crime will drop by 50% or more if all or most illegal drugs were legalized. What makes you think that will happen and not the opposite?

A4) Ah. The most counterintuitive concept associated with drug policy. Over 80% of crime is "drug related" in one way or another. Perhaps even 90%. But that does not mean that the substances themselves cause the crimes. The lion's share of that figure comes from turf wars and other disputes among dealers, or between dealers and customers, or between dealers and police. And without legal recourse, things get ugly very fast. That's what happens with organized crime. And entire neighborhoods go downhill when the gangs move in, which leads to even more (drug and non-drug related) crime, and so on.  More drug war enforcement is not the answer:  there is actually strong positive correlation between the homicide rate and drug enforcement expenditures, just like alcohol prohibition in the 1920s.  But such crimes would be essentially eliminated by legalization, since disputes could be settled in court instead of through violence. The rule of law instead of the law of the jungle like it is now.

Another type of drug-related crime is addicts stealing, cheating, robbing, or even killing to get their fix. Though the killing part is relatively rare. In addition, some may turn to selling drugs, or even their bodies, to support their very expensive habits. But that is mainly due to the artificially inflated drug prices caused by prohibition, and the hoops they have to jump through due to artificial scarcity. For example, many heroin addicts have $500 a day habits, or worse. But under legalization, even the worst drug habit would likely cost $5-10 per day, kind of like cigarettes (which are actually more addictive than heroin). And when was the last time you saw anyone getting killed or mugged for a smoke? Such crimes would obviously dramatically decline under legalization.

The third type of drug-related crime is that committed while under the influence of drugs. But that does not mean all or even most of these cases were actually caused by the drug, though some almost certainly are. Usually, very hard drugs like methamphetamine or PCP are implicated, but they occasionally involve cocaine or crack. Cannabis and ecstasy are generally not violence-inducing (as long as they are not adulterated), so their contribution to drug-induced crime is negligible. The same is true for the psychedelics, as well as the opiates. But the biggest contributor of all is alcohol, the pink elephant in the room. For example, nearly half of assaults and about 65% of all murders are said to be committed while under the influence of alcohol. And even the drug-related ones often involve mixing drugs like cocaine with alcohol as well. Would this type of crime go up under legalization? No one knows for sure, but unless there is a truly astronomical increase in hard drug use following legalization, which is unlikely, the net effect would be crime reduction since the first two types of drug-related crime would be reduced to virtually nil.  Also, any potential increase in (unadulterated) cannabis use would likely lead to a decrease in drinking.  Plus, we would have far more police resources available to deal with such crime, the courts would be less clogged, and we would no longer let violent and predatory criminals out of prison early to make room for nonviolent drug offenders.

Full legalization of the entire supply chain is necessary to get the full crime-fighting benefits of such a policy. Legalizing possession and retailing, Dutch-style, but continuing to ban wholesaling or manufacturing, is a step in the right direction for sure, but would be unlikely to reduce crime rates since the black market would still be intact, and the retail "gray market" would be largely unregulated. (However, more cops would be free to go after real crimes instead of victimless ones)

Q5) We already have enough problems as it is with two legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco. Do we really need to create a new problem?

A5) This question is a classic from the anti-legalization movement. The two unstated assumptions are that 1) prohibition substantially reduces problems associated with a substance, 2) we were better off overall under alcohol prohibition than we are now. Both assumptions are false. Prohibition is, was, and always will be a failure. Didn't work then, doesn't work now. And America's illegal drug problems are hardly new. See General Question 9 for more information.

Q6) Actually, Prohibition (of alcohol) was a success. Alcohol consumption per capita plummeted, and took many years after legalization to return to pre-prohibition levels.

A6) That statement is partially true, but highly misleading. First of all, alcohol consumption was already on the decline before 1920. Second of all, determining the per capita consumption of alcohol during a time in which it was illegal is guesswork at best, and most likely underestimated (as is the case with drugs today). Most scholars believe the first two years of Prohibition did see a fairly sharp decline in consumption, even with relatively low levels of enforcement, but that was followed by a steady increase despite the ever-increasing money being spent on enforcement. People generally drank more dangerously than before as well, and crime rates skyrocketed. That's the Law of Eristic Escalation in action. The increase in consumption after repeal in 1933 was largely a continuation of the secular trend that began circa 1922. Much of this increase, both before and after legalization, occurred during the Great Depression, when many people could barely afford food, let alone alcohol. If that's success, I'd hate to see what failure looks like.

Q7) Legalizing drugs will be genocide against the black community. How could you possibly support that?

A7) Sounds like you've been listening too much to Bill Clinton's Drug Czar (gotta love that title, "king" would sound too much like "kingpin"). The "legalization = genocide" argument is downright disingenuous in the face of the facts. First of all, black people currently get the shortest end of the stick in the War on (people who use some particular) Drugs. Laws are selectively enforced to target them, despite the fact that they are overall less likely to use drugs than whites, with whites being mere collateral damage. Putting a greater percentage of their population in prison than college as a result is nothing short of shameful. Families get fractured by this war all the time, and lives get ruined. Black people catch the brunt of the prohibition-induced crime (see Question 4 for more info) that plagues their often poor, inner-city neighborhoods. Many people die as a result of the crime, drugs, poverty, violence, and death spiral brought on by prohibition. The more money we spend on enforcing the drug laws, the less we have to spend on education and treatment, which are sorely lacking in this country. Adding insult to injury, laws that deny federal financial aid for college to people convicted of even the most minor drug offenses disproportionally affect poor minorities, many of whom desperately want a college degree as a way out of the ghetto but are thus forced to drop out. In short, the War on Drugs is nothing short of genocide, and the innocent suffer the most. Methinks thou doth protest too much.

Perhaps you secretly feel that black people are too (genetically?) inferior to handle freedom as well, and thus need to be protected from themselves like overgrown children. And that even people who can handle freedom need to give it up for the sake of protecting (from themselves) those who cannot. The White Man's Burden, if you will. You probably feel the same way about guns, denying innocent blacks living in police "no-go zones" the right to defend themselves from the very real thugs in the 'hood. The TSAP believes that paternalism is one of the worst forms of racism. And the proper role of government does not include protecting legal adults from themselves. And even if it were true (which is dubious), the proper term would be "natural selection," not "genocide," as the black race would actually improve over time as the few (of any race) that truly lack the requisite intelligence and self-control to handle liberty eliminate themselves. The rest would flourish, especially since much fewer will be in prison (a major cause of fatherless families in the ghetto) . And besides, prohibition is not fair to the silent majority who can handle freedom, so why throw out the baby with the bathwater?

Q8) Does ibogaine really work for addictions? It sounds too good to be true. If it worked, it would be legal, right?

A8) Several studies show that the answer is yes, often in just one or two doses. For those who don't know, ibogaine is an alkaloid that comes from the iboga root, which is native to Africa. It is not a maintenance drug like methadone, it actually ends the addiction entirely. As for why it is illegal despite evidence that it works, remember that is true for various other substances as well, most notably the medical use of cannabis. A natural drug that by definition cannot be patented is just not profitable for Big Pharma, and if legalized will end up stealing their thunder. The government also has a vested interest in maintaining at least some baseline level of addiction to hard drugs as it becomes more and more clear that the unwinnable War on (people who use some) Drugs was never really meant to be won, just used as a way to target scapegoated demographic groups that are seen as inferior or undesirable by those in power. Hard drugs also often keep the people that use them stupefied and quiescent, and the same is true for booze and cigarettes. Why else was the meth epidemic allowed to occur? The psychedelics (hallucinogens) and cannabis, on the other hand, have historically been associated (whether rightly or wrongly) with revolution and sociopolitical upheaval, and the powers that be feel very threatened that the people who use them may decide to think for themselves and not listen to the state's propaganda, so these drugs are targeted very aggressively. And ibogaine is technically a psychedelic, though certainly not one that a user would want to do recreationally or even repeat a second time as it is not known to be a very pleasant experience. Clearly, our government's drug policy is based not on hard science, but rather politics. And most other countries allow ibogaine clinics to exist, but not the supposed land of the free.

Q9) Why an age limit of 18? 21 would be better.

A9) See our Alcohol policy for more info on why setting an age limit higher than the age of majority (18) could never work. With booze it has been an abject failure. Besides, those who have attained the legal age of adulthood by definition have sovereignty over their bodies and minds. Anything to the contrary makes a mockery of the concept of adulthood and even the rule of law itself.

Q10) How about advertising? Should, say, "Blow, Inc." be allowed to advertise?

A11) The TSAP believes that to prevent the kinds of abuses that Big Tobacco (and to a lesser extent Big Alcohol) have perpetrated throughout history from repeating themselves with other drugs, it is best to ban advertising of drugs completely from the get-go. Nip it in the bud, so to speak--no pun intended. Or at least restrict it to no more than what tobacco companies are allowed to do now (no TV, radio, billboards, and now no more sports sponsorship), control the content of what little is allowed, and fight what little there is with counter-advertising campaigns and education. We also feel that doing so is the appropriate response for alcohol as well. (Narrow forms of advertising, such as cannabis ads in High Times or tobacco ads in Cigar Aficionado, are fine with us).

Do such restrictions violate the First Amendment? Probably not, since commercial speech has often been given less protection by the courts. And all paid advertising is commercial by definition. At least tobacco regulation has set a precedent that has yet to be reversed. And you don't see AK-47 or M16 commercials on TV either, come to think of it.

But even if such restrictions are struck down, we would still support legalization of most currently illegal substances. 

Q11)  What would the environmental impact of drug legalization be?

A11)   Such a question has been virtually ignored by both sides of the debate.  However, we believe the net effect of legalization will be positive for the planet overall, even if there was an increase in drug use.  Clandestine drug production often creates toxic waste, deforestation, dewatering of streams, fires, explosions, stolen (and wasted) electricity, excessive water consumption, and excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides.  And every dollar spent on enforcement is one less dollar that could be spent on environmental protection.  If legalized, clandestine production would be unnecessary, and legal production could be regulated by environmental laws to minimize its impact.  But what we have now is the law of the jungle.

In addition, properly cultivated industrial hemp would likely be a net benefit as well, due to its ability to replace less environmentally friendly materials.

Q12)  But wouldn't legalization undermine the success of the drug courts, since there will no longer be any way to force addicts into treatment?

A12)  While it is true that drug courts (which "sentence" drug offenders to forced and supervised drug treatment instead of prison) have been more successful in reducing recidivism among participants compared with prison or traditonal probation, there are several flaws with the highly paternalistic argument that prohibition is necessary to maintain their success.

  • Most drug offenders (especially cannabis) are not addicted, and forcing nonaddicts into treatment is a waste of resources at a time when the need for voluntary treatment is not being met. 
  • Alcohol is legal, and alcoholics who get busted for DUI can be diverted into DUI courts, which are very similar to drug courts, with evidence of success.
  • There is no reason why drug courts must disappear post-prohibition; with the stroke of a pen, they could still be used for confirmed addicts who get busted for drug-related (or even unrelated) activities that would remain illegal (driving under the influence, using in public, disorderly conduct, vandalism, violence, shoplifting, etc.)
  • The unmet need for drug treatment can be met in better ways, such as taxing the hell out of formerly illegal drugs and dedicating a substantial portion of the revenue to treatment. 
  • Legalizing ibogaine can also be a type of alternative treatment for addictions of any kind (see Question 8 for more info)
  • Although drug courts are more cost-effective than prison or probation (all of which stem from an arrest) from a criminal justice perspective, it is likely cheaper to simply avoid arresting drug users in the first place. 
  • It is probably not a coincidence that the increase in the use of forced treatment (especially for cannabis) coincided with a dramatic increase in the arrest rate.
Thus the prohibitionists' argument, albeit one presented as "concern" for the welfare of addicts, falls flat.  Next question, please.

 Q13) What about international treaties that prohibit legalization?

A13) International drug prohibition via treaties has been an abject failure since it was solidified in 1961 by the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (which erroneously considers cannabis to be a "narcotic," a term synonymous with opiates). The treaty's drafting and passage was largely the result of the actions of the United States, particularly Harry Anslinger--the same person who got cannabis banned in 1937 in this country. Since then, international drug problems have clearly gotten worse, not better, even with two additional treaties (in 1971 and 1988) to strengthen the first one. A $500 billion international drug trade flourishes unabated, often accompanied by crime, violence, corruption, and death. The TSAP believes that we ought to withdraw from the treaties completely, which is allowed in the text of all three drug control treaties. All countries have the right to withdraw (a process known as denunciation), but none have dared to do so due to coercive pressure from the United States. The Netherlands was able to have their current liberal drug policy of quasi-legalization due to loopholes in the treaties, despite being a party to all three. However, international pressure has unfortunately prevented them from taking the next logical step of full legalization (which is the only way to destroy the entire black market supply chain) of even cannabis.  (Hey, at least we are not part of the EU!)

Domestic drug policy is best left to individual nations, who are best able to determine what works for them. This is the basic principle of subsidiarity, which is generally recognized by the European Union. When the US withdraws from the treaties, it will likely be seen as the green light that the Netherlands (and several other countries) have been waiting for to do the same. And let's face it, no bloated, impotent, international bureaucracy would be able to stop them without American coercion. But countries that wish to maintain drug prohibition would also be free to do so, whether or not they remain parties to the treaties.

Bottom line: the United States of America is a sovereign nation, and we have the right to determine our own domestic drug policy, the rest of the world notwithstanding.  Anything else would be unconstitutional and un-American.

Foreign Policy

Q1) What do you mean by "armed neutrality"? Is that the same as isolationism?

A1) The TSAP believes that neither isolationism nor military interventionism is the answer. We will retire America as the "police of the world." The most recent interventions have done more harm than good. We believe the world will be better off in the long run if weaker countries learn to fight their own battles and not expect America to always come to the rescue.

Militarily, we will be neutral, like George Washington wanted. No entangling military alliances. No more imperialistic adventures. We will not attack another country unless we are attacked, or there is an imminent threat of foreign attack. But we will always remain prepared to fight back if that time comes. We will cut our defense spending and number of troops, but we will always have enough to defend America from a foreign invasion. The United States will not disarm its nuclear weapons until every other country does first. The genie is out of the bottle. But we, and all "nuclear club" countries, should reduce the number of warheads per country to well below 100.

We will not, however, be isolationist. We will still be a member of the UN, unless they do something that really violates our national sovereignty. We will still trade with all nations on which there are no trade sanctions.

Q2) Are you just gonna cut and run in Iraq?

A2) Another straw man. We have been there for over 6 years now. That's longer than WWII. HELLO! A swift pullout is long overdue. That's hardly "cutting and running." We propose a complete withdrawal within 12 months or less. The sooner, the better. We should keep a small number of troops (2000 or less) in Kuwait (with their consent of course) for a few years by the border to keep an eye on things and be a deterrent to any potential flare-up in the region. But no "residual forces" on Iraqi soil. Let the Iraqis fight their own battles. Out of the baby seat, into the driver's seat.

Q3) What about Afghanistan, the forgotten war?

A3) That's a tricky issue. But we see it as a lost cause. Alexander the Great, the British Empire, and the Soviet Union all failed to take control of that ancient tribal country. The country is in chaos except for Kabul, the capital city. There is currently a "surge" in the works by Obama. Who knows what the result will be. But we need to leave in short order. The sooner the better.

Q4) Why do you hate Israel so much? Are you anti-Semitic?

A4) Another loaded question (e.g. Have you stopped beating your wife?), followed by an ad-hominem abusive attack. Not to mention a straw man. The fallacies just keep on coming! No, the TSAP does not hate Israel, and we have no negative sentiments toward Jews. But blindly supporting Israel in the Palestinian conflict is inconsistent with our policy of neutrality. Both sides have blood on their hands, and we support neither side. We want no part of it whatsoever. We are willing to work for peace if they are. But until then, let God sort it out.

National Service

Q1) What is your position on national service?

A1) Another vague question. If by "national service" you mean forced servitude of any kind to the state, then we are definitely against that. That violates the 13th Amendment. But if you mean voluntary service, then we are all for it. The TSAP supports dramatically expanding service opportunities in AmeriCorps, VISTA, and related programs. Additionally, as an incentive, anyone who commits to two years of such service will get all their debts (of any kind) forgiven.

Q2) We need to bring back the draft, and make it universal this time. Too many poor people and minorities are dying over in Iraq, while the middle- and upper-class white kids are partying at college. That's just wrong--the sacrifice should be shared equally.

A2) Let me get this straight. Too many poor minorities (who chose to sign up) are dying over in Iraq, so we should forcibly send even more people to die as well just to even the score? Remember that poor minorities will be drafted as well, including ones who would not have joined the military otherwise. A draft would only increase the death toll.

How about we just get out of Iraq instead? And improve the conditions for poor minorities so they can have better career prospects than going to war?

As for the sacrifice being shared equally, remember that it is the young who do nearly all of the dying, draft or no draft, while the older folks who started the war just sit back and watch it on TV. The same older folks that refuse to share resources equitably with younger ones, making it harder for them to get good-paying civilian jobs. Is that really fair? Tsk, tsk. Give the pro-draft people enough rope, and they will hang themselves.

Q3) You appear to idolize Thomas Jefferson. But he supported the draft. How do you resolve this contradiction?

A3) The TSAP admires Jefferson for many of his ideas, such as the First Amendment which he wrote, but does not "idolize" him. He was far from flawless, believe me. Remember, Jefferson was a slave owner, yet the TSAP does not support slavery of any kind. That said, TJ was still one of the best Founding Fathers, and is thus one of the party's favorites.

As for the draft, what you say is only half-true. Yes, he did believe that every able bodied man had the duty to be part of the local militia, but he did NOT believe in a national standing army of any kind. But America ultimately decided that a standing army was in our national interest, much to his chagrin. So to draft people into a national standing army, especially to fight in a foreign war of aggression like Iraq, would likely send Jefferson spinning in his grave.  Plus, we have the National Guard now, which did not exist back then in the early days of the Republic.

Q4) You say that conscription is involuntary servitude, but I could just as likely say that taxes (especially the kind you support) are legalized robbery. Ha! I got you on this one!

A4) Read the Constitution. One of those is prohibited and the other is explicitly allowed. And one is necessary to a civilized society while the other is generally not in the modern era save for in extremis. Take a guess which ones.  Go on, guess.


Q1) What is the National Initiative?

A1) Many state governments have the initiative system. Citizens can propose new laws or law changes that can be placed on the ballot, and citizens can vote on such ballot measures. It is a more form of democracy. But unfortunately, the federal governmnent does not have such a thing. And it would require a Constitutional amendment to make it happen. The TSAP supports such an idea.

Q2) But direct democracy cannot work at the national level. There is no precedent for that in all of history. Even ancient Greece's "democracy" was only open to free (non-slave) males citizens over 20, in some cases only those who owned property. Why would it work here?

A2) Take a look at Switzerland. It has been working there for over 150 years. And all adults 18 and over have the right to vote on laws over there. And it is still one of the best functioning democracies in the world.

Q3) What about Congress? Will they become obsolete?

A3) No, they will not. They will still do the things they do now, in a legislative partnership with the people. Some things, like the annual budget, are obviously best left to Congress since they are more likely to have expertise in these areas than the general population. So we would technically be a hybrid between direct democracy and representative democracy. The people would become essentially the fourth branch of government. True, Congress can still pass laws that repeal successful ballot initiatives, and vice versa, but any member of Congress who would deliberately go against the will of the people risks political suicide. And initiatives that pass will be veto-proof, unlike Acts of Congress. This would add a new dimension to checks and balances.

Q4) What if the people pass a bad law that the majority supports, due to fear or prejudice, but blatantly violates the Constitution?

A4) There are many versions of the initiative system, and some of them are open to such abuse (although probably no worse than what Congress could do now). But the one that the TSAP supports still allows for judicial review to the same extent that Acts of Congress (and state and local laws) can be declared unconstitutional today. And the relatively difficult process for amending the Constitution will remain as is. That will protect the minority from "tyranny of the majority." That is the crucial difference between democracy and ochlocracy.

Q5) What should the voting age be?

A5) It should be 18, or 16 if you can pass a basic history/civics test (similar to the citizenship test). We let alcoholics, psychotics, and mentally retarded people over 18 vote, so why not 16 year olds? Many of whom are part of the labor force and pay taxes, including $10 billion in sales taxes alone.  Additionally, those who will be 18 by December 31 of the year in which a November election occurs would be considered 18 for the purposes of voting.

Q6) What should the age of candidacy for political office be?

A6) All offices other than President and Vice President should be 18. President and VP should be 21 with a college degree, 25 without. Presidents may not be currently enrolled in any college or university. And any President under 35 should be required to have 50% or more of his or her cabinet (advisors) be over 35, and all significant cabinet members be over 21. These offices are not benchmarks of adulthood. Rather, mere adulthood is necessary but not sufficient for the demands of being the leader of a nuclear superpower. For all other offices, let the voters decide if an 18 year old can do the job.

Note that this requires a Constitutional amendment to lower the age limits for Congress and President. Currently the age limits are 25 for House, 30 for Senate, and 35 for President and VP.

Crime and Punishment

(For consensual crimes, see the sections on General, Alcohol Policy, and Drug Policy)

Q1) What is your policy on crime?

A1) The TSAP crime policy is "get tough on real crime," much like the Libertarian Party crime policy. Enforcement will be dramatically increased, and all violent and predatory crimes will be punished severely. Sentences seldom mean what they say as it stands now, and we support truth in sentencing. We propose a "three-strikes law" for all felonies. Third strike gets you 25 years to life. But unlike California, only violent felonies can count as a third strike, so stealing a loaf of bread 20 years after cleaning up one's act will not get you 25 to life. Nor will juvenile offenses count. Once you get the bugs out of that law, and reduce the long list of things that are illegal in this country, it actually would work pretty well.

Q2) How about the death penalty?

A2) The TSAP does not support the death penalty, except for terrorists. We support life without parole for first-degree murder, or treason, and 25 to life for second-degree murder. However, those sentenced to life without parole may choose death as an alternative.

Q3) At what age should one be tried as an adult?

A3) The same age as the age of majority, 18. Or 16 in special cases. But no one under 18 will be sent to an adult prison until they turn 18. And no death penalty or life without parole for crimes committed before 18.

Q4) Do you support mandatory minimum sentences?

A4) The TSAP believes in judicial discretion as a rule. However, some judges are far too lenient with certain crimes, and those that get off easily and those who see others get off easily become emboldened. For example. the average rapist gets only 5 years, and the majority of rapists do not get any prison time at all. So in the cases or rape, pedophilia, DUI, and other under-punished crimes, the answer is a resounding yes.

Q5) What is your policy on rape and other sex offenses?

A5) For forcible rape, it is zero tolerance. The convict will be given a choice, either 25 to life or be turned into a eunuch. A second offense will get you life without parole. Those that rape and kill a child will get mandatory life without parole the first time. Those who commit rape in prison will be treated the same as those who do so on the outside, with the judge extending the sentence to life without parole. We make no distinction between stranger rape, acquaintance rape, date rape, or spousal rape.

As for non-forcible sex offenses, our position is more nuanced. See Question 6 for more information.

Q6) What should the age of consent for sex be?

A6) The TSAP believes the general age of consent should be 16 for non-commercial sex, and 18 for commercial sex (e.g. pornography and prostitution). There should be a four- or five-year age difference allowed for non-commercial sex, but zero tolerance for underage commercial sex. The absolute minimum age for any type of sex should be 12, with zero tolerance.

Q7) Do you support restorative justice or alternatives to prison?

A7) For relatively minor crimes, we support alternatives to incarceration, such as fines, loss of privileges, restitution, and community service. Only serious and/or violent crimes should be punished by incarceration for significant periods of time.

Education (K-12)

Q1) Do you support school vouchers?

A1) That depends. Generally no.  However, the TSAP does support a limited voucher system for children in households with low incomes (below $30,000) who live in areas whose local schools are substandard. This will not only directly benefit the students themselves, but it also will break the educational monopoly and allow competition. Such vouchers are no worse than Pell grants. But we do not support any sort of vouchers (or tax deductions) for those who can afford to send their children to private school but just want the government to pay the tab. You are offered public education free of charge. If you don't want it, and would rather send your kids to a private school that you feel is better, fine.  But pay for it yourself, and quit whining about it.

Q2) What is your position on homeschooling?

A2) The TSAP does not take a position on the issue of homeschooling itself.  For the issue of homeschooling-related vouchers or tax deductions, see question #1.

Q3)  Do you support any sort of school choice?

A3)  The TSAP supports open enrollment within the public school system.  Sutdents may attend out-of-district schools, and state aid dollars would follow the student to whatever school they go to.  A currently existing example of this is the state of Minnesota.  This is very different than vouchers since only public schools are involved.

Q4) How will you fix the public school system?

A4) For starters, we need to end the "new-age segregation" that prevails in this country, where the rich go the good-quality schools and the poor go to inferior ones. Call us pinkos all you want, but the TSAP believes that such egregious inequality is unjust. It occurs because funding is primarily done through local property taxes. The TSAP would make such taxes more progressive, with "circuit breakers," and the school-earmarked funds given to the state, who then divides it up so all schools get the same level of funding on a per-student basis. A greater percentage of the funds than now will come from other types taxes as well. If the snobs don't like that, they can send their kids to private school and pay for it themselves. Local districts will still have significant autonomy, but will also be held accountable for meeting acceptable standards. Schools that repeatedly fail to meet such standards will be shut down, and all their teachers and administrators will effectively be fired.  There is absolutely no reason why substandard schools should exist in the richest country in the world.

A national exit exam will be created, and only those who pass it will be entitled to a nationally-endorsed, first-class diploma. The kind of diploma that will be taken seriously for the first time in decades. Those who fail will get a local, second-class diploma, but still graduate. Currently, only two states (NY and CA) have high-stakes exit exams.

De-unionize public education, and abolish tenure, replacing it with full accountability regardless of seniority. Cut any excessive salaries, and jettison seniority-based raises. Replace with merit pay and high standards for both teachers and administrators. Retain the good ones. Throw out the left-overs.

Abolish zero tolerance policies, such as "one-strike" expulsion for mild schoolyard fisticuffs, but get tougher on the real, persistent troublemakers. Remember that their parents are usually just as bad, if not worse. Quit being spineless wusses when their aggressive parents do their inane saber-rattling routines, and instead hold them accountable for their spoiled brat's bad behavior. If that fails, throw out the left-overs. Stop punishing the innocent and appeasing the guilty.  What we have now is a huge waste of human capital, not to mention grossly unfair. And the zero-tolerance fad has only caused chaos to escalate in the long run.

Can you say DUH? These things are painfully obvious, yet we ignore them out of fear, arrogance, indifference, greed, or politics. Accountability is what is currently missing, and we need to restore it fast. Democracy demands an educated electorate.

Also, we can learn a thing or two from successful public school systems in other countries.  Currently Finland is the best in the world.  And we're not even in the top ten, despite being the richest in the world and spending the most per student!  Something is clearly wrong with our system.

Q5)  Do you support forced desegregation busing?

A5)  Generally no, especially if it is based on race.  Like most forms of government coercion it appears to do more harm than good to all involved.

Higher Education

Q1) I never got into college. Why should I have to pay so someone else can go to college for free or cheap? That's highway robbery!

A1) Hey, that's your problem, buddy. But you still have the civic duty to improve the nation in one way or another, leaving it in better condition than you found it. If more people are enabled to go to college because of your tax dollars, everyone benefits in the long run. We need to improve our human capital or other countries will leave us in the dust. Those who get a chance to go to college that they otherwise could not afford will be more likely to have higher incomes in the future, and will thus be better taxpayers. Even you will benefit since we will not have to tax you as much down the line. The long-term benefits of a more educated population greatly outweigh the short-term costs. Other industrialized countries understand that very well, whereas we Americans are more concerned with our short-term bottom lines. WAAAHH I DON'T WAAANNAA PAY TAXES!!!!  Remember, taxes are the price we pay for civilization. And education is important to civilization.

Q2) How would you make public colleges free or cheap for everyone?

A2) The best way to fund colleges is through the idiot tax (better known as the lottery). That way, the dumb will subsidize the smart to some extent. Some states already do that to some extent. You could say it pays for the negative externalities of stupidity. The rest could be paid for by ending (or reducing or restricting) Pell grants for private colleges, taxing tuition at private colleges, raising the admission standards at public colleges, cutting administrative salaries and waste, spending less on "defense," and/or taxing the (super)rich more.

Q3) Should there be any crimes for which one can lose financial aid?

A3) The TSAP does not support the current Higher Education Act section 484, which deprives students convicted of minor drug offenses (e.g. possession of a joint) from getting Federal financial aid. Such a section is counterproductive, unfair, and ineffective in reducing drug use, and thus we recommend complete repeal. No other crime is punished this way, not even rape, and making it much harder for a casual user to continue education would almost guarantee that they will become a hardcore user or addict, and/or end up in prison. And "academic natural selection" should take care of the real drug abusers without the force of law.

The TSAP believes that the only crime for which one should lose financial aid is rape, which continues to be a major problem on college campuses nationwide, and perhaps DUI as well. But with the lengthy prison sentences for rape that the TSAP recommends, it would likely be moot anyway, except perhaps for the eunuchs (see Q5 of Crime and Punishment section).

Q4) You talk of "academic natural selection," but this no longer happens due to grade inflation.

A4) It does still exist, albeit not quite as acutely as it did a generation ago. But more people are going to college now than ever before, so even with grade inflation you have plenty of people being weeded out. Generally the worst students still flunk out no later than the first year, and performance during the first six weeks is the best predictor of ultimate success or failure.

Grade inflation is very real however, and it has to stop. But we must proceed with caution because rapid grade deflation would be even more harmful. We can start by abolishing student evaluations of professors since some studies have shown that they were the primary harbinger of grade inflation since they were introduced in the 1970s. But we do not advocate a return to the 1960s.

Civil Rights

Q1) What is your position on same-sex marriage?

A1) The TSAP is unequivocally for legalizing it, with 100% equality with respect to heterosexual marriage under law. In other words, marriage law shall be completely gender-neutral. However, we do not believe in forcing churches to recognize, facilitate, or perform it, or any other marriages that go against the tenets of their faith. Civil marriage is a secular institution, not a religious one.

Q2) What will you do about America's notorious race problem?

A2) The TSAP supports all the ideals embodied by the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. King. We as an nation have made great strides over the past few decades. But we still have problems that need to be dealt with. Race relations are still not where they should be, and blacks and Hispanics still have yet to achieve full equality with whites. Some attempts to solve the problem work, while others unfortunately do more harm than good.  Some of the best solutions are often the least politically correct ones.

We could start by ending the institutional racism that embodied in generally destructive and illiberal policies such as the War on Drugs and similar "crusades" against other consensual crimes and status offenses. These policies put way too many minorities behind bars since they are often specifically targeted. Families lose breadwinners and become fractured. The crime created by drug prohibition, for example, is very damaging to black and Hispanic communities. A downward spiral of crime, drugs, violence, poverty, and death engulfs many of their neighborhoods as a result.

The racist and arrogant belief that minorities are too stupid to handle freedom (and it's flip side, personal responsibility) needs to go.  Protecting them from themselves does them no good in the long run.

Getting tough on real crime (as opposed to victimless crime) will protect the innocent minorities (which are most of them) from the ones who are truly ruining their neighborhoods. We should not go easy on any criminal because of race or class, no matter how disadvantaged.

Giving poor minorities a decent-paying job instead of a welfare check will do wonders for them in the long run. They will now have more stuff to put on their resumes, and increase the odds of getting an even better job so they can finally move out of the ghetto for good.

School choice for ghetto kids will get them out of the inferior schools they are now forced to attend because they can't afford any alternative. Any substandard schools that don't improve within a few years of beginning such a program should be shut down for good.

Affirmative action, when it discriminates against whites, is counterproductive in the long run. It only further fuels racial hatred and resentment after the initial benefits have occurred. And as a result all successful minorites are then assumed to have gotten where they are solely because of it, which is often not true, and are thus looked down upon. It also fails to get at the root causes of underachievement.  Better opportunities for all, regardless of race, is clearly the way to go.

Out of control immigration worsens race relations, and injures social capital. Assimilation is very difficult with 1.5 million immigrants coming in every year. Yes, that's how many come in!  Black students have a greater high school dropout rate than whites. Do we really want to add a second underclass, one with an even higher dropout rate? Who is willing to work for less? Think about it.

Self-segregation should be discouraged as much as possible. Insular groups are less likely to succeed than integrated ones.

There should be zero tolerance for all types of hate crimes, regardless of what race the victim is.

So in other words, the TSAP party platform seems like the best choice for improving race relations and the overall condition of minorities as well as society as a whole.

Q3) Do you support affirmative action?

Q4) It depends on what you mean by that term. While we recognize that certain groups in our society have gotten a raw deal, we do not support discrimination of any kind. Two wrongs do not make a right. Therefore, any affirmative action program would be flat-out rejected unless if fulfills the following criteria: 1) no quotas in theory or practice, 2) no illegal discrimination of any kind, including reverse discrimination, 3) no preference for people who aren't qualified, and 4) as soon as a program has succeeded, it should be retired. Those criteria are the same as Bill Clinton's "standards of fairness" for affirmative action, which unfortunately were not followed very well in practice.

In the long run, reverse discrimination does more harm than good despite initial benefits. Side effects of not following those four rules include eventual discrediting of the beneficiary group, resentment of that group by others, further hatred in the future, and a subpar workforce filled with unqualified individuals who can't be easily removed. And the rest of society gets a deadweight loss as many qualified people who could have done things like find a cure for cancer remain untapped resources just because they are white males (or whatever).

Immigration Policy

(For population policy in general, see Population section)

Q1) You're racist! I KNEW it! Why else would you want to limit immigration?

A1) Because of overpopulation, DUH! Take a look at California, who will face a water shortage sometime in the next decade. HELLO! It's the NUMBERS, stupid. There's nothing racist about that.

Q2) But isn't immigration just a shifting of people? The world population will stay the same, right?

A2) Technically yes, all else being equal, but in reality there are more implications than that. When Third World immigrants come to America, they eventually adopt our greedy, gluttonous, and wasteful ways. Especially the second generation, who become just as lazy and decadent as the rest of us. (That's not racist, that's actually a thinly-veiled diss on native-born Americans like myself). The world can only handle so many Americans. Add to that the tendency of many immigrants to have more kids than they would have had had they stayed in their home country (the opposite is true in Europe for some reason), and the world's population may even go up as a result.

Q3) What will you do about illegal immigration?

A4) Get the illegals to self-deport by enforcing the laws we have. We have the tools to make sure that employers hire only legal employees, such as E-Verify, but we seldom use them. The employers who rather EXPLOIT illegals for cheap labor than hire legal Americans are the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about, in fact they are the most important "pull" factor. They are the real villains. Under the TSAP, employers will be severely fined if caught the first time, and the second time they will be forced to shut down for good. No more excuses. And farmers who hire illegals will be permanently denied any subsidies from the government. Rich parents who hire illegal nannies to watch their spoiled brats will also get busted.

We also need to pass a Constitutional amendment (non-retroactive of course) that requires at least one parent to be a legal permanent resident or citizen in order for a baby to get birthright citizenship. There are too many "anchor babies" on welfare in this country, further adding to our overpopulation woes.

If the illegals can't find work, open a bank account, go on welfare, etc., in America, they will voluntarily self-deport.

In addition, the borders (both of them) should be much better patrolled from now on. We are currently at war, yet we allow our borders to be porous! Or maybe we could just merge with Canada and Mexico (as long as they consent to it), seal off the relatively tiny Mexico-Guatemala border, and make the minimum wage $9.50/hr across the new, larger nation so no one's jobs are taken. There would be tons more land in underpopulated Canada as well, and thus we would gain more land than population. Then the whole immigration issue would be moot for both of our immediate neighbors. (I am only half-joking on this one)

Q4) Do you support amnesty for illegal immigrants?

A4) The TSAP supports a limited form of amnesty. Otherwise it would be cruel and callous. Illegals who entered before the program will be given the chance to turn themselves in with no penalties if done voluntarily and without incident. Illegals who do so and have been living here for more than two years can either agree to be deported and pay no fee, or pay a $5000 fee if they stay. $10,000 if they lived here for less than two years. The fee will be garnished from their paychecks (since they will now be legal) and must be paid within ten years or face deportation. The fee must be paid off in full before one can apply for citizenship. The fee will be waived or reduced for anyone (male or female) who gets sterilized.

Those who entered after the program's start date will be ineligible and be deported immediately if caught. They will be permanently banned from entering the United States. The same goes for legal immigrants who help to bring illegals into the country, and people of any status (including American citizens) who act as "coyotes."  Repeat offenders will be heavily fined and/or jailed.

Q5) What about the children?

A5) Children under 16 will not be punished for the actions of their parents, and there will be no fees or penalties for them. The amnesty program will try to keep existing families together, at least nuclear ones. But some parents of minors will inevitably have to be deported. It is selfish for illegals to take such a risk with their kids to begin with.

Q6) For legal immigrants, what is your family reunification policy?

A6) The current policy will be phased out.  Legal immigrants may only bring their minor children (under 18) along with them. Adult relatives need to apply for residency on their own, and can very well be denied since there will be a maximum 200,000 person quota.  We need to stop "chain migration" as well.

Q7) Do you support the DREAM Act?

A7) Yes. Those who entered the United States illegally before the age of 16, lived here for 5 or more consecutive years, and graduated from an American high school will be automatically declared legal. They may pay in-state tuition in college, and may apply for citizenship after receiving a bachelor's degree or higher.

Q8) What are the specifics to your 200,000 annual immigration quota?

A8) Out of the 200,000 available slots, 25% of them will be reserved solely for refugees/asylees fleeing war, natural disasters, or political or religious persecution. Out of the rest, skilled and/or well-educated immigrants will come first. Among unskilled immigrants with less than a high school education, those with an IQ over 100 will be given first priority. Children under 16 will face no such criteria, but will nonetheless be counted toward the quota.

The number 200,000 is just a crude estimate. It will be adjusted up or down to equal the number of emigrants leaving in the previous year so as to meet the goal of zero net immigration, but will always be above 100,000 and never exceed 300,000 under any circumstances. For the first five years of the new immigration policy, the quota will be set at 100,000 regardless, so as to start with a negative net migration rate (to compensate for the excesses of the past).

There will be no ethnic or racial quotas of any kind. But immigration from nations known to be hostile to the United States could be curbed if necessary.

Q9) But don't we need more immigration to make our aging population younger and keep Social Security solvent?

A9) No. Even with all 1.5 million coming in every year now, it is a drop in the bucket as far as aging goes. We would need 20-30 times that amount, which is patently absurd, to reverse population aging.  Immigrants will eventually just age with the rest of the population anyway, so then we will have to bring in even more, and so on. Very foolish idea indeed.

Social Security has some very real problems that require real solutions, as outlined in the party platform. Mass immigration is not one of them.

Gun Control

Q1) What gun control laws should be abolished?

A1) The federal Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA '68) is a good place to start. Most people don't know this, of course, but it was actually lifted sub rosa from Nazi gun control laws almost verbatim. Translated, of course. And we all know how that ended. We need nothing of the sort at the federal level. If individual states want to adopt something similar, they are free to do so. The national background check system (NICS), however, should stay as a way for such states to enforce their laws. It is perfectly reasonable to prevent felons, fugitives, psychotics, domestic abusers, foreigners, and those under 18 from buying guns, and vet all buyers to see if they fall into those categories. But leave it up to the states.

Otherwise, the only federal gun law we really need is the one that prevailed from 1934 onward, the National Firearms Act, as amended. The TSAP believes that machine guns (fully automatics), sawed-off shotguns, silencers, bombs, missiles, grenades, poison gas, and artillery have no business being in ordinary civilian hands, and are unnecessary for self-defense.

State laws that prohibit concealed carry should be repealed.

Q2) So does that mean I can go into a convenience store and walk out with a fully automatic Uzi or AK-47?

A2) No. Read question #1 for starters.

Q3) How about armor-piercing bullets? Will those be legal too?

A3) No, because there is no legitimate self-defense use for them. Even the NRA opposes them, and that really says something. Only cop-killers would need stuff like that.

Q4) Why do you think there would be less crime with looser gun laws?

A4) It's really quite simple when you think about it. Would you want to provoke anyone in a town where a significant percentage of people carry concealed weapons, but you don't know which ones are carrying? If you were a burglar or rapist, would you want to do your misdeeds there, or in a town in which you know only the cops and criminals have guns? There's a reason states with concealed carry laws not only have lower crime, but are overall friendlier as well, than states that prohibit concealed weapons. Studies have shown that the more concealed carry permits are issued, the lower the crime rate. Vermont has the second lowest crime rate, and they are the only state that allows concealed carry without a permit. Interesingly, they are also a blue state.

Also, take a look at Switzerland, in which every adult is required to own a gun. Crazy, huh? You would think they would be like the movie depictions of the Wild West (which was really not all that wild by the way) with all those guns floating around. On the contrary, they have some of the lowest violent crime rates in the world, including gun crimes. All else being equal, more guns = less crime. Need we say more?

Q5) How do you feel about the gun show loophole? Will you close it?

A5) It is technically not a "loophole" in that it was intentionally written in the federal law that only licensed firearms dealers "in the business" of selling guns need to do background checks. Those that only sell occasionally do not need a license, so they do not have to. Some states choose to require background checks for gun show sales, while others do not. But yes, the TSAP believes that gun shows, if they are to exist, should be subject to background checks through NICS, just like licensed dealers are. The way it is now kind of defeats the purpose of even having a background check system at all. Leave it up to the states on how they wish to implement it, though.

Q6) Do you really think a bullet tax would work?

A6) Yes, if the tax is high enough. It's simple economics. Supply and demand. No goods, not even bullets, can have an absolute elasticity of zero unless they are literally one of a kind.

Q7) Why don't we do what England did and just melt all our guns? They are way more civilized than we are, have less gun crime, and thus represent a model for all countries to follow.

A7) Because the criminals will still get their hands on them either way, at least in America. We have over 200 million guns and growing. The genie is out of the bottle, and has been for decades. Besides, it's un-American and unconstutional for the government to confiscate guns from the masses. Right-o old chap?

By the way, for every major crime other than murder and rape, England is actually worse than the United States, despite (or perhaps because of) having the strictest gun laws of any democracy in the world. And there are some parts of London (worse crime than NYC) that you just don't go, period. In the 1990s, many states in America liberalized their gun laws (i.e. concealed carry) to some extent, while across the pond the laws were tightened. Guess which country saw an increase in homicide (including with guns) while the other saw a sharp decrease? You got it. And remember that they originally started out lower in crime than us. That shows the importance of doing a "difference-in-differences" estimate rather than merely taking a crude cross-section of two countries with different cultures.

So why is America the worst for murder and rape compared to other industrialized countries? For murder, it is because we Americans finish what we start (lol). Seriously, we are a very homicidal culture, and have been for decades. That definitely needs to stop. But the rate of gun ownership correlates very poorly with the homicide rate, as does the passage of most gun control laws. As for rape, very few rapes involve a firearm even in gun-toting America, so that is most likely not the issue. If anything, the more women that have guns, the lower the rape rate should be. It seems that our sexual repression (relative to Europe) and more approving attitudes toward violence in general are more likely the real reasons.  Still another hypothesis is that rapists are now less likely to be convicted in Britain than over here (a reversal since the 1980s), so victims often don't bother reporting rape (which is a grossly underreported crime to begin with).

Q8) What should the age limit be for guns?

A8) 18 to buy any firearm, 18 for concealed carry, and 16 for possession of shotguns and rifles when used for sport. Anything higher than 18 would actually be more restrictive than the age limit that Hitler had.

Q9) Do you support the Castle Doctrine?

A9) Yes, but with some reservations. The TSAP believes that there is no "duty to retreat" from an attacker when inside one's home. But everywhere else, there is such a duty before using deadly force to defend oneself.  If you shoot an innocent person anywhere, you are fully liable for the outcome.

Q10) What is your position on the (now-defunct) assault weapons ban? Should it be renewed?

A10) That has got to be one of the silliest-named laws ever written, and there are numerous misconceptions about it as a result of the name. "Assault weapons"? First of all, any weapon can be used in an assault. Secondly, what it actually banned were the semi-automatic versions of the real, fully-automatic assault rifles (AK-47, M-16, etc.). They were nothing more than semi-automatic rifles that bore largely cosmetic resemblance to real assault rifles. And all new semi-automatic rifles are now required by the feds to be designed so as not to be easily converted to their fully-automatic counterparts. Fully-automatic weapons were illegal well before the ban and after it expired, and thus it had no effect on these guns. I repeat, they are currently illegal, as they should be. And the ones used in the Mexican drug war are coming from where again?

As for reducing crime, it did go down after the ban went into effect. But the ban went into effect in 1994, while crime (including violent crime) declined since 1991, predating the ban by three years. So this is likely a spurious relationship.

So the answer to your question is a resounding "no," as the mainly feel-good ban's only real effect is an unnecessary federal government power grab that flies in the face of the Second Amendment.

Q11) Guns cause paranoia, and thus inhibit any sense of community. All we need to do is lose the guns, and trust each other more. Michael Moore was right.

A11) Not only do you sound quixotic, but you got it backwards. Guns don't cause paranoia; rather, paranoid folks are simply more likely to buy guns in an attempt to quell their fears. Reverse causality. Sometimes these fears are all too real, especially if they live in a dangerous neighborhood where even the cops are afraid to go. Often, however, it is because we live in a culture of fear. We are raised to be paranoid by neurotic parents in our bubble-wrap society. And the news media fans the flames. And our society is worse off because of it. That was Michael Moore's real message, not that guns are the root of all evil.

Q12) But guns are unnecessary for self-defense since we have cops to do that for us. And we have cell phones now, so we can call 911 anytime, anywhere.

A12) If you really think that guns are superfluous or redundant nowadays, maybe you should ask Senator Chuck Schumer (one of the few civilians granted a NYS concealed carry permit) why he carries a gun everywhere he goes, despite not wanting to let others to have the same right to do so.

News flash: calling 911 is NOT 100% effective, far from it in fact. Let's be realistic. Cops may or may not get to where you are in time to save you from an assailant--it often takes 20 minutes or more if they happen to be busy with busting consensual (victimless) crimes. And if the attacker confronting you is armed and you are not, and there is no one else around you that can shoot the thug to protect you, you're mincemeat. If you want to take that chance, be my guest. I mean, I've always personally believed that a real man doesn't need a gun. At least in most areas. But don't attempt to deprive anyone else of the right to self-defense just because you don't care for guns yourself.

Q13)  Will drug users still remain prohibited persons under the TSAP's plan?

A13)  No.  At least not for cannabis, which is not a violent drug.  Interestingly, alcoholics are allowed to own guns and buy as many as they want, but even occasional pot smokers are banned from even touching a gun.  This injustice needs to end.

But the other groups on the list of prohibited persons (convicted felons, domestic abusers, fugitives, citizenship renouncers, mentally ill, etc.) would remain the same.

Q14) What about things like brass knuckles, dirk knives, and nunchakus?

A14) It is funny that some states ban these things while much more dangerous weapons like guns are legal. The TSAP believes bans on these are even more ridiculous than gun bans, so such bans should be lifted.  We also believe pepper spray should not have an age limit for possession.

Vehicle and Traffic Issues

Q1) I'm a bad driver/jerk/reckless moron. But I need to drive to work. You can't just take away my livelihood for a few tickets!

A1) Hey buddy, driving is a privilege, not a right. That's why it requires a license. Bad and reckless drivers are such a major public safety risk that an improved mechanism for filtering them out is necessary. You shouldn't be getting any tickets if you were really worthy of that privilege. Maybe you should go to driving school and improve your skills. Or stop being so reckless and think of other people for a change.

Q2) What should the driving age be?

A2) It should be 16 for both permit and license, with a six-month waiting period between permit and road test at any age. States with lower age limits should raise it to 16 for non-farm use. We are still too dependent on cars for an age limit of 18 to be just, except perhaps in big cities (NYC sets the limit at 18). Experience is much more important than age, so raising it to 18 will likely just shift fatalities to the 18-20 group. And believe me, the new road test we propose will be so hard that age will not matter as much as it did in the past, if at all. And licenses would be easier to lose for bad driving behavior as well under our plan.

Q3) How about graduated driver licensing?

A3) It depends on what you mean by that. Remember that all licensing schemes are "graduated" to some extent as long as a learner's permit stage exists. The TSAP rejects arbitrary and undue restrictions aimed at specific age groups regardless of individual behavior. We do not support restricting the number (or age) of permitted passengers at any age since that would discourage beneficial uses such as carpooling and designated drivers. As far as such arbitrary restictions saving lives, the initiation of California's GDL program was followed by a decrease in fatalities for 16 year olds, no change for 17 year olds, but an increase in fatalities among 18-21 year olds (especially involving driving alone and with young passengers). So there appears to be no net lifesaving effect, just a shifting of deaths (hmmm...where have I seen that before?). In fact, the increase slightly outweighed the decrease! In other words, experience seems to be more important than mere age.

However, the first two years of licensed driving, at any age, should be a probationary period in which it would be easier to lose a license. Two moving violations (other than seatbelt law), or one DUI, reckless driving, or speed contest conviction, or one at-fault crash involving injuries to someone other than the driver, or two at-fault crashes of any kind, and you lose your license for a year or until you turn 21, whatever is longer, and you have to start all over again from square one. Different people mature at different rates, and this will weed out the most immature drivers. You will have special plates as well so everyone will know you're a new driver. For night driving, there will be no driving after midnight (except to or from work or class) for the first six months of licensed driving, regardless of age. This will cut the risk of drowsy driving and other nighttime hazards, but still give enough leeway to learn the important skill of how to drive safely at night.

There would be no need to log any hours anymore. Many people just lied about that anyway, and it was really a joke. The new road test would be virtually impossible to pass without at least 50 hours of experience anyway, so it would essentially be moot.

As for the number of passengers, there will be no special restrictions, but if you get a moving violation of any kind during the probation period, the fine will be multiplied by the number of vehicle occupants. Ouch.

So yes, it would be a graduated system, but one based on experience rather than mere age.

Q4) How about driver's ed classes?

A4) They should be given free of charge (or for a nominal fee) in every high school, like they were in the 1970s (with an updated curriculum of course). Believe me, with the new and improved road test, you'll need it! As an incentive, insurance discounts for passing the class will be much larger than they are now. But granting a license sooner for passing would negate the benefits.

Q5) You say you want to lower the blood alcohol limit to 0.05? But most alcohol related fatalities occur at 0.15 or higher. How dare you punish responsible social drinkers!

A5) You mean like responsible social drinking 18-20 year olds are currently punished for drinking period, even if they never set foot behind the wheel? Absolutely not. That is a straw man often used by alcohol industry groups who are afraid that demand for their product will wane if stricter BAC limits are used. Science shows that driving impairment begins well below the current limit of 0.08 (about three drinks for the average adult). A limit of 0.05 will allow for one or two drinks before getting behind the wheel, and remember even that can produce some impairment. 0.05 is the standard used by Australia, and several other countries, and it seems to work pretty well. Remember, a truly responsible person will not drive with any alcohol in his or her system, let alone several drinks in a row.

It is true that most fatalities occur at BAC 0.15 or higher. That's why the TSAP supports a graduated penalty scheme, not unlike what is done with speeding. There's a huge difference between two drinks and ten. Here's how it would most likely go if the TSAP was in power:

0.05-0.08 $500 fine, license suspended for 90 days. No jail. (Administrative only)
0.08-0.10 $1000 fine, license revoked at least 1 year, up to 6 months jail. Misdemeanor.
0.10-0.15 $5000 fine, license revoked at least 5 years, mandatory 6 months jail (maximum 1 years). Misdemeanor.
0.15+ $10,000 fine, license revoked at least 10 years, mandatory 1+ year jail (maximum 5 years). Felony.

0.05-0.08 repeat offenders lose their licenses for a year.  0.08+ repeat offenders will lose their licenses forever, $5000+ fine, forfeit their vehicles, and get mandatory 1 year or more in jail (felony). 0.10+ repeat offenders will get mandatory 5 years in prison as well.

Driving drunk across state lines will get you 5 years in federal prison.

Anyone who gets their revoked license back after a DUI at any BAC will be required to have ignition interlock and drunk driver plates forever.

Forced treatment, if necessary, will be in addition to the penalties. For first-time offenders, jail sentence may be reduced below the mandatory minimum or replaced entirely with electronic monitoring if treatment is completed successfully. But you won't get your license back any sooner.

Fines listed are minimum amounts on a sliding scale based on income, like they do in Sweden. That is what college students would pay. Wealthy drunk drivers, such as Congressmen, would pay even more!

Kill or maim an innocent person in a drunken crash and get mandatory minimum 10 years in prison, and lose your license forever if it is determined to be your fault. If you're an alcoholic, you get to dry out in prison.

Additionally, we support keeping a Zero Tolerance law (0.02 limit) for drivers under 21. For 0.02-0.05, $250 fine, license will be suspended 90 says, violation. For 0.05-0.08, license will be suspended at least 6 months. Or better yet, apply Zero Tolerance to all drivers with less than 5 years of licensed driving at any age, and again for those whose licenses have been revoked. That would be stricter, but much less ageist.
Of course, we must avoid the pitfall of targeting the plentiful low BAC drivers more than higher ones, and should prioritize enforcement toward the highest BAC drivers. And besides, it would be much more lucrative to target the latter when you consider the schedule of fines above! Setting the BAC limit low will scare the crap out of most people even with minimal enforcement, but not so for the hardcore drunk drivers. Clearly, enforcement must be stepped up in order to get the latter. Roving patrols will work better than checkpoints at getting the worst ones off the road first.

Q6) But breathalyzers (and saliva tests) are inaccurate! And blood tests are invasive. How will you protect innocent folks from police abuses?

A6) The TSAP believes that the Constitution remains in full force even in the issue of impaired driving. However, when the state grants you the privilege (not the right) to drive on public roads by giving you a license or otherwise allowing you to drive, you essentially sign a contract with the state saying that you consent to any chemical test, and refusal or failure will lead to automatic revocation of that privilege even without a criminal conviction. So there is not a "DUI exception to the Constitution," rather there is an obligation to be tested in a social contract with the state. And it's not like the DUI laws can be enforced without this contract--it's a pipe dream to think so since nearly everyone would refuse the test, and the judge would likely throw out the case without hard numbers to back up a conviction. Thus the drunk driver would be free and emboldened to do it again and again until someone gets killed.

However, the TSAP does not support any abuses of this power. None of the following should ever be allowed by any police officer or one who is acting in concert with them, and those that do should be fired on the spot or worse:
  • Coerced testing of passengers or pedestrians
  • Reliance on urine tests (they should be inadmissable)
  • Forcible blood draws (i.e. holding a person down and inserting a needle)
  • Physical violence for test refusal
  • Arresting someone based only on an odor of alcohol
  • Denying a driver the right to a confirmatory blood test
  • Racial or ethnic profiling
Confirmatory blood tests should be given to the driver on request. Those who refuse that will have that refusal used against them if the breath or saliva test was failed. To avoid calibration errors, 0.01 will be automatically subtracted by a breathalyzer device (but not blood tests). Handheld breathalyzers and saliva tests will be used as probable cause for arrest, but will be insufficient for conviction. Only the results of a non-handheld breathalyzer or blood test will be sufficient for a per se conviction.  And test refusals will be used against you in court.  If you're too drunk (or stoned) to know your rights, it will be presumed that you were most certainly too drunk (or stoned) to drive.

Failing a sobriety test combined with any positive reading on a chemical test can result in a conviction even if below the legal limit, as is currently the case. Failing the test when below the legal limit is also a red flag for drug use.

Q7) How about cell-phone drivers?

A7) They will be punished the same as driving with a BAC of 0.05-0.08. Hands-free will be just as illegal. Novice drivers lose their license for a year. Exceptions will include 911 calls or reporting drunk driving or other crimes to the police.

Texting while driving will be flat-out banned, period, with penalties at least equal to those for a BAC of 0.08-0.10.

Q8) How about drowsy drivers? Drowsy driving kills.

A8) This underappreciated problem needs to be dealt with. Driving after being awake for 24 hours straight will be treated the same as driving with 0.08 BAC, since the crash risks are roughly equivalent.  In addition, all moving violations that occur after midnight will carry double the fines.

Also, it would likely be beneficial to have later school start times for high school students, as these have been shown to increase sleep times, increase grades, and decrease car accidents, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Q9) What is your position on sobriety checkpoints?

A9) The TSAP recognizes that, while they are clearly better than nothing, the evidence for their effectiveness is somwehat mixed, and favors roving patrols instead as a rule. We do not oppose roadblocks categorically; rather, we favor roving patrols on utilitarian grounds. Some situations, such as a bridge or tunnel adjacent to a densely populated area, are best handled by strategically-placed checkpoints on the bridge/tunnel since they cannot be easily avoided. But otherwise, they are expensive and all too easy for the more seasoned drunks to avoid, especially when the location is announced (as is usually the case). Roving patrols are virtually unavoidable for those who are seriously impaired, and is often the only way to catch the hardcore drunk drivers who cause the vast majority of alcohol-related fatalities. Such patrols consist of many cop cars saturating a known problem area, including both highways and back roads, and looking for well-known signs of impaired, erratic, or generally hazardous driving (too fast, too slow, left of center, drifting, excessive braking/accelerating, honking, tailgating, weaving, etc.). Several studies find roving patrols to be more effective and cost-effective than roadblocks. They are also less prone to abuses. In other words, roadblocks should be used very sparingly, and as a complement to roving patrols, not at the expense of them.

For the record, we see no credible reason why sobriety checkpoints are unconstitutional if carried out properly (see Question 6 for more information about DUI enforcement and the Constitution).

Q10) What is your position on speed limits?

A10) The TSAP believes that it should be up to the states to decide, since they know more about what's going on locally than the feds would. We recommend 55 mph on highways by default, but Interstates and similar roads that are clearly built for speed should be 65 or even higher. Remember that the Interstate system was patterned after the Autobahn, a German highway system with no speed limit. Yes, speed does kill, but there is more to it than that. Traffic engineers know that the closer most cars are to the average speed of traffic, which is generally in the 70s on the Interstates, the fewer crashes there will be overall since the flow will be smoother. And unreasonably low limits mess up the flow. That's why it is more dangerous to go slow in the fast lane than vice-versa. But relaxed limits should be balanced by higher fines for breaking them, and tougher enforcement.

As for 55 saving gas, that is partly true. On an individual level, a car's fuel economy peaks at around 55 mph, and declines rapidly above 60 mph. But when it was national speed limit on all highways, it was the second most disobeyed law in American history (the dubious honor of #1 goes to the 21 drinking age), so most drivers went much faster. But the few that obeyed the law inadvertently messed up the flow since they were well below the speed of traffic. And that led to more gas being used with all the excessive braking and accelerating resulting from the poorer flow.

Tort Reform

Q1) What do you mean by tort reform, anyway?

A1) The TSAP hates frivolous lawsuits and any other types of abusive lawsuits that serve only to enrich trial lawyers, hurt ordinary citizens, inhibit personal responsibility, and increase paranoia and the bubble-wrap mentality. Taxes go up, healthcare costs more, insurance premiums go up, countless lives get ruined, and freedom is lost due to lawsuits or the fear of lawsuits.

Our tort reform agenda includes all of the following:
  • A $250,000 limit on punitive/exemplary damages or other non-economic damages
  • Rejection of junk science in the courtroom--only sound science (i.e. Daubert standard) accepted
  • Abolition of joint and several liability (aka the deep pocket rule)
  • Follow the "English rule" of "loser pays"
  • Broaden the scope of federal Rule 11 for lawyers
  • Raising the evidence standard for punitive/exemplary damages
  • Appeal bond reform
This should take most, if not all, of the incentive out of socially destructive lawsuit abuse, while still making truly legitimate cases go through. We also promote personal responsibility first, and support repeal of all laws that fail to recognize this principle.

Q2) But hasn't lawsuit abuse declined since 1990?

A2) The number of lawsuits has declined since then. But that factoid is misleading as the total cost of lawsuits has actually been steadily rising for the past half-century at a rate faster than the GDP. Costs have risen by a whopping 35% from 2000 to 2003 alone, for example. In other words, lawsuit abuse has actually gone up despite fewer plaintiffs suing.

Q3) What is your position on dram shop and social host liability laws?

A3) The TSAP supports neither as they lead to lawsuit abuse that enriches trial lawyers while they are of questionable effectiveness in reducing alcohol-related fatalities and injuries. These laws conflict with our values of liberty and personal responsibility. Throw the book at the drunk drivers instead, and sue them for all they got. And if you get so drunk you pass out on the train tracks and your arm gets severed by a train, that's your own fault, not the bar who served you, idiot.

Q4) How dare you put a dollar value on human life!

A4) How dare you put a dollar value on freedom and its flip side, personal responsibility! That is just as priceless. The point of settlement caps is to take the incentive out of lawsuit abuse and reduce the negative externalities thereof (higher healthcare and insurance costs, etc.) that hurt us all, and to protect ordinary citizens from the greediest among us.

By the way, insurance companies put a dollar value on human life all the time. And it's usually in the six figures, or even less. Just Google the phrases "accidental death benefits" or "life insurance" and see for yourself what we mean.

Q5) What is the difference between a trial lawyer and a tick?

A5) One is a nasty, blood-sucking parasite and the other is a small arachnid.


Q1) How do you plan to fix our broken healthcare system?

A1) There are several things that need to be done. First, we will make it a single-payer system similar to Canada and several other industrialized countries. Healthcare is a human rights issue and it's about time we recognized that. Secondly, we will outlaw HMOs. Third, we will institute tort reform since excessive lawsuits drive up the cost of malpractice insurance and reduce the number of doctors (see Tort Reform section). Fourth, we will reform Medicare by funding it using a value-added tax instead of a payroll tax. Fifth, we will invest in better technology.

Q2) But won't there be long wait lists if we do that?

A2) If we copied exactly from Canada, possibly. But those wait lists are only for things that are not urgent or are elective surgeries, and therefore have a lower priority. The relatively modest problems with Canada's system can be reduced with public-private partnerships as well as allowing a limited form of private "supplemental" health insurance like they have in some European countries. That could be used for things the government doesn't cover, such as purely elective surgeries, or to get quicker service for things that are less urgent, but there should be very little overlap. And it would cost the government less as well.

Q3) What about rationing?

A3) Ah, the dirty "R word" that no one likes to hear. It conjures up images of turning away patients and letting them die in the hospital parking lot rather than treat them, but that is a gross exaggeration. Remember, we currently ration healthcare based on money. The rich get the best, the poor get the worst. Obviously, healthcare resources are finite. But would it not be more ethical to ration such resources based on actual need or first-come, first-served as opposed to the number of dollars one has?

Q4) But costs will skyrocket! And thus taxes will too. How will you reduce that?

A4) Actually, the total cost of our current system rises every year, faster than inflation. It is out of control. And it will only get worse, especially since we have an aging population. Due to the high number of uninsured people (over 40 million Americans), we are all paying for everyone else as it is. In contrast, a single-payer system will keep a cap on costs by law. Plus our other reforms will bring overall costs down even more. Keep in mind that we currently spend more on healthcare than any other industrialized nation, and have so little to show for it (lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, massive health disparities by class and race, etc.).

For taxes, they will have to go up and/or spending on other things will have to be cut. What we propose is a bit of both, but especially the latter. The amount we spend on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan alone could pay for a significant portion of a single-payer system. Ditto for the War on (people who use a few particular) Drugs, which we also propose to end.  Plus we already spend a lot on Medicare and Medicaid, which would be subsumed under the new system as well. The balance could be paid for by taxing the rich more (and removing the loopholes), raising excise taxes (most notably on alcohol and cigarettes), and taxing things like pollution and toxic chemicals (which makes us all less healthy). Perhaps we could try a modest "fat tax" on junk food, fast food, and soda as well. Excise taxes on those things that are unhealthy can reduce the free-rider problem as well.

But remember, smokers and obese people acutally save the system money in the long run since they die earlier, and actually rack up fewer costs as a result. So it's a bit of a toss-up either way.

Q5) Will there be premiums?  A few Canadian provinces do that, while others do not.

A5) No, it will be paid for solely through various kinds of tax dollars, ideally a balance of both progressive taxes and vice taxes.

Q6) Why should I have to pay for others who get sick?

A6) Hey buddy, you already do. Due to the high number of uninsured people, we are all paying for everyone else as it is. But not everyone gets the care they need under the current system, and costs are out of control.

Q7) Why not just force everyone to have private insurance? We do that with car insurance.

A7) And do you see what car insurance companies charge? You think health insurance is expensive now, just wait. When it becomes forced, the elasticity drops, and the companies fill in the vacuum by jacking up their premiums. Put a cap on insurance premiums you say? Have everyone pay the same? Then those who are good risks would have to subsidize the bad risks. And with all the government intervention this would require, we might as well just go single-payer while we're at it.

It is a common misconception that uninsured people (especially those under 30) are that way because they feel immortal--anyone who says that is clearly out of touch, and possibly ageist as well. It is more likely because the costs of any non-employer-based plan are prohibitive. And not everyone can get it through their employers. Those that can usually do. Force employers to do so, you say? Well, now you just opened up a huge can of worms. And thus all roads lead to socialism in terms of healthcare.

Q8) Would the single-payer system be state or federal in nature?

A8) Federal. While it may sound better to leave it up to the states entirely since we are such a large country, think of all the problems that would cause. Just look north to see it. Canada, though good overall, has rather different systems in each province. Some have premiums, others are funded solely by taxes. Some cover more stuff than others. Some are excellent, others are subpar. That's why there are so many contradictory reports, both glowing and stinking, about the rather heterogeneous Canadian system. In contrast, our proposal is as homogeneous as it can be. It should be administered by the several states, but policy should be designed and delegated by the feds, and federal taxes should pay for all or most of it. No distinctions should be made about what state a patient is from, since that would open up a can of worms as well.

(For more information as to why single payer is the least worst alternative, take a look at Physicians for a National Health Program)

Science and Public Policy

Q1) So where's your Ph.D.? You claim that various things are based on "junk science," but why should I believe you over the real experts?

A1) Where's your common sense? You don't need a Ph.D. to recognize junk science when you see it, just like you don't need a weatherman to tell you which way the wind is blowing. See Question 2 for more information. By the way, I am currently working on a Ph.D. in chemistry, thank you very much. And yes, I do consider myself a scientist.

Q2) How do you define and recognize junk science, then?

A2) Junk science, most broadly defined, is anything with the appearance of scientific rigor that actually lacks such rigor or does not properly follow the scientific method. That includes jumping to dubious conclusions from insufficent evidence, even if the evidence was gathered accurately. It also includes denial of the painfully obvious. A narrower definition is any faulty scientific data or analysis that is used to further an agenda of some sort, whether hidden or not-so-hidden. It is often politically motivated, or can simply be a way for unscrupulous individuals to make a name for themselves. Business interests often use it as well, to either protect themselves or denigrate the competition, sometimes both. Sometimes it is simply the error of honest, well-qualified scientists (who are only human by the way), but gets devoured by the media and business/political interests nonetheless.

Most junk science is easy to recognize, while some faults are a bit more subtle. Here are the red flags of junk science and pseudoscience:
  • Reliance on primarily anecdotal evidence. The plural of "anecdote" is not "data."
  • Reliance on logical fallacies (ad hominem, slippery slope, circular reasoning, etc.).
  • Non-falsifiable hypotheses.
  • Rejection of standard scientific procedures.
  • Citing rumors, myths, or urban legends as scientific evidence.
  • Excessive speculation or jumping to conclusions.
  • Extreme secrecy of any kind.
  • Hasty generalizations (or the opposite fallacy, slothful induction).
  • Emotional appeals or scare tactics without hard data to back it up.
  • Indifference to known facts. Often replaced with half-truths and omissions rather than outright lies.
  • Shifting the burden of proof (the burden of proof is always on the one asserting something).
  • Confusing correlation (association) with causation.
  • Statistical insignificance at the 5% level (it is likely due to chance), or simply not testing for significance.
  • Effects are at the very limit of detection (poor signal-to-noise ratio). If the signal-to-noise ratio cannot be boosted even with great effort, it was probably just noise all along.
  • Confidence intervals of relative risk (or odds ratio) that include the reference value 1.0, or using confidence intervals less stringent than 95% (generally done only when the 95% CI straddles 1.0, in order to deliberately mislead).
  • Studies on animals (especially when given unusually large doses of a substance) as the sole or primary evidence for any effects in humans (note that this one works both ways).
  • Claiming there is "no safe level" of exposure to a particular substance, no matter how small. Remember, it's the dose that makes the poison.
  • Gross misinterpretation of other studies, or affirmative citation of known fatally-flawed studies.
  • Over-defensiveness or anger when asked a direct question, or dodging the question. Remember, if it ducks like a quack......
  • Anything that promises a quick fix. Even if true, there's usually a catch.
  • Any claim that sounds too good to be true (it probably is).
  • Failures or major inconsistencies in data are buried or "explained away" in a largely ad hoc fashion.
  • Failure to replicate results, even with great effort.
  • Wishful thinking or "magical" thinking.
  • Claiming that "science" is on only one side of an issue--something that is rarely the case.
  • Disdain for the scientific community (e.g. "The Bible is the only science that matters").
  • Deliberately tweaking or massaging the data to fit a predetermined conclusion.
  • Claiming that a "conspiracy" of one kind or another is suppressing their results.
Here are the orange flags:

  • Known vested interests (not definitive, but combined with other signs it likely is).
  • Lack of peer review (presence of peer review is not definitive since reviewers may also be biased).
  • Research was conducted illegally and/or unethically.
  • Extremely audacious claims (not definitive since anything new can be considered audacious). The bolder the claim, the more ones antennae should go up.
  • Lack of robustness of effects to relatively minor changes in model specification.
  • In epidemiological studies, relative risks or odds ratios between 0.5 and 2.0 (they are too weak to be conclusive and are likely due to chance, bias, or confounding factors).
  • Very wide confidence intervals (CI) on relative risk (i.e. 95% CI of 5 or more), even if the RR exceeds 2.
  • Inappropriate or misleading use of the odds ratio vs. relative risk to overstate (or understate) effect size in cases where the "rare disease assumption" is false. 
  • Serious methodological flaws that render the data highly questionable.
  • Reliance on a single study, no matter how good it appears to be.
  • Lack of replication.
  • No dose-response relationship. 
  • Preferentially citing results of some studies over others, regardless of quality or accuracy.
  • Studies that ignore individual or group differences.
  • Non-random samples.
  • Not controlling for potentially confounding variables.
  • Small sample size (especially if less than 100). The smaller it is, the more it approaches the level of anecdotal evidence (that is, a sample size of one).

The more of the above signs you notice, the less credible the "science" in question is. If you see at least one red flag and/or two orange flags, be very suspicious. If you see at least two red flags and/or four orange flags, it's best to disregard it entirely (at least until more research is done) as it is most likely spurious. Further information can be found here, here, and here.

Even if it is sound and credible, and the results are statistically significant, you should also look at the size of any reported effects to see if the effects are of any practical significance. That is not always the case, and minuscule effect sizes are often exaggerated by the media and politicians to promote a particular agenda.

Beware of meta-analyses as well. That is when the data from several previous studies are pooled together into one big study. Junk scientists love them as they are easy to manipulate as far as which studies to include (stacking the deck), and even honest ones can suffer from the "file-drawer effect" (studies that find no effects are less likely to be published since that's not what sells these days).  The fact that a study is a meta-analysis is an orange flag in itself, except when it consists entirely of randomized controlled trials.

Finally, remember that statistics are not science. If a statistic cannot be independently verified, you are fully entitled to doubt it, especially if it is packaged in the form of a media soundbite. 

Q3) What are some known junk science mills?

A3) The TSAP believes, based on the weight of the available scientific evidence, that most (but not necessarily all) of the "science" hawked by the following organizations or individuals qualifies as junk or near-junk:
  • Center for Science in the Public Interest
  • MADD
  • Population Research Institute
  • Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA)
  • Tobacco companies
  • Some oil companies
  • And many more
Q4) What role should science play in public policy?

A4) The TSAP takes sound science very seriously, and rejects junk science. Sound science must never be ignored. That said, we still believe civil liberties and human rights generally trump even the soundest science. Rights are not something doled out by the state; rather, they are natural rights, meaning they come from God (or Nature, if you prefer). And no science can nullify such rights. This fact forces the state to be rather creative when solving problems.

The balancing act is that some activities, through their effects, can gravely violate the rights of nonconsenting others even if we do not know it is occurring, such as environmental damage. We accept the weaker version of the precautionary principle, namely that scientific uncertainty should not automatically preclude regulation of activities that pose a potential risk of serious or irreversible harm to the environment or public health. A cost-benefit analysis should always be done when deciding whether to regulate or not. This is similar to the Rio Declaration. It starkly contrasts with the strong version of the principle, which we reject, namely that activities with an uncertain potential for significant harm should be prohibited unless the proponent of the activity shows that it presents no appreciable risk of harm.

Q5)  What kinds of epidemiological studies are the most (or least) reliable?

A5)  The generally accepted "totem pole" of reliability, is as follows, from most to least:
  • Clinical trials (randomized controlled trials beat all others)
  • Cohort studies (prospective beats retrospective)
  • Case-control studies
  • Ecologic studies
  • Anecdotal evidence (verified)
  • Anecdotal evidence (unverified)
Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are the gold standard in research and, if able to be replicated, are the only kind of studies that can provide truly conclusive results on their own.  However, in many cases ethical and legal constraints often make these difficult if not impossible to conduct.  Thus, we are often stuck with the next option down, cohort studies, in which a group ("cohort") is followed over time.  Theoretically, as long as bias is minimized and confounding is adequately controlled for, these studies are almost as good as clinical trials. Unfortunately, such studies require very large numbers of people (often thousands or even tens of thousands) if the disease or condition in question is rare, necessarily take a long time (years or even decades) to gather data, and can thus be quite costly.  In those cases, which are very commonly studied in epidemiology, we then turn to case-control studies, in which a sample of those who have the disease or condition are compared with (presumably) matched individuals who do not have it.  They are quick, cheap, and easy, but they are far less reliable than cohort studies since they are very susceptible to bias and confounding.  But if strong results are found in a well-designed one, that is good justification to spend the necessary time and money on a cohort study.  Still weaker are ecologic studies, which merely compare two populations who differ by the presence/absence of some exposure factor.  The populations may differ in other, often important ways that are difficult to observe (let alone control for), and the study design fundamentally lends itself to the ecological fallacy.  Such studies are really only useful for generating hypotheses for future research, and should never be used as the sole evidence to set public policy.  The weakest of all is anecdotal evidence, which is often presented in the form of a few selected individual case studies.  By definition, these studies have no controls at all, and generalizing from them is an example of the logical fallacy known as hasty generalization.  And the very weakest of these are those reports that are unverified or impossible to verify, such as most testimonials and urban legends on TV or the Internet.

Remember that epidemiological studies alone can only show an association between variables, not prove causation.  Correlation does not equal causation, and the Bradford-Hills criteria of causation should be applied to distinguish the two.


(We saved the best for last)

Q1:  Are you pro-choice or pro-life?

A1:  Both.  See General Question #1.

Q2:  Do you support Title IX?

A2:  Yes.

Q3:  Is the TSAP a feminist party?

A3:  Depends on what you mean by "feminist."  There are many different varieties of feminism.  If you mean gender equality between men and women, then certainly yes.  If you mean anything other than that, such as one-sided privilege for women, then no.

Q4:  Do you support the Equal Rights Amendment?

A4:  Yes. It's long overdue.

Q5:  Should women be drafted?

A5:  This is kind of a loaded question, since this presupposes that it is okay to have a draft at all.  The TSAP does not support any sort of draft except in the very rare circumstances where it is absolutely necessary.   Conscription is a form of involuntary servitude, and any country that needs a draft to defend itself deserves to lose.  Ditto for any country that allegedly can't protect itself without the help of  American conscripts.  Thus we greatly frown upon it, as any free society should.

However, in those rare circumstances, if we must have a draft, then yes, women should serve equally.  If you want equality, you got it, and everything that goes with it.  Anything else is one-sided privilege for one gender, plain and simple.

Q6:  How will you solve the problem of violence against women?

A6:  By getting tougher on the perpetrators, and allowing law-abiding citizens to own and carry concealed weapons.  See the "Crime and Punishment" and "Gun Control" section for more information.  And by abolishing laws against consensual crimes, we will have much more resources to devote to ending this plague.

Q7:  But don't women need to be protected from themselves?  Aren't women not built for liberty?

A7:  That sexist (and patently false) notion has no place in a free society.  Next question please.

Q8:  But isn't patriarchy the foundation of Western Civilization?  Without it, our civilization will collapse!

A8: See the answer to question #7.


You've surely seen the Libertarians' World's Smallest Political Quiz. We have our own:
  1. Assuming these are the only two choices, should the drinking age be 18 or 21?
  2. Cannabis should be legalized (true/false).
  3. We should bring back the draft (true/false).
  4. We should finish what we started in Iraq, even if that means staying another 10 years (true/false).
  5. The Second Amendment does apply to individuals, and violating it does more harm than good (true/false).
  1. 1 point for 18, 0 pts for 21.
  2. 1 point for true, 0 pts for false.
  3. 0 points for true, 1 point for false.
  4. 0 points for true, 1 point for false.
  5. 1 point for true, 0 points for false, 1/2 point if only the first or second part is answered as true.
To be a member of the TSAP, you must score at least 4 out of 5, one point of which must be from questions 1 or 2.

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