Spitzer, Consensual Crime, and a Free Society

*NOTE:  This article was written by Jason Denham for Monkey Reads a Book

Unless you've been living under a rock these last couple of days, you already know about the fall of Eliot Spitzer. Let me first say that Spitzer is an idiot and a hypocrite. He made his name as a belligerent Attorney General, prosecuting, among others, prostitution rings. So I really have no sympathy for his political fall.

But that's not what I want to post about. Let me for the moment assume the Socratic mannerisms of that kid from Jerry Maguire. Did you know that 1 in 100 Americans is now in prison? Did you know that a big chunk of that prison population is there because of, 1) nonviolent drug offenses, and 2) violent crimes which were only made possible by the economic incentives created by the so-called drug war? Did you know that huge portions of police manpower across the country is dedicated to said pseudo-war? Ever wonder how much good they could accomplish if they had that time to prevent, for example, rape or hate crimes? Or how much public money could be saved (nay, generated by regulation!) and used to improve schools, treat addictions, send people to Mars, whatever, if we just stopped putting people in jail for smoking a joint?

Yes, there ARE people in prison in my state for smoking a joint. New York has particularly draconian drug laws. Just Google 'New York State drug laws' and see if you don't find the word draconian in at least 50% of the links, I dare you. One reason I won't miss Spitzer is he never followed up on his campaign promise to reform those laws.

I am talking about putting people in prison for consensual, victimless behavior, people. It is the ugly fruit of our Puritan American roots. I would argue that there is nothing inherently immoral about buying (or selling) sex, betting on dice or a basketball game, or consuming illegal drugs. Their criminalization is based on the religious values of many Americans, but that doesn't make them criminal. We do, through our elected officials, who by the way just might be partaking of some forbidden fruit while they demagogue for the public.

How does this rant relate at all to books? Well, there's a great book about consensual crimes that I read several years ago, it's called Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do, by Peter McWilliams, and the full text is available at the link above. Please read it, or better yet go out and buy it (if you can find a copy, which may be tough).