21 Jump Street is real. Right now, young looking police officers are infiltrating high schools across the country looking to break up major crime rings. Problem is they are usually doing more harm than good. So the next time you see Channing Tatum, or Jonny Depp wandering your high school, before you ask for their autograph, make sure you know the real ways cops are taking advantage of teenagers.
Everybody knows not to buy drugs. But did you know that there is a way to buy drugs and have the cops thank you for it? In an in depth analysis of all the weird rules, strange loopholes, and loony litigation, Professor Alex Kriet takes you behind the scenes of The United States’ drug laws.
Our three most recent presidents have admitted to committing drug offenses in their youth, though they didn’t pay for their indiscretions with jail time. But most people caught up in our criminal justice system aren’t so lucky. Perhaps the worst aspect of the flawed system is mandatory minimum sentences. Consider Weldon Angelos, one victim — a former record producer who won’t get out of jail until he’s eighty and has served a sentence of more than twice what the hijacker of a plane would face. His crime? Selling marijuana twice.
Alex Kreit, criminal law professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, explains three reasons why mandatory minimums are really, really, really bad. For one thing, the sentences can be longer than those for more serious crimes. Second, they get the wrong people, despite the intentions of lawmakers. Third, if the goal is to reduce drug use, they fail on their own terms. Among their targets in practice are people who have been convicted of such minor offenses as possession for personal use. Drugs are as plentiful as ever.
Tired of the corruption, high crime, and poor state of the economy in Venezuela, students and other citizens are taking to the streets to protest. What kind of ideas inspire regular citizens to risk so much in the face of a tyrannical government?
The anti-government protests and demonstrations in Ukraine have been flooding the news lately. But what is it all about? What ideas inspire these people to stand tall against their oppressive government?
Disclaimer: Learn Liberty is an educational project and does not endorse any policy, politician, or political party. Learn Liberty does not endorse violence of any kind.
“I mean let anyone do anything he pleases that’s peaceful or creative; let there be no organized restraint against anything but fraud, violence, misrepresentation, predation; let anyone deliver mail or educate or preach his religion or whatever, so long as it’s peaceful.” – Leonard Read
The United States has laws in place to limit the number of immigrants granted entry. How many immigrants should be allowed to call America home? Bryan Caplan, professor of economics at George Mason University, argues that the United States should have open borders. Jan Ting, professor of law at Temple University, argues that there need to be limits on the number of immigrants.
In this clip, Prof. Ting argues that open borders would result in an enormous increase in the number of immigrants to the United States. He points out that there are so many opportunities here that people would come in huge numbers from less developed countries. The strain on the United States infrastructure and environment could be enormous.
In his response, Prof. Caplan argues that the fact people would want to come in such great numbers is, in his mind, an argument favoring open borders. People should be living in places where they can achieve their potential. For many people around the world, this means they need to move. Would this have effects on the U.S. economy? Absolutely. Prof. Caplan argues that in the short run, housing prices would probably increase, for example. In addition, we may see a move to having personal servants, as many of the low-skilled workers in the world have skill sets that fall below the lowest-skilled workers in the United States. To offset pressures on the environment, Prof. Caplan recommends increasing costs for pollution and other environmental hazards.
What do you think? Do you think the fact that many people would want to immigrate to the United States is an argument in favor or against opening the borders?
What is the value of free will and the ability to make your own choices? Prof. James Otteson recalls a parable his teacher taught him in high school. If you had the ability to make a woman fall in love with you, would you like it? Would you prefer to force someone to love you or to have someone offer to give their love to you freely? Love freely given is so much more valuable. This story illustrates an important moral insight: Respecting people means allowing them to make their own choices, even if you believe the choices they will make are poor. Without the ability to choose for ourselves, we lose a bit of what makes us human. Do you find it frustrating when you are not allowed to make your own decisions? What would you do differently if people or government were not preventing your actions? Do you think you’re better or worse off when your choices are limited or taken from you?
Literature and legend often reflect their culture. Some themes, like that of rulers imposing coercive power, or of individuals rising up against tyrants, are as relevant today as they were in antiquity. Suzanne Collins drew on Greek mythology’s story of the Minotaur and on the legend of Spartacus in ancient Rome as she created the Hunger Games series. Her hero, like the heroes in these stories, does not seek her own power or profit but is standing up against a violent and tyrannical government. “People everywhere yearn for the freedom to pursue their own goals and dreams,” says Prof. Amy Sturgis. Even though the themes are ancient, stories like the Hunger Games resonate with readers because the anxieties and fears they portray are real and relevant. “These stories aren’t just entertainment,” Sturgis says. “They are reflections of who and what we are.” Do the themes in these stories resonate with you? Why?
Everybody loves free speech, right? It’s in the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution. But Prof. Deirdre McCloskey complicates the picture of free speech by associating it with the Greek word for persuasion: rhetoric. Free speech and advertising go hand in hand. Advertisements and rhetoric both have a negative connotation, but they are essential to the functioning of a free society. The only alternative to persuasion by speech is persuasion by violence. Clearly speech is a safer and superior alternative. And perhaps advertising plays a helpful role in society. What better way is there to make decisions about what to buy or what to believe except by people trying to charm us? What do you think about the role of advertising in a free society? Should advertising fall under the first amendment protections? How do you like to be persuaded about things?
Is it possible the war on drugs is to blame for increased potency in marijuana and for how crack ravaged inner cities in the 1980s? Prof. Adam Martin explains how the drug war has altered incentives for both drug buyers and sellers, leading them to favor higher potency drugs. This is what economists call the potency effect. As penalties for purchasing marijuana go up, for example, the cost difference between high- and low-potency marijuana decreases and people may think that if they’re risking a fine or jail time anyway they may as well buy the stronger drugs. Similarly, cartels and dealers have shifted their focus to high-value, high-potency drugs like cocaine as a result of the steeper fines and penalties for drug trafficking. The potency effect is just one of many economic forces that make markets so complex. Public policies that alter the incentives people face—as the war on drugs does—can lead to unintended and even dangerous consequences.
Many Americans do not know what their constitutional freedoms are or why they were established in the first place. The freedoms Americans have are rare and fragile. They were put in place to protect people and ensure our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Professor James Otteson explains the importance of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Prior to the Revolutionary War, King George III issued what are called general warrants. Essentially, this allowed government officials to seek out and look for any wrongdoing without probable cause. Such general warrants were carried out on anyone in America, including among the people that would come to be our Founders.
The Founders instilled in the Constitution rules requiring warrants to have probable cause and limiting them to specific times, places, and people. Why is this important? Prof. Otteson says it’s important “because with unlimited authority, officials inevitably find wrongdoing.” Witch hunts always find witches. Constitutional protections like the Fourth Amendment are especially important for people who want to do things differently than the majority. These freedoms enable Americans to find their own paths to happiness as free and equal citizens.
Did you know you own a person? It’s you. When you own something, you have the right to determine who has access to it. This goes for your car as well as for your own body. While this may seem like a simple concept, it makes a big difference in how we live our lives.
Prof. Dan Russell uses an example to discuss how important self-ownership is. If we did not own our own bodies, we could be easily abused. Without self-ownership, others could try to use our bodies, our talents or abilities, or the things we produce for their own gain without our permission. Since we own our own bodies, however, people need our permission before they can have access to us or our talents or production.
If someone wants our help with something, we have the right to give that help freely or to say no. When it comes to our labor, we may make a trade with someone. We may, for example, choose to work for someone in exchange for monetary compensation. The point is, the choice is ours. We can say yes to arrangements that seem beneficial to us and we can say no to the things in which we don’t want to take part. And the right to say no and self-ownership are incredibly important to our everyday lives, although we may seldom realize it.
Log in to Learn Liberty
Already have an account? Sign in using your username and password, or click one of the social icons to sign in using a connected social media account.