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In defense of freedom

Around the office, Karie Dozer and Chuck Powell can often be heard making fun of me and my Libertarian ways.

Make fun of me all you want. I’d still rather be free to make my own decisions. I’m even fine living with the consequences.

Aside from this, there’s another main driver behind my freedom loving philosophy: Attempts to take away freedom never yield the desired results.

In 1971, President Richard Nixon first declared America’s war on drugs. The goal was to reduce the consumption and distribution of illegal drugs. Sure, it was a noble goal.

It just didn’t work.

Drug usage rates are similar now to what they were in 1971. Illegal drugs are even cheaper now due to massive supply despite the trillion dollar, 42-year battle.

Police powers have expanded exponentially since the war on drugs began and plenty of rights have been diminished in pursuit of the evil drug dealers. For example, all cash transactions over $10,000 have to be reported to the government because they assume large amounts of cash have some type relationship to drugs. It doesn’t matter if there is proof or not. In fact, if the cops find large amounts of cash they can seize it.

In his book “Mugged By the State,” author Randall Fitzgerald writes about a man whose hobby was restoring cars. After selling two of his cars for cash, he was later pulled over on his way home. He consented to a police search and the officer found and confiscated the money. The officer had no proof the driver was involved in the illegal drug trade. It’s bewildering that in the land of the free that cash alone is proof of criminal activity.

Similar to cash seizures, asset forfeiture, as any fan of the TV show “The Shield” can attest, is quite controversial. Fitzgerald also tells the story a woman who purchased a used car. She too was pulled over for a traffic violation. She consented to a police search thinking she had nothing to hide but a police dog found a hidden compartment in the trunk. The woman had no idea it was even there. The cop seized the car anyways because the dog smelled drugs (there were no drugs present, just the scent of them). This woman had done nothing wrong yet she became a victim in the freedom stealing war on drugs.

This is why I yell “Freedom!” from the rooftops and speak out against government powers. Notice the pattern: Laws are designed to make it easier for law enforcement to catch drug dealers. Fine. But often times, the nets get cast so wide a little old lady driving to work gets caught in it. She then might have to give up her car because it was used to carry drugs one time, five years before she owned it.

The Patriot Act is another example of a law drafted with the best intentions in mind, designed to stop the next terrorist attack. It was quickly passed after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks; expanding police powers by allowing for the indefinite detention of immigrants and authorizing warrantless wiretaps.

But, as of 2011, the Patriot Act was used in only 15 terrorism investigations. It, too, has become a tool the police use to bust drug dealers, having been used in over 1,600 drug cases.

Legislating away freedom should be a serious business. It should never be rushed. Whether it’s for terrorism or healthcare or guns or the amount of soda someone can purchase.

Above all else, freedom is America’s founding principle. It is what separates us from most other nations because, historically, we have accepted freedom and embraced it. Violating this principle by taking away rights doesn’t make people healthier or make health care cheaper. It doesn’t make cities less violent or stop gun violence. It certainly doesn’t disrupt the flow of illegal drugs into this country.

That’s why I defend freedom. Not because I’m some druggie but because I believe in it as a concept and because taking it away doesn’t work.