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Sunday, March 3, 2024

Did the Guns and Dope Party win?

A graphic for the Guns and Dope Party, from Rasa's website. 

When Robert Anton Wilson ran for governor of California in 2003, he ran as the candidate of the Guns and Dope Party. The name comes from these positions in the party's platform: "Guns for everybody who wants them; no guns for those who don't want them. Drugs for everybody who wants them; no drugs forthose who don't want them." The Guns and Dope Party seems generally libertarian, if you overlook the satirical aspects of the party's platform. 

While the two main American political parties have arguably become less libertarian in recent years, the U.S. also has become more libertarian, at least in terms of regulating personal behavior. 

This trend seems certainly true in Ohio, where I live. Last fall, voters approved two state questions. One puts legal abortion in the state constitution. The other legalizes possession and use of marijuana; marijuana stores for the general public will open in Ohio later this year. 

Here in Ohio, I am also allowed to set off fireworks in public during numerous holidays during the year, not just the the Fourth of July. That's a relatively new law. Gun laws, never very restrictive in Ohio, have become even less so. For example, in 2022 Ohio dropped requiring permits for the concealed carry of a handgun. Now you can tote one around without a background check or any training requirements. Betting on the outcome of sports games also recently became legal. Casino gambling was legalized some years ago and is available in all of the big cities. No one has to go out to buy porn anymore; it's on the Internet. It's become easier in Ohio for people to choose what schools their kids will go to; most people except the quite wealthy can obtain vouchers to make it easier to send their kids to private schools, including religious ones. 

In some cases, Republican lawmakers who control the legislature simply passed laws; in a few cases, as in last year's state questions, they blocked action and the voters overrode them. 

The trends I am citing are generally true in the U.S. States continue to legalize marijuana in the U.S. Casino gambling and gambling on sports, once mostly confined to Las Vegas, has spread to many areas of the U.S. The people who support "school choice" vouchers for everyone have won in several states. Gay marriage has become the law of the land and is generally accepted. 

Even in nonpolitical ways, life has become less restrictive. You choose your gender. American football was on TV only two days a week when I was young; now in football season, it's most days. Major league baseball when I was  young was only on TV one time a week, on Saturday afternoon, until the playoffs arrived. Now baseball is on TV every day, during baseball season. 

This seems like an impressive list for doing what you want to do in your personal life, not just in comparison to repressive regimes such as North Korea and Saudi Arabia, but also in comparison to most countries of the western world, where legal marijuana and buying all the guns you want is not really the norm. 

There are a couple of apparent exceptions to my general rule about the country becoming more libertarian. 

The Supreme Court overruled the Roe v. Wade decision and allowed abortion to be decided by the states, and many states have criminalized the procedure, so on the surface that's an example of less free choice. 

But in every state where the issue has gone on the ballot as a state question in the wake of the ruling, the pro-abortion side has won, including in Ohio. This statement is true about both liberal and conservative states; when the people themselves are allowed to decide, they vote not to let the government interfere with medical decisions. As a political matter, abortion (and most recently, IVF) has become the biggest issue Democrats can use to attack Republicans, with the possible exception of the existence of Donald Trump.

And I think it's possible that on guns in Ohio, left leaning political groups may succeed in putting gun control on the ballot and imposing certain restrictions that seem generally popular, such as background checks for all gun sales. But even with such changes, I doubt Ohio will become more restrictive than most western countries. I suspect the opposite will remain true. 


Prop Anon said...

I don't think we are there yet. Not until Marijuana is legalized on a federal level. Last time that I checked, Biden is not in favor of such legislation.

Brian Dean said...

Compared with Britain it looks like paradise (dope-wise, that is. Gun-wise it looks like hell over there). Political leadership in Britain seems so backward on the issue, and so cowed by rightwing tabloids, I can see it taking another decade at least for legalisation. Hope I'm wrong. Even the doddering old men in charge of USA look *relatively* sane on the matter. On the other hand, the guns situation in Britain - ie the almost total lack of them, a near-universally preferred situation over here, with just a small handful of gun murders each year compared to the thousands in the US - looks fairly civilised. Bill Hicks used to have a good comedy routine about it.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

The marijuana issue is one more black mark against Biden, but I also can't help thinking that focusing on just the problems with the Democrats feels like an overcorrection. Here is a story about the new Republican nominee for governor in North Carolina: