Winning or Losing the Lottery

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Obama, the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated
by Peter Fitzgerald (R-IL), has frankly
using marijuana and cocaine during his youth. He credited
an attitude adjustment with his choice to take a new direction.

often wonder why no reporter asks the obvious question. "Mr.
Obama, you obviously lucked out and didn't get caught while you
were getting stoned, while other young people who were not so lucky
got a criminal record for doing what you did. Do you support the
notion of law as lottery, or is law absolute and universal?

you commit murder or robbery and don't get caught, shouldn't you
be punished no matter how long it takes to identify you? If politicians
have passed laws against using pot or coke, and those laws are moral,
shouldn't you be jailed now, today, because you weren't punished
back when you committed the crimes?

you should not be jailed now, then why should anyone ever be jailed
simply for doing today (and getting caught) what you did back then?
Would jail time and a criminal record have enhanced your life, helped
you get into Harvard law school, and improved your chances of being
elected to the Senate?"

kids could have gone on to great things (no, I don't include public
office in this category) but for the fact that last night the cop
noticed the bag under the back seat and pulled out the handcuffs?

readers of LRC recognize the obvious: The law is now a complete
lottery where some people have better odds than others, but all
face the same general risk of disobeying the 12th Commandment
by getting caught. [The 11th Commandment is, of course,
Keep a Low Profile, and if observed religiously, usually allows
the observation of the 12th, too.]

it smoking pot? Drinking beer prior to that officially blessed 21st
birthday? Exploring the biological sciences with a willing sweet
young thing who's not quite at that "consenting" age?
Offering legal advice, medical care, shop services, disposal services,
landscaping services, mail service, hair braiding, coloring, cutting,
or styling services, taxi services, commercial trucking services,
or just about anything else without first acquiring an official

it attaching a particular cosmetic part like a flash
to a certain kind of rifle? [Sorry, I forgot, that was
an immoral act but now is a moral act…it's all in the date.
Or perhaps I'm confused, as it never seemed immoral to me, and was
only illegal, evidently a MAJOR distinction.] Was it accidentally
spilling the wrong material into a waterway or filling dirt into
the wrong low-lying area?

it selling a legal weed to a minor? Forgetting to eradicate ditch
weed on the back forty? Saying anything other than "I don't
recall" to any government employee? Did you slip a Glock
into your pocket because you were going to the ATM after dark for
some cash?

know that if everyone who smoked pot or quaffed a beer before 21
actually did time in the hoosegow, we'd need a whole lot more prisons.
Heck, there'd be more prisons than there are bank branches and there
are more of them now than gas stations. [In fact, the guards would
probably have to be ex-prisoners, since there simply aren't that
many folks who didn't take a hit or a pre-21 shot during their irresponsible
years.] This same principle will clearly apply to downloaders as

technology virtually begs Peer-to-Peer network users to innovate,
so content owners like the big movie studios will probably have
the same success as the drug warriors. But how many more young people
will lose the lottery? At the rate we're going, what with Martha
Stewart going to jail for lying to the Feds about something that
wasn't itself criminal, the stigma of being an ex-con is in danger
of fading out completely. How can you shun someone who, in a tiny
twist of fate, could just as easily have been you?

life will be less uncertain when lawmakers (and their gutless, herding-animal
constituents…i.e. our neighbors) have the cojones to face
that question. Someday, perhaps our neighbors will see that the
people they threaten with a life-ruining criminal record is their
own next generation, their kids, doing exactly what mom and dad
did when they were young – playing fast and loose with the
rules. Until then, it seems that as science conquers the arbitrary
dangers of nature, humans will replace nature's horrors like polio
and periodic starvation with man-made alternatives. As we know,
the institution best constituted to breathe life into these lunatic
fantasies is government.

guys. Thanks a lot.

the meantime, the best our community (the LRC community, that is)
can do is to teach our kids the difference between nature's law
(morality) and statehouse law (the lottery). It's wrong to murder,
or rob, or cheat. It's just hazardous to do any of the literally
millions of other things that are technically now crimes. Just remember,
son, to play the odds.

1, 2004

Calderwood [send him
] a businessman, artist, and author of the novel Revolutionary
, selected January 2000 Freedom Book of the Month

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