INTERMITTENT FREE WILL SYNDROME

It's nice of the local dealership to offer me a ride to and from work while they fix my car, but I'd have walked if I had known that the experience would involve the 70 year old driver subjecting me to AM talk radio. I avoid that stuff like the plague. It has no value to me, not even of the unintentional comedy variety. It's simply crap. Devoid of merit. I'd benefit as much from listening to a big, colicky baby throw a crying tantrum for a couple hours, because that is in essence what it is.

On Monday I got to hear a local blowhard (of no renown, but clearly hoping to climb the ladder with a combination of bluster, patronizing tone, and the mastery of things that will sound like great arguments to really stupid people) rant about plans in Chicago and Cook County to increase the cigarette tax yet again. This has been a popular whipping boy for butt-hurt local Teabaggers over the past few weeks. I'm sure most of them don't smoke, but why punt on a great opportunity to whine about taxes, amirite?

The argument was that the County was succeeding only in creating a thriving black market for cigarettes with its $6.67 per pack tax load, second in the nation only to NYC. Police confirm that cigarettes purchased in other states are indeed being sold off the books by enterprising individuals and organized gangs in Chicago. The host proceeded to rant about how stupid the government is and how it refuses to learn "the lessons of cause and effect" as the higher taxes "force otherwise law-abiding people" to turn to a black market. This in turn fuels gang-related violence and other problems that have plagued the city lately.

Isn't it interesting how individuals responding to something the government does simply have no choice as rational actors but to break the law, while people who break the law because of market forces making things unaffordable are the scum of the Earth? They can rant and rave all day about poor people using 9-1-1 or Emergency Rooms for routine medical problems, not once mentioning that they're doing it because they can't afford insurance or doctor visits. Yet when the government raises taxes on cigarettes – which the last time I checked were a luxury and not a necessity – however could we blame John Q. Public for turning to the black market? That's just common sense. Anyone would do the same.

So, to review: if the government prices you out of the market for something frivolous, breaking the law is rational and your actions are the government's fault. When the market prices you out of a basic necessity of life, you get a lecture on personal responsibility and why you are What's Wrong with America. I guess free will and morality are off the table when the potential to rant about taxes enters the picture.

Be Sociable, Share!

23 Responses to “INTERMITTENT FREE WILL SYNDROME”

  1. Jonathan Says:

    And 19 petitions for states to peacefully be allowed to secede from the Union wound up on change.org tonight. Texas was well over the 25k signature threshold. Things are getting Interesting.

  2. cromartie Says:

    It's an entirely consistent view from a blowhard who thinks the government is getting in the way of people rationally interacting with a free market that should set it's own prices without consequences, actually.

  3. LK Says:

    You got it wrong, Ed: EVERYTHING is off the table when the potential to rant about anything enters the picture. Or everything is on the table. Or whatever combination you choose. That's the basic premise of the Ranting Class (did I just invent something here?).

  4. AK Says:

    But just imagine what that fellow would have to say about the War On Drugs.

  5. Middle Seaman Says:

    Stop ranting about ranting. It's the land of the free to rant.

  6. Arslan Says:

    These people are immune to cognitive dissonance(or maybe not, which explains why they are so angry and butthurt all the time)- just look at the way they praise the "free market" while complaining about China owning part of our debt(which they just realized in 2009 for some unknown reason), or jobs going overseas. Free…fucking…trade. That's what it looks like. Now of course there are "true" libertarians who claim to be against corporate welfare, subsidies, etc., but their ideology is even more idiotic.

  7. Both Sides Do It Says:

    Figuring out ways to not pay taxes through various international shell games: american as apple pie

    Figuring out ways to not pay for episodes of The Simpsons through various international shell games: oh my god you little in human monster have you no respect for rules and decency how can you live with yourself mmm my farts smell delicious

  8. Neal Deesit Says:

    A natural disaster wipes out your area. Your home flooded and damaged, you take food and necessities from equally flooded and damaged stores nearby.

    If you are white, you are "resourceful."
    If you are non-white, you are "looting."

  9. c u n d gulag Says:

    Maybe if we legalized drugs, we wouldn't have to tax indulgances or luxuries like liqour, beer, and cigarettes, as much?

    Yeah, that'll happen…

    Oh, and Ed, ask the driver to changethe radio station to NPR, or classical music, if either is available. And if he doesn't, call the dealership and ask them if it's their policy that paying customers should be locked into a car and have to listen to something they don't want to be subjected to? And that the next time you're in the market for a car, you'll remember that.

    Of course, next time, you might be subjected to one of the endless Golden Oldies stations playing the same tunes over and over and over again. I knew I was getting old when I heard "White Rabbit" played on one – one of the great drug songs of all time.

    Oh, and is there some sort of law that EVERY FECKIN" Doctor's office, bar, and common area, MUST have FUX Noise on?
    I ask people in charge there if the channel can be changed – and if they decline, if I can, I leave.
    My doctor's office has let me change it to MSNBC, and almost all of the other patients all thanked me for it. And, if they didn't thank me, no one, NO ONE, objected to the change.

  10. Mr. Prosser Says:

    @c u n d gulag and Ed. Your mistake is that you actually listen. Rant Radio and FUX News in public have become the elevator music of the era. My neighbor has the TV on to FUX all day yet never really pays attention unless some cop chase comes on. (He is an idiot and right now eating his own liver over the election but that's another story.) Anyway, very true, ask for the TV in an office to be switched and most of the time it will be. Nobody pays any attention anymore.

  11. Mr. Prosser Says:

    By the way, Serwer's post is sorta, kinda on topic here: http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2012/11/obama-coaltion-racial-makeup

  12. Major Kong Says:

    My airline job required me to share a "crash pad" in Memphis with 5 other pilots. On any given day there might be one or two of us there who were on reserve or stuck in Memphis due to our schedules.

    One of these guys would turn the TV to Fox News and leave it there pretty much all day.

    I just don't get it. I'm liberal but the last thing I want to do is sit in front of MSNBC all day long. It's excruciating to watch these networks try to stretch 15 minutes of real news into 24 hours of programming.

  13. Matt Says:

    @c u n d gulag – I suspect the choice of Fox News is mostly down to a desire to *avoid* unnecessary interactions with people like Mr. Dondero (of the previous article) who'd have a raging, screaming, hissy fit if some "libral media" channel was on.

  14. Misterben Says:

    The original post here is a really, really good point, juxtaposing two specific aspects of illegal activity that I've never seen juxtaposed before, and in a way I've never considered.

    I read this site every day for all sorts of reasons, but this kind of thing is very high up the list.

    Thanks!

  15. sluggo Says:

    Radio guy downstate is talking about Cook County issues?

    I guess when you have too much time on your hands and raging big city envy/fear that could happen.

  16. John Says:

    So the local wingnuts rant and rave about cigarette taxes driving "otherwise law-abiding" people into the black market, or even potentially other crime?

    You should call in and ask them what they think about legalizing marijuana or other currently totally-illegal drugs.

    I can almost guarantee their answers will be hilariously inconsistent with the primary arguments of their previous rants.

  17. glf Says:

    During the recent financial melt down, if poor or laid off people walked away from mortgages they could no longer afford they were demonized; but when rich people walked away from their mortgages, it was just good investment strategy as they were cutting their losses.

  18. J. Dryden Says:

    @ John: To be fair, it might be the only time in their lives that they use empiricism in their reasoning. "Marijuana and tobacco are not identical drugs, thus arguing that they should be legislated in equivalent terms is not, on its face, logical." Of course, they might phrase it a little differently. And a little more loudly. And with a greater amount of spittle-flecking. And they'd still be wrong. But still–yay for the heritage of the Age of Reason!

    Which is kind of the larger point here–not all right-wingers are fools. (Nor are all left-wingers wise.) The shrewder ones know that, when confronted with an obvious double-standard, they can draw enough of a distinction between the two objects of objection to demonstrate that, no, they're not being hypocrites, they're being fastidious. (Or, as they will phrase it, "smart.") It's no coincidence that a *lot* of them are ex-lawyers–the drawing or manufacturing of fine distinctions to reframe an argument advantageously–that's legal thinking, and it *works*. With enough shamelessness, any decent lawyer–particularly one involved in tort law–can argue that *his* case is nothing like the one that the opposing counsel is using as precedent. Which is to say that a really good legal mind is never wrong, because life is too variegated for total consistency.

    Crap. Did I just wind up defending neo-con tactics? I've gotta stop drinking this early in the morning.

  19. bb in GA Says:

    @ed

    In my east GA rural town, the pharmacy I use has MSNBC on all the time. My county voted for Mittens 80/20. Never heard or seen anybody complain and business is good.

    So much for "our" redneck intolerance.

    //bb

    P.S. – Even though I didn't vote for Willard, I want to apologize for all those Romney Racist Redneck Riots (I'm lookin' at you Cund :-))….Oh wait

  20. Southern Beale Says:

    Kinda unrelated but y'all know Tennessee is Teanut central, right? So some enterprising young small businesses decided to get around the state's tobacco tax by opening these "roll your own" storefronts, it enabled them to take advantage of some loophole in the law which I'm too lazy and unmotivated to understand, but Google it if you're interested. And within, wow, 3 months or so the all-GOP Teabagging state legislature put down the hammer on that one. Passed some kind of law making what they were doing illegal. And they all had to close up shop.

    So, taxes. Yeah. I think it depends on WHICH taxes.

    Also, the fact that a lot of these folks were immigrants from countries full of swarthy brown people? I'm guessing that had something to do with it.

  21. mel in oregon Says:

    ran into a friend who is in his early 70s. he said he is extremely lonely. i asked why since he has a wife of nearly 50 years, kids & grandchildren who have done well, & seems pretty content. then he told me. it's that as a progressive he has to hear the stupid nonsense that most of his generation spout all the time. he told me, "they're all tea party types, full of shit, & knowlegible about absolutely nothing." hurts to be old & intelligent these days.

  22. Major Kong Says:

    @mel

    My father is the same way. He's 73 and the guys he works out with at the community center are all tea party types.

  23. marydem Says:

    all complaining aside, are they correct? is there a point that sin taxes become counter-productive, creating criminals out of once law-abiding smokers? germinating a black market with its inherent violence and law enforcement costs? have cigarette taxes reached the point of diminishing returns?