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.