Yeah, That’s Government: Prohibition and Monopoly in Alaska

Believe it or not, in a place where a person – up until the early 1980s, that is – could grow up to five cannabis plants for their own use without fear of government molestation (the Reaganites changed all of that), alcohol prohibition is still in effect in some remote areas, as if time there were frozen somewhere between 1919 and 1933.

This place, of course, is Alaska, and according to a recent report by the Associated Press, many Alaskans have taken to doing what here in the “lower 48” (or in Hawaii for that matter) would be laughable in this day and age: Smuggling booze. And here’s another factoid that must have the anti-intoxicant do-gooders in Seventh Heaven – many booze merchants and customers are using the U.S. Postal Service to do business.

It’s a classic case where government produces by its very nature a self-perpetuating conundrum of insult to injury. The Postal Service, having a monopoly on all except express delivery services, leaves customers with no less expensive choice by which to ship goods across trackless Alaskan waste. So, when the banned products are intercepted by the behavior Nazis, in addition to the contraband charges, Alaskans can be hit with violating federal postal regulations as well. A portion of the Alaska State Police have even been federally authorized to act as and directly assist federal postal inspectors. So much for the minarchist myth of separation of powers – especially in Sarah Palin land, often touted for “small government” and “low taxes.” (I’ll trade “small” and “low” in these cases for “no” any time.)

And we’re not just talking slap on the wrist fines for these “infractions” either: According to the AP, Sargeant Chris Thompson, who heads up state police interdiction, was quoted thusly:

“Anyone convicted of crimes in these cases will see time behind bars, he added. In Alaska, even the first illegal importation carries a mandatory minimum sentence of three days, and ‘people do go to jail,’ Thompson said.”
Well, it’s always nice to know that such Amerikan versions of Dudley Do-Right are looking out for our best interests and doing it with our stolen tax monies. But let’s get real: Alcohol prohibition in the 1920s and 1930s didn’t work, just like today’s War on Drugs doesn’t either. At best, it provides jobs for authoritarians like Thompson so they can beat their chests about how many people they put behind bars. And as far as the U.S. Postal Service goes, isn’t it the position of Postmaster General John Potter that the main reason for keeping the law in place that sends anyone who competes with the Post Office to prison is that if mail delivery is privatized, no one in remote areas (such as the aforementioned in Alaska) will be serviced? I guess Potter hasn’t taken so much as a glance at a Fed-Ex or UPS or DHL catalogue in a while, if at all. All of those companies have been going to some of the most remote parts of the world for at least the past couple of decades now.

Governments love to try serving as their own excuse, but there simply is no rational excuse for government. As an anarchist friend of mine likes to say: “Government is a disease masquerading as its own cure.” That is evidently no more or less true in Alaska than anywhere else.

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