Patterico's Pontifications


Could we Please get this Man off the Supreme Court?

Filed under: Law — AMac @ 4:50 pm

If Larry Solum’s summary of the arguments in Raich v. Ashcroft (the medical marijuana/commerce clause case) is correct, Justice Stevens needs to be ejected from the Court. Check out this exchange (which, as Solum notes, isn’t a total transcript, but unless his substance is way off, is still very troubling):

Stevens: What is your view on the effect of the state law on the interstate market? Increase prices, no effect on prices, or decrease in prices?

Barnett: Can I choose trivial reduction of price?

Stevens: If you reduce demand, then you will reduce prices? Wouldn’t it increase prices?

Barnett: No, if you reduce demand, you reduce price.

Stevens: Are you sure?

Barnett: Yes.

Is it too much to ask that our Justices know basic economics? Apparently so.

10 Responses to “Could we Please get this Man off the Supreme Court?”

  1. Coincidence that the most liberal Justice is apparently the one with the poorest grasp of economics?

    Patterico (756436)

  2. Actually, in a statist economy decreasing demand can increase prices.

    Example: During the last major drought in Los Angeles, the DWP instituted a steep upper tier for water. It had the desired effect of making everyone in the city examine and correct their local water use. Lots of leaks got fixed, permanently reducing demand.

    The drought ended, but the DWP asked for a price increase, stating that THEIR FIXED COSTS were no longer covered by the reduced demand.

    So, demand drops, price goes up. Of course, it takes a government monopoly to accomplish it.

    Kevin Murphy (6a7945)

  3. Maybe the Judge has been tokin’, gettin’ his 4:20 on… in da crib wid his peeps… Sometimes raising the price of a product can increase demand. Chivas Regal was not a standout product, the execs decided to create an artificial mystique by greatly increasing the price for it. Suckers who wanted to feel important, and new to Chivas “experience” paid what was asked. Usually economics doesn’t work that way, but the diamond industry seems not to mind.

    Hugo (60120a)

  4. Besides, it’s Souter that’s the real horror.

    from Solum’s notes:

    “Souter: Suppose that 100,000 people are in chemotherapy in California. Then couldn’t there be 100,000 users of medical marijuana?

    Barnett: There could be.

    Souter: If there are 34 million people in California, then there could be 100,000 people in chemotherapy.

    Barnett: It is important to remember that the law confines medical cannabis use to the people who are sick and have a physicians recommendation. Wickard v. Filburn’s aggregation principle does not apply if the activity involved is noneconomic.

    Souter: But isn’t the argument that it is economic activity if it has a sizeable effect on the market?

    Barnett: No. The effect on the market is only relevant if it is market activity.

    Souter: But in Lopez wasn’t the effect on the market much more remote than the effect involved in this case?

    Barnett: The point is that economic activity and personal liberty are two different categories.

    Souter: That is not a very realistic premise.

    Barnett: The premise is that it is possible to differentiate economic activity from personal activity. Prostitution is economic activity, and there may be some cross substitution effects between prostitution and sex within marriage, but that does not make sex within marriage economic activity. You look at the nature of the activity to determine whether or not it is economic.

    ….The respondents were very strong on the economic/noneconomic distinction. Barnett’s prostitution/marriage example was especially compelling. Only Justice Souter seemed outwardly unconvinced by this line of argument.”

    After watching Souter for some time now, I’ve come to the conclusion that Souter is NOT an ideologue. Instead, he simply opts for the stupidest/uncluefulmost available postion.

    Kevin Murphy (6a7945)

  5. Here’s the one that killed me:

    Justice Kennedy: If we rule for the plaintiff’s wouldn’t the price for marijuana go down?
    Clement: Yes, the price would go down. Congress is trying to increase the price for marijuana by creating a black market….

    So Congress is trying increase the price in order to …entice others to jump into this market? Haven’t my tax dollars been paying for advertisements that link the illegal drug market to terrorism? I would presume that the relationship between terrorism and illegal drugs is due to the high profits in the illegal drug market. How does Congress’s intention of increasing the price help?

    It would seem that the rationalizations that they are using to prop this whole case up (for lack of a strong logical argument) are now colliding with each other.

    Either I’m confused (and I’ve been confused before) or they are just as dumb as Stevens.

    mark (e41635)

  6. By increasing the price and otherwise artificially restricting supply through prohibition, Congress is attempting to limit use.

    Whether that works or not is an open question, but that’s a stated intention, Mark.

    I know a number of people who would do a lot more drugs if they weren’t afraid of getting caught, so it has some effect.

    The Angry Clam (c96486)

  7. The legal aspects of this quite frankly go beyond my knowledege of the law at this level and the price issue is just plain stupid. For me this is more interesting in WHO decides what’s right?

    Why is the federal government looking to over ride the wishes of the PEOPLE of California. Was there not a vote?

    As a libertarian I generally vote more republican BUT this type of behavior from the federal government drives me nuts! Why is it that when republicans have less power (see Clinton admin.) they have a very anti-federalist stance but now that they have control of the federal goverenment they know what is best for us? Remember the good old days in the 2000 election when Bush spoke about giving power to the people and as a Governor he understood that individual states should have a greater control i.e responsiveness to its citizens?

    GEE thanks Mr. Ashcroft I doubt I could live my life without you and those VERY important knowledgeable folks in D.C. saving me from myself. As a salute to the season lets all give thanks to those in D.C. who know better than us….. you see it wasn’t that the federal government was BAD it was just run by the wrong people.

    tripp (6e03d6)

  8. Here’s the thing.

    There’s federal criminal law (in some areas) and state criminal law.

    Sometimes these two things overlap, like in this case pre-Prop. 215.

    However, just because a state decides to repeal its law, doesn’t mean that it can thereby force the federal government to repeal its law.

    What if some really gun friendly state legalized the sale of automatic weapons? Could the state then force the government to abandon the 1934 Firearms Act that severely restricts the sale of fully automatic weaponry?

    The Angry Clam (c96486)

  9. Angry: why not? The commerce clause itself doesn’t say anything today that it didn’t also say in 1919, yet everyone knew the federal government needed a constitutional amendment to prohibit alcohol. Was there an intervening “marijuana amendment” that I missed?

    Xrlq (ffb240)

    Justice Stevens gets a lesson in economics. You must read it to believe it. Can’t these guys be impeached for mental incompetence?…

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