Yesterday I ran across an article in Time called "The Cocaine Wars: Invasion of the Drug Submarines." Wow. So, it's been fairly common knowledge that narco-traffickers have been using semi-submersibles for a while to move drugs from one location to another, and I feel like I've heard something about drug smuggling submarines before, but never to this scale. In February the Colombian military found a 70 foot long submarine near the Pacific coast of
I've never built a submarine before, but I don't feel like it's extremely easy. Both submarines had special pipes that poke above the surface for air ventilation and exhaust, but they can cut their engines and dive about 30 feet in order to avoid being seen. I imagine that it's only so long before they can build subs that don't need special ventilation pipes.
What's worrisome about all of this is that the number of drug shipments intercepted by law enforcement in semi-submersibles has plummeted in the last few years, and they have yet to catch any full submarines shipping products, which very likely means that there are fully operational subs that are successfully making voyages between Colombia and Mexico and even the United States.
What if we caught a Chinese, Russian, or Iranian sub in our sovereign waters? It would be quite an incident. I doubt it would cause a war (unless that sub attacked us), but I know relations between us and whichever country put a sub in our waters would be very precarious for some time thereafter. But, what happens if we find a narco-trafficker sub in our waters? We catch it, try and get information from the individuals on board, and that's it. There is no country it belongs to, which means that the people running these don't have the same political or diplomatic incentives to not run these vessels right into our harbors. That won't do.
Here's the good news: I have a lot of confidence in the DEA, Coast Guard, Border Patrol, and other organizations that are dealing with this, and I believe that they are doing as much as possible to ensure our safety.
Speaking of our safety: I ran across this article in the LA Times about the soda tax, and how it won't actually work to edit people's choice of beverage based on some studies over the years. While that article is interesting and has it's own merits, I'm not really here to talk about the effectiveness of behavior modifying taxes. I'm here to talk about the validity of behavior modifying taxes. So, the government doesn't like smoking. In fact, many, many people don't like smoking. We decide it's not only bad for the users, but also for those in the vicinity of the users. We decide something must be done, it must be stopped. What would you do if you saw some one shooting people and taking the money in their wallets? You would stop them, right? You would at least call the police, and expect the police to stop them. I'll tell you what you probably wouldn't do. You probably wouldn't go up to the shooter, and tell him he can keep shooting people and taking their money as long as he gives you some of the from each wallet. Oh, moral qualms? Don't worry. A portion of that money (at least, initially) will be given to some of the families of the victims as well as to research organizations devoted to gathering more information on the harmful attributes of getting shot, as well potential cures for that particular ailment. Ridiculous, you say? But, that's what we're doing. We have decided that cigarettes are bad for you. Better yet, cigarettes kill. So, having decided that they are harmful to the population, we have allowed their sale and use to continue as long as we get a cut of the "blood money."
That's one way to look at it, and holds enough merit all by itself, but let's take another step back so we can see the entire picture. Who am I to tell you that you cannot smoke, or should not smoke, and as a result I'm going to take some of the money that you would otherwise use towards that end? Yes, clearly a significant portion of cigarette users suffer from lung cancer and other ailments, but what products aren't potentially harmful to a significant portion of the population? Food: a lot of it is unhealthy, and how many Americans suffer from obesity? A lot of them do. Cars: car accidents (and pollution). Airplanes: crashes, hijackings, and more pollution. Clothes: support sweat shops and potential slave labor in other countries. Guns: they're guns, right? Energy efficient light bulbs: have mercury in them, and if they break, you could suffer mercury poisoning. The list goes on and on and on.
Basically, I have no right to tell you not to purchase any of those things. Therefore, I should have no right to tax any of them extra based on my perception of how dangerous or evil they are. So, picture yourself. You're at the top of a lucrative industry. Some people have questioned the safety or healthiness of your products, but you're okay with that. You're making a lot of money. Suddenly, an exploratory committee declares your product to be unsafe to the public, files a lawsuit against you for billions of dollars, and places a tax on your product from here on out. You, my friend, have just been robbed. But, no one can arrest the perpetrator, and no one can stop it from happening again.