The Inexactness of the English Language

The English Language is a strange beast. First you have the fact that one word can have multiple meanings. Or one object can be defined by many words that have extremely different origins. But not to be outdone, three different words with separate meaning and spellings can be pronounced the same. Then the English language absorbs new words at an outrageous and prodigious rate. With fanciful tales of twenty-thousand new words added per a year even in this modern day, it is a wonder that anyone can speak, read or write English even moderately fluently.

Yet three hundred to four hundred million people speak it as their first language. Actual numbers of writers is more dubious. Secondary speakers are estimated to be any where between two hundred million and almost one and half billion more.

The single most wonderful thing about the English language though is that it can be both very exacting, and very vague. Words can can be mixed and changed to bring new ideas to life.

Swift used the language to spear his detractors metaphorically.

“A man should never be ashamed to own that he has been in the wrong, which is but saying… that he is wiser today than yesterday.”

Mark Twain forced an entire generation to come to terms with their own racism and frivolities.

“I have no color prejudices nor cast prejudces nor creed prejudices. All I care to know is that a man is a human being, and that is enough for me; he can’t be any worse”

Emerson laid forth the simple truth.

“A man is a god in ruins. When men are innocent, life shall be longer, and shall pass into the immortal, as gently as we awake from dreams. “

Shakespeare observed, reported, coined, and extrapolated human existence.

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.”

Japanese and Greek are naturally resistent to new words. German embraces new words, but instead invents them out of seemingly thin air. Russian takes the English words and gives it an accent, maybe changing a few letters around. Chinese doesn’t even attempt to disguise it’s borrowing of the English word.

Yet only English embraces all these thoughts and massages it into a cohesive language. It adds another twist by taking a fairly dirty common word and by mere popular use gives it an entirely new meaning. A native speaker may not know even a tenth of the words in the English Lexicon, yet communication is effortless on spoken level.

For example:

“I’d rather have roses on my table than diamonds ’round my neck.” – Emma Goldman

“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon-instead of enjoying the roses blooming outside our windows today.” – Dale Carnegie

“The first man to compare the cheeks of a young woman to a rose was obviously a poet; the first to repeat it was possibly an idiot.” – Salvador Dali

“A life with love will have some thorns, but a life without love will have no roses” – Unknown

“Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns. I am thankful that thorns have roses.” – Alphonse Kerr

A mere five quotes about a flower. Yet each one quickly becomes profound in ways that you may never thought before. Such is the English Language. Even words strung together incoherently may have meaning far beyond their original intent.


Is it time to legalize illicit drugs?

Listening to NPR can elicit some sobering thoughts sometimes. It’s becoming more and more obvious that the United States really needs to become more practical about a lot of issues, and less emotional. One of the biggest issues that affects our country much more then most people realize is illicit drug use.

According to the White House.Gov budget web pagethe Drug Enforcement Agency’s budget was $1,761,000,000 in 2007. The page gives estimates $1,937,000,000 for 2009. There are several other agencies who overlap into the drug trade on that page too. Add in the FBI, Marshals service, Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force, BATF, and Attorney’s and we’re talking about another $1,196,400,000. If we use an extremely conservative 10% of their actual budget is directly related to drug enforcement, that still comes out to $119,640,000

Now, according to Criminal Offenders Statistics half of all prisoners are serving for violent or drug related crimes. Again, being conservative lets say half of those are drug related crimes. Going back to the Federal Budget, $5,534,000,000 is for the Federal Prison System. A quarter of that is $1,383,500,000.

So on the Federal level we have an extremely conservative number of $5,081,500,000. This is the direct MINIMUM cost of the Drug War to taxpayers in 2009.

Now, according to White House Drug Policy report, US Citizens spent $63,700,000 on illicit drugs of all types in 2000. Other sources state that drug use has stayed steady since 1993, so we can assume this number is still pretty close. So at a Federal level, not including individual states, we’re spending over five billion dollars to stop sixty million dollars of trade.

In Mexico, over 10,000 people have died in the drug war violence in the past few years. There are no hard numbers for drug related deaths in the United States, but no doubt a huge number of those violent crime statistics I mentioned above are drug related.

In 2003, Alcohol and Tabacco Sales were $115,900,000,000. Without any other hard data, lets assume that sales are the same in 2009, although they’ve most likely increased since then. With an average (low-balled) tax of 5%, all the states are making a combined $5,795,000,000 from the sale Alcohol and Tabacco products. Yes, these may not be the same as the hard drugs, but they all come into the same class of Luxury products in their recreational use.

After Prohibition ended, the cost of illegal alcohol decreased to ten percent of it’s Prohibition-era costs. Let’s assume the same would happen if the current crop of illegal drugs were legalize and we find that the drug trade would decrease to $6,370,000 over the entire United States. At the same 5% tax increase we’d see a mere $318,000 in tax revenue.

To break it down:

Cost of “Drug War”: $5,795,000,000 (Federal Level Only)
Tax revenue generated off legalized drugs: $318,000
Cost of education at Federal Level in 2009: $45,400,000,000
Cost of Iraq War, 2009: $136,000,000,000

Now, I didn’t add in costs of rehabilitation from drug use which is already factored into our current health costs. Nor did I also factor in the cost of putting in a legal distribution system (free to tax payers), tax enforcement system (minimal and covered by IRS as part of regular duties,) any age limit enforcement laws that would need to be taken care of before drugs were legalized, and of course drug tests for employment. There is also the current cost of cleaning up illegal drug production sites, especially in National Forests. Such costs would be rolled up into the production and manufacture and thus taken away from the Taxpayer.

It’s interesting to note that after Prohibition, the consumption of alcohol went DOWN by 30%. While there is no reason to believe drug consumption would decrease also, it’s hard to imagine it would increase by more then ten or fifteen precent.

I have also not mentioned any monies that would be generated by commercial hemp production as product demand would likely remain fairly low. Although Hemp seems to be one of the best plants to convert into biofuels, so those revenues could potentially increase dramatically.

The last thing we have to factor in is the affect legalized drug would have on other countries. To take Mexico for an example as their citizens are responsible for a huge percentage of illegal drug production, in addition to their own savings in having to decrease drug enforcement program, there would be more money flowing into their overall economy. Small scale farmers could afford to cultivate currently illegal products and raise their own economic level to name just one example.

Economically I think we really only have one choice. The moral arguments against currently illegal drugs is the exact same as it was against alcohol during Prohibition and will probably never be solved. But having just under six billion more dollars, a decreased prison population, less pollution, and most of all, less violence seems to counter just about any moral argument one can make.