Legalizing Crime

The state has a monopoly on behaviour usually deemed criminal. It murders, kidnaps, and locks up people. Sovereignty has come to be identified with the unbridled – and exclusive – exercise of violence. The emergence of modern international law has narrowed the field of permissible conduct. A sovereign can no longer commit genocide or ethnic cleansing with impunity, for instance.

Many acts – such as the waging of aggressive war, the mistreatment of minorities, the suppression of the freedom of association – hitherto sovereign privilege, have thankfully been criminalized. Many politicians, hitherto immune to international prosecution, are no longer so. Consider Yugoslavia’s Milosevic and Chile’s Pinochet.

But, the irony is that a similar trend of criminalization – within national legal systems – allows governments to oppress their citizenry to an extent previously unknown. Hitherto civil torts, permissible acts, and common behaviour patterns are routinely criminalized by legislators and regulators. Precious few are decriminalized.

Consider, for instance, the criminalization in the Economic Espionage Act (1996) of the misappropriation of trade secrets and the criminalization of the violation of copyrights in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (2000) – both in the USA. These used to be civil torts. They still are in many countries. Drug use, common behaviour in England only 50 years ago – is now criminal. The list goes on.

Criminal laws pertaining to property have malignantly proliferated and pervaded every economic and private interaction. The result is a bewildering multitude of laws, regulations statutes, and acts.

The average Babylonian could have memorizes and assimilated the Hammurabic code 37 centuries ago – it was short, simple, and intuitively just.

English criminal law – partly applicable in many of its former colonies, such as India, Pakistan, Canada, and Australia – is a mishmash of overlapping and contradictory statutes – some of these hundreds of years old – and court decisions, collectively known as “case law”.

Despite the publishing of a Model Penal Code in 1962 by the American Law Institute, the criminal provisions of various states within the USA often conflict. The typical American can’t hope to get acquainted with even a negligible fraction of his country’s fiendishly complex and hopelessly brobdignagian criminal code. Such inevitable ignorance breeds criminal behaviour – sometimes inadvertently – and transforms many upright citizens into delinquents.

In the land of the free – the USA – close to 2 million adults are behind bars and another 4.5 million are on probation, most of them on drug charges. The costs of criminalization – both financial and social – are mind boggling. According to “The Economist”, America’s prison system cost it $54 billion a year – disregarding the price tag of law enforcement, the judiciary, lost product, and rehabilitation.

What constitutes a crime? A clear and consistent definition has yet to transpire.

There are five types of criminal behaviour: crimes against oneself, or “victimless crimes” (such as suicide, abortion, and the consumption of drugs), crimes against others (such as murder or mugging), crimes among consenting adults (such as incest, and in certain countries, homosexuality and euthanasia), crimes against collectives (such as treason, genocide, or ethnic cleansing), and crimes against the international community and world order (such as executing prisoners of war). The last two categories often overlap.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica provides this definition of a crime: “The intentional commission of an act usually deemed socially harmful or dangerous and specifically defined, prohibited, and punishable under the criminal law.”

But who decides what is socially harmful? What about acts committed unintentionally (known as “strict liability offences” in the parlance)? How can we establish intention – “mens rea”, or the “guilty mind” – beyond a reasonable doubt?

A much tighter definition would be: “The commission of an act punishable under the criminal law.” A crime is what the law – state law, kinship law, religious law, or any other widely accepted law – says is a crime. Legal systems and texts often conflict.

Murderous blood feuds are legitimate according to the 15th century “Qanoon”, still applicable in large parts of Albania. Killing one’s infant daughters and old relatives is socially condoned – though illegal – in India, China, Alaska, and parts of Africa. Genocide may have been legally sanctioned in Germany and Rwanda – but is strictly forbidden under international law.

Laws being the outcomes of compromises and power plays, there is only a tenuous connection between justice and morality. Some “crimes” are categorical imperatives. Helping the Jews in Nazi Germany was a criminal act – yet a highly moral one.

The ethical nature of some crimes depends on circumstances, timing, and cultural context. Murder is a vile deed – but assassinating Saddam Hussein may be morally commendable. Killing an embryo is a crime in some countries – but not so killing a fetus. A “status offence” is not a criminal act if committed by an adult. Mutilating the body of a live baby is heinous – but this is the essence of Jewish circumcision. In some societies, criminal guilt is collective. All Americans are held blameworthy by the Arab street for the choices and actions of their leaders. All Jews are accomplices in the “crimes” of the “Zionists”.

In all societies, crime is a growth industry. Millions of professionals – judges, police officers, criminologists, psychologists, journalists, publishers, prosecutors, lawyers, social workers, probation officers, wardens, sociologists, non-governmental-organizations, weapons manufacturers, laboratory technicians, graphologists, and private detectives – derive their livelihood, parasitically, from crime. They often perpetuate models of punishment and retribution that lead to recidivism rather than to to the reintegration of criminals in society and their rehabilitation.

Organized in vocal interest groups and lobbies, they harp on the insecurities and phobias of the alienated urbanites. They consume ever growing budgets and rejoice with every new behaviour criminalized by exasperated lawmakers. In the majority of countries, the justice system is a dismal failure and law enforcement agencies are part of the problem, not its solution.

The sad truth is that many types of crime are considered by people to be normative and common behaviours and, thus, go unreported. Victim surveys and self-report studies conducted by criminologists reveal that most crimes go unreported. The protracted fad of criminalization has rendered criminal many perfectly acceptable and recurring behaviours and acts. Homosexuality, abortion, gambling, prostitution, pornography, and suicide have all been criminal offences at one time or another.

But the quintessential example of over-criminalization is drug abuse.

There is scant medical evidence that soft drugs such as cannabis or MDMA (“Ecstasy”) – and even cocaine – have an irreversible effect on brain chemistry or functioning. Last month an almighty row erupted in Britain when Jon Cole, an addiction researcher at Liverpool University, claimed, to quote “The Economist” quoting the “Psychologist”, that:

“Experimental evidence suggesting a link between Ecstasy use and problems such as nerve damage and brain impairment is flawed … using this ill-substantiated cause-and-effect to tell the ‘chemical generation’ that they are brain damaged when they are not creates public health problems of its own.”

Moreover, it is commonly accepted that alcohol abuse and nicotine abuse can be at least as harmful as the abuse of marijuana, for instance. Yet, though somewhat curbed, alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking are legal. In contrast, users of cocaine – only a century ago recommended by doctors as tranquilizer – face life in jail in many countries, death in others. Almost everywhere pot smokers are confronted with prison terms.

The “war on drugs” – one of the most expensive and protracted in history – has failed abysmally. Drugs are more abundant and cheaper than ever. The social costs have been staggering: the emergence of violent crime where none existed before, the destabilization of drug-producing countries, the collusion of drug traffickers with terrorists, and the death of millions – law enforcement agents, criminals, and users.

Few doubt that legalizing most drugs would have a beneficial effect. Crime empires would crumble overnight, users would be assured of the quality of the products they consume, and the addicted few would not be incarcerated or stigmatized – but rather treated and rehabilitated.

That soft, largely harmless, drugs continue to be illicit is the outcome of compounded political and economic pressures by lobby and interest groups of manufacturers of legal drugs, law enforcement agencies, the judicial system, and the aforementioned long list of those who benefit from the status quo.

Only a popular movement can lead to the decriminalization of the more innocuous drugs. But such a crusade should be part of a larger campaign to reverse the overall tide of criminalization. Many “crimes” should revert to their erstwhile status as civil torts. Others should be wiped off the statute books altogether. Hundreds of thousands should be pardoned and allowed to reintegrate in society, unencumbered by a past of transgressions against an inane and inflationary penal code.

This, admittedly, will reduce the leverage the state has today against its citizens and its ability to intrude on their lives, preferences, privacy, and leisure. Bureaucrats and politicians may find this abhorrent. Freedom loving people should rejoice.

Is Your Business Opportunity Program Legal?

Introduction To Business Opportunity Programs

Business Opportunity Programs have always been very popular with many people. They offer the ordinary person the chance to make money from home without the usual costs of setting up in business

There is usually very little if any stock to buy, no overheads much to speak of, no investment in publicity materials etc – all these services are provided free by the program owners. Typically an online opportunity program will provide participants with banners, text ads, email ads, ezine ads etc – even a full website, all completely free

The only cost involved is a small monthly membership fee – although even this can be avoided until you get used to the program, as many programs will allow you to join for free

Do These Programs Really Work?

The honest answer in brief is – some do: many don’t!!

The first question to consider is whether the program is in fact legal

Many people down through the years, that business opportunity programs have been around, have lost money – sometimes all their life savings. For this reason most governments in western countries have passed laws to outlaw most of the worst kind of these schemes, often referred to as “Ponzi” schemes

However the law is often openly ignored by many of the people running these business opportunity programs. Perhaps they did not take appropriate legal advise before starting the program, perhaps they were unaware that what they were doing was illegal – or maybe they just didn’t care. For some people as long as they are making money, they don’t care that other people are losing money!!

However the critical point to grasp is that “ignorance of the law is not an excuse”, and any one that promotes a trading scheme, as an affiliate, is just as guilty as the people that run the scheme. In general you should always do your homework on the business in question as most of these type of businesses will not survive very long

A Pyramid Matrix

A pyramid matrix simply means an arrangement where the number of people in each level of the pyramid gets bigger the further you go down. Generally the number of members will increase by a set multiplier e.g. you start with 5 people, each of these people refers 5 people, so on the second level or tier there are 25 people, being 5 X 5. As you go down each level of the matrix you multiply the members by 5 each time. So the next level will be 25 X 5 members which is 125

The problem with this arrangement – and the typical one with business opportunities – is that this rate of growth is unsustainable. You would very quickly need one million people and more to sustain this matrix. In fact by the time you got down to the 9th level of this matrix you would need nearly two million people in the scheme – and each of these two million people would each have to find 5 members, which would then push the membership to 10 million!!

The General Legal Rule

For these reasons laws have been introduced to protect the public from such un-viable schemes

The general rule is that it is illegal to encourage someone to pay money in joining or participating in a trading scheme, if the only or main purpose of the scheme is to encourage other people to pay money by way of joining or participating in a trading scheme e.g. you join a scheme and pay a membership fee of $9.99 – you earn this money back when you find 5 other people to pay their membership fee of $9.99

Anything that breaks this rule is almost certainly illegal – you would be well advised – however enticing the scheme sounds – to stay well clear of such arrangements

Many business opportunity programs break this rule because people join as free members and then must “upgrade” their membership in order to participate in the compensation plan. However they receive nothing of substantial or equivalent value to the membership fee being paid. In other words if you pay $9.99 per month and receive free “training”, a “free” website, free “support” via a forum etc – none of these things can be regarded as being of “substantial or equivalent” value

The law regards these schemes as an illegal unregistered lottery, and anyone who promotes such schemes is engaged in an illegal activity – certainly not a legitimate business!

Product Based Opportunities That Have A Network Aspect

The way to make such money type schemes legal, is to always ensure that people are receiving something of value for their membership fee e.g. some real product or service which could be bought by the general public

Product based opportunities are fully legal because people join for free as “distributors” and can sell a range of products and earn a commission, based on the sales they generate. There may be an additional “add-on” network aspect, which may require the payment of a monthly fee. This payment is fine, so long as there is something of value provided for the payment, and so long as making the payment is not compulsory

Because product based opportunities are nearly always legal – providing there is a “join for free” option, then you can always have confidence that such businesses, based on selling a product or range of products, is a viable opportunity and will almost certainly last into the future

What Qualifies As A Product?

You need to be clear what is meant by a product

In general we are talking about a real physical product such as slimming pills, ski jacket, health drink, bedside clock, perfume etc. If the main purpose of the business is to sell the product – even if there is some additional network aspect, then you are generally on firm ground

The Network

We have mentioned the phrase “the network aspect” we need to be clear what is meant by this. We do not mean a standard pyramid matrix. The idea of network marketing is to allow for a system of network distribution – so that each member in the organization sells a small amount of product per month, but altogether this amounts to a much larger total value. However there is no requirement for people to participate in building a network if they do not wish to – they can just sell the products for their standard commission. Such a system will produce far greater group sales than the same number of people just paying a monthly membership fee.

Imagine if I have 100 people in my network all selling just $50 of product a month. That amounts to total sales for the group of $5,000 per month. But if those 100 people just paid a membership fee of $9.99 per month, the total revenue would be only $999. In addition, as each of those 100 people would be receiving a commission cheque for their $50 worth of sales, they would be much more likely to continue with the business, as compared to simply “losing” a membership fee of $9.99 with no commissions for their trouble

Conclusion

Be very careful about business opportunity programs. Product based opportunities work very well via a system of network distribution. However if there is no product of any significance, and you only make money by getting other people to pay a membership fee, then this scheme is very unlikely to pay you any money ever. With a product based opportunity you can sell real products and collect a trade commission even as a free member. As a result the business is viable and a network can be built up into a significant monthly income

Prepaid Legal – A Critical Review

Is Prepaid Legal Services a distinctive business that has an innovative product combined with a solid opportunity to make money or is it a scam?

When jumping into Prepaid Legal, you must know all the details in order to make a solid business decision. So, let’s get after it.

They offer legal services if and when the need arises. In many ways they are just like an insurance company. Bottom line is that folks pay about a buck a day or a little over $30 a month for legal advice.

For straightforward issues with purchasing a car or house, issues with insurance companies, identity theft and wills their services can help. What could cost quite a bit for a lawyer could end up being a lot less with a Prepaid Legal plan.

The notion of their services is pretty simple. If you ever need a lawyer for simple cases then you can get in touch with Prepaid Legal. For run of the mill legal issues, their services can save you a lot of money.

You’ve really got to know what services are covered in your Prepaid Legal plan. Most plans don’t cover tort litigation, criminal cases, and aren’t much help in traffic cases.

Prepaid Legal is legit for those that need advice or legal services for general matters. For specialized legal advice then they will probably not be a right fit for you.

Regarding the business opportunity, people can recruit others to sell Prepaid Legal memberships in a typical MLM structure. Many folks have earned great incomes over the years. They are now one of the largest network marketing companies around with over 1.5 million distributors. It is safe to say that Prepaid Legal is not a scam.

With all that said, if a Prepaid Legal distributor comes to you with the claim that you are going to make hundreds of thousands of dollars in your first year then THEY are a scam! But, it is possible to be earning $1,000 in 30 days or so as long as you have a great marketing system in place.

Here is the challenge though, because they have been around for such a long time often times the company’s marketing strategies that they recommend are stuck in the old school. You know, start with family and friends… implement the 3 foot rule and try to recruit anyone and everyone within 3 feet of you.

However, if you are interested in getting beyond old school tactics then you must learn importance of YOU, Inc. When joining Prepaid Legal you are not simply joining a company, you are becoming an entrepreneur. This requires a completely different mindset and marketing strategy.

Building a list of quality prospects combined with branding yourself is required in order to build a significant organization. It is critical to have your followers then begin looking at your for answers to their problems by providing leadership. And guess what, those are also the people who are going to join YOU in business.

To succeed with Prepaid Legal, or any MLM, you have to understand how it is that you are going to set yourself apart as a leader. It really doesn’t matter which company you join, it is about you becoming an entrepreneur. Understanding how to market and to lead will bring in new distributors on a daily basis which is the lifeblood of being in the MLM industry.

Learn from those that are already doing it. That is the best way to learn more about branding and leadership.

Wrapping up,, Prepaid Legal is not a scam and combined with an great marketing system you can build a successful business.