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There are too many examples to list, but here are a few:

  1. When you are driving in your car with more than a few hundred dollars in cash, if you get pulled over and the police see it, they can take it even if you were doing nothing wrong. And then you have to pay a bunch of money (more than what the police took in the first place, by design it would seem) just to even ATTEMPT to go to court and MAYBE get SOME of it back.

  2. Marijuana being classified as a schedule 1 drug.

  3. Apartments can require potential renters to prove that they currently have a job that pays a certain amount, despite the fact that the persons credit might be good enough already, and/or that they may have enough money in the bank to cover the entire length of the lease.

  4. A business owner such as a bar or restaurant is legally required by the state to not allow smoking on its premises, even if it might lose a substantial amount of money by doing so.

All of these are examples of laws that exist and are enforced but if you went around randomly asking real people how they felt about these laws the VAST majority of them would certainly tell you that they did not vote for any of these nor do they think these are fair. Yet, somehow we are supposed to believe that we live in a democracy? How can this be?

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    Is this a question or a rant?
    – cpast
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 1:13
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    Also, "democratic" and "free market" aren't synonyms by any definition whatsoever, democracy doesn't mean "direct democracy," and your assumption about what the "VAST" majority think is dead wrong in at least 2 cases (according to actual polls, the majority in the US support public smoking bans, virtually no one thought marijuana should be legal until quite recently; also, civil forfeiture started in the crime waves of the 1980s and was sold as the very popular "don't let criminals pay their fancy lawyers with ill-gotten gains", and point 3 is the absence of a law).
    – cpast
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 1:22
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    Only a fascist would believe they have the right to tell a business owner how they can run their business. A reasonable person may disagree with the way the business owner is running his business, and they would "vote" against it by not patronizing it. This should just be common sense. Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 1:46
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    @moderndayslave nearly every nation has rules and regulations as to how businesses can operate. Your "only fascists" comment is laughably absurd.
    – user1530
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 17:21
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    Once you realise that there is no overarching principle at play here, your question simply becomes “Why doesn't everybody agree with me?”, which is not particularly interesting.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 13:31

2 Answers 2

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To answer you specific examples.

  1. This is called civil forfeiture, it has become more abused in modern times, but the practice dates back to the founding of the U.S. It was intended to serve as a prevention tool against criminals that were hard to catch (organized crime bosses), and through the war on drugs has become an important income tool for many police departments across the U.S.
  2. The FDA was given the power to classify drugs as they see fit as the define what the classifications mean as well. The war on drugs and other lobbying efforts may have been part of why the FDA classified it as it did, but they were given the power to do so.
  3. This is contract law and the U.S. government doesn't interfere much in contract law. Discrimination is allowed in the U.S. despite the popular belief to the contrary, unless it is based upon a protected class (Race, Sex, Age, Religion being the primary classes).
  4. Public Support for public smoking bans is actually the majority in the U.S. These laws were largely a result of the push to eliminate second-hand smoke through the 90s and early 2000s.

To explain how such laws are created in the more general sense, the answer is simply the U.S. is a republic. Congress may pass any laws it wants regardless of public opinion, public support is only a factor in electing representatives which are not legally bound to their voters will. In theory representatives that vote against public opinion would be voted out in the next election, but the public is rarely informed in such cases and has a short memory so a few months of pandering to votes is generally enough to win reelection.

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My answer to this is simple- the view looks different from on high. In the US there is a class of political elites. If you asked them these questions, they'd likely be more in line with what's put in place.

It's important to remember that the US isn't a direct democracy- you live in a country where the people don't make the laws, and they don't even directly elect their leaders. The fact is that nowadays people only get into office with the support of two groups that have different opinions to most- the first being other politicians and the other being big business. You don't get into office unless you promise to do what they want, so even if you had the best of intentions you have to pander to them.

Many of the opinions such people hold aren't necessarily reasonable- the view of Marijuana as more harmful than it really is, is likely held because they have no experience with it nor with anyone who does have experience with it. Any experiences that have an impact are likely to be bad (because good experiences don't affect you in the same way). Laws that disproportionally affect the least wealthy portions of society are far more likely to go through than those that affect everybody because everybody includes politicians.

There's another point to consider. These people have facts and statistics on their side a lot of the time. Smoking bans occur because smoking does real damage, even if people don't realise it. This is backed up by facts and statistics that they have available to them. This is actually a case where removal from everyday Americans is perhaps a good thing. It allows them to make decisions without being biased by common views on the subject.

Of course, that goes the other way. Sometimes their views don't accord with the facts; as mentioned above, their views on some topics are skewed. So sometimes they ignore the facts.

It's a double-edged sword that's a problem for all modern societies- the fact that we have people in office who don't necessarily have any connection with the common man because they live in a completely different subculture. They have better information a lot of the time, but often they're skewed by that subculture's perceptions of a topic. These views might be substantially different, such as how, here in the UK, it seemed like the entire country objected to the decision to join the war in Iraq after 9/11.

It sucks. But sometimes you have to accept that they probably know better than you on some subjects. If you read into something seriously and still believe they're wrong and it's something you care about, minds can always be changed. If there's a law they're enacting and you don't like it, write to people, raise money for adverts if enough agree with you. Get people united against it to change people's minds. Sometimes, those same facts and figures are on the side of the people and you just need to show it to the powers that be.

That is, after all, what's happening with regards to gay rights and marijuana. It just takes time and persistence.

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  • Marijuana is harmful (and having stunned people wandering around in legality is even more harmful)
    – Bregalad
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 13:01
  • Marijuana is harmful to who? The people using it, shouldn't that be their choice? Isn't making drugs illegal also harmful (gang wars in the 80s). BTW, second-hand smoke isn't really that dangerous. You are more likely to die from living inside a building or eating bananas.
    – user1873
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 13:24
  • Just like tobacco, it's also harmful for the surroundings people as well. And yes having someone smoking (no matter what) next to you it not only dangerous (it's not because you don't die instantly it's safe), but also and first of all extremely unpleasant, especially for children.
    – Bregalad
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 15:08
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    @Bregalad he didn't say it wasn't harmful.
    – user1530
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 20:58
  • While it's true that they often have statistics on their side, it's as true that they often ignore them much of the time...willingly or otherwise.
    – user1530
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 21:00

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