»Home | »Philosophy  | »Advocacy | »Weblog  |»Terms
The Center for the Advancement of Capitalism :: www.capitalismcenter.org

Congress Goes Stark RAVEing Mad
[August 15, 2002]

By S. M. Oliva

Bipartisan stupidity is alive and well in Washington. On June 27, just nine days after its introduction, the Senate Judiciary Committee reported out S. 2633, the "Reducing Americans' Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act," or the "RAVE Act." The cute acronym alone should earn this bill a one-way ticket to the legislative dustbin. But when the Senate reconvenes in September, the odds favor consideration and passage of this bill, which should be properly called the "Increasing Americans' Vulnerability to Prosecutorial Abuse Act." Sadly, IAVPA just doesn't sound snappy enough.

The Rave Act is designed to expand the federal "crack-house" statute to cover certain kinds of electronic music concerts, known as raves, on the dubious ground that these particular concerts are prone to drug use among patrons. The bill would make it a federal crime to "knowingly" operate or lease property "permanently or temporarily...for the purpose of unlawfully manufacturing, storing, distributing, or using a controlled substance."

That may sound innocent enough, but the purpose of the bill is manifestly clear: Concert promoters will be held criminally and civilly liable for any drug use that may occur on premises they are operating. The RAVE Act has nothing to do with reducing drug use, and everything to do with giving politically motivated prosecutors a tool to go after innocent businessmen who have no ties to the drug trade.

Right off the bat, the RAVE Act creates a non-objective law. What does that mean? It means that the language is so vague as to render it impossible for anyone to know what specific conduct will actually make them liable under the law. For example, unlike the current crack-house law, the RAVE Act says an owner is liable if his premises are "temporarily" used for drug purposes. This one word actually negates the entire purpose of the crack-house law in the first place! A crack-house is supposed to be a building or property whose purpose is to facilitate drug use. The purpose of a concert is to, well, entertain people with musical performances. That's not illegal. But under the RAVE Act, if even one person is using drugs at a show, that can technically create civil and criminal liability for the owner.

Of course, it's doubtful that many raves will actually be prosecuted nationally. What will more likely happen is a few jurisdictions—fueled by misleading news reports about the dangers of ecstasy—will take the opportunity to enforce the law in a very draconian fashion. New York City will probably have a field day, as under former mayor Rudolph Giuliani the city engaged in a massive "crackdown" on dance clubs in the name of preventing drug use.

Not only does the RAVE act attack the rights of concert promoters, it directly assaults the property rights of individuals who rent buildings and other spaces to promoters. If you rent a theater to a promoter, and there is drug use of any kind found at the concert subsequently held, both the promoter and property owner can be held liable. And since the bill allows the government to charge the property owner civilly, prosecutors will be held to a lower burden of proof than in a criminal case. But the results will be just as bad for defendants, since the law provides a $250,000 penalty for violation.

On top of all this, the RAVE Act is a violation of the First Amendment, because it deliberately targets a particular form of musical expression for prosecution based on content. The bill presumes raves are more prone to drug use than other concerts, which is not true (or at least, it hasn't been proven by anyone.) The bill amounts to libel against the thousands of Americans who peacefully enjoy and participate in electronic music concerts without ever using drugs—a group that is clearly a majority of ravegoers. In what other context would we ever permit the government to label the majority based on the actions of a minority?

Finally, this bill will probably exacerbate the very "drug problem" that it's supposed to prevent. Because concert promoters are liable if they "knowingly" permit drug use to occur, a promoter is left with two options. He can try and eliminate all potential drug use from his concerts, which would probably mean full-body strip and cavity searches of all patrons and performers (and see how long he'd stay in business for doing that.) Or, the promoter can pretend there is no drug problem, search nobody, or even worse, refuse to take any measures which might anticipate drug use. For example, he can refuse to have medical personnel on hand or not sell bottled water (yes, the bill consider the sale of bottled water to be a telltale sign of illegal drug activity.) In either case, you either force ecstasy users further underground or you risk their lives.

CAC calls on the Senate to reject this nonsensical attack on businessmen and individual rights. You can write to Congress on this matter through CAC's Government & Media Action Center.


Search the Center's Website

web capitalismcenter.org

Sign up for CAC's Newsletter
Keep up with the latest news—type in your e-mail address and click Go!


» Frequently Asked Questions
You ask the tough questions and we answer them.

» The Moral Basis of Capitalism
Capitalism is the only moral social system. Learn why.

» The Moral and the Practical
Capitalism is practical for the same reasons that make it moral.

» Capitalist Book Club
Purchase the essential texts on capitalism.

» Advocacy
Learn about the Center's projects.

» Media Center
News mentions, press releases and speakers.

» Feedback
Send us a comment or ask a question—we want to hear from you!


Copyright © 1998-2012 The Center for the Advancement of Capitalism. All Rights Reserved.
info-at-capitalismcenter.org · Feedback · Terms of Use · Privacy Policy · Webmaster