Legalizing Drugs

February 28th, 2010 — 9:41am

Everyone believes in freedom — until everyone finds out what freedom actually means. Then almost no one believes in it.

Freedom means you are left alone; you are neither helped nor hindered. And that’s all it means.

Rightwing politicos and leftwing politicos don’t usually agree on specifics, but they do often agree on principle: namely, that government’s proper sphere of authority does extend beyond protection against the initiation of force.

Humans, say today’s politicians, both right and left, aren’t capable of flourishing without the aid of bureaucrats; so these bureaucrats must help us live our lives for us.

Nowhere is this (unquestioned) conviction made clearer than in the issue of drugs.

Drugs, like prostitution, provide us with a good example of how the rightwing and the left are not fundamentally opposed but merely disagree on superficialities, insofar as both sides agree that not all drugs should be legal.

This notion is so ingrained into the mind’s of Americans that to question its legitimacy at all is considered lunatic-fringe thinking.

True, there are representatives on both sides of the political spectrum who support legalizing marijuana and perhaps a few other drugs. But start talking about legalizing all drugs on principle, or mention doing away with drinking-age laws on principle, and all liquor laws on principle, or speak of legalizing gambling and prostitution in all states and cities — and then you really begin to sort out the men from the boys.

That principle is the principle that it is not within the proper sphere of government to be involved in these aspects of human lives.

If we each possess the right to our own life and only our own life — and we do — then using drugs is obviously the right of each individual. The fact that it has become unquestionable to the majority that we do not possess the right to use drugs is we choose is a sad testament to the power of custom.

It is a sad testament to how people get so used to thinking about something in one way that changing minds becomes absolutely out of the question.

Yet if you believe in freedom, you not only should but must believe in the legalization of all drugs. If you do not, then you do not believe in freedom, and you must choose: freedom or statism.

This point can be made on principle alone, and it is a foolproof argument, the first and strongest line of defense. But it will not satisfy those who believe the proper scope of government does extend into telling us how we may and may not live.

It is frequently argued, for example, by the religious contingent, that if you legalize drugs, the usage of drugs will increase.

“Common sense and common experience tell us this,” says lawyer and radio talk-show host Dan Caplis, incessantly.

Next, we’re offered as evidence that the number of drinkers did increase after prohibition — a statement which is, at best, misleading, and here’s why:

Prior to prohibition, when drinking was still legal, the number of drinkers in this country was on a significant downward trend. For a decade leading up to prohibition, fewer and fewer people were drinking.

This fact is clear and not in dispute. But when, in 1920, the moralizers and busybodies got their way and legislated that the rest of the country must live as they deemed appropriate, and prohibition was then made into law, drinking still continued its downward trend. This went on for about three years.

It is very important to reiterate that the downward trend in drinking began long before drinking had been made illegal.

In the middle of prohibition — when drinking was still illegal — the number of drinkers began gradually to rise.

It continued to do so throughout the rest of prohibition, so that when, in December of 1933, prohibition was finally repealed, that upward trend continued for about a decade. But it was only the continuation of a trend that had already begun while drinking was illegal. This is a critical fact, but one you’ll never hear mention of when you hear people talking about “the number of drinkers increasing after prohibition.”

The next time someone says that “repealing prohibition increased the number of drinkers in this country,” be clear what that means: it means the number of drinkers was already increasing throughout the latter two-thirds of prohibition, and that the upward trend plateaued and then declined a decade after drinking was legalized anew.

Ask yourself also these questions: if, as the religious propound, making substances illegal prevents their usage, how is it that the number of drinkers began rising when alcohol was still illegal?

How is it that in Holland, where many drugs are legal and even subsidized(!), how is it that usage has decreased?

What does this tell us about “common sense and common experience”?

How is it that in Switzerland, marijuana usage has decreased even though it’s been made legal? And Spain?

There are those, of course, who argue that if drugs are legal, crime will increase. This is the biggest canard of them all.

Rest assured, if crime is your concern, illegalization should be what you want done away with.

There exists right now a multi-trillion-dollar underworld built up around illegal drugs, which legalizing would instantaneously crush, and which, as it stands, no amount of law, legislation, or litigation can come close to stopping. Why? The law of supply and demand is unstoppable: if there is a demand for something, supply will meet it, no matter what. All the conservative legislation imaginable cannot negate this fact. One might just as well try legislating against the tide.

When cigarettes and alcohol became so staggeringly taxed, do you know what happened? A gigantic blackmarket swept into the country. That meant more crime. People were smuggling in alcohol and cigarettes because these things could be sold for much cheaper on the blackmarket. They still are to this day.

Decriminalizing brings less crime.

For those who believe that if drugs are legalized, your kids are then more likely to use drugs, I urge you to remember that children have brains. Human beings have brains. We can learn, and we can be educated. We can be taught why not to use drugs. If you doubt the effectiveness of this, observe that cigarettes were legal for any age group until fairly recently, and the number of young smokers was sharply decreasing, and had been since the dangers of smoking were made known. Now that’s it’s illegal, teen smoking is on the rise again, and criminalizing doesn’t help.

Ask any honest school kid if he or she would have trouble getting drugs. Every honest school kid will tell you no. This despite the fact that drugs are illegal.

The inescapable law of supply and demand is why: if there’s a demand, supply will meet it. And no government bureaucracy and no middle-class morality can successfully fight it.

Making something illegal won’t decrease the supply of anything. It will only increase the underworld that provides the supply. This is a economic axiom.

Here’s another:

The only way to decrease supply is to curb demand.

The only way to curb demand is to inform, to educate, to decriminalize.

Each person must choose if he or she wants to use drugs or not, and whether those drugs are legal or illegal has little to do with the choice. There are many things that are legal and that every person has instant access to, but not everyone chooses to partake of. Why so?

The so-called war on drugs is a monumental waste of resources and money; it will continue to be so until the end of time. When something is made illegal, it develops a mystique. It entices. When something is legal, it becomes commonplace and mundane. It becomes no big deal. It is demystified.

Take, for instance, a person who’s grown up in an ultra-sheltered society and compare him or her to a person who’s grown up in the inner-city. Now drop them both off in downtown New York where there’s legal XXX shops on every street corner. Whom do you think will be more curious? And for whom do you think this will be more of a novelty?

And finally, for all the tax-happy liberals out there, think about this: if you legalize drugs, you can tax the living hell out of them. You can then use that tax money to educate with all your half-assed liberal programs, which benefit the “common good.” What more motivation do you need?

It is often said:

“Legalizing pot might be okay, but legalizing cocaine and methadrine, no way. I’ve known wealthy, white-collar, healthy, normal, successful businesspeople who’ve gotten so caught up in amphetamines that they’ve never been able to get off. They died. Suicide. OD. They’ve ruined their lives and the lives of their families. No way you should make these drugs legal.”

This is a repackaged version of the legalizing-creates-more-usage argument. It’s the same argument that drugs shouldn’t be legal because look at all the children born severely retarded and deformed because the mothers used crack throughout the pregnancy.

The first thing we must obviously note here is that all this happened (and still happens) even though drugs are illegal. Observe that making them illegal did not prevent these things from happening. Now ask yourself why.

Remember also that cigarettes and alcohol have ruined more lives and more families by far than every amphetamine combined. Should we therefore make alcohol and cigarettes illegal? And if not, why not? If it’s within the proper jurisdiction of government to run our lives, why shouldn’t we illegalize them?

And why, if that is government’s legitimate jurisdiction, draw the line at amphetamines, alcohol, and cigarettes? Why not let government run everything we consume — be it bacon, beer, or brats?

When gin made it into mainstream London, should it have been illegalized because it created such staggering addiction rates and ruined so many thousands of families?

We often hear: since alcohol can be and often is used in moderation, it should therefore be legal, whereas drugs cannot be used in moderation, and so should be illegal.

Leaving aside the questionable verity of such statements, since when did moderation become the standard for legalization versus illegalizing? That means, then, among other things, that for all those who can’t use alcohol or tobacco in moderation — for all, in other words, who are addicted (roughly half of all drinkers and more than ninety-five percent of all tobacco users) — these substances should be illegal? But for the rest, fine?

Freedom means you are left alone. It means you are neither helped nor hindered.

In this country, as in any just country, government’s proper role is not to be proscriptive or preventative.

In the words of Frederic Bastiat (1801 – 1850):

The nature of law is to maintain justice. There is in all of us a strong disposition to believe that anything lawful is also legitimate. This belief is so widespread that many persons have erroneously held that things are ‘just’ because the law makes them so (Frederic Bastiat, The Law).


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13 Responses to “Legalizing Drugs

  1. Pherigo

    I’ve always held the more or less same belief as you do on this subject and the subject of whores. (I dont know about the cliche “that its the oldest profession” and not that it matters.It certainly is one of the oldest).

    The view that this all should be legalized and made a transparent profession is the same approach we should apply to drugs and gambling also. The efforts by our goverment and law enforcement are actually responsable for turning one persons habits or desires in to crimes that present victims.
    In both cases if you took out the middle man which would be the pimp in the case of prostitution, and the dealer in the case of drugs, the money takes a different route.

    The route as it stands in both cases gives an opportunity for all kinds of shit to happen. the cash is always a greater temptation than the product or service.

    Unfortunatly we have the hypocrasy factor to deal with in this country.We are all whores to certain extent. We demoralize and/or sell our services as humans in countless ways.

    We have shitheads in congress who I believe have sold there souls to achieve fulfillment in what ever areas they feel are important. And society even goes so far as to project the idea and sell the idea that its O.K. to make a lady with no underwear front page news in our media. We are allowed to skirt and play sexuality in so many contexts that are legal, and quite frankly stupid and disgusting. We can shove sex to the public in so many ways , via Girls gone wild or Paris Hilton on the news. Even reports of peodophiles are stimulating to the public simply because sex ia attached to it.

    The bottom line is this. SEX AND DRUGS SELL! But we better not catch you paying for it!
    We will shove it down your throat at every opportunity available. We will present it to you in every fashion immaginable, except for the actual act itself.

    Its pretty fucking stupid really. The more I sit here and think about it the dumber it gets.
    Its like the carrot and the stick. Unfortunatly in this case society is holding the carrot and saying; “go ahead, we know you want it, but if you so much as touch that carrot we will lock you up ! and the carrot!”

    Now how fucking stupid is that?

  2. Mitch

    Ray —

    Just when I was ready to wash my hands of you, just when I thought you had sold your soul to Fox News, just when I had about had enough of your stupidty, you write this article and totally redeem yourself. It’s been some months since I’ve been able to agree with you, since your book in fact. It’s nice to see you coming around on the Republicans. Hey, maybe if I’m real lucky, you’ll wake up and see the teabaggers for what they are too: a crock of shit.

  3. Ray

    Mitch: Thank you for the backhanded compliment, I guess. And just incidentally, I’m not with the tea party. When you say “It’s been some months since I’ve been able to agree with you, since your book in fact” — you means this book, right? Or did you mean this one?

    Pherigo: Thanks so much for dropping by. Thanks even more for dropping all the F bombs, which, I must say, left me very emotionally erect.

  4. BedazzledCrone

    You nailed it!

    Since I agree with you, my students are always scandalized when we end up discussing the legalization of drugs. They all seem to think that marijuana maybe – but the other stuff? They have a really hard time making the connection that their friends/family members, etc. who are in jail. have OD’d, or are living in squalor to feed their habits are in that position because drugs are illegal.

    Legalize all drugs, then control them and tax them, if you must. Have huge social marketing campaigns to try and get people to steer clear of them. But legalize them.

    I have only one suggestion – you should have put the cost of the “war on drugs” in the blog – the cost of law enforcement (policing, public defenders, court time), and the cost of incarceration and building new jails, (and maybe the social costs such as the increase in HIV/AIDS among IVDUs – that’s a little harder to find). Just think how much money could be saved and used for something else & think of all those tax revenues (inappropriate ad hominem thought deleted).

    So now are you going to do a blog on abortion? That one is really fun, particularly, since there is an argument that a significant part of the decrease in the crime rate over the last decade or so, is causally connected to the legalization of abortion (http://www.wright.edu/~tdung/abortion.htm). There are, of course, dissenters(http://www.nrlc.org/news/2001/NRL06/randylaura.html) – the latter link is clearly made by people who believe that abortion is murder. The 1st paper is published, the 2nd is a working paper, both academic. Ah the biases of scientists. And we wonder why people want to just go with the flow (the one that fits with their prior worldviews).

  5. Redmond

    Hello Mitch

    -Just when I was ready to wash my hands of you, just when I thought you had sold your soul to Fox News-

    What are you talking about? have you listened to Glenn Beck lately? or any of their commentators?
    They are about as far from libertarians as you can get!
    Regards
    Redmond

  6. BedazzledCrone

    Why didn’t the second link create a hyperlink? Maybe your blog has an inbuilt bullshit detector – are my biases showing?

  7. Ray

    BedazzledCrone wrote:

    Why didn’t the second link create a hyperlink? Maybe your blog has an inbuilt bullshit detector

    Would that it were true!

    I think the real reason is that there wasn’t a space between dissenters(http://www

    Don’t quote me on that, though. I fixed it.

    Thank you for dropping by.

  8. R.U. Joshin

    Dude, where’s your edge? This essay was the first one posted on these pages that did not offend me. What’s happened to you…old age? scurvy? lack of confidence?

  9. R.U. Joshin

    Really, though, your Exercise and Weight Loss article bored me to fucking tears–I found myself falling asleep while reading it. The vespiary of devoted readers won’t make much of it either. I’ll bet you your season pass to Waterworld.

  10. WastedEnergy

    The money currently spent on the “War on Drugs” would be much better spent helping addicts recover.

  11. Micky

    I’d like your input on something, because its valuable.

    If you’ve a little time, I’d like you to dissect this statement which I perceived as eluding to…
    “The white racist conservative runs the legal and penal system and wants to incarcerate as many blacks as possible and let as many whites off the hook as possible.”

    “White people caught with powdered cocaine go to treatment.

    Blacks with crack cocaine go to prison.”

    I myself do not believe “ALL” drugs should be legal as some of them do unleash humans committing collateral damage on society in many ways.

    Once your PCP laden body shoots my dog because you think hes a double headed dragon I’m allowed to ask why this drug is available.
    Even as a recovering junkie/drunk I do however feel most recreational drugs should be allowed to those displaying responsible behavior.
    There is no gray area when it comes to freedom. But there are many gray areas in legalized drugs and the effect they can have on our society and others freedoms, so, it becomes a pretty tangled discussion of what is an ethical moral standard for civilized society and just how free one individual can or should be.

    Anyway, I just want to know what you get out of that statement.
    I myself was offended because the context of the discussion which the quote came from is based on the typical left vs right race arguments today.

    Aloha

  12. Ray

    Hey, Micky, you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind. Hey, Micky! Hey, Micky!

    Regarding my PCP-laden body shooting your dog, it seems as though we had that discussion once, back in the day, and I still say that criminalizing it doesn’t help. But you’re right: it’s a pretty tangled topic.

    I don’t like that statement at all — not at all. (I mean the one you quote.) It makes it sound as if poor white trash like me get all the advantages.

    It’s below zero here as I write this. I wish I was in Hawaii.

    Aloha!

  13. Micky

    “I don’t like that statement at all — not at all. (I mean the one you quote.) It makes it sound as if poor white trash like me get all the advantages.”

    Yeah, same here.
    I keep asking the guy to narrow down the context but he knows that any less ambiguity to it would say exactly what you and get from it and corner him in his idiocy.

    After a week of being blinded by the aesthetics of this place I’ll bet the liberals here would make you wish you were freezing your ass off.
    Theres four months out of the year here that I look forward to not having my balls stick to my knees.
    It usually starts cooling off and getting less humid in November, I can actually see my breath at sunrise. This is a big deal when you sweat your ass off for 8 months straight.
    Unfortunately it seems global warming has robbed us of this year of our trade winds giving us the warmest winter I can remember experiencing on this rock.
    I would love to right now to drag my feet thru foot deep snow into your pup and sit behind a nice warm Drambuie or Grand Marnier.

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