Legalizing Drugs

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 has been so thoroughly inculcated 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).