Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Brief Lesson On The War On Drugs

A response to A Fan For All Seasons over the War On Drugs:

The response to the lonely libertarian post on ending prohibition, circa 1926- 80 years ago:

Everytime you post on [prohibition], I just get angrier and angrier. You just don't get. First of all, these drugs "which makes criminals out of people who choose to ingest certain non-socially acceptable substances in the privacy of their own homes" are also illegal. It is illegal to buy, sell, or distribute [alcohol]. Also, [alcohol isn’t always used] in the privacy of homes. [Alcohol] is a party drug, [alcohol] can be used and is used in public places, like bars or restaurants. When that's the case, people who are now under the influence of [alcohol] that are a danger to others.

One other thing you don't get is the danger [alcohol] has on the users. So many of us non-users think that we'd have the will power to resist another [bottle of beer], or another [shot of whiskey], but the bottom line is you have no idea. I know someone who is trying to quit [alcohol] use. He lied to me for several months about already quitting and now he has finally decided to stop because of backlash from friends and family, and who knows if he can remain sober without real help. Does that sound like a harmless drug that is just not accepted by society?


To start with, you are 100% wrong in your characterization of the black market. Black markets don’t exist to provide goods or services that are somehow bad- black markets exist to provide goods and services that are illegal. This is the definition of a black market. There are no black markets for legal goods or services, because if you are providing goods or services within the confines of the law, you are part of an ordinary market. Just as there is no black market for alcohol or cigarettes, there would be no black market for other drugs should they be legalized. Black markets lead to higher prices for goods and services because 1) there are costs associated with avoiding the law and more importantly, 2) there is no legal system for enforcing contracts and settling disputes, so these problems must be settled through violent and expensive means.

If drugs were legalized, organized gangs would have to stop selling drugs because big business would undercut them (not to mention the fact that big business would provide better service.) Organized crime thrives on black markets- in reality, organized crime is not profitable without black markets. Legalize drugs, prostitution, and gambling and you would see organized crime start to whither away- there would be no money in it anymore. And no organized crime means no gang violence, no innocent kids killed in shootouts over turf wars, and no sense among urban youth that selling drugs is the only way to make money. Additionally, as you mentioned, lower prices might make it easier for poor people to buy drugs. If poor people can better afford drugs, there are less likely to commit assaults or property crimes in search of money to buy drugs.

I give my example above to show you how the argument you make for cocaine or ecstacy can also be made for alcohol, a legal drug. Unless you support alcohol prohibition, your arguments fail any sort of logical scrutiny.

I’m a bit insulted when you say I don’t care about individuals and I don’t understand the effects drug have on users. My position- the libertarian position- is not that drugs are harmless and should therefore be legal. All drugs are potentially harmful. (Have you ever listened to the side effects of legal prescription drugs?) My point is that the government should not set arbitrary lines as to what is safe enough for us to put into our bodies, and what is not safe enough to put into our bodies. Cocaine is a dangerous drug, but so is alcohol, and so is marijuana.

The libertarian point of view is that individuals- with their friends, and their families, should make these sorts of decisions for themselves as to what sort of drug use is acceptable, and what sort of drug use is not acceptable. Different individuals have different levels of risk, and of course, different individuals have different moral views about drug use. It should not be the government’s role to push the majority’s view on personal choices on the entire population, nor should it be the government’s role to push the majority’s view of risk assessment in personal choices on the rest of the population.

I do recognize that individual choices can impact on other people in that individual’s life. But this is not a reason to make that individual choice illegal. For instance, I would agree with conservatives who say it is vital that children are raised in a two parent household. Statistics show us time and time again the numerous problems children of single or divorced parents are more likely to face. Yet most people- even conservatives- would be offended if we made the two parent household the law. No divorce if you have kids, and no keeping your kid without two parents. Obviously it’s crazy, but the point is, there are plenty of legal activities that can wreak havoc on families and relationships. Lying and infidelity are bad too, but do we need laws about them as well? Drug legalization is not about moralizing that drugs are good- it’s not about moralizing at all, it’s about taking moral judgments out of the law, and recognizing that legal sanctions are not the most effective way at dealing with social problems.

Libertarians care about drug legalization, because symbolically it represents opposition to conservatives who would impart their moral views on the nation, and liberals who would impart their views of personal risk on the nation. Drug legalization is about letting individuals make choices for themselves, and not having government sanction “bad choices” with the force of the law.

I support drug legalization because I do care about people- I care about people’s freedom to make choices for themselves, both good and bad. I care about the numerous innocent lives that have been lost as part of the war on drugs. And while I am concerned about the plight of drug addicts, I am less concerned with their plight than with the plight of innocent parents and children in inner cities who suffer on a daily basis because of the war on drugs.

1 Comments:

Blogger A Fan For All Seasons said...

"I support drug legalization because I do care about people,I care about people’s freedom to make choices for themselves"

That means you support murder, theft, rape, and basically any sort of deviant behavior, just so you know.

Black markets aren't just for illegal material, they are for hard to get materials. Guns are legal, but there are black markets for guns. Perscription drugs are legal, but they have a black market as well. Organized crime will not die out with legalization of drugs. Do you honestly think giant drug cartels will just say "well, the jig is up, let's go get real jobs". No way.

Also, for the 100th time, alcohol is nothing like cocaine, crack, crystal meth or any other hard line drug. Those drugs are highly addictive. There are much easier to binge on and their effects are much, much worse. Alcohol is not addictive. If your body can't handle alcohol, you merely throw it up and that should be warning enough to stop. If your body can't handle a line of coke or a dose of heroin, you could die.

This isn't merely about making "bad choices". A bad choice is watching a basketball game instead of hanging out with your girlfriend. If you truly care about someone, about people, you wouldn't want them to do drugs like cocaine in the first place. Stop comparing alcohol to cocaine. THEY ARE NOT THE SAME THING. You can die from driving, I'm not saying ban driving. You can die from alcohol use, although it's very difficult, but I'm not saying ban alcohol. These drugs are illegal for a reason. Don't believe me? Go spend a night in a crack den.

2:14 AM  

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