Legalize drugs?

DQ here.  I’ll be dropping in while Bookworm is on vacation.  Danny L. picked up on one of my earlier comments and suggested I make a topic out of my belief that we should legalize drugs.  Good idea.  I’d also legalize gambling, prostitution, and other “victimless” crimes.  I take this stand on principle — what I do in the privacy of my own home, what I put in my body, what two consenting adults do in private (and whether money changes hands), whether I gamble my money away, etc., is none of the government’s (or anybody else’s) business. 

But there are many practical advantages as well.  The prison population would be cut in half, making prisons much more manageable.  A whole drug underculture would be eliminated, since the profits would be drastically reduced and drugs would be available through legitimate sources.  Police resources could be redirected to stopping real crimes.  The government could tax drugs as it does cigarettes, and tax gambling in a way that would make the lottery revenues look like chump change.  Addicts could seek treatment freely, without fear of arrest.  

Best of all, people would be forced to take responsibility for their own actions.  Rather than relying on the government telling them what they can and can’t do, people would have to make their own decisions.  Many will make the wrong decisions, and they will learn from those mistakes.  But all of us will grow up stronger from having to make our own decisions.

So, what do the Bookwormroom readers think?  What would you legalize and why?  What would you continue to prohibit people from doing and why?  How far should government go in regulating our behavior?  Why are conservatives not all libertarians on all social issues?  I look forward to your thoughts and suggestions.

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Comments

  1. Marguerite says

    ‘Rather than relying on the government telling them what they can and can’t do, people would have to make their own decisions. Many will make the wrong decisions, and they will learn from those mistakes.’

    If that were only true, DQ! But how do people suffer the consequences of their mistakes when the very core of au currant liberalism – in which this country is awash – is that the individual must never suffer the consequences of his/her mistakes because that would be mean?

  2. highlander says

    I am strongly in favor of legalizing drugs for all of the reasons you’ve listed — especially since it would virtually eliminate the drug subculture. It has always amazed me how rarely the parallels with Prohibition are brought out. I don’t know how many killings, burglaries and other crimes are associated with the drug trade, but it’s clearly substantial. Legalizing drugs would go a long way toward cleaning up our streets.

    I think many parents worry about legalizing drugs for fear that their children will get hooked if drugs are freely available. The reality, of course, is that drugs are already freely available around nearly all high schools and a lot of middle schools as well. Our best defense consists not of laws, but of raising our children with healthy self-respect and a desire to take care of themselves.

    I’m not so sure about gambling and prostitution, since especially prostitution is not exactly a “victimless” crime. I’ll let others speak to those issues. But count a strong vote for legalizing drugs.

  3. highlander says

    Marguerite — good comment. It came in while I was writing mine. And to tie the two together, let me suggest that one of the best ways of developing healthy self-respect in our children is to allow them to experience the consequences of their mistakes.

  4. Trimegistus says

    Here’s why I’m not in favor of legalizing drugs, especially marijuana:

    Stoners. They’re irritating enough already but if marijuana was legal they’d be everywhere. Maybe if legalizing drugs also included legalizing citizen’s summary execution of annoying stoners, I’d support it.

  5. says

    My solution. Legalize drugs, but make sure the tax money goes towards funding Iraq and other military adventures the US will embark upon in the future.

    If poli-critters want a slice of the pie, they should be punished by taking a slice out of their pensions and benefits. This will prevent the Big Business-Special Interest Lobby-Big Government doping of sheep syndrome, at least for a time.

    The military gets more funds to hunt down terrorists, giving them jurisdiction over drug dealers dealing with terrorists, if only because that is where some of their funds are coming from. Human basic nature as they say. And the military is anti-doping because you have to be for the 21st century battlefield, this prevents them from using the drugs or whatever for themselves or selling it. 2 guesses what politicians will do with drugs once they confiscate them, start producing them, or are beholden to legal companies producing them. Special deals, you know, special deals.

    Don’s plans would work in an ideal world. Meaning if everyone wanted to do good and was working for the greater or individual good. But that’s now how it is. There are corrupted men and women walking around spreading their misery and causing death and destruction. And I’m not just talking about terrorists or US politicians either. No plan survives contact with the enemy is a battle truism based upon the fact that there will always be someone that tries to circumvent The Good for the evil or just for selfishness. If you don’t institute preventive measures, then your Revolution, so to speak, will go down the French route rather than the Washington route.

    I’d also legalize gambling, prostitution, and other “victimless” crimes.

    The government can and will make anyone a victim. Bookworm knows of the stories in Germany about how you won’t get welfare wages unless you take the available jobs, and that includes prostitution.

    This is only one of the examples of why talking about “victimless” crimes is meaningless. People become victims, and thus it will always be here, regardless of what you criminalize or not. Someone will be a victim. Justice is a far better standard to go for, rather than trying to eliminate specific actions through legalization.

    Best of all, people would be forced to take responsibility for their own actions. Rather than relying on the government telling them what they can and can’t do, people would have to make their own decisions. Many will make the wrong decisions, and they will learn from those mistakes. But all of us will grow up stronger from having to make our own decisions.

    Or, as an alternative scenario, everyone will be treated to subsidized heroin, crack, and meth like subsidized healthcare, in order to simulate the Roman coliseum exploits as a way to calm the masses; dictatorship and totalitarian systems have more than one ways to control volks.

    A Democrat House, Senate, White House, and Supreme Court. What do people think will happen then with such a group once drugs are legalized? Maybe KELO on steroids?

    Don’s proposition is idealistic in a way. But so was the French Revolution. We all know the devil is in the details.

    As a personal belief, I believe liberty comes from this chain I posted at Laer’s.

    Without power, there is no security. Without security, there is no liberty. Without liberty, there is no advancement of human progress.

    In this sense, security is discipline, not just individual discipline but the hierarchy and order of the larger society outside the individual. A well disciplined individual makes for a well disciplined society, but the vice a versa is true as well. Too much liberty inevitably ends up with irresponsibility, chaos, atrophy, decadence, and nihilism.

    America is the freest and most prosperous nation in the history of the world Yet the more free it has become, the more new problems result. Inevitably the old horrors are replaced by new ones, even though the new horrors are less horrific than the old.

    The whole legalized craze is used, as people well know, by hedonists, hippies, Leftists, agent provocateurs that would like to see Americans as stoned as they are fat and lazy and Imperialist. These are all factors that determine what I would legalize if I had the power, and they are also factors that determine whether “liberty” is currently available. You need liberty to advance human progress, yes, but you need security before you can get liberty. So what is the use of “liberating” folks as Don suggests, only to watch them come under the aegis of another tyrant and controlling agency?

    We cannot turn back the clock as Neo says. We cannot or will not go back to the days of the Code Duello, to the death matches, where you either take personal responsibility or you will die. Or both as the case may be.

    How do you make people take personal responsibility anyways, without taking away their liberties? Will people do what they have to do according to duty, if they are liberated from all requirements, social or individual? Of course not. So how will legalizing any drugs affect this? Differently based upon the various factions, persons, and institutions.

    The drug war is like any insurgency, it is a very complex system requiring COIN based operations. If people are really serious about the drug war, they should give General Petraeus, after iraq is done, plenipotentiary powers to handle the War on Drugs, answerable only to the President and with the President as his only check on Petraeus’ authority and power.

    That is what I would favor if people really want a war on drugs. Other than that, we can do the peacekeeping bit, and Petraeus can do that as well. It is the people that matter, not the laws.

    The best intentioned of laws will go funky in the face of intimidation, drug addiction, corruption, political shenanigans, and well intentioned but badly planned policies. The Mexican Drug cartels are not going to let go their power all that easily.

  6. Danny Lemieux says

    Hmmm…I agree with you on drugs, but I don’t agree with you on Prostitution, DQ – the sex slave industry today is huge and worldwide. Children are its primary victims. The reason I would support drug legalization is to drop the price and get rid of the crime element. Just how do you drop the price of “prostitution”?

    As far as drugs are concerned, I think the best way to solve the problem is to make them widely available and cheap. Prosecute people for their actions as a consequence of taking drugs (like alcohol), not for taking drugs themselves.

    The liability issue would need to be taken care of – I would propose a new legal category of highly controlled companies that provide highly addictive and destructive substances (drugs, cigarettes) at very low prices (fixed margin over costs), whereby price and profit margin are tightly regulated by the Federal government.

    The flip side, however, is that the manufacturers of such products would not be allowed to bump-up the profit margins on these products, neither could they advertise their products. However, they would also be free of liability for the addictiveness and side effects of their products.

    I know, I know…it will never happen. There are too many economic interests (criminal, political and otherwise) at stake. YM is right – the Drug Cartels will not allow this to happen. Also, the politicians will find a way to tax it and thereby drive up the price, inviting illegal competition.

    It’s nice to dream, however.

  7. JJ says

    Absolutely – legalize drugs, prostitution, and gambling. All areas of what should be private behavior and morals in which society has little legitimate interest – and less business.

    As I keep telling the cops: “it’s only a high-speed chase and therefore very dangerous if you’re #$@%ing stupid enough to be #$@%ing chasing him, isn’t it? Let the helicopter follow him home, and send some guys over to quietly pick him up at midnight, and quit showing us all how big your dick is.”

    Drugs, prostitution, gambling – same thing. The attempts to control these private behaviors have made them such an issue, and led to so many bullets flying over the years – Jesus, Society: grow up! Make an attempt to, anyway… It’s only a problem if you insist on making it one.

  8. says

    But, Danny, legalizing prostitution is unlikely to increase the sex slave industry, and might well help reduce it. As with drugs, providing a legal alternative will help combat (though probably not eliminate) the illegal providers.

    By the way, I do want to stress that I’m talking about freedom for ADULTS to make these decisions. As with alcohol, cigarettes & driving, children should be shielded from these decisions (to the extent possible) until they have the maturity to make them. As to that, I’d be interested to know what age the readers think children obtain the maturity to make these decisions.

  9. says

    The cops are only the enforcement branch of the government. When government takes over such businesses, and they will because the people will love them for doing so, it’ll simply bump up the extortion racket farther up.

    Europe has easily provided the US with enough information on these policies, or they should have. The Netherlands have legalized almost well… anything really. Germany perhaps half as much, and certainly Britain provides free heroin.

  10. rockdalian says

    As to drug legalization, how does one insure that the heart doctor doing my bypass is not buzzed? Or that the lawyer defending me for ending the buzz of the doctor is not also buzzed? I’m all for legalization once those answers are given. I hate that our police departments have become militarized because of the so called war on drugs. How many more citizens and officers must die because of this ill thought policy? I must have a physical every two years that includes a drug screen. Additionally I am subject to random tests. And if I am ever involved in an accident with fatalities I must be tested as soon as the situation allows. If us peons must be subjected to these policies, then Congress should be too.

  11. JJ says

    How does one insure the doctor and lawyer aren’t buzzed now, Rock?

    I’ve certainly seen more than one judge (just to take an example from life) wander into court half blasted, and I bet so has Don. (In Boston in particular, for some reason, they hang on until they’re a hundred, and considerably more than merely half senile. Including one who one day – how shall I say this politely? – in the midst of a hearing lost control of his bowels and cleared out the courtroom by filling his pants behind the bench. Hell, you’d RATHER be appearing in front of one who was merely drunk!)

    But the question stands: how do you insure that the bypass driver or the lawyer aren’t buzzed right now?

  12. says

    Legalize marajuana, sure, and tax the snot outta the product just like tobacco – only moreso. BUT, make sure that every dime of the tax revenue is funneled directly into the public school system. Also tighten DWI laws to be incredibly harsh, even on the first offense.

    My only concern is the potential collateral damage to innocent bystanders. But you already have that with alcohol – I mean, c’mon, is there such a thing as a bar or liquour store without a parking lot?

    In short, give the people enough rope to hang themselves and profit from the suicides.

    By the way, I’m in favor of handling sports doping the exact same way – go ahead and let the knuckleheads juice up. Once their desperately overworked hearts & nervous systems go belly up and they die at age 27, then the problem is solved. Just make sure to frequently cite those dead superjocks as examples of the consequences of juicing. Then let the chips fall where they may.

  13. says

    Hi Rocky,

    Thre are no guarantees, of course, even today. Lots of doctors & lawyers are messed up now. But, when you have a choice (not, obviously, in an emergency), you can choose a doctor who regularly gets drug tested by his/her hospital or clinic. Lawyers are trickier, but you can select those with care as well. It’s not like there aren’t way too many of us out here for you to choose from already.

  14. Alan Furman says

    All of the above and more: Prohibition is effectively a price support system for the underworld, including the Taliban in Afghanistan, communist insurgents in Colombia, and gangs everywhere. Which I, for one, could do without.

  15. Mike Devx says

    Being a libertarian, I agree that drug use should not be criminal, nor should prostitution, nor gambling. Being “under the influence” while on the job can of course be a criminal offense. Any such action that harms your job performance can of course be a firing offense as well.

    What we’re talking about is having a national culture of individual responsibility. We have been losing that culture over the decades. I don’t think you want to START reinstilling that culture by legalizing drugs, prostitution, and gambling, however. To me those steps are more the end of result of what you can do when the national culture reflects individual responsibility.

    I believe that what you would get right now by simply throwing open the door to those legalizations would be a horror show. Some other more cautious, more prudent steps, towards instilling individual responsibility would have to come first.

  16. says

    Hi Mike,

    Good point, but what steps towards instilling individual responsibility do you have in mind? Our society is very much headed in the other direction, trying to limit individual choices (plastic bags in San Francisco, trans-fat in Seattle, the examples get sillier & sillier). The nanny-state controls ever more; individuals are responsible for less and less.

  17. BigAL says

    DQ.

    I whole-heartedly agree with you that drugs should be legalized. Your argument is sound and I could not have put it any better. I also agree strongly with Alan when he points out that “Prohibition is effectively a price support system for the underworld, including the Taliban in Afghanistan, communist insurgents in Colombia, and gangs everywhere. Which I, for one, could do without.”

    Good post.

  18. BigAL says

    And I agree with YM that the drug cartels are too powerful (as a result of the huge profits being made due to the black market–where they’re not even being taxed for their income) to ever let this happen.

  19. Carol says

    At one time, I was indeed part of the legalize-everything crowd. But what about the dependents of the drug-crazed morons? You can be sure they will have dependents: they don’t have sufficient self-control or presence of mind to use effective birth control. So what are you going to do with their children? I know a dozen kids who have been the victims of meth. “Adults” on meth don’t give a good god-damn about what kind of orifice they stick their parts in. If a kid is handy, the kid gets it and not a one of them gives it a second thought. I doubt if any of you libertarians have given the truly innocent victims a second thought. I didn’t read every single comment but I never saw any mention of the children of druggies.

    Don’t even start with criminal penalties for raping kids. Those already exist and do very little good. Kids aren’t good witnesses as they don’t keep a calendar: Dear Diary, today Daddy raped me, so specific charges can’t be brought. Kids are also easily intimidated: don’t tell or I’ll kill your mother and it will be your fault. And if a kid is being “raised” by a group of druggies, that’s all he knows and there’s no reason for him to think there is anyone outside his “family” who is different and who will help him.

    Once heroin is cheap, what is going to happen to the children of the junkies? The ones who starve to death because mom and dad stay high all the time and never think to feed them, or the ones who spend weeks on their own because mom goes out for a fix and forgets to come home.

    I completely agree that prohibition just enables crime, but free use WILL NOT be any better in the long run. Someone might not break into my house tomorrow, but in a few years, the kid who was raped is going to rape me. Frankly, I’ll take burglary over rape.

  20. says

    Hi Carol,

    On the contrary, I give kids a lot of thought. My brother lost his family, and his three wonderful daughters while deatroying himself on alcohol and perscription drugs. Thankfully, the mother protected the daughters and they appear to have emerged as fine young adults. My cousin destroyed himself and lost his family to cocaine. He’s still an addict. My brother-in-law is permanently brain damaged and has seizures from drug use many years ago. My niece lost her husband to alcohol, though she appears to be recovering now. My step-mother was clinically insane, so I was regularly abused as a child, though never sexually.

    Anyway, I think I have some understanding of the problems drug addiction can cause and I do think about truly innocent victims much thought. But the truth is that all of the above happened while drugs were illegal. True, legalizing drugs probably would result in more addicts at first. But it will also remove fear of stigma and jail and encourage addicts to seek help faster. It also will lessen the extent to which innocent spouses and children stay with abusive addicts, because they will no longer fear exposing their addicted love ones to criminal charges and their families to shame.

    I believe the truth is that a certain number of people will fall to temptation and never recover, regardless of whether drugs are legal. If anything, we’ll end up with more stoners (who tend to be passive) and fewer alcoholics (who tend to be agressive and abusive and the rapists you talk about). We’d have more addicts, but fewer innocent victims. That’s not a bad trade-off and that’s before we talk about earlier and better treatment programs for addicts and before we talk about the benefit to society of treating our adults as adults, capable of making choices for themselves. Thanks for writing and reminding us of the victims.

    By the way, does anyone know what the Dutch (or any other relevant) experience is regarding the kind of rapes and other violent crimes Carol is talking about?

  21. JJ says

    Don’t know the state of rape in the Netherlands, no. But, from having worked with them over the course of a number of years, I do know that many an addict, at least of heroin, maintains a functional (surprisingly so, to those who don’t know it) life. They need their shots however often a day they need them (usually three or four, sometimes more) and then once the initial rush runs its course, off they go: to work, to the store, to the laundromat, to whatever it is that needs doing. They are often as functional as anyone else, and if I didn’t tell you Harry was a heroin addict, you wouldn’t know it.

    Their kids are (again, surprisingly often) generally fine – once the pressure about whence cometh the next fix is off. (I wish I knew how to italicize those words. They are key. So key I’ll say it again: once the pressure to find the next fix is off these are pretty normative people, and if you didn’t know they were addicts, you wouldn’t know they were addicts.)

    A

  22. JJ says

    Got interrupted in the middle there, sorry. To finish the thought:

    A lot of the trouble stems from the fact that the substance they abuse is illegal, and therefore they have to go through absurd complexity and permutations and jump through layer upon layer of hoops to get their fix. (And, of course, they do all this as criminals.) Their whole life becomes about that next fix. If they had regular access to it, that stops, and they become remarkably normal people. They no longer have to worry about it twenty hours a day. They don’t have to steal to get the money for it because the price comes down to a realistic level (which should be about fifty cents a fix) and the legal/illegal pressure is off.

    They are perfectly useful people in most work environments (true, their noses tend to run a bit) and they tend to function pretty well.

    Understand, please. I am not saying heroin is a good thing. Nor am I saying that alcohol, tobacco, or trans-fats are a good thing. Maybe ibuprofin isn’t, either. But they’re here, and they are something with which we need to deal. Simply making them illegal is not dealing with them.

    When we made alcohol illegal, what we accomplished was to invent American organized crime, and forever enrich the Kennedy family. The lesson, I would think, would be clear.

  23. Joe Libson says

    Legalizing drugs has more complicated and damaging impacts. Consider family life.

    If a husband and wife get divorced their is typically a custody battle. If the H and the W both have good jobs and neither abuse the children in any egregious manner then typically the W will get custody.

    If drugs are perfectly legal, and the W is a heroin pot or meth addict (or even just a very frequent user), while the H is “clean and sober” then common sense would dictate that the H should get the kids and the W should get treatment. How would society intervene to cause such an outcome if drugs are legal.

    The typical argument is that alcohol is legal, so why not drugs. One word: coverage.

    Alchohol appeals to a certain percentage of people, and it causes a certain amount of damage. If you throw in pot, Meth, LSD, cocaine, Ecstasy, K etc etc then you will get *much* greater coverage of the population. Instead of perhaps 25-30% of Americans abusing alcohol, we can end up with 50-60% abusing one of he many many substances now available to us. What would that do to the number of birth defects in our country?

    I think that legalization proponents also don’t visualize what their life would be like if some significant percentage of their neighbors were frequent drug users.

    I think that the issue is much more subtle than “severe punishment for DWI offenders”. A functioning and pleasant society requires a high degree of civility, attentiveness and self control. I think that drug use and drug culture runs counter to those traits.

    We can’t compare what a tiny racially/culturally homogeneous country like Netherlands can do with what we can do over here. The model and the calculus that governs it is simply not the same.

    Thanks,

    Joe

  24. Mike Devx says

    Hello, Don,
    In #16 you asked me: “what steps towards instilling individual responsibility do you have in mind?”

    I have been sitting here for twenty minutes trying to craft a good response, and I can’t. I appear to be an ivory tower guy spouting intellectualisms, without being able to define a list of practical steps, even as an exercise. Disappointing. What I have come up with so far:

    1. Throw out government no-smoking laws over businesses. If you want to avoid smoking, don’t frequent establishments where it is allowed. Restaurants, apartment complexes, etc, should be free to establish their own rules.

    2. Throw out criminal penalties for businesses that allow their patrons to get drunk. If they get drunk, it’s their problem.

    3. Set driving speed limits based solely on safety, for each particular road.

    The others I’ve thought of are too vague: “Eliminate frivolous lawsuits and negligence lawsuits – buyer beware, user beware – harmful intent must be established.” “Drastically reduce all government support programs – failure should always leave you very uncomfortable. The safety net should exist but be as minimal as possible.” “Eliminate subsidies.” “Simplify the tax code to remove all social goals. This includes most deductions such as mortgage deductions and charitable deductions, by the way.” etc, etc.

    The problem is, it keeps coming down to electing legislators who are libertarian in principle, and who appoint judges who are libertarian in principle. The problem is the nanny state approach itself. I refer you to Carol’s comment #19. I sympathize with all of her points, but her argument is clearly the nanny-state argument, in full.

    Well, that’s the extent of my reply. It’s a sad and deficient reply, in my view.

  25. JJ says

    Well, it is and it isn’t a sad and deficient reply, Mike. because of course what you’ve done is nothing more than turn the clock back about 150 years to the way the people who envisioned the country envisioned it. We began with no frivolous lawsuits, just about no government support programs, no taxes at all except when there was a war to pay for, and zero “nanny-state” nonsense of any kind.

    Individual responsibility was there because there was no other kind of responsibility available. Oh, if you shot someone a sheriff might show up and want to know why, but that was about it. For everything else, you were on your own.

    Being on your own is a powerful inculcator of individual responsibility.

  26. says

    Essentially the reason why there was no nanny state was because people were just not prosperous and secure back then. We can afford luxury, decadence, and immorality now because it isn’t an automatic death sentence like it was before.

    This runs into that paradox where the frontiersman clears out a path in the jungle, only to be rendered useless because the civilization that grows out of that jungle no longer needs rugged, coarse, etc men like the frontiersman.

    It is the same situation the United States is in. Provide security and freedom to Europe and Korea, and look at the automatic results. Another reason why history is cyclic.

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