Sunday, January 28, 2007

Drug Legalization

One reason why I have libertarian leanings but don't consider myself libertarian is that libertarianism would make all sorts of things legal that wouldn't be helpful to society. Legalized drugs is one of those things.

John Hawkins writes a superb essay about this:

That's what happened when alcohol was made illegal. However, on the other hand, if we make drugs legal, safer, easier to obtain, more societally accepted, and some people say even cheaper as well, there would almost have to be an enormous spike in usage.

Certainly that's what happened in the Netherlands where "consumption of marijuana...nearly tripled from 15 to 44% among 18-20 year olds" after the drug was legalized.

But, some people may say, "so what if drug usage does explode? They're not hurting anyone but themselves." That might be true in a purely capitalistic society, but in the sort of welfare state that we have in this country, the rest of us would end up paying a significant share of the bills of people who don't hold jobs or end up strung out in the hospital without jobs -- and that's even if you forget about the thugs who'd end up robbing our houses to get things to pawn to buy more drugs. Even setting that aside, we make laws that prevent people from harming themselves all the time in our society. In many states there are helmet laws, laws that require us to wear seatbelts, laws against prostitution, and it's even illegal to commit suicide. So banning harmful drugs is just par for the course.

And make no mistake about it, drugs do wreck a lot of lives. Of course drugs aren't the only things that wreck lives and not every person who does drugs ends up as a crackhead burglar or a dirty bum living in an alley. Heck, Barack Obama, a man some people would like to see as our next President has used cocaine -- and doesn't it seem like every few weeks we read about another celebrity who comes out of rehab and goes on to have a successful career?

One of my patients, a meth addict mother of three, said, "But I'm not hurting anyone." I've also heard this from countless marijuana users.

My response has always been the same, "But who are the drugs helping?"

Drug use is essentially a selfish pursuit. The high is an end around on real, concrete accomplishment. Abraham Maslow writes about this extensively. When people create artificial peak experiences, they cease to have the motivation to create real peak experiences. The real peak experiences require work, time, and focus. They may be harder to obtain but there are no side affects and society benefits.

I have not seen one person who benefited society because of their drug use. I'm interested in people reaching their potential. Too much emphasis has been placed on the "I'm not hurting anyone" meme. The loss of accomplishment and productivity is a valid reason to keep illicit drugs illegal. When people use, even marijuana, they dull their capabilities. Most users while in the haze and high believe they are smarter, funnier, more creative, but come out the other side stunned by their better production when sober.


Anonymous said...

I grew up in So Cal and smoked pot circa 1967 when its fad appeal peaked, but I was dismayed as I moved out into the hinterlands to find out the "fad" was just going on and on and on. It made people so boring--it made musicians forget the words to their own songs. It made my friends so quiet and inward. I know aging boomers who still live for it, spend a considerable amount of their (limited) disposable income on a score. And no, they ain't going nowhere. Yet they have a secret little cameraderie that I envy.

What I worry about, if pot and other drugs were legalized, is what will the dealers do THEN to make the easy living they have now? When booze was legalized the gangsters turned to heroin. What fresh Hell will they introduce to our country THEN?

Antoinette said...

Anon GREAT point! This has always driven me nuts, this idea that if drugs are legal the drug gans would all just disappear. Please these are people who see no problem making their money through crime. If drugs are legal they will find a new crime.

People in favor of legalizing drugs live in a very high ivory tower where they are safe from the damage drugs wreck and never think about those for whom drugs have harmed.

Eric Dondero said...


You can be anti-Drug use and still be a Libertarian. We Libertarians just don't believe in government forcing anti-Drug use laws. Non-governmental efforts are entirely legitamate and even good for society.

And please don't think that all Libertarians are affiliated with the hardcore "Legalize everything" Libertarian Party crowd.

Sounds like you're more of a Mainstream Libertarian.

Check out:

Eric Dondero

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