I have written before on similar topics, but I have another question for those who would ban drugs because of the "social costs".
When people argue for drug decriminalization on a libertarian basis, one of the most often heard responses is that the medical costs society pays are so great that drugs need to be illegal. Ignoring for the moment the fact that many of these costs are due to the laws themselves (diseases due to dirty needles, overdoses due to uncertain dosages, drugs cut with dangerous substances, counterfeit drugs composed of unhealthy products, etc.), I have to ask, are we even consistent in applying this rule?
For example, aren't cars and motorcycles equivalent means of transportation? Yet aren't motorcycles responsible for much worse injuries when involved in an accident? So, if we can remove rights based on societal medical costs, shouldn't we ban motorcycles as well?
Likewise, homosexuality increases the chances of certain diseases. Also, as, statistically homosexuals, at least male homosexuals, are more promiscuous (or so say several relatively gay-friendly health agencies), even a monogamous homosexual man is at greater risk for STDs due to his partner's statistically higher promiscuity, or that of his partner's past partners, and so on. If we can send drug users to jail for their health expenses, shouldn't we make homosexuality illegal as well?
And I won't even mention recreational activities such as skydiving, scuba diving, auto racing, and so on. All of which are not essential activities, yet drive up society's medical costs horribly.
Now, I am not saying I would actually want to see any of these laws passed. Far from it. What I AM saying is that, before you say you want to remove people's rights and allow them to be imprisoned for an act which harms no one but themselves, think about all the other acts which fit that description and ask why they are not banned as well.
Of course, the simple solution to "social costs" is simply to stop having society pay them. If we don't want to pay for drug users' health costs, then end socialized medicine. Make everyone carry their own weight, or be carried voluntarily by a friend, family member or charity. That way no one pays for a drug user's medical costs unless they choose to do so.
Simple answer, is it not?
I admit this article is fairly strongly in favor of drug decriminalization. However, even for those who do not believe in making drugs legal, I think it is a question which needs to be answered. If we are going to justify laws simply because of medical costs, then how can you allow the practices mentioned above to continue? Should the law not be consistent in its treatment of human activities?
By the way, it is not only a question relevant to drug decriminalization. The efforts to regulate food composition, ban smoking, ban transfats and so on all rest on the same spurious logic. So bear that in mind as well when arguing for drug criminalization. If we can ban drugs based on costs, then why not tell us what to eat as well?
By accident this was posted on Random Notes rather than this blog. So if anyone saw it there before I copied and deleted it, you are not crazy, it was on my other blog originally.
Originally Posted in Examining the War on Drugs on 2008/07/17.