Standing By My PrinciplesIn addition, as so much in the war on drugs is based on the idea that those making laws know better than individuals what is in an individual's best interest, I would suggest the following:
For Your Own Good
The Drug Addiciton Excuse
The State And Morality
A QuestionAs I have already opened myself up to angry comments by suggesting that those who would make drugs illegal are engaging in a thought process similar to that liberals use to justify their policies, I might as well close with this quote:
The Essence of Liberalism
Arrogance and Gun Control
Copyright as Politics
A Very Simple Truth
Our View of Our Fellow Citizens
Those Other People
Seeing People As Stupid
The Virtue of Humility
Man's Nature and Government
However, the case is not as simple as that. Opium and morphine are certainly dangerous, habit-forming drugs. But once the principle is admitted that it is the duty of government to protect the individual against his own foolishness, no serious objections can be advanced against further encroachments. A good case could be made out in favor of the prohibition of alcohol and nicotine. And why limit the government's benevolent providence to the protection of the individual's body only? Is not the harm a man can inflict on his mind and soul even more disastrous than any bodily evils? Why not prevent him from reading bad books and seeing bad plays, from looking at bad paintings and statues and from hearing bad music? The mischief done by bad ideologies, surely, is much more pernicious, both for the individual and for the whole society than that done by narcotic drugs.Though it will doubtless draw a few angry responses, I think that quote, more than any other, explains why I see this issue as an urgent one. The war on drugs, more than almost any other, is an area where the right and left agree that the state needs to control people's actions. And that makes it a real threat to future freedoms.
These fears are not merely imaginary specters terrifying secluded doctrinaires. It is a fact that no paternal government, whether ancient or modern, ever shrank from regimenting its subjects' minds, beliefs, and opinions. If one abolishes man's freedom to determine his own consumption, one takes all freedoms away. The naive advocates of government interference with consumption delude themselves when they neglect what they disdainfully call the philosophical aspect of the problem. They unwittingly support the case of censorship, inquisition, and religious intolerance, and the persecution of dissenters.
Ludwig von Mises Human Action, 3d Revised Edition (1963) pp. 733-4
It is always through popular causes, and through persecution of reviled groups, that government power grows. No dictatorship ever started by declaring that the state would revoke all freedoms, instead they begin as limited measures against unpopular practices.
The war on drugs is not yet being used to eliminate personal freedoms on a large scale. But already it has caused the loss of many personal freedoms. From property forfeiture, to searches of chidlren's lockers, to random drugs testing, to cavity searches at airports, to government payments to media outlets which promote an anti-drug message, the war on drugs has been used to justify actions that would have, in past times, been seen as excessive.
It is time that we take a careful look not only at why we are fighting the war on drugs, but how. Perhaps some will not agree with me, and will think the war on drugs is justified. However, whether or not you think drugs should be legal, we can still agree that fighting the war on drugs should not mean the revocation of important personal freedoms unless absolutely necessary.
So, even if you think drugs should remain illegal, please read on, as some of the other questions I address here will certainly be of interest. You don't have to want to legalize drugs to worry about some of the questions raised by issues such as seizures, forfeiture rules, the laws concerning searches and seizures, or the prosecution of doctors on rather flimsy pretexts in "doctor shopping" cases. One does not have to favor legalization to have an interest in preserving one's rights.
And, in the interest of appealing to a broader readership than just those interested in legalization, I plan to follow my original promise. I will not focus exclusively on legalization, but will also will examine questions raised by current enforcement policies. I will ask whether, granting the assumptions behind the current war on drugs, we are adopting policies which will achieve those goals, and also whether those policies which seem to violate traditional legal rights do so for a good reason.
In short, I hope to adopt to whatever degree possible an unbiased approach to the war on drugs. I have made clear my own feelings, and my readers can choose to agree or disagree with my position. But, I will try, to the best of my abilities, to keep that bias out of my writing, and report on topics relating to the war on drugs and evaluate them in as unbiased a manner as possible.
Of course, should my bias start to show, I am sure I can count on my readers to point that out as well.
Originally Published in Examining the War on Drugs on 2008/05/29.