Is someone a liberal because he supports medical-marijuana initiatives? Is someone a liberal if he favors the decriminalization of marijuana? Is someone a liberal for backing proposals to release nonviolent drug offenders from the nation’s prisons? Is someone a liberal if he defends the right of states to legalize marijuana for recreational use? Is someone a liberal because he advocates the repeal of all laws and regulations concerning drugs and the institution of drug freedom throughout the United States?
Conservatives say so. In fact, in the mind of conservatives, referring to someone as a liberal is about the worst thing that one could say about someone. It ranks just above calling someone a communist or a socialist. Liberals, after all, favor the redistribution of wealth, social-engineering schemes, income-redistribution plans, progressive taxation, the welfare state, political correctness, regulation of business, and government intervention in the economy and society. Conservatives, on the other hand, champion free markets, limited government, free enterprise, property rights, God, country, and the Constitution. Or at least conservatives say they do.
The word “liberal” is the conservative’s favorite swear word. This has been the case since the rise of the modern conservative movement in the 1950s. But it is a shame that conservatives have so demonized one of the great words in the English language. To be fair, though, liberals have helped bring this scorn upon themselves.
Until about a hundred years ago, a liberal signified one who favored free speech, free trade, the free market, religious liberty, freedom of association, limited government, and peace. But in the United States, beginning with the Progressive Era and coming to fruition during the New Deal, liberals largely abandoned liberalism for central planning and interventionism while retaining the liberal moniker.
Conservatives maintain that they are now the good guys. And they have a nice-sounding mantra that they often recite to prove it. Typical is the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C. Its mission is to “formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.”
Yet, regardless of their slogans and libertarian rhetoric, conservatives accept most premises of modern-day liberalism. They support the welfare state; refundable tax credits (a form of welfare); social engineering; wealth redistribution; progressive taxation; socialized medicine by means of Medicaid and Medicare; anti-discrimination laws that infringe upon freedom of association, freedom of assembly, and property rights; business regulations; government intervention in the marketplace; and income-transfer plans such as Social Security that force the young to support the old and unemployment benefits that force those who work to support those who don’t.
Conservatives also support the warfare state, foreign aid, foreign wars, the empire of troops and bases around the world, and an interventionist foreign policy — things that many liberals also favor.
And then, on top of all that, conservatives are enemies of individual liberty and personal freedom. They are the chief advocates of restrictions on actions that are voluntary, consensual, and peaceful that they deem to be immoral, dangerous, or addictive.
Such as drug use.
But that does not mean that drug freedom is a tenet of liberalism. Much to the contrary. Liberals are not in favor of drug freedom or anything close to it. Although many liberals may support medical-marijuana initiatives, marijuana decriminalization, the release of nonviolent drug offenders, government-regulated legalization of small amounts of marijuana (especially if the marijuana is taxed), drug-treatment options for first-time cocaine and heroin users, and the reclassification of marijuana as a Schedule II drug instead of a Schedule I drug, that is all still a far cry from drug freedom. The chief liberal in the country, Barack Obama, certainly doesn’t support real drug freedom. And neither does the vice president or any Democratic member of Congress.
Drug freedom should be a tenet of conservatism.
Conservatives say that they revere the Constitution. They maintain that it should be followed and that all legislation should be in conformance with it. Yet the Constitution nowhere gives the federal government the authority to regulate, monitor, criminalize, or interfere in any way with the eating, drinking, or smoking habits of Americans. The war on drugs is grossly unconstitutional in every aspect.
Conservatives say that they favor limited government. Yet waging war on drugs takes an army of bureaucrats, agents, police, prosecutors, and jailers. The war on drugs is an illegitimate and unnecessary function of government that is incompatible with the concept of limited government.
Conservatives say that they believe in fiscal conservatism. Yet they see nothing wrong with spending billions of dollars of the taxpayers’ money to fight the failed and un-winnable war on drugs. A war whose costs greatly exceed any of its supposed benefits.
Conservatives say that they believe in the free market. However, they are very selective when it comes to which products and services they think the government should allow to be bought and sold. They are also very inconsistent. Alcohol and tobacco cause far more harm than illegal drugs, yet the government just regulates and taxes them
Conservatives say that they believe in property rights. So why don’t they say that what a man does on his own property is his business? Why don’t they say that what a man grows on his own property is his business? Why don’t they say that what a man buys and sells on his own property is his business? Why don’t they say that what a man smokes on his own property is his business?
Conservatives say they believe in individual liberty. But what could be a greater violation of individual liberty than criminalizing voluntary, peaceful activity that takes place in the privacy of one’s own home? The war on drugs is inimical to civil liberties and personal and financial privacy. It is more destructive than drugs themselves.
Conservatives say they believe in a free society. But when they want to lock people in cages for possessing too much of a plant or substance the government doesn’t approve of they show that they believe in no such thing.
There is nothing “liberal” about following the Constitution, limiting the power of the government, exercising fiscal restraint when it comes to the taxpayers’ money, keeping the free market free from government intervention, defending property rights, and leaving people alone to do anything that’s peaceful as long as it respects personal and property rights and is done voluntarily between consenting adults or consenting buyers and sellers without fraud, coercion, or aggression.
Legalize freedom; legalize drugs.