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The Relegalization of Drugs, Part 3


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I am often asked what distinguishes libertarians from nonlibertarians. I sometimes respond with a political or economic answer. But I’ve concluded that the best answer is a psychological one: Libertarians, unlike others, have a fierce commitment to reality, which is a commitment to truth. We have broken free of the public-school indoctrination and have broken through to a higher and clearer level of consciousness. We know how to think-how to analyze-how to question-how to challenge.

Thus, we are unlike our public-school counterparts who have yet to do the same. When politicians, bureaucrats, or drug lords say to us: “If you’re against drugs, you have to favor the war on drugs,” we know, unlike our fellow public-school graduates, that this is sheer nonsense. But the reason we know this is that we have taught ourselves to think and to reason. We ask: Does the drug war violate principles of liberty? Has it accomplished its purported aims after 80 years of warfare? What have been the adverse consequences of the war? Who benefits from it? What would happen if drugs were relegalized?

These are the questions that the public-school mind-set never asks. It is the mind-set that has been taught only to memorize. “I’m in favor of the war on drugs because I’m against drugs.” It is this frozen mind-set that is the biggest ally of the fiercest proponents of the war on drugs-politicians, bureaucrats, and drug lords.

Why punish a person with incarceration and fine for engaging in self-destructive behavior? When a person is addicted to such drugs as alcohol, tobacco, cocaine, marijuana, or whatever, there is only one way that he can be healed of his addiction-confronting the internal disorder that is manifesting itself in the destructive behavior. If he chooses not to do that and instead decides to live his life in a destructive fashion, who are we to punish him? Isn’t it his life? Isn’t it his decision? Isn’t it his pain? Isn’t it his medication? Isn’t this what freedom is all about-the right to live your life the way you choose, so long as your conduct is peaceful?

The political problem is that U.S. government officials just say no. They say that it is not his life; that it is not his decision; that it is not his choice. His life is subservient to the interests of society-to the nation-to the collective-to the hive. He must be a productive member of society. The drone must not be permitted to be a burden on the hive.

Thus, it is not surprising that drug laws exist in Cuba, China, North Korea, Russia . . . and the United States. The thought that the individual should reign supreme over the collective-that a person should be free to live his life the way he chooses, even if irresponsible or self-destructive-is anathema to the socialist, collectivist mind-set.

What could be more futile than the attempt to change another person? If there is anything I’ve learned in life, it is the impossibility-and often destructiveness-of trying to change another person. Either a person changes himself or he doesn’t change. I’m always amused at the number of people who spend their lives trying to change other people. The usual symptom of these types of people is tremendous disorder-both internal and external-in their own lives. Since it is so difficult to straighten out their own lives, they become public “servants” in order to straighten out others.

At the end of my television debate with Ohio Rep. Jim Traficant (See Part I of this essay), I said to him: “You spend a lot of energy trying to incarcerate people who are addicted to drugs. How constructive is that? After all, you’re addicted to power over the lives of other people. Would it do you any good to incarcerate you?” He simply denied that he was addicted to political power. (Of course, denial is the biggest obstacle to recovery from any addiction.)

Moreover, what could be more evil than to forcibly impose one’s values on another person, when that person is not initiating violence against another person? Isn’t this the very essence of evil?

Drug-war proponents like to say: “Well, why not just legalize murder and theft too?” They cannot (or will not) see the distinction between conduct that involves the initiation of force against another and conduct that does not. Murder, theft, rape, assault, and battery mean that one person is violently interfering with another person’s right to live his life the way he chooses.

But the use of drugs and the like are the essence of living one’s life the way he chooses. That is, they are the essence of freedom . If a person is not free to live his life the way he chooses (so long as it’s peaceful), then how in the world can he be considered free? If a person is truly free, then he is able to engage in irresponsible and unhealthy conduct (so long as it is peaceful), and the state, through its laws, protects the exercise of the choice.

You will recall in Part I of this essay that I told the woman from the Christian Coalition that, as a Christian, I could never support the war on drugs. One of the greatest gifts that God gave us was that of free will. He loved and trusted us so much that He gave us the widest ambit of freedom, even the freedom to deny Him.

But too many religious types believe that God was wrong to place so much trust in man. So to ensure a “moral and responsible” citizenry, they enlist the assistance of the state-Caesar-to punish people who reject God’s way. They use Caesar-the coercive power of the state-in an attempt to implement the word of Christ.

But they skate on very thin spiritual ice. They do what God Himself will not do-use force to bring people to Him. In using coercion-indictments, trials, incarceration, and fines-to bring people to God, religious types not only denigrate God’s great gift of free will, they violate His will, as well. And they simply ignore the personal, potential eternal consequences of doing so.

Of course, the stock response of the drug-war proponents is: “If we relegalized drugs, then everyone (except me) would go on drugs.” Oh really? And why is that so? Didn’t everyone attend public schools? Is this the type of person that public schools produce? Everyone is going to go out and start shooting up heroin the day after it’s relegalized. Uncontrollable urges will surface in everybody, and there will be a run on syringes. What a great job those public schools did in producing so many irresponsible, unhealthy drug nuts! What better argument could you have for abolishing public schooling immediately?

The fact is that everyone who needs or wants drugs today gets them. While there may be some people who are eagerly waiting for cocaine or heroin to be relegalized in order to finally be able use them, the numbers certainly cannot be great. And they would be counterbalanced by those who would no longer take drugs because the mystique of illegality had been removed.

The war on drugs-a war actually against people-has been horribly destructive. Think of all the robberies, burglaries, thefts, and muggings so that addicts could get the money to pay the exorbitant black-market prices of illegal drugs. Gang wars. Killings. Illegal searches and seizures. Increases in drug abuse and drug supply. Corruption, including bribes and payoffs. Police confiscation of money and other valuables from innocent people.

Yet, when you ask a drug-war proponent whether he will take responsibility for all of this, his response is always the same: “I won’t take responsibility for the evil consequences of the drug war because I didn’t intend for all these bad things to happen.” But whether he takes responsibility for the deaths, the thefts, the corruption, and the rest is irrelevant. The truth is that he is responsible for them, especially in the eyes of God. In the very long run, there might very well be a lot of surprised people who discover that the road to hell really is paved with good intentions.

And drug-war proponents are also responsible for much of the drug abuse among minors. Why? Because it is the war on drugs that has enabled and facilitated the enormous market for drugs for minors. With drug relegalization, that market would dry up immediately.

Today, what drives the drug market is adults’ demand for drugs. That’s where the money is. Minors don’t have the kind of money that can support the lifestyle to which drug lords have become accustomed. The children’s market is “icing on the adult drug cake.”

What will happen when drugs are relegalized? Drug lords will be put out of business instantaneously because drug lords thrive only when the market for a product is illegal. Once drugs are relegalized, pharmacies will begin selling what are today considered illicit drugs (as they did before drugs were made illegal). How many pharmacies are going to risk their reputation by selling to minors? There might be a few, but they would always be the rare exception, unlike today when the drug seller doesn’t worry about his reputation.

But won’t drug lords simply focus their energies on selling only to minors? Of course not. Why? Because, again, there’s not enough money there to drive drug lords into that line of work. Let’s assume that a drug lord starts walking the neighborhoods in the hopes of making a sale. He finds a 10-year-old kid and says: “I’d like to sell you some cocaine.” The kid says: “Sounds good to me. Let me go break open my piggy bank.” The following month, the drug lord returns and tries to make another sale to the kid, who says: “Here’s my $10 allowance and I’m expecting a $2 increase next month.”

This is why there were no drug laws for either adults or minors in 19th-century America. There was an insufficient demand (including ability to pay) to generate massive numbers of drug lords trying to make money in the children’s market.

But today, drug laws for adults enable the drug lord to ice his cake with the extra money from minors. The drug-war proponent nevertheless sleeps well at night, despite the fact that he bears much of the moral responsibility for the drug war’s consequences for children.

Moreover, we cannot ignore that the state, through compulsory-attendance laws, forces millions of young people, on pain of fine and imprisonment for their parents, to attend public schools, which not only screw up their minds but, as everyone knows, provide one of the biggest drug centers for minors in the country.

In the final analysis, a society in which people permit their government to control the peaceful decisions of its citizenry will be a society of docile, irresponsible, and obedient people. This is why there is no difference, in principle, between the citizens of North Korea and the citizens of the United States-all of them have been taught that the good society is one in which the state controls their lives and fortunes and in which the “good” citizen accepts and obeys.

But they are wrong about the foundations of the good society. As our American ancestors, who rejected the present-day American-North Korean statist mind-set, understood so clearly, the only way to achieve a responsible, healthy, caring society is through freedom and the exercise of free will.

The good news is that more and more people are “breaking through” and understanding the failures and fallacies of the war on drugs. As more and more people begin piercing this massive political con game and recognizing that drug relegalization is the only moral way to proceed, the last ones standing in favor of the drug war will be those who benefit most from it: politicians, bureaucrats, and drug lords.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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    Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.