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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Drug Freeland Part 1

Recent publicity around the murders of five drug addicted English prostitutes has spurred me on to re-vamp an article I wrote for the Free Radical back in the mid '90s



I wrote it shortly after my conversion from conservatism to libertarianism. It's a bit raw, but I hope it provokes some debate.

Confessions of a Conservative

I hate drugs. A few months ago I believed in the total and vigorous suppression of illegal drugs by the state. When Singaporean authorities executed two Australian heroin smugglers a few years ago, I applauded. When the New Zealand government started seizing the assets of local marijuana growers, I cheered. When a close relative was jailed for possessing a carload of cannabis, I totally supported the police.

Nor was I one of those wimpy liberals who believes in nailing the dealers, but rehabilitating the poor users. I regarded the users as the real villains. The dealers, scum that they are, take real risks to make a buck. The users support the trade with their money, but face little but a fine or light sentence if caught. I believed mere possession of dope warranted a long jail sentence.

My contempt for the drug trade was not limited to the illegal variety. I always voted for prohibition of alcohol at every General Election referendum. I refused to do work for the alcohol and tobacco industries. I was a total teetotaller and had no qualms about making everybody else the same way.

I believed that to deliberately ingest a toxic chemical, with the express purpose of blotting out or altering one's perception of reality was an unconscionable sin.

Though sympathetic to Libertarianism in economics and most other areas I was vehemently opposed to what I regarded as the movement's weak attitude towards drugs.
I saw drugs as a curse, a threat to the security of our society and the wellbeing of everyone in it.

I was conservative with a capital K when it came to mind affecting chemicals.
Now, weeks later I am a complete convert to the cause of drug legalisation. Not just marijuana mind you. Everything. Heroin, cocaine, LSD, barbiturates, uppers, downers, crack, ecstasy, peyote, mescaline, betel nuts, magic mushrooms and datura. The lot.

Conversion of a Conservative

Now, I believe the state has absolutely no place in regulating what substances any adult may wish to place in or on his or her body.

Why the change? Did someone slip a tab in my organic orange juice? Did I see God on my TV screen? Did I reach nirvana in a smoke filled room?

No, I still hate drugs, it's just that now I'm a Libertarian.

The conversion began in a conservation in a bakery, with longtime Libertarian and non drug user, Dave Henderson. His logic forced me to recognise the inconsistency of my views and the underlying socialist premises they were based on.

Who was I to want to protect fools from the consequences of their own folly?

Wasn't it arrogant and paternalistic to want to enforce my views on others via the state?

Doesn't the present state repression of drug abuse actually release people from the responsibility of directly confronting and handling the problem?

Like all socialist "solutions", doesn't state control actually worsen the problem it purports to solve?

Wouldn't a free, capitalist and responsible society be better able to confront and deal with the drug issue?

Aren't social problems best handled by leaving things to the individual?

Shortly after, I read US writer Mark Skousen's excellent essay "Persuasion versus Force" and my conversion to Libertarianism was complete.

33 Comments:

Blogger MikeE said...

You forgot to include that many illicit drug users are responsible, otherwise law abiding, professional adults whose knowledge of substances, and the risks involved (as well as first aid) is very high, and are more than capable of making informed decisions for themselves.

I'm fairly heavily involved in the Auckland club scene and know loads of regular drug users. None of whom I'd consider criminal - yet they are treated as such.

Most have great jobs, and a university education - they are not underachievers. Most contribute usefully to society and have their drug use completely under control.

I'd suggest that the "bad" drug users are in the minority and there are much more users of illicit substances in NZ than conservative new zealand would like to admit.

Also - it would pay to make the disctintion between non drug using dave henderson in ChCh and the Auckland based on who was involved in the "celebrity - who the fuck cares" drug ring...

3:41 PM  
Blogger MikeE said...

You forgot to include that many illicit drug users are responsible, otherwise law abiding, professional adults whose knowledge of substances, and the risks involved (as well as first aid) is very high, and are more than capable of making informed decisions for themselves.

I'm fairly heavily involved in the Auckland club scene and know loads of regular drug users. None of whom I'd consider criminal - yet they are treated as such.

Most have great jobs, and a university education - they are not underachievers. Most contribute usefully to society and have their drug use completely under control.

I'd suggest that the "bad" drug users are in the minority and there are much more users of illicit substances in NZ than conservative new zealand would like to admit.

Also - it would pay to make the disctintion between non drug using dave henderson in ChCh and the Auckland based on who was involved in the "celebrity - who the fuck cares" drug ring...

3:42 PM  
Blogger MikeE said...

You forgot to include that many illicit drug users are responsible, otherwise law abiding, professional adults whose knowledge of substances, and the risks involved (as well as first aid) is very high, and are more than capable of making informed decisions for themselves.

I'm fairly heavily involved in the Auckland club scene and know loads of regular drug users. None of whom I'd consider criminal - yet they are treated as such.

Most have great jobs, and a university education - they are not underachievers. Most contribute usefully to society and have their drug use completely under control.

I'd suggest that the "bad" drug users are in the minority and there are much more users of illicit substances in NZ than conservative new zealand would like to admit.

Also - it would pay to make the disctintion between non drug using dave henderson in ChCh and the Auckland based on who was involved in the "celebrity - who the fuck cares" drug ring...

3:46 PM  
Blogger Trevor Loudon said...

Yes, good point Mikee re Dave H. I was talking about the Chch man.

4:18 PM  
Blogger mah29001 said...

I think I should recommend a book to you-Red Cocaine about Communist nations being behind the drug problem. Even if many of these drugs are legalized, the system that planted them into society will still remain quite similar to how the mafia still remained despite prohibition being repealed.

5:41 AM  
Blogger Trevor Loudon said...

Yes, I am aware of Douglas' book MAH. Though I have yet to read it.

I have no doubt that the communists, narco-terrorists etc are supplying much of the world's illegal drugs.

All the more reason to destroy the drug black market and decimate their profit margins in my opinion.

6:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Mikee's comments show why it is better to ban than not ban drugs. Like most things there are positives and negatives to the situation. Trevor's article raises some of the good points in not banning.
Mikee's comments show why I support a ban. When you make drugs legal you send a message to the wider community that this substance to ok, is acceptable to use, and there is no negative aspects to consider. Wider drug use is inevitable

8:24 AM  
Blogger MandM said...

Can you really create a free market for consenting adults and yet have a social environment in which non-adults/incompetents can be brought up to not be exposed to drugs, where you can effectively teach them that drug use is not a normal, acceptable part of adult life?

8:54 AM  
Blogger MikeE said...

Apologies for the triple post. can you delete the other two, there were timeouts on blogger yesterday.

Anon - so you believe that all those people who use substance should be treated as criminals?

If so who are their victims, they haven't hurt anyone - or for the most part themselves (most know how to take care of themselves on a come down etc).

Or perhaps these people are victims, though I don't understand how one can be a victim of a consensual act. Care to explain?

There are always negative aspects to consider from any action. Drug reform isn't possible without wider reform first to ensure responsible drug use (i.e. welfare, healthcare etc) to put the responsibility on the individual for their actions c.f. the state.

But it really sickens me that most of the general public would rather treat drug users as criminals, rather than normal people. They have done nothing to hurt anyone (personally) so why the vendetta against them?

On a lighter note, cannibis is now the most valuable crop in the USA - without needing subsidies. All thanks to the war on drugs (which could be argued is a subsidy as it artifically inflates price and creates a barrier to entry for new competition).

Hence why most dealers support prohibition - although its riskier. The rewards are much higher i.e. more profit.

Also regarding your weak argument re legalisation and increasing use.

Its legal for me to eat glass, stick my hand in a blender, snort fire ants etc.. but its stupid for me to do so. Just because something is legal doesn't mean everyone will do it. That is if they have free will.

8:57 AM  
Anonymous Peter said...

While I can certainly see your point, lets make a comparison. You said in a an answer to a curly capitalist question, that while rifles and pistols, should be legal, highyly offensive weapons like Bazokas RPGs, and machine guns should be illegal.

But lets compare the drug "P" and and RPG, they are very similar,

both can be used safely
some people may get enjoyment out of both.
There is a large chance that a large number of users of both will cause harm to others.

so while one causes a behaviour change, and the one is a tool, they are really very similar, why ban one and not the other.

Is it not more of an outrage to ban someone from haveing fun blowing up things on their OWN property, than to ban someone from destroying their own brains?

11:05 AM  
Blogger Trevor Loudon said...

That is a good point Peter. The libertarian approach to firearms is a problematic one in my opinion.

I think my view was that DEFENSIVE weapons were fine, but OFFENSIVE weapons were not.

Which was which would be decided by each jurisdiction or country.

Re the drugs that can make people do crazy things ie P or some psychedelics.

I will address some of these points later in the series and I draw your attention to MikeE's point re the other social changes that would be necessary for drug legalisation to take place.

I would also be fine with making it an offense to be under the influence in any public space.

Bearing in mind of course that in a truly free society, most space would be privately owned.

11:27 AM  
Blogger MikeE said...

I know people who haev used P responsibly, along with psychadelics.

Who is their victim?

12:38 PM  
Anonymous James said...

As I understand it P was created as a direct result of drug prohabition itself. Dealers were looking for a drug that could be made at home etc without smuggling being required which is where most shipments are lost to police.So P was created as a substitute.....which means P is the bastard child of the very system that was trying to "prohibit drugs....insted it made the problem worse...but whos suprised?

4:18 PM  
Anonymous peter said...

I can see your and mikee an your point, that people can use drugs like "p" responsibly, however I am saying that there is an inconsitancy with banning offensive weapons, because people can also be responsible with offensive weapons, why ban them too.

I would not touch Alcohol, Cannabis,P or any mind altering drug, but If I could afford it I would have quite alot of fun blowing things up on private property with an RPG if there was no one around and it was quite safe. Why make it legal for people to damage their brains but not have healthy fun blowing stuff up? Sure offensive weapons have devestating capablity but so does P.

P has caused many people to go off their tree and kill/harm people. I am not nessicarily arguing either way, but that their is an inconsistancy.
I have probably just repeated my previous points, but I think the only way I could change my mind was for you to say that it should be ok for people to have offensive weapons.

6:11 PM  
Blogger Trevor Loudon said...

Just to be clear Peter, I think ALL drug use is irresponsible.

I disapprove of drug use for anything other than medicinal purposes.

That said, my disapproval does not mean i should have any right to force my views on others.

In my next couple of posts in this essay, I will outline why a truly libertarian society would place many obstacles in the way of drug use that will be far more effective than the state has to offer.

MikeE pointed out the effect private health care would have on drug abuse, but it goes much further than that.

Many libertarians and conservatives, I think, fail to see the social pressures that a free society is able to exert on errant individuals.

BTW, if I had my way, you could own a tank if you wanted to, though I think I would be well in the minority on that one.

I would draw the line at private ownership of nukes though. Shows what a wimpy libertarian I am, eh?

7:01 PM  
Blogger MikeE said...

Trevor.. having nukes wouldn't be a problem, providing your weren't an obvjective threat to anyone.

A weapon of that size would be hard to prove it wasn't an objective threat due to the fact that it would nuke the buggery out of whatever town it was in.

I have question though - why is drug use irresponsible? Drug use to excess (where you put yourself or others at risk of harm), sure thats irresponsible - but I fail to see how a psychoactive, used in a safe and contained environment, with no/limited long term effects could be deemed to be irresponsible "all the time".

9:23 AM  
Anonymous Peter said...

Mikee Drugs are an objective treat like Nukes, not nearly as big.

Some people taking drugs is like setting off a higly offensive weapon if they loose control and harm others.

Sure some people can take drugs and not kill harm others, but so can people own nukes and not detonate them, or own other offensive weapons like tanks RPGs and Bazokas, heavy machine guns grenades and missiles and use them safely.
I may be repeating myself, while I think trevor has grasped my point why cant Mikee see the comparison.

The other thing is trevor,that while I agree that Nukes should be banned it goes against what I see as the libertarian principle than people should be able to do absolutely anything that does not harm others. owning but not detonating a nuke, does not harm others. This means that you agree with the conservative principle at least to a small extent that if somthing poses a big enough risk it can be banned even if all users owners do not cause harm to others.

10:02 AM  
Blogger Trevor Loudon said...

MikeE, the reason i think all UNNECESSARY drug use is irresponsible is that I don't believe they have no lasting effect.

Putting a foreign chemical into the most sophisticated piece of machinery on the planet, the human brain is never desirable in my opinion.

If it is necessary for medicinal or therapeutic reasons, fair enough. But to poison yourself (inTOXICate) for a bit of a buzz, is not my idea of responsible behaviour.

I support the legalisation of drug use. In absolutely no way do I condone it.

Peter As I said before, I believe everyone should have the right to keep and bear arms for SELF defence.

Nukes, chemical weapons, anthrax etc are in a private citizen context OFFENSIVE weapons.

If you could contain the effects of a nuclear explosion, or chemical weapons spillage on your own property, I would be fine with it.

Clearly however, you couldn't, so I think the state has an obligation to regulate or ban certain weapons.

I think that is perfectly libertarian, though others may disagree.

11:25 AM  
Blogger Berend de Boer said...

Wow, this post has attracted some attention!

In order to be a libertarian you also must believe that people are 100% rational. All the time. During all the stages of their live.

As a conservative I think that staying drugs free shouldn't be too hard. A little bit of help from the state to make it hard to get drugs won't make society worse.

How you deal with that, ban/registration, I'm open to that. But it should not be too easy to do the wrong thing.

2:18 PM  
Blogger Trevor Loudon said...

If we were all rational all the time Berend, we wouldn't need government at all.

I think my next few posts on the subject will show how a truly libertarian society would actually discourage drug use.

I think we share similar aims berend, I just have a little more confidence in human nature and the power of market forces to reduce drug abuse without resorting to silly bans.

Who thinks the proposed ban on BZP is going to help, for example?

2:53 PM  
Blogger Berend de Boer said...

I agree we have enough bans already :-)

9:36 PM  
Anonymous Peter said...

But why shouldnt I have the right to enjoy my self making a nuclear bomb and keep it without using it. It would be irrational to have a nuke just for the sake of it, and from the point of veiw of someone who didnt know and trust that I wouldnt use it, dangerous. But taking P is also irrational and dangerous to others.

While the danger of a nuke is to great to allow, it is still un libertarian to ban people from having a nuke on their property.

10:37 PM  
Blogger Trevor Loudon said...

Peter, If you can guarantee that your nuke, should it accidentally explode, would do no harm to your neighbours, then I would support your right to have one.

Until you can do that-bad luck.

If you think that is some violation of Libertarian principles, i would suggest you have a misunderstanding of what Libertanarianism actually means.

12:07 AM  
Anonymous Peter said...

You are altering your principles on nukes due to the fact that the effects of an accident are greater than in other circumstances. You wouldnt ban Cars because an accident would hurt others than the driver, infact a car accident is probably more likely than a nuke accidently going off. like wise drugs may accidently cause people to harm others, why not ban drugs or cars.

I dont know how to define libertarian principles but their is an inconsistancy here due to the magnitude of a nukes risks.

9:09 AM  
Blogger sagenz said...

car owners are required to have a licence and obtain a warrant of fitness for their vehicle. That is all trevor is asking of your nuke. satisfactory reduction of risk.

1:56 AM  
Anonymous Peter said...

The risk of someone taking the drug "P" are not satisfactory, why not require a "p" licence then?
what about fire works, they are risky would trev also require them to be licenced or banned, even though there risk of huring others.

5:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not the commies that run the drug trade, it's the CIA.

http://www.csun.edu/CommunicationStudies/ben/news/cia/970504.hist.html

10:54 PM  
Blogger MikeE said...

"The risk of someone taking the drug "P" are not satisfactory, why not require a "p" licence then?
what about fire works, they are risky would trev also require them to be licenced or banned, even though there risk of huring others."

Exactly.

Either you have freedom or you don't - there isn't a middle ground.

Once you begin licencing, where do you draw the line? Should you then licence people in areas with high crime rates.. etc.

If you are to be consistant - you must allow nuke ownership - however if one becomes an objective threat (i.e. Iran sabre rattling and threatening to wipe Israel off the face of the earth) you then have a legitimate reason for a pre emptive act of self defense.

8:15 PM  
Blogger Trevor Loudon said...

The procedure here is very simple Mike and Peter.

You own property. You want to do something on your property that may have an effect on someone else's property.

It could be playing loud music at 2am, growing anthrax as a hobby, building your own nuke or firing off skyrockets in the height of the fire season.

Neighbour or neighbours have reason to believe your passtime is dangerous to their property.

They take you to court, the court finds in their favour. Your activity is compulsorily shut down.

Your neighbours are happy and you have to re-evaluate your life-style.

Libertarian principles are upheld.

Simple.

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