Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It's time to end prohibition

Mexico is complaining (rightly IMO) about our demand for illegal drugs. My response is here.


Anam Cara said...

Let's see, you argued that with prohibition, the underground was the source and made lots of money and society was going to hell in a handbasket. That the government shouldn't tell people what they can or cannot do. That a repeal of prohibition puts the high priced bad guys out of business and cuts prison population. We could impose a regulation on the underground market and collect billions in taxes. And you admit that there will be wreckage from legalization.

How has that worked with abortion (except no one expected "wreckage" there). Now there are no more high priced back alley abortions. It is regulated and I have to assume that somehow taxes are collected. And the government has certainly decided that it can't tell a woman what she can do with her own body (they even have decided that they can't tell her what to do with someone else's body - the baby's). Yes, there has been wreckage from that decision.

Do you think on the whole it is better to have stopped some back alley abortions by regulating them and thus allowing over 49 million legal abortions since 1973? Do the statistics


which show a maternal death rate almost 3 times higher higher if there is an abortion than if the mother carries to term make you think that there wouldn't be something similar with drugs? Some side effect you haven't thought of?

(And don't forget that there ARE deaths from legal abortions - 400 since 1972 - or 800 lives lost. Might not seem like much to you but to someone, those lives meant the world.)

How many people now don't do drugs because it is illegal, but would try (and perhaps become addicts) if it drug use were legal? What might that "wreckage" look like? Are you ready to test it and find out?

I am not.

Anonymous said...

Factually speaking abortion rates do not appear to change with illegality.

gdelassu said...

I do not think that abortion and marijuana are especially analogous. (1) Murder (of which abortion is one sub-species) is immoral quite regardless of whether it is illegal, whereas it is not clear to me that marijuana use is wrong apart from the legal prohibition. (2) Prohibition is most ineffective where the activity being prohibited is popular or desirable. Lots of people want to drink, so prohibiting liquor is unworkable. Few people want to rape, so prohibiting rape is much more achievable in practice. If we were to imagine a spectrum that ran from very popular things like liquor to very unpopular things like rape, it seems to me that marijuana would fall much closer to the liquor end of the spectrum. I think that John is right on this point.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Anam Cara,
I oppose prohibition largely on libertarian principals, but also on common sense grounds. I also oppose abortion for exactly the same reasons. Libertarian principals affirm that your rights end at the tip of your neighbor's nose. No one may exercise any right that may endanger someone else. Abortion is murder. Any comparison is between that and and recreational drug use by a consenting adult is therefor spurious.

As with alcohol use, drugs use would not be a whenever and wherever right. Certainly employers could prohibit such use among employees, just as some now refuse to hire smokers. Likewise the same laws which bar drinking and driving would be extended to drugs.

That said I was once given some advice by a an old boatswains mate back when I was in the Navy. When I was promoted to 3rd class petty officer he took me aside (he being 3 days older than dirt and probably the man who taught Noah his knots) and said... "John, remember that authority has its limits. Never give an order you are unable or unwilling to enforce. It reduces respect for authority in general and for you in particular."


sjgmore said...

I just recently graduated from college, and when I first went to college, I was pretty staunchly in favor of drug criminalization (despite having always considered myself a libertarian, who tend to be for decriminalization). But even though I never have used drugs or desired to, I did make lots of friends who chose to smoke marijuana. And when I actually had to see the faces of pot smokers every day, whom I knew to be responsible, intelligent, productive people with bright futures, it became utterly impossible for me to believe that those people should be in prison. I'm sure everyone - everyone - can think of at least one person they know and care about who has smoked pot. Anyone who says they think that smoking marijuana should be a criminal offense needs to think of that person and ask themselves, seriously, "Do I think prison would be better for this person than repentance?"

It's easy to single out the violent offenders and the stupid people and the ugly people and the ignorant people, and turn them into the Face of Potheads, but the fact is that it is a drug used by affluent people and kind people and intelligent people and respectable people, regardless of how moral it is to smoke it, and unless people are willing to say that the latter group deserves to be locked up every bit as much as the former, then I think it's time for everyone to admit that there are better ways to reach out and end people's real problems with drugs.

And that's in addition to all the other reasons the drug war is a failure.