Archive for freedom
Is it okay to kill? I don’t mean a bug in your house, a snake in your garage, or a deer in the woods. Deer tastes good; you may not know if that snake in your garage is poisonous; and bugs are home invaders.
I mean is it okay to kill a man, a human being, a person? Again, I don’t mean someone trying to kill you, rob your business, rape your wife, harm your children, or break into your house. Killing someone might be perfectly justified in those circumstances if it involves defense against aggression.
Specifically, is it okay to kill someone who has not threatened or committed violence or aggression against you, your family, your friends, your neighborhood, anyone you know, or any American you don’t know? Read More→
Tags: aggression, ethics, freedom, militarism, military, self-defense, violence, war
By Rev. Edmund Opitz, author of The Libertarian Theology of Freedom and Religion and Capitalism: Allies, Not Enemies. This essay was originally published in the July 1973 issue of The Freeman. Read more in the Edmund Opitz Archive.
The colonists had won a war and, desiring to set up a republican form of government, they installed a Constitution designed to limit the public authority and thus maximize personal liberty.
Now that they were free, what did these early Americans do with their newly won liberty? For one thing, they worked. They had to provide their own food, clothing and shelter, so work was a necessity of survival. Moreover, these people remembered the poverty endured by their ancestors in Europe and how life was demeaned thereby. Now that these Americans were free to enjoy the fruits of their toil they became more productive, and with the gradual increase of wealth came a new sense of human dignity which accompanies modest economic success. The Puritan Ethic was sound when it endorsed work, thrift and frugality. This ethic fitted in well with the burgeoning interest in the new science of economics, masterfully set forth in 1776 by Adam Smith. It is significant that more than twenty five hundred copies of Wealth of Nations were sold in this country within five years of its appearance. Obviously, the book addressed itself to a real need.
Economic activity is fundamental to human existence. A Robinson Crusoe could get along without politicking, but if he did not work he would die of hunger and exposure. Emerging from economic activity are the concepts of rights to property and claims to service around which many political battles are fought. Economics, on the surface, deals with prices, production, and the operations of the market as determined by the buying habits of every one of us. In reality, however, economics is concerned with the conservation and stewardship of the earth’s scarce goods; human energy, time, material resources and natural forces. Read More→
Tags: economics, Edmund Opitz, freedom, history, religion
Most people live lives of quiet desperation, Henry David Thoreau told us. If there was truth in that observation, in the pleasant, spacious old New England of Thoreau’s day, how much more truth is packed into those words in these melancholy days! Events have gotten out of hand and the world lurches into chaos.
Things have fallen apart faster than any of us would have dared predict, and we are seized by pangs of guilt and self-doubt. So many promising experiments have gone sour, from the New Freedom of Woodrow Wilson to the latest ukase of the present administration. The statesmen of this era talked peace and sought to outlaw war, but they let the twentieth century break down into the bloodiest period of all the twenty-five hundred years of warfare studied by Pitirim Sorokin. “We live,” wrote this great scholar, “in an age unique for the unrestrained use of brute force in international relations.”
The threat of protracted international conflict is bad enough, but there is also the well-founded fear of domestic violence and crime. And even if we are lucky enough to escape actual robbery, we know that inflation is steadily draining our wealth. We’ve seen the race issue go from integration to Black Nationalism; we’ve witnessed the emergence of the sex and drug cult, the rise of astrology, witchcraft and voodooism; V.D. has reached epidemic proportions among the young; and then there is abortion, homosexuality, the campus crisis, the environmental crisis, the inner crisis in man himself. For is it not true, as Yeats says in a famous poem, that “The wicked act with dreadful intensity, while the good lack all conviction.”
Tags: culture, Edmund Opitz, free society, freedom, ideology, philosophy
Review of Mark A. R. Kleiman, Jonathan P. Caulkins, and Angela Hawken, Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), xxi + 234 pgs., paperback, $16.95; and Jonathan P. Caulkins, Angela Hawken, Beau Kilmer, and Mark A. R. Kleiman, Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), xx + 266 pgs., paperback, $16.95.
These two books are part of a series by Oxford University Press called What Everyone Needs to Know. There are currently twenty-six books in this series. The books are written in a question-and-answer format. Obviously, with titles like Invasive Species, Pandemics, and Overfishing, not every book in the series is of interest to libertarians. But aside from Libertarianism: What Everyone Needs to Know (reviewed by David Gordon here), these two books on the drug war are the two titles that libertarians would be the most interested in.
The three common authors of these books are all academics at major universities. Beau Kilmer is co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center. The marijuana book also includes an additional author, Christina Farber, for one chapter.
Drugs and Drug Policy contains 10 chapters with between 9 and 23 questions per chapter. The book also contains acknowledgments, an introduction, a conclusion on "what is to be done?" that is not in a question-and-answer format, an appendix on "how drugs work in the brain" with eight questions and answers, a bibliography, and an index. Each chapter concludes with recommendations for additional reading. There are no footnotes.
Drugs and Drug Policy "includes facts about drugs and drug-related behavior, pharmacology, prohibitions, regulations, and taxes, and how drug enforcement, drug prevention, and drug treatment work, along with their characteristic problems and limitations."
Marijuana Legalization is divided into 2 parts with a total of 16 chapters with between 5 and 17 questions per chapter. The book contains acknowledgments, an introduction, a concluding chapter not in a question-and-answer format that gives the author’s opinions about marijuana legalization, a bibliography, and an index. Each chapter except the last concludes with recommendations for additional reading. There are no footnotes.
Marijuana Legalization is "not intended to persuade" the reader of any particular answers to questions about marijuana legalization and use. The authors "hope to provide both sets of advocates with material for an honest and logically coherent debate, and give people who have not yet made up their minds the raw material needed to develop informed opinions."
Due to their question-and-answer format and skillful manner of explaining technical information, both books are extremely readable. And in spite of the brevity (in a good way) of the answers, the books are very thorough. Although I disagree with the authors’ conclusions, I recommend both books for the information they provide about drugs and the drug war.
What I want to focus on are those parts of these books that relate to drug legalization, drug decriminalization, and drug freedom.
In Drugs and Drug Policy, that would mainly be chapter 2, "Why Have Drug Laws?" and the conclusion, "What Is to Be Done?" In Marijuana Legalization, that would mainly be most of the chapters in part 2, "Legalization and Its Consequences," and the concluding chapter, "What Do the Authors Think about Marijuana Legalization?"
In Drugs and Drug Policy, the authors point out that alcohol and tobacco "far exceed all the illicit drugs combined in the number of problem users and the resulting ill health and death." But instead of pointing out the hypocrisy of the war on drugs and calling for full drug legalization, they recommend tripling the tax on alcohol because it would "improve the health and longevity of heavy drinkers" and "protect nondrinkers from drinking-related accidents and violence" and "banning additives and the pre-rolled cigarette" and "requiring that all smoking products be made from strains of tobacco that do not produce the tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNs) that create most of the cancer risk." They reject John Stuart Mill’s "harm principle":
That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise, or even right.
Why? Because "the case for protecting people from themselves – when it can be done at acceptable cost in terms of intrusive enforcement – seems attractive." The authors are utilitarian nanny statists.
In their conclusion, the authors present three lists of policies: a "consensus" list of eleven items they "think might command widespread support," a "pragmatist" list of six items "that could appeal to those prepared to think about drug abuse as a more or less straightforwardly practical problem," and a "political-bridge-too-far" list of six changes "that make good sense to some drug-policy wonks, but that involve departures from current practice and more radical thinking than a prudent politician would endorse."
Obviously, the third list is the most radical. But aside from calling for higher alcohol and cigarette taxes, the authors propose "allowing users to grow their own cannabis, or to form small consumer-owned cooperatives to grow it for them." But "alas," they say, "this approach would yield no tax revenue, which greatly reduces its political appeal."
In Marijuana Legalization, the authors again point out how much more dangerous alcohol and tobacco are than marijuana. They even say:
If we were making laws for a planet whose population had never experienced either marijuana or alcohol, and we had to choose one of the two drugs to make available, there would be a strong case for choosing marijuana, which has lower organic toxicity, lower addictive risk, and a much weaker link with accidents and violence.
But since "that’s not the planet we inhabit," and "alcohol has been an ingrained part of many cultures since the Neolithic revolution," the authors reject treating marijuana as alcohol. "History matters. Custom matters. Practicality matters," say the authors. I guess freedom doesn’t matter.
In the book’s final chapter, "What Do the Authors Think about Marijuana Legalization?," drug freedom is not in their thoughts.
Angela Hawken says: "Existing policies suit me well." But then she goes on to say that she thinks "it’s pretty clear that the cost-benefit balance is in favor of loosening the reins on marijuana." She deems it "worthwhile to experiment with legalization" of marijuana, although she is "concerned with the exploitation of medical-marijuana laws." Hawken also calls for raising taxes on alcohol and restricting its advertising.
Jonathan Caulkins says he would "vote against legalizing marijuana." He prefers reforms and "middle path" options. He is worried about "the children of dependent users." He claims to "generally agree with libertarian notions of letting people harm themselves if that’s what they choose," but "only to a point."
Mark Kleiman posits six options: current policy, decriminalization of use but not production and distribution, permission to use, grow, and give away marijuana, but not to grow or sell it professionally, legalization without commercialization that allows home production and small cooperatives, commercialization with high taxes and tight restrictions, and commercialization on the alcohol model. Missing, of course, is the drug freedom option. Kleiman’s first choice of what he would like to see happen is "permission for production and use through small not-for-profit cooperatives, with a ban on commerce."
Beau Kilmer doesn’t "see much difference between alcohol and marijuana when adults use either in moderation." He has "serious concerns about our current marijuana policies." Although his "thoughts about marijuana policy continue to evolve," if he were "approached for advice by a policymaker who represented a constituency seeking significant changes in their marijuana policies," he advises the incorporation of a "sunset provision" to whatever is decided and rejects legalization because "it is risky to implement the most extreme alternative to prohibition."
Both Drugs and Drug Policy and Marijuana Legalization suffer from the same problems.
There is little attention paid to the views of principled libertarians who argue for absolute drug freedom for freedom’s sake.
The authors take it for granted that the federal government should have a drug policy. Churches may want to have a drug policy. Families may want to have a drug policy. Businesses may want to have a drug policy. Sports teams may want to have a drug policy. Fraternal organizations may want to have a drug policy. But it is not the concern of the federal government to solve drug use problems or ensure that there aren’t any drug abuse problems.
The authors take it for granted that the federal government has the authority to ban substances it deems to be harmful, dangerous, or immoral. But as anyone who has read the Constitution even once can see, the federal government has no such authority.
The main problem, of course, is that real and absolute drug freedom isn’t even presented as a viable option.
So, as I said earlier, although I disagree with the authors’ conclusions, I recommend both books for the information they provide about drugs and the drug war.
And that, in this reviewer’s opinion, is what every libertarian needs to know about these two books on the drug war.
Originally posted on LewRockwell.com on February 6th, 2013.
Tags: economics, ethics, freedom, health, health issues, libertarianism, liberty, war on drugs
If you have never read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis (author of The Chronicles of Narnia and Mere Christianity, and close friend to J.R.R. Tolkien), then you are missing out. In the book, the arch-demon Screwtape corresponds with his nephew Wormwood, who had recently been appointed his “temptership” on Earth. Lewis, in the voice of Screwtape, writes about the intricacies of sin and temptation, and it is an amazingly insightful work.
After publishing The Screwtape Letters, Lewis wrote an additional piece called “Screwtape Proposes a Toast,” in which Screwtape is giving a lecture before the Tempters’ Training College. (It is often included in current editions of the original book.) A most interesting element of the essay is the indictment of “democracy” itself, or perhaps “the diabolical democratic spirit.” Having been reminded of this essay recently, I felt it would be fun and enlightening to share it with you. I’ve highlighted some significant parts throughout the essay. Enjoy!
(The scene is in Hell at the annual dinner of the Tempters’ Training College for young devils. The principal, Dr. Slubgob, has just proposed the health of the guests. Screwtape, a very experienced devil, who is the guest of honour, rises to reply:)
It is customary on these occasions for the speaker to address himself chiefly to those among you who have just graduated and who will very soon be posted to official Tempterships on Earth. It is a custom I willingly obey. I well remember with what trepidation I awaited my own first appointment. I hope, and believe, that each one of you has the same uneasiness tonight. Your career is before you. Hell expects and demands that it should be — as mine was — one of unbroken success. If it is not, you know what awaits you.
I have no wish to reduce the wholesome and realistic element of terror, the unremitting anxiety, which must act as the lash and spur to your endeavours. How often you will envy the humans their faculty of sleep! Yet at the same time I would wish to put before you a moderately encouraging view of the strategical situation as a whole.
Your dreaded Principal has included in a speech full of points something like an apology for the banquet which he has set before us. Well, gentledevils, no one blames him. But it would be in vain to deny that the human souls on whose anguish we have been feasting tonight were of pretty poor quality. Not all the most skillful cookery of our tormentors could make them better than insipid.
Oh, to get one’s teeth again into a Farinata, a Henry VIII, or even a Hitler! There was real crackling there; something to crunch; a rage, an egotism, a cruelty only just less robust than our own. It put up a delicious resistance to being devoured. It warmed your inwards when you’d got it down.
Instead of this, what have we had tonight? There was a municipal authority with Graft sauce. But personally I could not detect in him the flavour of a really passionate and brutal avarice such as delighted one in the great tycoons of the last century. Was he not unmistakably a Little Man — a creature of the petty rake-off pocketed with a petty joke in private and denied with the stalest platitudes in his public utterances — a grubby little nonentity who had drifted into corruption, only just realizing that he was corrupt, and chiefly because everyone else did it? Then there was the lukewarm Casserole of Adulterers. Could you find in it any trace of a fully inflamed, defiant, rebellious, insatiable lust? I couldn’t. They all tasted to me like undersexed morons who had blundered or trickled into the wrong beds in automatic response to sexy advertisements, or to make themselves feel modern and emancipated, or to reassure themselves about their virility or their “normalcy,” or even because they had nothing else to do. Frankly, to me who have tasted Messalina and Cassanova, they were nauseating. The Trade Unionist stuffed with sedition was perhaps a shade better. He had done some real harm. He had, not quite unknowingly, worked for bloodshed, famine, and the extinction of liberty. Yes, in a way. But what a way! He thought of those ultimate objectives so little. Toeing the party line, self-importance, and above all mere routine, were what really dominated his life.
Tags: C.S. Lewis, culture, democracy, education, freedom, government, individualism, society, theology