Archive for war on drugs
Air travelers were outraged when the FAA announced that there would be flight delays because air-traffic controllers had to take furloughs as a result of sequester budget cuts. But there is another federal agency whose budget cuts Americans should be cheering — the Drug Enforcement Administration.
According to the Office of Management and Budget’s report to Congress on the effects of sequestration, the DEA will lose $166 million from its $2.02 billion budget. Other agencies that are part of the expansive federal drug war apparatus are getting their drug-fighting budgets cut as well.
These cuts, no matter how small they may actually end up being, are certainly a good thing since over 1.5 million Americans are arrested on drug charges every year, with almost half of those arrests just for marijuana possession.
Although 18 states have legalized medical marijuana, seven states have decriminalized the possession of certain amounts of marijuana, and Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana for recreational use. In the majority of the 50 states, possession of even a small amount of marijuana can still result in jail time, probation terms, or fines. The federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act, with a high potential for abuse and with no acceptable medical use.
Since the federal government has not followed its own Constitution, which nowhere authorizes the federal government to ban drugs or other any substance, it is no surprise that it has not followed the judgment of Ludwig von Mises when it comes to the drug war.
The war on drugs is a failure. It has failed to prevent drug abuse. It has failed to keep drugs out of the hands of addicts. It has failed to keep drugs away from teenagers. It has failed to reduce the demand for drugs. It has failed to stop the violence associated with drug trafficking. It has failed to help drug addicts get treatment. It has failed to have an impact on the use or availability of most drugs in the United States.
None of this means that there is necessarily anything good about illicit drugs, but as Mises explains “It is an established fact that alcoholism, cocainism, and morphinism are deadly enemies of life, of health, and of the capacity for work and enjoyment; and a utilitarian must therefore consider them as vices.” But, as Mises contends, the fact that something is a vice is no reason for suppression by way of commercial prohibitions, “nor is it by any means evident that such intervention on the part of a government is really capable of suppressing them or that, even if this end could be attained, it might not therewith open up a Pandora’s box of other dangers, no less mischievous than alcoholism and morphinism.”
The other mischievous dangers of the drug war that have been let loose are legion. The war on drugs has clogged the judicial system, unnecessarily swelled prison populations, fostered violence, corrupted law enforcement, eroded civil liberties, destroyed financial privacy, encouraged illegal searches and seizures, ruined countless lives, wasted hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars, hindered legitimate pain treatment, turned law-abiding people into criminals, and unreasonably inconvenienced retail shopping. The costs of drug prohibition far outweigh any possible benefits.
But that’s not all, for once the government assumes control over what one can and can’t put into his mouth, nose, or veins or regulates the circumstances under which one can lawfully introduce something into his body, there is no limit to its power and no stopping its reach. Again, as Mises makes clear “[o]pium and morphine are certainly dangerous, habit-forming drugs. But once the principle is admitted that it is the duty of government to protect the individual against his own foolishness, no serious objections can be advanced against further encroachments.”
“As soon as we surrender the principle that the state should not interfere in any questions touching on the individual’s mode of life,” Mises goes on, “we end by regulating and restricting the latter down to the smallest detail.”
Mises tells us exactly what the slippery slope of drug prohibition leads to. He asks why what is valid for morphine and cocaine should not be valid for nicotine and caffeine. Indeed: “Why should not the state generally prescribe which foods may be indulged in and which must be avoided because they are injurious?” But it gets worse, for “if one abolishes man’s freedom to determine his own consumption, one takes all freedoms away.”
“Why limit the government’s benevolent providence to the protection of the individual’s body only?” Mises asks. “Is not the harm a man can inflict on his mind and soul even more disastrous than any bodily evils? Why not prevent him from reading bad books and seeing bad plays, from looking at bad paintings and statues and from hearing bad music?”
When it comes to bad habits, vices, and immoral behavior of others, in contrast to the state, which does everything by “compulsion and the application of force,” Mises considered tolerance and persuasion to be the rules.
“A free man must be able to endure it when his fellow men act and live otherwise than he considers proper,” Mises explains. “He must free himself from the habit, just as soon as something does not please him, of calling for the police.”
For Mises, there is one path to social reform, and “[h]e who wants to reform his countrymen must take recourse to persuasion. This alone is the democratic way of bringing about changes. If a man fails in his endeavors to convince other people of the soundness of his ideas,” Mises concludes, “he should blame his own disabilities. He should not ask for a law, that is, for compulsion and coercion by the police.”
In a free society, it couldn’t be any other way.
Tags: drug war, drugs, economics, government, Laurence Vance, libertarianism, Ludwig von Mises, war on drugs
Review of Martin A. Lee, Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana—Medical, Recreational, and Scientific (Scribner, 2012), vii + 519 pgs., hardcover.
Although I don’t use marijuana for medical, recreational, or scientific purposes, I highly recommend this book to every reader no matter how he wants to use or not use marijuana or what he thinks about the ethics and morality of marijuana use and the medical effectiveness and therapeutic benefits of marijuana.
I know that I am putting things backward. A reviewer’s endorsement of a book is usually implied during the course of a review and certainly stated in no uncertain terms at the end of the review. But this book is so good, so important, and so necessary that I am stating right up front that if you never read anything ever again about the war on drugs, including my book, The War on Drugs Is a War on Freedom, or anything I have written about the federal war on marijuana or hemp, and even including the rest of this review, this is the one book that you must read. It is the most important book ever written about marijuana.
Although it is a well-written and engaging book, Smoke Signals is not an easy read. First of all, it is over 500 pages. Even not counting the index, acknowledgments, notes, bibliography, and appendices, it is still over 400 pages. You will not read this book in an afternoon. Because of so many other reading and writing commitments, I actually read the book over the course of many months. But I assure you that it will be worth the time you put into reading it. The second reason it is not an easy read is because, for all but the most intransigent liberal or conservative statist, the reader will early on find the federal war on drugs, and especially marijuana, to be so bizarre, unnecessary, so perplexing, so asinine, and so evil that it is sometimes hard to keep reading without slamming the book shut and pulling out your hair. Read More→
Tags: book review, drug war, ethics, health, health issues, history, Laurence Vance, marijuana, recommended books, war on drugs
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
To many newcomers to libertarian ideas – especially Christians – it is not always perfectly clear why libertarians oppose the War on Drugs so strenuously. Some Christians even think that the only reason libertarians oppose government prohibition is so that they can get high legally. Nothing could be further from the truth. Simply put, we despise government prohibition because it is a power no government should have. Moreover, the War on Drugs is an incredible example of precisely how a government usurps liberty, destroys lives, and consolidates power unto itself. This short book by Dr. Laurence Vance, writer at LCC, LewRockwell.com, Mises.org, and the Future of Freedom Foundation, explains in great detail why everyone should oppose the War on Drugs .
Vance begins the introduction by giving his purpose in collecting these essays into book form:
This is not a book about the benefits of drugs; this is a book about the benefits of freedom. I neither use illegal drugs nor recommend their use to anyone else. I am even skeptical about the health benefits of most legal drugs.
So why this book? Because I believe in freedom. I believe in individual liberty, private property, personal responsibility, a free market, a free society, and a government as absolutely limited as possible.
The book then contains 19 essays, written over the past 4 years, that tackle the War on Drugs from a variety of angles. A few common themes resonate throughout the book:
1. The War on Drugs is unconstitutional. You would think that “conservatives” who support the United States Constitution would readily admit when the Federal government has overstepped its bounds, but such is rarely the case. Still, the Feds do not follow their own rules, and we should point this out whenever possible. Substance prohibition has never been constitutional.
2. The War on Drugs is a total failure. It has clogged the judicial system and incarcerated completely innocent people, instigated worldwide violence, corrupted law enforcement, eroded civil liberties, and destroyed financial privacy. Additionally, it hasn’t even been able to prevent drugs from getting into prisons much less the general population. By any standard of “helping” anyone, the War on Drugs has completely failed. To me, those in jail for possession of illegal drugs – assuming they have not committed a violent act – are prisoners of war and deserve to be liberated immediately.
3. Drug abuse is a health issue, not a legal issue. If you oppose government intrusion into health care, then there is no reason at all to support the War on Drugs. It is not the government’s business to dictate health issues to you.
4. The War on Drugs is a war on the ideals of liberty and a free society. Actions that are not aggressive in nature have no business being prohibited by government. Vices are not crimes, and it is not the purpose of government to monitor the behavior of citizens like a nanny! The War on Drugs is a perfect example of why government intrusion into people’s lives does nothing but harm. In order to ward off “vices” like illicit drugs, the government must continuously undermine liberty.
Vance even has an essay for why Christians should oppose the War on Drugs. Yes, Christians are free to consider drug abuse a great evil, but such evil should not be compounded by a drug war that is an even greater evil. Vance argues that Christians are both inconsistent and immoral for calling upon the state to punish non-crimes:
It is not the purpose of Christianity to use force or the threat of force to keep people from sinning. Christians who are quick to criticize Islamic countries for prescribing and proscribing all manner of behavior are very inconsistent when the support the same thing [in the United States]. A Christian theocracy is just as unscriptural as an Islamic theocracy.
Now more than ever we Christians ought to expose the War on Drugs for what it is: a War on Freedom. Laurence Vance concisely brings you a wealth of information to educate you on the issues, and I highly recommend this book to any believer anywhere.
Interested in learning more? Check out The War on Drugs is a War on Freedom at Amazon.com. Remember that you support the work of LibertarianChristians.com every time you make a purchase at Amazon for 24 hours after clicking an LCC link!
Tags: drugs, free society, freedom, health, health issues, Laurence Vance, law, marijuana, vice, war on drugs
Today, Ron Paul gave his farewell address to the U.S. House of Representatives. Here is the text of his speech. Or, watch the entire address at C-Span Video.
Farewell to Congress
This may well be the last time I speak on the House Floor. At the end of the year I’ll leave Congress after 23 years in office over a 36 year period. My goals in 1976 were the same as they are today: promote peace and prosperity by a strict adherence to the principles of individual liberty.
It was my opinion, that the course the U.S. embarked on in the latter part of the 20th Century would bring us a major financial crisis and engulf us in a foreign policy that would overextend us and undermine our national security.
To achieve the goals I sought, government would have had to shrink in size and scope, reduce spending, change the monetary system, and reject the unsustainable costs of policing the world and expanding the American Empire.
The problems seemed to be overwhelming and impossible to solve, yet from my view point, just following the constraints placed on the federal government by the Constitution would have been a good place to start.
Tags: conservatism, economics, ethics, financial crisis, free market, liberty, politicians, politics, Ron Paul, war, war on drugs, war on terror