Sunday, May 29, 2005

Cue Card Libertarianism -- Drugs

Current laws against the use of various substances are a prime example of how an illegitimate concept of the role of government, i.e. that it may forcibly try to save us from ourselves, can be self-defeating and positively harmful in practice. The prohibition of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, speed, etc, has exacerbated every problem it was designed to overcome, just as the prohibition of alcohol did in America between 1919 and 1933.

The advent of organised crime, the artificially inflated black market value of drugs, the huge increase in drug-related burglaries and murders, the dramatic rise in the level of addiction, are all consequences of prohibition.

Prohibition also diverts significant police resources that ought to be focused on crimes with victims – murderers, thieves, rapists and the like.

Policemen who should be protecting rights end up violating them, and their corruption is encouraged. Former head of Scotland Yard’s Drug Squad Eddie Ellison used to tell new recruits they should expect to see their colleagues become corrupt within two years. He now sees legalisation as “practical policing” and the best way to reduce serious crime.

Manpower and money are seriously wasted in tortuous efforts to uncover marijuana crops and meth labs, to round up users and suppliers (in violation of the rights to property and liberty), to confiscate farms and smallholdings if cannabis seedlings are found on one’s property, to criminalise otherwise innocent people -- and all to ensure that inflated profits and the control of drug quality stay in the hands of criminals and corrupt police.

The recent sentencing of young Schapelle Corby highlights the absurdity of the War on Drugs™: jailed for twenty years for importing 4kg of marijuana – a crime without any victim – when the same justice system had sentenced the organiser of the Bali bombing that killed over 200 people to just thirty months. Schapelle Corby is a martyr to an absurdity; in protecting us from ourselves and criminalising people such as Corby the government does more damage than does the alleged problem they purport to be fixing.

In short, prohibition begins as a violation of rights in principle -- a violation of the right to live one’s life as one sees fit -- and ends as a massive violation of rights in practice.

Libertarianism advocates complete decriminalisation of all proscribed substances.

This is part of a continuing series explaining the concepts and terms used by libertarians, originally published in The Free Radical in 1993. The 'Introduction' to the series is here. Tomorrow, 'Constitution.'

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