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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

Every friend of freedom must be as revolted as I am by the prospect of turning the United States into an armed camp, by the vision of jails filled with casual drug users and of an army of enforcers empowered to invade the liberty of citizens on slight evidence.

– Milton Friedman

16 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Robert Speirs

    Oh, sure. And I suppose you want them to smoke that stuff and get crazy ideas like, “Hey, wait a minute, why should I pay taxes to THOSE people?!”

  • Alisa

    I’m afraid Mr. Friedman took the easy path there: AFAIK, the jails are mostly filled with dealers, not users. Making the case for the dealers is much less popular.

  • Alisa, surely that view is complcated by the fact that drug dealing is a kind of pyramid selling, so most of the dealers are users as well. Or you could say, users upgrade to dealers.

  • guy herbert

    Delete the phrase: “by the vision of jails filled with casual drug users”.

    I hope it is still true. But I fear a lot of people who describe themselves as friends of freedom have promoted such a state of affairs and quite like it.

  • Alisa

    Ian: yes and no: most of the dealers are probably users, but the reverse is not necessarily true. He specifically mentions casual users, which to me strongly implies people who do not fall under the category you describe. Furthermore, it also implies that he is actually for jailing dealers, or maybe even non-casual users, AKA ‘addicts’, who may not be dealers as such.

    Guy, can you please clarify your point?

  • Friedman was also on record saying if people wanted to kill themselves, that was their prerogative. His view was that most of the wider social problems caused by drugs sprung from making them illegal, not the nature of drugs themselves.

  • FlyingPig

    In my experience, heavy users do not deal, and big dealers do not use. The crossover occurs when the substance dealt/used allows the user to still function in society, e.g., cocaine. The user sells to help support his/her habit. But the major addicts are too spun out to deal — they are usually in jail for all the thieving they have to do in order to maintain that monkey on their back. Jail does them no good, since the price of addiction is usually lower and the quality better in most lockups.

    What experience? 19 years as a street cop in a big state starting with a “C”. In a metropolitan area you would certainly recognize and may have visited. The “Flying” part of my name refers to a specialized squad that dealt with drugs and major felons. And kicked in more than a few doors.

    I agree with Friedman’s quote, though. One of the major reasons I left was the increasing police-state I served, with which I was increasingly uncomfortable. When the opportunity came to move here (about 3 hours west of Samizdata Central), I jumped. My neighbors may be cows and inbreds, but I haven’t seen a tweaker or the like in 7 years, and I am almost free of the nightmares, too!

    Brian the FlyingPig

  • RRS

    One can take quotations from almost any serious thinker out of the context of their total “philosophy” and have a sort of TV chat show show off about the implications.

    It might be more useful to examine the factors that underlie the individual desires for uses of various substances – tobacco, alcohol, “meth,” etc., etc. and look into what causes that use to harm others than the users.

    As was learned with alcohol, there are better ways to deal with distribution (need for which is created by desires) than through prohibition. The latter caused more harm to others than did the use by consumers.

    In the U S we have not come to grips with the need for legislated provisions for distribution (to meet the desires – and ultimately reduce them, as in smoking) in many other susbstances. Thus, there is still much more harm arising from the existing systems of distribution than from the individual use, however individually destructive such use may be.

    Take the access to money-making out of the distribution processes and the jails will slowly empty of substance distribution offenders.

  • Alisa

    One can take quotations from almost any serious thinker out of the context of their total “philosophy” and have a sort of TV chat show show off about the implications.

    True, RRS. So let me go on record as attacking the implications* rather than Friedman himself or his intentions, of which I am ignorant.

    *Another one of those (and the most annoying of all) is the meme that addiction and all the problems it causes the user as well as those who surround him, is not the poor user’s fault. It’s all the fault of those dastardly dealers that make the drugs available to him. Eliminate the dealers, and there will be no users. It’s the same mindset that allows for holding the gun/cigarette manufactures liable for various murders/lung cancers. (I was forced to half-watch Runaway Jury last night – still pulling my hair over that one).

  • Alisa

    1. Scratch ‘annoying’, and replace with ‘infuriating’.

    2. None of the above applies to those dealing to children.

  • Nuke Gray!

    You are all looking at the downside, only! Think of the massive jail building programs that will give jobs to people! And stimulate the economy! And keep politicians in jobs, as they are seen to be doing something about something! (If a politician did nothing, you’d wonder if you were getting full value out of him/her/it.) All politicians need wars on something!

  • Laird

    Barney Frank (of all people!) has introduced a bill to decriminalize marijuana. Perhaps this is an example of a blind pig occasionally finding a truffle?

  • Paul Marks

    Ludwig Von Mises had the same opinion as Milton Friedman on these matters – and was attacked by John Kenneth Galbraith for holding these opinions.

    However, there is also the Constitutional point. Either there is the “rule of law” (as opposed to just having lots of “laws”) or there is not.

    When people wished to ban booze they pressed for a Constitutional Amendment giving the government the power to do this – this Amendment was later repealed.

    When was an Amendment to the Constitution of the United States passed giving the government the power to ban drugs?

    No such Amendment has ever been passed. Therefore, like most things the Federal government does, the “war on drugs” is unconstitutional.

    Although in a nation where even basic contract law is ripped up (see the Chrysler case – where even the State of Indiana could not get even a proper day in court) expecting the Constitution to be enforced in regard to drugs is silly.

    The government may have lots of “laws” (i.e. statutes and regulations) but it is clearly not under the “rule of law”, it is a tyranny.

    That may seem an extreme statement – but comming events may well make its truth obvious.

  • Laird

    Not “extreme” at all, Paul, accurate. The Constitution is observed only when convenient. With the weight of irrational precedent dating back to FDR’s New Deal era, it doesn’t take much legal sophistry to justify any desired outcome. That’s the whole problem with stare decisis: if you measure something, then use that something to measure yet another thing, and on and on, eventually the accumulation of miniscule errors will result in major error. One should always measure from the same yardstick, which is why courts should always come back to the actual language of the Constitution, not previous judicial interpretations. But of course that doesn’t suit the needs of the ruling class.

  • Paul Marks

    Quite so Laird.

    I am forced to agree with my old friend A. Clarke – in constitutional law at least (he would go much further) the concept of “precedent” (so beloved by the Common Lawyers) is not a strength, it is a terrible (a fatal) weakness.

  • Paul Marks

    In case the above is not understood by people new to these matters:

    It is a rejection of “case law” in regard to Constitutional matters – and a demand for a return to the Constitution itself.