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Drug legalization is becoming an acceptable view among the elite

Amid the blanket news coverage of the EU referendum and the murder of Jo Cox, it went almost unnoticed that a major report from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and the Faculty of Public Health (FPH) called for drug decriminalization in the UK.

The Times, still seen as the Voice of the Establishment, came out in support:

Breaking Good

Would it ever make sense to jail a chain-smoker for smoking or an alcoholic for touching drink? On the basis that the answer is no, the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) is urging the government to decriminalise the personal possession and use of all illegal drugs. This is radical advice, but also sound. Ministers should give it serious consideration.

Not that long ago Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary-general, said it was time to legalize drugs. I hope this trend continues.

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78 comments to Drug legalization is becoming an acceptable view among the elite

  • Not that I would want to be in the same category as Kofi Anan, but I agree that we should start moving towards the decriminalisation of drugs.

    We don’t have to do it all at once, but a gradual decriminalisation starting with Cannabis, monitoring the effects and adjusting to counter those effects before moving onto the next drug or classification of drugs.

    There has been a lot of ho-ha about so-called “Legal highs” in recent years, but nobody would have been using them and therefore died because of them if Cannabis, Ecstasy and LSD had been available from legitimate suppliers at reasonable prices without registration (i.e. its nobodies business but the user)

  • “I hope this trend continues.” And I hope it does not continue swiftly on from “it’s illegal” to “criticising it is illegal”. When people who love power and hate freedom decide they should stop punishing us in the old way in one area, they quickly find a new way to punish us in that area. Will calling someone a druggie become hate speech? Will employers be punished for asking their staff not to get high in working hours? We can hope not. We can always hope for the best – i.e. for fewer laws, not just different laws.

  • woodsy42

    Personally I believe decriminalisation of use is the worst possible option. While it saves many people from a criminal record it does nothing to stop the criminal supply route who have a vested interest in selling harder and more addictive and expensive drugs. To stop this we need a legal supply route, at least for soft drugs, that can ensure people know what they are getting, regulate who can buy, and cut out the criminals who push harder drugs.

  • James Strong

    As woodsy42 says – decriminilisation of possession is no good at all.

    If personal use is OK but supply is not then to buy my supply I have to do business with criminals. I don’t want to do business with those criminals.

    Stop the mealy-mouthed nonsense and weak halfway-house compromise of decriminilisation and go for full legalisation.

  • The idea of decriminalizing possession but not production or distribution reminds me of the Nordic model of prostitution: legal to be a prostitute but not legal to hire one. FFS.

    It’s the state, allowing the illusion of freedom, but without actually giving up their control.

  • Sometimes states completely baffle me. Just think of all the state employees that would be needed to regulate full legalisation. Inspection in the supply chain, an army of technicians doing purity testing, another army of prodnoses doing spot inspections in retail to make sure drugs aren’t being sold to kiddies. Not to mention the massive amount of public money to be spent on new quasi-governmental public health organisations like ASH to campaign against it all. Seems like they’re missing a trick here, the state could almost double in size overnight if they play their cards right.

  • Alisa

    I’m sure it will be the next step, Wh00ps.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    John Galt, if legalization ever happens I expect it will start with cannabis/marijuana, but I have long thought (not that I’m claiming to be an expert) that cannabis may well be more dangerous than heroin. One of the evils of drugs being illegal is that “all or nothing” thinking is encouraged in numerous ways. Some people think that the claim that drugs are harmful at all is all just establishment lies.

    Niall Kilmartin, ‘And I hope it does not continue swiftly on from “it’s illegal” to “criticising it is illegal”.’ Me too. The swiftness of the changes in what constitutes acceptable opinion really does remind me of the scene in 1984 where the banners reviling the enemy are changed mid-rally. This goes for changes I like and changes I don’t like. Of course the root of the problem is that elites have power to make their opinion the only one that matters.

  • Laird

    “Decriminalization” merely means that what you’ve done is illegal but we’re not going to prosecute you for it. Yet. It still leaves the threat of prosecution at a later date, either because the policy has changed (again) or the state has taken a dislike to you for some other reason and is “piling on”. Woodsy24 is correct: it’s no solution. But at least we’re beginning to have the discussion. That’s progress.

  • John B

    “Would it ever make sense to jail a chain-smoker for smoking or an alcoholic for touching drink?”

    And not so long ago: Would it ever make sense to tax fizzy drinks; stop people smoking in their own property; tax people for keeping warm or switching the light on; gaol people for causing offence…?

    The Times is behind the times.

  • marc

    Bollocks have you ever had to work with some prick high on some shit or low on some other crap fuck ’em that’s what i say fuck ’em all.

  • MadRocketSci

    If they’re going to decriminalize all the dangerous, useless drugs designed to BSOD your brain, can I at least be able to buy antibiotics and my migraine medicine over the counter? Or is this just utopian dreaming on my part?

  • Mr Ed

    Why do I get the impression that amongst those happy to decriminalise currently banned drugs are some prepared to ban smoking and alcohol if they can?

  • MadRocketSci

    Makes me wonder what would happen if the nootropic crowd ever came up with a drug that resulted in a testable effecacious boost in intelligence, or the way the brain developed. On the one hand, demand for it would naturally be through the roof, because intelligence is pretty close to an unalloyed good. (It would also put paid to all the hand wringing about ‘idiocracy’ and ‘those useless proles in flyover country’ by making ‘innate intelligence’ a moot point.

    On the other hand, a darkly cynical part of me imagines that these same politicians that would gladly legalize heroin and meth would be foaming at the mouth over such a technological development: Their version of the ‘divine right of kings’ is that they’re smarter than you, and therefore have the right to screw with your life ‘for your own good’.

    Might be a sci-fi novel in that. In fact, I might write it, if no one else will.

  • MadRocketSci

    It would be a wonderful litmus test for whether these people that supposedly worship intelligence, and supposedly want to ‘uplift the savages’ (near direct copy of ‘white man’s burden’, it seems, only now directed against the political enemies of the left instead of foreigners half a world a way) *really* want to do that, or are just grasping for sadistic power over other people. 😛

  • Alisa

    This is the elites trying to cozy up to the Occupy crowds.

  • MadRocketSci

    Why do I get the impression that amongst those happy to decriminalise currently banned drugs are some prepared to ban smoking and alcohol if they can?

    In elementary school ‘social studies’ class, the push to de-facto ban cigarettes was in full swing. I was a young naive student who had this strange fixed idea that the world should make *sense* and that people should too: That the laws they enact or support should have some consistency and coherence to them – some underlying principles from which they were derived. My teacher was spouting some anti-law-enforcement sentiment about how marijuana use is a victim-less crime and the police are a bunch of thugs for jailing people over it. I asked him why, then, he was so supportive of banning cigarettes (he had been railing about cigarettes the previous week). Doesn’t the same principle apply? Aren’t the health risks similar? If they should be outlawed because ruining your health should be outlawed, then that applies to both of them. If they should be allowed because people should be free to imbibe whatever on their own time, and risk their own health however they choose, then that also applies to both of them.

    The teacher gave me that patented superior smirk and threw the question to the class, “Well, can anyone here answer this question?”

    One of my other classmates raised her hands: “I think, maaan, that it’s because the people will, like, like marijuana a lot better maaaan.” Laughter from the teacher and class, then they continued. :/ (Nonanswers really really irked me as a kid, which is probably why it stood out in memory).

    Of course, the real reason (as I worked out over the years) that people are so inconsistent is because laws don’t have anything to do with consistent principles about people’s rights or responsibilities: Instead they’re almost entirely about tribal warfare. Tribe A and B fight over the government and culture of a nation, trying to dominate one another. Whenever tribe A wins, the cultural practices of tribe B are punished, socially and criminally. Status is degraded, people are ostracised, etc, etc. When tribe B takes the government, the cultural practices of tribe A are punished, and those of tribe B are celebrated and excused. It all made sense when I stopped listening to all the words (lies, all of them!) that people use to rationalize their behavior, and instead looked at it like an episode of the ‘discovery channel’ covering a tribe of apes.

  • the other rob

    @ MadRocketSci: The TV series, Limitless (a spin off from the movie of the same title) features an intelligence boosting drug, called NZT.

    Antibiotics are an interesting case. With most drugs, whatever you put into your own body has no effect on me. As long as you don’t, for example, drive headlong into me while wasted, but that’s an offence in itself and distinct from the legality of drugs per se.

    Improper use of antibiotics, however, can breed drug resistant strains of bacteria which pose a direct threat to others. Indeed, in places such as Dubai, where antibiotics are available over the counter, it’s routine for dentists to prescribe two antibiotics for an infected tooth, on the basis that one is no longer sufficient.

    So, there may be an argument from the non-aggression principle for retaining restrictions on antibiotics. Not a very robust argument, given the levels of over-prescribing in the UK and USA, but an argument nonetheless.

  • Greg

    The elites have also introduced a mortal threat–1,000,000 Muslims admitted to US in last 7 years (I read this on the internet so must be true). Even if this number is wrong 10-fold and its “only” 100,000 and “only” 10% of them are jihadis, that’s 10,000 more Orlandos on the way.

    Couple this with the fact that these same elites want to disarm us. and they’ve made good progress, witness ammunition costs and availability. And Hillary is threatening to rescind the 2nd Amendment (again, I read this online, so must be true).

    Re this thread, I can see two responses to this situation: find something stronger than Scotch to calm or excite or stay alert and keep my powder dry.

    Each has appeal.

  • As I understand it drugs were made illegal in the first place because the users eventually couldn’t hold a job and wound up in jail for their illicit fund-raising activities. Crime doesn’t decrease, it simply changes from burglary and mugging to drug use when they are made illegal, then back again when they become legal again. Cigarettes are still legal because the various levels of government discovered that selling addictive drugs is VERY profitable and they could deal themselves in for a piece of that action. Pot is legal here in Colorado for pretty much the same reason. I opposed legalizing pot because I don’t want to have to support some stoner who can’t hold a job.

  • stef

    As with immigration, the welfare state provides exactly the wrong incentives.

    If given a choice I’d rather my tax $ prop up druggie losers on “disability” than the ones staffing the bureaucracies…

  • JohnW

    If you reject the ‘prohibition of initiation of force principle’ as a defining characteristic of civilised society, one which can be measured and understood by reason, what glue do have left to hold civil society together except emotion?
    The law makers only maintain their legitimacy through their power to induce feelings of guilt. If people no longer guilty about their desires and lives then the law no longer serves its collectivist purpose.

    “Did you really think we want those laws observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them to be broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up against… We’re after power and we mean it… There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt. Now that’s the system, Mr. Reardon, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.” Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged.

  • Not really adding anything to the debate, but just to say that as a libertarian, I find the wish to respect people’s absolute right to do what they wish with their own bodies, with ensuring that drug addicts don’t simply make themselves a burden on the rest of society, just about the hardest circle to square.

  • Alisa

    Drug addicts don’t become a burden on society because of drugs – these are, for the most part, people who have serious problems even before they begin using drugs. Addiction to drugs can and usually does exacerbate those problems, but making drugs illegal does nothing to solve them, either – if anything, it makes them worse. Furthermore, it can be reasonably argued that making drugs legal could make those problems – including addiction – more manageable.

  • Mr Ed

    So, there may be an argument from the non-aggression principle for retaining restrictions on antibiotics.

    Well under the English Common Law, improper use of antibiotics might be a tort under an extension of the principle in Rylands v Fletcher, in that if you unnaturally accumulate something on your property liable to do mischief if it escapes, you face strict liability for the foreseeable harm that follows.

    the person who for his own purposes brings on his lands and collects and keeps there anything likely to do mischief if it escapes, must keep it in at his peril, and, if he does not do so, is prima facie answerable for all the damage which is the natural consequence of its escape

    By making an unnatural accumulation of drug-resistant bacteria in your body that escape, you may be liable for the harm that ensues. And the Common Law also has the criminal offence of causing a public nuisance, which a judge (and jury) might apply to an accused doing the same.

    Put shortly, the Common Law may prevent you doing things that harm others. Bleating about self-ownership will not avail you.

  • Runcie Balspune

    another army of prodnoses doing spot inspections in retail to make sure drugs aren’t being sold to kiddies

    I’m a little perturbed about referring to someone stopping addictive and damaging drugs being sold to children as a “prodnose”. If I saw a crackhead selling his sh*t outside my child’s school I think my libertarian freedom to swing my fist may start to overstep where it should rightly stop.

    … the hardest circle to square

    For me it is regulation of supply, a chemically additive drug that is knowingly and deliberately sold to a “captive market” of the sellers own making should imbue the retailer with some responsibility on the outcome, I’d find that difficult to see how that can be achieved without government involvement, I’m open to suggestion on that one, if there really is a libertarian solution?

  • Laird

    “the hardest circle to square”

    Not at all. The root of that problem isn’t drugs, it’s government welfare. Private charities would take care of it quite nicely. They would provide aid to those in need and deserving of it, often coupled with some form of treatment and/or counseling. And those who are so undeserving that they cannot convince anyone to provide assistance would either figure out their own solution or they would die. As they should.

    Mr Ed, I haven’t thought of Rylands v. Fletcher in nearly 40 years, and would have been quite happy never to have done so again. But since you brought it up, I can’t see how the principle in that case could be extended as you propose. No one intentionally “harbors” antibiotic-resistant bacteria in his own body, and that intentionality was a crucial element in Rylands. But The Other Rob is wrong, too. The reason bacteria are becoming antibiotic-resistant is over-prescription by physicians. Very few people (only hypochondriacs) would take antibiotics unnecessarily, just for the fun of it. What would be the point? They don’t provide the same “benefits” as do recreational drugs. That argument doesn’t fly.

  • Mr Ed

    Laird,

    By taking antibiotics willy-nilly one may cause the development of resistance, and the intent is not the habouring of bacteria, but their cultivation. By taking the antibiotics, and not killing off the beasts, there is the intent.

    I can imagine the Common Law (via our crop of judges) exempting those who take drugs on medical advice and via prescription. Fwiw I am merely illustrating how the Common Law could develop, not how it will or should. Some peopme do take and use antibiotics without medical advice where use is uncontrolled.

  • Thailover

    Woodsy wrote,

    “Personally I believe decriminalisation of use is the worst possible option. While it saves many people from a criminal record it does nothing to stop the criminal supply route who have a vested interest in selling harder and more addictive and expensive drugs.”

    A LEGAL ban on X destroys the LEGAL market for X, and creates a monopoly for the black market selling of X. Since when would freemarket competion make something more expensive? The only way to destroy “criminal supply routes” is by destroying black market profitability via free trade. The criminal organization overhead will do the rest, i.e. make the black market unprofitable.

  • Thailover

    James Strong wrote,
    “If personal use is OK but supply is not then to buy my supply I have to do business with criminals.”

    This is EXACTLY why alcohol prohibition failed in America during the early 20th century. Alcohol prohibition created Al Capone. Cocaine prohibition created Pablo Escobar, etc. Thankfully, Alcohol prohibition was half-ass and failed because of it. You could drink it, but you couldn’t create it or transport it. You could sit on a street corner and drink a fifth of vodka, claiming that you found it and that perhaps it fell from the sky or from a passing truck…and that was perfectly legal.

  • Thailover

    Madrocketsci wrote,
    “Might be a sci-fi novel in that. In fact, I might write it, if no one else will.”

    Here.

  • Thailover

    John Galt wrote,
    “Not that I would want to be in the same category as Kofi Anan, but I agree that we should start moving towards the decriminalisation of drugs.”

    Not decriminalization, but complete legalization. What’s the point in making the use of X non-criminal if the black market still has a legal monopoly on the supply of X? That would actually be STRENGTHENING the criminal element, driving prices even higher through greater demand. And greater demand means greater profitability, which means even more criminal pushers.

    However, if the sale and usage of X is completely legal, the freemarket will DESTROY the black market because criminal organizations have organizational overhead to finance.

    Long story short, the government has no business telling me what I can do to myself.
    I own me, they don’t.

  • Thailover

    Mr. Ed wrote,
    “By taking antibiotics willy-nilly one may cause the development of resistance…”

    What’s the point in having antibiotics if one isn’t allowed to use them?

  • Thailover

    Alisa, agreed.
    The people in rehab over and over and over have problems, and that problem isn’t physical addiction, it’s being a complete fuck-up for whatever reason.

  • Thailover

    Niall said,

    “Will calling someone a druggie become hate speech?”

    Very likely. Reality is not politically correct. It’s to the point that calling someone “bossy” or a “retard” is hate speech. Both are perfectly ligitimate terms. Bossy means bossy, and those demanding that I strike it from my vocabulary are BOSSY. (Leftist lack of self-awareness is a constant sorce of ironic comedy).
    “Retard” literally means “delay or hold back in terms of progress, development, or accomplishment”. Retarded used to be considered a perfectly litigimate intelligence assessment term, as was imbicile if I remember correctly.

  • Thailover

    Mr. Ed wrote,

    “By taking antibiotics willy-nilly one may cause the development of resistance”

    It’s been pointed out that it’s pointless for the greeny doomsdayers to insist that we reduce our greenhouse gasses etc if China and India don’t. Likewise, realize that every inner city street in Bangkok has half a dozen pharmacies and at any one of them I can buy practically any antibiotic over the counter for an extremely affordable price, much cheaper than in the west where prices are hiked up on purpose.

  • Thailover

    Billll wrote,
    “I opposed legalizing pot because I don’t want to have to support some stoner who can’t hold a job.”

    That’s not a problem with pot use, that’s a problem with welfare/unemployment.

  • Thailover

    Mr. Ed wrote,

    “Bleating about self-ownership…”

    Bleating?

    Bleating?

    Sheep bleat. Lambs bleat. People who take responsibility for themselves don’t “bleat”.

    If I take a useful antibiotic, it MAY result, to a very, very, very small extent to the eventual ineffectivness of the drug.

    AND if you take that new job, you’re causing another candidate to not get the job. Do you then go jump off a fucking bridge so that you don’t cause others to miss your can of peaches, your just bought bread loaf?
    What a load of dogshit. The idea that you’re to suffer today so that some faceless somebody two generations from now can have what you have today…is assinine.

  • Mr Ed

    Sheep bleat. Lambs bleat. People who take responsibility for themselves don’t “bleat”.

    And your point is? It might be that you do not understand figurative language, but that is what you have demonstrated.

    To be fair, not all bleat, some rant.

    Loathe as I am to appeal to authority, your understanding of antibiotic resistance mechanisms, such as it is, is mot helpful.

    And your consequential arguments are laughable.

  • staghounds

    I suspect that cleverness drugs are being actively sought, and that cleverness as a side effect of current drugs is being carefully looked for somewhere.

    We know that there are plenty of concentration and focus drugs already, and those effects are certainly intelligence enhancers. If I were a tyrant I might well be conducting experiments on efficiency enhancing drugs and issuing those that proved useful.

    There really isn’t anything stopping the use of drugs in this milieu other than culturally specific customs.

  • Cristina

    “That would actually be STRENGTHENING the criminal element, driving prices even higher through greater demand.”

    How does the decriminalization of X increase its demand and its complete legalization doesn’t?

    How do you keep the criminal pushers out of business?

    Why do you assume that the criminal organization will remain unchanged in the new environment of legalization and, therefore, unprofitable?

  • Lee Moore

    There seems to me to be a certain amount of wishful arguing going on here.

    Why do we have laws forbidding murder ? Presumably because we would like less murder and we think that having laws against it will produce less murder. I think most of us, most days of the week, think that imposing a tax on X, will result in less X than there otherwise would have been. It seems a bit perverse to imagine that getting rid of a cost for buying and selling drugs would do anything else than stimulate the trade.

    Whether there is a good moral case for trying to restrict the trade is obviously a different question. As with booze and fags, the damage is mostly done to yourself. But not exclusively. The externalities of drug use are not capable of being dismissed merely by appeal to theology – there are questions of fact and degree involved. Different drugs will generate different externalities, so there’s no reason to believe that the same answer necessarily applies to all drugs.

    Should someone invent a really fun new drug that gives a super high, but tends (at a probability of 15%) to make you a homicidal maniac for an hour or so, the externality considerations are likely to be different than for, say, a couple of pints of beer. Notwithstanding the fact that there’s a modest probability of a couple of pints of beer resulting in someone being smeared across a zebra crossing.

    Reality does need to be consulted at some point.

  • Alisa

    Why do we have laws forbidding murder ? Presumably because we would like less murder and we think that having laws against it will produce less murder

    Or, conversely, we have these laws so as to deal with murder when it happens (as it always will, laws or not, at about the same rate more or less) – i.e. how to determine what is murder (as opposed to other types of killing), and how to punish it, so as to prevent phenomena detrimental to society such as blood feuds.

    I’ll leave it to others to apply the above interpretation of the law against murder to the laws against the use of drugs.

  • bloke in spain

    I do wonder if drug legalisation would be such a good thing. It’s fairly easy & affordable to get most anything you want, these days. Police have pretty well given up on the zero tolerance approach to possession & they’re not overly bothered about supply, except at the import end. Where they can garner big funding supported by big headlines. When occasionally they may manage a good bust. (Let’s face it. Successful interdiction of drug traffic would curtail supplies to politicians, lawyers, “right thinking people”, judges & the police themselves.)
    But I shudder to think what a mess you’d have after any sort of legalisation. It’s not as if they’ve any decent track record on what’s legal now. Be prepared for extortionate taxation & regulatory orgasms, for a start.

  • Mr Ed

    Why do we have laws forbidding murder ?

    Strictly speaking, in England, we do not have ‘laws’ in terms of any statute forbidding (or rather, criminalising what is) murder, as it is a Common Law offence, so Her Majesty’s Judges have determined that murder is an offence, not Parliament.

    There are statutes that define what amounts to murder, regulate the processes for trial etc. and sentences available upon conviction.

  • Laird

    @Cristina: “How does the decriminalization of X increase its demand and its complete legalization doesn’t?

    I don’t recall that anyone here has argued to the contrary (and I can’t be bothered to reread the entire thread to see if I missed something). The key distinction between decriminalization and legalization is its effect on the supply side, not on demand. And you apparently don’t have a very strong grasp on the law of supply and demand. “How do you keep the criminal pushers out of business?” By reducing the profit margins to the point where legitimate businesses, with market-level profit margin goals, can make an ordinary* profit level which is insufficient for criminals given their higher risks. The best examples are alcohol and cigarettes: There are very few bootleggers any more because one can buy legal alcohol almost anywhere, so violating the law isn’t worth the risk. As to cigarettes, the only places you see them smuggled into a state is where that particular state’s sumptuary taxes are unreasonably high (such as New York). At some point the tax saving (i.e., lower cost to the consumer) justifies the risk to the smuggler. Lower the tax and the smuggling would cease of its own accord.

    Mr Ed, I still argue that few people would take over-the-counter antibiotics to a level sufficient to cause the evolution of bacteria-resistant stains. Only hypochondriacs would do so, and they are a small enough population that they wouldn’t have that effect. The problem is legal over-prescription by physicians. Also, I can’t see the common law evolving in the direction you suggest, mostly because we don’t seem to have a “common law” any more (at least, not in the US; perhaps Britain is different); it has been almost completely subsumed by statutory law. That’s true even for murder. (Cue RRS here to point out that “statutes” aren’t technically “laws”.)

    * I don’t want to get sidetracked here by discussing “ordinary” profits. I fully understand that there is no “normal” profit margin and the market determines the current level. Please leave that whole issue to the side; it’s irrelevant here.

  • Cristina

    ” Not decriminalization, but complete legalization. What’s the point in making the use of X non-criminal if the black market still has a legal monopoly on the supply of X? That would actually be STRENGTHENING the criminal element, driving prices even higher through greater demand. And greater demand means greater profitability, which means even more criminal pushers”

    This is the full paragraph from which I took the sentence, Laird.
    ” And you apparently don’t have a very strong grasp on the law of supply and demand.” Maybe.

    ” As to cigarettes, the only places you see them smuggled into a state is where that particular state’s sumptuary taxes are unreasonably high (such as New York).”

    If I remember correctly, one of the main arguments in favor of legalization is, precisely, the possibility of tax collection from those buying and selling drugs. If it is so, the expected sumptuary taxes will be really high. What do you think will be the effect on the black market of those very high taxes?

  • Cristina

    “Mr Ed, I still argue that few people would take over-the-counter antibiotics to a level sufficient to cause the evolution of bacteria-resistant stains. Only hypochondriacs would do so, and they are a small enough population that they wouldn’t have that effect. The problem is legal over-prescription by physicians.”

    How do you know what the sufficient level of overuse of antibiotics to cause antibiotic-resistant stains is? I will answer that for you. You do not know.
    The legal over-prescription of antibiotics by physicians is the result of a gigantic hypochondriac population and the fear of lawsuits from them. The physicians prefer to prescribe antibiotics instead of dealing with malcontent patients, most of whom think they know best.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Interesting discussion. Plenty of material here to generate lengthy Righteous Rants from YrsTrly, whether in opposition to Argument X or in Agreement with Argument Y.

    For the moment I will simply observe that the cumulative effect of tiny differences does not exist solely in the results of voting and of piling straw upon the backs of camels.

    . . .

    Oh well. And also, that as an applied philosophy (in the sense that “applied mathematics” is mathematics as used by physicists and engineers), libertarianism has to deal with the simple fact that almost all of what any one person does and also does not do affects others to one degree or another.

    So there are always “externalities.” The question is, how the political philosophy can come to terms with this inconvenient fact. Either purely artificial lines are drawn (my cold is invading your body against your will because a few virus particles have drifted across the lot-line and now you’ve caught it from me — and many more such distinctions ridiculous in the real world, though not in a regime of pure abstract thought such as mathematics) or else that dreaded thing, Compromise, is required.

    This isn’t necessarily awful for people who see “libertarianism” as the best undergirdment of a political order that restrains people from treading too dreadfully on other people’s toes; but for folks like me, who come at it as moralists and whose basic real-world premise (in this particular area) is,

    Nobody is born to be ruled by somebody else: Nobody is born with a certificate signed in ichor by the Great Frog saying that he has the immutable right to rule over person or group X: In other words,

    That the right of humans to their own individual self-determination is sacrosanct.

    But Life is an Engineering Discipline: There are Always Trade-offs™.

    Excuse me now. I must go say my beads.

  • Laird

    Cristina, you most certainly did not “take that sentence” from the paragraph you quoted; those words do not appear there. Any you clearly didn’t understand that paragraph because it makes precisely my point. Prohibition is fundamentally a form of taxation: it increases the cost to the purchaser (to compensate the supplier for the increased risk incurred) without providing any offsetting benefit other than mere availability of the product. Eliminate that risk (by making the product legal) and legitimate businesses will enter the field and market forces will push the profit margins down to normal levels, and thus drive out the criminals. But you are correct about one thing: if the politicians impose unreasonably high taxes on the product the criminals will come right back. But should that occur it would be a failure of politicians, not market forces. That is hardly an argument against legalizaton.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Well…. First, by “drug decriminalization” I mean repealing the pertinent laws so that neither users nor buyers nor sellers nor manufacturers will be guilty of a crime purely on the grounds of their involvement with “drugs.”

    “Purely”: There will, in the present world, still be labelling requirements, and license fees (both licenses to deal in the products — for instance, liquor licenses are required in many states — and for retail sellers, retail licenses; Board of Health licenses; probably more), and of course sales taxes in most states.

    So there is certainly an incentive to avoid all the attendant wear and tear on the nervous system, not to mention skipping paying all those license fees and sales taxes — even though the criminal also has worries and expenses.

    It is not illegal to sell booze or gaspers, or prescription drugs, or fine perfume or Rolex watches or fine art and antiques, but they are all subject to theft and, sometimes anyhow, sale at a lower price on the black market, and except for the cigarettes and booze, they are all counterfeited. And the counterfeit Rx drugs even appear, sometimes, in perfectly innocent pharmacies.

    Decriminalizing a salable product no doubt reduces its appearance on the black market (for one thing, it loses the psychological draw of being Forbidden Fruit), but I don’t see any reason to think it would disappear therefrom.

    Unless, of course, we were willing to go to a true Free Market. Quelle horreur! NO regulation? NO oversight?? !!! Why, that would be as if there were only the Black Market*!

    *(Um. Most people’s Free Market still is subject to the general laws against fraud, theft, and violence.)

    Speaking of counterfeit drugs, I believe that also some street drugs are counterfeited.

    Which brings up another reason to decriminalize drug manufacture, sales, purchase, and use: Given current regulatory regimes (are they anti-libertarian? See prior comment), decriminalization would allow for a legal requirement for safety inspection in order to be sold legally.

    This, of course, would also have the unintended side-effect of making black-market sales more attractive, in that there would be no regulatory burden: neither prohibition nor tax.

    Then again, in a better world than this one we would go back to earlier, saner times when there were private organizations whose stamp of approval was authoritative and a reliable indicator of quality. For instance UL, Underwriters [sic] Laboratories, which is still in existence. And there are others.

    Richard Epstein is particularly good on this last.

  • Thailover

    Julie near chicago wrote,
    “Well…. First, by “drug decriminalization” I mean repealing the pertinent laws so that neither users nor buyers nor sellers nor manufacturers will be guilty of a crime purely on the grounds of their involvement with “drugs.”

    Legalizing means no criminal act involving X, no fines, no penalties, no restictions.
    Decriminalizing is usually restrained to convicion/no conviction of the user, with restictions, fines and penalties still on the table.

  • Thailover

    Lee Moore wrote,
    “Why do we have laws forbidding murder?”

    Since murder is a legal term, the question is circular, but I’ll skip that.
    We have laws against murder so that when people commit murder (and they do everywhere, regardless of the penalties in that country or state), they can be convicted and removed from society, and or “pay a debt to society”. (I personally think the latter is collectivist bullshit. There is no such entity as “society”.)

    Laws don’t stop murders because criminals are people who ignore laws by definition and murderers are criminals, also by definition.
    Yes, increase the penalties for murder and murder will decrease a bit, but there will still be murders, and you come to a point when gradually increasing penalty for crime, where the state then become criminal, i.e. infringing on the rights of criminals by violating human and individual rights by having penalties disproportionate to the crime. Long story short, no one can stop crime because either the populous will commit crime, or the totalitarian ‘watchers’ will.

  • Thailover

    Laird
    June 19, 2016 at 8:33 pm

    Once again, we find ourselves in perfect agreement.

  • Thailover

    “And your consequential arguments are laughable.”

    Actually, I’m laughing at you, which is not unusual. You’ve presented no counterargument, merely insults, the sign of a weak mind.

    NO ONE is advocating the usage of antibiotics when not needed, and the current climate of high restriction is illogical in the sense that doctors are reluctant to proscribe them when one does indeed have a bacterial infection. The thinking is to slow down the process by which antibiotics become ineffective, but what’s the point when they’re reluctant to proscribe them when they would indeed be helpful. Sitting on a shelf, they help no one and valuing future non-existent people more than REAL people is also illogical.

    And BTW my comments about the ability to purchase virtually any antibiotic over the counter in south east Asia is indeed good point, but you wouldn’t recognize a good point if it climbed in bed with you.

  • Thailover

    Cristina, the use of any antibiotics in and of itself necessarilly leads to it’s future ineffectiveness.

  • Laird

    First, by “drug decriminalization” I mean repealing the pertinent laws so that neither users nor buyers nor sellers nor manufacturers will be guilty of a crime purely on the grounds of their involvement with “drugs.”

    Julie, what you’ve described is legalization, not decriminalization. “Decriminalization” in this context means reducing or eliminating the penalties for users only, not for sellers.

  • Mr Ed

    Since murder is a legal term,

    In the Sixth Commandment, the prohibition is rendered in some English churches in terms like ‘thou shalt do no murder‘, but sometimes ‘thou shalt not kill‘. I am told that the Hebrew root is a verb that could be translated as ‘kill’ or ‘murder’, the law is ancient indeed and presumably the kill/murder distinction a bit older, perhaps going back to the development of civil co-operation itself.

  • Biblical Hebrew does indeed contain the same distinction between murder and kill as English does. In all cases where Christ quotes the commandments, he uses the ‘murder’ word, which is decisive for Christians. I believe the same is true in the old testament: the biblical commandment is understood to rendered as murder.

  • Lee Moore

    moi : “Why do we have laws forbidding murder?”
    Thailover : “Since murder is a legal term, the question is circular, but I’ll skip that”

    No don’t let’s skip that. The laws – whether statutory or common law – forbid murder, and define which acts count as murder. It is therefore the acts which are forbidden, not some esoteric concept, defined in a circle.

    “We have laws against murder so that when people commit murder (and they do everywhere, regardless of the penalties in that country or state), they can be convicted and removed from society…etc”

    Yup, that’s some of the reasons.

    “Laws don’t stop murders because criminals are people who ignore laws by definition and murderers are criminals, also by definition”

    I’m afraid this doesn’t make any sense at all. Laws obviously don’t stop murders that go ahead, and people who commit them are indeed criminals. But you appear to be denying the possibility that sometimes some people who would otherwise commit murder, don’t do so, because they don’t wish to suffer the consequences that the law prescribes. If there are never any such cases then you’re right, laws don’t stop murders. But the chances that you are right are vanishingly small.

    In the same way, bars on windows don’t stop burglaries that go ahead (the burglars finding some way round the problem.) But they will stop some burglaries. It would be potty to claim that bars on windows stop ALL burglaries. And about equally potty to claim that bars on windows didn’t stop any burglaries.

    And likewise laws on murder.

  • Alisa

    That is correct, Niall.

  • Alisa

    But you appear to be denying the possibility that sometimes some people who would otherwise commit murder, don’t do so, because they don’t wish to suffer the consequences that the law prescribes. If there are never any such cases then you’re right, laws don’t stop murders. But the chances that you are right are vanishingly small.

    Not never, no – but the number of such murders would indeed be vanishingly small.

    In the same way, bars on windows don’t stop burglaries that go ahead (the burglars finding some way round the problem.) But they will stop some burglaries.

    Actually no, not in the same way at all: most people – rightly – see the taking of property and the taking of life as fundamentally different. So while the absence of laws against theft would indeed result in much greater number of people stealing, I very much doubt that the same applies to laws against murder.

  • Alisa

    would indeed result in much greater number of people stealing

    I have to add directly to stealing – as great numbers of people are already stealing, only indirectly.

  • Lee Moore

    We’ll have to agree to disagree on that one Alisa.

    There are only about 1,000 murders a year in the UK, in a population of 60 million. Even if 59.5 million people are fully deterred by their moral principles, the remaining 500,000 really don’t have to up their efforts very much in order to double the murder rate.

    But what if it’s only 20 people who are deterred, not tens of thousands ? How do we know ? Well we could look around. Terrorist groups seem to be able to find recruits. The Nazis and the Soviets didn’t struggle to find people to man their camps. When there are power cuts in big cities and the lights go out, looting AND murder go up. Civilisation is a thin veneer.

    Plenty of criminals carry guns as they go about their robbing business. Sometimes they actually use them and kill someone. Usually they don’t. I find the idea that robbers would kill people with their guns a “vanishingly small” number of additional times a year, if the penalty for murder was reduced, say, to a $100 fine, rather unlikely.

  • Paul Marks

    I doubt anyone is as opposed to drug abuse as I am – I am rather “puritan” by nature and have got more so over time (“you mean you have become an intolerant short tempered monster Paul” – yes there is something in that).

    However, FORCED morality is no morality at all – so prohibition fails the basic moral test.

    It also does not work.

    Contrary to Peter Hitchens (and other people who say they favour traditional Britain – whilst really favouring the early 20th century American Progressive movement) – prohibition has (not “has not”) been really tried, and has made things WORSE not better.

    Prohibition is basically a massive subsidy scheme for Organised Crime.

    For utterly vicious and evil people.

  • Alisa

    are fully deterred by their moral principles

    It has nothing to do with principles – rather, as humans we have been bred to value life in general, and human life in particular. Most people fear death, first and foremost for themselves – but by extension for others as well. There is enormous room for degrees and variations, and most people will kill under circumstances deemed extreme from their subjective point of view. Conversely, very few people will murder, even under the most extreme of circumstances.

    Which leads me to the mistake I have been making throughout this discussion: what I meant all along was not the actual number of murders, but the number of murderers – i.e. people who are capable of murder, with the premise being that the number of potential murderers, if not unchangeable, is very fairly close to constant as a proportion of the general population.

    Will murderers murder more often in the absence of severe legal penalties for murder? I think they will, at least initially. But with time they will face other forms of retribution, so things will eventually even out more or less to the levels we are seeing now. Would that equilibrium be achieved through the emergence of blood-feud culture, such as still common in the Middle East and some other regions? I have no idea to tell the truth, but it seems to me that the laws against murder in the West rest on the assumption that this just may happen, and are primarily aimed at preventing that from happening.

  • Lee Moore

    I think we’ll have to go on mostly agreeing to differ.

    1. “humans we have been bred to value life in general”

    Eh ? We eat other animals. We squish spiders. We hunt. Sure in a few of the ditzier places in the West very very recent cultural encrustations frown on eating animals, hunting and wearing furs; but even then, it’s cuddly furry creatures that the ditzies don’t want to kill. Insects – fugedabahtit.

    2. “and human life in particular. Most people fear death, first and foremost for themselves – but by extension for others as well.”

    Sure, fearing death for yourself is a survival characteristic. And fearing it for your loved ones aka your relations; and also for your allies, makes perfect sense. But the death of your enemies, people who might attack you – who fears that ? Again a little bit of cultural crust may have built up around the love your enemies theme, but it doesn’t survive any serious test.

    3. There is enormous room for degrees and variations, and most people will kill under circumstances deemed extreme from their subjective point of view. Conversely, very few people will murder, even under the most extreme of circumstances

    Well this is a bit tricky. I suppose there might be an ultra minimalist meaning of murder that includes the cases that virtually every culture would accept as impermissible killing. We’ll call that “baseline murder.” And then there’s all sorts of extensions that different cultures would tack on. So in some cultures you can’t even go over to the next village, kill all the menfolk and carry off the women, without some people calling it “murder.” I would say that most people’s “moral” discomfort about murdering is more to do with the social valuation of different categories of killing than any innate moral feeling about “baseline murder.” Consequently, I would say that roughly 90% of humans would be quite happy doing things that you would call murder, if they lived in a culture that said, nah, that’s not murder that’s lawful killing. Whether that’s polishing off fetuses, unfaithful wives, witches, the carriers of disease, Arsenal supporters, Kulaks, lawyers, whatever. For the avoidance of doubt, I’m not saying that a society that treated Arsenal supporters as if they were human and protected from murder, just like everybody else (yeah yeah, you have to use your imagination) could suddenly flip to one which said it was open season on Arsenal supporters. There would be a long delay while the old mores faded. But after a while, people would laugh at the idea that there was anything wrong with killing Arsenal supporters.

    And so if you live in a society that say permits, and has always permitted, putting wives on their husband’s funeral pyre, then if the ruler wants to change the rule to forbid it, he’s going to have to have some legal sanctions. Cos our natural moral feelings aren’t going to do the business on their own.

  • Laws against murder are one of the more viable forms of law. When someone is murdered, their disappearance from their society is usually obvious. A state with no law against murder would see much private activity for both defence and vengeance – unless it were very unfree, with the perpetrators and victims somehow organised into separate groups.

    It is a commonplace of “state of nature” theory that individuals have a right to defend themselves against murder and to avenge it, and that even the most basic forms of state take away this innate human right in exchange for a “law against murder” that promises some greater hope of receiving actual protection. Thus a state must always violate this (and some other) natural rights to exist. (If it forgets this, it will cease to exist; it will become history – which is one of the possible future’s of Merkel’s Germany though I hope not the likely one.)

    It is only too easy to imagine a state that breaks its promise, that makes a shoddy attempt at enforcing the law against murder while interfering in many other ways. In an earlier comment that chanced to reference J K Rowling’s book A Casual Vacancy, I described the plot as being (unwittingly, I thought) about this. But I know no historical state that did not formally ban ‘baseline murder’ (as Lee terms it above) of citizens.

    I believe that anti-free-speech laws affect people’s behaviour. I’d have a hard time thinking that and simultaneously doubting that laws against murder affect people’s behaviour. In the last paragraph of a six-year-old post, I argue that laws against free speech are worse than other unwanted laws because their violation is naturally visible in the public domain. I am happier about the fact that the same is usually true of murder – so I expect laws against it to have impact, to the extent that the state actually tries to enforce them.

  • llamas

    Hmm.

    Me and the missus were travelling for 10 days in Colorado a couple months ago – a state where MaryJane in all its various forms is now totally legal for adults to possess, buy, grow, use, etc, etc, etc.

    Neither she, nor I, have the slightest interest in possessing, buying, growing, using, etc.

    And you know what? If you don’t care about dope in Colorado, you don’t have to. Apart from a few storefronts, and some ads on the back of the Yellow Pages, you would never know that it’s completely legal to get stoned in Colorado, and that you can buy it anyplace. The regular use of MJ is confined to a relatively-small subset of the population anyway, so hardly surprising that you see little evidence of it as you wander about the state.

    Stoners on every street corner? Hardly. I saw no more evidence of dope use in public in CO than I do in MI. Unfortunately, I came across more hopeless inebriates in the Indian Nations (fair dos, some of them across the borders in NM and AZ) than I did spaced-out stoner bros in CO.

    So it can be legalized without the whole fabric of society crumbling to dust.

    Regarding harder drugs, as some users have pointed out already, addiction to these is often a symptom of somebody whose life is all screwed up already – not the cause, but the effect. Anthony Daniels / Theodore Dalrymple has written very effectively of the myths surrounding opiate addiction, including the wildly-exaggerated claims about the horrors of withdrawal. In the case of opiates, while recreational use is entirely possible, and addiction is easily ended with few real side-effects, many people are addicted to opiates for no other real reason than that they like to use them and want to continue to do so. Legalization will have no negative effects on these people, and safe and standardized availability of their particular choice of stupid can only benefit them. Prohibition made alcoholism and alcohol-related disease increase dramatically. Repeal reduced both. No reason to think it would be any different in this case.

    The big difference between the repeal of Prohibition and the legalizing of drugs may well be that the latter is going to decimate the amount of work for law enforcement agencies, and it’s going to strangle the flow of money, resources and power to this (heavily-unionized) activity. I’m of the opinion (I may be wrong) that the debate about legalization in the US is driven as much by the lobbying of this powerful interest group as it is by any concern for the real effects on the health and liberty of the citizenry.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Cristina

    Thank you very much for the correction, Laird. It’s always truly appreciated.
    Now read my first comment. I most certainly did “take that sentence” from this paragraph. 🙂

  • Alisa

    Eh ? We eat other animals. We squish spiders. We hunt.

    There is a huge difference between hiring someone to kill someone or something, and killing him/her/it yourself. Yes, most of us still eat animals, but very few are capable of killing one themselves. Fewer and fewer people hunt, and spiders are hardly seen as animals (emotionally, that is – which is what I am discussing here). All that for better or worse.

    In any case, this thread was and is about the laws against the use and trade of drugs, and it is still obvious to me that comparing those to laws punishing murder is ludicrous. So yes, we’ll go on disagreeing 🙂

  • Laird

    Quote A: Not decriminalization, but complete legalization. What’s the point in making the use of X non-criminal if the black market still has a legal monopoly on the supply of X? That would actually be STRENGTHENING the criminal element, driving prices even higher through greater demand. And greater demand means greater profitability, which means even more criminal pushers

    Quote B: “How does the decriminalization of X increase its demand and its complete legalization doesn’t?”

    I’m baffled, Cristina. Please show me where the words in Quote B can be located among the words of Quote A.

  • Thailover

    Niall wrote
    “It is a commonplace of “state of nature” theory that individuals have a right to defend themselves against murder and to avenge it, and that even the most basic forms of state take away this innate human right in exchange for a “law against murder” that promises some greater hope of receiving actual protection. Thus a state must always violate this (and some other) natural rights to exist. (If it forgets this, it will cease to exist; it will become history”

    I have no idea what you’re talking about. Laws against murder don’t violate “natural law”, and vengence isn’t protection. Using justified deadly force to protect yourself is justified homicide in the US and is perfectly fine. ‘Better than fine I would argue since justified homicide is where innocent lives are saved and the ‘bad guy’ justifiably, bit the dust.

  • Thailover

    Paul Marks said,
    “FORCED morality is no morality at all – so prohibition fails the basic moral test.”

    Exactly. Morality comes from within, the basic urge to treat others with compassion and empathy. It doesn’t come from without, i.e. imposed externally by gods or state. Complying in the latter case would be a measure of one’s willingness to comply to authority, not a measure of one’s moral impulse.

    “Prohibition is basically a massive subsidy scheme for Organized Crime.”

    Precisely. By eliminating legal market competition, it creates a monopoly for the black market.

  • Thailover

    Cristina,
    It was I who wrote,

    “Not decriminalization, but complete legalization. What’s the point in making the use of X non-criminal if the black market still has a legal monopoly on the supply of X? That would actually be STRENGTHENING the criminal element, driving prices even higher through greater demand. And greater demand means greater profitability, which means even more criminal pushers”

    Decriminalization would mean that it would still be illegal to supply said drug, even if it’s not criminal to use it, and that added profitability (i.e. the only thing changing would be less dissuasion by removing legal consequences for using) would go towards funding ‘the bad guys’, meaning the guys who operate under the radar, with no standards and, perhaps, no moral concerns.
    However, with complete legalization there can be a legal market and, hopefully, safety standards and oversight. Arguably the greatest risk of using a drug like heroine is the small difference between the effective dose and a lethal dose, which is difficult to gauge when one buys differing qualities of product on the street. If that risk is minimized or even eliminated, that would be a tremendous gain if one’s goal is to save lives.

  • Thailover

    An added note, there is a bit of the ‘Ol Statist Elitism in the notion of keeping drugs illegal.

    Fictional Bob: “If we legalized drugs, then people would run right out and use them and then we’d be responsible for the aftermath.”

    Imaginary Tony: “So, if they legalized heroine, you would run right out and shoot up?”

    Bob: “Me, of course not, I’m not an idiot”.

    Tony: “But…everyone else is an idiot, right?”

    Bob: “Well…”

    Tony: “So we need people like you to protect us from ourselves, to help us lead our lives, right?”

    Bob: “Some people need to be told what to do”.

  • Lee Moore

    I have no idea what you’re talking about. Laws against murder don’t violate “natural law”, and vengence isn’t protection.

    But laws against murder do violate your natural right to avenge (aka punish) murder, by defining murder to include the killing of murderers, except by the state after the state has gone through its procedures. There isn’t anything particularly special about murder here – the state pretty much always criminalises private meting out of justice.

    It might – I suppose – be argued that if the state always succeeds in promptly meting out exactly the right amount of justice to those who violate your natural rights, then it’s not denying your natural rights by taking away your right to punish. But it doesn’t. And couldn’t possibly even in theory.

    PS I didn’t grasp the point of the Bob and Tony story. Tony seemed to be denying the existence of any quantity between None and All, and Bob seemed to be reminding him of the quantity called Some. If there’s a deeper point in there, I missed it.

  • ragingnick

    It is not the place of government to protect people from themselves, however those who abuse drugs and alcohol are generally scum, I do not always agree with Ayn Rand but she was absolutely correct on this matter:

    “Happy, self-confident men do not seek to get stoned or drunk. Drug use is the attempt to obliterate one’s consciousness, the quest for a deliberately-induced insanity. As such, it is so obscene and evil that any doubt about the moral character of its practitioners is itself an obscenity.”