Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Advocacy of a Failure, from an Unlikely Source

I read John Hawkins' blog every day almost, and I agree with just about everything he says, but he laid a huge goose egg last week with this column for Human Events Online in which he defended the War On Some Drugs (link is to un-edited piece on Hawkins' blog -- ed.) There are some pretty good fiskings of Hawkins' misguided piece already, but I do have some things to say in response to some of the assertions he puts forth....

...Some people certainly argue that if illicit drugs were legalized, their usage would drop. However, the fact that drugs are illegal is certainly holding down their usage. Just look at what happened during prohibition if you want proof of that. Per Ann Coulter in her book, "How to Talk to a Liberal if you Must:"

"Prohibition resulted in startling reductions in alcohol consumption (over 50 percent), cirrhosis of the liver (63 percent), admissions to mental health clinics for alcohol psychosis (60 percent), and arrests for drunk and disorderly conduct (50 percent)." -- P.311

That's what happened when alcohol was made illegal. However, on the other hand, if we make drugs legal, safer, easier to obtain, more societally accepted, and some people say even cheaper as well, there would almost have to be an enormous spike in usage.

I'll admit I like a lot of what Ann Coulter writes, but still I can't help but shudder to see her being cited as if she was some kind of authority. Perhaps that's irrelevant, perhaps she actually got her statistics from a reputable source, but even the statistics are irrelevant in light of the utter overall failure Prohibition was. How much of the American people's money went down THAT pit before we admitted that maybe that particular nanny-statist idea wasn't such a good one after all? I don't advocate partaking of any kind of illegal drug -- personally, that's money better spent on gun stuff for me -- but if people want to spend a bit of their hard-earned money on a dimebag, then really, what business is it of mine? And I would think that's what a big part of the funds burned in the War On Some Drugs goes to eliminating -- the demon weed. Whatever the proportion might be, here's a piece of the commentary from Lee at Right-Thinking from the Left Coast:
I’ll admit that I like drugs. When I was a young man (late high school, early college) I used to do a SHITLOAD of drugs. I’ve never smoked crack and I’ve never injected anything, but I’ve used various combinations of marijuana, LSD, ecstasy, and cocaine....Now, as an adult, I might smoke a little marijuana, but I also like drinking Jack Daniel’s. They help me relax after a stressful day at work. I come home, make a drink or smoke a bowl, lay on my couch and watch TV.

But here comes the money shot:
Now, according to John’s calculus, I should be some strung-out drug-addled loser who breaks into houses to get money to feed my drug habit. The reality of the situation is that this year I’ll make over $100,000, I have a job with an enormous degree of responsibility in a highly technological field (right now I’m supervising 16 people), and I’m about as normal a guy as you’ll ever meet.

Not only have I done drugs in the past, but I’ll admit that I liked the effect they had on me. (I’m not going to cop out like politicians and talk about how it was a valuable learning experience. I got high and liked it, period.) Now I have enough money to where I could buy all the drugs I like in any amount I choose. I wouldn’t even have to get in my car to find drugs, I could walk. And yet, mysteriously, I’m somehow able to control my base animal impulses to try harder and harder drugs....

I know a lot of people who recreationally use drugs. These are educated, intelligent people with families, who run businesses, respect the law, pay their taxes, and contribute to society. They also like to put intoxicants in their bodies. In fact, during my life the vast majority of the people I have known have, at one time or another, done drugs. Out of these people, I can count on one hand the number of times any of them had serious problems because of doing so.

How Lee's experience could be extrapolated to the entire population, I don't know, but I suppose there are those out there who can lead normal lives while they do cocaine, heroin, or what-have-you. I hate to sound like I am advocating drug use, because I'm not. Like I said, that's money better spent on other things for me, and I know that very bad things can happen when cocaine or heroin is introduced into someone's life. But the same goes for tobacco and alcohol too, and again, if I am not mistaken, Prohibition is widely regarded across the political spectrum to be an unmitigated disaster. And it's beyond argument, in my mind, that the War On Some Drugs has been the same, a complete and utter failure, in more ways than one. Does the name Kathryn Johnston ring a bell to John and his fellow apologists? How about Cory Maye? Were their lives worth taking or irrevocably ruining so your neighbor couldn't light one up? I daresay it's just this sort of thing that leads to a totalitarian state, and I think that is directly attributable to the welfare state that Mr. Hawkins talks about next...
But, some people may say, "so what if drug usage does explode? They're not hurting anyone but themselves." That might be true in a purely capitalistic society, but in the sort of welfare state that we have in this country, the rest of us would end up paying a significant share of the bills of people who don't hold jobs or end up strung out in the hospital without jobs -- and that's even if you forget about the thugs who'd end up robbing our houses to get things to pawn to buy more drugs. Even setting that aside, we make laws that prevent people from harming themselves all the time in our society. In many states there are helmet laws, laws that require us to wear seatbelts, laws against prostitution, and it's even illegal to commit suicide. So banning harmful drugs is just par for the course.

As Lee so brilliantly put it, "John supports the nanny state when the nanny state mentality provides justification for his own anti-drug position. He says these things are "par for the course." There’s been a whole lot of stuff in this country that has been par for the course which we subsequently recognized were moral and societal evils. Slavery, for one."

As for the "welfare state"? A welfare state it may be, but when you take personal responsibility away from people, when they make mistakes and you use the public dime to bail them out, whatever the cost may be, then a welfare state is what you get. I don't particularly agree with the assertion that we should keep drugs illegal because of the bills we'll incur due to those who misuse those drugs to the point they can't function. Call me a heartless libertarian, but people deserve to lie in the bed they've made for themselves. A free society is ultimately going to falter and crumble under the burden of a welfare state such as the one we have here. We're already seeing it now.
And possibly the most infuriating snippet of Hawkins' screed goes to this:
There's probably not a person reading this column who doesn't know someone who has faced terrible consequences in his life because of drug use.

That's right, ladies and gentlemen, the tried-and-true, appallingly effective appeal to emotion the gun-grabbers trot out every time they unveil another infringement on our rights. "There's probably not a person reading this column who doesn't know someone who has faced terrible consequences in his life because of 'gun violence.'" I don't know if I've said it before, but I'll surely say it now: Policy based on emotion, or more on emotion than logic, can only lead to denial of rights and loss of liberty. I really expected better from one who calls himself a conservative, but given that hint of an authoritarian streak, I guess I know better now.