by Benjamin Marks, Economics.org.au editor-in-chief
The most dangerous thing about taking drugs today is getting caught or sabotaged by government. The alleged solution is worse than the alleged problem.
If government is legally obligated to legislate against dangerous activities, then it is criminally negligent in not banning alcohol, cars and swimming. If it is not legally obligated, but only morally obligated, then its use of force is criminal. The ends do not justify the means. Either way, government is criminal, and should be held accountable as such; to simply change policies does not excuse past crimes. Crime can justifiably be punished proportionately; otherwise stealing a dollar may as well be punishable by death.
There is a huge difference between drug-related crime and drug consumption, dealing or possession: namely, a victim of an unjust act. The supposed victim of drugs is the drug-taker, his friends, family and community. Not all vices are crimes, or victims unjustly treated. The question of crime boils down to: do you own yourself or does someone else? Is drug-taking or suicide a crime because we are government property? Is the person who commits suicide a victim of his suicidal act or a beneficiary? Is a failed suicide an attempted murder?
Many people who take drugs do not intend for it to have the harmful consequences it may have on them. But not all people who take drugs are harmed; many enjoy the benefits it brings despite or without being harmed. There are some things that most definitely do harm people: like the idea that there are no lessons to be learned from Prohibition. Or, for a more materialistic example, the tax office harms those it takes money from; if they do not harm them, then why does the tax office force tax-payers to pay it as if those taxed feel that they would be harmed paying it?
Suppose someone believes that they are the just owners of some land, like the Singaporean government of Singaporean land. If someone appears there with drugs that the Singaporean government makes clear is a violation of their laws and is subject to death, then does that mean the drug-carrier in Singapore can justifiably be killed? No, that would be an overpunishment. His crime is trespass, not drug possession. He could be expelled, but to kill him is an overpunishment. If a neighbour jumps over your fence and smokes a joint, are you justified in killing him? Of course not. Yet that is exactly what the Singaporean, Indonesian and other governments have done. If there was ever a good reason for foreign military intervention by Australia, the murder of its citizens for drug dealing would be it. Dates and locations of when they were going to be killed were public knowledge. In unfavourable contrast, the Australian government was willing to go to Afghanistan and Iraq with confused reasons and without having any good plans or knowing where their supposed targets were.
Drug-related crime is mostly not caused by drug consumption per se; it is caused by wanting to consume a drug which has a higher price because government tries to prevent its ready availability. Also, its scarcity, high price and pressure to hide rather than publicise product to examine its quality means that there is more incentive to mix even more harmful substances in with the drug. Drugs legislated against do not disappear; they remain available, but at higher cost and lower quality. Could government possibly come close to eliminating drugs? This is doubtful. Even governments commonly accepted as totalitarian could not eliminate black-markets and illegal drug use is generally more prevalent in prisons than outside. What makes our government think that they have more effective methods?
It can safely be assumed that government has no hope of eliminating the underground economy. Its failed attempts result in the product being available at higher cost and lower quality. To claim that this basic application of the law of supply and demand is incorrect, is to deny that economics is a science and can be used to justify anything. The supposedly rational and socially conservative supporters of drugs legislation are really unprincipled postmodernist communists and fascists, for they have no scientific or defensible grounds to base their philosophy on and so can have no serious objection to anything.
Legislation against drugs is left-wing and socialistic. Drug legalisation is what free-market advocates should want.
Wanting drugs available without government interference is not the same as wanting drugs available. I want many things to be available without government interference, but I do not want them all. I would go broke otherwise. Legal allowance is different to moral encouragement. To claim otherwise is to say that government morally encourages Economics.org.au, since it has not yet banned it.
Drugs are dangerous, but so is government. Government employees might not take drugs, but erroneous ideas are far more dangerous. Compare the number of deaths of people killed by drugs legislated against and the number of deaths of people killed by government. Those who were victims of government often thought giving government increased control was a good idea, just as those who take drugs at first think taking drugs is a good idea.
It is all strictly analogous with Prohibition and everyone admits that that was a failure. Those who want to legalise drugs, and claim society would be better off for it, are often derided as utopian; but those who want to ban drugs have no success story to go by and only obvious undebatable failures. Who is more utopian?
I am willing to accept that drug-takers and potential drug-takers cannot be trusted, but this is a non-issue when it comes to drug legislation. The question is: Can politicians be trusted? If a politician can be trusted, then he is no politician at all. It is impossible to demonstrate that you trust politicians. I do not deny that some prisoners would do the same thing if they were not imprisoned, but to claim that they consent to the situation because they do not escape or appear to be happy ignores the question of whether they can or that if they do escape, they risk more punishment. Also, they might not have pondered whether escape is possible. There is a huge difference between acquiescence and consent. This is the most important lesson in political science. There is nothing more dangerous than the idea of “tacit consent”. If consent cannot be demonstrated, then it cannot be distinguished from acquiescence or imprisonment and murder cannot be distinguished from suicide. There is no evidence that anyone consents to the government.
Why does government allow pharmacists and psychologists to issue drugs? Is it because some drugs can be useful, even if only as pain relief? Of course. So the only crime of illicit drug-takers is for practicing without a licence. But government should not be allowed to issue licences. Monopolistic licensing systems will tend to be of inferior quality and higher cost than in a competitive environment. This is because they have less competition to contend with and less incentive to improve their standard to outcompete competitors in attracting customers. Again, to deny this is to deny the truth of economic principles. Monopolistic licensing is left-wing and communistic. But we have been through all this before.
When Australian drugs smugglers were hung and imprisoned in Singapore and Indonesia many of their countrymen felt sorry for them. These sympathisers, however, should back up their feelings with some theoretical leverage and activism. To them I say: You are in the right. You have the moral high ground. You have the support of many Australians. Stop doing nothing except speaking sweet nothings. Start holding politicians to account, or at least asking the right questions. We don’t want any more opinion surveys or prisoner transfers or empty reporting. A federal election is coming soon, but I would be surprised to see any political party take a principled stand on anything, as the old joke goes, “The only thing a politician stands for is re-election.” In fact, the Australian drug policy and the Singaporean and Indonesian drug polices are based on the same principles; you can’t be consistent and support Australian drug policy without also supporting that of Singapore and Indonesia. No doubt the principles of these and other political questions will be much debated leading up to the election, and Economics.org.au is privileged to be able to contribute to the high level of intellectual debate that Australia has been blessed with.
Perhaps the most impressive example of this is the concern of the worst Australian of the year, both political parties, the media and the so-called think tanks about the mentally ill. Of course, they all seemed to have missed the little matter that there is no such thing as mental illness, as Australia’s Professor Robert Spillane so clearly has expressed here.
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