Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Case Against Legalization

The Case Against Legalization

M.A. Paarlberg explains why libertarian-style drug legalization is the wrong approach for ending the drug war.

Added to the Drugs index.


steve said...

The article is attacking a straw man. What the Cato Institute and most proponents of legalization have championed is something close to the British model where addicts are able to obtain drugs like heroin and cocaine only through government distribution programs, and propose bans on advertising, sales to minors etc. The point is the funds spent on law enforcement could better be spent on education, rehabilitation and treatment while stemming the violence associated with the drug trade

Mike Huben said...

Ah, so CATO is proposing big-government programs that interfere with their ideas of personal liberty.

How convenient that they now support what liberals have been proposing for decades.

Anybody who thinks they are sincere (and not just trying to pander to more people) should explain how these rabid libertarians have weakened their principles.

M. A. Paarlberg said...

The US Libertarian Party’s platform regarding drug laws is as follows:

“Repeal all laws establishing criminal or civil penalties for the use of drugs. Repeal laws that infringe upon individual rights to be secure in our persons, homes, and property as protected by the Fourth Amendment. Stop the use of ‘anti-crime’ measures such as profiling or civil asset forfeiture that reduce the standard of proof historically borne by government in prosecutions. Stop prosecuting accused non-violent drug offenders, and pardon those previously convicted.”

Nowhere does it mention government distribution programs, bans on advertising, and the like. Similarly, Milton Friedman has proposed that all drugs be legalized and sold at “ordinary retail outlets,” such as drug stores, with no regulation by the FDA. The Cato Institute has taken no formal policy position as to how drug laws should be repealed or revised, and seems content to take potshots at how the drug war is prosecuted. There is only one policy paper in the “drug prohibition” section of their website that examines the British model, the same Ostrowski report that I cited in my article. I cited Ostrowski primarily for his obnoxious remark about “slick young drug dealers,” and brought up Cato as a prime example of the market-fundamentalist rationale for legalization (see “The War on Drugs As Antitrust Regulation” in Cato Journal, 1991). If Cato actually formally supports a government-regulated harm-reduction approach to drug abuse, I commend them. However, as Mike Huben points out, this would be in spite of, not due to, their adherence to right-libertarian orthodoxy.

I do not at all suggest that the pro-legalization Right’s position is uniform or unanimous. William F. Buckley supports restrictions on sales to minors, and Friedman doesn’t rule out restrictions on advertising or even some taxation. The point of my article was to provoke those of an anarchist bent (the majority of Maximum Rock n’ Roll’s editors and readership), from a leftist and straight edge perspective, to consider how closely their pro-legalization rhetoric can mirror pro-free market rhetoric. However, I stand by my assertion that the most sweeping and socially irresponsible arguments for legalization tend to come from the libertarian Right, as evinced in the LP’s political platform.

John said...

The most amuzing thing about this piece is that it doesn't present an argument against drug legalization -- unless you consider the position that business (or collection of business) will ultimately reap the lion's share of profit from their sale to be reason enough to disallow it. You don't have to be reflexively hostile to free trade or a staunch egalitarian to be left feeling a little empty at the proposition that drugs should remain illegal because their legalization will only serve to solidify the market supremacy of some corporation eager to line its overstuffed pockets by taking advantage of the unrefined cultural orientations of dumb Americans who drink Rolling Rock by the truckload in leiu of sipping a glass of Chianti.

Nor is the essence of Mill's proposition really undermined by the philosophical rejoinder that everything do affects, in some way, everybody else. To argue that is reason enough to usher in the power of the state is to say that nothing is out of bounds, ever. Drunk driving is against the law because the act itself constitutes a nuisance -- in the same way that firing a gun into a crowd is a crime, even if nobody is struck. Both acts are tantamount to the use of force is a way that drug-use is not.

But the most powerful arguments for drug legalization is really not to be found in the deontological premise that people have a natural right to ingest or inject any substance they like, but of the enormous social costs that attend the desire to preempt such behavior.

John said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
AMIT said...

This should be stopped.And good article written by you.

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