Skip to comments.Libertarians Advocate Drug Legalization: Recipe For Escalating Societal Decay
Posted on 05/16/2002 11:22:07 AM PDT by Reagan Man
The Libertarian Party and like-minded think tanks and policy research centers, most notably the Cato Institute, are proponents of drug legalization. It's said to be an idea whose time has come. Foremost, Libertarians hold to the philosophical stance that individual freedom and responsibility are paramount, requiring strong limits on the role of government. Libertarians claim that the current policy of drug prohibition in fact violates individual liberties. Although Conservatives as a group generally espouse a Libertarian bent, social Conservatives in particular are not purists regarding government intervention, especially when they perceive a threat to the greater good of the citizenry.
Moreover, Libertarians believe that drug legalization is congruent with the notion of "harm reduction", which purports that society actually incurs more damage from stringent drug laws than from the effects of drug usage itself. They cite the negative consequences of our current "prohibitionist" drug policy, which directly led to the creation of a black market, limited drug availability resulting in high drug costs, violence and turf wars in efforts to compete for significant profits, and a burgeoning, expensive criminal justice system. Ostensibly, if drug legalization were to be implemented, availability of drugs would increase, prices would drop markedly, and drug crime and drug trafficking would all but disappear. Moreover, the size and cost of the current criminal justice system would be significantly reduced, a tremendous bonus to the taxpayers. And of course, as a compassionate society, we would offer rehabilitation for those substance users who seek help in kicking their drug habits, a minor price to pay in the scheme of things. Out with the old paradigm, and in with the new paradigm.
The Real Deal--Consequences of Drug Legalization:
Sounds terrific, right? But it's an inaccurate representation of how legalization of drugs would impact our culture. In truth, there would be increases in both drug activity and concomitant social ills and other antisocial behaviors linked to substance abuse, all of which would have a profoundly deleterious effect on our populace. The dysfunctions and problems associated with addiction would probably not manifest to a significant degree in the criminal courts, although we would expect to see a higher number of Driving While Impaired and Assault offenses. Undoubtedly, automobile and workplace accidents would become more commonplace. However, the most profound impact of drug legalization would be reflected in the sharp rise of various social ills and accompanying activity in the family/juvenile court systems, with growing demands upon social service agencies and treatment programs. Addicts often become cross-addicted, so also anticipate more widespread difficulties with alcohol, prescription drug abuse, gambling, etc. The greater prevalence of child abuse and neglect, teenage pregnancies, domestic violence, divorce, juvenile delinquency and other types of societal dysfunction would particularly stress public sector programs paid by the taxpayers. So forget about saving all that tax money, which will be needed to provide government services. Moreover, enacting drug legalization would fail to send the salient message to our youth that indulging in drugs is morally wrong, placing all substance abusers, and those around them, at risk for physical, psychological, and spiritual damage.
A review of the "Dutch Model" demonstrates that drug activity, particularly marijuana usage, has increased with the softening of drug laws and drug policy in the Netherlands. And our nation had some similar experience in the state of Alaska, with the decriminalization of up to four ounces of marijuana between 1975 and 1991. Reportedly, use of that drug went up significantly among Alaskan youth during the referenced time frame. Noteworthy, the marijuana of today is many times more potent than the marijuana available in the 1960's and the 1970's. It is more addictive, and more debilitating than the older versions of the substance, and now often requires intensive treatment for recovery. Beyond marijuana, Ecstasy and other designer drugs, and purer quality heroin and cocaine, will continue to be part of the drug scene.
The Status of the Drug Culture:
As a professional in the field of criminal justice, utilizing both law enforcement and social work skills, I've personally observed an escalation in societal decay, especially since the mid-1990's due to the prevalence of drug usage among those sentenced to community-based supervision. And there is supporting statistical data to demonstrate that substance abuse activity has gone up in recent years, despite the propaganda put forth by the prior Clinton administration. Regarding FBI drug arrest figures, (estimated at 14 million in 1999), these numbers had risen a whopping 36% during the decade 1990 - 1999, with a marked increase in resulting drug convictions. For further information, please refer to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports, "Crime in the United States -1999", Section IV, "Persons Arrested". Current drug crime statistics are about the same. But why hasn't the media underscored this salient information for the public? And why hasn't the media "connected the dots" for the citizenry, explaining how drug abuse is directly linked to societal ills?
For more than a decade, the media correctly noted that aggregate crime numbers were down, including violent crime and property crime. But the media was remiss in failing to examine specific types of offenses that statistically increased, seemingly incongruent with overall crime trends. Regarding drug crime particularly, one wonders if the Liberal-leaning media was reluctant to embarrass the ensconced Democratic administration (1993-2000), which was intent on spinning the notion that all crime was declining, supposedly due to Democratic policies and efforts involving great expenditures of money and resources.
But we must ask ourselves why hard-core usage and accompanying drug activity is not responsive to the aggressive policing and negative sanctions effective with most other types of crime. I believe that the situation is complicated by the nature of addiction, which is all encompassing, and often blurs reasoning and the ability to respond appropriately to the threat of punishment and the pressures brought by the court system. Addiction is not just a physiological or psychological phenomenon, but a moral dysfunction as well. It drives those under its influence to engage in the most decadent behaviors, criminal and otherwise.
From years of societal experience with the drug culture, the public is well aware of the depths of depravity, which can be exhibited by addicts. Since the public is more or less cognizant that this population of hard-core users has remained unabridged, they instinctively sense that society is still at great risk for the emergence of additional drug related crime and drug related social pathologies. The media and politicians can laud the overall drop in crime all they want, but the public realizes that drug activity will continue into the foreseeable future with its attending social dysfunction. The public also understands that the degenerate drug culture constantly spawns new addicts to replace those who have perished from the likes of disease, overdose, and street crime. Clearly, the drug culture will only become worse if drug legalization is enacted.
Is Treatment The Answer?
Many criminal justice and mental health professionals tell us that treatment is the solution to substance abuse problems. However, the truth is that the vast majority of chemical dependency programs are ineffective for hard-core drug abusers. From years of monitoring and auditing cases, I can state unequivocally that most, if not all, drug addicts are in a revolving door of various intervention programs, routinely walking out of both residential and outpatient care before completion of treatment. I'm in agreement with calls for providing intensive drug intervention to criminals who are incarcerated, a captive audience, if you will, who would be required to successfully participate and complete treatment as a requirement of their sentence. This leverage may induce the addict-criminal to fulfill program requirements. Although not a panacea, coerced treatment would at least improve the odds of long-term recovery.
Unfortunately, the relapse rate for addicts is overwhelming, with individuals participating in numerous programs over the years before maintaining any real sobriety. In fact, if drug abusers haven't died at an early age from their risky life style, and are lucky enough to make it to middle age, they generally are motivated to seek recovery from addiction only because their bodies are so racked with physical infirmities that they are finally willing and able to maintain abstinence. To make matters worse, hard core drug users have a very negative impact on family members and those around them, inflicting a variety of damage including criminal victimization, child abuse/neglect, domestic violence, passing congenital abnormalities to offspring, and spreading disease. And these individuals collaterally affected by the addict experience severe and ongoing emotional and physical disability, whether or not the addict is eventually removed from the situation via incarceration, death or abandonment. The greater society is also impacted since they are exposed to the dysfunction of the family and friends of addicts, and must provide treatment and interventions for them, as well.
Legalization of drugs would increase substance abuse, especially among youth, and would cause social pathologies to flourish to an even greater extent than they are flourishing now. Government programs to address the societal problems, spawned by the growing substance abuse culture, would augment the size of the public sector and reliance on taxpayer monies. In effect, drug legalization would spur negative consequences across the societal spectrum.
Clearly, the Libertarian viewpoint on drugs is patently wrong-headed, and would have a profoundly pernicious effect upon our culture. But beyond the question of drug legalization, we as a society must make it a priority to inculcate values in our youth, and help them build character, so that they can be equipped to resist the temptation of drug usage under any circumstances.
"social Conservatives in particular are not purists regarding government intervention, especially when they perceive a threat to the greater good of the citizenry."
Is it a wonder I don't consider them conservatives at all.
Legalization of spiritous liquors would increase alcohol abuse, especially among youth, and would cause social pathologies to flourish to an even greater extent than they are flourishing now. Government programs to address the societal problems, spawned by the growing alcohol abuse culture, would augment the size of the public sector and reliance on taxpayer monies. In effect, liquor legalization would spur negative consequences across the societal spectrum.
Clearly, the Libertarian viewpoint on alcohol is patently wrong-headed, and would have a profoundly pernicious effect upon our culture. But beyond the question of alcohol legalization, we as a society must make it a priority to inculcate values in our youth, and help them build character, so that they can be equipped to resist the temptation of alcohol usage under any circumstances.
This is just a silly example, perhaps, but my point is that people who oppose or even have reservations about the current prohibition are not all the same. Someone who has problems with the so-called "war on drugs" does not necessarily believe in the total legalization of all drugs.
Social Conservatives don't seem to care much about the Constitution, either. It required passage of a Constitutional Amendment to grant the Federal Government the authority to enact alchohol Prohibition. So where's the Constitutional Amendment which grants the Federal Government the authority to prohibit drugs?
But then it's so inconvenient to allow a silly little thing like the Constitution to get in the way of "government intervention, especially when they perceive a threat to the greater good of the citizenry."
People use them now, and they are illegal. How could it be any worse?
People use them now, and they are illegal. How could it be any worse?
*** ZOOM *** (making flying over head motion w/hand)
well stated arguments.....
I would suggest that the "war on drugs" has been a huge failure and a giant waste of money.....
Convoluted reasoning can be applied to any circumstance you want, BikerNYC.
There are many ways to employ the English language, Liberal Classic. However, in this case, we are talking about illicit drug use in America and the desire for a small group of American's, known as libertarians, to see harmful substances, such as heroin, cocaine and yes, marijuana, be legalized.
Okay, I am sounding like Bill Maher so I'll stop, but you get the point.
As a proud Libertarian I want to thank you for your respectful comments. I find it interesting that ReaganMan concludes his post by saying how important it is to inculcate family values in children. A libertarian society is exactly the way to accomplish this; families will have the time to spend with their children when we end the War On Drugs and the taxes that support it. Mothers will be able to stay home with their children and teach them these values; study after study shows the benefit of 2-parent households. We can't have many of those by stealing money from both parents, thus forcing both to work outside the home.
Is there a big problem with liquor store clerks pushing whiskey on juveniles where this lady lives? She claims to be a Republican, yet doesn't have the faintest clue about licensing and regulation.
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