Have you noticed that drugs are always portrayed as “evil” or “bad”? Since I have been old enough to understand language, society “as a whole” speaks about drugs with a morality factor attached to them. They, or “we” claim that the using, selling, and doing of drugs is somehow immoral. Philosophically speaking, this is just not true.
I should mention first the religious aspect to this right up front. As you may already know, I accept atheism as a valid methodology so my morality, or rather my ethics have to come from a universal standpoint. Ethics that are not universal are merely preferences or opinions. Some religious edicts state that our body is a temple and therefore to do harm to it is immoral. In that case, it is immoral to put sugar in your body. Rationally, that circle can’t be squared. Also, ethics that are brought forth by a power that is exempt from the same ethics put in place by that power is just rank hypocrisy. Thou shalt not murder! Great idea! I think we can all agree on that so lets not then turn around and create a global genocide.
As noted by early philosophers, ethics were invented by evil people to control and oppress good people. What that means is ethics are like a diet book for skinny people. Bad or evil people don’t care about ethics except as a means to lower their competition and for human control of the good.
It may seem like I am cheering on drug consumption and sales but as a former heroin addict, that is not the case. I am looking at drugs from a purely moral perspective; I’m trying to analyze drug use using philosophical first principles.
Initiating force or violence against another person when not in self-defense and violating the property rights of another person are the fundamental core ideas of first principles. Violating either of these principles is immoral. (If you are questioning “what makes first principles valid?” I can make that case but to do that here would take this post too far off topic and it would also make it far too long. If you want more info on first principles please comment below.)
So the next question is- Does using, selling, or buying drugs violate either of these principles?
Without the state sanctioned “illegalities” of drugs, it would be easy to argue the crimes woven into the black market of todays drug world would disappear. When the government creates a prohibition law, what inevitably happens to the value of the now illegal good? It sky rockets. Every time, without failure. Not only does the value of the illegal good go up exponentially, crime rates rise too. One instance of this is the alcohol prohibition in the early 1900s. The rise in crime that followed was a major driver in the state’s decision to reverse the prohibition.
Back when heroin was legal, it cost 10 cents a hit. As soon as it went into the black market, it shot up
Prohibitions are also the main ingredient for mafias and gangs. How could mafias’ or gangs’ function without a black market? When you push things into the black and gray markets of the economy you are causing harm to the natural economic flow of the market. Drug lords now have a lucrative and prosperous foundation to build their violent mini empires. All this because we believe that using violence (using the state to create a law) to solve social problems is a legitimate way to fix complicated social issues. Same holds true for prostitution and illegal gambling.
The amount of harm caused by prohibition is far worse than the harm caused by a drug itself.
1- With prohibition, there is no dispute resolution for buyers and dealers so weapons and other violence must be used.
2- With prohibition, there is no way to know the potency of the drug you are buying therefore you raise the risk of overdose and poisoning.
3- With prohibition, you may lose professional licensing or become un-hirable to companies for decades.
4- With prohibition, families are torn apart by incarcerations, financial fines, court and lawyer fees and the negative social stigma.
5- With prohibition, as mentioned above, the cost of product increases hundreds of percent causing more illegal activity. (I eventually had to break other laws to continue using heroin. It was too expensive.)
6- With prohibition, people who are addicted to drugs can’t come forward for help because it is treated as a criminal problem instead of a health care issue.
7- With prohibition, illnesses like Hepatitis and AIDS are spread around the drug circles because access to clean needles and other paraphernalia is made difficult.
8- With prohibition, many women turn to prostitution to supply their addiction.
This list could go on and on…
As we know, drugs are handled by the government as a criminal problem. The budget for the War on Drugs in 2013 was 26 billion dollars. Less than 2% of that was used in a treatment or preventative means. The vast majority of the budget every year is used on incarceration costs, police force, and other violent and aggressive tactics like multi-operation sting-ops that cost massive amounts of tax payer resources.
Confucius said “The beginning of wisdom is calling things by their proper name.”
What an amazing quote. Lets put this into practice. Lets call the “War on Drugs” by its proper name. The war on drugs insinuates that the state is at war AGAINST drugs. Is this the case? Have you ever seen a sack of weed in handcuffs? I know I have been in handcuffs but the heroin I had on me got off without a single charge.
With just a couple of seconds of thought, its easy to see that the clever wording of “the war on drugs” was used because it is hard to argue against. Most people don’t want drugs in their family structure so a war against drugs sounds great to the average person. “You are against the war on drugs? You must want babies to die too, right?”
It’s not a war on drugs. It is a war on families. Particularly minority families. Making drugs illegal will NEVER cause the problem to get better. When you use force and violence to attack a complex social problem you will see a short-term advantage and the long-term will be much worse. This is why the drug problem in the US has continually gotten worse since the WOD was initiated.
So how can we accept that legalizing drugs is the right thing to do? I know when I first heard about these arguments, I had a recoiling emotional response and I thought that legalizing drugs would be a terrible idea. Of course that was not based on any facts or evidence. It was an emotional response that was threatening my incorrect belief. Based on facts and evidence, I have now changed my stance.
Are drugs dangerous? Well, of course they can be but so can a paperclip.
Are drugs bad for your body? Overall, they can be very harmful to us. But so can cheesecake.
If I was selling you a $20 hit of heroin and I hand you the heroin and you hand me the $20, is either one of us using violence to get want we want? Is it not peaceful trade? Isn’t it a praxeological axiom that we both consider ourselves to be better off because of the trade? If it wasn’t, why did we trade? Is it fundamentally no different than if I was selling you a cheesecake or a box of paperclips? Trading, buying, selling drugs peacefully is not an immoral action. It may not be honorable or preferable, but it is not immoral.
People who need drugs are going to acquire them by any means necessary. Even if they are illegal. Even if they know they will go to jail. Even if they know they will lose their home. Even if they know they may die. We can see this very clearly now. The war on drugs; the criminalization of drugs is making this much worse. If drugs were legalized, we could rid society of the stigma associated with addicts who suffer under the life crushing violence of the state. Funds could then be used to help people who suffer from addiction problems. Open up more recovery options and widen the grasp of addiction treatment facilities. The possibilities would be opened up enormously and some real change could begin.
I believe this is moving humanity forward and extending the value of personhood. If you look back through history you can see the major leaps forward in mankind. Those moral shifts have allowed freedom and growth to take place in the human species. We used to eat each others flesh. Then we realized “hey this is kind of gross and wrong…and used up too much salt and pepper.” Then we enslaved other humans. Women had little to no rights. Then we realized “we are all human beings.” We kept universalizing and extending our ethical guidelines. I hope soon we will do this for the little people. Our children. Once we start treating them as full individual human beings we will see a growth in the world like no other. If we could evaluate the last few decades of the war on drugs, we would see the disaster for what it is. Making more laws around the same system will not help fix the disaster the state created. We must legalize all drugs, gambling, and prostitution if we truly want to make the problem better for our society.
I don’t want children or future children to believe that drugs are okay to use and that there are no problems with drugs. But you don’t solve that problem by creating laws against drugs. You do it through the peaceful raising of children and maintaining a nuclear family. There is no more of a non-answer in solving the drug problem than believing that creating more laws is helping the situation.
I understand I am making some pretty wild claims. If you disagree with me, please tell me where I am mistaken. I will correct my mistakes if better and more truthful arguments are brought forward. I believe it is important to accept reason and evidence, especially when talking about the zeitgeist of societies.