Balance Sheet

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Treating drug users instead of imprisoning them is saving the state of California money, reports the Los Angeles Times. And how much would we save if we instead let drug users…use? Just curious.

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  1. One hundred BILLION dollars.

  2. It seems to me, racist as is may sound, that the white and black communities (or maybe better: average and very poor) will suffer very differently under drug legalization.
    After all, weren’t many of the very tough laws we have now regarding cocaine, etc, instituted in 1982 or 3 by Congress in response to the meltdown in the black communities over drugs (CIA funded or not)? Take Spike Lee’s film Jungle Fever, which was really about the havoc drugs were reeking on black communities. If that’s what drug legalization would lead to, maybe it’s worth the financial and social costs to avoid that.

  3. Another point about the relative effect of drug legalization on different segments of the population –

    soft drug use (marijuana, etc.) and hard drug use (herion, opium, cocaine etc.) have always been with us. However, criminalization leads to incentives to use more hard drugs and to abuse any of them. A short historical summary – marijuana was popular with the black population of the US probably since there has been a black population. Racist attempts to crack down on pot led to the popularity of cocaine, which is more easily concealed and more potent. Cracking down on cocaine lead to crack (how appropriate a name when considered in this context) as a way to make small amounts of cocaine go farther and be more intoxicating.

    Aside from the historical example, there are a lot of reasons prohibition tends to make drug users match the stereotype that justifies the prohibition. The high penalties discourage responsible use (why risk imprisionment unless you’re going to get really fucked up), encourage fast use (snort that line before anyone sees us), higher potencies (less drugs = faster consumption + easier to hide on your person).

    One study suggested that states with lower penalties for marijuana had a higher number of people who had tried cocaine, seeming to lend some support to the ‘gateway’ effect. However in those states the actual number of regular cocaine users was lower, and overall cocaine use was lower. This would tend to indicate that given the choice, people would choose the less potent drugs and/or be more moderate(responsible, even) in their consumption of the stronger ones. And, of course, all the states in question still have criminal penalties for marijuana, so any gateway effect may be due to the shared illegal status of both drugs.

    Sure, the world will not be a happier place because people choose to be crack addicts. However I think that under drug legalization there would be fewer who end up going that route.

  4. Jim, et al – have you every heard of a little concept called “supply and demand”?

  5. Damn. I hate to see a state like California leading the way on this, but it’s inevitable, and it’s been going on for some time now.

    Tork: The idea of the addictive drug is very much ambiguous. Technically, cocaine doesn’t meet the criteria for physical addiction, though nicotine and alcohol do. Try to reconcile that with your statement. Unless you were being sarcastic. In which case, I withdraw.

  6. Sure, ever heard of a concept called ‘inelasticity?’

  7. Jim – so your contention is that drug use is completely inelastic? You honestly believe that if drugs were cheaper and easier to acquire and with the negative consequence of prison removed from the equation, that drug use would not increase? If so, you’re being ridiculous.

    What possible evidence would you have to support the contention that recreational drug demand curves do not resemble the demand curves for pretty much any other similar product?

    Sure, as one becomes addicted, the elasticity of demand decreases – but this does not have any implications for the elasticity of demand for first time or non-addicted users.

    The simple fact is that if the total cost of using declines, the total population of users will increase and the total population of heavy users will also increase.

    Acknowledging this fact does not necessarily imply that drugs should be illegal, but it does imply that you are in touch with reality.

  8. MTV makes me wanna smoke crack.

  9. Jim has a point.

    Here in Utah, you can buy 4% beer in the grocery store (Thanks, Anheuser Busch, for your generous bribes, errrr, campaign contributions to Utah state legislators.)

    But you have to buy anything stronger in the State Store. Imagine buying your booze from the DMV……

    Because we can buy “canoe” beer or stronger stuff in the state store, there’s not too much incentive to drink Bacardi 151 or Everclear and pretty much zero incentive to brew our own the basement.

    So far as I know, the Budweiser sales rep has never shot up the Coors sales reps house. The Miller sales rep has never blown up an Albertson’s because the Albertson’s was a little slow in paying for their cases.

  10. PLC, a few weeks ago in my local paper there was a story which stated that x abuse has increased 71% nationwide since 1999. In other words there is more use of the drug now than when it could be bought at the supermarket.

    “Forbidden fruit” is a powerful psychological incentive. If you doubt this just ask yourself these two questions:

    1. How many heavy drinkers do I know now?

    2. How many did I know in high school?

  11. geophile – so all those crack heads just really like sleeping in their own urine, foregoing food, housing, and employment? They couldn’t be addicted, right?

    If you point was that physical and psychological addictions are different – who cares?

    Could you honestly believe that the world would be a better place if crack, meth, and heroine were cheaper and easier to acquire?

  12. JDM,

    “How many crackheads would not want to be stopped, by whatever means, if they could see their own future before their addictions made them irrational?”

    Had I seen my own future, when in the irrational thrall of the hormones of my youth, I’d never have entered into a disasterous first marriage. Looking back with 100% hindsight, maybe I’d have had a better life if some omnipotent government had stopped me from making this hormone-addled choice by ‘whatever means necessary.’ (As I am sure you know, there are societies where individuals don’t make these choices.)

    Even so, I’d much rather live in a society where I’m free to make even the most irrational choices for myself – about whom to marry and what to consume – than one in which others decided those very basic things for me. Freedom is a good, no matter what individual does with that freedom – and no matter how others evaluate the choices others make in a free society.

  13. Dontcha – that’s exactly the problem with most libertarian arguments (by “the problem” I mean the reason why true-believer libertarians never convince anyone of anything). Freedom is not good “no matter what (an) individual does with that freedom” – it is good DESPITE what some will do with their freedom.

    If you want to convince people that some “soft” drugs should be legalized, you better be willing to argue that some “hard” drugs are too dangerous to be freely distributed (is there any civilized nation where you can buy heroine as freely and easily as, say, coca cola?) and that there will be negative consequencies to legalization (such as increased usage). Any legalization plan better include plans for dealing with the increase in usage…

  14. Jim N – your argument doesn’t stand up to reason. I don’t know any heavy drinkers now because I choose not to associate with them. In high school, I did not get to choose my peers.

    Of those with whom I did attend school, I can assure you that more of those people are heavy drinkers today at age 30 than were heavy drinkers at 18 when it was illegal.

    In fact, I don’t think I knew anyone in high school who drank more than once every few weeks, simply because it was difficult and dangerous to acquire and use alcohol.

    Also, several of the heavier (relatively speaking) users I knew from high school are dead now because of thier own stupidity (driving motorcycle into tree at 130 with a 0.23, etc.), so they’ve fallen out of the pool….

  15. PLC – The world would be better off if people stopped using the force of government to impose their values on others. If those crackheads you mention, or others, choose crack over food, shelter … and employment(!?), it’s their choice. And the world is better off because they are permitted that choice – whether or not it’s what you would choose for them.

    (And do you really think that crackheads – and the rest of us – should be forced into productive employment by the government because you think it serves some higher purpose or social good?)

  16. Dontcha,

    To repeat myself again, I agree that the government shouldn’t be making those types of decisions for people. That, however, is a practical matter. It is impossible to judge ahead of time whether something like a marriage or career choice is going to work out. Becoming a crackhead, however, is a much easier call. It is always a bad idea.

    It is arguable whether or not a government that legalizes crack is better than one which does not. It is not possible to say that the one which does legalize crack is better *because* people are free to choose to become crackheads.

  17. John wrote:

    “Brown people make money from illegal drugs and they don’t give any of the money they make to politicians.”

    Don’t count on it. If the truth be known, I’d bet the slush funds of the most ardent drug-warrior politicians contain quite a bit of laundered drug money. The crime lords who control the distribution networks gain more than anybody (except the jackboots) from drug prohibition.

  18. Just cullin’ the herd.

  19. Amsterdam- Beautiful City- a shame about the junkies…

    But that’s the cost of principles like libertarianism. Frankly, I believe the costs associated with the Drug War are MUCH higher than the cost of junkies/crackheads in the street. If drugs are cheaper, it’s possible that junkies could afford them with fast-food jobs, rather than, say, theft. If they were cheap enough, they could even afford to pay the rent, and eat- not that we believe junkies should be able to that, of course- at least, not until they bow to a power greater than themselves..

    The money we save on not incarcerating them could be used to create walk-in drug treatment centers. The money they made from their labor benefit all of us- at least, more so than all of us paying THEIR rent. (and as noted, their treatment is MUCh cheaper than their rent)

    Aside- heroin loses a lot of it’s appeal when you see in real life (as opposed to PSA’s and movies- they take opposite tacks, but, perversely, both make addictive drugs more appealing…). Amsterdam, for all of it’s frat boy tourists, has a lower pot use rate than the US.

  20. Apropos of drug use and legalization: I’ve been reading through the Sherlock Holmes stories (written 1887-1927, set 1881-1899, roughly), and there are more than a few mentions of drug use. Sherlock Holmes was a recreational cocaine and morphine user; Watson strongly disapproves on medical and moral grounds, but the idea of using any force, including the force of the state, to stop him is never breached. In one story (“The Man With the Twisted Lip”, I think) there is mention of an opium den and the men who waste their lives there, but nothing about its illegality – because, as others have pointed out, at that time, you could buy “hard drugs” in the local drugstore.

    Anyway, the point is that societies, including “industrialized”, “Western” societies, have plenty of experience with complete drug legalization, if we care to look around a bit. If we legalized everything, would there still be junkies and crack houses? Absolutely. But we’ve already experimented with complete illegalization, and that costs a ton of money and is destructive of civil liberties, and we still have junkies and crack houses.

    (Other Sherlockiana of interest to libertarians: Watson frequently carries a concealed revolver, needing apparently no permit for either ownership or carry. Watson describes Holmes’ habit of live-fire pistol practice in his living room as alarming and eccentric in the extreme, but again, no concern about legality is raised – although I find it hard to believe it wouldn’t have been illegal. An amusing statist note is sounded by a minor character in “The Valley of Fear”: a mysterious bicycle is found, and a local constable expresses the wish that all bicycles were licensed and registered – this, after finding a murdered man laying next to a sawed-off shotgun, which arouses nothing more than curiosity about the origins of such an odd weapon. And, of course, just about everybody in the stories smokes like a chimney.)

  21. PLC: “is there any civilized nation where you can buy heroine as freely and easily as, say, coca cola?”

    See my post above. There was, assuming you call Victorian England or Teddy Roosevelt-era America civilized, which I think most people would. History’s fun for that – when hysterical anti’s shout “Civilized countries do not let people walk around with deadly weapons!” or “Civilized countries do not let their citizens ruin their lives with drugs!”, you can ask them sweetly if they don’t think Victorian England was civilized, and watch them gape and sputter.

  22. From the article:

    “That measure funnels drug offenders to treatment programs rather than prison; drug court handles repeat offenders, as well as those accused of non-drug crimes motivated by substance abuse.”

    I wonder who pays for those treatment programs. I guessing… the offender. Sounds like a profit center for someone.

  23. “If those crackheads you mention, or others, choose crack over food, shelter … and employment(!?), it’s their choice. And the world is better off because they are permitted that choice – whether or not it’s what you would choose for them.”

    That’s nothing but insane libertarian dogma.

    Allowing the specific choice to become a crackhead does not make the world a better place. The benefit of stopping the drug war comes from ending its attendant costs, not from allowing people to waste their lives in abject misery.

  24. B,

    The current drug regime forces the drug market into the poor, urban, minority communities you’re concerned about – which is where the white suburbanites who keep the drug trade profitable go to buy their drugs. If drugs were legal, the supply side that would meet the demand would not be wrecking urban neighborhoods. I live in a city, and I’m a lot more afraid of the drug dealers than the drug users.

    PLC – what makes you think drug legalization would make drugs cheaper and easier to acquire? Could crack get any cheaper? Heroin costs have dropped about 90% in the last 20 years. And as for availability, the crack heads don’t seem to be having any trouble scoring right now, do they?

  25. “Addictive drugs should remain illegal because the havoc–as it were–doesn’t announce itself. I appreciate it when I’m steered away (in vain, even) from the cesspools of indulgence. And that’s there all there is to say about that.”

    Got it — all drug laws should be considered only in light of whether they personally make your life more convenient and expedient. *That’s* a good standard.

    The idea that drug laws should be considered in the light of what the government should and should not be able to do? Ridiculous!

  26. JDM:

    What gives you the right to dictate to another human how they should handle their own life? If they aren’t injuring another party, there’s nothing at all insane about the “libertarian dogma” here.

  27. There’s something at least as dogmatic, and infinitely more frightening, about the notion that /making/ (emphasis on the “make”) people happy is just obviously what government ought to do, by whatever means. It’s just, sadly, so widespread that it doesn’t seem to occur to most people that they, too, are advancing a specific moral theory. And a far more dogmatic one, since as the intutitive “default” for most people now, its grounds (or lack thereof) aren’t examined by the people who hold it.

  28. PLC cracks me up. Hey, how’s the economy? You telling everybody to buy, buy, buy like you have for the last two years?

    You work with people who have blown coke and you don’t even know it.

  29. Why are we wasting Reason’s bandwidth with this?

    -White people make money from alcohol, tobacco & prescription drugs, and they take some of this money and give it to politicians in the form of bribes, errrrr, campaign contributions.

    -Brown people make money from illegal drugs and they don’t give any of the money they make to politicians.

    Drugs will remain illegal until some politician figures out that Amalgamated Michoacan or Consolidated Peyote would give him as much money as Budweiser or Phillip Morris would.

  30. JDM,

    Freedom from government control over matters that only affect oneself is not a pratical matter for many of us, but rather a basic moral principle.

    For you, the decision of whether to use crack may be an easy call. But you tread dangerously close to the line the line that separates tyranny from freedom when you seek to impose that same value on others. There are many in this country who believe that abortion is always wrong – not merely as a moral matter, but also as it affects the woman who has the abortion. (Indeed there is a whole body of literature by and about women who consider having had an abortion among the worst mistakes they’ve ever made.) Many people would like nothing more than to prevent other women from what they think is the grave mistake of having an abortion. Freedom for them is secondary to preventing these women from making a choice they’ll regret. And some of them surely will regret it. Just as some – or even most, but surely not all – crackheads will regret their choices. The only principled difference between the anti-abortionists and you the behavior they seek to prevent by force of the state’s police power. But then, as you say, freedom is only a practical matter.

  31. Hey JD Weiner, when I hear some buffoon trumpeting his own profound ignorance by referring to Victorian England as “civilized” I have to chuckle. Let’s see….

    Life expectancy for laborers and servants was 22 years; life expectancy of the upper class was 45 years; 1/2 of all children of farmers, laborers, artisans, and servants died before reaching their fifth birthday; children began working 16 hour days at the age of four.

    Victorian England was poverty, filth, crime, disease, and wretched death.

    Oh, and how ’bout this tidbit: one of the major causes of the astronomical infant mortality was the widespread practice of giving OPIUM to infants in order to quiet them. They “shrank up into little old men” and became “wizened like little monkeys”. Thank God the government was not imposing upon the freedom of mothers to drug their children!

    You may have heard less ignorant people talk about a little known victorian writer named Charles Dickens. Perhaps you should pick up one of his volumes; I’d recommend beginning with Oliver Twist.

  32. Addictive drugs should remain illegal because the havoc–as it were–doesn’t announce itself. I appreciate it when I’m steered away (in vain, even) from the cesspools of indulgence. And that’s there all there is to say about that.

  33. Ahh, but what about Sarah’s question? Rather than arrest and prosecute, California allows “treatment.” As I recall, some famous singer trying to board a plane was searched, joints were found, and she’s agreed to undergo “treatment.”

    Ecxuse the inference, but she seems to be managing this monkey on her back quite well.

    Sarah’s question asks why drug users need treatment. Note that the crackheads in their own urine are not the ones getting arrested, but instead people who manage to both lead functioning lives and use drugs.

    I know social drinkers who are not alcoholics; they do not need treatment. I know tobacco users who seem to pay their bills and still feed their habit. Why “treatment” instead of acceptance?

  34. John, Julian – The dogma I’m talking about is the idea that all free choice is good. As a practical matter, I agree that the world would be better off with governments that did not regulate personal behavior in the sense you are talking about. I disagree that it is better *because* people are allowed to make bad decisions. The bad decisions are an unfortunate consequence of a more free world. I also disagree with the notion that good and bad are completely relative.

    How many crackheads would not want to be stopped, by whatever means, if they could see their own future before their addictions made them irrational?

  35. Dontcha – just a point of clarification: I don’t think “joe” and “JDM” are the same person.

  36. Thanks PLC. I stand corrected. And my apologies to both JDM and joe.

  37. Dontcha,

    Please try to read more carefully. I’m for limited government. Limited government leads to freedom which allows people to pursue the good. Freedom also leads to some things which are not good. If you continuously stop short of the actual end of the chain of reasoning and propound that freedom is good in and of itself, you will continue to be quoting nothing but your own religion.

  38. JDM,

    I read you pretty clearly I think. You’re for limited government in the areas that don’t matter to you. But for things that do matter to you – crack cocaine apparently is one – you’re all for using government to impose your views on others. If the case against cocaine is as strong as you say it is, then perhaps you could use your considerable powers of persuasion to convice potential users to avoid it – voluntarily. But like the anti-abortionists, who can’t convince everyone else of the rightness of their position, you have no problem using force when you can’t persuade. I’m happy to be dogmatically or religiously in opposition to that kind of pragmatism.

  39. I was a hard drug user and lived a fine and decent life. I never harmed anyone or stolen from anyone. I wasn’t an addict, but used enough to be classified as an addict by government fear mongers. Today I rarely use and still live a fine and decent life. But I wonder where I would be now if i had ever been caught by my government? It’s scary to think about how my life could have been destroyed in the name saving it.

    The problem with the drug war is that it draws no distinction between the crackhead wallowing in his own urine and the recreational user like me who just wants to be left alone. People like me far outnumber the crackheads. But, we are all targets. And those of you who support the drug war look the other way as thousands and thousands of people like me are jailed, just because you want to save some crackhead.

  40. PLC, if you don’t like the questions about high schoolers and alcohol, fine; I won’t insist on the point. I will insist on the point about ecstacy though. Use is sharply up.

    Also, you might find this interesting:

    “In Amsterdam, using marijuana is legal. Holland now has hundreds of ‘coffee shops’ where marijuana is officially tolerated. Clients pick up small amounts of marijuana the same way they would pick up a bottle of wine at the store.”

    “What has been the result of legalizing marijuana? Is everyone getting stoned? No. In America today 38 percent of adolescents have smoked pot ? in Holland, it’s only 20 percent.

    “What Amsterdam police did was take the glamour out of drug use, explains Judge Gray. The Dutch minister of health has said, ‘We’ve succeeded in making pot boring.'”

    Also, remember that one of the reasons alcohol prohibition was repealed is because it was pathetically ineffective. People who wanted a drink would go get a drink.

    You laid out a hypothesis that legalisation would result in greater drug use. The experiments show us that this is not at all clear — in fact it may be the opposite.

    Acknowledging this fact does not necessarily imply that drugs should be legal, but it does imply that you are in touch with reality.

  41. I have not advocated here for the Drug War. My point is exactly this – if someone asks you why freedom or anything else is good, you need to have an answer.

    “Those of you who support the drug war look the other way as thousands and thousands of people like me are jailed.” See? That’s an actual argument. Maybe hard drugs do less damage to the ability to reason than pot.

  42. “And those of you who support the drug war look the other way as thousands and thousands of people like me are jailed, just because you want to save some crackhead.”

    – I hope Dave Id won’t be terribly offended by this (assuming his assertions of drug use are truthful) but I’d argue that part of the problem with the drug war is that not enough people like him are jailed. Not because people like him *should* be jailed, but because if more like him were jailed, it would give a public face to the conscientious user, helping to shatter the deadbeat-junkie myth. If more users like Robert Downey Jr. were brought to trial, we’d see that people can actually use drugs and be fully productive at the same time. (Not that acting is a real labor-intensive proposition, but my point remains.)

  43. JDM, I don’t see how that argument is any different. Seeing a drug user being jailed as bad relies on your seeing drug use as something that should not be illegal.

    If someone asked me why freedom is good, I have to admit that I would be speechless. Why are love, pleasure and peace good? If a person doesn’t just see them as good automatically then what hope is there for that person?

  44. Jim N,

    Love and pleasure are ends in themselves. The words mean, essentially, “what you want.” Or “the good.” If someone claims not to want them, it is because he or she does not understand what the words mean. Peace is similar to freedom. It can lead to either good or bad ends. Libertarians like to say that people choose security over freedom. That isn’t true. Security is a set of tangible ends – a SS check, free healthcare, etc. People choose these ends, and choose to pay the costs because they are not aware that there is a better way. Freedom, on the other hand, has become religion. This is especially sad because a freer society leads to better ends which can easily be ennumerated.

    My objection is to statements like: “the world is a better place because crackheads are free to become crackheads.” This is absurd dogma. A free world is better in spite of the fact that some will choose to be crackheads.

  45. JDM,

    No one here, at least as I read the comments, is arguing that you shouldn’t be free to hold the judgement that crack is bad stuff, or that you shouldn’t be free to argue that point ad nauseam. I suspect that the overwhelming majority view, even among the dogmatic libertarians on this board, is that crack is bad stuff.

    Where we part company is when you assert the right to impose your judgements by force. Is this dogmatic libertarianism? Probably. But it’s also probably the logical view to hold by those who want to live in a free society. Freedom isn’t a tool to be used when it suits ends you desire only to be discarded when it doesn’t lead to the results you’d like. It’s a good in and of itself. Free societies are better than non-free societies. Period.

  46. Dontcha,

    “Where we part company is when you assert the right to impose your judgements by force.”

    I haven’t said that once. Where we part company is that I can explain why freedom is good, and understand that it is necessary to do so, whereas you simply state that it is, and accept that you are in the right.

  47. JDM,

    I think you are right: some of us don’t feel the need to explain why freedom is good, and are puzzled (and even offended) that we should have to do so. Freedom is, in our worldview, a basic moral principle and a natural right: not a means to an end or something artifically created as a pragmatic and convenient way to organize society. That is the difference between you and me. You may sneer at this kind of fundamental belief in freedom as religion or dogma, and I admit it has that kind of intensity to it. But I think I more or less agree with Jim N: if we live in a society where the majority can’t see and accept the ‘self evidence of certain truths’, we’re in a pretty precarious state.

  48. PLC,

    You say,

    “If you want to convince people that some “soft” drugs should be legalized, you better be willing to argue that some “hard” drugs are too dangerous to be freely distributed (is there any civilized nation where you can buy heroine as freely and easily as, say, coca cola?) and that there will be negative consequencies to legalization (such as increased usage). Any legalization plan better include plans for dealing with the increase in usage…”

    You miss my point entirely. I have no interest in restructuring the government’s various lists of what it allows its citizens to consume, and what it does not. I want to abolish such lists entirely as inconsistent with the natural rights of free people. I don’t think such rights are significantly enhanced because the government decides to move a given ‘soft’ drug from one list to the other. It is the existence of the lists at all that is the problem.

    I don’t think supporters of freedom need to suggest ways to ameloriate the putative problems attendant to increased freedom. Our arguments are principled, not pragmatic. (And in any event, in the case of the drug war, it seems to me that the burden is on those of you who support its continuation. The over-documented financial and human costs of that endeavor seem manifestly to out weigh any good to society attending its continuation.)

  49. Anonymous,

    I will say for the fourth time now, that I don’t think the government should be in the business of regulating personal behavior.

    I’d like to thank you, however, for your assertion that preventing people from using crack is dangerously close to tyranny. Nothing I could say myself could better make my point about the absurdity of libertarian dogma.

  50. Dontcha,

    Freedom and liberty are not the same thing. Iraqis huddled inside their homes because the streets are full of armed thugs are not free. Taking away some of the thugs’ liberty would increase freedom – not just in a zero sum way, but overall.

    An argument can be made that drug laws increase freedom. Fewer addicts victimizing the public (robbery, freaked out violence, etc.) would make America more free, since the threat of drug crime changes people’s behavior coercively, making them less free. People who argue this are not wrong on their logic, just on their assumption that drug laws produce fewer, less dangerous addicts.

    Whether reducing liberty via drug laws is worth an increase in freedom via the removal of drug violence is an interesting philosophical debate. Realistically, though, it’s not the choice we’re facing – drug laws increase violence.

  51. Lo and behold I was wrong! As I wrote that post Dontcha piped in with:

    “I don’t think supporters of freedom need to suggest ways to ameloriate the putative problems attendant to increased freedom.”

    Good for you! I think the Easter Bunny should magically deliver a better life to me and everyone just for fun!

  52. JDM,

    “An argument can be made that drug laws increase freedom.”

    All sorts of “arguments can be made” that we’d live in a better society if only we violated some of our basic principles – in a limited way, or for a limited time, of course. Supporters of slavery made these arguments. And as you point out, supporters of the drug war use these arguments today. The reason we hold certain truths to be self-evident, or certain rights to be inviolable is to forstall temporal and pragmatic assaults on them because good “arguments can be made.”

    You quite clearly imply that you’d be willing to enter into a discussion as to whether it’s ok for the government to violate our basic, natural, individual rights in the name of some greater societal good – if only a convincing argument can be made. We dogmatic, religious libertarians are not willing to enter into this kind of discourse in the same ways that we’d not be willing to enter into a discussion of the merits and demerits of slavery.

    I wonder how far you’d be willing to take your casual pragmatic approach to balancing freedom and societal good. An argument can be made that rabble-rousing speech, or certain religious proselytization would lead those who hear it to commit terrible acts. If you were convinced of the logic of such arguments, would you be willing to suspend the first amendment protection of such speech or religious activity?

  53. No, JDM, you don’t think the Easter Bunny should deliver a better life to you just for fun. You believe something even more fantastic: that the government should – and can – deliver a better life to everyone. This is a fatal conceit that’s been proven wrong in practice time and time again. Some people just never learn.

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