Archive for June 5, 2013

The Bizarre “Rationalization” of Drug Prohibition

June 5, 2013 14 comments

One of the most common “rationalization” against legalizing all drugs goes something like this..

“We are just trying to protect some people from harming themselves”

But is that “rationalization” based in anything even remotely approaching reality. Who exactly are the ‘We’ in that statement? Why are ‘some people’ deliberately ‘harming’ themselves in the first place? And why are ‘We’ interested in ‘protecting’ those people from themselves? My interest in examining this “rationalization” is part of a much larger issue that will be explored in more detail in an upcoming series of posts.

Let us start by looking at the cherished belief that a group has an altruistic and humanitarian interest in stopping some of its members from harming themselves. Is that really the case? Do you see evidence of it around you? Many of you might point out to the plethora of laws and regulations concerning everything from food safety, building and zoning codes to occupational health and safety regulations as evidence that ‘society’ cares for the safety and well-being its members. But is it really about altruistic or humanistic concern? If so, why did we not have such laws and regulations for most of human history? Why did they suddenly start appearing in the last hundred years and then became far more pervasive and widespread in the last 60 years? What changed?

There are those of you who will say that increased standards of living created by capitalism allowed people to become more comfortable and therefore more humane. While that is a partially true and heartwarming story, it does not explain the most important feature of the ‘need’ to legislate and regulate in the name of social good.

Why have the number of laws and regulations meant to keep ‘us’ safe from ‘bad things’ increased at an exponential pace in the last 40 years? Why are they getting ever more complex?

While almost nobody will oppose laws or regulations that should make food safer, how many of the ones passed since the mid-1980s have actually done that? How many had the opposite effect? What about laws concerning building codes and regulations? How many of the ones passed in the last 30 years have made things better? How many have made them worse? How many of the zoning codes passed in the last 30 years have made the world a better and safer place? How many were about ego, racism and rent-seeking? In my opinion, legislation and regulations to make ‘us’ safer are NOW mostly about extracting more money from the rest of society. It is about creating new or bigger revenue streams for businesses with the right connections. It is also about employing more people to create bigger corporate and public sector fiefdoms.

In short, laws and regulations to ‘maintain and improve public safety’ are now about everything but their originally intended and still advertised purpose.

But that is not an aberration. People in positions of power inside any system of governance have never been interested in improving the lives of their subjects. All types of leaders, wannabe leaders, priests (“experts”), bureaucrats and institutions throughout human history have always focused on facilitating maximal rent extraction for the benefit of a few via systemic impoverishment, abuse and exploitation of everybody else. Indeed, this aspect of governance is remarkably consistent across systems as diverse as state communism, state capitalism, “free market” capitalism, monarchies, dictatorships AND corporations.

Therefore, all those people who push for more ‘public safety’ are doing it to accumulate more power and money. They have no interest in ‘public safety’ beyond what is necessary to maintain an image of action and competence. It is not unlike all those “cure cancer” charities who are in it for the money, power and status rather than any desire to facilitate the discovery of better treatments for cancers. Now that we have established the true motivations of the ‘do good’ crowd, let us turn to the other part of the problem.

Why are ‘some people’ so heavily into ‘harming’ themselves?

Let us begin this part by acknowledging that people without severe brain damage or disease are simply not into harming themselves. While people might flirt with dangerous situations to make themselves feel more alive, they have no real interest in getting seriously hurt or dead. We like our vampires in books, films, TV shows and Halloween parties- not real life. Zombie apocalypse themed movies and TV shows are far more popular than the real deal. Similarly, women are into spankings, bondage and role-play to a point where they can enjoy it without feeling genuinely scared.

To make a long story short, people with options do not willingly put themselves in a situation where they are at a serious risk of bodily harm or death. That is also why people prefer to drink wine or beer vs say toilet cleaner or gasoline. Now you might say- Wouldn’t a 2-year kid drink toilet cleaner, given the chance? And my answer is.. Yes, but only because they cannot comprehend the concept that toilet cleaner is poisonous. How many 6- or 10-year old kids accidentally or deliberately drink toilet cleaner? Similarly, while a 6- year old might burn himself while playing with fire, it is almost always never intentional.

But is that the case when adults do drugs? What percentage of adults who do drugs (“legal” or “illegal”) are unaware of what they are doing or the risk associated with doing them? Short of mislabeling or adulteration- drug users are very aware of what drugs they are doing, how often they are doing them and why want to get high. It is therefore no accident that the vast majority of people who have used drugs (“legal” or “illegal”) are sporadic, occasional or habitual users with an otherwise ‘normal’ lifestyle. Those who go on to become dependent or addicted to any given drug are always a small percentage of those who have ever done that drug.

While there are many risk factors for becoming dependent or addicted to drugs, they all converge back to one issue. People who use a lot of drugs, all the time, are very unhappy and unsatisfied with their lives when they are not high. Now you can try to ascertain whether said lack of happiness and satisfaction is ‘real’ or ‘not real’, but isn’t pretty much all of what we consider “reality” in our heads.

Drug use to the point of physical dependence or addiction should therefore be seen as an attempt at self-medication, rather than some “moral” flaw or desire to be “anti-social”.

The war on drugs has never been about ‘protecting’ all those ‘irresponsible’ and ‘self-destructive’ people from themselves. Indeed, it does not even require the existence of such mythical characters. The war on drugs has always been about killing and persecuting people ‘they’ did not like, typically non-whites and poorer whites. It has also been about intimidating, dominating and abusing the rest AND making them foot the bill for it.

What do you think? Comments?