A libertarian defense for the War on Some Drugs

I’m about to do something I loath.  I find it very distasteful to cite the Oregonian without attacking it.  But one can find valuable things even in puddles of bile and vomitus.  From the article:

Horrific murder no surprise in meth capital of US

Jan. 21, 2012, 6:03 p.m. PST
FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — When a 23-year-old Fresno woman fatally shot her two toddlers and a cousin, critically wounded her husband then turned the gun on herself last Sunday, investigators immediately suspected methamphetamine abuse in what otherwise was inexplicable carnage. It turned out the mother had videotaped herself smoking meth hours before the shooting…
A Bakersfield mother was sentenced Tuesday for stabbing her newborn while in a meth rage. An Oklahoma woman drowned her baby in a washing machine in November. A New Mexico woman claiming to be God stabbed her son with a screwdriver last month, saying, “God wants him dead.”
“Once people who are on meth become psychotic, they are very dangerous,” said Dr. Alex Stalcup, who treated Haight Ashbury heroin users in the 1960s, but now researches meth and works with addicts in the San Francisco Bay Area suburbs. “They’re completely bonkers; they’re nuts. We’re talking about very extreme alterations of normal brain function. Once someone becomes triggered to violence, there aren’t any limits or boundaries.”
The Central Valley of California is a hub of the nation’s methamphetamine distribution network, making extremely pure forms of the drug easily available locally. And law enforcement officials say widespread meth abuse is believed to be driving much of the crime in the vast farming region.
Chronic use of the harsh chemical compound known as speed or crank can lead to psychosis, which includes hearing voices and experiencing hallucinations. The stimulant effect of meth is up to 50 times longer than cocaine, experts say, so users stay awake for days on end, impairing cognitive function and contributing to extreme paranoia.
“Your children and your spouse become your worst enemy, and you truly believe they are after you,” said Bob Pennal, a recently retired meth investigator from the California Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement.
I am not an expert on meth, but from what I’ve heard and read, it’s probably not a good idea to take up the habit.  Perhaps it is possible to be a casual meth user, just as there are casual users of many other illegal drugs.  But the analogy that came to my mind, and I’m certain I’m not the first to think of it, is that of a person who releases a dangerous beast into an inhabited area.  If that animal injures somebody, the responsibility goes back to the person who released it.
To damage one’s mind, in such a way that he becomes a danger and nuisance to those around him, is the equivalent of releasing a dangerous beast upon the unsuspecting public.  Whether he releases an actual beast, or turns himself into a beast, is immaterial; either way, people find themselves in danger because of his actions.
It is unfortunate that we must take government opinions, and studies, with a grain of salt.  It is difficult to trust them.  But if there were a substance that, upon repeated ingestion, caused people to become beasts, I can see how a ban on that substance could make sense.
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18 Responses to A libertarian defense for the War on Some Drugs

  1. Don’t you libertarians hate the war on drugs?
    I like it because it keeps NAMs in prison, and it will someday provide an excuse for when we inevitably invade Mexico.

    • jewamongyou says:

      Libertarians believe in individual rights. This includes the right to not be victimized by people who have lost their minds due to their own poor choices. At least it can be so argued.
      I agree that the war on some drugs locks up a lot of undesirables as a byproduct.

    • a random user name says:

      Invading Mexico would only lead to a wave of refugees or Mexico being admitted as another state (and a wave of Mexican migrants who would be just moving to another state and thus require no green card). Is that really what you want? What is needed is enforcement of the borders, no more amnesty, and repatriation.

  2. Mark says:

    Living in Bakersfield and Fresno at different points in my life I can say I have never seen places ravaged by drugs as them by meth. Bakersfield has a whole suburb of 30,000 people in Oildale that is nothing like you’ve ever seen.

  3. Curt says:

    For the benefit of others (since it took a while for me to find):
    NAM : “Non-Asian Minority”. “East Asians (and hindus) assimilate well into American society – their only disruption being that they alter the grading curve (Which would repair itself if the educational system wouldn’t start white boys in school until seven or eight as in the Finnish model.) Non-asian minorities do not assimilate or assimilate poorly and form a permanent underclass.”

  4. WmarkW says:

    I’m going to shorten a long argument here:
    Libertarians are generally smart people, but don’t have a lot of personal experience encountering diversity. Their experience with drugs is college students smoking weed or suburbanites snorting a line on weekends. If those populations were the extent of drug use, the legalizing would be OK, because they can compartimentalize drug use into one corner of their lives while living productively the rest of the time.
    But visit a NAM-ghetto and you’ll see lives completely wasted on whatever drug is available — chronic drunks, and crack-addicted parents who don’t supervise their kids. It’s making drugs more easily available to THAT population that would be a societal disaster. Libertarians might argue, “if they off themselves, what’s the worry to the rest of us?” The answer is, until society is completely libertarian, we’ll throw away too many resources trying to salvage them.

  5. destructure says:

    I’m sympathetic to libertarianism but I’m not a pure libertarian. Because too many libertarians take libertarianism to an extreme. Supporting the legalization of drugs one knows to be dangerous and highly addictive is an extreme position. At that point, libertarianism ceases to be a socio-economic model and starts to become a belief system.

  6. You’re right that there’s no single libertarian position for things like this. Libertarians would usually defend any drug sale based on mutual informed consent. It’s no good to promise to pay for your aspirin on Tuesday and not pay – the libertarian courts will get you for breach of contract. It’s no good to sell someone aspirin laced with bleach and say, “It was a private arrangement of mutual consent!”–no informed, sane person would consent to taking bleach pills.
    Meth is in a gray area. People theoretically know the risks. Even teenagers are informed, and wise, and courageous. Just ask them! As long as we treat the sane different from the insane, and we recognize that “You have to be crazy to want to take meth!”, you have your justification for banning meth.
    I’m reluctant to label people crazy based solely on predilictions. My drug policy solution (not original by any means) is to license recreational drug sellers and ban them from normal advertising. Someone willing to find drugs by word of mouth, break the law, and risk their health, is going to be difficult to restrain by threat of prison.
    That doesn’t mean everyone needs to be treated as a legitimate drug buyer. The truly insane should be confined to institutions (not that institutional personnel should be allowed to make that decision, for a long term, on their own). Legitimate drug sales should be kept from teenagers, one way or another.
    The effect would be too dissatisfying though. Legalize, Tax & Regulate may be the most harm-reducing solution. The carload of drugs would remain decent physical evidence for throwing a gangster in prison in most cases–legitimate drug transportation (manufacturer to licensed seller) could be carefully controlled in marked containers, to be transported in daylight, etc. Trouble is, it would feel like the worst of both worlds to too many people–grownups getting wasted (“wasted” in a literal sense) legally, while cops have to keep chasing the dealers who sell to teenagers.
    So I doubt drugs will be legalized.
    (Incidentally, I’ve never gotten much response from libertarians on the question of whether they want to legalize (a) taking drugs in public and (b) selling drugs to minors. They seem to believe that ending the drug war is a simple business.)

    • jewamongyou says:

      Good explanation. For what it’s worth, my answer to your last questions are: a) Generally it should be legal to take drugs in public and b) No, it should not be legal to sell drugs to minors. The definition of “minor” is problematic though.

      • Tank says:

        Don’t know why you’d have any problem finding Libertarians to answer those questions. jewamongyou’s answer is short, but good enough. Not only should you be able to take drugs in public, the “public” is full of people who you don’t know are taking drugs, but are (legal and illegal, with the legal ones often more debilitating and dangerous than the illegal).
        As for children, they’re not adults and can’t consent. They should be protected here, as they are in so many areas of life.
        Warning, other LIbertarians may differ with my opinions (LOL – it’s the nature of the beast).

  7. I object to using the term beast to describe a dangerous person. The fact the term beast has been used in this way reflects a speciesist(speciesism refers to disrespect for non-human life) attitude in human society.

    • jewamongyou says:

      It’s hard to tell if you’re being serious. How else would you describe wild animals that are dangerous?

      • I’m being serious. If you look at the way people use the word animal and various other words that refer to animals they use those words to describe negative human qualities. And this reveals that many are using language in a way that is very degrading to animals. This sort of use of language contributes to the horrible way in which non-human animals are treated by humans. Morally speaking humans are not superior to non-human animals. That fact is evident through the study of history.

      • Furthermore when humans are at their worst they do far worse than any particular animal has ever done. I’m not saying humans are worse than animals. I think humans and other animals are equal in the eyes of God though.

  8. countenance says:

    One problem with meth, besides all the others: The variety that Mexican gangs like to cook and distribute is way worse than the amateur hour junk that white trash cook in trailer parks. That’s the unintended consequence (at least around here in the Midwest) of all these states ending the trailer park operations by constricting the legal supply of cold pills — The meth addicts still need their fix, and the Mexican gangs are right there to fill the supply void with their even more dangerous junk.

  9. Californian says:

    The government has promoted so much misinformation over drugs that a lot of people tend to dismiss real dangers posed by some drugs. If you were told in grade school that all marijuana smokers become heroin addicts, would you believe that meth or crack is such a bad thing (even if it is!)? Credibility has long since been shot.
    We do need truthful information about drugs so we can make unbiased judgements and policies, but the exigencies of the drug war will not allow this. Actually, that info is out there, you just have to dig for it. Interestingly enough, several government commissions have recommended decriminalizing cannabis, but this seems to be the number one target for drug enforcement.
    Another point to be considered (per WmarkW) is that different groups respond to drug use differently. For some, drugs are a mind expanding experience, for others it is a disaster. Be interesting to see if there is a genetic component in there.

  10. Frank says:

    Goverment cracking down on meth has only made the problem worse. In the 2000s US states banned/restricted the sale of over the counter medications that local cooks used to manufacture meth. In response, production moved south to Mexico, where there were fewer restrictions. However, enterprising Mexican cartels, having much experience in the drug game, tinkered with the formula, and started importing large amounts of chemical precursors to be cooked in industrial-sized labs, producing a more potent form of meth cheapely in large amounts. Now, American cities are flooded with this new super-meth. Author Sam Quinones documented this his book the The Least of Us. Basically, goverment intervetion into the old-school days of meth manufacture completely backfired, only made the problem worse. If goverment legalized meth, they could produce for sale a milder form that’s not so destructive.

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