Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Drugs and Human Rights


It is unsurprising that folks who are immersed in economic thinking agree that the drug war cannot work. I admit that that was the road taken to my personal position and no other issues have actually been able to give me room for modification of that position. Plainly human actions have economic consequences and governmental actions have direct influence on those consequences. It follows as night follows day that successfully modifying human outcomes must first come from effective government action.

Fifty years of government action has only expanded the drug and related criminal problem into every neighborhood. That makes it an experiment whose rational has failed totally and thus it is time to make changes as I have already posted.

The one sentiment that I disagree with is the idea that the human being as citizen owns his own life in such absolute terms as expressed in this letter. At its most benign, society imposes bounds and limits and a person’s social peers provide many additional more pressing bounds and limits. Therefore it follows that to conduct yourself in such a manner as to even destroy your ability to contribute and at worse become a burden on others is not acceptable. Somewhere there is a threshold and below that threshold society will demand better.

It follows that while ingesting substances is initially a matter of personal choice and can in specific cases be successfully managed regardless of the naysayers without a loss of social contribution as are both alcohol and tobacco, it does not follow that a person whose judgment has failed is any longer able to exercise such choice and is in fact a slave to the substance and requires medical intervention.

Society is the net result of the contributions of all its members and society must be able to optimize all contributions to advance optimally. Thus the idea of some perfect freedom is contrary to all human history and is in fact a rejection of the idea of civilization itself which has never been about perfect freedom but about mutual security that frees the member from a range of cares and supports a broad range of acceptable behavior.

Waging War on the 'War on Drugs'

Don Boudreaux

Here's a letter that I sent a few days ago to the New York Times:

It's heartening that so many of your readers support drug legalization (
Letters, June 18). As they, and columnist Nicholas Kristof, point out, there are indeed many practical reasons to end the cruel and futile 'war on drugs.' But there's also an ethical reason to do so: each adult owns his or her life and only his or her own life. It's none of my business what you ingest. Nor is it the business of my neighbor or of my co-workers. This fact does not change if my neighbor, co-workers, and I form a coalition and vote to govern your ingestion.A society truly free tolerates all peaceful actions, from the sublime through the self-destructive.

Sincerely,Donald J. Boudreaux

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