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Tuesday, April 17, 2012


This article was originally posted on the Ad Orientem Blog:

I'm not entirely sure about the topic of legalization of hard 'street' drugs, but here are a few things to think about:

Both of these studies show that, in the US, crime is on an over-all decline.  Yes, there are record numbers of drug arrests and incarcerations, but there are also record numbers in prisons for all kinds of offenses.

Prison stops bad people from doing bad things on the streets.  What I am not sure of is whether legalization of drugs will alter these overall trends or not. 

What I do know is that if drugs are legalized, there will be higher levels of experimentation.  This will undoubtedly lead to higher incidents of addiction, since more people will be able to access their 'allergic' reactions to these drugs that they would otherwise never know without such experimentation.

Drug addiction and work are usually mutually-exclusive realms, and so a society that legalizes drugs should consider whether it is willing to pay for the upkeep of addicts.  And, most of us know, addicts are socially expensive.  They consume vast quantities of resources already, from emeregency room services to social services for their families.  They will undoubtedly require more of these services, more than we already provide.

So, if you think permitting people to use cocaine will save on the cost of imprisonment, what do you expect the social costs will be when that same coke addict can't work and requires more public assistance.

The underlying reality is the 'dependency' means more than a chemical arrangement.  Addicts are dependent on the rest of the world to feed and care for them.  Society must make some choices: do we want to care for more people or not?  Society regulates behaviors in large part because there there is a collective sense of responsibility.  What that means is when a behavior effects your neighbor, then expect the government to get involved.

If the government is not involved, then it becomes a matter strictly for the individual.  So, if you are allowed to take drugs as you see fit as a personal choice without government interference, then you should bear the consequences on your own.  Societally-speaking, however, we should be prepared for people who will become irresponsibly addicted.

Is society willing to allow these addicts to kill themselves, more than likely in a very slow and very public way?  Right now, the societal expectation is that no person should be permitted to die due to irresponsible behavior.  Just about every community has an 'Adult Protective Services' that digs hoarders out of their disasters and the elderly out of their isolation.

Will our society make the choice to let addicts die from their legal addictions?  Right now, the government pays Social Security benefits to alcoholics and addicts who cannot work because of their addictions.  As more addictive substances become accessible, one can only assume there will be more opportunites for addiction.

If you really want to do something about drugs, then you have to follow the Malaysian model: automatic death sentence for drug trafficking... period. 

For 30 years, Malaysia has executed drug dealers and smugglers.  One case in particular became famous: 

Sadly, addicts are slow on the uptake, and Malaysia still has drug problems, though not nearly on a Western scale.  China also appears to have a similar policy.  Strangely, Malays are more upset about one of their own citizens being executed in China than the 300 death row candidates they had in 2008:

There are no easy answers, because the passions can drive us into self-destruction.  The government will always fail in this regard because the government cannot treat the passions.  All it can do is create laws and decide to what level it will extend assistance or mete punishment to those who fall short.

Whether drugs are legal or not, there will always be addicts.

1 comment:

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