Following from the shooting of Sergeant Wilkinson last week while investigating a suspected P lab, there has been some discussion around the blogs on whether we should be throwing greater resources to fight P, or legalise it – two completely opposite approaches that are both designed to take P away from the gangs.
Kiwipolemicist does a good summary of the arguments for legalising P and other drugs from a Christian perspective. The argument basically comes down to:
Drugs and alcohol are essentially the same thing, i.e. both are psychoactive substances (something that affects the mind). It is illogical and hypocritical for the government to make one psychoactive substance legal – alcohol – and outlaw other psychoactive substances – drugs. …
… the gangs that the government bleats about get a huge amount of their power and money through the sale of drugs. The quickest and simplest way to give gangs a kick in the family jewels is to make drugs legal. …
“Drugs are harmful” you say. Yes, drugs are harmful, but that is not a rational reason for making them illegal. Cigarettes are harmful, and no one seriously proposes making them illegal; it is a double standard to support the illegalisation of drugs because they are harmful unless you also support making everything else that is harmful illegal.
Which seems to make a lot of sense initially, as this approach allows you to be perfectly consistent across all substances. Blair Mulholland talks from this perspective with regards to P. If you are interested in the issue, read the whole of both articles.
But would legalising drugs really help? Scrubone effectively pulls this argument apart.
There’s one problem with this. Pure methamphetamine is so addictive that people would most emphatically not stop after the first try. They’d try it again. All I have heard (and I even had a neighbor who was previously addicted to it) is that this drug captures you the first, or at most second time you use it and then that’s it – you’re addicted and it’s incredibly hard to get out. So if only 25% of the population try it, that’s at least 20% who are going to be addicted.
What happens then? Addicts are able to purchase it for $5, so their money would last longer – assuming that they didn’t just ramp up their addiction instead. So a year or two down the track they’ve lost everything. What do they do then?
Well, my bet would be that the portion of the population who would be addicted by that stage would start stealing. Sure, you don’t need to rob a bank to get $5. You can just purse snatch for that, or smash someone’s window or whatever. Trivial stuff.
Except that every time my window gets smashed for the sake of $5, the cost to me or my insurance company is more like $100 or more. Who pays for that? Why, I do and the jolly taxpayer who has to foot the bill for increased police to fight petty crime and people “going crazy”.
Again, read the whole article. We can’t just ban stuff because it is harmful to the user, that is why the Greens moves to ban pies and stuff in schools are ridiculous. But when something causes damage to wider society, as drugs like P do, then the correct response is to restrict them. Greater availability of substances like P could cause great harm.
There has to be a balance somewhere, on most issues the classical liberals talk sense in my opinion. But if you bluntly apply liberal principles to every single issue, you could do just as much damage as if you bluntly apply state control to every single issue.
Sometimes liberalism is the way to go. Sometimes restrictions are the way to go. We need to be flexible enough to use the solution that works best on each issue.
September 18, 2008 at 1:17 pm
I do not believe that Scrubone’s argument holds water, and therefore I do not believe that his argument pulls mine apart. Samuel, you have also fallen for his specious logic, so please consider the following:
Scrubone argues against legalising P because P addicts commit crimes which will impact upon himself and others. If that is a reason for making P illegal then cigarettes should also be illegal because people rob shops to get them, and alcohol should be illegal because people get drunk and commit crimes (both of those also affect work performance, which is something that Scrubone mentions).
Samuel, you say:
“We can’t just ban stuff because it is harmful to the user, that is why the Greens moves to ban pies and stuff in schools are ridiculous. But when something causes damage to wider society, as drugs like P do, then the correct response is to restrict them.”
If you argue that things that damage society in general should be made illegal, then you must also accept it when pies and other foods that foster obesity are made illegal, because under a Socialist system everyone bears the high medical costs of that obesity.
Samuel, as you say yourself, the libertarian “approach allows you to be perfectly consistent across all substances”. In my humble opinion, all other approaches have an internally inconsistent logic.
As I said in my post:
“I could go on about the harms and illogicalities inherent in making drugs illegal, but that is ignoring the transcendent issue. What is the transcendent issue? It is this: the government is telling you what you can and cannot put into your body. The State has the temerity and the utter arrogance to tell people what they can and cannot do with their own bodies, which is a highly intimate invasion of personal freedoms.”
If you argue that the State should make certain substances illegal because the users harm society, or because the use of a food/substance causes wider harm to society, then you must be willing to accept a tyrannical nanny state that tells you what foods and substances you can and cannot consume.
September 20, 2008 at 10:57 am
“If you argue that things that damage society in general should be made illegal, then you must also accept it when pies and other foods that foster obesity are made illegal, because under a Socialist system everyone bears the high medical costs of that obesity.”
I’ve never heard of anyone being unable to hold together their life because they smoke tobacco. Tobacco doesn’t literally drive people crazy if they don’t get their fix, it doesn’t take over and make them do things.
My point is that “P” addition is at an entire level where the agreement becomes totally different. No one is ever going to steal because they can’t purchase a pie. In the ideal libertarian world I’m not going to pay for people’s pie addiction, but I will pay for their P addiction as explained above.
It’s the way that libertarianism views the world through such extreme black/white terms that puts people off it – including me. Life is not that clear cut, there are always compromises to make – the question is where do you do it?
September 20, 2008 at 1:52 pm
Scrubone says “No one is ever going to steal because they can’t purchase a pie. In the ideal libertarian world I’m not going to pay for people’s pie addiction, but I will pay for their P addiction as explained above.”
(1) kids have stolen money for pies as long as pies have been around (2) In the classical libertarian world you will have the right to defend your person and property against P addicts and pie addicts, and if you so desire you will have a private police force that will assist you with this. You will be allowed to own a gun, and if the P addict or the pie addict is threatening you with lethal force you will be allowed to use that gun. If he is threatening you with sub-lethal force you could use a Taser and handcuffs. It’s a safer world because you have a private police force that actually looks after you.
Scrubone says “Life is not that clear cut, there are always compromises to make – the question is where do you do it?”
As I said in my first comment: “If you argue that the State should make certain substances illegal because the users harm society, or because the use of a food/substance causes wider harm to society, then you must be willing to accept a tyrannical nanny state that tells you what foods and substances you can and cannot consume.”
It’s not about being black and white, it’s about being logical. The classical libertarian worldview is the only one which has an internally consistent logic.
October 1, 2008 at 10:40 am
The issue however is that P (like Crack Cocaine, and moonshine) is a direct result of Prohibition, also known as the Iron Law of Prohibition.
“The Iron Law of Prohibition is a term coined by Richard Cowan which states that “the more intense the law enforcement, the more potent the prohibited substance becomes.” This is based on the premise that when drugs or alcohol are prohibited, they will be produced only in black markets in their most concentrated and powerful forms. If all alcohol beverages are prohibited, a bootlegger will be more profitable if he smuggles highly distilled liquors than if he smuggles the same volume of small beer. In addition, the black-market goods are more likely to be adulterated with unknown or dangerous substances. The government cannot regulate and inspect the production process, and harmed consumers have no recourse in law.”
The incentives for it to be created would never exist if other forms of Meth (or speed) were legal. But as it is illegal, the incentives to make it stronger, more addictive, conectrated etc are much greater.
October 1, 2008 at 10:41 am
I’m also interested – what si the Kiwi Party position on Cannabis, BZP, MDMA and other substances which are proven to be safer for human consumption than Alcohol?
October 1, 2008 at 11:01 am
I have no idea what the Kiwi Party position would be, go ask them, I’m with the Family Party!
What Kiwi Party policies I have read generally seem to be fairly socialist and impractical however, and they have no chance of actually gaining any seats this election anyway.
October 1, 2008 at 11:20 am
By the way MikeE, I often hear the claim that such substances are safer than alcohol. Can you point me towards some research papers to back this up?
October 1, 2008 at 1:46 pm
Sorry, got the kiwi party, family party and all these other new parties mixed up. What would the family party approach be then?
The research was published in the Lancet Medical journal, here is a copy/paste that will lose its formatting:
Drug Study Ranking Legal Classification
Heroin 1 (most harmful) A
Cocaine 2 A
Barbiturates (sedatives) 3 B
Methadone (opioid) 4 A
Alcohol 5 legal
Ketamine (anesthetic) 6 C
Benzodiazepines( sedatives) 7 C
Amphetamine (“speed”) 8 B
Buprenorphine (opioid) 10C
Solvents 12 legal
4-methylthioamphetamine (amphetamine derivative) 13 A
LSD 14 A
Methylphenidate (i.e. Ritalin®) 15 B
Anabolic steroids 16 C
Gamma 4-hydroxybutyric acid (depressant, “date-rape drug”) 17 C
Ecstasy 18 A
Alkyl nitrites (nitrite inhalants, “poppers”) 19 legal
Khat (plant-derived stimulant) 20 (least harmful) legal
These were ranked based on:
* physical harm to the person using the drug
* the drug’s potential for abuse and/or dependence
* the drug’s ill effects on society
Quite frankly I don’t think “societal impacts” should have been included as these are subjective rather than objective measures.
October 1, 2008 at 2:14 pm
Our general approach at the moment is to be tough on drugs. We have a number of measures to strengthen the police as they counter drug dealing. The primary focus of this policy is to counter P:
We will also raise the drinking age back to 20, to reduce alcohol abuse in youth, based on overseas experience showing this to be effective:
However our policies do not consider drugs individually (apart from alcohol) – we have no specific policy on BZP for example – and that article you have linked to is very interesting, thanks for that. Bear in mind however that the article states:
“Tobacco and alcohol were included because their extensive use has provided reliable data on their risks and harms, providing familiar benchmarks against which the absolute harms of other drugs can be judged. However, direct comparison of the scores for tobacco and alcohol with those of the other drugs is not possible since the fact that they are legal could affect their harms in various ways, especially through easier availability.”
Meaning that your statement that certain drugs were found to be less harmful than alcohol and tobacco is not strictly correct. With that qualification however, the article is very interesting.
October 1, 2008 at 3:16 pm
I think you’ll run into your good old law of unintended consequences with your youth alcahol policy.
Your overseas experience that shows it to be effective sounds dodgy at best. Take france or other courntries for example, where education and culture have bred a responsible approach to drinking, with little to no restrictions on age.
If anything I think that an increase of the age up to 20 will do nothing to reduce alcahol abuse, if anything it will push young people away from say beer or wine, towards cheaper stronger spirits once they are harder to get (i.e. $12 bottles of mad jacks, kristov etc), what would you rather have, 18 year olds spending $6 per beer in a bar, where there are bouncers, etc, bartenders serving responsibly, or 18 year olds getting their older mates to buy them a $12 bottle of spirits and getting blind drunk. Its the old unintended consequences of regulation. Why on earth should the vast majority of responsible youth be treated as criminals due to the actions of a few idiots.
Speaking from experience (as you can see from the link, I have a strong involvement with the Auckland nightclubbing scene, running weekly gigs, which are safe R18 environments, that can’t be said for the private parties I’ve been to where any restriction on drinking ages wouldn’t apply), I can say that most of the substances mentioned are safer than alcahol 😉
October 1, 2008 at 3:32 pm
On the other hand, when the drinking age was 20 alcohol was readily available once you were 18 (older mates, you look older than you are). With the drinking age at 18 alcohol is readily available from 16 or younger. A higher drinking age places the responsibility for alcohol consumption in the hands of parents, keeping the family in charge. A lower drinking age makes it easier for younger teens to access alcohol without adult supervision.
It is one thing to argue for freedom of choice for adults, but another to argue for a policy that gives teenagers ready access to a substance you classify as far more harmful than many illegal ones.
October 1, 2008 at 3:44 pm
So you are supporting a situation where you can get a firearm at 16?
Star in hard core pornography at 18?
But somehow you have to wait until you are 20 to have a drink?
(That is unless you are in a church and drinking wine?)
I’m sorry, its all a little senseless to me!
October 1, 2008 at 4:04 pm
True, but at least you actually have to sit a firearms licence before getting one at 16.
October 1, 2008 at 5:49 pm
Surely you aren’t advocating a licence to star in pornography?
October 1, 2008 at 5:59 pm
Hmmm, imagine the tests to get that licence…
October 1, 2008 at 6:09 pm
Personally – I’d go for a combined guns, porn, booze and drugs licence.
Ensure that only the landed gentry are eligible for it 😉
December 4, 2008 at 2:16 pm
[…] am certainly no fan of the legalisation of all drugs. It is a stupid idea to take drugs, I don’t even drink. However, many Christians rightly see […]