Are drug warriors high? Fisking an exceptionally bad argument against repealing the drug laws.

The American Spectator, at one time a serious magazine, has an amazingly bad argument against drug legalization up today. The actual purpose of the article is to slime Ron Paul, so it’s possible that the author does not actually believe the specious arguments he makes. In case he does, though, I’m going to take them apart. I think it’s vital for people to learn how poor are the arguments made in support of the positions they are asked to take. Your supposed “leaders” are mainly glib and lazy screw-ups. If you do not take first-hand responsibility for what goes into your mind, you are apt to be led to your slaughter.


Every so often, alas, the subject of drug legalization reappears. This time it is back as one of many bad ideas from presidential candidate Congressman Ron Paul and is cheered on by the usual fans, from libertarians to pot heads.

This is the Fallacy Ad Hominem for Dr. Paul with an extra Ad Hominem for the company he keeps. The entire article is peppered with insults and colored language, so I won’t highlight it again. It is worth noting that these kinds of verbal tricks are common when an advocate knows his arguments are weak.

[O]ne observer writes, “[If] Drug prohibition creates drug crimes, so legalize drugs and, poof, no more crime. However, it should be pointed out that no one makes the same argument for rape.”

Unlike drug laws, the laws against rape do not increase the cost of rape by 1,000 fold. The state’s price-supports for illegal drugs are why there are property crimes and crimes of violence associated with drug abuse. In fact, if the drug laws were repealed, the prices for drugs of abuse would plummet and the robberies and burglaries ensuing from artificially high drug prices would cease. Rape laws do not cause — or prevent — rapes, but drug laws definitely do cause break-ins and muggings. In other words, the text quoted from the anonymous “observer” is 100% entirely wrong, just exactly backwards.

The same error repeated:

And United Nations drug fighter Antonio Maria Costa adds, “Human trafficking is another tough crime problem, worldwide — perhaps second in size, after drug trafficking. Should we legalize modern slavery, given the intrinsic difficulty in dealing with it? Of course not.”

There’s more: Rape and slave trading are crimes malum in se — wrong in themselves. We don’t need laws against these offenses to know, by 100% consensus, that they are always evil and wrong. By contrast, cultivating, transporting, selling, buying and using drugs are offenses malum prohibitum — criminal only because they are forbidden by law. Until 1912, all of these things were perfectly lawful in the United States. In fact, the freelance pharmaceuticals business is simply state-prohibited commerce, no different from distilling unlicensed liquor or marketing non-USDA-approved milk.

It is common for legalizers to speak of rights without responsibilities and to make the case that all drug problems are associated with drug illegality. They seem to ignore the rest: child abuse and neglect, fetal damage, domestic violence and highway deaths to name a few.

The implication would seem to be that these things only happen because of drug abuse, and that they somehow don’t happen because of the drug laws. Both of those claims are absurd, but it is plausible to argue that the home lives of illegal drug users are made much worse by the artificially high prices of the drugs they use. In any case, where actual tortious injuries have occurred, regardless of the cause, the victims already have recourse in the civil courts.

All these come when, as former Drug Czar Bill Bennett wrote, “People addicted to drugs neglect their duties… they will neglect God, family, children, friends and jobs — everything in life that is important, noble and worthwhile — for the sake of drugs… drugs undermine the necessary virtues of a free society — autonomy, self reliance, and individual responsibility… for a citizenry to be perpetually in a drug-induced haze doesn’t bode well for the future of self-government.”

You can see how weak this argument is by substituting any other “vice” frowned upon by anyone: Alcohol, sex, video games, or Bennett’s addiction of choice, high-roller slot-machines. I have zero doubt that the most zealous of drug prohibitionists manage to neglect their other responsibilities, when they are in the grip of their obsession.

I heard a radio report that I have never forgotten. Two small children were found that night wandering alone in the storm with no coats. They were trying to find their grandmother’s house with food and warmth because their own parents had passed out on drugs. Would legalization have helped here?

Illegalization clearly failed, so, at all costs, don’t let’s do anything differently!

The former prison physician who writes under the name Theodore Dalrymple has seen up close the ugly world of drug use and its consequences and warns Americans that although advocates say “legalization will remove most of the evil that drugs inflict on society; don’t believe them…. If the war against drugs is lost, then so are the wars against theft, speeding, incest, fraud, rape, murder, arson, and illegal parking. Few, if any, such wars are winnable. So let us all do anything we choose…”

This is the repeated conflation of crimes that are malum in se with offenses malum prohibitum. Moreover, absolutely none of those things are prevented by state action. At best, the state’s response is post hoc — and usually inadequate. In any case, none of these things have anything to do with state-prohibited commerce.

And here are the words of sociologist James Q. Wilson who once put it: “drug use is wrong because it is immoral and it is immoral because it enslaves the mind and destroys the soul.”

The claim is indefensible — the Fallacy of the Sweeping Generalization — but the solution — enslaving everyone under brutal, irrational laws — is obviously wrong.

In the end, there is no argument anywhere in this article against repealing the drug laws. Even if drug use “enslaves the mind and destroys the soul,” this is certainly something a free person has every right to do with his own life and mind. You can argue that spouses and children suffer, but it is specious to argue that they have no recourse. If drug users — or slot-machine addicts — cause injuries to uninvolved third parties, they can resort to the civil courts. And, by repealing these stupid laws, we could not only save American tax-payers billions of dollars in law enforcement and imprisonment costs, we could make it safe, once more, for grand-mothers to venture outdoors.

The drug laws benefit no one — excepting drug warriors — but their most grievous harm is visited not on drug users or their families, but on the innocent people who are robbed to the pay state’s illegal drug price-supports. You will note that those folks — many of them badly injured, some killed — are never mentioned in these demagogic appeals.

Meanwhile: Legal, illegal and especially intellectual: Mind what goes into your mind.

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