Libertarians enjoy challenging others' assumptions, and it's invigorating. But it's also time to challenge the assumptions of libertarians: freedom-lovers, make your case.
Here's a couple of shots between the redoubtable Devils' Kitchen and myself, from a couple of posts back. To me, this isn't about drugs, essentially; it's about whether we are, or can be, free.
Devil's Kitchen said...
Sackerson, "How is it reactionary to wish to protect young people from habits that impoverish and enslave them (and this is what black communities object to)? I think perhaps some libertarians haven't really defined what they mean by liberty."
I am all for proper drugs education; however, it is worth noting that I had a considerable amount of it, and it hasn't stopped me from taking just about every drug on the planet*.
And do you know what? I have never had to have any kind of hospital or other treatment; I have never lost a job; I have never even been late for work, after having taken drugs.
I have never assaulted anyone (most drugs, other than alcohol, put you in a frame of mind in which violence is the last thing you want to indulge in), nor hurt anyone, nor even caused a public nuisance whilst on drugs either.
I am not addicted to drugs either, despite heavy usage of a few of them (most are self-limiting, in that the effects begin to wane after a period heavy usage).
I have, on the other hand, laughed like a demon, make some excellent friends, danced, thrilled, been immersed in music in a way that's not possible sober, and had many fantastic times whilst on drugs.
You see, what I chose was to take the education that I was given, and the advice of friends, and my own experience, and indulge in a free and informed choice.
That is libertarianism, and it is still no business of yours what I put into my body, as long as I am willing to pay the consequences. And I am: that's why I am privately insured up to the hilt.
DK: thanks for visiting, I'd have drawn a chalk circle if I'd known you were coming.
I agree that alcohol is pernicious and have argued that rather than attempt to ban it, we should reduce its availability a bit - currently you can get it from the supermarket, post office, petrol station etc. And it does make many people horribly aggressive, so there is an incentive for others to band together and act in this way.
I do understand that there are many functioning drug users (as indeed there are functioning alcoholics), and the question of product purity is certainly one of the arguments propounded for legalisation and regulation. Set against that is what might then happen. If the research referred to by Paddington above is correct, the tendency to addiction is genetic, so the principal factor is opportunity. If only 5% have the fatal flaw, and these products become as available as a six-pack of wife-beater from Tesco Express, we could go from thousands of addicts to millions.
So one issue is how do you weigh your wish for a certain kind of pleasure, against the awful suffering of some other people? Is this corner of libertarianism less a struggle to be free of oppression than it is callous selfishness?
And there is a deeper question of the founding assumptions of libertarians: are we really free and rational in any case? If half our behaviour is genetically determined, and much of the rest conditioned by social expectations, drug-taking is not the blow for liberty that it was represented to be from the 1960s onwards. You yourself say "...I chose was to take the education that I was given, and the advice of friends, and my own experience...", which makes me think that your "free and informed choice" was conditioned by the example and advice of your friends, and the opportunity to take part yourself. Indeed, this is how I started on cigarettes and it took me a decade to get back off them, so I have some idea how unfree we really are. You'll see from my next post that I query whether public schools such as Eton had a drug problem as early as the 1960s, and "as the twig is bent, so the tree will grow".
I think we are in an age where the Enlightenment philosophy is as under threat from geneticism (and determinism generally), as Creationism was when evolutionary theory was formulated. Sartre refused to accept Freud's theory of the unconscious, because it fatally undermined his own position on existentialist free will.
So I think libertarians should move from questions of law, taxation, social liberty etc to re-examine the ground they are standing on.