Friday, August 12, 2005

Re: Drug Policy 

I think the writer Jason quotes is misguided, but I have to value his desire for a moral government, especially in a time when many members of the citizenry view morality as a political pariah, something which must be checked by politicians in order to enter the ring of public policy. Legalizing drugs, however, is not the answer.

First, and perhaps most important, is the understanding of the value of freedom and liberty in a democratic republic. Freedom is not an end in itself, but a necessary prerequisite to do good. It is not enough for us to say that people must be able to decide for themselves, we must also intend that they make the correct choice, and guide our public policy in that manner. As it stands now, people already choose to use or not to use drugs illegally, a sort of inverse of the moral decision making process described by the author: One chooses to do good by actively choosing not to engage in an illegal activity. In reality our laws do not prevent you from using drugs, they only demand that a conscious people reject drug use, and impose penalties on drug users. The capacity for moral choice is still present.

A moral government is one which would espouse not only freedom, but responsibility from its citizens. A responsible populous must realize the error of the thinking endorsed in the quote, lest we fall into the trap of believing that free choice is the ultimate good in our society. Those who oppose abortion, as I do, realize that unfettered "choice" can often lead to the epitome of an immoral society. It is not the act of choosing, but the choice itself which is moral or not.*

As author Dinesh D'Souza hypothesized, in his excellent read Letters to a Young Conservative (interview here), if 200 million Americans were to decide that they wanted to be pornographers, the quotes author would have to hail this as a good thing, since it is the pinnacle of free decision making. We ought to know better than to fall into this trap. The war on drugs is backward and mismanaged, I agree, and often makes little economic sense. If we increase penalties on marijuana and other lower level drugs, we remove and readjust incentives, often triggering more hard drug use. But the author would have to oppose any plan, even one which could hypothetically reduce drug use to none, since it would be an infringement on free decision making. I have to believe that a moral government, and a moral people, should actively work to root out illicit drug use, not tacitly condone it. And such a free people must recognize the fallacy at work here.

* : Avoiding a philosophical diatribe, some will recognize that there is much debate here, especially between Kantian and Consequential thinkers, about what aspect of moral decision making is in fact "moral". This is irrelevant, since neither endorse the choice itself, but either the moral foundations or the morality of the outcome, respectively. That is to say, either one will serve my explanation fine.

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