A Threat to American Civilization
A Threat to American Civilization and the Prospects for Change
Thus we see all the great American principles undermined by the drug war. As a functional society, a culture of individual liberty and family values, a nation that respects the rule of law and the sovereignty of other countries, America has declined under the drug war. What makes America America is truly at stake.
Conservatives don’t generally want to think of the drug war as un-American, but that’s what it is in the most important sense of the term. Personal freedom and responsibility, the bedrock of the American promise, are simply incompatible with the national crusade against drugs.
Indeed, it is civilization itself under attack. Ayn Rand defined civilization as "the process of setting man free from men" and "the progress toward a society of privacy." This process and progress have been derailed by drug prohibition, which uproots the very foundations of civil life.
I’ve given the bad news, so what are our prospects for change? Does Obama’s declared policy of ending the medical marijuana raids indicate a future where the drug war will be significantly reined in?
Here’s my concern. If they only cut back on medical marijuana crackdowns, and some state ever does legalize marijuana, the feds can still overstep states rights and persecute users. Short of that, they might still crack down on caregivers while claiming they are going after non-medical use.
Furthermore, some of the medical marijuana reform movement is wed to the idea of government regulating the pot dispensaries more and getting more involved. Some of them even advocate stepping up enforcement on the hard drugs.
The problem is, it is the enforcement of laws against hard drugs that actually create most of the tragedies. Marijuana causes more middle class people to be arrested, ticketed, even jailed, and that is terrible. But it is laws against heroin, cocaine and the like that explain the long prison sentences and the worst abuses of human rights. It is also the harder drugs that distort our foreign policy, corrupt our law enforcement, and lead to the most violent crime. People shoot each other over cocaine more than marijuana.
If they were to divert more resources to other parts of the drug war, the problems might even get worse. The legalization of marijuana will be blamed.
Also, another thing to consider: The drug war, as I’ve explained, is deeply wrapped up in so many of our liberties and values, that any reform that does not understand the fundamental issues at stake could yield something worse. Alcohol prohibition was repealed because it was a practical disaster, a drain on resources, and out of step with the culture. They legalized it to tax it during the Depression.
If this practical approach is what causes marijuana to be decriminalized, we are still dealing with the fundamental attack on self-ownership, with all the collateral damage that implies. Just as the bureaucrats in charge of prohibition went on to agitate for marijuana laws and the modern drug war, which is much worse than alcohol prohibition ever was, we risk seeing another policy just as oppressive.
That’s why it’s important to recognize that the drug war is not just about the right to get high conveniently. It is a matter that hits the core of what a civilization as about. The right to consume, possess, cultivate and exchange drugs is wrapped up in every other human right. The right to use drugs stems from the right of self-ownership.