On the Legalization of Drugs

Few Dalrymple articles have received such uniformly negative comments as this one. There seems to be growing momentum (in Britain and the U.S. certainly) on behalf of drug (or at least marijuana) legalization, so that opposition to legalization is cause for outrage even among readers of the non-liberal City Journal. Most of those readers, by the way, seem to have missed Dalrymple’s contention that, like the abolition of speed limits, drug legalization would cause greater harm to third parties.

4 thoughts on “On the Legalization of Drugs

  1. TDK

    “Most of those readers, by the way, seem to have missed Dalrymple’s contention that, like the abolition of speed limits, drug legalization would cause greater harm to third parties.”

    I don’t get that impression at all. The majority of commentators accept that speed limits protect the third party, but contend that the drug use does not harm third parties.

    Now that may or may not be true. Several commentators cite exceptions such as mothers with unborn children where the harm is clear. I would add the question as to whether crime carried out to feed a habit would vanish with legalization – I’m not sure it would.

    Dalrymple needs to make the case that legalized drug use would harm society more than to continue with the status quo.

    A second problem is Dalrymple’s allegation that Libertarians fail to define “legalise”. This is extraordinary. In any campaign for change there will be lots of difference between the campaigners concerning the exact change required, with a continuum between those wanting just to decriminalise possession of small quantities and others demanding complete removal of any controls. Not surprisingly they subsume their differences under a more general goal.

    I myself, am not sure. I think a bigger issue is the one concerning personal responsibility. We have shifted to a society where people blame others for being fat. Where drug taking criminals are treated as weak and in need of more support. We need to shift to the reverse view. Someone who robs to feed a drug habit should be treated more harshly than someone who robs because they have no moral scruples. The latter person is capable of reform, the former is beyond reasoning.

  2. Jonathan Levy

    To be fair to the commenters on that thread, I don’t think Dalrymple clearly advanced the argument that taking drugs directly harms others. He’s done it in other articles of his, especially regarding cocaine, but not in this one.

  3. conservative-libertarian

    With all due respect to Theodore Dalrymple, libertarian analysis is more complex and flexible in its practicability. He might want to read, if he hasn’t (and I suspect he hasn’t), what are considered “libertarian classics” in the social circles, which he himself regularly appears, that participate at the Property and Freedom Society.

    According to Dr. Dalrymple, libertarians appear to view “people as egoistic particles that occasionally bump into one another rather than as necessarily and essentially social beings.” This is incorrect on many levels. To be sure, you can always find a self-described “libertarian” who might think this. Yet you are not going to find this view in the works coming from Murray Rothbard, Albert Nock, Frank Chodorov, or modern scholars including Hans Hoppe, Thomas Woods, or Gerard Casey. Economic analysis itself, e.g., is primarily about social interaction and their effects. (Most libertarian scholars specialize in economics.) And Hans Hoppe, e.g., explicitly calls for the development of private institutions, rules, and laws that, when needed, socially regulate people in his popular essay book “Democracy.” In a world based on private property, wherever you are, you are subject to the rules of that property. Community associations also can—and should—develop rules that are socially and morally necessary which include areas that overlap into drugs.

    Dr. Dalrymple gives the example of speeding limits. He probably does so because he believes a libertarian must be logically against it. Actually, that’s not necessarily the case. Once again, we can return to Dr. Hoppe. First, in an imaginary world that was libertarian, those roads would be privately owned and the owners would set rules on them. (This might sound strange to modern ears, but some of the first roads (turnpikes) in America were private.) There would some competition and this would help sort out the most efficient rules. At any rate, those rules wouldn’t be anti-libertarian. Second, in the modern world, Dr. Hoppe argues that there are “second best” solutions to these types of public property questions. In his book he looks specifically at immigration, but this can also be applied to the issue of speed limits. They are not anti-libertarian.

    There is a lot more to be said and debated, of course. Going deeper into these issues is not appropriate here (and sorry if I’m over-stepping my presence). But there is a very serious alternative, at least be aware, and that’s all I want to point out, for cultural conservatives in a libertarian society of the kind that somebody like Dr. Hoppe promotes. It might be very different than what you expect. Our problems are very deep, and I do think there are better non-statist alternatives.

  4. Rachel

    I agree with the comments and disagree with TD here. I have severe fibromyalgia. There are published medical evidence that show that cannabis helps the symptoms. Where I live there you can apply for lengthy beurocratic government permission for legal cannabis for medical usage only. I have applied but have low hopes of being accepted. It is very upsetting as all the conventional medical drugs have not helped me. I think TD is wrong to lump canndabis together with other drugs as “illegal drugs”. I don’t even understand the analogy of the speed limit he uses. I think medical cannabis should be legal on prescription the same way anti depressants and pain killers are for the sick and also to help those who were silly enough to take them for recreational use and now want to stop the addiction.


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