After Colorado and Washington, an authoritative case against drug legalization.
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PH: Alleged medicinal purposes. Let’s be very careful about whether there are any legitimate medical uses for cannabis.
MW: Indeed. What do you think we can expect the impact of outright legalization (as opposed to decriminalization) to be?
PH: I think there will be more mad people. There will be more people, especially more young people, going irreversibly mad.
MW: William F. Buckley Jr. is perhaps the most prominent American conservative to have argued for drug legalization. Buckley made what looks like a utilitarian case for legalization. What is the moral case, not only against legalization but against drug use altogether?
PH: There is a problem here. I could argue from a Christian position that one should not throw away the gifts of perception and thinking. I could also argue that you should not put yourself into such a state that you are no longer responsible for your own actions. I could say that by using drugs people risk making themselves a terrible burden upon those who love and care for them. Certainly baseless is the argument that “I can do what I like with my own body.” You can by doing what you like with your own body destroy your sanity and make yourself absolutely dependent upon the care of others for the rest of your life, which is immoral by practically any moral code you could devise, with or without God. Wealthy, comfortably off people advocate the legality of a drug, which they imagine they might use themselves without harm, that will undoubtedly destroy the lives of others poorer and less fortunate than themselves. These people are arguing in favor of the suffering of others for the sake of their own pleasure. This is disgusting, and how anybody can call himself a conservative and take this position escapes me. There is a ridiculous confusion between the so-called freedom to render yourself insensible and the ancient, hard-won freedoms of speech, thought, and assembly. I think it is very much in the interest of any authoritarian state to have a stupefied, drug-taking population. Freedom to smoke dope doesn’t seem to me to be freedom for anyone.
MW: Finally, moving slightly away from drugs, I want to ask you about a recent blog entry in which you wrote that “For a proper conservative, American national politics is a desert.” Do you think that conservatism has ever been a major force in American politics?
PH: I think that America was until recently a conservative project. That is to say, it was very much an exercise in leaving people alone to do as they would according to conscience, which I think, as a conservative, is as close as you can get to an ideal society. That experiment began to come to an end before the Civil War. So I think there have been American conservatives. But certainly since Reagan in America and since Thatcher in Britain there has been a confusion between economic liberalism and conservatism, especially in the minds of conservatives themselves because it has brought them electoral success.