The Public Policy

Drug Legalization Chic

Another area where Ron Paul isn't right.

By 1.11.12

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Every so often, alas, the subject of drug legalization reappears. This time it is back as one of many bad ideas from presidential candidate Congressman Ron Paul and is cheered on by the usual fans, from libertarians to pot heads. But many were surprised when conservative columnist Mona Charen joined the argument in a column she called "Where Ron Paul is Right."

"Paul deserves full credit for endorsing drug legalization," writes Ms. Charen as she goes into all the reasons she thinks the U.S. should give up and give in to corrosive drugs. Not surprisingly the reasons are the same ones we've heard since before and beyond the "just say no" days; such as the imagined wrongful incarceration of simple users (no -- such prisoners have plea bargained down from major trafficking and violent crimes); medical necessity (banned drugs are not medicine); and the existence of drug crime.

To that last one observer writes, "[If] Drug prohibition creates drug crimes, so legalize drugs and, poof, no more crime. However, it should be pointed out that no one makes the same argument for rape." And United Nations drug fighter Antonio Maria Costa adds, "Human trafficking is another tough crime problem, worldwide -- perhaps second in size, after drug trafficking. Should we legalize modern slavery, given the intrinsic difficulty in dealing with it? Of course not."

It is common for legalizers to speak of rights without responsibilities and to make the case that all drug problems are associated with drug illegality. They seem to ignore the rest: child abuse and neglect, fetal damage, domestic violence and highway deaths to name a few. All these come when, as former Drug Czar Bill Bennett wrote, "People addicted to drugs neglect their duties… they will neglect God, family, children, friends and jobs -- everything in life that is important, noble and worthwhile -- for the sake of drugs… drugs undermine the necessary virtues of a free society -- autonomy, self reliance, and individual responsibility… for a citizenry to be perpetually in a drug-induced haze doesn't bode well for the future of self-government."

Once on my way home to Washington, my flight was canceled due to unusually severe thunderstorms in D.C. Back the next day I heard a radio report that I have never forgotten. Two small children were found that night wandering alone in the storm with no coats. They were trying to find their grandmother's house with food and warmth because their own parents had passed out on drugs. Would legalization have helped here?

The former prison physician who writes under the name Theodore Dalrymple has seen up close the ugly world of drug use and its consequences and warns Americans that although advocates say "legalization will remove most of the evil that drugs inflict on society; don't believe them.... If the war against drugs is lost, then so are the wars against theft, speeding, incest, fraud, rape, murder, arson, and illegal parking. Few, if any, such wars are winnable. So let us all do anything we choose..." Then he adds, "few are the situations so bad they cannot be made worse by a wrong policy decision."

And here are the words of sociologist James Q. Wilson who once put it: "drug use is wrong because it is immoral and it is immoral because it enslaves the mind and destroys the soul." Let's not legalize that.

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About the Author

Manon McKinnon is a writer living in Falls Church, Virginia.