Make no mistake, I believe drugs are bad. I believe using drugs for recreation is a sin. However, I’d like to consider philosophical and utilitarian arguments for and against drug legalization.
Philosophical arguments against drug legalization
1) Drugs are not, in fact, a victimless crime. Families and friends are torn apart by someone’s drug usage. Drugs may be consumed by the individual, but they are a cancer to society as a whole.
2) Freedom implies someone has free will to make their own choices. Due to the addictive nature of drugs, however, that free will can be severely limited. They may make a choice for their first fix, but they are hooked afterwards.
3) To say that drugs should be legal because they only hurt the person that takes them (at least directly) may provide a disturbing distinction between victimless sins and other sins. By legalizing drugs, we may be saying “these things are bad, but they aren’t as bad as murder, stealing, etc…” I think many people would agree, but they fear that by legalizing drugs, society, as a whole, is approving of them. While the Bible places a lot of importance on the Golden Rule, it provides little or no distinction on the level of sin based on how many people it affects.
4) In the balance of freedom vs. security, the benefits gained for society as a whole outweigh the benefits of being “free” to do crack, heroin, etc…
Philosophical arguments for legalizing recreational drugs
1) (Counterpoint to argument 1 above) It is up to the family structure, the church, and other voluntary organizations to discourage such behavior. Concerning friends and spouses, people have freedoms and responsibilities in choosing who they have relationships with, and drug usage, or the possibility thereof, is something that should be considered.
2) (Partly a counterpoint to argument 3 above) This is the typical libertarian argument. The purpose of government is to keep people safe from other people, not enforce morality, even if that saves someone from their own actions. Someone should have the right to do whatever they want, provided that they do not hurt anyone else. Who am I to say that someone doesn’t have the right to participate in recreational drugs? If we truly value freedom, someone should have the right to live their life as they please. Anti-drug laws dwell on a slippery slope, and such laws will work their way into other areas of life, such as cigarettes, consumption of fast food, etc…
Utilitarian arguments against legalizing recreational drugs:
1) Legalizing drugs would make it easier for kids to get a hold of them. A kid would only need to get a hold of someone over 18/21 to get their fix.
2) Drugs impair the individuals ability to function. People couldn’t perform their job duties while impaired. People can’t drive while high.
Utilitarian arguments for legalizing recreational drugs:
1) Drug enforcement is largely ineffective, as demonstrated by Prohibition against alcohol. We spend tons of money on the drug war with little or no results.
2) Outlawing drugs has increased crime. It has created a black market that inflates drug prices, causing people to steal and murder. Furthermore, it has increased the powers of gangs that profit greatly from the drug trade. The illegal drug market also funds terrorists.
3) Outlawing drugs has reduced our freedoms. People’s privacy has been decreased due to drug raids, as police forces on the federal and local level have become more invasive. Innocent citizens have been harmed during the execution of the Drug War.
4) Outlawing drugs is harming the suppliers and consumers of prescription drugs. Doctors are paranoid about prescribing too many pain killers due to the government’s watchful eye. In turn, people who genuinely need pain relief suffer. Furthermore, a drug like marijuana may be the most useful in relieving nausea for patients with certain diseases.
5) Enforcing drug laws harm the police force in pursuit of other duties. Police spend resources executing the Drug War, not spending as much time pursuing killers and thieves. Jails are becoming overcrowded. (Note: This argument depends much on someone’s philosophical reasoning. This argument presumes that drug usage is on a much lower level than victim-claiming crimes).
6) (Counterpoint to philosophical arguments 1,2 for keeping drugs illegal). While drugs harm free will and hurt people’s loved ones and families, again, these arguments presume that keeping drugs illegal will actually decrease drug usage.
7) (Counterpoint to utilitarian argument 2) It is up to private companies to do drug testing. Driving while impaired would still be illegal.
So there you have it. I am not trying to push across a certain point of view. This is something I am pondering, and these are the arguments that come to mind. In short, drugs are so damaging that I think outlawing drugs is worth the tradeoff in freedom. So, philosophical I don’t have as much of an issue with keeping drugs illegal. However, I genuinely wonder if the Drug War is indeed effective and is not making things worse.
This chilling thought comes to mind. What if the S.W.A.T. team busts down my door either by mistake or by an “informant” who has a grudge against me. What if my wife or kid gets shot in all the confusion. It is known to happen.
I’m curious what other people’s thoughts are and if they have good philosophical/utilitarian arguments for or against the Drug War.
Balanced Politics: Legalization of Marijuana? follow link for pro/con articles
The Cato Institute: Against the Drug War
Note: I tried to find an individual link supporting the drug war that was not already on Balanced Politics, but it is harder than I thought.