The Scourge or the bliss of Humanity
A Position Paper
Prof. Michael Haliprin
William Paterson University
The Question of what to do about drugs has haunted the American Scene for quite sometime. Government and law enforcement agencies have tried to control it through the legal system. Many people have been affected by it. Drugs are no longer just among the wealthy that now have designer drugs. Drugs are rampant throughout society at all major classes. It has reached epidemic proportions. Presidents Reagan and Bush have waged a war on drugs and lost. The current policy of the democrats is perhaps to keep the status quo. We are not spending as much money on Law enforcement as we did during the "War on drugs." What should we do now, should we continue to fight the war or just give up? The following is samplings of what the best minds have to say about the issue at hand.
FIRST POSITION: Legalize it, Advice of an Economist.
Milton Friedman, a noble prize wining economist, is of the opinion that we should just legalize drugs. (Bonevac, 1999. P. 193-194.) Friedman represents a utilitarian position. We are not getting the most possible gain from this war on drugs we should give it up. Economic logic dictates that we should just cut our losses short and just make it legal. Illegality leads to the creation of the ill effects of the drug trade, such as the drug lords, drug related crimes and the corruption of law enforcement officials. We can deal with the residual effects of it later. Legalizing it can not be any worst than when the prohibition on alcoholic beverages was repealed. Part of the money that is being spent on the enforcement of drug prohibition could be spent on treatment and rehabilitation in a compassionate atmosphere would have greater payoff than our current strategy. Further, his fear that as our efforts against drugs increase we could jeopardize our free society that we enjoy today. Eth an Nadelmann argues that legalization will have significant economic benefits as well as reduce crime and revitalizes inner cities. Whereas Douglas Husak argues that the laws against drug use, violate fundamental liberties.
SECOND POSITION: Control it, From the Drug Czar.
William Bennett served as the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under Presidents Reagan and Bush. He is of the opinion that Friedmans position is a reckless as well as flawed. He argues that the cost that we would incur in legalizing drugs is surely more that we would like to bear. He mentions that when the prohibition was repealed the consumption soared by 350%. In Britain, where heroin could be legally proscribed by doctors, heroin addiction increased by forty folds.
Bennett is of the deontological position that we have a duty he states that "Government has a responsibility to craft and uphold laws that help educate citizens about right and wrong." He advocates "a larger criminal justice system to take drug users off the streets and deter users from becoming more deeply involved in so hazardous an activity." (Bonevac, 1999. P.197.)
James Q. Wilson contends that controlling drugs is justifiable and somewhat successful. He is of the opinion that enforcing criminal penalties helps confine the drug problem to a small portion of the population. Whereas legalization would greatly increase drug use and harms the users and nonusers alike.
In light of the above arguments, the issue of drug use is far from simple. It is known and agreed that drug use is harmful. The harm of using drugs far outweighs the benefits. Even if the drugs have no harmful side effects, surly the lost labor is of a significant impact on the economy. The issue of personal freedom is another such issue that must be taken into consideration. A person has the right to make mistakes in his life. However, he would have to pay for the consequences of his actions. Mills harm principal is of some use in this issue. Drugs are addictive and are therefore voluntary slavery. Mill contends that people do not have the freedom to surrender their freedom. That is only part of the argument. The harm that a person brings to himself and those immediately surrounding him by drug use is covered by Mills harm principal.
It would be nice to imagine that drugs only harm the person who takes them but that is not the case. Smoking, alcohol consumption, gambling and drug use all effect not just the person who use them but those around them. It is has become fashionable to single out smokers because they harm others by way of second hand smoke. Second hand, smoke has been a popular subject in the press as well as in lawsuits. While people would like to enjoy recreation, it should not be at the price of harming others.
Should drugs become legalized I would argue that they should not. Government has a responsibility to protect people from the rampant drug abuse. Perhaps it needs to alter its current policy. In New York City, the mayor has a "get tough" policy on drunk driving. That is supposed to be a deterrent to drive while under the influence. That policy comes from the harm principal and the governments responsibility to protect people from harm.
However I am somewhat at a loss, if one is wholly intoxicated how is he supposed to remember not to drive? Unless others around him stop him from driving, he will not be able. Even if he is in such as state how can he be held fully responsible for his actions while under such as state.
The issue of drunk driving does not get at the root of the problem in our society. The problem is even deeper than the mere prohibition of all intoxicants. Many underlying social and psychological issues need to be addressed in our society. The recent events of the shootings at Littleton, Colorado should serve as wakeup call for us.
Many issues need to be addressed in our society. We need to honestly and candidly look at them and work towards solutions for them. We need to get at the root causes of such problems and address them. Whether we need to better educate ourselves and people at large about these or deeper fixes. We need to do so and time is always working against us. Some issues were faced by other communities whether in the history or elsewhere in the world. We should seek out this wisdom and see where the successes are and apply them.
In Malaysia, the stiff penalties they have for drug abuse has worked for that society. In Europe, I believe Holland, recreational drugs are legally available at "Coffee houses". We should look at these two examples and see what can be safely applied in our society to realize the greatest maximum benefit possible with the minimum harm. In short a very utilitarian principal.