03 June 2011

The dope problem

"For reasons that aren't entirely clear, they feel no complicity in the horrific consequences of prohibition."

As George Carlin used to say, "Definitely, I feel we have too many dopes, yes". And a lot of them are looking askance at this issue in order to feel high and mighty, but ignoring the painful consequences of those decisions. Decisions which adversely effect millions of lives in order to benefit a handful of middle class American parents (who don't want to have to go to the trouble of educating their children about narcotics or even responsible use versus abusive use as we should also do with alcohol) are not morally responsible nor effective public policies.

A proper discourse about the value of those emotional responses is here. The fact is that they're not very useful for legal purposes and only marginally useful to tell us what an appropriate moral standing should be. Disgust and dislike are everywhere in our personal views already and only a very few of those matters (mis)guide us to declare that an object is morally abhorrent. What it does instead is give us clearer personal choices. Things like: Avoid this, I don't like it, do this, I enjoy it. That's fine for guiding our own personal happiness and achievements. It's practically useless for making public policy choices. And yet we as Americans do it all the time. We ban smoking in restaurants because it disgusts us. We seek to ban rap albums because the lyrics offend us (nevermind their similarity with many classic rock or country songs), or pornography because "think of the children!". We restrict the rights of homosexuals and immigrants because they're "dirty, nasty, noisy people who have different habits and a vile culture", never mind that we have all manner of history with immigrants to show us otherwise and never mind that homosexuals are generally running the same gamut as heterosexuals as far as their personal lives. Some are flamboyant, others private. I've not seen much difference with heterosexuals and their often flippant attitudes toward sex, or with the puritanical streak that some have as well.

While this is all a "way" to run a country, it's not a very good way because it has high costs. And the drug war is only the most visible, one of the most expensive, and most obviously harmful way we've chosen to symbolically express our disgust at something.

It would be helpful if people began to look at the cost of what they demand. And then they can ask themselves if they still think it's worth it to spend all that treasure to spill blood (mostly of foreigners, 40k and counting in Mexico), use military style police raids to lock away socially harmless people, fund criminal and terrorist organisations, destablise foreign governments, and so on. It is to prohibition itself that we should look to find the moral repugnance that we apparently use to guide our public policy stances. Not the ugly world that it seeks to restrict and prevent, and where instead it extends the gutters of the world and fills them with blood.
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