Monday, January 25, 2010

Shouldn't we just let people destroy their lives if they want?

In speaking to a dear friend of mine yesterday, I encountered this objection to my drug prohibition argument. Of course, I've heard it before. I just don't buy it.

Theoretical libertarians (as opposed to practical libertarians who merely want to downsize government) are opposed in principle to the legitimate and just exercise of government. In the following paragraphs I'll lay out the main reasons why this must be so.

To begin with, we must ask, What is government's proper function?

As a Christian, I accept the authority of special divine revelation. When I read St. Paul in Romans 13:4 to say the king is "an agent of [God's] wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer," I accept this role for government. Indeed, most Christians will admit this role.

What many Christians overlook is the other responsibility government has been given according to the inspired apostle. St. Paul also says, "Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good" (Rom. 13:3b-4a).

From this, I conclude that a governor is essentially an authority figure given a divine mandate to punish the evil and reward the good.

Theoretical libertarians may recognize that government is instituted to keep order and ensure the tranquility of the community. However, what they fail to recognize is that the use of the sword to defend society from external and internal threat is only half of the governor's lawful task.

Government is also instituted to reward the good.

Theoretical libertarians maintain that the punitive function of government is limited to the exercise of defense against physical threat and retributive punishment for external crimes only. These theorists deny that government ought to make moral judgments and argue that government should only respond to external acts.

They are incorrect. Government must take preventitive, even preemptive, measures to deal with problems before they grow too large to deal with. In support of this I cite the "broken window thesis."

"James Q. Wilson and George Kelling developed the 'broken window' thesis. Their thesis suggests that a certain sequence of events can be expected in deteriorating neighborhoods: evidence of decay (broken windows, accumulated trash, deteriorated building exteriors) which remains in the neighborhood for a reasonably long period of time causes people who live and work in the area to feel more vulnerable and to begin to withdraw. They become less willing to intervene to maintain public order (for example, to attempt to break up groups of rowdy teens loitering on street corners) or to address physical signs of deterioration.

"In response to this, some vandals may become bolder and intensify their harassment and vandalism. This makes residents even more fearful and less likely to participate in community upkeep. Offenders now may come in from outside the area, sensing that the neighborhood has become a vulnerable and less risky site for crime.

"'One unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares,' Wilson and Kelling have written, 'and so breaking more windows costs nothing.'"

The broken window thesis may confound correlation with causality at times, but it should be pointed out that criminality is not a mere series of criminal acts, but a lifestyle that progressively degenerates. At some point after certain warning signs appear, the time for intervention has come.

Society is really a social system made of a complex of symbiotic relationships between humans and their physical and social environments. The soul affects the body and the body influences the soul. Groups influence individual choice and vice versa. Environments form options and so determine human choice to an extent. No man is an island. Libertarians are fools to think otherwise.

General disorder, alcoholism, drug addiction, sexual promiscuity and divorce, are all elements of a social eco-system that fosters criminality. This point of view conforms to common sense and is confirmed by the vast majority of scientific social data available.

So no, government should not just let people destroy their lives if they want. They are not just destroying their own lives; they are destroying others' as well. It's not just that I have to personally live around people who make bad choices. My neighborhood deteriorates when these people reproduce. My children must go to school with their children and live in the environment they create.

As a rewarder of good and punisher of evil, government has an interest in suppressing undesirable behavior and encouraging desirable choices. Government has the legitimate function to promote the attainment of and require civic virtue.

In another place, St. Paul describes the purpose of the law:

"[We] know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust" (1 Tim. 1:8-11).

Constitutional proceduralism, i.e., the proceduralist "rule of law" is insufficient. Judgment is necessary for justice. A constitution is a machine, and machines do not judge or produce right decisions.

A major thesis of this blog is that all forms of theoretical libertarianism (including classical liberals' republican constitutionalism) can only produce legal systems. They cannot produce justice systems.

In order to fulfill his purpose as the guarantor of the peace and happiness of society, the governor must be empowered to effectively administer law. For this, he must be above human law in the sense--and to the extent--that he judges what the law says and how to apply it in particular cases.

In order to have a just and effective ministration of law, there must be one who acts as a judge, knowing good from evil, and who chooses the good.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Under Siege

The UO Knight is under siege. After sallying forth to combat the evil libertarians over the issue of drug legalization, the UO Knight returned home to find his castle beseiged by a drug liberalization Kool-Aid drinker from the UK operating under the alias "Jimbob."

Jimbob has challenged me to read a couple of articles from the mainstream media, and "do some research before typing [my] next response."

Jimbob argues that "the majority of these effects [i.e., the social cost of drugs] are down to prohibition – dealers / gangs / funding terrorism / drug addict crime etc. etc." For Jimbob, drug prohibition is the real problem, not the criminals who disobey the law and supply/ use illegal substances.

This is a patently absurd claim. In 2003, the US Drug Enforcement Administration put out a paper that summarizes "ten top facts on legalization. In this paper, the DEA states, "Six times as many homicides are committed by people under the influence of drugs, as by those who are looking for money to buy drugs. Most drug crimes aren’t committed by people trying to pay for drugs; they’re committed by people on drugs."

This demonstrates that on the criterion of actual crime alone, the use of certain mind-altering substances is the problem. On this basis, a convincing case is made that the public availability of these substances ought to be severely restricted.

In addition to actual crimes committed, I also argue that there are other weighty reasons for keeping drug use criminalized. I maintain that individuals who use drugs are compromised mentally and morally by using these substances.

Because of such undisputable corrupting effects on the citizenry, I argue for establishing personal character reference qualifications as well as IQ and mental health tests to ensure that only competent individuals be allowed into the voting booth.

Jimbob rejects the idea that drugs negatively influence character, intelligence and mental competency. He argues that people who use drugs only "recreationally" are capable of adequately functioning in society.

Well, they may be able to "function," but as I see it the only way our civilization is going to move back in the direction it needs to is for us to rediscover the law and forgiveness of God, abandon our vices, and be concerned for the survival of our families and communities.

According to the paper cited above, "The short-term effects [of marijuana] are... harmful. They include: memory loss, distorted perception, trouble with thinking and problem solving, loss of motor skills, decrease in muscle strength, increased heart rate, and anxiety. Marijuana impacts young people’s mental development, their ability to concentrate in school, and their motivation and initiative to reach goals."

The rejection of drug use, then, even use of more benign drugs such as marijuana, is a necessary condition to begin to aquire the virtues necessary for maintaining civilization.

A few final thoughts on this subject. I have limited time to investigate absurd claims put forth in the name of “science,” whatever that is. Global warming is a fraud perpetrated by so-called science. Scientists are people who have personal dispositions and political points-of-view just like everybody else. Data can be suppressed and/ or cherry-picked.

Journalists aren’t scientists or logicians. Scientific studies usually have a very precise scope and it’s all too easy for non-experts (such as Jimbob) to draw unwarranted conclusions from findings they don’t understand.

Before research should be accepted as science by policy makers it needs to be tested, re-tested, and peer-reviewed. Contrary opinions and findings need to be weighed. Factors such as common sense, prudence, and sage advice (things not easily quantifiable) also have their legitimate part to play in policy-makers' decisions.

The Boston Globe article Jimbob cited, is a joke.

The "findings" of the research cited by the article rank pot higher than solvents and LSD. Also, Tobacco is rated more harmful than LSD, pot, and ecstasy. Finally, alcohol is listed as more harmful than meth! "Findings" such as these, so contrary to common sense perceptions, are unworthy of serious consideration.

Somebody named "truthczar" had this to say about the article:

"The guy makes some SUBJECTIVE assessments, creates a chart, then some reporter finds the article and assumes the chart is hard fact, and prints it. Next some fool politician will try to make public policy based on a reporter's interpretation of some guys chart based on a made up weighted scale of subjective assessments."

Another commenter made the following analysis (which I have modified slightly for the purpose of this post):

The problem with the findings of this research is with the particular combination of variables used to generate this gradation of harmful substances. The variables of physical impact, addictiveness, and societal cost are combined to produce misleading figures. If you are trying to determine the allocation of government resources, why do you care about anything other then the societal impact? And how is addictiveness and physical damage not already factored into societal cost? If you are trying to assess the danger that a drug poses to an individual, shouldn’t you only care about its physical impact and addictiveness?

This ranking doesn’t really tell us anything about the relative harmfulness of these substances. The purpose in combining all three variables is to mislead the public into swallowing the notion that drugs are less harmful than tobacco or alcohol.

This perspective does not take adequate account of the social benefits of tobacco and alcohol, the vast majority of whose users are responsible, law-abiding citizens. In the case of tobacco and alcohol, conventional thinking judges that the benefits far outweigh the costs. Not so with drug use. The evidence is clear that the drug culture spawns stupidity, criminality, and insanity in epidemic proportions.

That's all I have to say on this subject at present.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Opposing libertarians who want to legalize drugs

No one is holding a gun to force drug dealers to engage in their criminality. They bring violence upon themselves by disobeying the law. The collateral deaths that occur are largely people who are associated with them, or, who have chosen to live near them, and in some sense complicit in the corruption of the community. Of course, children who have no choice suffer. A sad fact of life is that children unjustly suffer the consequences of adult actions.

There have always been gangs and there will always be gangs. Drugs are merely the pretext. The government policy of outlawing drugs does not lead to criminal-on-criminal violence either directly or indirectly. To suggest otherwise is simply ludicrous. If government were the real evil and not the actual individuals who associate together in gangs, then why don’t the gangs grow rich together by cooperating to bring their goods to their loyal paying customers? They could unite their resources and create a black market so huge it would eat the conventional market from the inside out. A true free market would then arise from the ashes.

As with any other war, the drug war can only be won by an absolute determination to utterly annihilate the enemy with overwhelming force.

Lastly, I’ll respond to the charge that drug-warriors hypocritically pursue bloody policies while countenancing rampant drug use in the culture. Aside from the fact that the user is less morally culpable than the pusher, the demand side should be vigorously pursued.

Though unrealistic to expect in the current political climate (as is any competent prosecution of war), users should be regarded as collaborators with an enemy power, and should at least be detained as prisoners of war—if not executed—until the hostilities are over.

Anticipating the objection of those who would say that the drug culture does not warrant the extreme measure of war (i.e., it’s really not that big of a deal), my retort is, they should tell that to Mexico.

A question: do anarcho-libertarians believe in habeas corpus or Miranda rights? If so, Why? And if so, which entity would function as the guarantor of these rights in the anarcho-capitalist paradise?