REPLY #1 TO
are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.
prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.
My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text
and are prefaced by my initials (MB)
(R) You nicely outline the standard arguments for keeping drugs illegal. I will try, below, to show why those arguments fail.
(MB) Sometimes, arguments are "standard" because they are strong and rather obvious. Other times, they are "standard" because they parrot what is often called the "party line". In this case, however, I believe that the former is true while the defense of Drugs amounts to little more than unsupportable rationalization. But, in the spirit of good debate, let's get into what you have to say and see if something new is to be found.
(R) You first argue that drug use entails an externality (that is, some kind of third party effect). My drug use does not just
affect me, but those around me, under this argument. However, this is true for many other substances, even mere activities.
You mention alcohol and nicotine; what about caffeine?
(MB) I mention caffeine (as well as alcohol, nicotine, and others) in the opening paragraph of my essay. That same paragraph also explains how I differentiate between "drugs" (i.e., legal substances) and "Drugs" (i.e., illegal substances).
(R) You also argue that there is no guarantee against the use of vehicles, etc. under the influence. But that position commits you
to the strange view that one must support prohibition in order to oppose drunken driving.
(MB) Not at all. You overlook the patterns of usage of the substances in question. Since most alcohol users do not drink solely to get drunk, it is not necessary to advocate Prohibition to be against drunk driving. On the other hand, nobody uses illegal Drugs for any purpose other than for their hallucinogenic effects.
(R) The argument that 'drugs cause crime' is similarly illogical. Drugs are expensive; crime is a way to get large amounts of money
without a large legal income. If the price of drugs, inflated due to prohibition, were to fall, crime would be unnecessary. This is borne out both by theory and history. Opium and heroin were legal in this country until the 1940s; drug-related crime climbed steeply (and continues to do so) after their prohibition. If a product is illegal then its seller bears an additional cost from the transaction. He passes most of that cost on to the consumer. That is why black market goods are almost always much
more expensive than their legal counterparts.
(MB) While your basic economic theory is accurate, your history leaves out one important fact. There is no evidence that the price of illegal Drugs would drop. There is not a valid comparison to Prohibition's effect on alcohol prices since there has never been a similar period of legality-illegality-legality for, for example, heroin and opium. Alcohol had been a major legal industry prior to Prohibition. The same was not true for heroin and opium. Once Prohibition ended, the
alcohol industry (and the prices) simply returned to the previous state. No such thing would happen for heroin since the entire production and distribution network is in the hands of organized crime. The high price of Drugs is due in some part to the risks involved, but is also influenced by supply and demand, as well as the profit motives of the suppliers.
Also, Drug addicts would still have to rely on crime to support their habits. If you have little or no income already, it doesn't much matter if the price of your habit goes down a bit. You're still going to have to turn to crime to keep yourself supplied with your next fix.
(R) You next argue that drugs provide no benefits to their users. That's clearly false, since if that were the case (barring
addiction, which I'll deal with in a moment) no one would do drugs at all.
(MB) This is clear bunk. Chemical perpetuation of delusions of well-being can hardly be classified as a "benefit" by any standard.
(R) And of course there were a great many successful and long-lived people who used drugs in both history and fiction. Sigmund Freud
did coke every day. Sherlock Holmes used cocaine as well. Most of the British nobility used opium during the 19th century.
(MB) First, trying to justify something because a fictional character does it is rather suspect. Second, did the real-life examples you cite become successful, long-lived, and famous because of their drug use, or did they adopt their habits only after becoming successes? Lastly, "using drugs" in the 19th century was not the same thing as what is done today. The nobility hardly mainlined daily in back alleys while the cocaine that Freud and his contemporaries may have used was
nowhere near the purity and potency of today's version.
(R) They could do this safely because the market was freely inspectable. Just as basement-made wood alcohol was tremendously
unsafe during Prohibition, so too are today's street-mixed drugs.
(MB) The key to keeping the modern Drug users addicted is to make their Drugs stronger. Marijuana, in the 19th century, was barely strong enough to give you a headache. Today's strains are considerably stronger.
(R) Finally, you ask if success and long life are directly attributable to drug use in any case. That's plainly irrelevant,
since one could ask the same question of almost any pastime or hobby and receive a negative answer. My wargaming, which I would
hesitate to give up under almost any circumstance, is not responsible for any long life or success. Similarly, some of us are made happy by risky, pleasurable activities - or should mountain climbing, hang gliding, and bungee jumping be made illegal as well?
(MB) There are many tangible and positive benefits to be gained from activities such as those you mention. The fact that I referred to only two of them is, in no way, a restriction. Even though some of the things you mention are clearly risky, the risks are always under control and the risk taker always seeks to increase the safety factor he works with. The person engaging in these activities is benefitting positively from improvements in his physical, mental, and psychological
The same can certainly not be said for Drug use. In this behavior, risks are routinely ignored and there is little or no effort on the user's part to observe safety. There are no tangible and positive benefits from Drug use. Drug use only limits what the user could potentially achieve. Nobody succeeds because of Drug use. Drug use is often a side-effect of an inability to cope with achievement -- or, with life in general.
(R) The other fallacy which underlies the argument is that there can be no responsible use of drugs. But we have social drinkers and
smokers; plainly one can at least conceive of responsible, 'social' drug users as well. History proves this point too (see above examples).
(MB) Besides the fact that I've already shown the "historical proof" to be groundless, any argument purporting so-called "social" Drug use on a parallel with smoking and drinking is also flawed. The primary reason for this is the fact that nobody does Drugs for the taste or for refreshment. "Social drinking" implies not getting drunk. This is quite normal. "Social Drug use" would have to mean not getting high. That is clearly in direct opposition to the purpose of using Drugs in
the first place. Getting drunk or high is not responsible behavior. Therefore, there can be no such thing as "responsible" or "social" Drug use as defined in similar terms of the use of alcohol.
(R) As for Nancy Reagan's message -- well, you might not need drugs to get high on life, and I may not either, but others might, and
it's not my place to tell them otherwise.
(MB) Why not? More to the point, why would somebody need Drugs to get high on life? Is their life so empty and unfulfilling that they must resort to hallucinogenic experiences for any modicum of satisfaction? Have they no skills, no desires, no motivation, no interests? If not, this clearly implies a major psychological problem that hardly justifies approving of getting high on Drugs. Getting high won't solve their problems. In fact, that will likely only make them worse.
(R) I enjoyed your piece. I will definitely read the others (as well as order some games!)
(MB) Thanks for taking the time to respond! I look forward to hearing what you have to say on other issues, as well. After all, that's why I make this forum available.