"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." -Aldous Huxley

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wMonday, February 17, 2003

OF METH LABS AND BAPTIST SUNDAY SCHOOL: I've been getting something of a reputation lately for starting things but, honestly, I don't go out of my way to step on sore toes. I've wondered for the last year why some of my often lighthearted comments tend to provoke such a strong reaction. Perhaps I lack the sot of politesse that most people have developed in order to just get along. When people say terribly stupid things (and I mean really breathtakingly stupid, not just silly) my first instinct is to say something along the lines of "Well, that was dumb. Thanks for sharing."

I often manage to suppress that instinct, but sometimes it can't be helped. Today, for instance, I let it rip in my Baptist Sunday school class. The teacher was riffing on Matthew 6 ("Judge not, lest ye be judged," "First, remove the plank from your own eye," etc.) when he stumbled onto an item in the news in my small northwest Washington town. Just down the street from yours truly, a methamphetamine lab was discovered. Since very little happens in this small Dutch town, everybody and their aunt has been talking about it. It is alternatively "sad" and "unsettling" and a sign that the town's moral fabric is coming un-knit. (If the moral fabric of society had come un-knit as often as the doom and gloom crowd had pronounced it, we'd be living in a state of total chaotic anarchy. Which might be kind of fun.)

The teacher said that if a certain "death rate" was attached to meth manufacture, distribution and even usage, then we'd quickly see its usage fall. He invited upon to look at this as a good thing. I demurred, arguing that such a solution would be a) stupid, b) fascist and c) unconstitutional. (I really do believe that last point, by the way. I've said before that I think Americans have a constitutional right to get as high as a kite.)

The responses were both predictable and clich├ęd:

1. With freedom comes responsibility.

Great, Spider Man, but "responsibility" doesn't mean "Oh, hey, let's shoot people who do stuff that we don't like."

2. Drug dealers are killing people.

If you mean shooting people, fine. If you mean giving them a substance that they want, that may or may not result in death, then I think we should extend this logic a bit further. Gun dealers should obviously be locked up. So should those who manufacture or sell, say, rat poison. Both are used to commit suicide or to kill others.

3. They're breaking the law.

So? There's such a dense thicket of laws in this country today that a vast majority of them can never be enforced. I'm sure we all break the law several times a week and don't even notice. The law is often an ass and nowhere is this more clear than with modern drug laws.

4. If we legalize drugs, we'll end up like Europe.

I'm no great fan of most European countries, but we should remember that a stopped clock is right 14 times a week. The problem with most European countries (if I may be allowed to put on my ugly American hat for a moment) is too much statism and too little religion, not too much freedom.

5. The War on Drugs is too constitutional.

No it isn't. The Constitution nowhere grants the government the kind of powers that it needs to prosecute such a war. The Bill of Rights gives the people all kinds of vital checks against government intrusion that should frustrate attempts by the state to try to control our, um, precious bodily fluids. Most of the founders--who were most definitely not teetotalers--would be aghast at the kind of violence meted out by the government to enforce bizarre social norms. The prohibitionists knew that it was necessary to pass the disastrous 18th amendment in order to ban booze. The drug warriors should be forced to offer an amendment of their own.

6. There isn't good scientific research on the effects of many drugs, including pot.

To the extent that that's true, the lack of research wouldn't have anything to with the fact that the U.S. government tends to prohibit such experiments on the grounds that testing involves the consumption of illegal substances, would it?

7. Because of insurance and partial public funding of healthcare, we'll end up paying for drug abuse with higher premiums and higher taxes.

Response number one: So let's ban guns, SUVs and eating fatty foods. In fact, let's ban freedom. In terms of health costs, it can get pricey.

Response number two: There are already public costs associated with the drug war--unsavory violence prone types running drugs, super concentrated products being cut with possibly toxic substances, etc.--that would be taken off of the ledger if drugs were legal. This could, conceivably, produce savings for taxpayers, even with an increase in emergency medical treatment.

8. What about the children?

I agree with many conservatives and some libertarians that children present a problem for legalizers. But, again, the drug war currently has many negative effects on children--including, for instance, more drug-related violence in urban areas, or education that teaches children to rat out the recreational drug use of their parents--that could be diminished if drugs were legalized. It wouldn't be a panacea but, then, neither is the current arrangement.

posted by Jeremy at 4:04 AM