The war on drugs – drugs still winning:
The police department believes that, under state law, you may responsibly get baked, order some pizzas and enjoy a ‘Lord of the Rings’ marathon in the privacy of your own home, if you want to.
"It is not worth the while to go round the world to count the cats in Zanzibar" – Henry David Thoreau
The use of OxyContin has dropped precipitously, but none of us anticipated that people who were addicted to oxycodone would leave it and select another drug to take its place
None of us, or none of you, the omniscient supermen who would regulate us all?
People are going from an essentially safe medication with known, specified doses to a powder that their dealer is telling them is heroin [...] There’s no way to know if that’s true, and the purity is uncertain [because heroin can be cut with other substances]. People who are switching suddenly aren’t sure what they’re getting, and overdose is likely to occur.
Well, you don’t say. Well done, everyone!
I can’t agree with all Sir Richard has to say here but it’s a good start and it is good that such a
bearded twat notable businessman has said what everyone else is thinking. Here is my take. I guess I could go into a heck of a lot on drugs but I could also stick to one story. It’s LS6 (Cardigan Rd – so next to the Co-op and Village Video and an otherwise reasonable-looking looking crib. And I mean really because it is a nice gaff with fellow postgrads so I ask my bomb-shell question (the one I always ask) – “Been burgled in the last year?”. And they are good, honest decent people so give me an honest answer. Unfortunately it’s the wrong one which is a shame because they had a nice gaff, nicely located and at a reasonable rent. Guess what they killed it for me with? Some scrote had legged-it up the drain-pipe to steal a bottle of “Wash’n'Go”. The cops had been called and said it’s spot-on for “cooking-up” heroin (the cops had lamentable experience). Well I sort of liked to think at the time I was a Man of the World but clearly not that primed for such epic scumbaggery. I mean scaling a drain to knock a window out to steal shampoo (ignoring the laptops). I mean apart from anything the Co-op was just over the road and surely shop-lifting from that was much easier than cat burglary.
Am I the only one who finds this sinister?
Just read through and note the language used.
”It’s still their choice. They either decide to take contraception or they don’t. We aren’t trying to coerce people into it but if people think about it they might think it’s a good idea.”
”If a GP receives a request from a drug addict patient for sterilisation or long-term contraception, the focus of the consultation must be on the overall interests of the patient.”
Apparently you get fifty quids worth of TESCO vouchers just for turning up! The Nazis didn’t do that!
I really don’t like the way this is going. I’m beginning to imagine where it might lead and am not liking it one bit.
After all we must have optimum population levels and that means no time for the hangers-on, surely?
I am a minimal state libertarian (indeed someone with “Tory Anarchist” tendencies – i.e. that in a ideal world, the world is not ideal, I would not like to see a total end to the use of aggressive force stealing the property of people and ordering them about with threats), and like many liberatarians (minimal state “minarchist” or anarchist “anarchocapitalist”) I am used to sneering at limited state folk.
“Contrary to F.A. Hayek it is the limited state, not the minimal state, that can not be clearly defined – limited to WHAT EXACTLY?”
“The minimal state (whether possible or not in practice) is at least a clear principle – only use state violence to counter other violence. What is the clear principle of the limited state?”
“Once you have accepted that the state is more than a sword (i.e. can do nice things for people – not just be force) then you open the door to ever more government – look at the history of the modern world…..”
And on and on – with philosophical (to use force other than to counter force is evil), economic (government interventions have higher, even if hidden, costs than benefits) and political/historic (once you get away from a clear principle of what the state must be confined to you open the door to ever bigger government) arguments.
Thus the limited state position is shown to be utterly absurd – surely only fools could be limited state people (rather than minimal state or no state folk).
However, in history very many pro liberty people were limited state people – and they were not fools. Indeed, for example, the great figures of the later part of the Scottish Enlightenment (not just Adam Smith – but also, for example, Dugald Stewart, the great teacher of so many liberty supporting British public figures) were limited state, not minimal state people.
Indeed a large faction of the American Republican party has been fundementally misunderstood by libertarians – people like Thomas Dewey (the once famous Governor of New York) regarded themselves as frugal and in favour of sound finance (they were not corrupt RINO types) yet they believed in active (although limited) government based on “scientific principles” (i.e. not the corrupt unlimited government of the New Dealers or of statist Republicans such as Nelson Rockefeller – but NOT libertarians either, and thus hard for us to understand). In this they follow, for example, the Scottish tradition (of Adam Smith, Dugald Stewart and so on) not the minimal state libertarian tradition (a tradition that sees the state, sometimes, as a useful tool for constructive progress, not the tradition of “Old Whig” Edmund Burke and so on that sees the state as a sword – and regards the idea of constructive moral, for it was Dugald Stewart not Edmund Burke who was not wildly hostile to such things as government attacks on drug use – a moderate in his theology, but the active view of the moral role of the State remained in the Church of Scotland just as the democratic ideals it partly put into practice in the 16th century to a great extent remained, or physical improvements comming from the state as absurd – the Burkeian view of both state and church being different).
Even the Constitution of the United States does NOT confine the Federal government (let alone State and local governments) to just using force to counter force. Certainly the vast majority of things that the Federal government now does are unconstitutional (the Constitution has been subverted by a corrupt academic, media and political class), but NOT all of them.
For example, the post office and post roads are clearly powers that the Congress has – if it wishes to use them. These powers are plainly in the text – and not by some oversite.
Nor were the Founding Fathers odd in this respect – I repeat that very many other pro liberty people (sincere pro liberty people – folk who would have died for liberty, and liberty as we understand it) were limited state people – not libertarians, not minarchists or anarchocapitalists.
The subject is a vast one – so I will confine myself mainly (but not totally) to the Scottish example.
The Scottish example:
In many ways Scotland in the late 18th century (and the early 19th century) was close to being a “minimal state”. For example, most parishes (even in the big city of Glasgow) did not levy a compulsory Poor Rate – relying instead on voluntary contributions. Also the much talked about Scottish education system was not as the simple books present it – by the late 18th century compulsion (i.e. forcing parents to send their children to go to school – even if they did not want to) had broken down in many areas (just as it had done in New England, even Massachusetts did not really have compulsion, until H. Mann brought it back in the mid 19th century – and then in new secular, rather than theocratic, form) and education was not “free” (although there was much help for some poor people) – and the universities were a matter of students often directly paying (or not paying) to hear certain lecturers on the basis of whether they thought they were any good or not.
So why did this wonderful state of affairs end? Why did Scotland move from (almost) a minimal state in the late 18th century, to a limited state by the mid 19th century?
Well firstly we must remember that taxes did not go up (not overall) – just as in England taxes (all taxes as a proportion of total economic activity) were lower in the late 19th century than had been in the early 19th century (the low tax/spend point for England, at least in areas that did not at once establish an Education Board after the Act of 1870 – is the year 1874, but taxes remained low for decades after this).
Why? Two reasons.
Firstly current war – the wars of the 18th and early 19th century (especially the French Revolutionary wars) took a vastly greater share of resources than the wars of the mid to late 19th century. Partly because they were simply bigger wars – but also because of the industrial revolution transforming just how big the British economy was (the bigger the economy the smaller the share of resources may be needed to win a war). The military function is a function of both minimal states and limited states – so if war is less common (or war takes a smaller share of the economy) a limited state may actually be smaller than a minimal state.
However, also the way that war was financed in the 18th century must be noted. Unlike the mid to late 19th century war was largely funded by DEBT in the 18th century.
Borrowed money has to be paid back – with INTEREST. And eventually fully HALF of all national government spending (Scotland and England having the same national government and national debt) was spent on the debt.
Due to a policy of balancing the budget (when possible) the share of government spending devoted to paying interest on the national debt was only a tiny fraction of government spending by the end of the Victorian period – thus meaning there was room for government spending on other things (i.e. a move from a minimal state to a limited state) whilst government as a whole actually got SMALLER as a proportion of civil society.
However, none of the above deals with the question of WHY people wanted to move from a minimal state (or close to it) to a limited state – why they wanted government to do various things, and (and this is very important) why they thought government had been SUCCESSFUL in doing various things.
Living in the world we do (a world of endless and obvious government failures in just about everything) the limited state attitude, that government can achieve XYZ, seems absurd – but this was not the world of 19th century Scotland.
The historian Norman Stone (no leftist) described 19th century Scotland as the ultimate “Protestant society” and he was not really talking about a belief in predestination or even the priesthood of all believers (although perhaps, in a way, he is pointing at the latter). What Norman Stone means is a society based on work and honesty and the belief that one “means what one says – and does what one says one will do”. It seems a bit harsh to a High Church person like me to call hard work and honesty “Protestant” (implying that Catholics are not honest and hard working), but let that pass.
Stone often talks of a single town clerk running a vast local authority – and running it well, making sure that the steets were cleaned , the rubbish collected (and so on) and all for the lowest possible cost to the local rate payers.
To many English people this would have sounded dubious even in the 19th century – for example the liberals (including the famous free traders Richard Cobden and John Bright) promised “lower rates” would result from sweeping away the old Tory dominated Manchester Corporation and replacing it with a modern elected council under the Act of 1835.
Rates (property taxes) of course went UP. No surprise to Tory folk busy fighting “reform” in much of England (including in my home town of Kettering – where the fight went on till the Act of 1891 forced a local education board on a town that had rejected it after 1870).
However, English local government does seem to have got things done in the 19th century. True it was not always government that led the way – the basic utilities that the Liberals of Manchester thought that government “must” provide (the word “must” I take from J.S. Mill’s works – even in “On Liberty” we are told, casually and in passing, that “everyone” agrees that X,Y, Z, “must” be provided by the state) were mostly (not all) provided by private enterprise in Newcastle – and provided at least as well.
However, only it would be wrong to deny that Manchester (and so on) achieved dramatic things. To someone who lived through the transformation of Manchester from the terrible place it was (Fred Engels was not making it all up) to the decent city it became, talk of “the improvments would have happened another way – as economic growth proceeded” might have sounded hollow.
Even though I regard the methods used as terrible (not just taking money by force but, for example, taking whole areas of the county of Chesire against the will the of the people who lived there – and using the land for the needs of Manchester) I can not deny that the results were impressive (even if I admit this through gritted teeth).
And no one but a fool would call 19th Manchester “socialist” – it was dominated by private enterprise (as were all British cities) and it was part of the “workshop of the world” not a dependent dump that only produces demands for more subsidies. The arguments we libertarians use against modern statism can not just be applied in a lazy way to the much smaller statism of the 19th century.
But it was Scotland that offered the best case for the limited state point of view. Glasgow had perhaps the worst poverty in the country – with people living short lives in terrible conditions. Yet (for example) clean water was brought to Glasgow in perhaps the most impressive public works scheme since the Roman Empire – water delivered many miles through solid (and incredibly hard) rock. Could voluntary finance (charitable or commercial) really have achieved such things? We might say “yes” – but many people at the time said “no” and came to the conculsion that the alternative to state action was for people to continue to drink brown filth (and die of it).
It was the same with poor relief. Libertarians (including myself) point at the problems of government poor relief – but there seemed to be no such problems with the Scottish Poor Law of 1845. No one was FORCED into a Workhouse – but nor were large numbers of able bodied people on out relief either. And nor did either Poor Rate or POVERTY grow over time – indeed poverty shrank. The condition of the population (whilst still poor by modern standards, due to the inferior technological economic base of the time) was vastly better in (say) 1905 than it had been in 1845 – the government system seemed to work.
In education also the Scottish state education system (far more than the English state system – which, as E.G. West pointed out long ago did NOT increase the speed of the spread of literacy, and even at the time was understood to let children down in such things as the teaching of science) was considered a wonder of the world – producing generations of clear thinking people on whose inventions the modern world still depends.
Think back a century. To go to Scotland a century ago and say “government poor relief leads to a vast ever growing underclass” or “government education does not work” or “local government schemes inevitably become corrupt white elephants” (and on and on) would just have attracted laughter (as the evidence around people a century ago would seem to contradict such statements).
So, however much we may disagree with the limited government people of the past – they were not fools. They had much evidence to back their beliefs and we should not claim they did not.
Headlines here are about the 7th member of the Drugs Advisory Committee to resign out of principle. Now I’m no great fan of the committee anyway – it’s nobody else’s business if people want to poison themselves, so long as they’re not being tricked into it. But the scientific advisors are – finally – starting to stand up to the tendency to ban even stuff that apparently is not even poisonous.
For those who don’t follow the British media – and who could blame you? – it’s all about a drug called Mephedrone, or 1-(4-methylphenyl)-2-methylaminopropan-1-one. It is what is known as a legal high, a euphoric that has not yet been banned. There is a continual arms race between the black market chemists who search for new variants to sell to those people who want them and the governments who race to find evidence to ban them.
Many governments already have. It is already illegal in Australia (de facto, if not de jure), Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Israel, Jersey, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Romania, Sweden, and North Dakota in the US. It is odd, then, that the UK scientific committee are saying they know of no solid evidence linking it to harm. On what basis have all those other governments banned it, then? This is clearly not a UK-specific issue.
So far as one can tell the only problem with the drug, what people are really objecting to, is that it is pleasurable; and the solid belief that enjoyment is bad for you – a belief in some sort of inverted cosmic karma – has led people to conclude that this must be bad for you, and it is their duty to seek out the evidence to prove it and have it stopped. This is the defining belief of Health-Puritans. As HL Mencken quipped:
Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.
It is an old problem, founded on an ancient tendency in the human psyche to interfere. Obviously the people so oppressed have always objected. What is in comparatively short supply, though, is the organised urge to fight it – also not a new problem. Bertrand Russell:
But no organized body represents the point of view of those who believe that a man or woman ought to be free in regard to enjoyments which do not damage other people, so that the Puritans have met with no serious opposition, and their tyranny has not been regarded as raising a political issue.
The Home Secretary has declared his intention to have it banned anyway, despite there being no evidence, no support from the scientists they specifically employed to give them cover for their totalitarian policies, and despite that doing so without a properly constituted advisory committee is of questionable legality. An election is coming. Law and order is popular. He’s not about to let the facts get in the way of a good knee-jerk ban.
And all the fuss is about whether they can or should ban it without scientific backing. But surely the fact that they are even trying should raise the question of whether they should be doing it at all? Why do we trust these people to make such decisions on behalf of us all? They have no greater moral standing, no greater scientific understanding, no greater knowledge, or wisdom than the average. They would appear to be far below average in many such regards. And yet we all follow them. Do what they say.
I am wondering whether it is a coincidence that the committee has broken ranks just before an election. Is it some faint stirrings of a desire for liberty, expressed at a time when it is most likely to have an impact? Or merely a play for more power? Or an ingratiation with the anticipated new government?
There is a great deal of talk about the “public demand” for banning the drug, but I haven’t personally heard any myself, I haven’t seen any polls. And you can be sure that if there were favourable polls we would hear about them. Is there a public demand? Is there anything more than a few campaigners, and a lot of people going along with what they think they ought to say? I haven’t even seen the usual vox pops, from members of the public giving their opinions. There are plenty of people in favour of liberalisation – surveys of clubbers show it to be one of the most popular. Who exactly is it that’s against?
We libertarians are often told we are a minority view, and judging by votes cast in elections that seems to be the case. But is it possible that we are less of a minority than we are told? And as the state encroaches ever more on liberty, growing larger?
How many times can a dog be kicked before it turns?