Marijuana. Xanax. LSD. 2CE/2CI. Methamphetamine. A literal galaxy of wines, liquors, and beers. MDMA. OxyContin. Cocaine. Psilocybin mushrooms. Adderall. Heroin. Crack. Klonopin. Trazodone. etc, etc, ad infinitum…
To most everyone, that list represents a smorgasbord of substances that elicit a change in mood or behavior. Maybe they’re looked upon with a revered hesitancy, not quite full blown skepticism…but not really held to any serious consideration. Perhaps a twinge of uneasiness washes over you based upon a past experience, either personally or vicariously through a loved one. Or maybe simply the bulk of those appear to be avenues that the moral invalids of our society choose to partake in and they are devoid of any civilized application…
…And then there’s the block of the population who views that list as not simply substances…but solutions. To those of us who have an unspeakable aversion to raw unfiltered reality, the only real solution tends to lean towards seeking an external substance for an internal problem. This leads many of us to begin to seek out our solutions wherever they may be only to end up finding our own demise…one hit/drink/shot/line/pill at a time. It’s not that we don’t want to do right, it’s just that somewhere along the way we bought into this lie that this is the way things have to be for us.
I’m an addict who’s been in recovery for the last 8 years. I’m also a libertarian. And this is what I hope to be the beginning of a desperately needed conversation within the liberty movement about the reality of drug addiction as well as the benefits to the legalization of drugs across the board.
For many people who come in to the rooms of 12 step meetings for their first time, they’re beat down completely, hurt beyond any real comprehension, and so desperately tired of life being the way it is that they’re willing to try anything just to make the pain stop. They’ll come in and sit in the back of the room with their cup of coffee, listening intently to what is being shared, undoubtedly making mental notes of who they identify with and who they can’t. This is where the seed is planted for many of us. Maybe it was a slick one liner such as “My worst day clean is better than my best day high” or simply “Trust God, clean house, and help others.”
This inevitably leads to them seeking out someone to help walk them through the 12 steps, often referred to as a “sponsor”, which is essentially a mentor. In this dynamic, the sponsor/sponsee relationship serves as an avenue for getting 100% honest about the nature of addiction. When sitting down and working all 12 steps, one inescapable conclusion must be drawn that serves as the cornerstone for my assertion: ADDICTS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR OWN RECOVERY.
Nobody can just wave a magic wand and wish away our mental illness, it has to be chipped away with the hammer and chisel of personal accountability and rigorous self inventory, steps 1-10 tell us precisely this much:
- We admitted that we were powerless over addiction and that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a power great than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- We made a decision to turn our will and lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory.
- Admitted to God, ourselves, and to another human the exact nature of our wrongs.
- We became entirely ready for God to remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all the persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
So with steps 1-3 we are essentially copping to the fact that we don’t possess the knowledge on how to get out of this spot we’ve found ourselves in. We then have the realization that there’s others who have found their way out and are willing to show us if we’d only practice a little willingness and open-mindedness.
In steps 4-7 we have made a list consisting of every resentment, fear, shortcoming, and defect that has run rampant within our lives to this point. After that we’ve sat down and bounced it off someone else to get a fresh perspective on this inventory, ideally getting further insight to the exact depths of our situation. Now we are ready to do something about it.
With steps 8-9 we show some true to life personal accountability. Finally we are on a path of self determination! Freedom is within reach, all that is required from us is a WILLINGNESS (step 8) followed abruptly with OPEN MINDEDNESS (step 9). Many of us find in this part of the process that the effect we have on others around us is very real and not as insignificant as previously thought. Alternatively, we learn we aren’t the broken deplorable monsters that we had labeled ourselves long ago.
In step 10, we continue the process of accountability and self responsibility, conditioning ourselves to look at our part in a given scenario instead of shifting blame or relying on others to fix everything. This is key. This is the part where the revelation hits us that we needn’t rely on anyone else to determine whether or not we can show up for a successful life.
In steps 11-12 we set the stage for our future, acknowledging that our journey into learning more about who we are and what our purpose is as well as being of maximum service to others in this newfound life:
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps we tried to carry this message to addicts and practice these principles in all of our affairs.
So there we have it, the pathway has been laid out for us. Self determination and accountability are the vehicles which will carry us into a life that is manageable. Why then, do we see so many find freedom from active addiction and take the stance that the state should utilize its monopoly on violence and coercion to continue stoking the dumpster fire that is the modern day drug war? How many lives destroyed by the meat grinder of the criminal justice system will it take for us all to acknowledge that applying the hammer of the state isn’t the proper tool for what amounts to a mental health concern? Surely those of us who’ve walked through the hell of active addiction can see the folly in expecting the failed method of prohibition and mass incarceration to suddenly start working after decades of documented failure.
I’m under the assumption that many of those who went through the system and made it out to the other side believe that in order for others to find the same freedom, they need to experience the same rock bottoms that they did. While I can understand how they arrive to this rationale, it certainly doesn’t pass the litmus test. When reflecting on all the people who have not only helped me but also the ones that I’ve been fortunate enough to help, I can see that there’s never been a “one size fits all” approach. Each and every person is uniquely different and requires a uniquely different approach in kind. With this information in hand, we can clearly see why the modus operandi of government (what with their one size fits all bureaucracy) would be cripplingly ineffective. A ham fisted solution to an incredibly complex and delicate issue such as addiction, is an utter impossibility.
The Spectacular Failure of the Nanny State
When discussing the actual depths of the damage that is done when the state attempts to “fix” the portion of the population who battles drug addiction, it’s important to look at just how many US citizens are being arrested for drug crimes. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Statistics for 2017, an estimated 1,632,921 arrests were made for “drug abuse violations.” Of those 1.6 million arrests, not only do these individuals now have to be churned through an already saturated court system, but in the process they will most assuredly incur lost wages if not losing their jobs altogether, only to be met with a sentencing that will result in heavy fines/forced participation in various levels of the rehabilitation industry that will require them to pay out of pocket for doctor/counselor visits as well as paying for their court mandated drug screenings. First time offenders will generally be offered probation or “drug court” depending on the severity of their charges. Repeat offenders might get lucky and snag a plea deal for drug court, however, many addicts will wind up in prison. On top of the aforementioned measures which result in forced payments from those unfortunate enough to get ensnared by this system, there’s the ridiculous prices for services made available to inmates while incarcerated.
Taking Oklahoma County Jail for example, the second you’re booked, any money you have on you has to go into the commissary system with $15 taken off the top for a TB test. A 15 minute phone call costs as much as $18.77. Now if you’re trying to coordinate legal representation and potential bail solutions with family outside you’ll be getting knocked over the head for each call you have to make. And heaven forbid you should need medical attention for any reason because that will get docked from your account as well. It’s easy to dismiss these scenarios because as far as the general public is concerned, if you’re in jail then you obviously aren’t deserving of any reasonable accommodations to fight for your freedoms.
Regardless of the direction someone’s sentencing takes, one thing’s for sure: Uncle Sam wants his money. This entire empire of criminal justice is a costly endeavor, and while the general public wants those seemingly morally deficient drug addicts locked away for good, they certainly will make their displeasure known the second a politician suggests raising their taxes to compensate for progressive measures/upgrades in the penal system. That leaves only one person to pay the price: the addict. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not attempting to paint addicts in the light of being all out victims, if they’ve aggressed towards someone’s person or property then they need to be held accountable for such actions. However, creating a system of mass incarceration for mental health issues and then sticking the individual you’re trying to “fix” with the bill via force and coercion reads as anything but moral. This mentality is no different than someone stopping by your house and impounding your vehicle because you’re overdue for an oil change, then forcing you to buy a vehicle from them that’s in much worse condition than your previous one. It’s utter insanity, as most bureaucratic state sponsored solutions tend to be.
Now let’s remove the obvious failure that’s apparent in trying to bleed a turnip, and instead let’s look at the drug court system. Drug court is sold as being the gold standard for true rehabilitation, the carrot on a string caveat to the addict being that IF they can make it through the process, their charge(s) will be wiped from their record. It requires individuals who agree to its conditions to attend various levels of outpatient rehabilitation, weekly random drug tests, intensive supervision, and ultimately forced participation to attending 12 step meetings. Now, what I’m about to say will come as a shock but it needs to be said: the state got it right when they acknowledged the level of success to be found in going through the 12 step process, they missed the mark completely in believing that they can somehow court mandate the level of rehabilitation needed in order for an addict to find a new way of life. The 12 step process works through a voluntary participation in its process and principles. You simply cannot force someone to have a “spiritual awakening.” This has to be done organically. While there is some merit in simply being exposed to meetings before someone’s ready to participate, it’s ultimately the state acknowledging that they’re powerless to address the underlying issue and that this whole charade is simply the empire playing middleman and doing what it does best: extortion. So while shades of this modus operandi appear to be successful, the actual mechanism that works in the formula has absolutely nothing to do with what the state is offering.
The drug war has raged on since Nixon declared a “war on drugs” in 1971. In the time since then not only had the state marked untold amounts of individuals with “felon,” but it’s cost an estimated $1 trillion. In 48 years we as a society are no closer to solving this never ending war than when we first began. In fact if you look at some of the low brow maneuvers that law enforcement have utilized in the process the waters become muddied as to what the end game actually is anymore besides keeping impoverished communities under the thumb of authority and skimming money off the top. We saw CIA involvement with cocaine trafficking during the Reagan era, ATF involved in funneling firearms to various cartels during the Obama era with the Fast and Furious scandal, civil asset forfeiture is now common place among most law enforcement agencies as a means of financial gain for resources under the guise of public safety, and assuredly other scandals throughout the years and at present that haven’t yet made the headlines. At what point can we call this dog and pony show what it actually is…a horrendously failed experiment at social control.
So now that we are on the same page for why the state is incapable of producing a solution to drug addiction, we need to delve into the personal liberty aspect of this assertion. Not only is it incredibly immoral to allow any government to punish someone for the content of their blood, it flys in the face of ones pursuit of happiness and freedom of personal choice. When discussing decriminalization or legalization of all drugs, the same few arguments get thrown up time and time again. Of which include:
- “If drugs are legal, drug addiction will be widespread and rampant.”
- “Legalization will lead to increased rates of property crime as addicts will be feigning for their next fix.”
- “Child neglect and infant addiction due to drug addiction during pregnancies will take a sharp upturn.”
- “The burden on the healthcare system from the influx of overdoses will drive insurance/medical costs through the roof.”
Before we begin to dismantle these I think it’s important to point out that these perspectives aren’t indicative of bad rationale, at a surface level these assertions ring true, they just don’t pass the litmus test. Now, continued belief in these statements even after evidence to the contrary is a different matter altogether. If we are truly a free people, separating fact from fiction on this spectrum is vital to a continued pursuit of happiness among members of this society.
“If drugs are legal, drug addicataion will be widespread and rampant!” This logic always confuses me. If the only thing stopping the majority of the population falling victim to drug addiction is simply based upon the legality of the activity and the law is so able to adjust the perceived moral failings of the individual, why then has there not been legislation passed outlawing poverty and hunger? It’s a fallacy. We cannot legislate and regulate ourselves into prosperity.
Even with the whole legal equals moral capability argument removed, let’s look at the prohibition era and the alcohol consumption levels prior and after. America at its absolute highest per capita consumption level was in the 1830s with an estimated 7 gallons of ethanol consumed per person each year, this wasn’t the 70 proof what-have-you that we see in liquor stores today, this was 100% pure corn alcohol. On 1919 the per capita consumption rate was hovering around 1.96 gallons. The prohibition era began in the 1920s and as a result the available data on consumption is sketchy at best, often too far in one direction or the other as measuring underground activity tends to be. However I believe all we need is a mental image of the crime families that arose as a direct result of prohibition as well as the roaring popularity of the counter culture during this time to make an educated guess on the effectiveness of the legislation. With a short lifespan of just 13 years, the prohibition era came to an end and alcohol consumption levels behaved as if the prohibition had no effect, with a recorded 1.3 gallons per capita and rising. Today in America we see a consumption rate of 2.5 gallons, nothing near our booziest on record of the 1830s. I believe a valid assertion to be made with this data is that humans are more than capable to regulate themselves as a whole, and the legality of a substance holds no bearing on the likelihood of consumption.
“Legalization will lead to increased rates of property crime!” While this assertion heavily hinges upon the validity of the previous one mentioned, I believe it’s worth looking into. If we are to believe that with the legalization of drugs, it will be coupled with the increase in robberies and theft, then we must arrive at this conclusion due to a belief that drug use debilitates an individuals moral fabric. While certainly the pursuit of a true to life addict’s next high will have an increased likelihood of consisting of property crime to some extent, the existing pool of addicts does not grow or decrease based upon the legality of a substance. Addiction is not an acquired condition, nor is it something you can simply “catch”. It’s a mental illness whose markers are present long before an addictive chemical is introduced into the body, often referred to as having “an addictive personality”.
We would do well to also take a look at Portugal and the success they’ve had with their decriminalization efforts. Since decriminalizing in 2001 they’ve seen a dramatic increase in voluntary rehabilitation admissions as well as a decrease in property crime. Currently Portugal ranks 94th in the world for property crime rates, while the United States comes in at 49 with full prohibition. This is certainly a point to ponder.
For the most part, I truly believe that the majority of those who would initially take advantage of legalization would be the existing consumers already present in the black market. It would be naïve to assume that first time narcotics consumers wouldn’t dip their toe in the water and give a designer drug or two a try, but overall this marketplace wouldn’t be the hostile underbelly of criminal enterprise we see today. Rather it would look a lot more like a pharmacy than anything else, without the added rigmarole of needing to see a doctor to get the government’s permission in order to consume a given substance.
Many of the “street drugs” on the black market have fancier replicas in your local existing pharmacy, even as you read this. For example methamphetamine is essentially your Adderall, Dexedrine, and Vyvanse. Heroin is the OxyContin, Opana, and Lortab. Cocaine has quite a few derivatives in the form of local anesthetics. The list goes on and on with the point here being that the potential applications for these narcotics are not simply confined to an escape form reality, but a cost effective free market solution to shortfalls in the pharmaceutical industry.
So while yes, in many cases drug addicts have cornered the market on property crimes, legalization doesn’t cater to them alone, not by a long shot. And if we can take anything away from the 1920’s prohibition era, it’s that when goods and services are driven into the black market, not only is it unsuccessful in eliminating the root issue, but it also has a tendency to create brutal criminal enterprises, see also: the Mafia along with literally every cartel in existence today. Thusly, keeping these narcotics illegal is more detrimental to crime rates than would otherwise be seen if decriminalization were to occur.
“Child neglect and infant addication due to pregnant mothers who use during their pregnancy will take a sharp upturn!” Again, this hinges on the idea that public drug use somehow increases in a decriminalized future, which is a proven falsehood, however, this is one of those touchy points and needs to be addressed. I’ve first hand seen child neglect at the hands of using parents, I’ve also experienced pregnant mothers who absolutely couldn’t seem to find the presence of mind to seek recovery. It’s grim, ugly, depressing, and infuriating all at the same time. Certainly given my past experiences I see it a little differently than your average person, but I understand the emotional reactions all the same.
The only way that I know to explain away this notion is that regardless of the legality of a substance, bad parents are going to exist, and there is no evidence which suggests that the availability of substances that are harmful to pregnant mothers will result in an increased usage by them. On the contrary, we need only look at public health perception in regards to cigarettes and alcohol. Certainly there was a time when expecting mothers were carefree in indulging in a alcoholic drink or a cigarette, yet when studies on the impact of such things on unborn children were published, public opinion swayed dramatically. Additionally many states now have laws against smoking in a vehicle with children present (I’m definitely not advocating these laws, just pointing out their existence). The available studies on the negative affects of narcotics on the body are well known and would actually be refined in a marketplace that could operate within the boundaries of the law, incentivizing scientific and medical research into the long term impacts of these substances on the human body.
Lastly, to insinuate that parents nation wide would suddenly lose their paternal instincts and instead endanger their children willfully and maliciously isn’t based in anything beyond sheer rhetoric. As with any other controversial topic, a handful of token examples are propped up as being immutable proof that the public should fear allowing individuals the right of self determination, often claiming the death of the nuclear family unit is nigh. All that is needed to remedy this is to sit down and look at the evidence objectively. Humans have thrived on this rock hurtling through space for millennia, governments along with their laws have risen and fallen in that time along with every type of counter culture activity imaginable, and yet the species remains as resilient as ever. Evidence that decriminalization would be the downfall of the American family is completely nonexistent.
“The burden on the healthcare system from the influx of overdoses will drive insurance/medical costs through the roof!” This is probably the second most common argument when it comes to legalization, and frankly I believe this to be the least pondered position to take on the subject, as it folds under the lightest scrutiny.
In today’s society, overdoses tend to happen for one primary reason: the consumer has no way of knowing how potent the product they’re buying from the black market is. You could be attempting to buy a quarter ounce of cocaine, and while the contents of the bag look the part, for all you know it could be a cocktail of laundry detergent mixed with Anbesol (I’ve personally experienced this and trust me when I tell you that a Tony Montana sized line of powdered Gain is about the worst physical pain I’ve ever walked through).
So what options does the hoodwinked consumer have at that point? Guaranteed there’s no return policy’s, you can’t exactly take them to court for false advertising, and there’s not a Yelp! review service for drug dealers (at least not yet..if you’re a tech savvy entrepreneur get at me). No, the consumer has no real recourse in the event of being maliciously scammed. Now for most dealers, they intend to stay in business for however long their good fortune to not get busted lasts, so they’re not going to go around knowingly selling lethal cocktails. But for those distributors/dealers who could care less, there’s little stopping them from carrying out an attempted murder for a few extra bucks.
You see, in a market where these substances could be purchased with not only total confidence on behalf of the consumer, but with an ability to purchase different strengths of a product on top of receiving proper education on what constitutes a “safe” amount for a given body type/medical background, we’d see a dramatic decline in overdoses. Sure they would still be present, however overindulgence isn’t exclusive to the counter culture. Theres plenty of cases of alcohol poisoning and dietary health issues to be found in American society today which are direct results of overindulgence.
Ultimately, when discussing the prospect of legalizing drugs, all too often an idea gets placed into someone’s mind about a dystopian future where used hypodermic needles litter every square foot of pedestrian walkways in every major city, once pristine downtown marketplaces will be graffiti laden storefronts with boarded up windows, homeless and derelict taking over cities with no shortage of makeshift bonfires in empty 50 gallon drums. Allow me to offer a different perspective: an entire new wing of the pharmaceutical industry opening up to help alleviate the consumers-turned-hostage due to ridiculous prices thanks to insurance coupled with the bigger pharmaceutical companies. A medication marketplace where the core versions of all the leading pharmaceutical narcotics can be learned about and purchased with confidence.
When I was younger I had this idea in my head that if I could just find a way to shift the blame when I got my rear in a sling, I could avoid all criticism and judgement and live a carefree life. Sounds crazy right? It’s exactly where I used to be. In fact, I remember in particular a certain example that should suffice: my dad smoked Marlboro Light 100’s in a box. He’d always buy cartons from the gas station and leave them downstairs in the cabinet. Well, being the sneaky individual that I was, I’d tip toe downstairs in the middle of the night, being careful to avoid the stairs which creaked, and make my way to his brand new carton of cigarettes. I’d take an X-Acto knife and as careful as I could I’d slice between the two flaps on the carton that were glued together, I’d pull a pack out, and then I’d glue the carton back shut again, thinking I was Tom Cruise and I pulled off an epic heist. You could almost hear the Mission Impossible theme song while this ridiculous chubby knucklehead is creeping around the house in the middle of the night.
Now, inevitably dad would wake up and go grab his carton, open it and depending which end he opened first I may get away with my cat burglary or maybe not. In the event that he noticed, he’d instantly call me out on it and rather than take responsibility for my actions, I’d lie like a rug…”gee I dunno dad…maybe the gas station sold you a short carton.” This would obviously infuriate him and off we go, arguing and debating and generally just experiencing chaos when all of this could’ve been avoided had I would’ve ever stolen from him in the first place or at the very least just owned up to it when he called me out on it. And that scenario can be utilized to explain my journey through addiction, and what exactly it was that I had to do in order to come to terms with my lower nature and find a better way of living.
This leads to a central theme of libertarianism that broadly states personal responsibility is of paramount importance. Hayek says in The Constitution of Liberty:
A free society will not function or maintain itself unless its members regard it as right that each individual occupy the position that results from his action and accept it as due to his own action.
And from the Libertarian Party platform:
Individuals are inherently free to make choices for themselves and must accept responsibility for the consequences of the choices they make.
While these are just a couple of examples, the spirit of responsibility lays inherently alongside the idea of personal liberty. To have one without the other is the defining line between complete chaos or complete totalitarianism. It is only when both are coupled together that a free society is able to function.
If we are to push for a better society, we have to smash this idea that it’s always someone else’s fault. Sure there’s times when bad things occur as a result of someone else’s poor choices, yet if we look at all of the major problems plaguing society today, we can see an epidemic emerging. Admitting ones faults takes a backseat to the mental gymnastics that get played out endlessly in pursuit of a scapegoat. From politicians to celebrities, admitting you screwed up is a death sentence to your career. It’s odd how this carries over for the rest of us, but I challenge you to start paying attention to those around you: do they have a natural tendency to admit when they’re wrong, or do they fight that in an attempt to come out the other side smelling like a rose?
Taking responsibility doesn’t just look like copping to mistakes, it also looks like not expecting the state to provide safety and security on every level. Are you capable of protecting your family or do you rely solely on police patrols and 911? What, if anything, is your recourse for if the society we’ve taken for granted crumbles and chaos takes over, what then? Questions like these paint a picture of the immense blunder to be found in relinquishing that responsibility and delegating it to the state.
Now let’s look at another angle: I’m not just talking about the protection of you and yours from the evil in this world, I’m also referring to those members of our society who CAN’T take care of themselves, be it children, mental deficients, the elderly, or anyone in between. All too often libertarians are sized up as believing “To hell with you, I’ve got mine”. I don’t know where this stereotype comes from as I’ve yet to meet anyone who aligns with libertarianism who thinks this way. The argument that libertarians have against social programs and welfare, overall, is the entity charged with oversight and the fact that it’s not voluntarily contributed to.
If an organization absconds funds time and time again while delivering an inferior and cripplingly inefficient product, would we not cease to rely upon that organization? What’s the difference between that and the current welfare state? It’s no stretch to toy with the notion that voluntary contributions would be far superior to helping the helpless than an arbitrarily bureaucratic “helping hand”. Furthermore, if charity is taken by force, is it still charity? If I extort a portion of your pay and then turn around and waste the bulk of it while managing to help a few with a flair of professional inefficiency, does that make me on par with Robin Hood? If we are honest, we have to concede that the current modus operandi is counterintuitive.
One final point I’d like to make on government mandated welfare is the overall effect on public perception in terms of those stuck in poverty among us. When a panhandler is seen in a nicer part of town than they’d normally be found in, the grumbling of those doing better economically can be heard to the tune of “these people are scam artists, there’s plenty of help for them, they only want my money for drugs and booze” or “I already pay a lions share of taxes for food stamps, I’ll be damned if I pay more for them to just get loaded on”. Whether the judgement is accurate or not, have we really gotten to the point where we have traded in our humanity and altruism for a sense of accomplishment from the taxes that have been stolen from us? It’s incredibly depressing that we’ve fallen thins far from compassion for those who are struggling in our communities. Instead of looking the other direction when that homeless person hits you up for change, take a few minutes out of your day and just talk to them. You might just find it shocking how much we’ve dehumanized that stereotype, and maybe then we can start believing in a different approach.
So, in usual Clean Libertarian fashion, I’ve managed to bounce around on various points, in reflection I just hope a semi-concrete case has been formed for the value of responsibility, not just for the recovering drug addict but for anyone across the board. It’s time to make personal responsibility a sought after character trait.