March 22, 2009

A Third Thought On Legalization

On the subject of the federal war on drugs,“conventional unconventional” opinion is right, and Evan’s reservations strike me as horribly misguided.  While I can certainly understand being suspicious of the managerial elite and their “every problem needs a program” mentality, I don’t think that justifies retreat on the one major civil liberties issue that has been trending our direction in recent years.  Furthermore those sort of fears are a recipe for inaction at a time when rollback ought to be the goal of all rightward thinking people. 

Whatever one may think of personal drug use, “normalization” has already occurred.  That ship sailed for me in the tenth grade when I realized that I was one of a handful of students in my school (enrollment 1200) who was not at minimum a semi-regular user of marijuana.  As a lifelong practitioner of personal prohibition, I long ago realized that my puritanical attitude toward all things illicit put me in a small minority.  Still, my guess is that legalization would actually denormalize certain forms of drug consumption, as the chic youth rebellion would quickly become just another annoying habit.  Anecdotal to be sure, but I’ll take my chances. 

What I won’t take my chances with is “progressive reform” which is exactly what drug legalization is not.  While it is true that certain harm reduction schemes and middle-of-the-road decriminalization arguments have more than a hint of Rooseveltian hubris to them, they would almost certainly be better than what we currently have.  More to the point, in taking power away from the State, outright repeal of drug laws is populist-the true antithesis of progressivism.  There is nothing reformist about abolishing regulatory power and calling the end of the drug war a “reform” is simply inaccurate. 

A few months back I wrote the following:

“As a matter of priority the new generation of “Alternative” righties are decentralists and anti-imperialists first, and culture warriors second, if at all. To them the warfare state and erosion of civil liberties are vastly more important and relevant than the overturning of Roe v. Wade or the supposed “threat” of gay marriage. Furthermore, the primary cultural issue of interest to them is probably the decriminalization of marijuana, an issue where the paleo-friendly New Right of the 80’s would have been unsympathetic at best.”

My point was not that the culture wars of old are irrelevant, but rather that the emphasis of the anti-Statist struggle has shifted back toward an Old Right position of personal liberty and decentralized power – and away from a reflexive social conservatism that ultimately has a dangerous universalist quality.  To become obsessed with worst case scenarios at this point is to guarantee the continuation of the horrible status quo – and a reputation as a hopeless contrarian.

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