Libertarians Will Flock to Oregon

It has been said that those whom the Gods wish to destroy, they first make mad. Perhaps that is why the left in America is going over the cliff.

How else can you explain the legalization of dangerous drugs in Oregon?

Oregon became Tuesday the first state in the nation to decriminalize hard drugs, passing a Democratic-backed ballot measure lifting criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of cocaine, heroin, LSD, ecstasy and meth. Measure 110 led comfortably Wednesday by 58.6% to 41.4% with 80% of the vote counted, according to unofficial results from the Oregon secretary of state. The measure’s supporters, led by the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance, cheered the vote as a sign that “the time has come to stop criminalizing people for drug use” and predicted the effort would spread to other states.

Oregon is run by the left wing of the left wing, and that is apparently not going to change. The only remedial effect of this vote is that states like Colorado, where “only” extremely potent marijuana is legal, will now see an outflow of Oregon-bound drug addicts who want to ramp up their abuse. Hopefully, we who live just a dozen miles north of the Coloradan drug mess can get some relief.

However, it is not just leftists and assorted drug addicts who will now flock to the Beaver State. Libertarians will also want to move there. They have made the legalization of everything from pot to LSD a rallying cry for their troops for decades. Case in point: when the Reason Foundation celebrated its 50th birthday in 2018 they organized a panel to discuss how to best move the legalization issue forward. Their focus was on

how drug policy has changed over the years, the difficulties in actually implementing legalization, and how drugs the government still considers “illicit”—LSD, MDMA, psilocybin, and more—are now being talked about not simply as ways to get high but as means to increase mental health, happiness, and well-being.

Clearly, no one over at Reason has bothered to spend any extended period of time in any rural community that has been devastated by drug use. Why don’t they put their money where their mouth is and move to Pueblo, Colo., where legal marijuana is wreaking havoc on an entire city?

Actually, if Biden actually wins this election, they may not have to. Once sworn in he will step aside and Kamala Harris will become president. That will be a cause for partying over at Reason, where the stalwart libertarians will celebrate at the prospect of a Harris administration. She is, they explain with joy, a legalizer of their kind.

That Kamala Harris is now a legalizer explains why so many over at Reason supported Biden in this election. Apparently, the higher taxes she wants are of no consequence when the Reason libertarians can get a president who is on their side on their top issue: legalize all drugs, for all.

Should a Harris administration not happen, the Reason crew can always relocate to Oregon. They could bring with them the legalizers over at the Cato Institute, or the Institute for Humane Studies whose executive director made his advocacy bones in the legal-pot movement. Maybe they want to bring along the pro-drug people from the Libertarian Institute.

But no: they won’t move. They are comfortable where they are. The libertarians who want legal drugs are not interested in the communities that have been destroyed by the very policies they advocate. Just like socialists never move to Cuba and choose America over Sweden, libertarians dread setting their tender feet in drug-infested communities.

Nor are they interested in the consequences that legalization has for liberty itself. One reason, of course, is the long tradition among libertarians of promoting legalization, including so-called hard drugs. It is easy to just step in to that tradition and continue in the same tracks.

However, intellectual indolence, while clearly associated with drug use, is not an excuse for promoting anything in public policy.

Another reason why libertarians continue making drug legalization the center of their political existence is that they simply do not appreciate the threat to their very own liberty that drug use represents. The sane voices that see this connection are few and far between, but the Witherspoon Institute in New Jersey is one of them. In a high-quality article in their publication The Public Discourse, philosopher Timothy Hsiao explains the link between drug legalization and the destruction of free society:

If the government has a responsibility to protect and promote freedom, then it must also protect and promote the conditions that make it possible. On this point, one essential ingredient of personal freedom is rationality. Choices can only be free if they are made by a person whose cognitive faculties are functioning in the right way. Reason confers on our actions a certain order and intelligibility that make them explicable and coherent. It is what makes our actions ours, such that we are responsible for them. Our ability to act freely is diminished or destroyed if we are unable to deliberate and think coherently, or if we are subject to overwhelming coercive forces. In other words, freedom isn’t just the bare ability to do something; it is the ability to act under the influence of properly functioning cognitive faculties.

Hsiao outlines this argument in great detail, pointing out that individuals who use drugs lose the ability to make rational choices. That ability is critical if an individual is going to function in a free society, where rationality keeps us from confusing right with wrong.

Hsiao sums up by noting succinctly how

recreational drug use impairs and undermines the conditions for freedom, and so the legalization of recreational drugs is incompatible with the vision of a freedom-respecting state.

There are two further points to be made along the same line of argument. First, there is personal responsibility: an individual who is responsible for others in his immediate presence – family members in general and children in particular – has a moral obligation toward those individuals to add value to their lives. In the case of children, the responsibilities are of course formidable.

A person who resorts to drug use loses his ability to be a responsible citizen, to be the last line of protection and provision for those who are weaker than himself. I discussed this concept at length in my book Faith and Freedom: The Moral Case for America, where I connected libertarian philosophy with Christian ethics.

To take one more step down the same line, it is incumbent upon every citizen of a free society to defend and uphold its institutions – and its liberty. If a threat to that liberty arises, every able-bodied member of that free society has an equal duty to come to its defense. It is not the right of one free person to expect others to sacrifice themselves for his liberty; the exception is of such services are explicitly contracted under consent and mutual gain. For example, a libertarian who wishes to lose himself to destructive drug use, could ask his neighbor to come to the nation’s defense in his place.

That, however, does not resolve the legalizer from his duty to exercise responsible citizenship. It merely changes its nature: he is now responsible for providing for his neighbor’s training, weaponry and – in the event of armed conflict – health care and support for his family. To do so, the legalizing libertarian must now work hard to put aside enough money so that he can honor his contractual duties, should that day ever come.

However, the defense of liberty is not confined to just the rare case of war. It is an ongoing duty, one that includes policing and jury duty. Even if a libertarian drug user can buy himself out of police services by paying a fee to a protective organization (thus still having to exercise due work ethic to make money), he cannot buy his way out of jury duty. And who would want to be tried by a jury of 12 people high on THC 20 times more potent than what they smoked in the 1990s?

Or, maybe he wants to be able to do that as well?

Maybe the libertarian drug user wants to buy the services of others for all functions that maintain the free society in which he considers himself entitled to smoking pot, shooting heroin and using meth? And perhaps his society will survive – so long as he is the only one who claims that entitlement.

What if everyone else does it? What if the drug abusing libertarian wakes up one day and finds that there are no police officers anymore out there. What if his private protective organization has been dissolved because all its employees are snorting cocaine instead? What if the court system has crumbled because all its employees and prospective jurors would rather turn on, tune in and drop out?

What if some drug users band together and terrorize the libertarian’s neighborhood? Who is going to defend him against the band of thugs?

As Hsiao implies, the end station of drug legalization is anarchy. It is the exact opposite of the kind of free, prosperous and peaceful society that libertarians in general say they want. It is a society where the governing principle is might, not right. It is a brutal society where the only order to be found is that which is imposed by brute force and absolute tyranny.

The drug lord’s tyranny.

I am perennially baffled at how libertarians fail on issue after issue to make clear, concise and consistent arguments for the furtherance of liberty. America’s libertarian movement is not ailing. It is failing. It needs a total remake, from the ground up.

And that starts here, on the Liberty Bullhorn.

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