The Golden Rule and Prohibition

Countering common erroneous arguments for prohibitionism; the Golden Rule as the foundation for good law.

Various arguments are commonly presented for prohibition. I will briefly address the error of each of these common arguments, and then address the single principle which should govern thinking in the matter of addressing private, personal recreational substance use in a free society.

Erroneous arguments and concepts concerning substance use

Drug users are individuals, not a class

The terms drug "abuse" and drug "use" are, today, often used interchangeably. Reference is made to "drug abusers" as if all recreational substance users are chronic abusers. Thinking of all users of all substances as a monolithic group denies the range of individual behaviors and choices. Categorizing so many with the label "drug abusers" stigmatizes all users as if they were a single type. The peaceful weekend pot-smoker is classed (and jailed) with the violent crack addict. Carrie Nation and her ilk sought to (and did, for a while) outlaw alcohol, unconcerned that this lumped together the occasional peaceful wine-sipper with the abusive habitual alcoholic.

Groups do not choose to use drugs. Individuals do.

The argument from socialized medicine

The cost of drug abuse to the system of socialized medicine is often cited as a justification for drug prohibitions.

These are not problems if individuals are made to bear the personal responsibility for any consequences of their choices. The personal cost of acts of intoxicated transgression would be borne by the individual in a non-socialist society. True, there is a social cost of policing required for the transgressions of many intoxicated individuals. However, in a society where prohibitions were not exacerbating black markets and exaggerating the frequency, attractions, and treatment of drug abuse, such policing would be on an entirely different scale than our current madness. The period between the Eighteenth and Twenty-First Amendments to the American Constitution is a lesson which has yet to be learned.

The argument from insurance costs

As with socialized medical costs, another justification often used for drug prohibitions is the effect upon insurance rates.

Repercussions to insurance costs of those who use drugs are a fault of a poorly-structured insurance industry. Insurance companies have the responsibility to their customers to make sure their insurance payments are not thus abused. The fire insurer should make sure that buildings are adequately fireproofed. Consider the parallels of insurance companies which offer discounts to non-smokers, or non-drinkers.

The argument from potentially increased abuse

Some hold that drug use, and drug abuse, are likely to increase if prohibitions are repealed. Although data is limited, indications from alcohol prohibition indicate that the attraction of "forbidden fruit" brought some to alcohol who otherwise may not have been that attracted. It's difficult to gauge, because so many changes in society (changes in church and family) accompanied the alcohol prohibition era and the subsequent other-drug prohibition era. But it seems that alcohol use did increase due to prohibition and then increased again with repeal.

That alcoholism may increase because alcohol is legal is not an argument for reinstituting Prohibition thereof; it is an argument for increased education and social pressure by non-governmental groups (family, doctors, church, businesses). A stable society tends to reduce the anxieties which lead to such drug abuse, while Prohibition de-stabilizes society. The call for prohibition actually worsens the situation it is intended to amend. We have grand historical proof in the alcohol prohibition era and the current other-substances prohibition era that the solution of prohibition has exactly the opposite effect from solving drug abuse problems.

The argument from majority opinion

In the United States of America, Constitutional guarantees, intended to protect minority opinions in a democratic society, are meaningless if society does not maintain the guarantees. But the intended protections should apply even when the majority holds that some speech, religion, or other private liberty should be suppressed.

When the majority held that slavery should be legal, that didn't make slavery moral or right. One of the reasons we have a Bill of Rights is an attempt (now largely vitiated) to protect us from just such abuse by the majority. The lesson of repeal of the twenty-first amendment should be universally applied, not just to alcohol, but to all comparable recreational substance use.

The Golden Rule and Prohibition

Prohibition condemns (presumes guilty until proven guilty) all users on the basis of the possibility that an individual's personal choice may affect society negatively. Such inappropriate grouping is a truly dangerous "drug" — a narcotic habit of thought — which ignores individual responsibility for one's actions.

The Golden Rule has several aspects. The older, passive form: Don't do to others what you would not have done unto you; the higher, active form: Do unto others what you would have done unto you; and the highest form: Love one another as God loves. At any level, wisdom is required. A stupid man might be attracted to a woman in lust and by attacking her sexually think he is applying the "Do unto others" rule. I presume my readers understand that he is not. I offer this illustration simply to show that wisdom is required in interpretation and action, and there are many more subtle and less easily discernable interpretation questions in dealing with such a general rule. Socialism is like that misguided lust-driven man, attempting to do unto others "for their own good" in violation of personal liberty.

One rule, the Golden Rule, is the principle "upon which hang all the laws," in good government. The Golden Rule is the basis for the social compact, and the succinct argument against drug prohibition. If using drugs constitutes a sin, that is between the individual and the Almighty's appointed Judges. If one uses drugs and transgresses upon another, by stealing, threatening, or the like, then that is a matter for earthly judges. Drinking a beer is legal. Driving dangerously (drunk or not, but especially drunk) is illegal. These comport with the Golden Rule. Smoking a joint ought, by parallel, to be legal. If someone wants to trash his or her own body and mind with nicotine, caffine, refined sugar, red meat, heroin, cocaine, sniffing gasoline or glue, that ought to be an individual adult choice. Don't force me to breath, drink, or shoot your drugs, and you're welcome to them. Come near my family in a demented state, or attempt to induce my children to doing such drugs, and you are subject to the consequences of my defense!

The Golden Rule is respect for one another. As it's been put, the right to swing your fist ends where the other fellow's nose begins (or more accurately, where you threaten the other fellow's nose). Don't do to others what you would not have done unto you. The thief, bully, and tyrant seek to take license (impose their will) at the expense of another, violating the liberty of another to be free from theft, threat, and force.

Not all people always live in harmony with their neighbors, of course. Many people live in relative harmony, many would never violate the liberty of another. Policing, in one form or another, is only necessary to control those who violate the Golden Rule of mutual respect for life, liberty, and property.

The Golden Rule social compact is simple, even if instances and enforcement are not always cut-and-dried. The right to blow your smoke ends where my nose begins. If a heroin user can maintain with a money hole in his arm and without violating the rights of others (and some do), it's not others' problem. When one crosses the line into theft, threat, or violence, whether or not drugs are involved the crime is transgression, not substance use. Drinking is legal and reasonably so; the drunk driver weaving down the road, the drunk vomiting on my shoes, the drunk and abusive spouse or parent, these violate the rule. Only an arbitrary social attitude (and the politicking profiteers and propagandists of both legal booze and illegal other substances) differentiates between this drug and others.

In summary:

Use should be a free personal choice.

Abuse is a personal, mental, and medical problem, for individual, family, church, or business.

Criminality — transgression against others — involving use or abuse — is still criminality, but use or even abuse in and of itself should not be.

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