The RPs Debate Legalizing Marijuana: Artur Davis Responds

Artur Davis‘ Second Response

[The RP’s Provocation; Jason Atkinson’s Rebuttal #1; The RP’s First Defense: Jason Atkinson’s First Response; Artur Davis’ Rebuttal #2; The RP’s Second Defense; Artur Davis’ First Response; Ron Granieri’s Rebuttal #3; Jeff Smith’s Rebuttal #4; The RP’s Third Defense]

Two thoughts regarding Jeff’s position on wholesale legalization of narcotics, which as my earlier comments suggest, I fundamentally reject.
First, it illustrates very conveniently a common flaw in libertarian arguments, the notion that unrestrained liberty is a social good in its own right. Without lapsing too much into philosophical mumbo-jumbo, any social good actually ought to convey a value we all might enjoy, one that might somehow lift the condition of the community.  The libertarian goal that we are all free to take on more risk not only fails that standard, it essentially kicks it aside.
Perhaps sensing that weakness, most libertarian advocates of drug legalization fall back on a list of supposed benefits from decriminalization, the main one being that the criminal component of drug distribution would be undercut. Its a speculative notion at best, and assumes that alcohol and prohibition are analogous to narcotics and the War on Drugs. They really aren’t, if only because, as Jonathan observes, hard narcotics are explosively more addictive than alcohol.
The extra addictive effect means an illicit market would spring up around the edges of any regulatory barriers, even around the existence of a normal consumer market. Its interesting that advocates of drug decriminalization never touch the fact that it would be the cheap, weaker drugs that would be routinely available; the hard stuff would be pricier, less accessible, and to a junkie, still worth stealing for. Its an impossible experiment to guess whether legalization would make the massive illegal drug distribution network in America go bellyup; or whether it would just exploit the market to be reborn in some new way; but my hunch is that a wrong guess would leave the country devastated and sicker.
My final observation is one more pitch to clean up the defects in our criminal justice system before we decide those defects are worth turning druglords into the new growth undustry, and dimebag hustlers into the equivalent of kids washing cars to make a buck. Its actually an achievable goal: some of the most conservative judges and prosecutors I’ve seen like the idea of getting competent, experienced defense lawyers in their courtroom. It means fewer ineffective assistance of counsel claims, if nothing else. When Haley Barbour is cutting loose several hundred prisoners, it means there is more of an audience than we think for ideas about prison overcrowding and sentencing reform.
If it could be put to a vote in the black, Latino, and poor white communities where the drug trade is flourishing, I’d bet they’d take the trade-off I describe–a fair punishment system that keeps soft and hard drugs all illegal. Why? They may not want the peddlers behind bars forever, but they want them out of their neighborhoods, and their gut tells them giving the peddlers legal permission means more of them, acting with more impunity. Some of the least libertarian, most conservative places in America share a cross street with a drug den.


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