Hooked on Freedom: Drug Abuse, Personal Responsibility, and Libertarianism

By Jason Thompson | United States

“Taxation is theft” & Legalize Pot!

In my experiences throughout the liberty movement, these two things seem to be what attracts a plurality of people to libertarianism. When one comes to accept the premise that they have autonomy over their own body and actions, it is evident that one should not be subject to egregious taxation. They should also be able to consume any substance of their liking.

Considering society’s changing attitudes towards the latter, it makes perfect sense that the Libertarian Party would market drug legalization an essential feature of its platform. Deregulation of drug use, especially cannabis, is an essential component to a truly free society. However, it is also good marketing for attracting younger voters from other parties. Some libertarian politicians have even run ads featuring themselves consuming cannabis.

This strategy also does an excellent job of showing the LP’s commitment towards autonomy. This can be seen as noble, indeed.

However, it also fails to accurately take a nuanced view of one key plank of libertarian philosophy – personal responsibility.

Although many in the movement disagree with the concept of a social contract, the reality is that we live in a society built upon hundreds of years of Western, Enlightenment-inspired tradition. One can own their bodies and actions, but a mature mind discerns that their personal choices have an impact on society at large.

In the Lockean sense, this holds true. We do not wish to become the party of hedonists. There is, in fact, a societal commons.

Rather, our movement should shift the emphasis on to a deliberate application of choice in such a manner that, through individual decisions, we as a collective of individuals enrich our society.

I can only speak from personal and anecdotal experience -having consumed copious amounts of illicit drugs not limited to cannabis – but if our party wishes to be relevant to the average voter outside of the millennial demographic, then we need to evolve our public image in regards to drug use. Otherwise, we as a party will forever be confined to fringe issues as a fringe party.

To be quite clear, I am not advocating regulation of drugs, nor am I suggesting that our party stop fighting for an end to drug prohibition. Prohibition has ruined countless lives. The drug war has done nothing to quell drug use. If anything, it has produced violence and decay in communities in America and abroad.

As a libertarian, I believe in personal autonomy and responsibility. I often make the distinction between society and the state; however, our movement must be honest in its appraisals and criticisms of individual behavior. Not all choices are equal in their repercussions.

Yes, non-violent drug offenders make up a disproportionate amount of the US prison population. The overcrowding of prison populations creates a financial burden on society and disenfranchises whole communities and demographic groups.

Yes, countries such as Portugal have decriminalized drug use. This has led to lower rates of incarceration and less drug use, in general. The focus has shifted towards rehabilitation. I agree with this strategy.

Yes, these personal choices to consume drugs are victimless crimes…

Per se.

In my own struggles with addiction, as well as my recent commitment to recovery and living life deliberately, I have had to come to terms with the fact that the choices I have made and the substances I have put in my body have had a negative impact on my loved ones and society at large.

Even smoking weed, which I had always seen as victimless, has had a negative impact on those around me. Everyone is different, but in my personal experiences, I notice I am much less motivated when I am high. I am more likely to not do things which are pressing and to cause stress on people around me.

A lot of people can relate to that.

I have seen friends have to move from home to home because their mother decided getting high was more important than paying a mortgage.

I have had two DUI’s, and could have killed someone. Thankfully, I only maimed and injured myself. Even that was a burden. People had to care for me because I was physically disabled and unable to work or contribute.

I have had cousins ferried from foster home to foster home and struggle to live with a single mother because my uncle was a heroin addict. I watched him go in and out of a system which cares little about rehabilitation.

I’ve seen the pain in people’s eyes at funerals where they lay their child to rest….


From an overdose.

I could go on and on about societal repercussions of drug use, but to do so would violate people’s privacy and put my own recovery at risk.

I know not everyone has these experiences. Some people function fine.

And more power to them.

Again, to be quite clear, I am not advocating regulation of any substances. I don’t think cannabis is a gateway drug. I personally believe recreational heroin should be legal, in fact.

In short, I write this because it is something I struggle with in my own life and which I have seen kill people I love.

The pain doesn’t stop when someone is dead or in jail. It reverberates through society.

I also value freedom and wish to spread a message of liberty to the American electorate. I believe in the Libertarian Party and think it is capable of actually winning elections.

But first, our movement needs to be mature in its assessments of personal choice and responsibility and focus on our marketing, especially as it regards divisive issues such as drug abuse. Like it or not, we need to cut across demographic divides – that includes the boomers, who have a quite different take on drug consumption than our younger base.

I said it earlier in the article. We do not wish to be the party of hedonists. We want to be the adults in the room and offer real solutions that people take seriously.

Evolving our rhetoric on drug abuse, while standing our ground on people’s freedom to do as they wish, can help us market our movement in such a way that we win.

And I want to win.

Liberty depends on it.

Image Source Flickr

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