For decades, the war on drugs has raged its way across the world, taking a particularly strong hold in America. With politicians from Reagan to Biden fathering policies that have incarcerated millions and killed many more, the world is beginning to see the disastrous effects of drug prohibition. For one thing, it actually can increase deaths from drug overdoses; when Portugal decriminalized all drugs, their addiction and overdose rates plummeted. But another drug, ketamine, offers solutions to the opioid crisis and many other medical problems.
By Ian Brzeski | United States
For many people, morality is relatively subjective. To some, sex before marriage is a sin, and to others, it is perfectly reasonable. Some people love taking drugs, and others are appalled by them. People of all kinds differ in their values on these issues and on many others such as access to guns, homosexuality, and prostitution. Whether or not committing a particular act falls under someone’s values, everyone should realize that committing victimless “crimes” should not be punished by the state.
What are Victimless Crimes?
In essence, a victimless crime is a “crime” under the law where there is no identifiable victim. It is performed when no other person or party is involved in the action taking place beside the perpetrator or consenting adults. Consuming drugs is a prime example of a victimless crime. The only party that person would potentially be harming in that act alone would be himself. He or she willingly chose to engage in this act; thus, there is no victim. The same goes for that person when they engage in obtaining the drugs through consensual means. These means include joining into a contract with his “dealer.” The two adults here both agree on terms in this exchange. The dealer provides the drugs, and the consumer provides a means of exchange for his desired goods, presumably money.
Freedom of Choice
Locking people up like caged animals for committing victimless, nonviolent crime is complete nonsense. It does not matter what a person’s morality says about drugs. One could think that they are awful and downright immoral, but that does not change the fact people can do as they please as long as no other person is harmed or brought into unwanted affairs. Those people, out of their own free will, chose to engage in that exchange and then go on with their lives as they please. Nobody was hurt, and everything was purely consensual. Fundamentally, it is not that much different than going out and buying groceries.
If you do not like drugs, don’t do them. Nobody forces you to take them, and if somebody does force you, then that is a crime in itself as it takes away your freedom to make those decisions for yourself. Just as people want the freedom to decide to say no to drugs, others should also have the freedom to take drugs without fear of being imprisoned by the state. It is inconceivable to think that drug abusers belong in a prison cell. Drug abusers need help, not prison time.
While incredible amounts of funding have gone towards decreasing drug use, the drug addiction rate is the same as it was about 40-50 years ago. Instead of spending over a trillion dollars in incarcerating these people, spending should be focused on helping these addicts. Portugal decided to do this about 17 years ago, decriminalizing all drug use and focused their spending on rehabilitation for drug users. At one point, about 1% of Portugal’s population were drug abusers, and now that number has been halved.
The same decriminalization practices should be used for prostitution, pornography, owning guns, and any other victimless crime. If you do not like any of these things, then don’t partake in them- it’s as simple as that. Not to mention that decriminalizing and accepting all of these would make them safer. No more back alley pimps who abuse and drug their prostitutes to make a quick buck. No more sketchy and untrusting drug dealers who may lace their products. No more massive cartels as the majority of their products would be legally imported in the country; thus, losing the majority of their funding. Everything listed here would run as a legitimate business which would then promote competition, naturally making these businesses safer. Interdiction on all of these things is no different from the prohibition of alcohol, and we all know how well that went.
Legalization in Amsterdam
I recently went to Amsterdam where marijuana, certain psychedelic drugs, and prostitution are all legal. The prostitution is all kept in one sector of the city, known as the Red Light District. The Red Light District was bustling with people and seemed as if it were just another business center. These businesses are basically “forced” to care for the health of their laborers as they would have an incentive to because it would be horrible for business if one of their workers had some disease such as an STD. One could find drugs anywhere, but nobody is forcing others to take them. If you want to smoke a blunt, then you can, and if you do not want to, then you do not have to.
The overall cleanliness of the city was surprising. One would think that by allowing drug use and prostitution, the city would be pretty dirty, but that is not true in the slightest. Homeless people and garbage on the streets were not to be found, at least from my experience. Amsterdam has experimented with decriminalizing some of these victimless crimes, and it seems to be going pretty well for them.
Victimless crimes are not real crimes. People should not be punished for doing things that do not harm others or their property, and we must put an end to decades of government control over people’s choice of how they treat their bodies.
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By Indri Schaelicke | United States
A common talking point in many political debates is the extreme prices of many medical drugs. Left wingers like to blame “greedy capitalism” for the high prices, and advocate for some sort of government program that will increase the size of government in an attempt to cap drug prices. In reality, capitalism is the tool that must be used to bring medical drug prices back down to affordable levels.
The truth is, the US is not a true capitalist free market. Rather, it operates under a system of crony capitalism. Crony capitalism is a system in which representatives agree to give benefits to certain corporations in exchange for campaign contributions. These benefits may take the form of purchases by the government, limiting the corporation’s competition in the market through regulation, and creating loopholes in regulation or taxation. These benefits are paid for using taxpayer money, while the representatives receive financial backing for their campaigns or votes in their next election. Bureaucratic agencies like the FDA create regulations and policies which further cronyism.
A major source of cronyism exists in the FDA’s requirements of extensive research and testing to be done on products it approves to be sold. These studies cost thousands of dollars to companies, which must be covered by increasing the prices of the drugs sold. However, Congress has created “Priority Review Vouchers”, which reviews certain drugs at an expedited pace. These vouchers are incredibly valuable, because the development process for drugs takes many years.
The vouchers can be sold to corporations at a high prices due to their scarcity and the incredible benefit of having the review process sped up. If a company had their new drug approved before any others, they will have no competition in the marketplace for several years and are free to raise their price as high as they like. The FDA has the power to create monopolies, a power that no agency or branch of government should have.
So what’s the solution? Open up the markets. Competition is what drives prices down to affordable levels, and there is no competition in a crony capitalist system. Before the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, the U.S. federal government had control over airline fares, routes and market entry of new airlines. This severely limited the competition in the marketplace to just a few airlines, but soon after the Act was signed, several new ones entered the market. Without the Civil Aeronautics Board to protect them from competition, airlines were forced to set their prices through supply and demand, with competition lowering the equilibrium price of airfare. By deregulating the airfare markets and preventing special interests from lobbying an airline regulatory agency, airfare has become cheaper for consumers.
The same must happen with the way that the market for medical drugs is regulated. The FDA must be abolished, and competition in the market will flourish. Prices will drop due to the influx of competition and life saving drugs will become more affordable to consumers.
A concern of supporters of the FDA is that without it, unsafe and potentially dangerous drugs could slip into the market. However, this can be refuted on the basis that no business has an incentive to create a harmful drug. If harm is done to a consumer, they can sue the business and claim compensation for the damages.
The abolition of the FDA would unleash the power of markets to create and develop new, revolutionary drugs at affordable prices. An effect similar to those seen after the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 would be seen, and bring an end to the crony capitalism enabled by the FDA.
By Mason Mohon | USA
Drugs are a critical issue in contemporary American society. Last month the drug problem in America made headlines once again with Trump’s declaration of the opioid crisis as a health emergency. Drugs are a serious issue, and it is widely known and accepted within libertarian circles that the war on drugs is a complete failure, yet many, including those libertarians, fail to see the heart of the issue, which is an addiction to dangerous substances.
There is a widely held assumption that drug addiction is the sole result of chemical hooks within drugs like heroin or morphine. People go under a few times, and boom, they’re addicted. Many assume that one who would take heroin 20 times over the course of 20 days would be heavily addicted by the 21st day, but that is not always the case. Chemical hooks are not the sole cause of addiction, and alone they are not a substantial enough to cause a drug addiction. Many people who suffer from substantial injuries are met with heavy sedatives for the reduction of pain, which are often more pure versions of the same dulling and numbing drugs one can purchase from dealers in back alleys.
This is a misconception. Addiction to drugs is overwhelmingly misunderstood, which is the reason so many have failed to suggest a proper antidote. In the 70’s, a few experiments were conducted that consisted of rats in cages that were offered two options: cocaine or heroin water, and regular, undrugged water. An overwhelming majority of the rats (nearly 100%) drank the drugged water until death. What should be taken from this seems obvious: humans, like rats, will drug themselves til overdose if the option presents itself. Some saw a very clear issue in this experiment, one of which was Psychology professor Bruce Alexander.
Bruce K. Alexander was a Canadian professor of psychology who was responsible for the Rat Park Study, which was conducted in the late 70’s and released in 1981. The issue he saw with the previous rat experiment was that the rat was alone, and its only options in its entire existence were to drink water or drug water. Alexander conducted another experiment, where he constructed a park for rats. This park included many activities for rats, which included food, friends, tubes to run through, and just about anything else to provide rats with a functioning social environment. Within this park was also the jug of water containing the drugs, which happened to go untouched. The conclusion drawn was that the opposite to addiction to drugs is not sobriety, but rather a connection to the world around the rats. The rat friends played a critical role in keeping them from the drugs, and this connection seems to be something our society is missing.
The experiment, though, has received criticism, particularly from UCLA and California State University Lecturer and Psychology Ph.D. Adi Jaffe. He wrote in Psychology Today that human addiction cannot find a solution from this situation, for we do not have some sort of director to create a utopian park where we can indulge ourselves to our heart’s desire without the need of drugs. Along with that fact, humans are profoundly more complex than rats and have a lot more going on. Jaffe is right, we do not have a solution within this study, but we can definitely identify a problem: a lack of inter-human connectivity.
Moreover, this experiment was not solely conducted on rats. The same experiment seemed to manifest itself in humans even earlier in the 70’s. That is, during the Vietnam War. Investigation during the war’s 16th year, 1971, lead the U.S. government and public to discover that 20% of current servicemen within the war were addicted to heroin, while 40% of troops had at least tried it. Along with heroin, other drugs were rampant. Post World War 2 research was light in the realm of the effects of drugs on a soldier’s performance, yet the U.S. government happily provided the military with drugs anyway. The suggested amount was 20 mg of dextroamphetamine for 48 hours of combat readiness, but that was barely followed, and the soldiers would be handed drugs like children being handed candy on Halloween night. A vast array of drugs were employed for these soldiers, leading the Vietnam War to be considered one of, if not the first pharmacological war.
The number of heroin users in the military force was expectedly alarming, and Nixon hastily declared the war on drugs to prevent drug use at home. When the now-veterans returned home, though, the results were absolutely astounding. One study, in particular, reported that when the soldiers returned to the United States, 95% of the veterans were able to eliminate the addiction completely almost overnight. This was not the result of Nixon’s drug war, though, because the regular heroin addiction train remained on track, with a 90% post-rehab relapse rate continuing to exist.
This phenomenon was because of the phenomenal environmental change, from one of the most brutal warscapes America has ever taken part in, back to the U.S.A. where the soldiers could spend time with friends and family once again. This was just like the case with the rats, except for the fact that the rats had no war to fight. The rats and soldiers alike bent towards drug addiction when put into a negative or lacking environment, but when surrounded with general positivity (a return home to friends) they were not subject to the same issues of addiction.
The root of addiction is not the drug itself, full of “chemical hooks” with minor effect. It is much larger; it is a lack of connectivity between humans. Drug addiction itself is not a problem, but rather, the problem is the distancing of humans from one another, perpetuated by a technological revolution allowing humans to “connect” across the cloud without connecting the way we have been biologically engineered to. Humans don’t love life, so they try to escape through things like drugs, pornography, binge watching of television, or overeating. These are all the consequences of a disconnected society. The state cannot force us to connect, but it sure is not helping that they continue to use the force of law against addicts while seeming to ignore the root cause of the problem itself.
The problem is not a simple one that can be solved by a statist’s government or an anarchist’s spontaneous order. It is one that is going to need to be solved by increasing human to human interaction in your own life, rather than the increasing isolation of the human in today’s world.