Tag: Portugal decriminalization

The Libertarian Party Can Win, and Here’s How

By Ryan Lau | @agorisms

The Libertarian Party, and the libertarian ideology as a whole, are fighting an uphill, losing battle. Government is only continuing to grow, and the wars are not coming any closer to an end. On the contrary, President Trump just bolstered the military more, signing into law a $717 billion military budget. Despite this, though, it is still possible to begin setting the country back on the right track, towards liberty. The one thing standing in the Libertarian Party’s way is the Libertarian Party.

Now, admittedly, the party has faced a number of challenges in its fairly brief history. They have struggled to obtain ballot access, and rarely, if ever, make the debate podiums on major networks. The two-party system and its duopoly over government surely contributes, but it is also the party’s scapegoat. Just like everyone else, the party needs to have some agency and take responsibility. Part of the reason that the party is not more popular is simply because they have not made the right political decisions.

At the very least, if they cannot accept this, they must recognize that the two party system is not going anywhere. Rather than complain about unfair rules, the party should fight around the rules and prove they can’t be held back. They need to find the right track and find it fast. The Libertarian Party is deeply flawed, but these important changes could turn it around faster than a student of Mises that hears an argument against property rights.

1. Reassert Dominance on Social Liberalism

At the party’s founding in 1971, it was the only one to support gay marriage and legalized marijuana. As such, the party was enticing to members of those groups, who otherwise had no home. But in the last decade, most politicians, beginning with Democrats, have begun to accept both of these practices. As a result, Libertarians have lost their advantage on social liberalism.

So, as a reaction to this, it is time for the Libertarians to voice strong support for important social issues that the major parties do not condone. A prime example of this is the decriminalization, and ultimate deregulation, of all narcotics. Using Portugal’s success as evidence, the Libertarian Party could seriously bring a new wave of social liberalism to the country. They simply need to steer clear of moderation, avoiding Gary Johnson’s policy of only legalizing marijuana. Libertarians need to use their uniqueness when it comes to social policy as a strength and a defining factor, not something to shy away from.

This uniqueness should also extend to new areas of social liberalism that have yet to catch on in the public eye. As new, voluntary ideas form, it is the job of the Libertarian Party to welcome them with open arms. Perhaps, in the next few years or decades, cloning will become mainstream. Currently, a vast majority of Americans do not find the idea of cloning moral. Naturally, this would suggest that those in power would agree and ban the practice. But by using this unique social tolerance, Libertarians can give a voice to those in support of unorthodox and unsupported social practices.

2. Begin to Explore Politics of the Future

The average American right now probably thinks that cyber-chips and radio frequency identification (RFID) technology are things of the future. However, they are beginning to slip into the mainstream. Already, RFID is used extensively in several areas, including the skiing industry. Moreover, a company in Sweden is implanting its employees with microchips that they use for everything from paying for lunch to opening the door. So, just how long will it be before we combine these technologies, and micro RFID implants are as common as essential as cell phones?

Probably not very long, as the technology would be incredibly convenient and profitable. Despite this, nobody in politics, save transhumanists like Zoltan Istvan, is talking about it at all. Whether the people like it or not, society will continue to progress, probably to the dissatisfaction of a lot of conservative traditionalists.

In fact, one of the most common errors of society is the inability to see that it will always change and evolve. George Gilder puts it excellently in his recent book, Life After Google. One of the fatal flaws of communism was that Marx believed his early industrial society to be the peak of human accomplishment. Likewise, politicians today entirely ignore the technology of the future.

The Libertarian Party, by looking at topics of the future, can assert dominance over the other parties. When the ideals come to fruition, as they will, the Libertarian Party will be the only ones talking about them. By supporting the right to modify one’s body, while condemning possible coercive government use of this technology, they can be the leading voice in technology politics, attracting both supporters and skeptics with this two-sided policy.

3. Become the Party of Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency is not dead. Though the value bounces up and down, the market as a whole has a definite future. But much like futurism, nobody is really talking about it. Occasionally, the government makes a move and begins to regulate the blockchain. While this all occurs, the Libertarian Party does nothing.

Estimates vary about the number of total Americans that use cryptocurrency. One survey suggests that roughly five percent of Americans hold bitcoin. Of course, there is another significant portion of people that hold altcoins and not bitcoin. For the sake of simplicity, assume that the figure rests at a conservative five percent. Those five percent sure aren’t going to like when the federal government starts regulating their money, considering that crypto is known for its lack of government regulation.

Of course, an increase in regulation may leave all of these people feeling disenfranchised with the parties doing it. Yet, there is no real alternative at the time. In their official 2018 platform, the Libertarian Party does not mention Bitcoin once. That’s right, the party of decentralization and free markets has missed a huge opportunity. By favoring cryptocurrency and all other money that evades the state, they could do wonders in paving the way for future action in regards to it, as well as attracting more people involved in cryptocurrency to the movement and the party.

4. Stop Acting Like a Political Party

Political parties, like many other organizations, are filled to the brim with bureaucracy. Meaningless banter and semantics dominate discussion and limit discourse. In this case, the Libertarian Party is no different. Party member and 71 Republic writer Spencer Kellogg explains it in great depth in his review of the 2018 national convention. At one point, the members spent an hour or so debating whether the chair candidates should speak for five or ten minutes. Yes, they saved a half an hour, but not before wasting an hour debating, and netting a loss of time.

Moreover, the party relentlessly fights, to be frank, like a bunch of children. Just today, Caryn Ann Harlos, the Libertarian Party National Secretary, bickered senselessly with James Weeks of the socialist caucus. The former stated that it was a mistake to have socialists in the party, while the latter, of course, denied this. But while they fought, the bombs kept dropping, and the tax collectors kept collecting taxes.

Thus, it is time for the party to stop arguing, as long as there are so many areas of common ground. Before worrying about which economic system to adopt in a libertarian society (which does not matter at all, because all are free to form communities with the economic system of their choice), end the wars. End the central banks. End the systemic oppression that the federal government brings with nearly its every action. Stop looking at whether to fight Bill Weld or Adam Kokesh or James Weeks, and start fighting the government that has wronged all three.

5. Support Enemies of the State

The previous points have largely talked about ways to secure more votes and win an election. However, if securing a vote and winning an election are the eventual goals, there’s the door. Don’t let it slam on the way out. The battle goes far beyond winning one election or ten elections. Rather, it continues until we extirpate from the world the very thought of coercion. This isn’t to say that elections cannot be useful tools to bring about liberty, as they definitely can. The thing is, though, individual citizens have done more for this in five years than the Libertarian Party has in nearly fifty.

Just recently, Cody Wilson won a lawsuit against the federal government, and the files for a number of 3D printable guns are widely available. This avoids the painstaking process of registration, and the coercion that meets those who do not comply. Ross Ulbricht, by creating the Silk Road, has offered a platform for those who deal in substances the state does not approve of. Edward Snowden has revealed a great deal of information about the government’s corruption.

What do these men all have in common? None of them sought out a public office in order to accomplish their goals. On the contrary, all of them sought to make the world a better place by freely expressing themselves and their ideas. None have any affiliation with the Libertarian Party, and hence, the party says little about any of them. Occasionally, they voice support for Snowden or Ulbricht, but it is not a consistent message. Allying with enemies of the state is a powerful strategy, and if the party uses it properly, they may find themselves more able to foster more individuals who will also make the world a freer place.

The Future of the Libertarian Party

So, what does the future of the Libertarian Party look like? Following these steps, they could transform themselves from an irrelevant sect wrought with infighting to a major force that improves lives. But if they change nothing, well, ‘irrelevant sect’ just might be a good description for a whole lot longer than it needs to be.


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How Portugal Is Winning The War On Drugs

By Andrew Lepore | United States

Recently, stigma had decreased about addiction as we learn more about it. As a result, our approach to solving the problem has changed. For the last 75 years, the attitude toward drugs was zero tolerance, and the solution to the problem of addiction has been punitive rather than rehabilitative.

Baby steps are being taken towards legalization by many countries around the world, the most significant being Portugal which in 2001 decriminalized possession of all substances in small amounts. The move saw relatively widespread support, many seeing the drug war to be a massive waste and failure, believing that there are better ways to handle addiction than harsh punishment.

But not everybody supported the move, some were in opposition claiming addiction rates will spike and Portugal will simply become Europe’s new center of Narco-Tourism.

It is 2018 now, 17 years later, and the decriminalization efforts have seen extraordinary success.

Portugal’s serious drug problem began in 1974. Previous to that year, addiction rates were at a normal level correlating similarly to other countries in Europe. In that year, Portugal’s longtime fascist dictatorship fell to a leftist democratic coup called what came to be known as Carnation Revolution.

Due to various factors, the country was flooded with drugs. Many experts attribute this spike in drug usage rates to many migrating from former colonies and other underdeveloped nations to Portugal, many of which were outsiders and sometimes criminals, who used drugs fully illegal in Portugal at the time. With the spike of drug usage came a rise in HIV, crime rates, and, of course, addiction.

The solution put forth by the Portuguese government was no surprise. They tried harsher penalties for drug offenders and more money being funneled into law enforcement and the drug war.

Despite a more authoritarian approach being taken, the situation continued to degrade. By the late 1990’s, Portugal had the highest rate of drug related AIDS deaths in the entire EU and heroin addiction reached an astonishing 1% of the population. Drug usage was rampant and little could be done to stop it. With so much resources being funneled into the war on drugs, crime rates had reached an all time high.

With the approach at the time failing so miserably, Portuguese officials understood they needed to make a drastic shift in strategy. They came to the conclusion that hardcore criminalization was not the answer to the problem. They decided to do an experiment which no other Western Nations had tried, decriminalization, rehabilitation rather than punitive punishment.

The new Portuguese policy regarding drugs consisted of a decriminalization of personal use of narcotics. This meant one would not be legally penalized for using and possessing a certain quantity of drugs defined as the amount for personal use of up to 10 days. Drug traffickers do still receive a legal penalty for the sale and trafficking of drugs, although the penalties are just a fraction of the penalty received for the same crime in the United States and many other European nations.

Many were in favor of the new approach, but as with any radical change, many were also in opposition. They suspected the situation would just get worse and worse. “How could making it easier for drug users going to make the situation any better?” they said.

Despite what the statists, fearmongers, and those who followed them said about the dangers of decriminalizing drugs in Portugal, the country has seen astounding and unprecedented results.

The rate of drug usage has been slowly but steadily declining since decriminalization; they went from a country with one of the highest drug usage rates in the EU, to falling below the European average.

Correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation; the fall in usage may be because of other factors, but it shows decriminalization does not cause more drug usage. Data as shown in the graphs below:

 

 

 

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Despite what refuting groups claim, the drug overdose rate has fallen drastically since decriminalization.

Certain organizations such as the World Federation of Drugs will mislead people by claiming that by measuring “the number of people who died with traces of any illicit drug in their body”, the number of overdose deaths in Portugal has in fact increased. This claim was easily debunked, given an individual can be deceased with trace amounts of drugs in their body, without the drugs having anything do do with their deaths.

The number taken as the standard for the internationally accepted measure of overdoses and drug related deaths is a clinical assessments made by physicians, rather than toxicological tests. According to this measure, deaths due to drug use or overdose have decreased significantly – from approximately 80 in 2001, to 16 in 2012. This correlation may be indicative of causation due to the fact drug users have safer environments and methods to use than previous to decriminalization.

Drug related HIV and AIDs diagnosis’ have been steadily decreasing since decriminalization. This is another example where correlation can actually be attributed to causation. Decriminalization put an emphasis on harm reduction, and allowed addicts to more easily use in clean environments. Below is a graph of newly diagnosed cases of HIV and AIDS among drug users.

 

 

As you can probably tell, in relation to drug harm statistics, decriminalization in Portugal has been a very large success. Although this is by no means a final solution, and it is far from a libertarian ideal for personal responsibility of the substances you consume without state interference.

This is in an essential step in the right direction, though.

The direction of convincing the world that not only is it immoral for the state to impose its will on its subjects through the initiation of force, but it is self-defeating to do so. The authoritarian solution to a problem always exacerbates the problem itself , as seen in Portugal before decriminalization, and the United States today.

Portugal has stepped up and set an example for the world. It has shown that the traditional solution to drug addiction, which was attempting to suppress through iron fist of government, is not the most moral nor efficient means of solving the problem. Hopefully, the world follows Portugal’s example and takes steps to end the 75-year-old worldwide tyranny of the war on drugs.


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