Tuesday, January 17

On Drugs, Harm, and John Stuart Mill

I have a counter- intuitive stance on drug use. But it won't be that way after you read what I've come to realize about the drug culture in America. So here goes.

I am totally against the use of drugs. Period. However, I fully endorse the legalization of illegal drugs, marijuana being the prime example. I think drugs are a waste of money, time, and have a horrible effect mental clarity and efficacy. I also think that the government has no place in regulating and criminalizing the distribution and use of said drugs. To understand this, I will start with a very famous quote from a prime ideological figure of Liberalism (with a big 'L'):

The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant.

- John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

This is what is referred to as the 'Harm Principle'. To put it another way: The government can only regulate that behavior which causes harm to others. Think murder, theft, arson, etc... On the flip side is that the government can't regulate what color shoe I wear (for example) because it doesn't hurt anyone. I see drug use in the same light: No one is hurt when someone sits in their room and gets high. There is no direct connection from lighting a bong to actual harm agianst someone (Unless you're dumb enough to burn yourself, but that's your problem).

It's important to know what harm is, too. Oh sure, that heroin needle isn't going in my arm, but what about my morals and sentiments? Are not they hurt and damaged by it? Yes, sure, absolutly. Does it count as harm? No. It doesn't count as being harmed because my morals and sentiments are just that: Ideas. There is no harm inflicted by me seeing a meth head get high-- in the sense that i am part of the community we reside in-- in as much as saying 2+2=5 will hurt my logical brain. It just doesn't cut is as a necessary condition for 'harm'.

There is an aspect of personal harm here. Doing Meth will definately fuck you up, but that doesn't cut it. Remember, we're discussing Liberalism (with a big 'L') here. This is not about what you do to yourself. What is important is your impact on the community that you are in. As long as it is just you, that's fine.

But here is where we should get more proactive. In my ideal world, you can get whatever drugs you want. You want to do that to yourself, fine. It's your life, and I will not tell you how to live it. But --and this is a big but-- if you harm someone else in the process of getting high, you better watch your ass, because the hammer will come down hard. The government has a resposibility to protect and care for the well being of it's citizens. You get high and stop feeding your kids for three days, it is the government's resposibility to punish you and save your kids. When we become parents, we also gain the resposibility to care for these children emotionally, economically and physically. When you drop the ball and go get high, you harm your children. It is here that the government is obligated to step in a remedy the situation.

This shouldn't be regulated to just drugs, either. It is the same situation with a drunk who passes out before dinner. You could even use this rationale to limit smoking. It is not until the activity actually damages the well being of another that the government needs to step in. That may be stretching it a bit, but you get my point. In a society that (ostensibly) stands for life, liberty, and the persuit of happiness, there is some definate hypocrisy in the laws of today. Too much of the drug regulation has been based on personal morals of the law makers. And if you think that just becuase a moral is shared by a majority, it should be law, I'll leave you with another Mill quote:

If mankind minus one were of one opinion, then mankind is no more justified in silencing the one than the one - if he had the power - would be justified in silencing mankind.

- John Stuart Mill


At 12:44 PM, Blogger Sara E Anderson said...

We'll just see how horrible you find the effects on your mental clarity and efficacy that you inflict on yourself on Thursday night...

At 1:15 AM, Blogger endy smith said...

I want to say that I am totally against using drugs just as well. I think one should try everything during lifetime except for drugs. Of course, there are light and heavy drugs but taking light drugs, you won`t feel anything. Taking heavy drugs, you will become addicted. Following this link, you will find out more about impact of drugs on a human being, its body and soul. There is no longer any soul left, neither body but a skeleton.


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