This is the first of the Firestarter Series that examine flashpoint issues dispassionately. I will not be giving my opinion on these matters lightly but rather I am looking for irrational but widely held opinions. For the curious, I am quite libertarian.
Right wingers will say increased taxes should go to the military and national security and left wingers will say the money should go to those in need to protect us all from economic and personal disaster. These are philosophical differences and no one can say who is right.
Each of those large groups have lots of reasons why each of them believe national security or personal security is more important though neither will deny that both types of security are important government responsibilities. The government should do both things if we are to have a government at all.
We need to take care of security and we need a fair economic system that does not relegate the poor to get poorer while the rich get richer and gives everyone a safety net. The differences between the Left and the Right are a matter of degree. How much of our resources should be given to national security and how much to personal security?
These differing philosophies are not at odds, therefore. But rather one group wants the government to put fewer resources toward national security, the other wants fewer resources toward just and charitable systems to make everyone more secure.
This discussion is quite rational, but here comes a flash-point, here is the firestarter. Remember, the point here is to get you to re-examine your own views.
Drugs. Just saying the word evokes negative images and we all know how bad drugs are and what havoc they can cause society. But why are drugs illegal philosophically speaking? Are drugs a matter of national security as the War on Drugs evokes? Or is it a matter of protecting the citizenry from personal disaster?
I submit this discussion is much too similar to the one months ago about marijuana, and years ago discussions of homosexuality and gambling, the decades ago about race and prejudice, and a century ago about alcohol and dancing and music and dress codes. Your arguments are similar to those about the immorality and personal disaster that will come to people who dance.
Society has become more libertarian. We can kiss in public, we cannot discriminate based on race. 50 or 100 years ago these things were debated, but they are not debated anymore. We accept the change.
Historically drugs were made illegal along with other Puritan concerns of immorality. Sex on Sunday, homosexual sex and promiscuous sex such as public kissing were illegal and punishable in horrific manners. And of course alcohol was illegal which is still seen in our Blue Laws. Dancing and certain forms of dress were illegal, heck beachcombing and most reading was illegal. Black people were not allowed, and certainly not Indians.
In such an environment it was a matter of course that recreational drugs would be illegal. But today the rationale for prohibiting any and all drugs that someone might enjoy, except alcohol and very recently marijuana, is for security.
We believe as a culture that people should not use any recreational drugs because doing so would be dangerous in one or more ways. I want you to say it. If you believe drugs are dangerous and should not be permitted as something people enjoy doing say so to yourself and other. Say: “I think all recreational drugs should be illegal because making them legal will hurt society.”
The reasons for not legalizing such drugs, as we legalized dancing and liberal dress codes, and sex and homosexuality and alcohol, are that drugs are worse than those other things. It is not likely to make me immoral and hurt society if I dance or dress as I want or have sex, even homosexual sex, or drink, but if I do other drugs that crosses a line and I become dangerous.
I believe it will not be long until those who say “I think drugs should be illegal…” will be those looked as as prejudice is seen today. If you don’t want to hang out with black or asian or hispanic people don’t, but don’t prohibit them. If you don’t want extramarital or homosexual sex, don’t. If you don’t want drugs,. don’t. But don’t prohibit them and punish those who do.