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What a shame, I was so hoping to goad you into presenting a rational argument for proscription argued from first principles. ;-)

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Mon Jan 7th, 2008 at 06:34:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
dvx:
What a shame, I was so hoping to goad you into presenting a rational argument for proscription argued from first principles. ;-)

That's easy.  

  1. If you like the people who are taking drugs, turn a blind eye on the grounds that they know what they are doing and its their life anyway.

  2. If you don't like the people who are doing drugs because they are engaging in crime to fund their habit prosecute the hell out of them.

  3. You REALLY don't like the illicit drug trade because it takes market share and profits from the legit drug trade - cigarettes, alcohol and pharmaceuticals.  DECLARE WAR ON THE ILLEGAL DRUG TRADE

Ok, any other small world problems you want m to solve?

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jan 7th, 2008 at 06:58:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You still haven't told us what a "drug" is.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Mon Jan 7th, 2008 at 07:02:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That is what I meant by "first principles": first, how do we decide which "drugs" to allow and which to prohibit?

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Mon Jan 7th, 2008 at 07:03:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
dvx:
That is what I meant by "first principles": first, how do we decide which "drugs" to allow and which to prohibit?

You are trying to set me up for an argument I cannot possibly win.  I'd just be target practice for the smart boyos around here.

The problem is there is NO RATIONAL WAY of distinguishing between what drugs should be legal and which not.  There are huge shades of grey between various drugs in terms of toxicity and social consequences, and huge variability as to what these might be depending on the context, and so if you move the boundary a bit there is no logical reason why it shouldn't be moved a bit further.  

Thus if you legalise Marijuana, then why not E?  If cocaine, why not heroin - you are only discriminating in favour of the middle classes if you don't.  If you are trying to reduce Alcohol and Nicotine and prescribed drug abuse then legalising anything else is moving things in the "wrong" direction.

There is no "solution", only desperate attempts at containment not helped by the obvious hypocrisy, class bias, and irrationality of it all.  

Probably the only logical or rational alternative to criminalisation is medical regulation but I can't see why a doctor would prescribe cocaine to someone if there is the remotest chance his patient might overdose, mix with other drugs, or suffer an adverse reaction.  He would be sued to hell and anyway, we are already over-medicalising health and happiness to a huge degree.

The only other possible option is to "legitimise supply" of virtually all non-lethal drugs by making it the purview of legit pharma companies under quality controlled conditions and sold to adults in Pharmacies but without prescription.  That creates the problem of - I can get heroin without prescription but not an antibiotic - idiotic isn't it?

So then we get to the full libertarian position - all drugs should be freely available without state or medical "interference" and its is up to people themselves to educate themselves and decide what to do with their bodies.  

"Education" doesn't always work and I would expect a massive increase in accidental and other fatalities and medical traumas - but would it be worse that the current situation where are huge consequences because of the criminalisation process itself - drug trade turf wars, dirty needles, AIDS, hepatitis, and the traumatic effects of the crime required to fund drug taking.  I simply don't know, and that is why I would favour a slow, incremental, evidence based approach.

However, I would caution against the "progressive" assumption that criminalisation is all part of a massive capitalist, imperialist plot to to dominate the  world through "THE WAR ON DRUGS" or to repress progressive libertarian ideals in society.  Of course there are "political agendas" at work here but they may not be quite what they seem.

It is just as possible that it would be in capitalism's interest to decriminalize drugs and create a huge bonanza for "legit" big pharma, health care and related industries not to mention the tax revenues that could accrue to Government.  However  the price of illegitimate drugs is coming down all the time, so there probably wouldn't be a big reduction in crime if the legit versions were no cheaper and people still had to fund their habit.

It may just be that the decision is taken out of "our" hands and that our societies will be flooded with cheap illicit drugs in any case.  In that case the purely pragmatic decision would be to legitmise the whole lot and cut out the illegal middlemen. Many would argue we have reached that point already.   Perhaps the health care costs of decriminalisation would be offset by the savings on the very expensive criminalisation process, and perhaps "education" will succeed in ensuring that the vast majority of people will suffer no serious consequences.

If I were to hazard a guess it would be that that is the direction we are headed in whether we like it or not.  Perhaps it will be a bit like the porn industry where th first instinct of conservative society is to ban it, but gradually the barriers get rolled back (how do you define porn anyway?), and people get so used to it they hardly notice it anymore.  There is only so much the state can do to protect you from yourself and others, and the best approach is to equip you with the education to do it for yourself.

Managing a transition is always easier if everyone is agreed on what the end state should be.  My purpose here was to stimulate a debate and see if we can come to a consensus on what that end state should be.  Otherwise forces beyond our control will drag us in a certain direction anyway.

In 30 years time all the drugs illegal now will probably be freely available with (optional) medical supervision.  But will it be a happier, more just, and more rational world?

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jan 7th, 2008 at 08:24:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank Schnittger:
You are trying to set me up for an argument I cannot possibly win.

Not I, said the Little Pinko Hen, I'm merely trying to bring some rigor into this discussion so that our terms don't keep slip-sliding all over the place.

Frank Schnittger:

The problem is there is NO RATIONAL WAY of distinguishing between what drugs should be legal and which not.

I had understood you to be in favor of prohibiting certain substances (and allowing others to be used and traded). Do I take it you would be willing to do so even absent a rational framework?

As a thought experiment, we could start by ranking substances in terms of their overall harmfulness, using the criteria

  • toxicity (acute and long-term)
  • physical harm to others (e.g. passive smoking)
  • risk of antisocial behavior or secondary self-destructive behavior

Presumably tobacco (at least smoked) would score very high in categories 1 and 2, and alcohol in categories 1 and 3 (we've all been there, I imagine), making them more "rational" candidates for prohibition than cannabis (relatively benign in all categories), heroin (relatively high in only one category) or even cocaine (moderate to high in two categories). Not that I am advocating (pace Caol Ila Gang) prohibition of alcohol, but this framework would have the advantage of being more transparent, less arbitrary and thus more subjectively "fair".

And, by making these distinctions without reference to the intoxicating properties of the substances, such a system would avoid stigmatizing intoxication as such - IMO a major draw back of all other prohibition regimes to date.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Mon Jan 7th, 2008 at 12:15:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure rationality comes into it, even if it where possible to devise a rational schema that everyone agred to.  (Is that not what the current classification scheme attempts to do in any case?).  

If the market is absolutely flooded with cheap E and "everybody is doing it" is there any further point in criminalising it and a huge slice of the population?  It might be preferable to have it issued in quality controlled dosages through pharmacies with all the relevant warnings etc.  It could then be used by adults in private.  (Public drunkenness is still an offense).

However there really needs to be a global response, otherwise those countries (and internet sites) with liberal jurisdictions will become suppliers to those who don't, and there will be "competitive" pressures for everyone to match the most liberal regime or lose out on the "business".

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jan 7th, 2008 at 12:35:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As opposed to the US forcing the hand of most of the world, and bombing a few countries, to ensure compliances with its policies ?

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misŤres
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Jan 7th, 2008 at 12:48:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
doesn't seem to have worked terribly well - although someone needs to tell the CIA

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jan 7th, 2008 at 02:06:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank Schnittger:
I'm not sure rationality comes into it, even if it where possible to devise a rational schema that everyone agred to.  (Is that not what the current classification scheme attempts to do in any case?).  

If it's not rational, how can it even begin to be defensible?

Frank Schnittger:

However there really needs to be a global response, otherwise those countries (and internet sites) with liberal jurisdictions will become suppliers to those who don't, and there will be "competitive" pressures for everyone to match the most liberal regime or lose out on the "business".

So where's the problem? :-)

Except in this case I think we may safely replace "liberal" with "rational".

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Tue Jan 8th, 2008 at 10:46:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The only other possible option is to "legitimise supply" of virtually all non-lethal drugs by making it the purview of legit pharma companies under quality controlled conditions and sold to adults in Pharmacies but without prescription.  That creates the problem of - I can get heroin without prescription but not an antibiotic - idiotic isn't it?

So then we get to the full libertarian position - all drugs should be freely available without state or medical "interference" and its is up to people themselves to educate themselves and decide what to do with their bodies.

Your post is otherwise well thought out, but this is a slippery slope fallacy: There are very rational reasons to restrict antibiotics, irregardless of what happens to heroin.

Misusing antibiotics, unlike misusing heroin, affects the entire population through the development of resistant bacterial strains.* Further, antibiotics, are medical interventions designed to combat specific diseases, and there is a very strong case to be made that such drugs should be prescribed for the simple reason that it will force the patient to consult his doctor on a regular basis while the treatment is ongoing. Self-medicalisation is, after all, A Very Bad Idea.

- Jake

*This is, of course, assuming that the anti-social behaviour associated with irresponsible use of heroin is considered socially acceptable on balance.

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jan 7th, 2008 at 10:35:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I suppose the point I am trying to make to both you and DVX above is that if the issue were to be decided on purely "rational" medical grounds, then both antibiotics and psychoactive drugs would remain controlled. However in a  scenario were (say) E or heroin was so cheap and widely available and used there might come a point where the pragmatic or socially "rational" thing to do would be to decriminalise it and seek to mitigate any harmful effects.

The point of criminalising anything is to discourage and reduce its occurrence. If that is demonstrably not working then the rational approach is to seek other strategies to minimise the harm.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jan 8th, 2008 at 11:19:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm getting your point, and I agree with it most of the way. I simply wanted to point out that in a rational world the decision to deregulate antibiotics would be completely decoupled from the decision to decriminalise and/or deregulate heroin. Antibiotics and heroin have completely different risk profiles both for the individual and society as a whole.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Jan 8th, 2008 at 11:33:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jan 8th, 2008 at 12:56:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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