Saturday, March 29, 2008

Prohibit Prohibition

Education Specialist for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (L.E.A.P.), Officer Howard J. Wooldridge (retired), Washington, D.C., offers his take on the war on drugs in a letter to the editor of the Asheville Citizen-Times:

Police can’t stop people from doing stupid things in private

Carl Mumpower believes the government thru its police department can protect a citizen who is doing something stupid in their own home. His faith is misplaced. As a police officer, I learned we cannot stop personal stupidity in ones’ home. Only family and friends can help someone with a personal demon. All we can do is put them in jail. How is that helping?

Will North Carolina be able to afford to keep locking up its citizens in the recession? Will it lay college professors or prison guards? Will we ever be as wise as our grandparents and end this modern prohibition?

I appreciate the writer's argument from utility, stating his recognition that government-coerced prohibition does not work—indeed, it does not. The larger question is, though, should it?

Some people argue that the war on drugs is necessary because it helps prevent substance abuse. And that this is good for people and good for society. Which is essentially a moral claim.

First of all, it is not the role of government to do things that are good for me. That's my business. It is the proper role of government to protect individual rights. In prosecuting the war on drugs, the government becomes one of the chief violators of individual rights.

The question of personal vice is a moral issue and does not come within the purview of government.

Moral instruction regarding the pros and cons of substance use or abuse is the function of friends, family, teachers, clergy, literature, or a person's own rational introspection. It certainly is not the function of government.

Furthermore, the war on drugs proves that we do not live in a free society, but in one that considers its citizens to be property that must be protected from its own peaceable, voluntary decisions. It is this fundamental premise that is also responsible for the great many of other abuses of government that we live with every day.

Whether or not the war on drugs is actually successful in fact, it is both unconstitutional and immoral in principle.