Recent publicity around the murders of five drug addicted English prostitutes has spurred me on to re-vamp an article I wrote for the Free Radical back in the mid ’90s
I wrote it shortly after my conversion from conservatism to libertarianism. It’s a bit raw, but I hope it provokes some debate.
Confessions of a Conservative
I hate drugs. A few months ago I believed in the total and vigorous suppression of illegal drugs by the state. When Singaporean authorities executed two Australian heroin smugglers a few years ago, I applauded. When the New Zealand government started seizing the assets of local marijuana growers, I cheered. When a close relative was jailed for possessing a carload of cannabis, I totally supported the police.
Nor was I one of those wimpy liberals who believes in nailing the dealers, but rehabilitating the poor users. I regarded the users as the real villains. The dealers, scum that they are, take real risks to make a buck. The users support the trade with their money, but face little but a fine or light sentence if caught. I believed mere possession of dope warranted a long jail sentence.
My contempt for the drug trade was not limited to the illegal variety. I always voted for prohibition of alcohol at every General Election referendum. I refused to do work for the alcohol and tobacco industries. I was a total teetotaller and had no qualms about making everybody else the same way.
I believed that to deliberately ingest a toxic chemical, with the express purpose of blotting out or altering one’s perception of reality was an unconscionable sin.
Though sympathetic to Libertarianism in economics and most other areas I was vehemently opposed to what I regarded as the movement’s weak attitude towards drugs.
I saw drugs as a curse, a threat to the security of our society and the wellbeing of everyone in it.
I was conservative with a capital K when it came to mind affecting chemicals.
Now, weeks later I am a complete convert to the cause of drug legalisation. Not just marijuana mind you. Everything. Heroin, cocaine, LSD, barbiturates, uppers, downers, crack, ecstasy, peyote, mescaline, betel nuts, magic mushrooms and datura. The lot.
Conversion of a Conservative
Now, I believe the state has absolutely no place in regulating what substances any adult may wish to place in or on his or her body.
Why the change? Did someone slip a tab in my organic orange juice? Did I see God on my TV screen? Did I reach nirvana in a smoke filled room?
No, I still hate drugs, it’s just that now I’m a Libertarian.
The conversion began in a conservation in a bakery, with longtime Libertarian and non drug user, Dave Henderson. His logic forced me to recognise the inconsistency of my views and the underlying socialist premises they were based on.
Who was I to want to protect fools from the consequences of their own folly?
Wasn’t it arrogant and paternalistic to want to enforce my views on others via the state?
Doesn’t the present state repression of drug abuse actually release people from the responsibility of directly confronting and handling the problem?
Like all socialist “solutions”, doesn’t state control actually worsen the problem it purports to solve?
Wouldn’t a free, capitalist and responsible society be better able to confront and deal with the drug issue?
Aren’t social problems best handled by leaving things to the individual?
Shortly after, I read US writer Mark Skousen’s excellent essay “Persuasion versus Force” and my conversion to Libertarianism was complete.