Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Prohibition and the 13th Amendment

Remember the 13th Amendment? The one that goes something like this:

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Passed by Congress January 31, 1865. Ratified December 6, 1865.
According to my dictionary, a slave is
a person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them.
Putting two and two together (and getting 5), I’m going to go way out on a limb, a limb out past left field, and suggest that prohibition is a violation of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Before you write this off as crazy talk, let me explain my reasoning, circuitous as it may be.

If the government controls what we can and can’t put into our own bodies, and forces us to obey their restrictions with the threat of arrest and imprisonment, doesn't that make us slaves, at least according to the dictionary definition? If I own my own body, then I have the right to decide what to do with it and what to put into it. If I don’t have that right, then someone else must own my body. No one can have that kind of absolute power over me (except maybe my wife or mother) unless they own me. And if someone owns me, that makes me a slave.

“Come on,” you’re probably thinking. “The government’s not beating or whipping you, or making you work the fields.” That’s true. (As far as you know.) But being physically abused or forced into hard labor are not what makes one a slave. You can be a slave and have a relatively easy life, or you can be a paid servant and be abused. We’re more like house slaves than field hands. We get to live in a nice house and wear nice clothes, but are never allowed to forget our place or who makes the rules.

What makes one a slave is that, unlike the free man, the slave does not own their own body. Someone else makes decisions for them, and they do as they are told. When the government decides what we can and can't put into our bodies, whether we abide by their rules or not, then they, for all intents and purposes, own us. Decisions are made by our master, who knows what’s best for us. We must do their bidding, or suffer the consequences. We are no longer the masters of our own domain.

Unlike many other arguments against prohibition, this one does not apply to victimless crimes in general. Things like gambling or prostitution involve others and the behaviors we engage in with them. Prohibition is different in that it seeks to control a behavior that we engage in entirely on our own. If the government tells me that I can’t drink and drive, that’s OK because they are protecting others from my potentially dangerous public behavior. But if they tell me I can't drink, period, then it would appear that they have absolute control over my body.

So what do you think? Am I crazy? Has our government turned us into slaves with their prohibitionist policy? Or do they just want to be my wife/mother? Who knows? But invalidating the Controlled Substances Act based on the 13th Amendment is no more insane than validating it with the Commerce Clause. So who’s more crazy, me or the government?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Prohibitionism: A Religious Cult

It occurred to me that prohibitionists are a lot like religious fanatics. They believe what they believe, because... Well, because that’s what they believe. And they believe it to the max. But, you might argue, their beliefs are not based on any kind of logic or truth. So what? That hasn't prevented their success for the past 70 years. In fact, like most religions, their purely subjective beliefs sound very convincing to lots of people. So much so, that those beliefs have become ingrained into our society. Most people today can recite the prohibitionist prayers without even thinking about it.

Prayers, you say? OK, maybe not prayers exactly. I guess they are more like mantras or incantations. “Just say no.” “Only dopes use dope.” “This is your brain on drugs.” “Think of the children.” “It’s a gateway drug.” “If you legalize it, everyone will use it.” “Those hippies and potheads just want to get high all the time.” I’m sure you’ve heard these and many others, and never really thought about them. Non-prohibitionists might laugh them off, and see them for what they are, meaningless sound bytes. But to a hard-core prohibitionist believer, those mantras are gospel. They are common sense and common knowledge. Anyone who questions the prohibitionist beliefs is trying to destroy the moral fabric of our society. There’s no room for doubters in the good ol’ U.S. of A. Damn those hippies and potheads! Literally.

And just like religious zealots, prohibitionists believe that they are taking the moral high ground. They are the ones that know how people should behave, what they should and shouldn’t do, how they should live their lives. But, unfortunately, they are not content living their own lives according to their beliefs. Like many other religions, they have missionaries, who go out upon the land and preach to anyone who will listen. Ever hear of the Drug Czar? They want everyone else to know about their beliefs, and live their lives accordingly. And they want to punish those who don’t, the infidels.

Of course, you can’t argue with a religious fanatic. You can’t convince them with a logical argument or empirical evidence. That’s because their beliefs are not based on logic or evidence. They know what they know. They’ve always known it, and anyone who doesn’t know what they know is ignorant or delusional. Or worse, evil and deserving of punishment.

So they have their incantations, their moral standards, their missionaries, their intricately-crafted and deeply-rooted belief system. It looks a lot like a religion to me. Except for not having their own special prohibitionist god. But that’s OK. They can and do borrow a god from other religions. Which is what makes them, technically speaking, a cult.

So why does it even matter what they are? Because knowing what they are can help us understand how to fight them. Information, facts, and logic are not effective weapons when dealing with cult members. Sadly, short of an intervention and intensive de-programming, there is very little that can be done to change their world view. Which is why their cult has endured for so long. I wish I knew of an effective means of de-programming them, but I don’t. And, I don’t mean to sound overly pessimistic, but I think the media campaigns I’ve seen recently, in California and elsewhere, will do little to actually change the minds of any of the hardcore fanatics. Might as well try to convert a Baptist to Islam.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Prohibition Really Is A Success

I’ve noticed that prohibitionists never like to talk about the effectiveness of the current drug war. Sure, from time to time they bring the press in and show them a big pile of drugs that were seized. And they talk about things like street value, the number of people arrested, and how long they worked and how much money they spent getting ahold of those drugs and the people who possessed them. And I suppose you could say this is their way of showing off their victory in a major battle. But though they may win a fair number of battles, and brag to no end about it, they never really talk about the war. You know, things like the impact of their victories on drug availability, or price, or use. And who can blame them? Because in reality, the battles they win really are pretty few and far between. Skirmishes really. If you look at the big picture, the war as a whole is not going their way at all. Which is not something to brag about.

But I think I’ve figured out a way for the prohibitionists to show the world indisputable evidence of success in their war. And it’s really just a matter of spin. All the drug warriors need to do is redefine their objectives. In other words, if what you are doing is inconsistent with your intentions, and you don’t want to change what you’re doing, then change your intentions. In the drug warrior’s case, they don’t even really have to change their intentions. They just have to admit to them. Isn’t that always the first step?

The drug warriors just need to admit that the purpose of their current prohibitionist drug policy has nothing whatsoever to do with preventing people from using or abusing drugs. It’s not about public health or safety. It’s not about fighting crime, or protecting us from ourselves, or any of that malarky. That’s just their story for public consumption. Kind of like that bachelor uncle that is just neat, or artistic, or sensitive. He’s just waiting for the right woman. I can understand why the Drug Czar refuses to use the term “harm reduction.” Prohibition doesn’t and can’t prevent any harm associated with drug abuse. And it clearly can't stop people from using drugs. If any of these things are really their intention, then it’s plain to see that the war was lost long ago.

So why don’t they just come out of their closet of denial and admit the real purpose of the war. The truth will set them free. The only purpose and, unfortunately, outcome of their ongoing war on drugs is to punish people for using drugs. Drugs are bad, therefore people who use drugs are bad. They need to be punished for their badness. It’s all about defining a moral standard, then declaring that anyone who doesn't adhere to that standard is a criminal. See? Doesn’t that feel better?

Not only that, but now all of a sudden, the war on drugs can be legitimately described as hugely successful. I’d say that, by this criterion, its success is beyond even the wildest dreams of Richard Nixon, the man who first declared the war. Our government has succeeded in punishing more people for using drugs than anyone ever thought humanly possible. We have the largest prison population, not only in the world, but in the history of the world. If our intent is to punish, we couldn’t be more successful. That’s something to brag about!

Now I usually don’t like to give the bad guys (i.e., the prohibitionists) any help. But I’m feeling generous this fine day. So this one’s on me. Consider it some free ammunition in winning the hearts and minds of the people on whom you’ve declared war. Or at the very least, as a way to get more money to carry on your war. You’re welcome.