A well-known religious figure is reported to have said: “For ye have the poor with you always.” This is even more the case if economic inequality persists (as the history of the world suggests it might) and poverty is defined in relative terms. The same well-known figure added, however, that “whensoever ye will, ye may do them good.”
A recent article in the French newspaper Le Monde drew attention to an important difference between the French and the Germans. The French, said the author, think that the government spends other people’s money; the Germans think that the government spends their own money. This, if true, is important because each attitude must affect the politics as well as the economic policy of its respective country.
It is generally assumed that the onus of justification is on those who would prohibit an item of consumption or a manner of behaving.
Continuing from my initial post, the second main argument in favor of the legalization of drugs whose consumption (or at least possession) is presently prohibited is that the harms associated with drug-taking are caused more by their illegality than by their pharmacological or other effects. Their illegality means that their production and distribution are necessarily criminal activities; while the artificial expense of obtaining supplies that results from criminalization leads consumers, particularly addicts, into criminality in order to obtain sufficient money to buy them.
There are two main arguments, one philosophical and the other practical, for the legalization of drugs whose consumption is currently prohibited. I will take up the former here, and the latter in a separate post.
The relationship between personal experience and public policy is not at all straightforward, and of no aspect of public policy is this more true than that of illegal immigration. In Europe, the question is daily put before us by newspapers, magazines, blogs, radio, and television, with dramatic pictures of desperate illegal immigrants trying to reach our shores across the Mediterranean, many of them drowning en route.
Recently an American acquaintance of mine told me that, when asked, he informed a group of students that he did not believe animals had rights, and this deeply shocked them. They did not merely disagree with him: they simply could not take on board that any intelligent, sane, and civilized person could hold such a view. It was as if someone had gone to Mecca and said there is no God and therefore Mohammed could not have been his prophet.
One of the characteristics of our age that may surprise future social historians (if there are any) is the speed with which ideas go from being generally regarded as ludicrous and unthinkable to being conceivable, then accepted, then ensconced as unchallengeable orthodoxy. This makes it difficult for satirists; satire becomes prophecy and, in practically no time at all, mere description.
Perhaps this is the only true law of political economy: Memories are short and lessons are never learned. At any rate, I thought of it as soon as I saw a front page advertisement in the Irish Times, taken out by the Irish Civil Public and Services Union (CPSU).