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).
‘Why can’t a woman be more like a man?’ asked Professor Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady, expecting no proper answer. In another context, that of economics, he might have asked ‘Why can’t one country be like another?’
I thought of Henry Higgins as I read a letter recently in the Financial Times. It was written by an Irish civil servant in praise of German efforts to save their weaker brethren of the European Union.
General elections in modern democracies bore much of the population—perhaps most of it. They even seem to many a form of slow torture by means of constant and inescapable publicity and propaganda in favor of the nonentities who stand for public office. Nevertheless, it is dangerous to despise practical politics on the grounds that politicians are all the same, which is to say no good. Such indiscriminate disdain creates an opening for a more extreme and dangerous form of politics that preys upon universal discontent.
Still, in almost every Western democracy, there is a growing feeling that the political class (including its bureaucratic allies) has become more like a caste—a self-enclosed and self-perpetuating group of people that arrogates privileges to itself, through the enjoyment of which it insulates itself from the rest of the population, whose interests it has therefore no reason to share or understand. We the people increasingly believe that the division between the political class and everyone else is much greater than any factional divisions within the political class.
Public spending seems as if it were attached to a ratchet because it moves in one direction only, which is to say upwards. Even if a downward movement is occasionally discernible, it is generally small, easily reversible, and the result of so ferocious a political struggle that it discourages further attempts of the same kind.