Column on Prohibition hasn’t Ended

Prohibition hasn’t Ended

Tibor R. Machan

One of my grown children and I watched the first installment of Ken Burns’ new series, Prohibition. There was a lot of information, details one would know only if one studied the history closely but one matter came through clearly and accessibly. That is just how stupid or vicious the current supporters of the disgusting war on drugs are. I mean all the politicians, citizens, members of courts and so forth, people who appear to have learned absolutely nothing from the alcohol prohibition that made criminals out of millions of peaceful American citizens.

What a scandal and catastrophe! A country that has had a reputation throughout the globe for institutionalizing a mostly small and free federal government and for being on record championing liberty for the citizens of the entire globe is undeniably hypocritical and has been such for much of its history, at least in some of serious areas of American society. There was slavery, of course; and prohibition, and detention for Japanese Americans and now the insanity of placing thousands and thousands of citizens in jails and prisons for, well, nothing that could possibly be reasonably considered a violent crime.

Not only is this feature of the country unjust and devastating for all those who are its victims but it is a colossal public relations disaster. All along politicians in the country have laid claim to serving the principles of liberty only to oversee what is without any doubt a series of institutional assaults upon those principles in the public policies they have supported.

As a friend and I wrote several years ago, “The war on drugs received several major increases in funding during the 1980s, and the U.S. military is now heavily involved in drug-law enforcement. Despite these increased resources we are no closer to success with drug prohibition than socialism is at creating a ‘new economic man.’ The fact that a full array of illegal drugs is available for sale throughout the Federal prison system, the Pentagon, and in front of the Drug Enforcement Administration building in Washington, D.C., demonstrates that little has been accomplished.” Sadly it also demonstrates how little the supporters of the war on drugs have learned from the earlier prohibition.

But of course the most offensive feature of the war on drugs is how it violates the rights of all drug users and traders. Never mind that it may well be morally objectionable to use and trade many drugs. So can be pornography or various forms of imprudence, such as laziness and sloth. But such practices must not be banned in a free society. They need to be combated without resort of coercion since these are all peaceful and victimless.

Just who do these people think they are to impose their will on others when it comes to what they ought to put into their bodies and other personal failings? Oh, it is excused because some drug users and abusers undertake various tasks in the performance of which they might injure innocent bystanders. Yet this is a really feeble excuse–people who pursue perfectly decent tasks can harmfully impact others, such as drivers (who expose other drivers to lethal risks) and students or office workers (who can spread diseases). It is the violent acts that must be prohibited and punished, not the people with various conditions that may or may not lead them to such acts. (This is a point that can also be made vis-a-vis so called hate crimes. It is not the feeling of hate that must be banned or punished but actions that violate the rights of victims.)

Isn’t it about time to live up to the principles of the American political tradition, one that recognizes individuals rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Having such rights means, mainly, that they might be exercised in objectionable ways, just as having the right to freedom of speech and religion can be. But the stupid governmental habit keeps getting in the way of achieving a fully free society. Would be good idea to stop letting it.

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