"Mistrust those in whom the urge to punish is strong." Friedrich Nietzche

"Any and all non-violent, non-coercive, non-larcenous, consensual adult behavior that does not physically harm other people or their property or directly and immediately endangers same, that does not disturb the peace or create a public nuisance, and that is done in private, especially on private property, is the inalienable right of all adults. In a truly free and liberty-loving society, ruled by a secular government, no laws should be passed to prohibit such behavior. Any laws now existing that are contrary to the above definition of inalienable rights are violations of the rights of adults and should be made null and void." D. M. Mitchell (from The Myth of Inalienable Rights, at: http://dowehaverights.blogspot.com/)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Drugs and Willfully Blind Americans

The following paragraphs are taken from my essay “The Myth of Inalienable Rights” at http://dowehaverights.blogspot.com. But first, the opening sentence of a report originating from the 248th session of the Salzberg Seminars, held February through March of 1986. These seminars are private, non-profit discussions on wide-ranging topics. This one was titled “The Cultural Dimensions of Alcohol Policy Worldwide.” Twenty-one nations were represented.

However much the American public may worry about illicit drug use, it remains both true and generally acknowledged that alcohol, a legal drug, costs a great deal more in whatever metric applied: medical, social, economic, or public health. (Walsh, et al.)


Tobacco (nicotine) is the most harmful drug in use in America today in terms of deaths per year. It is generally accepted that the annual death toll from the use of the drug nicotine is over 400,000. Alcohol is the second most deadly drug in terms of deaths per year, with a yearly average of 200,000. [5] But when the effects of the present drug prohibition are factored out, that is, the violence caused by the prohibition, as well as deaths caused by adulterated drugs, deaths per year for the use of the presently illegal drugs are not more than 5,000. [6] This is one-one hundred twentieth (1/120) of the combined effects of alcohol and tobacco. To put it differently, deaths per year from the presently illegal drugs, as a percentage, compared to alcohol and tobacco, is 0.833%, or less than 1%. Yet, for those 5,000 people who knowingly and willingly choose to use the drug or drugs which kill them, we, as a nation, are willing to spend 30 billion dollars per year in the attempt (and not a very successful attempt) to prohibit those drugs. [7] Actually, that figure is probably as much as 100 billion dollars per year. [8] We are also willing to incarcerate hundreds of thousands of people who have not harmed anyone. And, I might add, that this huge expenditure and mega-incarceration is, for the most part, futile. All the laws passed, money spent, and people incarcerated has not substantially stopped the use of the presently illegal drugs.

. . . .

Consider this: If it is wrong to make and sell any of the presently illegal drugs because of the perceived or potential harm that they may cause, then how much more wrong must it be to make and sell alcohol and tobacco for the demonstrably greater harm that they cause? Can the people who sell alcohol and tobacco, the people who manufacture the booze and cigarettes, or the farmers who grow the tobacco, or the grain and fruit used to make alcohol, can those people claim rightness of purpose, legitimacy of their businesses, and moral superiority, knowing that hundreds of thousands of people will die and that millions will suffer because of the misuse of their labor and their products? Can they logically or morally be given reputable status and community support over the marijuana or cocaine distributors who also provide their drugs to willing customers, but drugs that cause far less harm overall in our society than either alcohol or tobacco?

If the government has the legitimate right and the moral duty to rid society of harmful, mind-altering, and possibly addictive drugs, then isn’t it logical that the government should put their greatest efforts into combating the most harmful drugs first? Those being, of course, alcohol and tobacco. Wow! What a war on drugs that would make! More violence, more theft, more corruption, more danger to all people at all times in all places, and millions more people put in prison. It would be for the common good, of course, but it would also be one hell of a boost to the various justice department bureaucracies, police departments, as well as the prison building and supplying industries along with prison guards and their unions. These are the ones, today, who legally benefit from the so-called war on drugs. Why, they’d have to fence off Kansas and put all the prisoners there!


5. Extrapolated from the Fifth Special Report to the U. S. Congress on Alcohol and Health, by the Secretary of Health and Human Resources.

6. In May of 1991, Jeffrey M. Blum, an associate professor of law at the University of Buffalo, filed a (letter) brief at the request of federal judge, John Elfvin, on the question of whether the constitutional rules should be relaxed because of the drug situation. The brief stated, among other things, that the total number of deaths due to either overdose or poisoning from all of the presently illegal drugs combined was between 3,800 and 5,200 (a figure taken from Ostrowski’s “Thinking About Drug Legalization”, note number two, above). To see the full letter brief—but especially paragraphs 16-23 and 27—go to http://www.november.org/dissentingopinions/Blum.html#top.

7. Ain’t Nobodies Business If You Do, by Peter McWilliams, Prelude Press, page 183.

8. O.K., Call It War, by Max Frankel, The New York Times Magazine, December 18, 1994.

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