Mar 16, 2014

Busybodies and Authoritarianism

EPJ recently informed followers of a debate which took place in San Fransisco about the legalization of Marijuana.  The pro-legalization side was represented by Dr. Michael Edelstein, and prohibition was advocated by Marty Nemko.  The idea of a modern prohibitionist led me to search out Nemko, where I found an article he wrote on his blog entitled, "The Case Against Legalizing Marijuana."  While I anticipated reading some fresh insights regarding the topic of Cannabis, I was dismayed to see Nemko's analysis is the same old saw- the kind of distortions and myths one might find in that cult classic propaganda film, Reefer Madness.

Throughout the article, Nemko presents pictures of people who are acting silly after (presumably) consuming Cannabis.  This is similar to the technique used in Reefer Madness, a portrayal of Cannabis users as wild- indeed, out of control; these people need to be reigned in before they destroy their lives and harm others, say the prohibitionists.  This siren song- one which has been sung for time immemorial by "Dudley Do-Right" and tyrannical dictators alike- makes the case for prohibition as the just solution to what the controllers see as a problem.  However, careful analysis reveals the Cannabis trade to be innocuous, and prohibition as neither just or solvent.  In contrast, social control is a heap of injustices- something to be avoided at all costs.

The first thing to realize about the Cannabis trade is that such exchanges are an inevitability.  Prohibition laws or any other attempts to stifle trade among willing parties will always come up short.  This is because an intrinsic part of human nature is to satisfy desires.  For any product that is in demand, entrepreneurs will spring up to satisfy consumers- children or adults.  Under prohibition law, only the most unsavory types- those who are willing to flout the law- will participate in the market as suppliers.  Thus, prohibition yields gangland activities, and nefarious dealers who settle disputes with violence.1  Bolstering these violent criminals is a greater social harm than any increase in teenage Cannabis use that Nemko presumes will happen without prohibition.  Further, the black-market drug dealer is the person who teenagers and others will buy from under prohibition.  Because of prohibition law, these transactions are carried out in less visible and more dangerous places such as the dealers house, unlit parking lots, and back alleys.  To turn around a phrase which Nemko uses, "is that what you want for your child, your sibling, your spouse, your parent, for America?"

Even the US government admits the approach of prohibition is a failure.  After spending $1 Trillion over 40 years, with harsh penalties for those supplying and purchasing Cannabis, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and other outlawed substances no real progress has been made to squelch the drug trade.  However, Nemko's approach actually softens the punitive blow to Cannabis prohibition by keeping the staunch penalties for distributing the substance, but reducing the possession charge:

"You can significantly reduce pot and alcohol's damage to humankind by not making it legally purchasable, with law enforcement only going after big producers and distributors, with law enforcement against users only in response to citizen complaints, in which case the punishment would be a ticket that costs about the same as a carpool violation: $500."

It is unclear how he expects this approach to be much different than the status quo.  Law enforcement has been- since the very beginning- "going after big producers and distributors" will little effect to the overall market.  Because of the demand for Cannabis, a new producer will always step in to fill the void.  Further, slaps on the wrist to consumers such as "a ticket that costs about the same as a carpool violation: $500" will hardly serve as a deterrent.  Prohibition- especially Nemko's version of it- will not affect the fundamental human instinct to trade.

What if prohibition law could be designed to fundamentally affect such human instincts, and prevent trade?  Perhaps the penalty for Cannabis possession could be castration, and the penalty for sale could be death.  This approach would, undoubtedly, make those who desire to trade in such an environment to think twice!  Even if prohibition could affect the desire to trade, the notion of prohibiting trade is an injustice by an outside party to the trade- neither the buyer or seller- who has, thus far, been unaffected by such an activity.

The cloth of Nemko's argument for prohibiting trades such as Cannabis is woven from the thread of preventing social harm.  He uses pictures of teens acting like fools after using Cannabis, as well as the Bieber plane incident to imply that Cannabis users are miscreants who will inevitably harm others- and must be stopped before they do so.  Preventing social harm is the central tenant of the controllers approach to social policy, an intellectual bedfellow of such things as female genital mutilation, forced sterilization, and genocide.

Furthermore, such an approach is arbitrary- based on the whims of those who will control social policy- the controllers.  If Nemko was king, Cannabis and other substances deemed harmful would be prohibited, but ice cream would be allowed:
"A pothead, trying to play gotcha, asked me, "Hey dude, would you outlaw alcohol?" Yes, I would. Alcohol causes harm wildly in excess of its benefits...I enjoy a glass of wine but would gladly give it up for the societal benefits that would derive from a new Prohibition. At the risk of using a term that is becoming obsolete, I believe we've become a too permissive society, prioritizing "do what the hell you want" over "be responsible." And that message filters right down to children.

Our Socratic pothead then tried, "Next you're going to want to outlaw ice cream?!" Marijuana's risk profile is far worse."
Nemko dismisses the "pothead" when he is providing a fundamentally important criticism of Nemko's philosophy- namely, the arbitrary nature of it.  Why does Nemko desire to "outlaw alcohol", while he likes to "enjoy a glass of wine"?  And, why not ban ice cream?  Some folks think ice cream is a devilishly sinful thing to indulge- which damages the glutton's health and yields higher cost to health care for the non-indulgent.  This arbitrary approach to social policy- one based on whims rather than emanating from a concrete principle- is the hallmark of the controller.

Nemko's disrespect for individual rights is shown in his acknowledgement and dismissal of the libertarian case for decriminalization:
"But what about the libertarian argument that people should be able to do what they want as long as it doesn't harm others? Well, pot harms everyone: the user, his or her family, employer, the drivers and pedestrians who are in accidents because of the slow-reflexed, often glacial-driving pothead. How often do you see a car creeping on the freeway? Yes, some are old people who should have their licenses revoked but many are blitzed.  A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 18 percent of drivers in fatal accidents tested positive for a non-alcoholic mind-altering drug, mainly marijuana. And this 2013 study found almost twice as many drivers in fatal car accidents tested positive versus a control group. And since legalization in Washington, data from the Washington State Patrol and Toxicologist shows a 40% increase in the share of driver cases in which the driver tested positive."
As you can see, according to Nemko's philosophy the "user" is not allowed to have control over the personal decision of what can go in his body- an outright denial of the person's right to their body.  For, what is ownership of the body without sole discretion as to what one can consume?  Further, if a person does not own his body, who does?  Nemko seemingly skips right over this, as if it has no relevance compared to his annoyance at being slowed down by the "glacial-driving pothead."  The individual's ownership of his body is absolutely sacrosanct.  For, this property right is the cornerstone of his individual rights; the controller attempting to usurp this principle of self-ownership is fundamentally totalitarian.As Doug Casey has said, controllers such as Nemko "...think they know best and are perfectly willing to put a gun to your head to make sure that you do what they think is right."

The act of producing, selling, buying or using a euphoric substance is, of course, not- in and of itself- a violation of the rights of others.  Therefore, the prohibition of such activities (victimless crimes) is a clear injustice.  Instead of focusing on the "glacial-driving pothead", or silly stoned teenyboppers, Nemko- if he is truly concerned for the welfare of society- can advocate a much nobler social cause: property rights, and the abolition of the authoritarian State.


1.  See Dr. Walter Block, Defending the Undefendable Pg. 123:

"Whenever the government outlaws a commodity for which there are consumers, be it whiskey, drugs, gambling, prostitution, or high interest loans, the underworld enters the industry that law-abiding entrepreneurs fear to service. There is nothing in whiskey, drugs, gambling, prostitution, or moneylending that is intrinsically criminal. It is solely because of a legal prohibition that gangland methods become associated with these fields."
2.  To sanction a coercive State, and assert that the individual has no ownership rights to his own body is the invalidation of individual rights, per se.  Busybodies such as Nemko- by advocating the dismissal of individual rights and empowerment of the State as owner of the individual - provide the crucial underpinnings of the authoritarian State.  Such an institution is a serious threat to society, as has been documented by Professor R.J Rummel who points out:
"In total, during the first eighty-eight years of this (20th) century, almost 170,000,000 men, women, and children have been shot, beaten, tortured, knifed, burned, starved, frozen, crushed, or worked to death; or buried alive, drowned, hung, bombed, or killed in any other of the myriad ways governments have inflicted death on unarmed, helpless citizens or foreigners. The dead even could conceivably be near 360,000,000 people. This is as though our species has been devastated by a modern Black Plague. And indeed it has, but a plague of Power and not germs"

"Just to give perspective on this incredible murder by government, if all these bodies were laid head to toe, with the average height being 5', then they would circle the earth ten times. Also, this democide murdered 6 times more people than died in combat in all the foreign and internal wars of the century. Finally, given popular estimates of the dead in a major nuclear war, this total democide is as though such a war did occur, but with its dead spread over a century." (emphasis added)
 See Professor R.J. Rummel  Democide

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