The Firing Line Forums

Go Back   The Firing Line Forums > The Conference Center > Law and Civil Rights > Legal and Political

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old May 5, 2001, 09:40 AM   #1
Munro Williams
Senior Member
Join Date: January 13, 2000
Location: Richmond, VA
Posts: 936
I wish I had had this guy's education.

from World Net Daily

Drug War Threatens U.S.
by Alan Keyes
I am frequently asked whether laws against drugs send the wrong message about the importance of liberty and self-control. Why would someone think such a thing? Usually two reasons are given. First, enforcing drug laws effectively requires that law enforcement authorities and courts prune back or uproot entirely some of our most important civil liberties. The Elian raid has many precedents in the actions of drug law enforcement.

Second, we are told that it is contrary to the libertarian principles of individual freedom and responsibility for the government to attempt, by law, to control the use of drugs such as marijuana. Far better, so the argument goes, for society to preach the message of "just say 'no' to drugs" without using the inherently coercive instrument of law to attempt to force the decision of supposedly free citizens against the use of drugs. This second argument is more subtle than the first because it invokes directly the question of our national moral character and the role of public policy in the preservation of that character.

A war against drugs, we are told, is inevitably a war waged on the premise that citizens cannot make the right choices about drugs out of responsible liberty, but only in fear of the penalties of laws. Accordingly, the war against drugs, and the laws that this war struggles to enforce, are said to send the message that liberty is not the proper condition of the citizen and that we do not really trust one another to achieve self-control without the coercive intrusion of the state. The war on drugs, in short, teaches us that we do not believe ourselves fit for responsible liberty.

These arguments are close enough to the truth to require some careful distinctions. Most importantly, we must remember that freedom from constraint or coercion is itself not the ultimate blessing of the American political order. After all, the birds of the air and the fish of the sea are not constrained by the coercion of positive law or tyrannical power. Presumably the blessings of liberty that are the inheritance of the American citizen are not merely the liberty of the wild animal. It is the absence of bars that makes a beast free -- but only the truth can make a man free.

What, then, are the implications for American liberty of the government's battle against drugs? First of all, I do believe that we have allowed the so called "war on drugs" to become an assault on the mechanism of our constitutional freedoms; this is a grave mistake. We have allowed the metaphor of "war," with its implicit justification of the extraordinary means that real war often requires, to justify clearly illegal and unconstitutional practices of search and seizure of the person and possessions of those who come under scrutiny by the anti-drug police powers. We do not need a very deep understanding of the meaning and purpose of our constitutional liberties in order to conclude that the wholesale disregard of those liberties is a threat to American self-government. There is no point in safeguarding the integrity of the country by destroying the constitutional system of limited government power that largely constitutes that integrity. Real wars, in so far as they do present a genuine threat to the survival of the country, do indeed sometimes require extraordinary suspensions of civil liberties. The war on drugs is not much closer to justifying such suspensions than was the war on inflation. We would be foolish indeed if we permitted the very real usurpation of our liberty because of the mere application of the metaphor of war to the effort at enforcing the drug laws.

In its current form, then, the war on drugs is indeed a threat to our liberty. Does this mean that we should adopt the position that drug laws, and their reasonable and constitutional enforcement, are threats to our liberty? I don't think so. Rather, it means that we must insist that the drug enforcement effort cease violating the constitutional rights of citizens. There is no reason that the pursuit, apprehension, prosecution and punishment of drug traffickers need be any less solicitous of the constitutional rights of the suspected criminals than are the corresponding actions directed against suspected murderers and embezzlers. If the problem is the unconstitutional enforcement of the law, then we must insist on Constitutional enforcement of the law. This, however, is a very different solution than the repeal of the law.

The second argument against drug laws per se is more difficult. In fact, many people expect me to agree with the moral case against drug laws because I believe that respect by government for the moral capacity of free citizens is so central to the preservation of our way of life. I am indeed a moral libertarian - and I think America is founded on moral libertarian principles. But this does not mean that I believe our drug laws must be repealed on moral libertarian grounds. Quite the contrary.

There can be no liberty unless the moral foundation of liberty is safeguarded. We can dismiss many of the casual uses of the metaphor of war as overblown but the preservation of our national understanding that liberty is for the sake of justice is most literally a vital national interest. As the Declaration makes clear, our struggle for freedom from external constraint must be understood as flowing from a deeper truth -- that we are obliged by our very nature to seek to accomplish the will of our Creator and to order the instruments we need, including government and its limitations, so we may do that will. Cut-off from this deeper understanding, the struggle for liberty is merely the petulant demands of a talking beast. Accordingly, if we are to prevent the silent death of the nation, we must at all costs preserve in our national soul a right understanding of the purpose and meaning of the liberty from external constraint that we so jealously guard.

But the moral foundation of liberty cannot be safeguarded without moral education and the law is inescapably a part of moral education. The moral libertarian -- the thoughtful American -- must be concerned not only with what the law is doing externally, but with the moral message the law represents.

Of course, the libertarian objection to drug laws is frequently made in similar terms. As I noted above, it is often said that drug laws imply that we are not fit to use our liberty responsibly and must be coerced by police powers to act rightly. It is inevitable that this implication does some harm to the moral confidence of our citizenry.

There was a time when we could avoid this negative effect of drug laws by doing without them -- because the foundations of moral education made them unnecessary. There was a time when the great and decisive majority of young Americans were raised in morally upright families, God-fearing churches and sound schools, through which they were formed in moral precepts that led them to have contempt for the abuse of conscience and liberty that drugs represent. As long as these institutions were permitted to do their proper work, the rising generations simply did not have the problems of character that make young people vulnerable to the abuse of drugs. Because this was the condition of society for much of our history, the proliferation of drug laws in America did not occur until the latter half of the 20th century.

When a society begins to generate new laws, it is almost always a sign that it has previously begun to generate new evils. The rise of American drug laws has been a response to the rise of the new problem of drug abuse. This problem, in turn, arose because of our diminished national willingness to attend to the moral elements of education and childrearing.

This is why the undeniably negative implication of the drug laws cannot be escaped by simply repealing them. We have placed ourselves in this position by decades of moral laxity. The root of the drug problem was our excessive permissiveness in the moral formation of our children. But having allowed this to happen, we have limited the choices open to us now. A repeal of the drug laws will inevitably be interpreted as a further grant of permission for this kind of behavior. Whatever rhetoric of confidence in the moral capacity of our people cloaks such a repeal, it will in fact reinforce the moral destruction we are suffering. Accordingly, because we are not in the innocent condition that preceded the need for drug laws, but are rather in the morally compromised condition that continues to demand a collective response to the moral damage we have permitted, it is essential that we maintain the laws.

We should not enforce drug laws in abusive ways that undermine our rights but we should maintain them in order to convey what must be the clear message to our people, and particularly our young people, that to be enslaved to chemicals is incompatible with freedom.

A free people must understand what freedom is. And in our present situation the law must not be permitted to contribute to the widespread confusion of liberty with licentiousness. Liberty is not an abstract right to do whatever we feel like without regard to the consequences. It especially does not mean this in those areas where the consequence of abuse is to destroy liberty. If we want to hold on to liberty, then we must limit those abuses that will destroy it. We can't have it both ways. This means that at some level, in the laws of a free society, limits must be set which respect the requirements of freedom.

A free people simply cannot allow its laws to remain neutral on an issue pertaining to its very fitness for liberty once such an issue is raised. Any public retreat that signals unconcern about maintaining that line is an assault on the very principle of our liberty.

We see this most clearly today, perhaps, in the case of abortion. When we claim the right to decide who lives and who dies, we destroy one of the foundations of liberty. We assert that one human being can legitimately determine whether or not another human being has rights that must be respected. Of course, this means that none of us has rights that must be respected by everyone else. The doctrine of abortion rights is actually a direct assault on the claim to any rights and is a recipe for the destruction of liberty. Eventually, if we are to remain a free people, we will have to remove from our legislation this affront to the requirements of freedom.

Drug abuse, and the public response to it, raises a similar challenge. Because freedom doesn't just require that we refrain from assaulting each other. It also requires that we acknowledge our duty to participate as rational agents in the great project of self-government. That means that one of the requirements of freedom is a clear head.

The need for drug laws does indeed carry the discouraging implication that we have permitted the moral evil of drug abuse to take root among us and are, accordingly, not able to trust ourselves completely to non-governmental self control in the face of this challenge. But this discouraging implication has the redeeming quality of being true. And, it is also true that retaining in our laws the firm and public commitment to repudiate moral self-destruction is worth the price of this discouragement. The public example of drug laws will play its part in what we trust will be the eventual victory of the American people in their true war on drugs, carried out in the hearts of a citizenry resolved to overcome its moral weakness and recover its full fitness for self-government.

Munro Williams is offline  
Old May 5, 2001, 11:29 AM   #2
Senior Member
Join Date: October 26, 1999
Location: San Antonio, Texas
Posts: 2,117
And the Catholic Church had many sincere, well educated apologists during the Inquisition. So what? He is a fanatical conservative who has no more credibility speaking in support of the WoD, in my eyes, than do you, Munro.

Having lived and worked in the Middle East for nearly 20 years, I am competent to speak on the subject of the fundies and their interpretations of their book. You and Keyes are right up there with them. Both parties advocate killing people to protect the purity of THE LAW and will endlessly spout off with the same old tired, unprovable "evidence" that their position is not only right but RIGHT.

There is a quote that I can not find right now but it goes something like this:
{Julius Caesar to a friend about Britannicus' narrow mind}
"You must excuse Britannicus. He is from a small island and believes that the rules of his tribe are laws of nature."
Libertarian is offline  
Old May 5, 2001, 12:20 PM   #3
Jeff Thomas
Senior Member
Join Date: December 9, 1998
Location: Texas
Posts: 4,753

Keyes argues that it is wrong to invoke the term 'War' because of its implicit sense of permitting extraordinary abuses of civil rights. And, then he tells us the drug laws are necessary because of extraordinary conditions of moral depravity. While not technically the same, I believe those perspectives arrive at the same destination.

While I concur with his observation that the laws may have been partly a response to declines in responsible behavior, I disagree that they were an effective or necessary response. And, Keyes is ignoring some of the more 'pragmatic' reasons for the WOD, such as available agents after Prohibition, the natural bureaucratic struggle to gather power, the tendency of police agencies to enjoy the wealth-building benefits of asset seizures, ad nauseum.

Keyes naively believes the 'War on Some Drugs' will be won, and that it is possible to apply them without destroying our fundamental rights. I disagree on both counts.

I respect the man, but I do differ with him on a few issues. I should have known this would be one.

Regards from AZ
Jeff Thomas is offline  
Old May 5, 2001, 01:56 PM   #4
Keith Rogan
Senior Member
Join Date: March 11, 1999
Location: Kodiak, Alaska
Posts: 1,014
I like Alan Keyes an awful lot, but I think he allows his strong religious views to color his opinions in some areas - and this is one of them.

Keith Rogan is offline  
Old May 5, 2001, 06:41 PM   #5
Munro Williams
Senior Member
Join Date: January 13, 2000
Location: Richmond, VA
Posts: 936
If anything, Keyes is too kind, too soft on folks who practice the Woodstock theory of public morality. He tries to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, acknowledging legitimate concerns when he finds them, pointing out how some attitudes are antithetical to the philosophy behind the Declaration, and how they are thus antithetical to the Constitution.

What he should understand is this: in the doper world, there are only three things besides drugs:

1) Getting more drugs.
2) People who can be used and controlled to get more drugs.
3) Enemies who interfere or are obstacles.

Anyone who fails in anyway to fulfill their role described in category two is immediately placed into category three, and is liable to be called anything. Thus, according to Libertarian's post, Keyes, myself, and others who think that way are modern Inquisitors, and are only a couple of millimeters shy of being murderers.

Libertarian's and his associates' minset resemble iron filings in a magnetic field, able to change polarity instantly, requiring external forces to define their shape and identity. At forums like this one they are staunch Constitutionalists, whereas at other forums or in other ideological environments they change form in order to blend in with them, so that they find others of similar mindset and find out who's holding.

This is the basic pattern of low-class addicts. They can turn on a dime with no remorse, with no loyalty, with no conscience. Such concepts are too difficult, and interefere with the really important things in life, like getting and staying high.
Munro Williams is offline  
Old May 5, 2001, 07:26 PM   #6
Senior Member
Join Date: February 18, 1999
Location: Arizona
Posts: 2,729
Geeze, Munro, isn't your whetstone worn through yet?
John/az2 is offline  
Old May 5, 2001, 07:42 PM   #7
Christopher II
Senior Member
Join Date: November 22, 1999
Location: Germantown, MD
Posts: 2,349
Okay, that's it.

Munro, I had a lot of respect for your obvious intellect and rhetorical talents. That's gone now. If all you can come up with is cheap insults and slanders, then you're not even worth listening to.

Rationalize all you like, but preemptive laws are incompatible with self-ownership, and thus are antiethical to freedom. The harm that drugs or drug users do to society is irrelevant. If the interests of society are held above those of the individual, then what you have is fascism. REAL fascism, not some intellectually bereft, half-baked theory of "chemical socialism."

The views of society, ideological environments, external forces, and the like, have NO effect on my sociopolitical worldview. I believe in individual liberty, reason, private property, and lazziez-faire capitalism. I am not, nor have I ever been a Constitutionalist. Constitutionalist is just another word for statist.

Quite frankly, I've become convinced that there are only three kinds of people in the world:

1) People who really, truly believe in liberty.
2) Collectivists.
3) Statists.

I'd say that we've established pretty clearly where you stand.

Christopher II is offline  
Old May 5, 2001, 08:03 PM   #8
Staff Emeritus
Join Date: September 15, 1999
Location: Where am I going? Why am I in this handbasket?
Posts: 4,194
Right. This one is done.

Any further comments can be added to the other thread on the War on Drugs.

"The Father wove the skein of your life a long time ago. Go and hide in a hole if you wish, but you won't live one instant longer."
--The 13th Warrior

Bona na Croin

The LawDog Files
LawDog is offline  

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 02:46 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
This site and contents, including all posts, Copyright © 1998-2018 S.W.A.T. Magazine
Copyright Complaints: Please direct DMCA Takedown Notices to the registered agent:
Contact Us
Page generated in 0.07562 seconds with 7 queries