Previously, in the discussion of why I prefer “hard” arguments to easy ones, drug legalization came up as the example of an easy argument. Of course, many disagreed, claiming that we should first attempt to achieve gains that are plausibly within reach, and then, from there, hope to expand to tougher, more “divisive” issues.
My objective in this post is to point out that even within the framework of a single topic (in this case, drug legalization) there are easy and hard ways to go about making the case, and once again, I advocate going the hard route. Just like in the macro sense, the easy arguments are the ones that everyone has seen before, and that they are prepared to deal with. In this case, they are the practical arguments. They include things like “marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol” or (even worse), “let’s legalize it so that we can tax and regulate it!” I consider these to be fairly cowardly arguments as they do not address the core libertarian principles that underlie our demand for drug legalization – namely that we own our own bodies and therefore have the right to ingest whatever we wish.
That, of course, is the hard argument. I own my body and can do whatever I want with it. It doesn’t sound that hard at first, and if used solely to advocate the controlled, government-sanctioned usage of medicinal (or even recreational) marijuana it doesn’t really seem all that controversial at all. However, using simple logical deduction, the argument of “You own your own body and can do what you want with it” also implies that all of the following must happen…
Immediate legalization of all illegal drugs.
The ability to buy and sell whatever substances you wish without a doctor’s permission (no more prescription, all drugs are OTC)
The ability to buy and sell whatever food you wish without the government’s official seal of approval (de facto removal and shutdown of the FDA)
Immediate repeal of the selective service act and a permanent ban on conscription
Immediate repeal of all laws regulating sexual conduct (prostitution, sodomy, obscenity)
Good luck getting any significant amount of Republicans OR Democrats to agree with those things. If you’d like to take the logic one step further, you can even deduce that taxation is theft (you own your body, therefore you own the labor that your body produces, therefore you have the right to keep the fruits of your own labor). All of these things would be required to produce a society where people can truly claim that they, and not the state, own their bodies. Given that such a society is desirable from our perspective, we should therefore push the “you own your own body” ideology as the primary (and only) argument for drug legalization. Settling for bogus compromises like “tax and regulate” or “just legalize this one substance but continue to outlaw everything else” is essentially appeasement to the statist forces. It makes no attempt to fundamentally win over hearts and minds, and does in fact make libertarians look like a bunch of stoners who don’t really care about ideology and just want to get high. Bad for the movement and bad for society. Don’t take the coward’s way out. Seek out the hard arguments and engage them directly. That is the only way we can hope to truly overcome statism in the long run.