So much of politics comes down to the choice of where you want to place your disadvantages. Either you put them at the top, and minimize them through what you hope is judicious use, or you distribute them throughout the system.
Here’s today’s blast to this effect on Reason.com, where a raging debate on marijuana legalization was stopped by the question: what if it is a gateway drug, or even more, a gateway behavior — what if sending the message that pot is OK sends the message that intoxication is OK, and then amplifies social problems?
I decided to bring the issue to its logical extremes, then zero in on the mean, for these libertarians:
A true libertarian response is: let natural selection occur, and also let people segregate themselves as they see fit. That includes by sexual orientation, class, race, ethnicity and degree of antisocial tendency — it’s that last category you mention.
Of course, it’s taboo to say that people would ever be allowed to do such things. A community limited to upper middle class straight Christian whites? Why, that sounds like privilege! Yet this is what libertarianism is about: letting each us define our destiny, no matter how much it appalls others.
I think you’ll find that many of us will opt to be in communities where recreational substances are not easy to get. Just like many of us will opt to be in communities where 4 wheelers, big pickup trucks, and hip-hop are illegal. That’s the power of human choice right there.
Of course, others will be forced to confront the paradox of “freedom” as brought up by this little example: freedom means the ability to make all sorts of decisions, including hurtful and possibly destructive ones. Do we let nature sort it out, and hope our domination of technology has not obliterated natural selection? Do we blithely assume that tolerating bad behavior around us does not result in crippling consequences for the whole of society, including debilitating socialized cost and revolution?
Let’s see where their audience comes down.
As a realist, I find the idea of natural selection within a civilization to be ludicrous. When we domesticated animals, created agriculture and tamed fire, we placed ourselves outside natural selection. With that came a morality of replacement selection, where we picked people who played by the rules over others — with only one glitch, which is that “only the good die young” or die in the process of accomplishing something good.
Consequently, I don’t see it as likely that open anarchy is a good idea. However, I like the idea of localized communities defining their own rules, and some rules being designed like organic information gates instead of absolutes. How about instead of banning drugs, just making them hard to get and localizing them to one area of a city? I’d include alcohol in that count; why not? It causes as many problems as the other drugs, which doesn’t make those drugs more acceptable, but alcohol less acceptable.
At some point, people thinking about where they want to live and raise families are going to have to face a salient fact: the actions of others have consequences, especially when taken as trends with socialized impact, that we have to face — and “freedom” as a model does not account for this. In fact, “freedom” is hard to compromise, since it’s an absolute, so at some point all laws banning destructive and stupid behavior are struck down.
On the other extreme, it seems absolute for a local community to decide to censor its publications, regulate its chemicals, ban certain behaviors and even exclude certain types of people. But is it? They can relocate elsewhere; the society at large might not be able to it, and as we all know, the more refined and specific its tastes the more rare and delicate it is. But those are the societies from which greatness comes, and somewhere on that side of the middle is where most of us want to keep our families.