Sunday, August 31, 2008

The ethicality of cocaine

Dan Hannan has an interesting post up on drugs and the double standards of those who take them.
I am, as long-standing readers will know, a drippy liberal when it comes to drugs. But the moral case against encouraging cocaine traffic strikes me as hard to answer.

When I was in Colombia earlier this year, the Vice-President showed me some of the ecological consequences of cultivation: the felling of rainforests and the drying up of soil (coca is a thirsty crop). He struggled to understand how eco-conscious Europeans could blithely fund such devastation.

He has a point. The people who hoover up the most coke tend, in my experience, to be finicky consumers in any other context. They drink fair trade coffee. They recycle conscientiously. They won't wear fur. They regard oil corporations as devilish. But, when it comes to their narcotic of choice, they are happy to sustain an industry that wrecks natural habitats, condemns small farmers to the tyranny of racketeers, props up corrupt regimes and inhibits the spread of democracy.

Some people here have questioned how I can be both libertarian and take drugs (bearing in mind the damage that they do abroad) and I must confess that it is something of difficult point. Even were one to make drugs legal here, they might still cause damage through their illegality overseas.

It seems pointless to point out, yet again, that a great deal of the damage done by cocaine cultivation, that Dan highlights, is a consequence of its illegality—and the same applies to other drugs too.

If there is one single stupid and, possibly, evil act that can be laid at the door of the USA, it is that country's drive to make drugs illegal internationally. As I keep saying, do go and read the IEA's Prohibitions [free PDF book] for the whole sorry story.


Mark Wadsworth said...

Hang about. The key must be that drugs should be treated the same as tobacco and alcohol, i.e. legalisation, regulation, taxation and education.

Coca is a perfectly natural growing plant, maybe it's 'thirsty' (any more so than cotton or rice?), but so what? If people in Columbia were allowed to grow it legally, they would need to hide their plantations in forests. And, to some extent, our gummint could insist that cocaine were only imported from 'Fair trade' producers who aren't terrorists, child slave owners etc.

That said, if we legalise it and the Columbians still want it to be illegal, that's their loss and our gain.

To make a silly comparison, let's imagine that all Western countries made coffee illegal. After a couple of decades, you'd have illegal coffee plantations hidden in forests etc watched over by armed terrorists etc etc.

Mark Wadsworth said...

"wouldn't need to hide", obviously.

Francis W. Porretto said...

The drug issue is a crux point for freedom lovers, because it hangs on the most important freedom of all: the freedom to be a jerk.

If you only have the freedom to do things other people have pre-approved, you are not free; you exist by permission. Granted, the consumption of destructive drugs is not praiseworthy. Granted further, the consequences must rest solely on the back of him who decides to use them. But the underlying principle is quite the same as that pertaining to the consumption of alcohol.

Incidentally, would anyone care to guess what the two most powerful known carcinogens are?
Sunlight and oxygen.

We don't hear any calls for regulating them, do we?

QT said...

Could coca be grown in more temperate climes, with the right 'assistance' (e.g. in big glasshouses like tomatoes, or something like that).

If so, legalisation would eliminate this problem almost immediately.

Anonymous said...

Nice bit of "division" there by Hannan to the Telegraph faithful. To translate:-

"You don't want to support the legality of cocaine because it's taken by the sort of people into fair trade/recyclng, eg. people not like you".

My own limited experience of people who take cocaine is that they are not like that at all. They're generally more hedonistic and couldn't give a fuck about separating their rubbish. The green types tend to opt for weed or LSD.

Devil's Kitchen said...

Good point, Anon. Hannan was citing his own experience, so it's difficult to say that he's wrong -- but my experience tallies more with yours.

Personally, my drug of choice is MDMA which is a synthetic, lab-manufactured drug...


Roger Thornhill said...

What Mark and QT say.

Another reason to end prohibition.

Tomrat said...

Francis W. Porretto,

The best nutshell arguement against libertarian paternalism if I do say so you are dead on - as for your point on sunshine and O2 as these are intrinsically important in 99.9999% of the food cycle, metabolism and, by affiliation, CO2 production, and they are already trying to curb this in the name of global warming you can draw your own conclusions.


I hate drugs; I was rubbish at taking them and my tosser-quotient went through the roof when on them, which is partly why I gave them up. I still think they should be legal for the financial, social and health reasons that are bleated about the LPUK forums; now it appears their is an additional reason - ecological damage. Good to have a reasoned and firmed out answer.

Anonymous said...

Is it true the tory leader has taken cocaine, and so has his shadow chancellor?

Anonymous said...

Most of the tory eleites take cocaine. Rumours about the party leader and his shadow chancellor. So how does that stand up for a moral society.
They talk about a broken society and yet took cocaine. It is "hippy" critical.

Anonymous said...

DK:"Personally, my drug of choice is MDMA ..."

Have you forgotten that you're not annonymous DK?

From wikipedia: "MDMA is criminalized in all countries in the world under a UN agreement ..."

Can't be long now before the UN is renamed to WorldGov.

John B said...

I believe that writing about how you like drugs isn't (yet?) illegal. Which puts MDMA fans in a position which, albeit shitty, is still better than that of Muslims who write bad poetry...

Anonymous said...

Remember that the opium trade greatly weakened China, so we should be careful while evaluating drug policies.

IMO we should air TV messages demonizing cocaine dealers and users as destroying the environment. I think the governments would love a public service announcement like that.

Anonymous said...

I have an idea.

Instead of chopping down the rainforests in poor-countries, why don't farmers grow this obviously lucrative stuff here in the UK? After all, we now have global warming (sorry, "climate change") which is leading to wetter summers which should suit the cocaine crop marvellously.

Gordon Brown's celeb friends won't mind paying the exchequer the inevitable hight ax on the stuff either, and they cna well afford it.

It's the one-stone-solution to the three-bird-problem.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Look, you have every right to fuck yourself up with drugs and then you can fuck off and die.

Unfortunately there are a lot of not very clever people, often known as total scum or shitty no hopers who get on drugs and then rape grannies or bash people with hammers cos they don't know what they are doing.

If drugs were made legal, these people would be on our streets getting in the way and generally behaving like Zombie football supporters.

I don't give a shit if whether your cocaine is Fair Trade Cocaine or organic or cruelty free. It's drugs and it will fuck you up. I am in my fifties and I have had friends who died from heroin and every other piece of shit you can get. Anybody who wakes up and thinks about it knows you have to stop or you just turn into an arsehole.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

ps I fully accept that you can be an arsehole without drugs as many people have remarked to me, but that is not the point. I am an arsehole without the aid of artificial stimulants.

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