Pubdate: Sat, 27 Mar 2010
Source: Athens Banner-Herald (GA)
Copyright: 2010 Athens Newspapers Inc
Author: John Stossel
Note:   John Stossel is the host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business 
Network and the author of "Give Me a Break" and "Myths, Lies, and 
Downright Stupidity."
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


"It's a free country."

That's a popular saying - and true in many ways. But for a free 
country, America does ban a lot of things that are perfectly peaceful 
and consensual. Why is that?

Here are a couple of things you can't do in most states of the union: 
take recreational drugs, sell your kidney. The list goes on.

The prohibitionists say their rules are necessary for either the 
public's or the particular individual's own good. I'm skeptical. I 
think of what Albert Camus said: "The welfare of humanity is always 
the alibi of tyrants." Prohibition is force. I prefer persuasion. 
Government force has nasty unintended consequences.

I would think that our experience with alcohol prohibition would have 
taught America a lesson. Nearly everyone agrees it was a disaster. It 
didn't stop people from drinking, but it created new and vicious 
strains of organized crime. Drug prohibition does that now.

The prohibitionists claim that today's drugs are far more dangerous 
than alcohol.

But is that true? Or is much of what you think you know wrong?

I believed the Drug Enforcement Administration's claim that drugs 
such as crack and meth routinely addict people on first use. But 
Jacob Sullum, who wrote "Saying Yes," says, "If you look at the 
government's own data about patterns of drug use, it clearly is not true."

The data are remarkable: 8.5 million Americans have tried crack, but 
there are only 359,000 regular users. (The government defines 
"regular use" as using a drug at least once in the past 30 days.) 
More than 12 million tried meth, but only 314,000 still take it. The 
story is similar for heroin. Most people who try these "instantly 
additive drugs" do not get "hopelessly addicted." They give them up 
on their own.

As Sullum puts it: "The vast majority of people who use illegal drugs 
do not become heavy users, do not become addicts; it does not disrupt 
their lives. In fact, I would argue it enhances their lives. How do 
we know that? Because they use it."

But on the news, we constantly see people whose lives have been 
destroyed by drugs. Sullum says: "When you have prohibition, the most 
visible users are the ones who are most antisocial, most screwed up. 
They're the ones who come to the attention of the police. ... People 
who present themselves as experts on drug use because they come into 
contact with all these addicts have a very skewed perspective because 
they are seeing a biased sample. The people who are well adjusted, 
responsible users are invisible."

The prohibitionists also ban the sale of human organs. You aren't 
allowed to sell a kidney to someone who will die without one. Sally 
Satel, a physician who is the recipient of a kidney and the author of 
"When Altruism Isn't Enough," says, "Altruism ... is a beautiful 
virtue, but tomorrow at this time 13 people will be dead because they 
didn't get a kidney."

In a free country, we consenting adults should be able to do whatever 
we want with our bodies as long as we don't hurt anyone else. People 
who don't like what we do have every right to complain about our 
behavior, to boycott, to picket, to embarrass us.

Bless the critics. They make us better people by getting us to think 
about what's moral. Let them mock and shame. But shaming is one thing 
- - government force is another.

Prohibition means we empower the state to send out people with guns 
to force people to do what the majority says is moral. That's not right.

And it doesn't even work.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom