Assumptions are bad, mmmkay.

Following the same thread as yesterday’s pro-drug legalization post, I stumbled upon this entry through a blog ad. The ad promised “A New Wave of Muscular Liberalism” from Ethan R. Epstein, which intrigued me. Having no idea which direction “muscular” liberalism might lean, I wanted to find out. I clicked around Mr. Epstein’s site for a bit, with the following text inspiring the largest “huh?”:

The high rate of cocaine usage amongst Americans is a demonstration of deplorable selfishness and decadence. According the US government’s most recent figures, approximately 1.7 million Americans are regular cocaine users. Or put more bluntly, 1.7 million Americans are personally financing the destruction of a great South American nation.

The South American nation to which I refer, of course, is Colombia. 90% of the cocaine consumed in the United States comes from this vibrant country. As one would expect, the Colombian coke trade is managed by an array of rival cartels known worldwide for their breathtaking brutality. Colombia’s leading purveyor of civilian-targeted violence, the communist FARC militia, draws most of its financial strength from cocaine exports to the United States. The profits they receive from selling cocaine go directly to buying guns, building bombs, financing kidnappings and generally terrorizing the Colombian citizenry.

The violence that continues to ravage Colombia is a direct product of the American people’s love of cocaine. I used to scoff at the DARE notion, drummed into me through my middle and high school career, that personal drug use affects the world at large. I see now, that I was wrong; it turns out that DARE ‘nose’ best. To use cocaine is a fundamentally selfish act; it implicitly elevates one’s selfish pleasures over the lives and livelihoods of the embattled Colombian citizenry.

Oh yeah, and it’s bad for you too.

Hmmm, cocaine usage is selfish. We should all just stop because poor Columbian farmers are being hurt. Better to think of the communal good and deprive ourselves of what we want (more on the health aspect in a moment) so that everyone can get along? Am I oversimplifying? Misreading this? I don’t think so.

Mr. Epstein should stop for a moment and analyze his argument. The gist of his message is that we’re destroying Columbia with our selfishness. It’s dull, unthinking liberalism. Primarily, it’s this type of flabby logic that made me understand I’m not a liberal, even though I may agree with some current liberal ends. Sure, it’s selfish for people to use cocaine (or cigarettes or alcohol or food or gas or whatever else causes destruction of any kind). That’s news? And I agree that cocaine usage is unhealthy, but really, what ledge am I standing on with that belief? People should be smart enough to know how bad it is, but 1.7 million Americans are not. We’re surprised?

None of that implies cocaine should be illegal. For all of humanity, people have acted selfishly. The only foolishness is thinking that somehow an appeal to stop hurting the poor people thousands of miles away will make a difference. It never has and never will. It’s as logical as the current drug war, which is to say not logical at all. When the strategy doesn’t work, change the strategy.

That’s why legalizing drugs, in general, is better than what we’re doing. Legalizing it allows the government to regulate it. (I offer no judgment on whether that’s good or not. Here, it’s just an assumption of reality.) How much violent crime would disappear with legalized purchase? Crime still exists around alcohol, but it’s significantly different from the crime we faced during prohibition. No reasonable path leads me to a conclusion different for cocaine legalization. Legalize cocaine and there’s no more crop fumigation in Columbia. Legalize cocaine and there’s no more outrageous premium on the sale of cocaine. It becomes a business with profit and safety as the new goals.

I understand that I’m simplifying the outcome of legalization, as well as the process, but only to highlight the fallacy of appealing to world communal responsibility to end the destruction of Columbia. Such appeals are common, but they don’t work. If they did, everyone would be a vegetarian to avoid hurting the animals and the planet. They don’t and people do. Unless the explicit goal is to control people’s behavior, ending violence and destruction is the appropriate goal. I know thinking the goal isn’t to control people’s behavior is ridiculous, but I’m granting a reprieve. Ignore the flawed assumption and a better answer appears. Muscular liberalism may be interesting, but it needs better thinking than this. Rather than perpetually shifting the pawns in cocaine’s criminal empire, subvert the process and legalize it.