by Laurence M. Vance
October 05, 2012
Introduction to Laurence M. Vance,
The War on Drugs Is a War on Freedom
This is not a book about the benefits of drugs;
this is a book about the benefits of freedom.
I neither use illegal drugs
nor recommend their use to anyone else. I am even skeptical about the health
benefits of most legal drugs.
So why this book? Because I believe in freedom.
I believe in individual liberty, private property, personal responsibility,
a free market, a free society, and a government as absolutely limited as
possible. I also believe that my perspective on this subject is unique.
The nineteen essays in this book were all
written between October 2009 and July 2012. One was published in the journal
Freedom Daily, another in the magazine The New American, one appeared online
as a Mises Daily article, another was a column at LewRockwell.com, and the
rest were first written as Future of Freedom Foundation Commentaries.
Each essay is reprinted verbatim. The source and
date of each essay is indicated below its title.
Because the essays are arranged only in
chronological order, each one can be read independently of the others. All
the essays that originally appeared online had links to document my
quotations and sources. These can easily be accessed online should the
reader be interested.
I would like to again thank the editors of the various
publications who first published these essays.
The book’s first essay, "The Drugs of John Gray"
(the allusion to the title of the novel
The Picture of Dorian Gray is intentional), although acknowledging that
the philosopher John Gray makes a strong case for drug legalization, argues
that his "unanswerable" argument is weak because it is not based on the
freedom to take drugs for freedom’s sake.
In "The Moral Case for Drug Freedom," I argue
that it is neither the job of government nor the business of any individual
to prohibit, regulate, restrict, or otherwise control what a man desires to
eat, drink, smoke, inject, absorb, snort, sniff, inhale, swallow, or
otherwise ingest into his body.
And that there is no ethical precept in any
religion or moral code that should lead anyone to believe that it is the job
of government to do these things.
I do not argue for the benefits of drugs, only
for the benefits of freedom. A version of "The Moral Case for Drug Freedom"
was first presented at the 2010 Austrian Scholars Conference at the Mises
Institute in Auburn, Alabama.
"The Case against Medical Marijuana" is actually
the case against demonizing a plant and for the legalization of all drugs on
an equal basis. It was originally written after Proposition 19, the
Regulate, Control & Tax Cannabis Act, was rejected by California voters in
November of 2010.
The book’s fourth essay asks the question: "Why
Don’t Conservatives Oppose the War on Drugs?" Here I point out that the
reason conservatives should oppose the war on drugs is a simple one that has
nothing to do with the failures and evils of the drug war.
by the federal government is simply unconstitutional. In fact, nowhere does
the Constitution authorize the federal government to ban any substance.
Conservatives who claim to revere the
Constitution should be ardently opposed to the drug war on the federal level
just as much as libertarians.
In "Drug-Warrior Hypocrisy," I maintain that the
paternalism of statists is at its worse when it comes to the war on drugs.
Drug warriors are hypocrites because every bad thing that could be said
regarding drug abuse could also be said of alcohol abuse - and even more so.
Yet, in spite of the negative effects of alcohol on morals and health, few
Americans would like to return to the days of Prohibition.
In "The Drug War Is Expanding," I tackle the
issue of the use of bath salts as a hallucinogen. It is no more the job of
government to address this recent phenomenon than it is for the government
to have anything to do with pot smoking or cocaine snorting.
is elevated to such a level that it is allowed to determine what people can
and can’t ingest, or regulate the circumstances under which something can be
lawfully ingested, there is no stopping its reach.
"Baseball, Steroids, and a Free Society" was
written after Barry Bonds was found guilty of obstructing justice in an
April 2011 trial for his 2007 indictment. Here I argue that in a free
society Major League Baseball would make its own drug policy and the
government would not be involved in any way.
In "U.S. Attorneys Crack Down on the Tenth
Amendment," I explain how the federal government, in cracking down on
providers and users of medical marijuana in the states where it has been
legalized, is actually cracking down on the Tenth Amendment.
The crackdown on marijuana by U.S. attorneys is
an attack on the Constitution, the Founding Fathers, the principle of
federalism, and the very nature of our republic.
Congress has been granted
no power to ban, regulate, or otherwise interfere with the production, sale,
distribution, possession, or use of marijuana for the simple reason that it
has no authority over any drug.
In "Why Is the U.S. Fighting Mexico’s Drug
War?," I examine Mexico’s war on drugs and how the United States is
intimately involved in it. I conclude that the United States should not only
stop funding and participating in the Mexican drug war, but likewise end the
futile and destructive war on drugs in America.
"The 40-Year War on Freedom" is the account of
how President Nixon declared a war on drugs in 1971. I also argue in this
essay that the war on drugs is incompatible with a free society because once
the government claims control over what a man smokes, snorts, sniffs,
inhales, or otherwise ingests into his body, there is no limit to its power.
In "The War on Drugs Is Senseless," I discuss
the new cigarette warning labels and conclude that if the government is
going to make a harmful substance illegal, then it seems logical that that
substance should be tobacco. The number of annual deaths caused by all drugs
- legal and illegal - pales in comparison with deaths caused by tobacco.
In "The Other Unconstitutional War," I focus on
the unconstitutionality of the drug war, but also point out many of its
evils. The war on drugs has increased the size and scope of government. The
war on drugs has served as a pretext for a war on individual liberty and
The war on drugs entails Soviet-style central
planning by the federal government. No American who has any respect for the
Constitution, federalism, and the limited government established by the
Founders should endorse, support, or defend the federal war on drugs,
regardless of his political persuasion, religion, or moral code.
"Drug Testing for Welfare Benefits" explores the
absurdity of the whole idea. In a libertarian, that is, a free society based
on voluntary cooperation and contracts instead of government coercion and
regulations, both drug-prohibition laws and welfare benefits would be
In "Drug-Sentencing Disparities," I explain how
sentencing for drug crimes is extremely arbitrary in nature.
The solution to
the madness that is drug sentencing laws is not to reduce some sentences and
increase others in order to eliminate disparity and racism, but to eliminate
any sentences for possessing or selling a substance the government doesn’t
It is a national disgrace that the United States leads the world
in the incarceration rate and in the total prison population.
In "Three Views on the Drug War," I contrast the
libertarian and prohibitionist views on the drug war, and the confusing mass
of inconsistency, hypocrisy, and nonsense that lies between them. Individual
liberty and personal freedom are the farthest things from the minds of
partial prohibitionists who want the drug war to be altered in some way but
In "Should Christians Support the War on
Drugs?," I ask and then answer the question in the negative. Christians
shouldn’t support the government’s war on drugs any more than they should
support the government’s wars on poverty, obesity, dietary fat, cholesterol,
cancer, and tobacco.
Christians are making a grave mistake by looking to the
state to legislate morality.
Although drug abuse is a great evil, the war on
drugs is an even greater evil. It is simply not biblical to promote
legislation or crusades to punish sin that does not aggress against person
In "The Drug War: Cui Bono?," I point out that
some groups of people support the drug war because they have something to
gain from it. I discuss how the drug war benefits drug dealers, alcohol
distributors, the prison industry, law enforcement, and the federal Drug
I also mention physicians and the pharmaceutical
industry, state and federal prosecutors, judges and lawyers, the CIA and the
FBI, the drug-testing and addiction-recovery industries, and any group
receiving federal funds for anti-drug campaigns.
In "Twelve Victims of the Drug War," I delineate
twelve victims of the Drug War that are rarely considered: the Constitution,
the English language, the American taxpayer, common sense, people who
conduct business with cash, people with allergies, crime, law-abiding
Americans, law enforcement, people who suffer with genuine pain, doctors who
prescribe pain medicine, and individual liberty.
The last essay in the book, "Why the War on
Drugs Should Be Ended," is a no-holds-barred defense of absolute drug
There are many reasons for ending the drug war,
and I even list twenty-six of them, but the drug war should not be ended
simply for logical, pragmatic, and utilitarian reasons. I conclude that the
war on drugs should be ended because it is a war on the free market, a free
society, and freedom itself.
As long as there is a war on drugs, the essays
in this book will remain timely.
Yes, there is some repetition throughout the
But this is because the evils of the drug war never change and because
the hypocrisy of drug warriors is unrelenting. And in the end, it always
comes down to the issue of property and freedom versus badges and guns
For further reading, I recommend the following
books, but not necessarily everything in them that doesn’t relate to the war
on freedom known as the war on drugs:
Defending the Undefendable. San Francisco: Fox & Wilkes, 1991.
Duke, Steven B., and Albert C. Gross.
America’s Longest War: Rethinking Our Tragic Crusade Against Drugs.
New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1993.
Fish, Jefferson M., ed.
How to Legalize Drugs. Northvale: Jason Aronson, 1998.
Fox, Steve, Paul Armentano, and Mason
Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? White
River Junction: Chelsea Green Publishing Co., 2009.
Harsanyl, David. Nanny State: How Food
Fascists, Teetotaling Do-Gooders, Priggish Moralists, and Other
Boneheaded Bureaucrats Are Turning America into a Nation of
Children. New York: Broadway Books, 2007.
Healy, Gene, ed.
Go Directly to Jail: The Criminalization of Almost Everything.
Washington DC: Cato Institute, 2004.
Huebert, Jacob H.
Libertarianism Today. Santa Barbara: Praeger, 2010.
Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual
Crimes in a Free Society. Los Angeles: Prelude Press, 1993.
Bad Trip: How the War on Drugs is Destroying America. Nashville:
WND Books, 2004.
Napolitano, Andrew P.
It Is Dangerous to Be Right When the Government Is Wrong: The Case
for Personal Freedom. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2011.
Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. New York: Scribner,
Silverglate, Harvey A.
Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent. New
York: Encounter Books, 2009.
No, They Can’t: Why Government Fails - But Individuals Succeed.
New York: Threshold Editions, 2012.
Our Right to Drugs: The Case for a Free Market. Westport: Prager
The Economics of Prohibition. Salt Lake City: University of Utah
October 5, 2012
Laurence M. Vance writes from central
Florida. He is the author of
Christianity and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State,
The Revolution that Wasn't,
Rethinking the Good War, and
The Quatercentenary of the King James Bible. His latest book is
The War on Drugs Is a War on Freedom.