Chasing the Norm

Australian academic and blogger on politics, international relations, and culture

Tag: Drugs

Today’s real lefties: Cops and Soldiers

Conservative politicians and commentators regularly complain about the left wing bias of government run institutions such as public television and radio. But what they don’t notice is the institutions which are really promoting a liberal/left wing agenda: The Police and the Army.

From an Op-ed in the Washington Post by two policemen:

Nationwide, a police officer dies on duty nearly every other day. Too often a flag-draped casket is followed by miles of flashing red and blue lights. Even more officers are shot and wounded, too many fighting the war on drugs. The prohibition on drugs leads to unregulated, and often violent, public drug dealing. Perhaps counterintuitively, better police training and bigger guns are not the answer.

Drug manufacturing and distribution is too dangerous to remain in the hands of unregulated criminals. Drug distribution needs to be the combined responsibility of doctors, the government, and a legal and regulated free market. This simple step would quickly eliminate the greatest threat of violence: street-corner drug dealing.

Having fought the war on drugs, we know that ending the drug war is the right thing to do — for all of us, especially taxpayers. While the financial benefits of drug legalization are not our main concern, they are substantial. In a July referendum, Oakland, Calif., voted to tax drug sales by a 4-to-1 margin. Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron estimates that ending the drug war would save $44 billion annually, with taxes bringing in an additional $33 billion.

Without the drug war, America’s most decimated neighborhoods would have a chance to recover. Working people could sit on stoops, misguided youths wouldn’t look up to criminals as role models, our overflowing prisons could hold real criminals, and — most important to us — more police officers wouldn’t have to die

Whilst most left wing politicians are still a full decade away from even beginning a debate about legalisation, here is an authentic voice of the police pushing for it immediately. To them it is not an abstract question of the morality of condoning drug use or being ‘soft on crime’ but clearly evident that only with legalisation and regulation will we be able to tax and protect users, whilst financially destroying criminals from misguided youths through to bikie gangs and mob types.

A similar point can be made about the army, which is equally taken for granted by conservatives to be an institution on their side in foreign policy debates. Whilst many soldiers do relish the fight, just as many and their more experienced commanders prefer to be sent in only when and where they can make a significant difference or are undertaking their core responsibility: defending their country. Instead of being the first option as a way to respond to a problem, most in the armed forces would prefer that as a country we focus heavily on aid and development so as to prevent other countries from sliding into failed state/civil war conditions. Rather than being sent to be shot at whilst trying to stabilize and re-build in places from the Solomons to Afghanistan, it would be better to have focused on stability and long term development before these countries became problem children in the worlds eyes requiring a police or military solution.
Likewise idea’s such as ‘Human Security‘ which change the way we think about security from a national focus to a question of the individual, (including their right to food, shelter and basic liberties, along with their physical safety) have been picked up quite strongly by thinkers within the defence forces. These liberal/left wing ideas are often ignored by a lot of civilian International Relations/Security scholars, who are keen to prove their bona fides and toughness. Yet it is the very people who have to put their lives on the line for these concepts are coming to see their correctness and worth.

Conservatives often take for granted that police favor harsher measures against criminals, and that the defence force wants to cruise the globe in search of foreign monsters to destroy. Though obviously some join these institutions seeking such a struggle, many more have come to see that their chance of coming home alive, and making a real contribution to the world (the reason for which the vast majority undertake these risky careers) require that we move to different strategies and policies. They know first hand the costs of our current failed policies, even if todays political leaders are too weak (or afraid of being labeled weak) to advocate for real change. Liberals and the New Left need to begin to work to give voice to these institutions, to encourage their contribution to the debate. We need to show that policies such as preventative development, and drug legalisation are not abstract feel good ideas, but instead practical, hard headed responses that are coming to be endorsed by those on the ground with the strongest knowledge of our current failed approach. It is time we started listening to them. It is time we on the left dropped these cowardly half-way measures for fear of being called weak, and instead recognise the real strength that comes from open and honest advocacy of policies that offer genuine change and improvement for our fellow citizens both at home and in the wider world.

Photo used under a creative commons licence by user

The Government kills one more

The war on Drugs chalks up another dead kid :
Girl Dies of Overdose at Big Day Out

A friend of the family told 6PR Radio that the girl took three ecstasy tablets before entering the festival’s gates after she spotted police searching people for drugs.The witness said the girl then went on a ride with friends when she began to shake and her lips turned blue.ecstasy
Within moments she collapsed and was taken to hospital, where she died early this morning.
Steve Allsop, from the National Drug Research Institute, said taking any pill was a gamble.
“One of the risks is that people don’t know what it is they’re taking. What they were taking one week will vary the next week. The problem with a drug such as ecstasy is that people are lulled into a false sense of security about what they’re taking,” he said.

Three factors caused this girls death.
1) She chose to take an intoxicating substance for the purpose of enjoying a festival
2) Since there is no regulation or standards for the manafacture of this substance, we have no idea what was in the pills (and by the sound of the quick onset of trouble, it quite likely was something much more nefarious)
3) Because posession and use is heavily penalized, this girl acted in a much more risky fashion than otherwise would have.

Along with 38% of adult Australians, this girl chose to break the law and take an illegal drug. No act of law breaking in this sense can ever be condoned. And yet because of the nature of these laws, and how we implement them, this girl is dead. She took a risk, but government policy pulled the trigger by denying her any chance to know what was in those substances, and encouraged extra risky behavior as a rational response to the way we implement our laws.

I dont think we should legalize all drugs, some have just too harmful an effect on society as they destroy the individuals who take them (breaking Mill’s harm principle). But every case like this is tragic, simply because it didn’t have to happen. But here we are. One dead kid, half a country who have broken the law (15% who do so regularly) and as free a flow of drugs in our society as there has ever been.

What a great outcome…