Pot supporters want to diminish human excellence

Voters in Colorado, Oregon and Washington will soon decide whether marijuana will be legalized in their states. More and more conservative and libertarian politicians are getting behind the movement to legalize pot. Anti-immigration stalwart Tom Tancredo from Colorado and libertarians Ron Paul and Gary Johnson are high on that list (pun intended).

Tancredo asks, “What is the law against marijuana if it isn’t the nanny state telling you what you can do and what you can’t do to your body and with your body?” I know there are many opinions and perspectives that pro-pot people would cite to make a compelling argument. But I think Tancredo’s question just about sums up the whole debate, including why society feels it’s important to “legislate morality.”

Let me remind my conservative and libertarian friends that the whole purpose of law is to legislate morality. The whole intellectual and logical framework of law is to address the everyday realities when two or more humans interact and what is best for people as human beings and best for them when they interact. That’s the purpose of law and it’s all based in morality. No thoughtful or reasonable person wants himself or another human being to be cut short of their human potential. By the way, for critics of liberal arts education, that’s why philosophy and ethics are essential classes – to study how we might become better human beings in the quest for human excellence.

And then we have the pot supporters who, whether they smoke it or not, haven’t a clue about any of that become-your-better-self stuff. For many of them it’s all about personal liberty or fiscal management, and for the others it’s all about getting high. Like Tancredo said, for libertarians and lapsed conservatives, it’s mostly about autonomy – do we really want a nanny state telling us what we can and cannot do with and to our bodies? – which is why libertarians and liberals partner so well on social issues such as homosexuality, pornography, gambling and abortion.

These liberty-loving friends of ours always have had a very difficult time with practical reasonableness – the ability to define personhood and reason our way to human excellence. They are skeptics about human excellence. They think there’s no sense in trying to define what a human being is and certainly not what they should be doing because everyone has their own opinions and such diversity precludes agreement on even the most serious of subjects. Politicize that skepticism and things only get worse – you actually get to a point where otherwise reasonable people, even people of deep faith as it suits them, fight to defend the right for human beings to be their worst selves.

As I’ve said before, there may be many practical reasons to stop the “war on drugs” or find other reasonable ways to decriminalize what are really health issues. But there’s only one practical reason to legalize marijuana, and that’s when human beings deteriorate so much in intellect and culture that accommodating drug use is a last-gasp effort to protect a modicum of order until natural forces in society can reclaim humanity.

Think about it, folks; there is something deeply disturbing and fundamentally wrong about people of faith, virtue and good character – people who claim to believe in becoming better human beings personally and who acknowledge this necessity in behalf of a free society – who, nevertheless, choose the side of behaviors that have just the opposite effect. These lapsed conservatives and devout libertarians think they’re simply honoring liberty and acting neutrally under the law. The truth is they’re choosing sides. By supporting the legalization of marijuana, they are choosing to endorse behavior that diminishes personhood just because they wrongly value personal liberty above human excellence and, as a result, they’re endorsing diminishment of freedom. A sad irony.

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  • RC

    Well-said. Libertarians won’t succeed in promoting liberty until they also embrace morality.

    • Duane

      I also part with the Libertarians over their amoral philosophy.

      However, the premise of this article is that excellence is promoted, fostered, maybe even created by treating drug users, particularly MJ users, as criminals. Please show me the stellar achievements and laudable personality traits that you can attribute to putting people in jail or prison.

      One in a thousand might decide as a result of being incarcerated that they are going to turn their life around. That’s not enough to justify the negative effects of the war on drugs. Read in my other post about the intransitive effects Paul brought up a few months ago. Then add the other effects, like the cost of enforcement and prisons and the activities of drug cartels.

  • Duane

    Paul, your straw man does not apply, at least to me and many people I know.

    Human excellence is not the primary objective of human existence, especially when you attempt to “help” others achieve it by coercive means. I do NOT “endorse behavior that diminishes personhood”, nor do I advocate “accommodating drug use.”

    I also have never used any illegal drug, nor abused a legal one. I tasted alcohol once, when I was tricked into having some spiked eggnog, which I found foul and spit it out.

    Your own religion teaches that excellence can NOT be achieved through exercising control or dominion or compulsion upon others. Ride with some drug force officers and watch judges and jail guards and tell me their activities lack those qualities, let alone result in excellence. Show me the excellence that has resulted from the drug war!

    Ironically, your argument leads to the conclusion that you support “accommodating” tobacco and alcohol use. I know you don’t, but that fact only underscores the weakness of your argument.

    I return to your argument about intransitive effects. You promote a system that causes huge intransitive effects on ALL of society, as opposed to the limited intransitive effect you are concerned with. Most of society (especially those you mingle with on Sunday) objectifies drug users as criminals worthy of incarceration, or worse; law enforcement, the judiciary and prison guards become draconian and abusive (even criminally abusive); and the user himself comes to view himself as “bad” instead of sick. Talk about intransitive effects.

    If your own child becomes a drug user, I hope you would want him or her to be treated as a person who needed medical and/or psychological help, not incarceration with hardened, experienced, actual criminals. Good luck with that.

  • Ann

    Prohibition did not stop drinking. It did divert money to organized crime. Drug lords don’t care about morality or human potential, only money and power. So should laws keep making them rich and powerful or minimize their control.

  • http://twitter.com/eltiare Jeremy Nicoll

    “And then we have the pot supporters who, whether they smoke it or not, haven’t a clue about any of that become-your-better-self stuff.”

    Who is to decide who the better self is? You? Um, no thanks. This is the justification for all tyranny: “I know better than you, and so I have the right to command you how to live your life.”

    • http://twitter.com/eltiare Jeremy Nicoll

      The arrogance of this attitude is above astounding. You don’t know everything, Mr. Mero. t’s time that you admitted this and quit advocating killing and caging people simply for making what you believe to be poor choices.

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