[ExI] drugs

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Sun May 8 18:44:51 UTC 2016

On 2016-05-08 18:35, William Flynn Wallace wrote:
> I want to end and utterly oppose the government telling anyone what 
> they can and cannot put in their own body.  That is the core 
> principle, not whether e-cigs are bad or as bad as tobacco or not.
> - samantha
> I used to agree with that.  Heroin, cocaine, crack, anything.  Make it 
> all legal.  Take the high profits out it.  Then I find things like one 
> puff of a cigarette changes your brain permanently.  I kicked alcohol 
> and tobacco cold turkey, but other members of my family have found it 
> much harder to do. Most people are not good at moderating their intake 
> of things that make them very happy - I wasn't either.  But I was an 
> excellent quitter.
> Just too many people would ruin their lives and put great burdens of 
> society by legal everything.  I have worked in several mental 
> hospitals and can assert that the craziest people I saw were those on 
> amphetamines - very psychotic.  (Heroin, by contrast is a far easier 
> habit to kick.)
> I am a libertarian but there just has be lines drawn.

This is bound to become an endless thread on this list. I'll get in 
early so I can go on holiday :-)

My own libertarian position is what I call "Bayesian libertarianism": 
for any question I start out with the prior assumption that letting 
people do what they want as long as they do not harm each other and that 
centralized government interventions often are unjust, costly or go 
wrong, and then see if there is evidence that forces me to refine my 
views into posterior views.

So the basic approach I would take is to ask, "In what ways would 
allowing people take whatever they want go wrong, and what is the least 
imposition needed to produce a decent outcome?"

The problem with seriously addictive drugs is that they *in some people, 
in some situations* overrule their ability to control their behavior. 
This ability is the basis for most of the rights frameworks 
libertarianism use to build their proposals. Hence some form of harm 
reduction is needed. However, the evidence that government drug policy 
banning drugs is an effective form of harm reduction is clearly not 
there: countries with harsh policies do not seem to reduce drug use 
significantly, and there are clear costs and harms induced by the policies.

As I argue in
there are anyway significant harms from use of opioids, alcohol and 
other hard drugs. But the evidence seems to point at decriminalisation 
with improved addiction treatment as being both more effective and 
cheaper. So the real libertarian issue might be what forms improved 
addiction treatment should take. Maybe this is a legitimate function of 
a minarchist state, or maybe there are smarter ways of producing it 

Anders Sandberg
Future of Humanity Institute
Oxford Martin School
Oxford University

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