Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Legalize It All (harpers.org)
527 points by apo on March 21, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 273 comments

We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.

That sums it up pretty well. It never was about fighting drug use or preventing the harm it can do. Can we now, please, get that behind us and move on? If we only spent 10% of what we now spent on prosecuting drug use on prevention and rehabilitation, that would be a much greater service to society than fourty years of "war" have been. Not to mention the benefits for privacy, the decrease in violence and so on...

Does anyone else get almost irrationally angry about this? I HATE that the freedom to modulate our own minds was taken away from us by these awful politicians for such terrible reasons. Not only has the War on Drugs ruined countless lives through incarceration and overdosing, but so many potentially helpful chemicals have been hidden away from society. It isn't just about getting "high"... it's about unleashing our full pharmacological potential in a safe and productive manner.

The War on Drugs is so fucking stupid and so many people are paying the price. I don't know if anything makes me as angry as this.

I totally hear you. It absolutely infuriates me that such bad policy can be so hard-headingly acted, and it's actually the biggest reason I'm libertarian leaning. I don't even consume drugs, but the drug war is so bad, so pervasive and so toxic, it affects my ability to travel, it destroys countless lives and it causes mass inequality in the US. It absolutely makes me lose faith in government as a concept.

same here

The ability to "modulate [your] . . . mind" is why so many people (80-90% when it comes to drugs besides marijuana), oppose drug legalization. Human society has barely learned to cope with the range of neurological behavior naturally present in the population. It's not unreasonable to be afraid of what might happen when you throw new chemicals into the mix.

It's important to remember that most people think the opposite way as those on HN. They do not assume that new things will automatically make society better. They have a strong "don't fix what isn't broken" tendency. And as long as we live in a democracy, they're entitled to structure their society as they see fit.

Growing up, just about everyone I knew was strongly anti-drug. I don't like weed and I've never taken an amphetamine, cocaine, or any form of (illegal, or even potent-but-legal opiod); I think we have a huge problem with the legal abuse of amphetamines and opiods.

But: Everyone I've talked to in favor of criminalization is completely uneducated on the subject. They don't know real-world addiction rates, or the actual effects of drugs, or understand the history of drug policy. It's their choice to remain ignorant, but when they start throwing people in jail and destroying entire communities pointlessly while holding fingers to their ears - there's a certain sense in which that is unforgivable. And there are not many things I can't forgive.

> And as long as we live in a democracy, they're entitled to structure their society as they see fit.

I strongly disagree. There are certain human rights that should not be able to be voted away in a democracy. I believe that the right to modulate our own minds as we see fit belongs in this category.

People aren't "modulating their minds" in isolation. Drug use has an external impact on the families, friends, employers, and coworkers of those using drugs. Drug use affects the ability of drug users to abide by social norms imposed upon everyone. In a developed nation with a safety net, drug use might even implicate society's need to rescue those who can't work or fall ill from drug use.

> Drug use has an external impact on the families, friends, employers, and coworkers of those using drugs.

It's not illegal for me to be a sober (or drunk) asshole. Nor is it illegal for me to be sober (or drunk) and just decide not to go to work, consequences be damned. People are allowed to get drunk legally, despite the statistically increased propensity for violence, douchebaggery, etc. What makes alcohol "good" and drugs "bad"? Nothing more than tradition, as far as I can tell.

You're not making a great argument for why drug use should continue to be illegal.

I'm not making any argument why drug use should be illegal. I'm making an argument for why the public should be entitled to decide whether drug use is legal or illegal. I also think, given your examples, the public should also be entitled to decide whether alcohol should be illegal.

The failure to obtain a college education has an external impact on the families, friends, employers, and coworkers of those failing to be college graduates. Failure to be a college graduate affects the ability to abide by social norms imposed upon everyone. In a developed nation with a safety net, failure to be a college graduate might even implicate society's need to rescue those who can't work or injure themselves during uneducated activities.

You're making an argument for which anything could be illegal. The public could develop an irrational prejudice against people wearing purple. Then you could make all of those statements about that. Is it the public's right to ban purple clothing? Do we still have freedom simply because there is more than one other color? This may seem facetious but it's not that far from tattoos and piercings. You're almost suggesting that there shouldn't be inalienable rights. I understand that in "reality" there ultimately aren't but I hadn't realized our society was so ready to abandon the ideal.

We require people to get a high school education for precisely the reasons you state.

Why stop there, though? Why not college, and a PhD? I mean, we mandate that everyone in the US buy health insurance because if you're not paying into the system you're part of the problem. What limit is there to this power?

Can we force women to be on birth control until they're married and/or have "enough" money and/or fulfill some other arbitrary criteria for having kids? Society -- statistically speaking -- has to pick up the tab for kids born to lower income single moms through WIC, food stamps, etc. That's clearly something that society has an interest in and thus a right to control/regulate right?

If you disagree with the above statement please address it as a matter of far-reaching prinicple rather than as a matter of pragmatics. Our society is ostensibly, largely built on principle; it's illegal to murder because nobody wants to be murdered. This is very straightforward. If we concede that society has an interest in how people interact, truly what is off limits?

Principle bends to pragmatism. It's illegal to kill other humans, except when it isn't (accidents, self-defense, military action, abortion). There's nothing straightforward about the lines we draw between when it's okay versus not okay to kill people. People are entitled to trade their labor freely, except when they aren't (minimum wage, child labor).

Humans are social creatures; they are interdependent cogs in a machine. So as an overarching principle, society is entitled to regulate to interactions between people. To make that bearable, we recognize certain "fundamental rights" that society cannot infringe. Procreation is a deeply-held one, which is why society cannot force women to be on birth control. Taking drugs is not one of those rights.

Society has infringed upon the "fundamental right" of procreation numerous times. Forced Sterilizations have been used many times for a variety of reasons throughout the history of Western Civilization including the modern US, and "voluntary sterilizations" happen more often than they are discussed still to this day.

The argument other people in the thread are giving though is that taking drugs SHOULD be one of those rights.

Just want to point out that here in the US we don't require anyone to graduate high school. In most cases minors are required to attend school. My point is that, in the past, minors weren't able to chose for themselves. Instead the guardian often chose to make the child work thus continuing a cycle of poverty.

Such an argument should mention the likelihood of a ban actually being enforced in a functional and just way.

"The public" may wish to eliminate all mind-altering substances, but the allure of altering the mind is strong, and the enormous contingent of people who desire to consume is going to have to be repressed.

The argument about family and relations, for example, is not so straightforward. What's preferrable, a dad who smokes cannabis or a dad who's in prison?

I know some people who would have been better off if their dad smoking cannibis wans't there. Not saying prison, but they were a terrible influence.

That some people are bad parents doesn't seem to justify making cannabis consumption criminal.

any individual person is, de facto, allowed to decide whether or not they use drugs regardless of the legal status of the drug in question.

drug prohibition laws represent something else. they represent the power of the state, and all the inherent violence that goes along with that, bearing down on those that choose to use legally proscribed drugs.

I hope you have a full understanding of what you're saying. legal prohibition implies state sanctioned violence.

Your argument easily applies to alcohol, prescription medications, and hell, even obesity. There's nothing here unique to drugs that are causing the problems you're decrying.

If we ban drugs, I think it should also apply to jackasse or daredevils. People (including children) should not climb tall trees or scale the Brooklyn Bridge with no reason. Why should anyone get subsidized medical care (and it is subsidized even if they pay for it) for falling off a tree that they had no business climbing? In the same train of thought, maybe we ought to close down all amusement parks and only allow people to drive to work or to go buy groceries. People driving or riding the bus puts them at risk of accidents and society suffers from these accidents.

Not to mention healthy diets should be strictly enforced, along with mandatory exercise regimes to reduce the public burden of obesity and poor health.

Just because we have not found an airtight reason to draw a line at a particular spot, does not mean that there should be no line.

Sure, I can grant that. Now we just need to define the line itself—its expressed purposes and guiding principles. Once we agree on the principles of the line, we can start working on the contours of where the line is drawn. Unfortunately, we keep jumping into drawing [and erasing] lines without enough discourse regarding the principles of those lines. The drug war is only one such example.

Great, then I'm glad for all the exemptions that exist for drug use that is carefully controlled and monitored to prevent and isolate these kinds of effects, and it's not some heavy handed categorical ban.

You must be confusing "natural rights" with the perverse definition we currently have of "rights", which are "positive" rather than "negative". Something as simple as freedom from forced labour is still not fully adhered to even in the US.

Have a look at the Wikipedia page for some more info:


But most people would pick the will of the majority making some bad decisions than the absolute dictatorship that would be needed to enforce a highly subjective list of human rights.

You understand that this is the very reason the US is a Republic not a Democracy, and has safe guards to prevent the tyranny of the majority.

Maybe maybe not. Democracy must mean that society has some right to shape how people will behave within it, and sometimes that imposes an affirmative burden on people to behave a certain way (e.g. mandatory schooling). That's not all tyranny.

FWIW mandatory schooling is seen as tyrannical by a not insignificant section of [UK] society. Some even see schooling as primarily a way to establish the populous within an authority structure to allow the ruling classes to maintain control more easily.

An 'affirmative burden' and a 'tyrannical edict' seem like they could differ only in perspective.

I understand the argument you are attempting to make, but you presuppose the masses are informed and always capable of making logical decisions which will not infringe upon the rights of the minority. Thankfully the Founders of Our Nation had the Foresight to protect its citizens from themselves they established a Republic.

>“ It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. Different interests necessarily exist in different classes of citizens. If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure.” -James Madison Federalist Papers No 51

The Politicians of Our Nation Throw Around the Word Democracy to make the low information plebs feel as though the power rests with them, it is a charade. I don't mind the down votes if it means some of the users on the site have a better understanding of US civics.

Edit: By the way your example of Mandatory Schooling could not be further from an example of a Democracy. Did you or the rest of the citizens of the US ever have a vote on that?

Technically I believe we are a Democratic Republic, as we directly vote on laws within our states. Legal Marijuana, for instance, was chosen by the Citizens of my state, Oregon; not by elected politicians.

> as we directly vote on laws within our states.

that varies from state to state. California, for example, does have direct ballot initiatives at the state level. New York State (where I live) generally does not, though they aren't excluded by the state constitution, there is just not a very strong tradition of direct ballot measures here.

every state in the U.S. implements representative democracy in a slightly different way.

We're really a Federal Republic, a collection of states where the citizens vote on their Representatives, who are then supposed to legislate under the guidelines of a Constitution which delegates power to various branches.


The citizens of Oregon do get to vote on Initiatives and Referendums, that is something which is relatively new to the state 1908, and not the way states outside of the Western part of the country operate.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct_democracy_in_Oregon ^^ This page has a nice map showing other states as well.

In many of the blue states on the map constitutional amendments for the state can be proposed and voted on but the majority of laws are simply written by the legislature.

... the legislature being comprised of democratically elected representatives, no?

A federal republic of democracies at least?

Not really, most of the states in the US are not Direct Democracies.

Is this the same human society that's perfectly OK with Valium and Adderall and Oxycontin?

Democracy fails when irrational prejudice trumps common sense and tolerance. Prohibition was a mass democratic movement that pulled together Christian teetotalers, American nativists, socialists and sufferagettes; it was a complete disaster on all fronts.

Democracy fails when the demos fails. If you have a lot of stupid people, then you have a lot of stupid laws. So I don't see the problem with democracy, just with stupid people.

Intelligent, well-educated people are capable of appalling stupidity and herd-mentality. Or as Agent K said in Men in Black, "A person is smart. People are stupid."

And the very same person did this, to justify to lie to the whole humanity about the existence of aliens ... to keep them as stupid sheeps.

So I don't agree. It might be, that intelligent people give in to group pressure of a all in all much more stupid group. But even if you have too much stupid people, their collective intelligence still pays off.

Oxycontin is a prescription drug. I suppose it's illegal to acquire this drug without the permission of a doctor. I'm curious how many of people are in favor of making opioid painkillers -- which already kill 16,000 Americans/year -- an over the counter drug for recreational use.

they're entitled to structure their society as they see fit.

Not to the extent of abrogating other people's fundamental liberties. A large part of the US white community would quite like an apartheit society, which they are absolutely not allowed to have any more.

How large?

According to Gallup, 16% of white Americans disapproved of interracial marriage in 2013 [1], which is probably the closest you're going to get to a major poll asking about apartheid.

[1] http://www.gallup.com/poll/163697/approve-marriage-blacks-wh...

Considering 20% of Trump voters think freeing the slaves was a bad idea[0], I'd say "a lot".

[0] http://time.com/4236640/donald-trump-racist-supporters/

I looked for information about the poll but the page you linked and the linked page within the relevant section both appear to lack that information. The 20% is an approximation, apparently.

It seems the question was:

Should "the executive order that freed all slaves in the states that were in rebellion against the federal government" have been made, or something similar. Was that worded badly on purpose, it appears to say "is freeing people who are rebelling against the government good"?

I find the statistic hard to believe, such a claim needs careful support which is lacking. The details that are given suggest an opaque question.

Such questions need follow-up questions to gauge understanding and depth of sentiment. Anyone who asks that and doesn't then ask 'so should the slaves have been freed at all?' as a follow-up is most likely being deceptive.

Thanks for looking that up, I was immediately suspicious of that number. Way for somebody to conflate the complex geopolitical question of exactly which slaves to free when while in the middle of a civil war with the question of whether the slaves should be freed at all.

I'm guessing it's "yuuuuge".

No they don't. Their - or anyone's - ability to restructure society is (or at least ought to be) constrained by the requirement to respect the rights of those in that society.

I agree that it ought to be, but to a lot of people, those rights end when they involve behavior outside unspoken social norms. The concept of rights and freedoms has always brushed up against that limit. There's been constant change in what those norms are, but changing them has never been easy.

>It's not unreasonable to be afraid of what might happen when you throw new chemicals into the mix.

The media helps this along by sensationalizing any erratic behavior done under the influence of new chemicals. Just look at the coverage bath salts got a few years ago.

It's not just new chemicals either. Stories pop up all the time speculating whether we're over-prescribing ritalin, benzos, antidepressants, pain killers and other mind altering legal drugs. The arguments against are overwhelmingly addiction, but there's also concerns over dementia, suicidal thoughts, and other mental disturbances.

We're already afraid of what happens with chemicals already in the mix, so it is reasonable to be afraid of what might happen with new chemicals.

> It's not unreasonable to be afraid of what might happen when you throw new chemicals into the mix.

... "new" chemicals are already in the mix. Criminalization is ineffective in reducing usage, it's especially ineffective in reducing harm, and on top of that it creates substantial additional harms.

Furthermore, some of those "new" chemicals have been used in religious rituals for literally thousands of years.

That's because most people just consume the mass media with out applying much thought to the process. Not only is the the people unjustly put in prison. But their families, central America and Mexico, the lives ruined and lost there.

Lots of people who oppose the drug war nonetheless believe that people should not be "modulating their minds" with drugs.

> Human society has barely learned to cope with the range of neurological behavior naturally present in the population.


> It's not unreasonable to be afraid of what might happen when you throw new chemicals into the mix.

It is absolutely unreasonable. Moreover, it's really not your concern.

> It's important to remember that most people think the opposite way as those on HN. They do not assume that new things will automatically make society better. They have a strong "don't fix what isn't broken" tendency. And as long as we live in a democracy, they're entitled to structure their society as they see fit.

It's probably time for you to start using "I" instead of "they".

It is not appropriate for him to use "I" instead of "they" in an purely descriptive, non-normative, objectively-verifiable statement.


I may suck at grammar, but that doesn't change the fact that the 'objectively verifiable' nature of a position doesn't make said position correct. I think, in this case, that it's likely incorrect.

rayiner's claims, in this comment, are exceptionally broad, unfounded and, obviously, a personal opinion extrapolated and attributed to a larger group.

Non sequitur. He didn't say the position was correct; he said it was widely held. He is right. Your arguments, thus far, are incoherent.

> He didn't say the position was correct; he said it was widely held. He is right. Your arguments, thus far, are incoherent.

Completely unsubstantiated.

Try being in the UK right now. The government have even given up the pretence that it has anything to do with harm-- every unapproved psychoactive substance on earth is about to be banned from sale/import. Be thankful at least you are dealing with a blacklist and not a (very short) whitelist!

The whitelist being; tea, coffee, alcohol, tobacco/nicotine, in addition to prescription medication.

This happened in New Zealand a couple of years ago. It was the only way to close the Pandora's box of synthetic cannabis. Every time a substance was banned, a process taking months, a new, slightly altered one was on the shelves within literally days. If your intent is to ban psychoactive drugs, a whitelist is the only way it seems.

Legalizing regular cannabis would also close the Pandora's box, by making the production and distribution of synthetics uneconomical.

Synthetic cannabis, or "spice", is a pretty different beast from weed. I don't think that people addicted to it would be satisfied with weed.

It would be easier for politicians not to take action if morons could stop getting themselves killed by getting drunk and then combining ecstasy and some random powders... Oh look some lovely headlines coming in now. How could anyone have known that there was a risk in that action??? The poor little teenager...

As someone who has zero skin in the game, I'm for full legalisation - but at the same time it has to come with taking responsibility for the consequences of choices - especially those taken whilst under the influence.

We don't "behave" so that the government will grant us some freedom, as if the government was our parents and we were little kids. That is fascism.

The government is put in place by the people, to serve the people.

Adults are responsible for their actions by default. All modern societies already have laws in place that criminalize harming others in most relevant ways. There is not need for any further discussion or "taking responsibility". It is only necessary to apply the laws that are already in place and respect the individual freedom of other adults. People who want nannies should hire their own and leave the rest of us alone.

You forgot another addition to the whitelist: any drug if you're a future Prime Minister or Chancellor of the Exchequer. Hard to believe the hypocrisy of Cameron and Osborne.

true, but on the other hand you can get caught with 1-2 grams of any powder, less than an oz of cannabis and nothing will come of it.

Anything you can argue in court is personal (which is quite a lot) and at worst you are looking at a few hours of community service in most cases.

The court sentence isn't the only consequence to be considered here. Having a criminal record could hurt future employment opportunities. Your parents will probably treat you like some drug addict and so on.

Might get a criminal record. Not a certain.

But it is not ideal granted. But compared to how it appears to be in the US. Coerced into being an informer, mandatory minimums etc - it isn't so bad

Let's also not forget about the decades of research we've missed out on.

The brain is an incredibly complex system, and a great way to gain insight into a complex system is to tinker with its mechanics and watch what happens.

We've also been missing out on new therapeutic medicines. With the research around ketamine we finally have something new to target depression besides selective reuptake inhibitors, which are a bit of a joke IMO. As someone with ADHD I'm also particularly interested in researching effects of cannabinoids. There's something in cannabis that does a wonderful job to help stimulate my attention, motivation, and awareness, but unfortunately also wrecks my working memory.

Now, how about that War On Terror?

Perhaps, just perhaps, it wasn't started on the principals it publicly declares to have been started upon - or are we playing the "no, this is different because it's different" game?

Extremely angry, to the point that I can't actually have persuasive conversations about it with the pro-DARE crowd because their perspective boggles me so.

This quote sticks out as to the why of the dissenters, but doesn't levy them much sympathy:

"the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy"

Anything that is not a war on a state or group of people reduces to a war on physics and/or math.

The thing I find interesting (INTERESTING, not necessarily moral or otherwise) about China is that when they want to do something controversial they are open and straight forward about it. They openly attack and arrest groups that they find disruptive to the social order. In America, the leadership has to invent all sorts of crafty subterfuge to accomplish their goals of persecuting and imprisoning groups that they consider to be disruptive. It's getting to be that the crafty deceptions have become so deeply layered that the official ideology that's supposed to justify policy has become hopelessly confused and contradictory.

> The thing I find interesting (INTERESTING, not necessarily moral or otherwise) about China is that when they want to do something controversial they are open and straight forward about it.

Not necessarily, or they wouldn't need to coerce apologetic confessions:


So, it turns out this is a fairly clever (remember kids: clever doesn't mean good) of discrediting people who want to be seen as either conscientious objectors or principled. Make them go back on their word, often in public. But the videos of apologies and such that get released are really just the tip of the sword.

Their interrogation techniques have been known to be extremely brutal right up until the moment you apologize -- even if it's just two people in a room with cameras off -- because the Chinese government wants it that way. They want the rules to be extremely well known.

Everyone knows you get beat till you go back on your "disruptive" ideals. Sometimes they permanently cripple people or put them in a coma. 99% of the time, though, they release them. That way, everyone knows, when they see that the dissident is basically fine, that they betrayed their own beliefs, even if it was in private, even if no one saw.

Completely irrelevant aside: it's stuff like this that comes to mind when people talk about how dysfunctional the American government is. The Chinese government can have complex policies with parts that a lot of people find uncomfortable or wrong, and still have the whole system the way that will be most effective instead of most comfortable -- their astounding urbanization and rise in not just wealth but advanced skills and it's relation to the hukou system is a good example -- but when you have unchecked power... this is another consequence.

Why is that interesting that dictatorship doesn't hesitate to openly attack dissent? That's actually expected from it.

Stalin was by all accounts a dictator, but he operated differently. When the NKVD secret police would arrest someone who had made a political joke that somebody heard and reported, they weren't sent to freeze to death in a gulag in Siberia for the joke. No, they were forced to confess under torture to all sorts of laundry lists of ridiculous accusations of sabotaging production and acting as a spy for foreign governments and being the ringleaders of vast insurgent organizations, etc. Meanwhile, in the constitution of the Soviet Union there are all kinds of rights and legal protections and such. Kind of funny statistic, but the U.S has more people incarcerated as a percentage of the population than the Soviet Union ever did.

North Korea is a Stalinist state. They have elections and refer to themselves as a democratic people's republic. China does not have elections or refer to themselves as democratic.

Also, China is much more straightforward in prosecuting descent. They just say that someone belongs to an illegal non-harmonious organization like Falun-Gong or whatever and that's illegal. Send them to prison. No fancy trumped up charges or subterfuge needed.

> in the constitution of the Soviet Union there are all kinds of rights and legal protections and such > They just say that someone belongs to an illegal non-harmonious organization like Falun-Gong or whatever and that's illegal.

It seems like governments are somewhat uniform in the laws they pass, but fundamentally fickle about which laws they choose to enforce. In my state, for example, it's a felony to be a member of a subversive organization...


...e.g., the Communist Party...


...but it would be unthinkable for them to actually prosecute anyone for it.

That's something I never understood (and admittedly never researched either). Isn't there something in the constitution about freedom of association?

Yes. However judges cannot preemptively strike down laws, even if they are blatantly unconstitutional. Someone with "standing" must bring a case, which typically(?) means that the law has been applied to them. So unconstitutional laws often stay on the books without being enforced, until either someone overreaches and tries to enforce them, or the legislature formally repeals them. I believe anti-miscegenation statues were on the books for decades in some states after the Supreme Court struck them down.

I just read about something like that recently, a couple being thrown into jail in the US in the 1960s, for the 'crime' of being married and of being different races.

Edit: My mistake, it was 1958, but they took legal action in the 1960s (Loving vs Virginia, 1967), and despite the Supreme Court's ruling, some states kept such laws on the books as late as 2000 (Alabama), which is actually probably what you were referring to.

The comment by the judge in 1958 is (almost) unbelievable:

    Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow,
    malay and red, and he placed them on separate 
    continents. The fact that he separated the races shows 
    that he did not intend for the races to mix.
Presumably God wasn't as fussy about non-red races in the legal profession in North America.

Yeah, I looked it up after I posted (probably should have done it the other way around), but thanks.

Y'know, in ancient Iceland there was a person called the "lawspeaker". His job was to memorize and recite the law -- all of it -- before the Althing twice a year. If he forgot any part of the law, it was no longer law.

I wish the federal government and every state had a lawspeaker -- for statute laws anyways.

That is a lot like the American system after you factor in wealth inequality, the cost of legal representation, and non-enforcement against the wealthy.

It's a US law (Washington State) that 13of40 cited.

If the Communist Party were actively trying to overthrow the United States government, you might see it enforced...

> Kind of funny statistic, but the U.S has more people incarcerated as a percentage of the population than the Soviet Union ever did.

Is that true? The number of Americans in prison is somewhat over two million. It's hard to find numbers for the USSR, but the conservative number I was able to find for the peak of the gulag system in 1950 is about 2.5 million, and that's out of a population a little over half the size of the current US population. Others claim the true numbers were much greater.

Note: not defending the US in any way here. Our prison population is absurd. The fact that the numbers are even this close is unacceptable. This is really just nitpicking.

That's quite different, talking about the total number of people who have ever been through the system, and not accounting for total population.

> acting as a spy for foreign governments and being the ringleaders of vast insurgent organizations

Bear in mind that for each of the prominent people made to confess all sorts of crazy things in the Moscow Trials, hundreds of thousands were more or less straightforwardly sent to the Gulag:

- Did you refer to Comrade Stalin as a fool in your letter to A?

- Yes I did but look...

- Art. 58, 25 years.

"Comrade Brezhnev, is it true that you collect political jokes?" – "Yes" – "And how many have you collected so far?" – "Three and a half labor camps."

ba-dum bum

Because it's very easy for them to control the narrative and spin their actions to their benefit, minimizing the negative associations with their actions. That they aren't probably means they want it seen this way, and I agree that's interesting.

You missed the point entirely.

The interesting part isn't how China behaves, it's that the US - supposedly on a higher level than China - behaves much the same way, it just tries really hard to cover it up.

You shouldn't assume that they don't also engage in a truly staggering amount of covert violence.

I find this a very descriptive trait of the western world. We rationalize, and diffuse through indirect means and ways. It feels a lot less barbaric than just cutting someone's hand for a bad article or what you said. The root desires are the same, the way to express them not.

According to a recent Frontline, maybe we are moving on:

"A searing, two-hour investigation places America’s heroin crisis in a fresh and provocative light -- telling the stories of individual addicts, but also illuminating the epidemic's years-in-the-making social context, deeply examining shifts in U.S. drug policy, and exploring what happens when addiction is treated like a public health issue, not a crime." http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/chasing-heroin/

Laying it all on Nixon does not explain "Reefer Madness" (1936) nor every other country that criminalizes drugs with zeal.

Nor does it explain the original Prohibition, a single paragraph of law that created an explosion of organized crime, reclassified a tremendous percentage of American adults as lawbreakers, and filled prisons.

Prohibition is a timeless, recurring issue. I think it comes from something even more timeless: moral authoritarianism.

The urge felt by many people to force their neighbor to do things the Right Way.

The puritan dream that the world could be clean and harmonious and good if only Those People could be brought to heel.

> The urge felt by many people to force their neighbor to do things the Right Way.

This is an innate aspect of society. See: murder, sexual assault, etc. Morality is a human construct.

The real question is where to draw the line, and the answer isn't immediately clear, even in a court of law.

I do agree with you though that moral conservatism needs to move on from the 1950s.

> This is an innate aspect of society. See: murder, sexual assault, etc

No, those rules are about protecting me from my neighbor. They're perfectly reasonable, both as timeless moral norms and as law.

The problems begin when I want to control my neighbor's behavior in ways that have nothing to do with protection. If I feel the need, for example, to prohibit him from having a gay relationship because it's against my religion. Or telling him that smoking one plant is fine, but if he smokes a different kind of plant I'll call men with guns over to his house to stop him.

That is what I mean by moral authoriarianism.

Every other country (make that government) uses what the US does as an excuse. I remember when the Romanian government banned spontaneous protests by saying, on TV, "even the US requires them to get permits".

Another "problem" with legalization is that then the government will have to accept that it has to treat those people who become addicts instead of just imprisoning them. But it's not willing to cover them under a Medicare-like healthcare system. Do you think the addicts will afford or could be covered under ACA?

Do you think the addicts will afford or could be covered under ACA

In a true, first-class, first-world country, that should be a non-issue. People first and all that.

Besides, what do you think the repression of drugs has cost the last few decades?

You probably know this already, but treating these addicts would be vastly cheaper than imprisoning them. $31,286 per inmate [1] on average, much higher in some areas (NYC, LA).

[1]: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/24/nyregion/citys-annual-cost...

> it has to treat those people who become addicts instead of just imprisoning them.

I'm not sure if you're implying that the rate of addiction would increase due to legalization but regarding that claim, the Netherlands and Portugal provide interesting data points.

In Portugal, the rate of addiction decreased after they decriminalized all drugs.


In the Netherlands: "In 1985, nearly 100 percent of methadone patients were aged below 40. In 2014, almost all of them were older than 40."


Also, diversion to treatment programs could lead to significant cost savings. Those savings could be invested in treatment programs that are more effective than whatever is available today.

"Research conducted in part by Temple University and published in the online journal “Crime & Delinquency” found that only ten percent of state prisoners who abuse drugs or are drug-dependent receive medically based treatment while incarcerated. If that ten percent had received treatment in community-based programs instead of serving jail time, the prison system would save $4.8 billion - nearly the amount paid out to the Bureau of Prisons. Those savings would nearly triple if just 40 percent of eligible offenders received the same sort of treatment."


"Maryland, for example, saw average costs for offenders decrease from approximately $20,000 to $4,000. The same report on JusticePolicy.org mentioned that the costs for treatment generally range from $1,800 to $6,800, far less than the cost of incarceration. California’s Proposition 36 mandated that those entering the justice system on drug-related offenses be given substance abuse treatment rather than a prison sentence. The state initially spent millions on the first few years of the program but estimated that, at a long-term glance, the program could save the state up to $150 million annually."


As it is there is a huge financial incentive for the criminals to get people hooked on drugs. Hard drugs should be freely provided by the government to take that incentive away. This also gives it the opportunity to help addicts who want to kick their addiction. It also dismantles the criminal organisations behind it, reducing crime that way, and it means that drug addicts can somewhat participate in normal society instead of having to steal to pay for their addiction.

Did you say free drugs?

...and the rest of the world just got it for nothing, since USA had enough momentum to inflict policies on the whole world.

Well, at least now we know who is guilty. Now we should make sure that this crime is resolved with punishment.

The only problem with that version of history is that both drugs were illegal from the 1930s or earlier, and the controlled substances act of 1970 was introduced and passed by Democrat controlled house and senate.

Attitudes towards blacks and Mexicans certainly played a large role in the illegalization of cannabis in the 1930s. Attitudes towards the Chinese likewise played a role with the illegalization of opiates before then.

I don't think you can attribute the entirety of drug policy to identity politics (especially with opiates, where people were indeed getting hooked on various "quackery medicine" type formulas peddled back in the late 1800s - early 1900s). I think you can attribute some of the draconian, moralizing, punitive approaches of our current drug policy to identity politics, though.

> Can we now, please, get that behind us and move on?

What, and disrupt the massively profitable prison industry?

It is but a tiny shadow of the profitability of the drug industry. Legalised, the wealthy can own it and funnel money to themselves, and Uncle Sam can have a nice big bite. Here comes the money.

Legalized, this industry will collapse, as drugs would be very cheap. The real production costs of most drugs are minuscule. Their high market prices are entirely due to their illegality.

Are you subject to the misapprehension that production cost is the primary factor in pricing?

Production cost is a primary factor in pricing in industries having the characteristic of "perfect competition". For example, in the farming industry, the price of wheat is primarily determined by production cost, while influenced by other factors. You can read about characteristics associated with perfect competition on Wikipedia:


If drug use and drug-making were both made fully legal, or comparable legal as alcohol-making and alcohol-using, then the industry would rapidly approach perfect competition for certain classes of categories (e.g., pharmaceutical recreational drugs).

Wheat is not a good comparison because it's mostly not consumer facing. Consumers care for more things in their purchases than just the raw good. Your alcohol example IS a good example. Consumers aren't just buying a beverage that intoxicates them that doesn't taste terrible. They pay a premium for brand, image, and to a large extent placebo quality. The cost of manufacturing for most alcoholic beverages has little to do with the final price.

Hell, even look at legal, non-recreational drugs. There can be an identical generic version. There can be an accredited medical professional standing right there saying "they're the same thing" and people will still opt for name brand.

I'm certain that if drugs were legalised, all that extra cost from being illegal would go straight in to marketing budgets and people will be buying the lsd equivalent of $300 bottles of wine or vodka that comes in creative packaging.

Er... did you just say "people don't buy based primarily on price"? Because that contradicts pretty much everybody else...

(Yes, brands have an influence, people buy Vertu phones, but Walmart has a lot more customers.)

Just reviewed my message and no, I don't believe I did. Do let me know if I missed it though!

No, he and you and I and everyone else knows that all things being equal, price determines purchasing decisions. He just also went on to list how in many ways, all things are not held equal.

Alcohol is a terrible example here. Many premium products already exist in the marketplace with no clear connection between production cost and price. You could possibly build a case with tobacco but you'd have to ignore the cigar market, which similarly has a large premium market segment.

It seems unlikely that other recreational drugs would be different.

Yes, of course, just as the alcohol industry did. Nobody makes any money selling alcohol.

Well... to be pedantic, the alcohol isn't what you're paying for in most cases - it's the image, the lifestyle, the story.

Would we see the same phenomenon with generic diacetylmorphine and artisinal heroin? That would certainly be amusing...

I can see it happenning for weed though.

Illegal drugs are even cheaper and many will choose them because of the potential for employer discrimination.

Why do I think this? I have many friends in Colorado. No weed dealer there was upset at having more production available.

Is that really a big factor compared to police departments?

The largest private for-profit prison (CCA) has $1.7 billion in revenue. Apple makes $233 billion in revenue. Exxon has $268 billion in revenue. Walmart makes $482 billion in revenue.



Their revenue is less than 1% of Apple's, but their lobbying budget is 25%-75% of Apple's year to year.

Those statistics are really interesting. And that's compounded by the fact that investors don't really care about the total value of a company. They're concerned about the growth potential of companies like Apple while the private prison industry is showing impressive and reliable growth. This creates a powerful incentive to bolster the industry.

There's something obscene about people's retirement funds depending on putting more people in private prisons. It further reinforces the division of society where the happiness of the rich is directly dependent on increasing other people's misery. It's not surprising that the industry has been caught on a few occasions bribing judges to increase sentencing.

Could a fine for private prisons every time an ex-offender is convicted help to rebalance their priorities?

Are prisoners put to tender like school meals are [in the UK]?

But aren't their lobbying expenses more akin to sales expenses since the government is their customer?

CCA spent $1 million per year. Apple spent $1.24 million in lobbying in three months. Facebook spent $2.44 million in three months. Microsoft spent $11 million on lobbying per year. Google spent $19 million on lobbying per year.



CCA spent over $3 million in both 2004 and 2005, they've leveled off at $1million for the past 7 years or so.

Also, that's pretty much what I said, isn't it? Apple is about $4 million/year and CCA is at about $1 million/year? Are you quibbling about 20 vs 25%, or trying to make some other point?

Look at how much money CCA spends on lobbying and supporting candidates that are friendly to their business. It is vastly larger per dollar of revenue than Apple (or Walmart). So much so, that it's one of the things people talk about when taking about whether Hillary Clinton (for example) is influenced by the money coming from the prison industrial complex. Nobody is accusing Hillary of being bought by Apple. Though there are concerns about Walmart, due to Hillary's long history with that company, but not because of exorbitant expenditures on lobbying and legalized bribery.

One (of many) articles about how CCA spends money to get the results that suit its bottom line. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2011/06/23/251363/cca-geogr...

It's downright evil, frankly.

Teachers unions spent $20 million on the 2012 election alone, no doubt funding candidates who were friendly to their pensions. I can go down the line and list off several more trade unions and their political spending.


Why is there seemingly not a peep about this from those who oppose the private prison complex?

I'm curious: Do you believe teachers asking for more funding is ethically comparable to prisons demanding more prisoners?

I think it hinges on whether the private prison industry is lobbying for more funding per prisoner or tougher laws that result in more prisoners (or longer sentences). If they argue for safer prisons, better rehabilitation programs, more security for guards -- the public should be skeptical but open. If they want to just lock more people up and then bill the government -- that would be somehow like teachers' unions lobbying for less birth control to influence the birth rate and therefore create more demand for teaching jobs. It seems perverse.

In other words, we need prisons just like we need schools, even if people like schools more we shouldn't vilify corrections officers just because they work in an industry we don't care to interact with. It's all about their conduct, which has been terrible. Teachers unions are also self-serving, but they at least pretend to have the child's interest at heart.

Perhaps he's more pointing out the hypocrisy of attaching a scale/range of ethical values to something he determines to be an unethical act entirely, regardless of the ethical value of the reasons behind it.

Most people have more ethical qualms about profiting off of incarceration than about possibly paying too much money to people who educate our children. This is not surprising.

Be fair: teachers unions often get talked in very negative terms on HN.

How is this not a red-herring? Does "massively profitable" mean the same as "the most profitable"?

OP's point is that there is allot of money on the line and that serves as inertia to keep the highly punitive measures in place. $1.7 billion is allot of inertia. It might not be as much as Exxon who wants to deny global warming, or Walmart who wants more "free trade" but are we to ignore mass incarceration because there are more profitable moral hazards?

So it makes as much money as Uber instead of Walmart? Just because it's not the biggest doesn't mean it's not big.

Uber is a a high-growth startup as you may be aware, and will far eclipse its 2015 revenue this year. Even so, comparing the revenues of the "massively profitable" prison company that's been around since 1983 with a single Silicon Valley startup that just got off the ground a few years ago is quite a stretch and a false equivalence.

....And burger king exists since 1953 and "only" makes $1.06B of revenue per year, so what?

3 billion dollars is more than many small countries make in an entire year (nominal GDP)

The industry made 3.3 billion, of which the vast majority is controlled by 2 groups. That's enough to form a lobby.

But where do government run prisons get their food, clothes, guard outfits, toilets, toiletries, etc?

Is it really accurate to exclude all of those from the calculation?

Apple, Exxon and Walmart add value.

So do you think Apple and Exxon will lobby for marijuana and heroin legalization? Because CCA certainly will against it.

I want to disagree a little on this. I won't disagree that the 'war on drugs' is out of control, largely mismanaged, and likely unnecessary. What I do want to say is I think it's a bit unfair to say "It never was about fighting drug use or preventing the harm it can do."

I think it's fair to say the funding and huge catalyst for the war on drugs started in Miami in the 80's. During this time where was a ridiculous amount of violence. Violence that occurred in broad daylight, that had no regard for the public, with weapons police didn't have access too. CENTAC was started and gave law enforcement a more level playing field, and had a huge impact on the violence related to the drug trade in south Florida. It effectively removed lots of violent criminals from the streets. Just look at the crime stats before and after the initiative, it's pretty clear there was a public benefit.

While I agree there are very unfortunate unintended consequences of the war on drugs, I think we also have to give credit where is credit is due. Lets learn from it and do something better moving forward.

I am confused here, the massive arming by the drug pushers happened only in a prohibited world. Yes, the DEA was perhaps not ready or was expecting Mr.Machine Gun to show up, but if 18th amendment and Al Capone were any lesson, they should know better.

The violence wasn't from drug users, it was from gangs fighting over profits from illegal trade. The war created that violence in the first place.

As another commenter noted, the parallel would be the rise of organized crime during alcohol prohibition.

>During this time where was a ridiculous amount of violence.

Was this violence not already illegal?

Surely brandishing a gun and firing on a public street in daylight is a crime with or without drug prohibition

> The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying?

> That sums it up pretty well. It never was about fighting drug use or preventing the harm it can do. Can we now, please, get that behind us and move on? If we only spent 10% of what we now spent on prosecuting drug use on prevention and rehabilitation, that would be a much greater service to society than fourty years of "war" have been. Not to mention the benefits for privacy, the decrease in violence and so on...

I think the disturbing part is people, even now, deny this is the reason Nixon pushed for it. I just can't understand it. :/

Nixon basically shat on the results of his own commissions by members of his own party when he didn't like the results. History is littered with evidence this man had an agenda yet people act like the "Drug War" wasn't created as a political tool.


> In June 1971, President Nixon declared a “war on drugs.” He dramatically increased the size and presence of federal drug control agencies, and pushed through measures such as mandatory sentencing and no-knock warrants. Nixon temporarily placed marijuana in Schedule One, the most restrictive category of drugs, pending review by a commission he appointed led by Republican Pennsylvania Governor Raymond Shafer. In 1972, the commission unanimously recommended decriminalizing the possession and distribution of marijuana for personal use. Nixon ignored the report and rejected its recommendations.


> On December 5, 1969, President Richard Nixon appointed Stephen Hess to the position of National Chairman of the White House Conference for Children and Youth. Hess's task was to "listen well to the voices of young Americans -- in the universities, on the farms, the assembly lines, the street corners," in the hopes of uncovering their opinions on America's domestic and international affairs. After two years of intensive planning, Hess and 1,486 delegates from across the country met in Estes Park, Colorado, and, from April 18 to 22, 1971, discussed ten areas that most concerned the youth of America. These issues included, not surprisingly, the draft and the war in Vietnam, the economy and employment, education, the environment, poverty, and, most notably for Points readers, drugs.

> The task force on drugs, composed of eight youths and four adults, forcefully argued for addressing the root causes of drug abuse, advocating therapy for addicts rather than incarceration or punishment.

> ... even if the Nixon administration distorted the numbers that tied drug addiction to instances of crime. ...

I think focusing on Nixon on at this point is actively problematic.

Literally every administration since then has been complicit in this, and made it worse.

I think it's rhetorically effective, in that shallow thinkers have been trained for years to reflexively revile Nixon. If we argued merely on the merits, they might worry about LEO jobs or housewives hooked on patent medicines (i.e., stupid arguments we've seen before). It's best to short-circuit all that detailed disputation with a simple "Drug War = Nixon = Bad". Very few thinking people without a personal economic interest support the drug war [EDIT, quite right Josh:] with respect to marijuana at this late hour, so we really do have to worry most about the shallow thinkers for whom this sort of argument is compelling.

Ouch, such a gross way of thinking. And people wonder why things are getting so divisive. No matter who you are, there are lots of people who disagree with you on public policy who aren't morons. Treating them like morons encourages them to hate you and not listen to anything you say.

I don't know if "shallow thinkers" or "morons" are appropriate terms to define the people that jessaustin is referring to. But I think it is entirely possible that many people simply think differently than we do, and you need to communicate with them differently as well.

Basically, the audience you and I usually interact with, e.g. here on HN, and probably at work, assuming you're in tech also, is comprised largely of logical thinkers. We don't have a lot of experience dealing with people who have more emotional thinking characteristics, so we assume that using an entirely logical argument is the only correct way to change people's minds.

I can't find numbers, and I don't know how much, or if, this has been studied, but I think a large portion of the population thinks more emotionally than we would expect them to. I don't necessarily think that's a negative thing, as emotional thinking helps, e.g. bind us together in cohesive communities even though the individuals in that community might be very different from each other on a personal level, because even though they're different people, they feel an emotional attachment to the same community.

With all due respect, I'm sure, "things are getting so divisive" because millions of people have had their lives destroyed, for decades, in USA and further south, for the enrichment of lobbyists and for the short-term political advantage of a worthless SOB who is now roasting deservedly in hell. Sure, lots of people haven't "noticed", because the whole farce was calculated to feed and placate their prejudice. Those who know anything about the Drug War, e.g. the dozens of big-city police commissioners who join LEAP the day after they retire, know how awful it is. Those who don't know anything can't be expected to learn overnight.

If that doesn't raise one's blood pressure, nothing on this Earth will.

Let the tone policing commence!

[EDIT/PS:] I never said "morons". I used a literally descriptive term. Those wilting violets (uh-oh, more characterization!) who are upset by such a bland description should just try thinking a bit deeper.

> Very few thinking people without a personal economic interest support the drug war at this late hour

Quite a lot of people still oppose legalization of other drugs. See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/17/drug-legalization-p... for an example; I'm certain that more recent polls exist.

I think it's important to know that this was explicitly designed to target black people, not an accidental overreaction of well-meaning but not-modern, not-PC white people to a terrible problem. If you take Nixon out, you don't have that.

A terrible fact is that elites still love Nixon. They don't want him brought up because he undermines them morally: they supported him at the time, and they still share his political outlook. He left so many candid recordings behind that there's no denying that he was a vicious, stupid, paranoid, superstitious man, and that the views of his contemporary detractors were more than completely confirmed (even they couldn't imagine that he was literally screaming about the niggers and the jews during policy discussions.)

Nixon created the strategy that has culminated in this Republican primary. Ignoring Nixon is a problem.

Sure, future administrations are complicit, but people didn't really "believe" the way Nixon believed until he brought the full power of the Federal government and an extensive political organization to spread fear in the general populace.

Up until that point, enough people didn't believe in his course of action that his own people wouldn't give him the answers he wanted.

By all means history should remember his failings here and elsewhere.

I just mean the responsibility for the state of things today, and for improving it, lies solidly on other shoulders today. And that is where the focus should be. There should be no support for a narrative of "oh, but those were the bad old days, things are better now". They are not.

> By all means history should remember his failings here and elsewhere.

The original post was discussing the history:

> I think the disturbing part is people, even now, deny this is the reason Nixon pushed for it. I just can't understand it. :/

> Nixon basically shat on the results of his own commissions by members of his own party when he didn't like the results. History is littered with evidence this man had an agenda yet people act like the "Drug War" wasn't created as a political tool.


> I just mean the responsibility for the state of things today, and for improving it, lies solidly on other shoulders today. And that is where the focus should be. There should be no support for a narrative of "oh, but those were the bad old days, things are better now". They are not.

That has nothing to do with what I was saying. Literally the entire content of my post [beyond quotes] was discussing past history concerning a single president.

Stop tilting at windmills.


Edit since I'm rate limited and don't care that much:

Look, the historical context of stuff like this interests me.

If you find it boring...shrugs

   Literally the entire content of my post [beyond quotes] was discussing past history concerning a single president.
Which is what I was responding to. No windmills here.

I believe it's fine as a historical exercise, but useless with respect to the state of drug policy etc. today. And think the effort much better targeted elsewhere as focusing on this piece of the history is, in my view, actively distracting from anything useful. Vilifying Nixon is easy and boring.

And yes, I think to the degree that it has traction, it does support a fallacious narrative about the current state of things - or at least is trotted out in support of it, which I'll grant is not quite the same thing.

Just my two cents.

Gary Webb, Oliver North, "Freeway" Rick Ross, Oscar Danilo Blandón. Don't read into these names unless you've got your tin foil at the ready.

I don't even care what it was about: people should, in any case, own their own bodies.

Most countries are past criminalising suicide, and self-harm is acceptable (as long as you are considered mentally able). Why is there a difference in risking one's health in every single way but by using psychoactive substances?

Especially considering that clearly the war on drugs was never limited to, or expanded to all substances capable of generating physical dependence.

So... what are the modern day equivalents?

I do think drugs still apply, but not as much. But for things like encryption and private communications, there are others. And like with drugs, the thing they target aren't innocent. Many drugs are bad, some are downright horrendous. Part of the genius of their plan is that they do stick to things that aren't innocent and just make them even more guilty than they already are.

After telling the BBC in December that “if you fight a war for forty years and don’t win, you have to sit down and think about other things to do that might be more effective,” Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos legalized medical marijuana by decree. In November, the Mexican Supreme Court elevated the debate to a new plane by ruling that the prohibition of marijuana consumption violated the Mexican Constitution by interfering with “the personal sphere,” the “right to dignity,” and the right to “personal autonomy.”

This is great news. Only the sort of political situation that existed in Latin America over these past decades could have permitted us in USA to export all this violence and suffering. The corruption in their state was a mirror of that in ours. We were happy to destroy their societies for profit, and unfortunately their rulers were too.

The Drug War is a big reason I'm an anarchist. People living their own lives, in their own communities, can get up to some awful shit, now and then. No way in hell can they come up with the durable, sustained, all-consuming all-perverting horror that is the Drug War, or any of the other travesties the State produces without breaking a sweat.

As a counterpoint, compulsory free education for all children is a public good that couldn't be accomplished or sustained for decades without the state intruding upon the personal autonomy of the child and the parent (and childless taxpayers.)

...compulsory free education...

I'm not sure what aspect of this situation this comment is meant to address. We're not absolutists; we just want the State to do less evil shit. Perhaps there have been lots of egregious abuses by, I don't know (sorry but I'm not exactly sure what we're talking about), truant officers? Nevertheless those pale in comparison to the harms of Drug War enforcement.

It's a counterpoint to the drug war: a durable, decades-long intrusion on personal autonomy by the state that produces tangible benefits and improves the quality of life for society and the individual.

Free mass education is a requirement in a democratic society. It would be national suicide for a government to give people the vote without giving them any competence to go with it.

I wonder if the American electorate has that level of competence given the quality of elected leadership in the US.

Except that the free mass schools provided by the government do little more than dumb people down to a compliant level required for a quiet electorate.

See "Dumbing Us Down" by John Taylor Gatto. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dumbing_Us_Down

It needs to change, but don't forget that without it our illiteracy rates were ridiculous.

Is it really as much of a necessity? In my opinion most people learn the bare minimum required for exams, and then regurgitate it. I only remember tidbits of history and a little Shakespeare from my school days. Even in college most of my professors just read off powerpoints and I was forced to learn anything useful at all for my career on my own time. Schools force people to learn things they aren't interested in like STEM over useful life skills like personal finance or cooking. I think homeschooling or self-directed education [0] could be much more effective at stimulating learners and equipping them with necessary knowledge. In my opinion the only benefit of school was the social aspect, but thats to be expected since thats where everyone else is, not to mention the drawbacks such as bullying.

Education really isn't as much of a virtue as people think; do I really need a degree to talk to people, to appreciate literature or art, to vote? (And even with the prevalence of education, people still end up misinformed or lead by personal bias) Most people are capable of learning what they need, especially when all the resources are out there and not just in schools. All the different levels of education that are established just serve as poor markers for employers to differentiate people and time-and-time again I've read about educations being ill-suited in preparing people for careers.

Like the parent commenter, I think people are quite capable of organizing and preparing themselves just as well without a state, and many communities and generations have been doing this for centuries.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unschooling (just one interesting example)

I have to disagree in the most strenuous possible terms.

> do I really need a degree to talk to people, to appreciate literature or art, to vote?

No, you don't need a college degree, but you do need an elementary education, which is what I'm talking about since that's what's compulsory and free.

There is no technology industry without an educated workforce. There is no effective democracy where the electorate is ignorant of history, math, and science. We can argue the relative merits of specific authors that could be covered in English/literature class, but only because we both were taught how to read.

Yeah but my argument is that you don't need a state for that. There are tons of self-taught people in IT and many people on HN can testify to that. And people can be ignorant in spite of education, just look at America itself which has groups that believe vaccines cause autism or that the moon landings were faked, among other strange beliefs perpetuated by the media. (which is really where people get their political education) And as to your last point, again, people can learn to read at home too. Maybe we just had different experiences with education, but I honestly don't believe any of it couldn't be done with different methods or groups.

> There are tons of self-taught people in IT

What I'm getting at is that they still needed to be taught reading, math, etc. just to get to the point where they could teach themselves how to use technology. I don't think that piecemeal homeschooling can prepare most people to do that sort of thing. A quick glance at historic literacy rates in the US[1], particularly the meteoric rise in all demographics starting in the late 1800s, speaks volumes about the effectiveness of formal schooling. Illiteracy dropped from 20% to 7.7% in one generation (and even more dramatically within unprivileged demographics.)

This doesn't imply that only state-run systems can work, but I think it's clear that state-run systems do work (which is my original point: contrasting state-operated free schools to the war on drugs.)

> I honestly don't believe any of it couldn't be done with different methods or groups.

Absolutely it could, no argument there. The Prussian-style classroom is not the only one, even if it's the only one in widespread use, and there are some legitimate problems with it. That being said I don't see how 90%+ literacy could be accomplished without state involvement. It certainly hadn't happened before, and writing has been around for a long time.

Sorry if I took us way off-topic (war on drugs). My point isn't really about what sorts of schooling we should have, but rather to point out that the schooling we do have provides an interesting counterpoint to the harm caused by the state in pursuing the war on drugs, and is something for anarchists to chew on when railing against the depredations of the state.

[1]: https://nces.ed.gov/naal/lit_history.asp#illiteracy

Anarchism is about questioning the legitimacy of any system based on power, with a tendency to be critical of authority. It is also a constructive tradition of discussing alternative ways based on voluntary association and freedom.

I doubt many anarchists see it as strategically useful to dismantle systems of public education—but those systems certainly deserve critique, and anarchist perspectives are well-suited.

Every kid knows that school sucks. A prison for their minds and bodies.


You are also ignoring the social aspect of education and just focusing on the learning part.

I did mention it, and when most people speak of education they are usually referring to the learning aspect.

Compelling whom?

Compelling the government/state/local authority is right but whilst parents should be compelled provide educational opportunity for their children I find it an imposition to require schooling per se.

Schooling is a very narrow segment of possible educational methods and one that doesn't suit all children.

The idea that the Western world (at least, my country, the UK) uses laws to criminalize groups of people seems about as old as time itself to me.

We don't punish drug use because we care about people taking drugs. We punish drug use because we want to eliminate the influence of 'junkies' on society.

We don't punish radical views because we disagree with them. We punish radical views because we want to eliminate their influence on society.

Let's talk about child abuse. A terrible crime.

As a UK resident - it feels to me, that people don't actually care about the actual act of child abuse as much as they care about the... 'othering' of the perpetrator.

It's the idea of a child abuser as being an animal, a strange alien, a completely non-understandable beast, that really riles us up.

That's why 'think of the children' works. We're not thinking about the children, really. We're thinking about the threat from human actors who don't have world-views that quite fit - we can't grok them, they can't be trusted.

That's what I think these sorts of laws are fundamentally about. They are about trying to remove 'scary' individuals.

I don't care about terrorism because I think it's vanishingly unlikely to occur. But people, as a mass, fear the unknown - they fear the humans who don't have the same limits that they do. The humans that can, and will, do anything.

'Terrorist' is just the new 'criminal', because 'criminal' doesn't hold the same cachet when everyone is a criminal.

> that people don't actually care about the actual act of child abuse as much as they care about the... 'othering' of the perpetrator. It's the idea of a child abuser as being an animal, a strange alien, a completely non-understandable beast, that really riles us up.

I disagree, that is how the media sells papers and gets page clicks, but is that what the man-in-the-street thinks? I'm also from the UK, and to me the vilest part of it is that children have little understanding of these adult things; sex, relationships, normality, an inability to protect themselves from adults. They have a right to be a child during childhood (it is a humanitarian right in many countries 1). It isn't about demonizing a person, it is about being saddened by the loss of a child (within a child's body) and the loss of faith in humanity within myself.


>We punish drug use because we want to eliminate the influence of 'junkies' on society. & >They are about trying to remove 'scary' individuals.

It's not so clear cut. It's more about having the ability to selectively remove them if and when they become a nuisance. Consider GW Bush for example. Coke fiend but establishment, ends up becoming US president. Is he not a junkie? Did he not have a huge influence on society including societies beyond his immediate society?

The law is about power not morality. Morality is the thin veil used to present the tool of coercion that is the legal system to the masses.

I'm not sure about legalizing it all, but me and the world is pretty sure about decriminalizing it, just watch what happened here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbWpXYOg4OQ

TL;DR: Highly successful strategy of not marginalizing (both socially and legally) and actually helping addicts: cuts costs, cuts problems, decreases addicts.

The problem with decriminalization without legalization is that it addresses demand but not supply. Black market supply is where a lot of the harm from prohibition materializes.

I agree, and in fact the author - Dan Baum - made the same point in an interview on NPR a few days ago.


All i'm saying is that it's better than the policies currently being applied in the U.S. And we (Portugal) are a case study that proves that.

I'm worried that legalization could pass the message that it's ok, while it's not, because real damage comes from the abuse of those illegal drugs.

It also prevents effective control through licensure.

Why stop with drugs? I would include pointless war on sex workers.

The key difference is that drugs are something one does to oneself, whereas prostitution includes at least one other person. How to ensure that person is willingly participating and profiting is the question. Although I suppose legalization and licensing would help with that too.

Exactly. If somebody wants to sell their physical sexual skills, it should be just as easy to find a place of employment as somebody wanting to sell their mental deductive skills.

This is unrelated but it would be nice if this site offered the ability to minimize sub-threads. I was genuinely curious about people's opinions as to how best legalize drugs in a responsible fashion. Instead I have to scroll through an obnoxious amount of comments bemoaning the short falls of the government long enough to lose interest.

I like "hckr news" plugin. The "Collapse Whole Thread" option is great after I've read a few comments in one root.

Surprised no one has yet posted the Kurzgesagt video on the failed war on drugs: https://youtu.be/wJUXLqNHCaI

Yeah, and also their excellent video on addiction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ao8L-0nSYzg

What I like most about this article is that it's most definitely not a libertarian take on the issue. The author describes several benefits of a government involvement in legal drug commerce.

A non-libertarian perspective on drug legalization is important because everyone knows libertarians want to legalize everything. And most informed people know the libertarian arguments as well. And they've been known for many decades now. Clearly, the libertarian approach isn't swaying a whole lot of people.

However, when people who are not ideologically committed to small government start supporting drug legalization it becomes a more serious possibility because it means a broader coalition can be built to support legalization.

tldr: libertarians alone will never make legalization a reality, but libertarians united with progressives can be a force for change.

The link seems to be broken for me, ERR_CONNECTION_REFUSED.

As a paywalled site, perhaps Harper's rarely gets much traffic? Regardless, if they're going to expose such great content for free, they're going to have to get on the level of an HN front page mention.

I'm curious what HN thinks about the author's point that drug-distribution is state-controlled. I agree---capitalism only works in arenas where the actors act (decently) rationally, and would-be markets where a significant portion of consumption is by addicts doesn't meet that test.

I'm also curious if anyone thinks such a end-game is politically possible in the US. Or is the profit motive + mistrust of government the only coalition capable of out-hustling our puritan tendencies politically?

> The risks are tremendous. Deaths from heroin overdose in the United States rose 500 percent from 2001 to 2014, a staggering increase, and deaths from prescription drugs — which are already legal and regulated — shot up almost 300 percent, proving that where opioids are concerned, we seem to be inept not only when we prohibit but also when we regulate.

For heroin, the major risk is variation in potency. Heroin is highly cut at consumer level, for the most part. But occasionally, some relatively pure shit hits the street. And then there's the risk of boosting by Fentanyl and other high-potency opiates.

Also, it's pretty clear that the increasing popularity of heroin has been driven by decreasing availability of prescription opiates. New heroin users tend to be clueless about risk management. So they tend to overdose.

I'm curious about increasing deaths from prescription drugs. I wonder how much of that is driven by acetaminophen toxicity, as oxycodone etc have become harder to get than mixtures of acetaminophen with codeine and hydrocodone. I'm also wondering whether these figures include deaths for prescription drugs obtained informally.

A lot of overdoses also stem from folks who were forced or coerced into rehab before being fully prepared, then relapse, taking their old dose without realizing that their tolerance has already gone down during treatment. Hopefully those cases would decrease with legalization and the removal of the "hard drug" stigma.

Regarding the increase in RX deaths, I'd like to see those stats too-- though it's probably too hairy to really break down, I'd also like to see that expanded which prescription opiate, as well as circumstance (fully recreational/no clear injury, minor injury, during hospitalization, or continuing/long term care).

Anyone looking for an additional read should check Chasing the Scream by Johann Hari.

A very powerful book that changed my opinion.

After reading The Rise and Fall of American Growth -- a brilliant work that most here on HN would find relevant -- I came away more convinced than ever before that legalizing drugs would reduce a great deal of drag on our long term economic growth.

I think that one of the biggest things that policymakers should keep in mind is that frequently, there is no good solution. There are only less bad solutions.

Take payday loans as an example. The entire industry is extremely exploitative and preys on uneducated poor people who are desperate due to bad circumstances and / or poor financial planning. Well-meaning activists have campaigned to "reform" the business and make it less scummy.

The result? Legitimate payday loan companies go out of business, as it's no longer economical to invest money in loaning to poor people, and the mob fills the void. Instead of getting a loan from Usury Inc, whose backers have pulled out and invested in something else, you're getting a loan from Cousin Vinnie. Now, the poor get exploited even more nastily by organized crime, which has absolutely no compunctions about getting its money back by any means possible, including threatening families, breaking kneecaps, killing people to get the rest of the debtors in line, etc.

The only answer is an optimization - you curb the worst of the abuses, and then accept the fact that the exploitation is a side effect of underlying causes and impossible to remove without making things worse. It's as good as we're going to get.

Same exact thing with the drug trade. Drugs destroy lives. It's a fact - heroin and other opiates are a scourge on poor communities, and it's not just due to the fact that they're illegal. After all, people overdose on prescription medication all the time, too[1]. But a lot of the enforcement that has been done makes things even worse - we still have addicts, and then we get all of the violence that comes from the enormous markup that's inherent in the black market. There is no good solution that makes everything better, but it's very easy to make things worse.

More nastily, it breeds what I like to call "contempt of the law" - if everyone in a community is breaking the law somehow, (smoking weed, buying black-market cigarettes, buying prescription painkillers, etc) then even worse crimes don't get prosecuted because everyone is preoccupied with the fact that the police are going after the people they perceive to be average Joes. As soon as people perceive the police as an occupying force that arbitrarily goes after average citizens for gits and shiggles, the people will stop seeing the police as guardians against the truly evil and dangerous people among them.

I think that the biggest issue that blocks action on this is that people are confusing legalization with approval. You can make something legal and still think it's horrible. It's legal to cheat on your spouse, even though most people consider it immoral, but the cost on society that would come from making adultery illegal (and enforcing it) would be far greater than keeping the government out of it. Similarly, you can make prostitution legal and still consider it horrible. You can make casino gambling illegal and still consider it exploitative of people who suck at math. And you can make drugs legal and still consider it exploitative of human weakness. The only criteria that we should be using is "Would government intervention actually make the situation better? If not, keep the government out of it." And at this point, I'm pretty doubtful that dispatching thousands of officers to go after heroin dealers will keep people from using heroin. I'm pretty confident that doing so will increase the money that's in heroin, increase violence, and breed contempt of the law.

<asshole> Oh. Also, if we make drugs legal, I'm investing like a motherfucker in Soma, Inc. Drugs sell themselves, and I'm sure that corporations will make a bundle if they can sell them to The Public. My retirement fund will thank the wonderful residents of Appalachia for their generous contributions. Whichever company is the first to make an oxycodone version of Joe Camel is the one I'm investing in.</asshole>


The stalemate of the current horrid system seems only to be held in place by the (perhaps misguided) sense that being high enough middle class has a better chance to insulate your family against the ravages of drug addiction more than the total legalization ever could. And so every police crackdown in your neighborhood makes sense for protection, but it results in a tragedy of the commons type situation that everyone becomes more policed without truly cutting down drug abuse.

This seems like a good time to mention that I own the domain name TheTruthAboutPot.com and have no idea what to do with it. Suggestions / buyers welcome!

We should be deciding such questions at the neighborhood level. There are always going to be those who don't want to be arounds drugs and those who do. We should be making it possible to have either kind of community and access either without having to travel to another city or state.

And penalties should be civil not criminal.

It will be a very interesting study for future generations, should we substantially legalize recreational drugs, on all of the follow-on effects.

For example, many categories of police activity (raids, traffic stops) will become harder to justify; the dollar cost of drugs going down by an order of magnitude; immigration enforcement.

"The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

While I enjoy the recent surge in popularity of such a movement, my primary issue with drug policy is that it is unconstitutional, or at leasty arguably so. I fail to see a properly explained distinction between drug X and $ANYOBJECT Y when it comes to any governments ability to restrict a person from it. Whats the difference between caffiene and mj and alcohol? What about mj and harder drugs? What about harder drugs and two cans of coke a day? A person can be addicted to anything, (not to ignore the chemical/biological addictive properties) so what is to prevent any object from becoming a danger to the person or those around theme? To me this seems to be the core foundation upon which anti-drug persons base their argument. ie. "Once a person is addicted, they are likely to become a criminal and violate other peoples rights, so it's the governments duty to prevent that!".

To me though, it's not the governments duty to essentially engage in pre-crime criminalization. We all know about the private prison industry, but what gets me the most is that people in prison for non-violent drug charges are almost there, not because the drug itself was a crime, but because the underlying, implied logic is that they were about to become criminals anyway.

All of this flies in the face of the constitution, for once it is admitted that it's the duty of government to protect a person against their own actions, very few serious objections can be advanced against further encroachments.

In essence the drug war is a huge slippery slope which only opens up our system for further degradation of fundamental rights.

Also, I would to point out, beyond and before what is proposed as a mostly racist basis for the drug laws, that the larger purpose for the original drug wars (Opium Wars I and II, misc smaller conflicts), were largely about two other factors that are far too often overlooked:

1. Black-markets = free flowing, unaccountable money. Even in the modern times, this is a favorite of the three letters, to get black budget money thats outside the oversight of congress. If there isn't a blackmarket, you simply create one by buying off the politicians to make something illegal.

2. Similar to the racists vein, but more as a tool of control of the masses. while I have no problem constitutionally with legalization, the national security implications of "opiating the masses" are not to be ignored. The state of the Chinese population after introduction of mass quantities of opium as a good example of this done as a deliberate strategy.

As an aside, at one time I bought into the Dupont/Hemp conspiracy, but have since been able to find very little to no evidence to support this claim, so just a word of warning to any others who have fallen for it, that you should try to find some sources (and don't forget to share them if you do!)

Interstate commerce is the justification - that's why it's illegal to possess certain substances, but not to be under their influence. It's very difficult to make the banning of heroin unconstitutional without also making the FDA's food-safety measures much more difficult.

It seems the interstate commerce clause is abused far too often in attempted overreach then.

Legalize free trade!

Legalize it all and replace the DEA with a for-profit drug distribution business.

The Drug Enjoyment Administration

well since they are already running drugs...


I'm completely against the war on drugs for most of the reasons stated in this article, but I find it's blaming of Nixon and racial/ideological politics as the worst most unproductive form of cynicism. As if there are no well meaning, well founded reasons to outlaw drugs. People often forget that poor, minority neighborhoods were often instrumental in getting tough drug laws passed. Because they often faced the brunt of the criminal effect of large numbers of drug users. When a working class mom gets her kid's bike stolen by a junkie, she's not too interested in contemplating rehabilitation, she's just mad and wants her bike back and the asshole punished.

People often forget that poor, minority neighborhoods were often instrumental in getting tough drug laws passed. Because they often faced the brunt of the criminal effect of large numbers of drug users. When a working class mom gets her kid's bike stolen by a junkie, she's not too interested in contemplating rehabilitation, she's just mad and wants her bike back and the asshole punished.

This completely contradicts my understanding of how civics works in the real world. Poor, minority, working-class moms do not trust the government, police, or laws to work in their best interests, and do not push to get "tough drug laws passed". They believe such laws would be used as weapons against their families and communities. Even if you debate the accuracy of this belief, the impact that #BlackLivesMatter is having on the current election means there is no debating the widespread nature of this belief.

However, politically influential interest groups using "working class mom gets her kid's bike stolen by a junkie" as justification for tough drug laws—that sure is consistent with my understanding. So is duping us into thinking the poor minority neighborhoods are in favor of such laws.

I'm not sure I understand your critique. In the article a primary source (Nixon's domestic policy advisor Ehrlichman) just outright admitted what their motivations were. How is it cynical to cite a primary source?

What is the argument you're trying to make? That the war on drugs would have been justified through public health concerns even if it wasn't actually implemented for political and racial reasons? I'm not sure you're going to find much agreement on that stance, and certainly not enough political agreement to justify a policy of mass incarceration and proxy war violence in the third world to go along with it.

Do you have sources for this? My gut reaction is that your claim that tough drug laws that targeted poor and minority communities wouldn't have passed without the support of those communities seems false. These communities have little political power, and the laws would not have passed without the support of the economic and political elite.

We await sources for your assertions.....

The problem with law is that it is easy to write, hard to get rid of. We refactor old code all the time (hopefully!) but law, once written, lingers on for hundreds of years...

"If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it." --Reagan

Legalize it and let natural selection do its job. Junkies will just kill themselves.

Oh the hypocrisy.

Drugs legalization being trendy, you play the libertarian card. Yet, when it comes to guns or privacy, the same arguments don't hold true anymore.

Cherry picking at its best. Gotta love the HN crowd.

I don't think it's cherry picking or hypocrisy at all. The topics you mentioned are complex and largely unrelated. Just because a "legalize it" attitude towards drugs might be considered libertarian doesn't mean one needs to take the libertarian view on guns or privacy.

Life is not black and white. A rational person thinks critically about their choices and opinions, and does not decide on something simply because it fits in with some category.

> Life is not black and white. A rational person thinks critically about their choices and opinions, and does not decide on something simply because it fits in with some category.

A rational person seeks consistency and doesn't treat every instance of the same problems as different problems deserving their own interpretation and stance toward.

I'm slowly starting to grasp why the system is so complex. People with the resources to make important decisions lack the intellectual rigor necessary to reach a general understanding of things. That's how we end up with legal systems exceeding the complexity of spacecraft software.

> Gotta love the HN crowd.

Please don't do this here. The "crowd" includes you, and such generalizations are mostly bias.

Am I wrong to assume that most people here:

- Want to legalize drugs.

- Want to ban guns.

- Want a right to privacy.

You may be right, but yes you're wrong to assume it. People assume all kinds of things about HN, and there's a huge amount of bias involved.

But my point is that it's in bad taste to diss a community you belong to, while participating in it, as a rhetorical status move. People do this all the time, but we've noticed that it's reliably a marker of low-quality comments, so we're going to start asking them not to.

Sample size of one (and incredibly oversimplified for such complex topics) but...

- I don't think ingesting chemicals or compounds should be illegal but there's probably a benefit to some level of restriction on their sale and use

- I don't think guns should be made illegal but there's probably a benefit to some level of restriction on their sale and use

- I think there should be certain guarantees in terms of privacy but there's probably an argument to be made that these rights can be restricted in some cases for some individuals (ie: in the course of prosecuting a crime)

Either way, it's hard to make blanket statements about complex issues so you get appropriately wishy-washy responses.

Why does it even matter? Why people believe what they believe is more nuanced than "freedom". Freedom is certainly is a factor but not the only.

Stereotyping everyone in a community is easy but ultimately lazy and somewhat pointless. Unless you're running for office.

Sounds good to me. But go ahead and flame/downvote/hate on my oppinion as a member of the HN community. After all I'm just one person with an opinion.

HN is not a monolith. I'm sure someone here wants to take my guns but not my 'shrooms (and vice versa), but for the most part those issues are not intrinsically connected. You'll see more of a crossover at other sites, but that just reflects the two longstanding modes of acceptable USA political discourse.

The author of this article is quite pro-gun. Read his excellent article: http://archive.is/JM57Y

I don't know his position on privacy.

And, as others have said, there's no reason for anybody to constrain themselves to one political label. You can agree with libertarians on some things and authoritarians on others, without subscribing to the underlying philosophies of either one.

Drugs kill their users. Guns often kill others as well.

Alcohol often kills people other than the drinkers.

Guns kill more users than others.

Prohibition has caused more harm than good, lack of gun control has caused more harm than good, outlawing encryption would cause more harm than good. There is nothing logically inconsistent about holding these views.

I think the claim is that these views aren't held for utilitarian reasons, rather they are held for ideological reasons (ie freedom). In fact, if we want a pure utilitarian viewpoint we ma find the East Asian model where you get shot for selling drugs to yield the most quantifiable value.

... for narrow definitions of 'quantifiable value'.

Whilst I am very liberal (classical sense) on many issues, including guns, you can't compare drugs with guns.

Much more meaningful to compare hand guns with explosives and other weapons, and drugs with alcohol and generally self-harm.

There is essentially no difference between drugs and guns.

- Guns can be used for self-harm.

- Drugs can be used to harm others.

Why aren't people ready to accept that people will die?

Pencils can be used to harm others.

There's a big difference between "can be used to" and "is designed to".

Several "hard" drugs are designed to put users out of their right minds and into a state where they're more likely to hurt others. Same with alcohol, which despite its long cultural history, mainly serves as part of a socialization ritual and could be replaced with something else that's not as harmful. Perhaps we should try prohibition... again?

Cars with top speeds above 85mph are designed specifically to do something (in the USA at least) that society deems harmful. Number of cars ever driven at high speed on tracks or long private roads is minimal and not relevant.

Self defense and hunting are valid reasons to harm other[ creature]s. It does not follow that something should be banned just because it's designed to harm others.

In terms of what various things are designed to do, relative to what society considers acceptable, it makes more sense to keep guns legal than to keep fast speed-limit-exceeding cars legal, or to legalize hard drugs.

- Drugs: Not designed to be harmful. Can be dangerous.

- Guns: Designed to be harmful. Can be safe.

I'm not saying that you can't argue that drugs are so dangerous that they should be prohibited or that guns can be safely used and should be allowed. The topic is the same but the starting point is not.

Your examples are of things that are dangerous, not of things that are designed to be harmful.

What does their being designed by humans to be dangerous and hurtful have to do with anything? Is it not allowable to hurt others in self defense? Is it not allowable to hurt animals for food?

There are other things that are hurtful and dangerous, and whether something is designed that way by humans or not has no bearing on the utilitarian calculus. Particularly so when there's no categorical imperative against the thing they're designed to do (unless you're against all self defense and hunting).

> Is it not allowable to hurt others in self defense? Is it not allowable to hurt animals for food?

I fail to see how such general and silly questions foster a debate. No one said or implied those.

> has no bearing on the utilitarian calculus

That's why we need to (wait for it) debate!

> no categorical imperative against the thing

You know what's the problem of the categorical imperative? It's very subjective.

You know how we overcome such subjectivity? (wait for it) debate!


My point is simply that in one the harm is direct (designed to) and the other is indirect (can be used to). Due to that the debate between those should be different.

I made no "quantifiable" comparison pal.

Can't you use the same argument to equate drugs, guns, cars, sticks, water, and imperialistic wars? I mean, they all can be used to harm people.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact