REPLY #7a TO|
Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.
Italicized/emphasized comments prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.
My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).
This is the first of a two-part reply. Select the "Go to next reply" link at the end of each part to read the next part of the reply.
(R) First of all, I'd like to commend your efforts to create a site where people
can engage in (ideally) reasoned discourse about societal issues. I just
stumbled onto it today (via the "DH" argument; I agree with you there, I like
the DH, but that's another debate).
(MB) Thanks for the "thumbs up"! If you have anything you'd like to contribute
about the DH, please feel free to send it to me.
(R) I admit I haven't read all the responses/defenses on "drugs" yet but I'd
like to add the discussion if I may.
(MB) Sure! All opinions are fair game here. Let's see what you have to say...
(R) About the debate over the victimlessness or non-victimlessness of drug use,
I would approach this from another angle. Do we agree that an adult in our
society, whether drunk or high or sober, bears 100% of the responsibility for
his own actions?
(MB) Absolutely. Some might say that a person shouldn't be responsible for
things done as a result of something forced upon him by others and I would agree
with that. After all, such things would result from the actions of others and
not primarily from the individual himself. It should be noted that trying to
shift blame to others through simple rationalization is not the same thing.
(R) If I drink to excess, say, and subsequently drive my car around and cause an
accident, is alcohol to blame here? I would say not; I am to blame for my poor
judgment. Whether I was drunk or not does not excuse that one bit; I made the
decision to drink knowing full well what it might do to my faculties.
(MB) You are correct. Many try to shift the blame to alcohol, to the bartender
who served the drink(s), or to some imagined "disease", but the root cause must
still be the conscious decision of the individual.
(R) This is to say, if I had made the correct decision here (and I do, as a
factual matter - I don't drive drunk), my drinking is victimless, at least as
far as the driving issue is concerned.
(MB) Here, we must be careful not to merge two separate decisions -- the
decision to drink and the later decision to drive. The decision to drink should
be one resulting from clear-headed thinking, but the decision to drive
afterwards cannot be said to be the same since it results from the impaired
thought processes produced by too much drinking. One should surrender his keys
or make other transportation arrangements prior to beginning his drinking.
(R) The same goes for drug use - if I smoke a copious quantity of weed and sit
around my house eating Cheetos until I pass out, I haven't hurt anyone.
(MB) If that's all that happens, I'd agree with you. But, who's to say that the
impaired state of mind produced by smoking that amount of weed won't result in a
decision to do something other than eating Cheetos? Here you'd have a situation
similar to that of the actions taken by somebody whose drinking has produced an
extreme state of intoxication. His getting drunk didn't hurt anyone, but what
happens afterwards while his mental processes are seriously impaired might well
(R) (We can debate the deleterious nutritional effect of eating Cheetos another
(MB) One eats Cheetos for their enlightenment value, not for their
nutritional value. All computer geeks (myself included) know this...*grin*
(R) If I get hopped up on PCP and beat four people up, then I have definitely
hurt those folks.
(MB) Then again, one's use of PCP might well cause him to join the Cheetos
brigade. No two people react in the same way. Your point, however, is
(R) So if we are to evaluate these practices for individuals, clearly the
designation of a practice as "victimless" or not can only be accomplished by
examining the results. If we agree that "victimless" practices are okay, then,
in the "sit around and eat Cheetos" scenario, my drug use (not knowing any other
consequences of it) is quite moral and acceptable.
(MB) That is correct -- but only for that one example. This can't be
extrapolated into a general statement that marijuana (or other drug) use can be
portrayed as "victimless".
(R) If you want to characterize a practice as non-victimless based not on the
individual case, but on the general effects its proliferation has on society, we
run into some other problems. Are you willing to say that any practice that can
be shown to have some negative effect on society (increased crime, decreased
productivity...whatever the effect) should be banned? Sounds easy to say, but
if you buy that line of reasoning you would be forced to ban all sorts of things
that give certain people joy.
(MB) That's correct. Accordingly, I wouldn't support such a ban based solely on
a focus upon the negative impacts of a given behavior. One must examine the
entire spectrum of effects for the behavior in question and weigh the positive,
neutral, and negative effects against each other. This methodology applies
equally well to evaluation of all behaviors.
(R) Alcohol is a perfect example; while, as you say, a great many people enjoy a
good wine with dinner and take it no further, that is certainly not the case
with the millions of alcoholics we have in this country.
(MB) I don't drink and I won't attempt to defend the overuse or misuse of
alcohol. That being said, there is clear evidence that alcohol can be used
safely in small to moderate amounts (what is often euphemistically called
(R) Think about all the wife-beating, child abuse, lost jobs, failed marriages,
fatal car accidents...all perpetrated by alcoholics.
(MB) Not a pretty picture. However, it is also true that none of these things
require that the perpetrator be an alcoholic. Alcohol may increase the
instances of such things, but there are some people who drink themselves silly
in order to avoid taking out their problems on the wife and kids. Again, I'm
not attempting to defend alcoholism in any way. I just want to ensure that all
considerations pertinent to the argument are presented.
(R) It's true that if alcohol were illegal, many (most?) of these incidents
could be avoided, right?
(MB) Possibly, but we also need to consider the other reasons why somebody might
perpetrate some of those acts. It's doubtful, for example, that alcoholism
alone would turn an otherwise peaceful person into a wife-beater or a child
abuser. It might make such an incident more likely since intoxication tends to
lower inhibitions and cloud judgments, but the conditions which might drive the
perpetrator towards his acts or towards alcoholism in the first place would
already exist independently of his drinking. In that case, removing the alcohol
from the scenario would be akin to placing a simple bandage on a serious wound.
(R) So, as a society we should then ban alcohol...you've no doubt heard that
(MB) Indeed, I have. That's why we need to consider the reasons why such a ban
would be imposed and whether or not such a ban would solve those problems.
(R) But if you insist that we should ban anything that increases crime,
decreases productivity, and smells bad...red meat, candy, video games, TV cop
shows, mindless comic books, premarital sex, football pools, dirty joke
books...where do we stop before we have violated our constitutionally guaranteed
liberties? Where do we draw that line, that wouldn't be totally arbitrary and
(MB) We have to judge each case individually on its own merits (or lack of). It
is a fallacy to claim that one thing should be banned (or legalized) simply
because something else is treated differently by the law. For example, a common
argument attempts to claim that marijuana should be legal because alcohol is
legal. This is illogical on at least two major points. First, perhaps *both*
should be illegal. Second, marijuana and alcohol are not the same substance and
do not share an equal set of positive, neutral, and negative effects so they
should not be lumped together as equals.
(R) I don't trust our government to exercise better judgment than I do about
what practices I can enjoy responsibly and what practices I can't.
(MB) Neither do I. That's why government is best served to get the best
research and evidence available from all sides prior to enacting any
legislation. When legislation is enacted primarily in response to pressure from
lobbyists and special-interest groups, we rarely ever end up better off.
(R) So, to recap, we've established two things here:
1) If the notion of "victimlessness" applies to individual acts, we can
only judge the consequences of each individual's acts, case by case. If
the action does not hurt anyone else, it's victimless. If it does, it
isn't. That means that marijuana use, in and of itself, does not
constitute a non-victimless action as you say, unless it can be shown that
there are (external) victims in every occurrence of marijuana use.
(MB) That's not quite right for the same reason that it would not be correct to
label alcoholism as acceptable because it doesn't *always* result in harm to
others in every occurrence. One must weigh all positive, neutral, and negative
effects before passing such a judgment.
(R) 2) If the notion of "victimlessness" is applied to our society as a whole,
we must be willing to either ban ALL activities which could possibly create
victims (nearly everything we can take joy in) or settle for a series of
admittedly hollow and illogical decisions about what is and is not okay.
(MB) Again, that's not quite correct for the same reason that judgments can only
properly be rendered when all effects of a given activity are considered and
(R) I submit that the entire "victimless/non-victimless" argument is not able to
tell us whether we should legalize drugs or not, for the reasons listed above.
(MB) I agree with this up until the point where proper definitions of those
terms can be applied.
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