YouTube has video of Ron Paul as a libertarian candidate in 1988 in various shouting matches on the Morton Downey Jr. Show. Here are the three parts: 1,2,3. I have admiration for someone that goes into such a hostile environment like that and puts his ideas on the table, although I doubt the technique’s effectiveness. There seems to have a video edit for part one calling Morton Downey Jr. a dumbass, which is a tad unfortunately, since I would rather that the source material would just stand by itself.
As for the actual content, behind the shouting and noise, is a fundamental choice. Would we rather have a society where people have more freedom, but we place a greater onus on them making “good” decisions? Or would we rather use the government’s monopoly on violence to take away some freedoms to ensure a greater security to the society as a whole?
In the libertarian view, we have greater freedom. Recreational drug use becomes legal however, there will be an increase in societal ills, such as drug addiction and driving under the influence. However, other expenses go away such as incarceration for non-violent drug offenders, some military operations in foreign countries, and the inherent problems anytime there are laws over what people are essentially doing to their own bodies.
To gain perspective on the current state of the drug war, we can look at one of Morton Downey Jr. rhetorical statements where he tries to put the visceral image of a president doing cocaine in the White House. Although, it should be noted that our current president George W. Bush has, conspicuously, never denied using cocaine or marijuana during his youth. This is short of Downey’s dis-utopia, but I’m not sure that Ron Paul has ever done cocaine. But, in the current state of the world, we have a President who, very likely, has.
One concern is that once drugs become legal, there will be massive marketing pushes to addict people (just like cigarettes). Basically, to convince people to go against rational self-interest, and become a serf to a drug company. Invariably, these techniques will be effective, since marketing is famous for its ability to get people to go against rational self-interest, although it sometimes flatly means lying, or at the very least misleading. However, as a matter of public policy we should understand that one of the consequences would be building machines to perpetuate and increase societal ills.
However, this could be combated through regulation. A system could be put in place where you would need a recreational drug use license, which could be revoked on evidence of abuse or misconduct. In fact, a recreational drug use license would allow the society to leverage proceeds from more legitimate forms of the drug trade towards fighting the social ills, rather than trying to tyrannically impose a ban on all use.
On a separate issue, I find it fascinating that the word surrender was used in the context to the War on Drugs. I wonder if part of the political appeal of declaring War on “something” (poverty, drugs, terrorism, etc.), is that any discourse which advocates a change in public policy can instantly be labeled as defeatist or a surrender. I find it odd that the woman in the beret seemed to be for escalation, as if we had not even begun to fight the war on drugs. I can’t imagine the state of her understanding of economics. Nor, did I like the focus on military policy to change the economics of supply without more effort to curb demand in the States.
Ultimately, I find advocation of aggressive drug policies abroad a simple excuse for an aggressive foreign policy, and I find the conventional wisdom of increasing penalties for drug related crimes ultimately unjust and costly. I’m not saying that the libertarian view is necessarily the correct one, but Ron Paul certainly had a better understanding of where the larger problems were.