Mark Kleiman on Responsibility
By David Henderson
In the video on this page, economist Mark Kleiman, whose expertise is on the drug war, tells of an interesting approach taken by a Hawaiian judge to make people keep their promises not to use illegal drugs. If I were in this judge’s position, I might end up doing the same. But what I found interesting is Professor Kleiman’s idea of responsibility. At the 3:27 point, he says, “He [the judge] addressed them as adults and told them they had failed to take responsibility for their own lives.”
But the judge and possibly Mark Kleiman [because Kleiman doesn’t contradict the judge’s statement] miss the point. By stepping in and making these drugs illegal, the government has taken away responsibility from people. The judge uses the term “responsible,” and Kleiman seems to agree, to describe people who keep their promise, made under duress, not to use drugs. Those who don’t keep their promise, according to the judge, are not responsible. That’s a strange idea of responsibility. I could be completely responsible and take illegal drugs. But the judge’s view of responsibility precludes this.