Well Maybe Not Anything That's Peaceful
By David Henderson
Leonard Read, the founder of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), had a succinct way of stating the philosophy of freedom and individual rights: Anything that’s peaceful. (His book by that title is here. I give a short appreciation of Leonard Read here.)
So I was disappointed, to put it mildly, to see on FEE’s website an article by Trace Mitchell titled “Drug Courts, Not More Jail Time, Can Help Reduce Criminal Recidivism.” (March 12, 2019.) I hasten to add that my problem is not with the title or with Mitchell’s claim that the title accurately summarizes. Mr. Mitchell may well be right, and probably is right, that drug courts are better than jails to deal with “nonviolent, drug-related offenses.” It may well be a step in the right direction.
But there’s an even bigger step that should at least be mentioned: not criminalizing the peaceful activity of producing, distributing, or consuming drugs.
But Trace Mitchell doesn’t even mention it. Indeed, he writes:
If the goal of criminal justice reform is to effectively reduce criminal activity while protecting the rights of the individual, drug courts are an efficient and cost-effective way of achieving that.
But drug courts by definition don’t protect the rights of the individual. Instead, they violate the individual’s right to produce, distribute, or consume drugs.
Later in the piece, Mitchell writes that drug courts are “a cost-effective way of combating drug abuse.” What does he mean by drug abuse? I think he means drug use. Ask yourself this. Let’s say that cops bust someone for using marijuana, heroin, or cocaine. Do they try to figure out whether the person is abusing those drugs? How would they know? What if the person is using those drugs responsibly? The person still gets busted. Moreover, what if the person were abusing one or all of those drugs? How would that justify sending them to a drug court? People abuse all kinds of things: alcohol, ice cream, golf, and coffee, to name four, two of which are, or contain drugs. Should the government bust them?
Literature from FEE, written by Ben Rogge and others, was very important in my intellectual development when I was 18. I hope FEE returns to Leonard Read’s “Anything that’s peaceful” philosophy so that other young people can be inspired by the idea of a peaceful society.