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Our Right To Drugs Essay

1239 words - 5 pages

Our Right to Drugs

You might be tempted to label Thomas Szasz, author of Our Right to Drugs, The Case for a Free Market, a counter-culture hippie. However, this analysis couldn’t be further from the truth. Szasz, a Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at the State University of New York Health Science Center in Syracuse, is a major supporter of civil liberties. He sees the so-called "War on Drugs" as one of the worst atrocities that the American Government has perpetrated on its people. Szasz contends that the prohibition of certain drugs, including common prescription drugs, is nothing more than the government telling the people that "father knows best". It is this paternalistic ...view middle of the document...

" (Szasz, page 2). In this system of laissez-faire, the government has a very small role. According to Szasz, the government should have a passive role in any market, including the market for drugs. Once the government gives up its active role, which is represented by the "war on drugs", a free market for drugs which Szasz proposes can be attained.
As we delve into Mr. Szasz’s first argument, we begin to see major problems with the government’s "War on Drugs". According to Szasz, the prohibition of drugs is a blatant violation of human rights guaranteed to American citizens by the Constitution. In order to prove his point, he equates drugs to personal property. According to the Constitution, every American citizen shall have "the inalienable right to life, liberty, and property, the first two elements resting squarely on the last." (Szasz, 1). Thus, Szasz contends that "because both our bodies and drugs are types of property—producing, trading in, and using drugs are property rights, and drug prohibitions constitute a deprivation of basic constitutional rights." (Szasz, 2). In other words, just like the prohibition of alcohol required a constitutional amendment, so does the prohibition of drugs. Without that amendment, the prohibition of drugs is in direct violation of the Constitution.
The second argument that Szasz makes is one, surprisingly enough, against the legalization of drugs. Even though Szasz argues for a free market for drugs, this is much different from the argument that self-proclaimed "drug legalizers" make. According to Szasz, most proponents of drug legalization argue for what he calls "Legalization as Taxation" (Szasz, page 106). Ethan Nadelmann, professor of politics and public affairs at Princeton University, claims the following,
Let’s say we decide, okay, we’re not going to legalize crack; what we will do is legalize 15-percent cocaine. . . . Yes, some people are still going to want to go to the black market. . . and buy crack. You won’t be able to prevent that. But let’s say 70 percent of the market will be using the legal, less potent substance. That’s good, because the government taxes it, regulates it. . . . The object is to undercut the criminal element" (Szasz, page 106).

From this, we can only conclude that proponents of so called "drug legalization" are only pushing the legalization in order to eliminate or significantly reduce the criminal element. However, Szasz continues to add that "Undercutting the criminal element is a far cry from seriously engaging the problem of drug controls," (Szasz, page...

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