The War on Drugs

While St. Augustine’s famous legal maxim ‘an unjust law is no law at all’ is one commonly cited among the scholars of jurisprudence, it seems our legislators didn’t get the memo. This maxim is an expression of natural law; it poses that authority is only legitimate when it is good or right. So, I ask you, dear reader: is it good or right that nearly £9Bn of taxpayer’s money is spent directly by the government, every year, to fund the colossal failure that is Britain’s War on Drugs?

Is it good or right that the government still maintains its feckless pursuit of a policy agenda that failed to prevent (and arguably contributed to) the loss of 4859 lives to drug poisoning just last year? Is it good or right that Britain has been experiencing an exponential growth in the number of drug related homicides over the recent years as a result of the market being driven underground?

Even if you aren’t a libertarian, surely you agree that none of this can be remotely regarded as good or right. The only logical inference, then, is that the government’s punitive drug policy is unjust, and deserves no credence or credit as law.

Of course, it is easy to point out just how colossal a failure the War on Drugs has been as a practical scheme, but what I find particularly sinister about the criminalisation of drug use is that it is ultimately an exercise in legislated moralism. In his famous essay ‘On Liberty’, John Stuart Mill devised the Harm Principle, holding that the actions of individuals should only be limited to prevent direct harm to other individuals.

The government simply has no right to legislate against personal vice. And if indeed the government does decide it can outlaw drug use, then it has dispensed with all respect for The Individual’s capacity to make his own decisions; it is the ultimate act of condescension and patronisation. And it establishes a worrying precedent: one that says there is no statute of limitation as to just how far the State is willing to expand its power in the name of morality.

“A society that does not recognise that each individual has values of his own which he is entitled to follow can have no respect for the dignity of the individual and cannot really know freedom.”

- Friedrich Hayek

Oliver Barrett-Adams


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