The “War on Drugs” is Immoral

Chris Tomlinson, the Regressive business columnist for the Chronicle, writes that Texas is wasting money on its prison system. I agree with him on that point. But then we part ways. Tomlinson believes that much of the money spent on prisons could be better spent on such as job training, drug counseling, and mental health care.

Not surprisingly, Tomlinson’s argument is entirely pragmatic. Texas would save money on non-violent offenders by redirecting the money to rehabilitation. Not surprisingly, Tomlinson fails to mention the moral issues involved.

There are currently about 145,000 individuals in Texas prisons. More than 75,000 of those individuals are incarcerated for drug related offenses. More than half of the Texas prison population is there, not because they violated anyone’s rights, but because they possessed or delivered a substance that the government has declared illegal.

The proper purpose of government is the protection of individual rights. Rights protect our freedom to act according to our own judgment, so long as we respect the freedom of others to do the same. Only those actions that violate the rights of another—the initiation of force or fraud—should be a criminal offense. What an individual puts into his own body does not violate anyone’s rights. And this is true whether he is ingesting heroin or a Paleo diet.

It is immoral to make illegal actions that do not violate individual rights. Doing so is in itself a violation of individual rights, for it forces individuals to act contrary to their own judgment.

Texas is certainly wasting money on its prison systems. But the same can be said about law enforcement and the criminal justice system. Both the police and the courts are overburdened fighting the immoral “war on drugs.”

Rather than wasting taxpayer money trying to stop individuals from voluntarily ingesting certain substances, we should legalize all drugs. And then our police, courts, and prisons could focus on the really bad guys—those who violate the rights of others.

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