Our guardians in the District of Columbia criminalize the consumption of particular substances. Endorsement of this policy is commonplace among Democrats and Republicans alike.
Why is this so? I'm convinced the sine qua non of supporting the War on Drugs is amnesia.
To support the War on Drugs, a congressman has to forget Reverend Elisha Williams in 1744: u201CAs reason tells us, all are born thus naturally equal, i.e., with an equal right to their persons, so also with an equal right to their preservation…and every man having a property in his own person, the labour of his body and the work of his hands are properly his own, to which no one has right but himself…u201D
To support the War on Drugs, a congressman has to forget the Declaration of Independence: u201CWe hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.u201D
To support the War on Drugs, a congressman has to forget James Madison in Federalist No. 45:
The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the Federal Government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State Governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negociation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will for the most part be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects, which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people; and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.
To support the War on Drugs, a congressman has to forget the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution: u201CThe powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.u201D
To support the War on Drugs, a congressman has to forget Thomas Jefferson in the Kentucky Resolution:
…if those who administer the general government be permitted to transgress the limits fixed by that compact, by a total disregard to the special delegations of power therein contained, annihilation of the state governments, and the erection upon their ruins, of a general consolidated government, will be the inevitable consequence…
To support the War on Drugs, a congressman has to forget Jefferson in Notes on the State of Virginia: u201CThe legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others.u201D
To support the War on Drugs, a congressman has to forget Frederick Douglass in 1852: u201CIt is a fundamental truth that every man is the rightful owner of his own body.u201D
To support the War on Drugs, a congressman has to forget Lysander Spooner in 1875: u201CVices Are Not Crimes.u201D
To support the War on Drugs, in other words, a congressman has to forget America.
Drug war advocates can claim to support individual liberty and states' rights, just as one can claim that idolatry and murder are compatible with the Decalogue. Logic compels critical assessments of these claims.
Hopefully America will be remembered again.
April 25, 2002