Conservatives Just Don’t Get It on the Drug War

There are many differences between conservatives and libertarians. And a great many more if one looks at the actions of conservatives and ignores the libertarian-sounding rhetoric they spout when they are attacking liberals, appealing to members of their libertarian-leaning base, or suckering libertarians into voting Republican.

One of the main things that conservatives just don’t get is the war on drugs. There are some exceptions, of course, but mainly just regarding marijuana. Few conservatives are willing to go on record as opposing lock, stock, and barrel the government’s war on drugs of every kind.

The latest conservative who just doesn’t get it is Phil Valentine, author of the recently published second edition of The Conservative’s Handbook (Cumberland House, 2016). Valentine is a nationally syndicated conservative radio talk show host. Writing in the book’s The Conservativeu2019s... Phil Valentine Best Price: $8.82 Buy New $34.99 (as of 01:50 EST - Details) foreword, conservative icon Sean Hannity tells us that the book “is so insightful and so well researched that’s its impossible to read it and not gain a thorough understanding of conservatism.” Writing in the book’s introduction, the author states his work is “a conservative philosophy book” that “reconfirms conservatism.”

I think it’s fair to say that chapter four in The Conservative’s Handbook, titled “Drug Legalization Will Cripple America,” represents the typical conservative viewpoint on the issue of drug freedom. I also think it’s fair to say that “legalization will cripple America” is basically the same thing that was said in the 1920s and 1930s by proponents of Prohibition.

Valentine begins by saying that although “a number of conservatives have advocated legalizing drugs as a means of reducing the crime associated with them,” he disagrees. He not only doesn’t believe that “our war on drugs has been a dismal failure,” he maintains that we’re actually “winning the war on drugs.” Why? Because government surveys have shown a drop in reported drug use from 1979 to 2012. That’s his proof. But later in the chapter, Valentine informs us that “pot use is on the rise in the United States.” And the current epidemic of heroin overdoses in this country certainly began before The Conservative’s Handbook went to press.

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Valentine then addresses what he calls the “fallback line of many in the pro-legalization camp”; that “alcohol does far more damage than illegal drugs.” Well, as a matter of fact, it does. And so does tobacco, but Valentine doesn’t want the government to ban either substance. Tobacco use not only costs the U.S. economy billions of dollars every year in medical costs and lost productivity, but is the cause of hundreds of thousands of premature deaths every year from heart disease, stroke, cancer, and smoking-related diseases. Alcohol is a regular factor in drownings, suicides, fires, violent crimes, divorces, child abuse cases, sex crimes, and accidents of all types. It too costs the U.S. economy billions of dollars in medical costs and lost productivity and is the cause of hundreds of thousands of premature deaths. Valentine acknowledges that alcohol can be destructive, but says that we tried Prohibition and it failed so the alcohol toothpaste “is already out of the tube, and there’s no putting it back in.” He insults millions of American when he says that “if we legalize drugs, we will expose them to King James, His Bible,... Laurence M. Vance Best Price: null Buy New $19.95 (as of 11:36 EST - Details) millions of people who, otherwise, would never have touched them.” He claims that the “reason why drugs like cocaine, heroin, and meth should not be legalized is that they’re much more addictive than alcohol.” (He acknowledges that pot is the exception, but still wants a government war on pot.) Valentine must have missed the study by the prestigious British peer-reviewed journal the Lancet that found that alcohol was the most harmful drug overall, beating out heroin and crack cocaine.

Valentine insists that drug use “will only get worse with drug legalization.” But instead of telling us why, he launches into a discussion about illicit drug users being more likely than non-drug users to be arrested for larceny or theft. He also gives us statistics concerning the percentage of prison inmates who committed robbery or burglary to buy drugs. But aren’t these things proof that drug legalization will result in less crime—and not just because there would be no more arrests for drug crimes?

Valentine maintains that it is “probably not true” that “the price of illegal drugs would come down considerably if they were legalized.” He argues that the “illegal equivalent of anything is going to be cheaper” and uses as an example the fact that “cigarettes are cheaper on the black market than at the corner convenience store.” But then he acknowledges that this is due in part to high cigarette taxes.

Valentine’s solution to the drug problem in the United States is to “stiffen” penalties on both the supply and demand side. “Drug peddlers” need to be put away—for life. He wants a mandatory sentence of six months at hard labor “from sunrise to sundown” for the first offense of felony drug trafficking. A second offense would mean a mandatory life sentence even though armed robbery, rape, and manslaughter don’t even carry life sentences.

Valentine defense of the drug war is not only lame, it is deceitful. At the end of his chapter on how drug legalization will cripple America, he begins by pointing out what the federal government spends to fight the drug war every year (using figures from 2009 and not mentioning what the states spend), but then includes the societal cost of alcohol abuse in coming up with the cost of the damage caused by drugs. War, Christianity, and... Laurence M. Vance Best Price: $8.95 Buy New $9.95 (as of 09:10 EST - Details)

Valentine just doesn’t get it on the drug war. And conservatives just don’t get it on the drug war either.

Conservatives just don’t get that the war on drugs is a complete and total failure.

Conservatives just don’t get that people should be free to live their lives in any manner they chooses as long as their activities are peaceful and they don’t violate the personal or property rights of anyone else.

Conservatives just don’t get that everything bad that could be said regarding drug use could equally be said of tobacco and alcohol use.

Conservatives just don’t get that the financial and human costs of the war on drugs greatly exceed its supposed benefits.

Conservatives just don’t get that the Constitution nowhere gives the federal government the authority to have a DEA, classify drugs on a schedule, and fight a war on drugs.

Conservatives just don’t get that it is an illegitimate purpose of government to regulate, monitor, or restrict the consumption, therapeutic, medical, or recreational habits of Americans.

Conservatives just don’t get that private organizations and individuals, not government programs and bureaucrats, are the solution to any problems resulting from drug abuse.

Conservatives just don’t get that every crime needs a tangible victim with measurable damages.

Conservatives just don’t get that government attempts to protect people from bad habits, harmful substances, or vice lead to greater evils.

Conservatives just don’t get that a free society has to include the right of people to take risks, practice bad habits, partake of addictive conduct, engage in self-destructive behavior, exercise poor judgment, live an unhealthy lifestyle, participate in immoral activities, commit vice, and undertake dangerous actions.

In his introduction to The Conservative’s Handbook, Valentine concludes: “Conservatism demands thought. It insists on logic and reason in everything we think.” Too bad conservatives don’t think and insist on logic and reason when it comes to the drug war.