Simon Heffer On Drugs

I do wonder what he\’s been taking.

I make no apology either for being so uncharitable towards the drugs culture, or for hectoring a government that refuses to deal seriously with it. It causes, on a conservative estimate, 70 per cent of the crime in our country. Mugging, burglary, prostitution and most other forms of vice are linked to it. It provokes violence and murder. Poverty, misery and broken families are its result. So, too, as this report shows, are numerous health problems, notably mental illness. The drain this puts on our public resources, whether in the NHS or the social security bill, runs into billions of pounds that could be spent on useful causes – education, care of the elderly, or more police and better hospitals. That toll of money and human misery is what our rulers choose to pay for the drugs menace in this country: or, rather, they choose to have us pay it.

The evil that drug dealers do cannot be adequately punished under our present law; I would take a leaf out of China\’s book, and have them taken out and shot in the back of the head. That isn\’t going to happen. But using the laws we do have more effectively, applying them with zero tolerance, and making junkies pay – literally – for the damage they do to society would be a start. I fear, though, that it is already too late.

Everything he\’s desscribing there is a result of the illegality of drugs, not the existence of drugs themselves. And yet he insists that drugs should not be legalised (or decriminalised) and that we should have a zero tolerance approach: that is, make the problems of illegality worse. As the late great Uncle Milton said:

You are not mistaken in believing that drugs are a scourge that is devastating our society. You are not mistaken in believing that drugs are tearing asunder our social fabric, ruining the lives of many young people, and imposing heavy costs on some of the most disadvantaged among us. You are not mistaken in believing that the majority of the public share your concerns. In short, you are not mistaken in the end you seek to achieve.

Your mistake is failing to recognize that the very measures you favor are a major source of the evils you deplore. Of course the problem is demand, but it is not only demand, it is demand that must operate through repressed and illegal channels. Illegality creates obscene profits that finance the murderous tactics of the drug lords; illegality leads to the corruption of law enforcement officials; illegality monopolizes the efforts of honest law forces so that they are starved for resources to fight the simpler crimes of robbery, theft and assault.

Drugs are a tragedy for addicts. But criminalizing their use converts that tragedy into a disaster for society, for users and non-users alike. Our experience with the prohibition of drugs is a replay of our experience with the prohibition of alcoholic beverages.

13 thoughts on “Simon Heffer On Drugs”

  1. That may be fine and dandy for Uncle Milton, but he also was speaking about a society which does not give preferential treatment to drug addicts and alcoholics in both the criminal justice system and the welfare state.

    In the UK, being under the influence of a drug in the commission of a crime is a mitigating factor rather than an aggravating factor as it is in the US. Also, drug addicts do get extra points when it comes to housing lists and the like. In America, they are mostly allowed to die off if they don’t straighten themselves out; that’s why you tend not to see multi-generational drug epidemics in urban America like you do in our finer housing estates here in the UK.

    Unless there is an overhaul of the attitudes of the British criminal justice system and the welfare state, then, to me, any arguments favouring legalisation sound like children being resentful of not being able to do what they like when they like. Until everyone is willing to live or die with the consequences of their behaviour, rather than be dependent on the safety net of a welfare state (including the NHS) to break the fall, I don’t know what legalisation of drugs will do other than to make them cheaper.

  2. So Much For Subtlety

    I am unconvinced that all those things are the result of drugs being illegal. I expect that drugs do not make people amoral scum bags but rather amoral scum bags take drugs.

    I note that countries that are tough on amoral scum bags have low drug figures. Causation is, obviously, hard either way.

    But if so, legalisation wouldn’t change very much would it?

  3. So Much For Subtlety,
    You realize that you are talking about half the current Cabinet and the leader of the Opposition;)

  4. I have some mildly libertarian views on drugs. Are there any countries that are successful examples of the legalization of hard drugs?

    Tim adds: Legalisation? England in the 19th century. Modern? Portugal decriminalised them (not quite the same thing) a couple of years back.

  5. “Illegality creates obscene profits..”
    At what percentage do profits become obscene??

    Isn’t the illegal drugs trade unfettered capitalism??

  6. Actually, there are two viable approaches to drugs, one of which is zero tolerance. And by that, I mean zero tolerance: execute anyone in possession.

    The other alternative is to legalise the whole lot. Anything else is just fannying about in the middle.

  7. “I expect that drugs do not make people amoral scum bags but rather amoral scum bags take drugs.”

    Calm down and pour yourself a scotch.

  8. “I note that countries that are tough on amoral scum bags have low drug figures. Causation is, obviously, hard either way.”

    I think you simply believe the propaganda produced by authoritarian regimes.

    You can, if you like, take the Chinese route of “zero tolerance”, but it’s clearly not going to work here, since it doesn’t work in China.

    There’s a phrase we don’t hear much these days. It think it would be usefully applied to those who think they have the right to tell people what they can and cannot put inside their bodies. It’s a lovely phrase that beautifully captures the essence of the argument, and one which Jesus Christ called upon to deal with authoritarian types who would inflict their Puritanism on others. “MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS.”

  9. Tim,
    With all due respect to harkening back to 19th Century England…

    Among the working and middle classes there was social sanction against those who could not meet their responsibilities due to being stoned. If someone went overboard, that was it, instant pariah. Now that anything goes, there is no sanction, and drug addicts are victims rather than moral agents.

    (On a related note, but off-topic, with regard to harkening back to 19th Century Great Britain: the free market in the British Empire was not possible without a heavy investment – compared to contemporaries – in Naval and Military power and the wherewithal to actually use it when anyone interfered with British interests. As for domestic policy, there was a shared Judeo-Christian morality throughout society that provided a basis for greater social stability in the face of wrenching changes. Both of these factors – military investment and shared ethics – are sadly lacking in modern Britain, and would have to be somewhat of a pre-condition for the implementation of free-market reforms both domestically and abroad.)

  10. Actually, there are two viable approaches to drugs, one of which is zero tolerance. And by that, I mean zero tolerance: execute anyone in possession.

    Well not really, as you need to define what are drugs and what aren’t. And true zero tolerance would include everything.

  11. The Chinese do execute for opium, but cannabis does not seem to bother them. I bought some in the marketplace in Dali, and very good it was.
    Personally I think Heffer’s homicidal attitude towards drug dealers is as bad as racism and should not be given space in a respectable newspaper.

  12. So Much For Subtlety

    Kay Tie, if history has proved anything it is that China’s zero tolerance approach to drugs works. It may not be 100 percent effective these days, but China went from, perhaps, 1 in 20 (1 in 10 at the peak) of its population using drugs to more or less zero. It is not zero now but it is low.

    However my point remains – Tim can hope that drugs make scumbags break the law and commit crimes, because harm minimisation depends on that assumption. But if scumbags are just habitual law breakers who also break drug laws, then it is not going to do much is it? Treatment, even giving addicts drugs, does not, I note, stop them committing crimes. At best they report less crime but maybe those less likely to be high offenders are more likely to seek and stick to treatment.

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