Non-solutions to non-problems

I sat in my car outside work this morning listening, with increasing fury, to a discussion of the Obama Administration’s new drug policy. The phrase that really pissed me off was:

“Legalization is a non-solution.”

This is what we call a “bald assertion”. Wikipedia has a rather overlong list of logical fallacies, among which “bald assertion” is prominent. Back in my youth I sat the Australian Civil Service exam which requires you to identify which of several listed kinds of logical fallacies are being used in various written arguments.

A bald assertion really isn’t even a fallacy, it’s an unsupported statement.

Even a mail clerk in the Australian Civil Service is tested for their ability to identify such idiocy.

It’s obvious that some forms of legalization are not Good Ideas, but this is also manifestly true of some forms of criminalization. An honest policy discussion would consider what mix of options might be a Good Idea, and not rule out an option that manifestly works fairly well for plenty of things, like alcohol. Last I checked, no-one is involved in shooting wars with purveyors of moonshine or aspirin, even in Mexico. For that matter, pretty much all prescription pharmaceuticals are available over the counter in Mexico (and many other countries), and they aren’t shooting each other over those either. (Yes, some people will take drugs that are bad for them. I can legally buy a chainsaw and sever my own limbs with it, but this doesn’t seem to be a Big Problem.)

Which drugs should be illegal? Why? Seriously, someone at least pretend to answer the question.

In the same discussion, one of the speakers (perhaps the same one) used the word “poison” to refer to all illegal drugs. This is another classic fallacy (use of words which support one’s conclusion, in essence the same kind of trick as ad hominem attacks). To pick two obvious examples, heroin and marijuana are both far less harmful than their legal counterparts (insofar as the latter has any).

In the United States you can’t even buy decent over-the-counter pain killers. “Drug tourists” travel to Canada and Mexico to buy paracetamol with codeine. Apparently, you can get high off some of this stuff if you smoke it or cook it in a lab. Again, the same is true of various kinds of glue and solvent. Why not make them all illegal too?

When you do have a prescription for decent pain killers, not only are you treated with suspicion by the pharmacy (where your pills are counted half-a-dozen times to make sure you’re not getting 31 tablets instead of 30 by mistake — how much is this idiocy costing us?) but your insurance company gets a say in whether you really ought to be allowed to refill your (very inexpensive) prescription or not.

I speak as someone who never takes anything stronger than Advil Liquid Gels, but who has friends who suffer from chronic pain. Pain that, as far as we can tell, would be best and most easily managed by marijuana. In Australia (NSW or the ACT, at least) we could grow it for our own personal use, legally. Last I checked, Australian society hadn’t collapsed into anarchy.

It’s not like there’s anyone in the US I can vote for who might fix this, but it would be nice to have someone vaguely in touch with reality involved in a discussion on the Diane Rehm show.

  • Brett

    Are you sure that Australian society hasn’t collapsed into anarchy? Are you quite sure? When’s the last time you actually came here to check?

  • You’re right, it’s been a while. Do you have anything to report?

  • Brett

    Place is collapsing into…

    Well, it isn’t anarchy. In fact, there’s getting to be quite a lot of archy in it.

  • Tonio

    I hear than Kevin Rudd is a bit of a prize idiot, but is his election and/or personal stupidity attributable to marijuana decriminalization?

  • Sean Case

    I don’t know how else to explain Tony Abbott’s recent admission that he frequently just makes stuff up in interviews. I suppose it should be refreshingly honest, but it doesn’t really inspire confidence.

    http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2010/s2901996.htm