- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 12, 2007

Paul Kengor’s “A conservative take on drugs,” (Forum, Aug. 5) proffers the startling argument that since most libertarians haven’t personally compared heroin to Merlot, their views on the topic of drug prohibition should be ignored. Are we to then assume Mr. Kengor views himself as qualified to opine by dint of long experience in consuming and comparing the effects of both substances?

Having undercut his own credibility, Mr. Kengor next concocts a description of the libertarian position that bears no resemblance to the actual view of any libertarian. Libertarians have no problem distinguishing “between freedom and vice” (favoring the first and opposing the latter), and have never claimed a “right to engage in anything, no matter how destructive to the individual or larger society.” Exactly to the contrary, libertarians propose a society of liberty under law, in which individuals are free to pursue their own lives so long as they respect the equal rights of others. One wonders which part of this equation Mr. Kengor opposes: individuals being free to pursue their own lives, or respecting the equal rights of others? Sadly for a supposed conservative, the answer appears to be both.

Amusingly, George Washington’s wisdom is completely misunderstood by Mr. Kengor. Washington called for “self-governance by the individual,” not coercion by the government to enforce the dubious political views of a self-anointed religious clique. Washington’s view aligns precisely with the libertarian position, and against Mr. Kengor, who would immorally unleash state coercion against peaceful individuals. Like Washington, libertarians believe people should be punished by their personal vices, not for them.

Conservative icon Milton Friedman famously opposed drug prohibition because of the unintended consequences of those laws, such as innocent crime victims preyed upon by addicts to support artificially expensive drug habits, and the enormously wasteful diversion of limited law enforcement, judicial and prison resources. The identical phenomenon led to the repeal of Prohibition, which caused the rise of powerful criminal organizations and widespread corruption of law enforcement. Sound familiar?

Finally, addressing his quasi-religious sophistry, it has long been observed that one can “prove” almost any proposition by selectively quoting biblical text. If Mr. Kengor truly believes he has been anointed with special knowledge of God’s precise views on current political and societal issues, one would assume he would be eager to present evidence of this special commission. By presuming to speak for God rather than supporting his views through evidence or logic, one must assume the evidence doesn’t support Mr. Kengor’s position.

It is indisputable that by any measure, the societal costs of drug abuse are far greater now than when the “War on Drugs” began.

MICHAEL CRAWFORD

Great Falls, Va.