Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Two More Examples of Knee-Jerk Oppositionalism

I describe the phenomenon of what I call knee-jerk oppositionalism elsewhere. Herewith, two more examples.

1. The Islamic world calls us decadent. Many of us simply deny the charge. Better would be to admit it within the limits of its truth and then point out that our decadence is no justification for the wanton murder of 3,000 of our citizens. We should learn from, rather than merely dismiss, our enemies. They can be counted on to target us where we are weakest, and I don’t mean ‘target’ in a merely physical sense.

2. Libertarians typically argue for the legalization of drugs. The case the best of them make is worthy of respect. But when a conservative points out that drug legalization will lead to increased drug use, libertarians often go into knee-jerk oppositional mode: they deny the obvious point. They would be better advised to graciously admit the conservative point, and then argue that the price paid (increased drug use) is offset by the advantages gained (less drug-related crime, etc.) That would move the argument ot a higher, and of course more difficult, level.

To appreciate why drug legalization would lead to increased drug use, consider the following classes of people. (A) There are people who respect the law, and will abide by it because it is the law. Thus the illegality of drug use is sufficient to deter them from experimentation, and consequent addiction for some of them. Remove the illegality, and some of these people will give drugs a try. (B) There are people with no particular respect for the law as such, but fear the consequences of lawbreaking such as fines and imprisonment if they are caught. Remove the illegality, and with it the consequences, and some of these people will experiment. (C) There are people who are not deterred by respect for law or by fear of the consequences of breaking it, but by a healthy fear of the sorts of unreliable and dangerous people one must deal with in order to purchase drugs. They fear being ripped off or worse, or else they fear the social consequences of being seen associating with a certain class of people. (D) There are people for whom the main concern is their health. They worry about the quality and strength of illegal drugs, the dangers of overdosing, etc. Make drugs safe and legal, and these people will be tempted to try them.

Is it not clear that drug legalization would lead to increased usage, to more addiction, to more driving under the influence? To deny this is to be a knee-jerk oppositionalist. A libertarian who adopts this oppositionalist stance undercuts his own credibility.