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On Marijuana, Social Conservatives Trend Statist

Posted on June 23 2010 5:00 pm
Walter Hudson is a political commentator and co-founder of Minnesota's North Star Tea Party Patriots, a statewide educational organization. He runs a blog entitled Fightin Words. He also contributes to True North, a hub of Minnesotan conservative commentary. Follow his work via Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

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The central conceit of the Left is their regard for outcome above principle, results above rights. “Progressivism” repackages the age-old idea that society has a collective right superior to the individual’s. We saw this in the argument for universal health care, where the Left regarded the outcome of “universal coverage” above the principle of personal liberty.

Unfortunately, this conceit is not limited to the Left. Social conservatives are willing to borrow à la carte from statist arguments when the results suit their taste. No issue evokes this phenomenon more than drug control policy.

NewsRealBlog hosted much debate on the legalization of marijuana over the weekend. The discussion was prompted by Sarah Palin’s recent statement that private in-home consumption is a negligible concern. Calvin Freiburger objected to the characterization of prohibition as a liberty issue, citing among his supporters Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, and John Locke. Though Calvin is clearly not a statist, his argument depends upon a fundamentally statist belief.

Hannity’s main point comes through loud and clear: prohibiting drugs is legitimate because of the harm drugs can make users do to others.

This is news. Drugs can be held responsible for the actions of individuals.

As a strong Second Amendment advocate, Hannity rejects a similar argument for gun control. While the Left claims guns kill people, Hannity correctly recognizes criminals as the true culprits.

There is nothing inherent to gun-ownership which causes a person to harm another. Likewise, there is nothing inherent to marijuana consumption which causes a person to inflict harm. Regardless of circumstance, harm requires a conscious or negligent choice by an independent actor.

Media Matters went after Hannity in 2005 when he claimed a gun was “only dangerous in the hands of a criminal.” Their argument was not unlike one against marijuana.

In fact, there are approximately 800 accidental firearm-related deaths and 15,000 unintentional gun-related injuries in the United States each year.

All hail the nasty statistic.

Accidents happen. Where negligence is a factor, it becomes a crime or a tort. In such cases, a person is named as defendant, not their weapon. Yet, the Left argues such accidents could not occur if guns were prohibited. To the Left, that outcome justifies encroachment upon individual liberty.

As conservatives, we reject this argument. We do so because a positive hypothetical outcome, no matter how probable, does not justify encroachment upon individual rights. Conservatives reject social engineering.

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