Friday, 20 August 2010

There Are Crocodiles

The coalition is considering plans to withdraw benefits to those that refuse treatment for their addictions:
People dependent on drugs and alcohol who refuse treatment could have their welfare benefits withdrawn under plans being considered by the Home Office.

The idea is in a consultation paper on the government's drug strategy for England, Wales and Scotland.

The proposals also suggest that addicts on benefits should not be required to seek work while receiving treatment.
And why not? Why should an illegal activity (at the moment) be propped up with taxpayer's money? It's not free money? Like smoking, my view is, if you want to take copious amounts of drugs, carry on, and like everything else in life accept the possible consequences of making a choice.

Personally I largely err on the liberalisation of drugs side of the fence; what people do to their own bodies is up to them. And the experience of Portugal seems to suggest that decriminalistion has led to positive results from a social point of view:
In the face of a growing number of deaths and cases of HIV linked to drug abuse, the Portuguese government in 2001 tried a new tack to get a handle on the problem—it decriminalized the use and possession of heroin, cocaine, marijuana, LSD and other illicit street drugs.

The theory: focusing on treatment and prevention instead of jailing users would decrease the number of deaths and infections.Five years later, the number of deaths from street drug overdoses dropped from around 400 to 290 annually, and the number of new HIV cases caused by using dirty needles to inject heroin, cocaine and other illegal substances plummeted from nearly 1,400 in 2000 to about 400 in 2006, according to a report released recently by the Cato Institute, a Washington, D.C, libertarian think tank.
This announcement has led to quite a heated debate on BBC's; 'have your say'. The majority of the comments appear to be in favour of some kind of liberalisation of the laws as well. This is not acceptable to some experts though:
Some experts have suggested that withdrawing benefits could lead addicts into crime and prostitution.
Er well tough.

This last episode from the wonderful children's series, Press Gang, of the early '90s sums up my view on having too much sympathy with drug addicts:

Life should be about choices, not so-called 'sympathetic' authoritarian experts.


  1. It seems odd that so much space and time is given about whether we should have the right to take any drug - yet no space is given to whether we should have the right to make our own laws!

    Both are, after all, about personal choice!

  2. I've been following unlock democracy and civil liberties issues for some time since first protesting the SOCPA ban on protest outside parliament in 2005. In this time I also wrote a play inspired by it which is now going on next month at the Southwark Playhouse and I thought you and the team at unlock democracy might be interested in it. It's called... Boiling Frogs. Plus a heads up we will shortly be announcing Thursday night post-show discussions on civil liberties with guests including Henry Porter, Amnesty, Mark Barrett, Human Rights Watch and Justice.

  3. As a libertarian liberal I am certainly in favour of abolishing the current drug prohibitions, and returning our laws to the principles of individual liberty and responsibility.

    The issue raised here, and this is not new at all, is a pernicious attempt to increase state power, by going after an unloved minority, in this case benefit claimants who do drugs. Once the precedent is set, they can roll it out on the rest of us, and start demanding drug tests for whatever they want. The same is true of the naked body scanners. Once people accept them at the airports, they will be able to say very little when they are installed in courts, government buildings or even wheeled out into the streets.

    The welfare state is indeed too big and self-destructive, and it should be massively reduced as soon as possible (not to say replaced and abolished), but the idea that someone who smokes a joint can't do a day's work, or must be pushed into rehabilitation, is ridicuous. A crack-head is another matter.