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September 2008
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Jacob Sullum continues the discussion

Over at Cato Unbound, in the discussion of the Erowid article Towards a Culture of Responsible Drug Use, Jonathan Caulkins was the first respondent with Is Responsible Drug Use Possible? — a thoroughly out-to-lunch response (which I discussed here –be sure to read the comments as well). It was embarrassing in its display of logical fallacies and falsehoods.
Now Jacob Sullum has provided his resonse to Caulkin’s mess with True Temperance

To say that ‹modern humans must learn how to relate to psychoactives responsibly,Š as Earth and Fire Erowid do, is not the same as ‹denying or denigrating an individual‰s right to choose temperance,Š as Jonathan Caulkins suggests. First of all, what the Erowids are preaching is temperance. Aristotle defined that virtue this way:

The temperate man holds a mean position with regard to pleasures. . . . Such pleasures as conduce to health and bodily fitness he will try to secure in moderation and in the right way; and also all other pleasures that are not incompatible with these, or dishonorable, or beyond his means. . . . The temperate man desires the right things in the right way and at the right time.[1]

Sullum does a nice polite job of debunking Caulkins (and from what reactions I’ve found so far, it seems to be unanimous that Caulkins really screwed the pooch on this one). Sullum also takes a moment to differentiate two distinct political philosophies…

I see the drug laws as unjust because they go beyond the proper function of government by punishing people for actions that violate no one‰s rights. By likening drug use to speeding and to driving while intoxicated, Caulkins obscures the distinction between self-harming behavior and behavior that endangers others. Still, he clearly believes it‰s appropriate to forcibly protect people from risks they voluntarily assume, whether by using drugs, ‹riding a motorcycle without a helmet, driving without a seatbelt, or swimming when there is no lifeguardŠ (even in your own swimming pool?). I see ‹laws designed to protect people from their own poor choicesŠ as unethical impositions and dangerous precedents, based on an open-ended rationale for government intervention that logically leads to totalitarianism.

I’m glad that Cato has provided this opportunity and look forward to the next installment (Kleiman) as well as the open discussion that I believe is scheduled to begin next week.

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