Monday, June 8, 2009

On Legalization

I don't think any single writer has shaped my political philosophy as much as world traveler and prison doctor Anthony Daniels, better known pseudonymously as Theodore Dalrymple. It was Dalrymple in such books as Life at the Bottom; Our Culture, What's Left of It; and Not With A Bang But a Whimper who has meticulously proven to me that I am in no way a libertarian and encouraged me to embrace the label of "conservative", though he never labels himself such. The Skeptical Doctor blog provides a convenient portal to Dalrymple's writings in various journals, and this morning reposted his 1997 City Journal article against the legalization of drugs. If any single essay could present a microcosm of Dalrymple's political philosophy, this might be it:
The idea that freedom is merely the ability to act upon one’s whims is surely very thin and hardly begins to capture the complexities of human existence; a man whose appetite is his law strikes us not as liberated but enslaved. And when such a narrowly conceived freedom is made the touchstone of public policy, a dissolution of society is bound to follow. No culture that makes publicly sanctioned self-indulgence its highest good can long survive: a radical egotism is bound to ensue, in which any limitations upon personal behavior are experienced as infringements of basic rights. Distinctions between the important and the trivial, between the freedom to criticize received ideas and the freedom to take LSD, are precisely the standards that keep societies from barbarism.

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