Profit, Drugs, And Dead Poor People: Libertarian Party Manifesto Home Affairs Pt. 4
This article shall cover legalising drugs, the responsibilities of government for public health, private insurance or national health service, the effects of tobacco, the purpose of regulation, and imprisonment from drug offences.
The purpose of these articles its three-fold; what would be the effects of these policies, and why would people want them? Do they uphold the Libertarian principles? Are they good for public health? Will they make Britain a better country? Do they help the average person? That is what we discover and consider in these articles.
We have covered monetary and fiscal policy as well. The Home Affairs section comes in five parts; if you click on the part you’d like to read, you can find out more.
4. Drugs (including Alcohol and Tobacco).
Each section covers half a dozen or so policies from the Libertarians, picking policies that have enough to discuss, and have something to discuss. This section shall cover all 4 drug policies, as well as the long-ranging effects of their policies. You can read the full Home Affairs Manifesto yourself.
Part Four: Drugs, Alcohol, and Tobacco
Policy 20: Insurance companies (not NHS) will cover drug health issues; you can sue your supplier for death, negligence, etc.
Did you know that only half of smokers can quit smoking for 4 weeks? That 19% of UK citizens are smokers? That this is the biggest cause of cancer in the United Kingdom (Cancer Research UK, 2019a)? A libertarian will respond “That is their right and choice as a right-thinking adult”. That any harm they get is from their choice, and they deserve it. They simply lack willpower.
Second hand smoke kills 11,000 people every year; 4 out of 5 from the home, the rest from workplaces. Did they choose to smoke? No, but they still died for someone else’s choices. Those who destroy their lives from a single use of cocaine leading to a lifelong addiction that destroys their ability to be good parents; in turn, destroying the lives of their children who have no choice in the matter (UKAT, 2019). Aren’t they innocent victims? Did they lack willpower?
Not only that, but the poorest members of our society are the most likely to smoke (Cancer Research UK, 2019b). Is being poor their fault? Britain has 14.3 million people living in poverty; one third of them are more than 50% below the poverty line, and this hasn’t changed in 10 years. Half of all people in poverty are in persistent poverty; they have been in poverty for most of the past three years and they are unlikely to get out of it; why? Most of them have a disabled family member. They’re more likely to be working nowadays; they’re more likely to not be single mothers, but they are still in persistent poverty (Social Metrics Commission, 2019). These are not lazy people; they are unfortunate people. Individual choices affect individuals; a problem that affects an entire social class over a decade is a structural one.
So, how much more does smoking affect the poor compared to the rich? Let’s take education; if you do not finish High School, you are 7% more likely to smoke. If you finish university, you are 11%-18% less likely to smoke (Pampel et al, 2017). It is, in the more recent studies, the largest predictor of smoking. When there is a macro-level problem, that affects massive swathes of society, can we really just call it an ‘individual choice’ problem?
So we have an addiction where only 50% (in the Libertarian non-NHS world, maybe only 15%) of people can quit; where 11,000 people die every year from second hand smoke, where it affects a portion of the population (those below poverty) who are unable to leave poverty due to reasons like a disabled family member. All of these people would be disproportionately more likely to smoke, and be much less likely to quit. Do all of these people lack willpower? Maybe individually, but they have been placed in circumstances that nudge and push them into addiction, permanent poverty, and early death for themselves and their loved ones. It is a structural problem.
The above addiction is cigarettes. What about the UK’s second favourite illegal drug, cocaine? A drug that literally changes the way you think, making your biology depend on it to function. It is so addictive that a single use very often causes immediate and urgent addiction (UKAT, 2019). A single dose; a single mistake, and you are cast into addiction and a life of ruin. At best, with the NHS, 61% of people can successfully reach 6 months without taking it; without the NHS, the outcome is far more grim (NHS, 2017).
The Libertarian Party’s policy approach to this is to remove their protection via the NHS to treatment for their conditions; as well as remove more money in the form of welfare to place them in debt permanently. Note; the rate of 50% quitting is with NHS help; the rate without it is much lower; without the NHS, between 85%-78% of people were unable to even reach 6 months quitting (Armand, 2008). Those who are innocently affected are punished as if they were. Those who made a single mistake shall be left to suffer, told they deserve it and to ‘take responsibility’. People who were not callous enough to cast out their disabled family member, or perhaps are loyal enough to stay with a spouse who became ill (in sickness and in health), are punished under Libertarian Party policies.
Let’s continue; can we control our smoking? Children who grow up around smoke are more likely to have cancer, obesity, and other problems (Slovic, 2001). Maybe we should expect our children to just make smarter decisions? Because many smokers are introduced as children or adolescents by their peers and elders (Pampel et al., 2017). The trouble with that is that children and adolescents do not have fully developed cortexes that let them fully understand consequences and make those smart decisions. Pampel et. al. (2017) found that the most vital time people begin to smoke isn’t when they are adults; it’s when they are children who try their first ‘ciggie’. Should they be forced to pay for a lifetime due to a mistake during their youth?
Libertarians like to discuss incentives. I’ll lay out the incentives plainly.
If you make smoking easier, you increase demand for smoking, and more people will smoke.
If you reduce the costs of smoking, you increase demand for smoking, and more people will smoke.
As poverty increases smokers, if you make poverty more wide-spread, you increase demand for smokers.
If you punish people for being disabled, you will increase divorce between spouses who get sick, break up families, leave people to die, and enshrine cold hard self interest over loyalty in family and marriage.
If you make it harder to buy or obtain cigarettes, the demand for cigarettes will decrease, and less people will smoke.
If you increase the profits of smoking, you will increase the supply of cigarettes, driving down price, which in turn, increase the demand for smoking, which will make more people sick.
If you decrease the price of importing foreign cigarettes, you get all of the above, but you don’t even supply local jobs.
If you make drugs criminal, and enforce it, you will reduce demand for the drug, reducing consumption.
If you legalise drugs, you will increase demand (and supply) for the drug, increasing consumption (Cerdá et. al, 2017 — Because I know people will argue with this, I stuck a source right here).
If you remove the National Health Service, and replace it with insurance, the 20% of the country who live in poverty will not have any kind of health service, and will be more likely to die a painful, preventable death.
The United Kingdom household is already in net household debt. The Libertarians will cry “just reduce taxes and they’ll have money!”. They already pay no income tax (people in poverty are not making the necessary £12,000), and likely little National Insurance Tax (with only kicks in after £166 per week). The only other tax they pay is…VAT? I wonder if the money saved from a population who is in debt and lacks money can pay for health insurance. They are now net-debtors and so cannot even spend savings.
The Libertarians will say that raising the prices will not work; they’ll find other ways to import cigarettes, or it’ll become illegal. The following policies have been proven to reduce cigarette smoking (Pampel et. al., 2017);
1) raising tobacco prices (Libertarians would oppose; Policy 21),
2) restricting the use of tobacco in public places (Libertarians have no outward policy; but their policies suggest police should take drugs as less of an issue, so I suppose they would want this regulation cut)
3) Clean air laws (Libertarians dislike regulation, but support the idea you can sue someone for harming you via second-hand smoke. So only for people rich enough to do so?)
A World Without Regulation
Let me quickly show you a world in which cigarettes, and the market in general, is not regulated. In China, everyone poor smokes. Everyone who grew up poor smokes. Smart men. Poor men. Young teenage girls. Old grandmothers. It is prevalent.
Many people in China are privately more and more infertile; it was 3% about 20 years ago, it’s now between 10-15% of couples have infertility; sometimes up to 18%, if trying to get pregnant, numbers could be 25% (Zhou et al, 2018). Smoking is a factor in not getting pregnant (Slovic, 2001). Plenty of Chinese privately believe it is perhaps a main factor. Don’t get me started on what unregulated businesses in the countryside have done to the environment.
Libertarians like people working? Well, that made people more infertile. ‘But better they’re infertile and working, rather than breeding on the public dime’. Don’t worry; if they get pregnant, 70% of adults in China are exposed to second hand smoke each week (World Health Organisation, 2019). China has among the highest rates of lung cancer and lung cancer mortality in the world (Cao and Chen, 2018). This trends looks to be increasing over the next 10 years by 40%. My wife tells me that not a single Chinese person doesn’t have a family member with cancer. I do not personally know a single Chinese friend who hasn’t had a family member suffer cancer.
It, like the West, affects the poorest people in society (Cao and Chen, 2018). And so these people must choose between having money, or living in debt (Chen, 2019). There are so many stories I’ve heard; I’ve seen families go bankrupt trying to save their mother or wife from cancer; I’ve seen my own wonderful, generous family give hundreds of thousands of RMB to people to pay for their cancer treatment.
The lucky ones know my parents in law; not everyone is so lucky. Chinese people are forced to either leave their loved ones to die, or to take horrific loans to try and save their family. Stories range from a woman who was abandoned by her husband to die; a father with cancer who choose to die to afford daughter’s medicine; a father who had to decide whether to save his wife or his child during childbirth; a man who had to decide which finger the doctor should put on; a woman who committed suicide during childbirth with her infant because her husband (or hospital, depending on source) decided that pain medication wasn’t worth the money, and farmers forced to borrow money from loans sharks that they can never pay back for the treatment of their sick baby. This is the world of private insurance for the poor that the Libertarians would like us to have.
I would like to explain why I am so passionate; I have spoken to Libertarians. I know Libertarian thought. I know a few Libertarians now who believe that people regard Libertarians as “cold” or “uncaring”. The reason is this: When told that a child has cancer, the Libertarian responds: “Well, you should have just had enough money to have insurance” or “You couldn’t afford a child after all; you shouldn’t have had one”. Sometimes they’ll say “Well, just hope and rely on private charity”. In other words; healthcare only belongs to the rich, and those who have rich friends. In the United Kingdom especially, the removal of the National Health Service, and the re-introduction and legalising of addictive drugs that specifically harm the poor and uneducated, and often children who have no power to affect their own circumstances, as well as the removal of redistributive policies to try and lift the poor out of poverty, will lead to the wide-spread death of hundreds of thousands, and long-term illnesses of millions. It will lead to the literal physical decay of our society.
Libertarians hand-wave it: “Well, they’ll just get charity”, or “Some people are unlucky”. Perhaps they are right, and your child is not their responsibility. All you have to do is completely remove any sense of community, of social good, and of national responsibility. It’s in the good of our nation to have an educated populace; it’s in the good of our nation to have a healthy populace; it’s not in the good of our nation to have our population addicted, poor, and unable to advance in life. I would also argue that we should have the grace, and noblesse oblige to look after ourselves, each other, and the less fortunate.
I understand the economic arguments of efficiency, and I also understand the liberal arguments of personal responsibility and freedom. But people are not always rational; they have an ‘animal spirit’, and they will pursue dangerous and self-destructive passions.
To quote Nobel Prize winning economist Thaler and Sunstein (2008), people are not ‘Homo Economus’, always making the perfect rational decision as economics (and especially Libertarians) says. People are easily fooled by the placement of food; put the vegetables at the front of the food, and children eat more. Do as Libertarians do, and place the profit maximising food at the front, and we end up with two-thirds of people ending up overweight or obese (The Weight of the Nation, 2012). To quote one man, Torulf Jernström (2016), whose job it is to force children to buy things in video games, “I’ll leave the morality out of the [discussion]”. He then discusses the many psychological tricks (skinner boxes are his personal favourite) and pressures that the market can use on a young child to get them, and people with gambling addiction, to pony up money. Using the latest psychological knowledge (such as forcing people to make quick decisions, which are often worse for them, rather than considered), they slowly work and weasel into the vulnerabilities of the vulnerable to take their money, sometimes to the point of bankruptcy and ruin (Jernström, 2016; Kleinman, 2019). If only children had the mental capacity to protect themselves from an industry of experts hell-bent on conquering the defences of their mind.
This is also a point against Libertarians; the market does not self-regulate. Let me continue to use the video gaming industry. This industry has no problem allowing a child to put his family into debt, place gambling mechanics into games while hiding them from responsible adults, and trying to get you and your children addicted (so far, they have managed to get 26% to a ‘concerned’ level [Kleinman, 2019]). It’s not a side effect, as Jernström (2016) says in his talk, it’s by design. FIFA (a video game) has gambling mechanics; FIFA is sold as a game suitable for 3 year olds (Kleinman, 2019). The market is okay with 3 year olds gambling; in fact, when called on it, Electronic Arts refused to abide by Belgium law because they were making $800 million each year from this practise until the government stepped in to force them…but only in Belgium (Tassi, 2019). They haven’t ‘self-regulated’ anywhere else. Only when forced to by point of government intervention. When asked about it by the British government, they dismissed all danger and gambling as “surprise mechanics…like a Kinder Egg”.
I’ll provide another example; films. In the West, we rank films by ages, so PG, 18+, etc. This at least reduces the amount of children who can watch horrific or otherwise inappropriate films. China does not have an age rating for it’s films (Mikalauskaite, 2015). What does this mean? It means that when I went to go watch Resident Evil, there were many children crying and screaming in fear as a person is hacked apart by a fan and the rest of them sprayed in blood, or when I went to watch the Shape of Water, and a cat was brutally torn apart (and in great detail) in the fangs of a monster and the children started screaming. Or Venom, as I heard one couple say, “a superhero film”, where the protagonist bites the heads off of several people, to the screaming and tears of children. People do not make smart decisions every time; the market does not self-regulate (the film industry, as well as the cinemas, are perfectly happy for the all-ages system in China; that’s more tickets!) and without the government regulating, children are shown things far beyond their abilities to watch. (Amusingly, when we went to watch Resident Evil, we passed an old woman who said it was the first time she’d ever seen a film. That must have been a confusing experience for her. I hope she enjoyed it).
Not only that, but we are so easy to control via ‘nudges’, we can make people stop missing the toilet by placing the etching of a fly on the urinal by about 80% (Thaler and Sunstein, 2008). We can paint baby faces in crime areas to reduce vandalism by about 18% (who wants to smash a babies’ face?) and changing language in tax letters led to £210 million in taxes by the wealthy being paid (Hooker, 2017). We are always manipulated by our environment; we cannot even stop discussing whether a dress is blue or gold, and how many people watch Game of Thrones because everyone else does? We are so very easily controlled by our environment without us even knowing it; what rational decision can be under-taken by our subconscious?
The market place is fantastic for setting prices and efficiently moving resources; it does not make good decisions for public health, and public consumption. We have a population who is getting more fat; more addicted; more miserable. The job of government is to solve problems collectively that cannot be solved individually; Libertarians would have our children face the force of psychological manipulation via advertising for the sake of profits alone. It is an unrealistic (and negligible) view of human behaviour, and one that has lead to obesity, addiction, illness, and so much more.
Policy 21: Decriminalise marijuana and other drugs. Remove excise duty from Alcohol, Tobacco, and other Drugs
We can assume that this policy will become more common place with marijuana over the next few years. Legalising marijuana is a policy supported by 68% of people aged 18-24 years old (Statista, 2019). It has been legalised in both Canada and parts of the United States. This policy is shared with the Liberal Democrat Party, and Members of Parliament from the Labour and Conservative Parties also believe that it will be legalised within 10 years (Connolly, 2019). Regardless of the numbers, it will likely become so. In this case, the will of people (for better or worse) has triumphed.
The police deal with 151,000 drug offences per year, which has been falling for the past ten years (Statista, 2019). The argument that prohibition doesn’t work isn’t holding up; drug use falls during times of prohibition. This is one usual argument by the Libertarian crowd; that prohibition doesn’t work. However, making drugs illegal and policing of it has led to a decrease in both marijuana use and cocaine use over the past years (Statista, 2019; ONS, 2018c). Whereas the legalisation of marijuana in the U.S. has led to rising rates of use, and lowered perception of danger (Cerdá et. al., 2017). Making a drug illegal and enforcing it reduces drug use; making a drug legal increases use. Libertarian policy would make the use of these dangerous and addictive substances more commonplace (while removing the NHS to help those who suffer from it).
According to the Home Office (2018), cannabis alone made up 72% of all drug seizures, 88% of which was herbal cannabis. Cocaine is the second big problem, at 11% (Home Office, 2018). Seizures of marijuana in the United Kingdom had a street value of £62 million in 2014 (Kelly, 2019). There is an argument that decriminalising marijuana will reduce the market strength of criminal organisations; for example, the effort of trafficking around 13,000 slaves from third world countries (a third Vietnamese, half of those children) to work marijuana farms in the United Kingdom will no longer be worth the risk. Currently, black market cannabis provides criminals with £2.6 billion (Kelly, 2019).
However, in California, legalisation has actually increased the size and scale of marijuana, as legal shops must contend with regulations while illegal operations are able to provide the product and undercut the legal options, but now have the efficiency of legal selling while having the efficiency of being able to ignore regulations; in short, the illegal marijuana market in legal states in booming, from California, Washington, and in non-legal states (where the restriction on legal marijuana has allowed the criminals to produce in legal California, and then sell-high in no-competition, no-legal marijuana states) (Fuller, 2019). In short, legalising doesn’t necessarily mean removing the power of criminals; it just means some competition for them, and criminals don’t have to worry about health and safety (being criminals). Combine this with the increased drug use providing plenty of surplus customers for criminal even if legal supply holds, and you’re expanding the market.
Policy 22: Release all of those convicted only of drug offences for possession. Give them a clean profile.
I’ve written about this in more depth here. I would recommend reading it in more depth here, but here is the basic statistics.
We have about 16% of our prison population in jail for drug offences; 9,000 people (Civitas, 2017). That is less than 1% of the people arrested for drug offences.
We also know that 88% of them were in jail for “production, supply and possession with intent to supply” which means you need to have a significant amount of drugs. Only 1,009 people are in jail for possession. Of those in jail, 7 out of 8 people have a previous conviction (Civitas, 2017). So only about 130 people would fit their criteria. An entire policy for 130 people.
My point is this; less than 0.1% of drug users who are arrested go to jail, those in jail are overwhelmingly supplying it, and 87.5% have committed a previous crime. The people in jail are not innocent lambs thrown in; most drug users are left quite free. If someone is in jail, they are likely repeating criminals, which under Libertarian Policy 3 in Part 1 of the Home Affairs, would be arrested under a Libertarian government anyway.
This is the problem with using American libertarian principles in the United Kingdom; it just doesn’t apply to this country. This policy would make nearly no difference, and affects nearly no-one (0.000002% of the population of the U.K.). Don’t worry; the next policy also affects nearly no-one.
Policy 23: Inform police that drugs are legal, but maintain laws regarding operating machinery under the influence and the like
Currently, only one third of people put in jail for driving offences (0.6% of all offences went to jail) were put in for driving under the influence, which is about 1,000 people (Civitas, 2017). That’s about 1.1% of the prison population, and 0.2% of all motoring offences. Of those, they are significantly more likely to have been cautioned or convicted 46 times before imprisonment.
Under Policy 3 of Part 1, we would likely see massive increase in arrests of people due to the ‘repeat offenders’ clause of Libertarian Party policy. However, as this would only affect a tiny proportion of people, it’s a law that has a tiny window, and a tiny effect.
Simply put, Policies 22 and 23 affect a total of about 1,130 people. Small, tiny policies that make no difference and affect nearly no-one. The only reason they were included is because they are bigger proportions in the United States; in the United Kingdom, it simply isn’t a problem. This is the problem for using policies from another country. It’s ideology over practicality at its most pedantic.
What are the end results of Libertarian policies? The removal of the National Health Service. An increase in the addiction of the population. Specifically the poor, uneducated, and disabled. People who are likely in permanent poverty.
The Libertarian policies would then make it easier for these people to become drugged, sick, ill, addicted, and left to die. They will be unlikely to afford the insurance, and therefore likely to die. Health will become yet another gift for the rich, and those the rich decide to grace with healthcare. Otherwise, you’ll be left to die, and told it was your fault.
The arguments of ‘prohibition doesn’t work’ simply doesn’t hold up in light of recent evidence. The argument of ‘we all make our own choices’ hasn’t held true in economics for nearly two decades with the addition of behavioural economics. The argument that ‘legalising takes away the power of criminals’ isn’t clearly established in reality. The argument that ‘people make rational choices’ doesn’t hold in a developed world with mass self-inflicted obesity, addiction, suicide, depression, and misery.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing with Libertarians is when confronted with evidence, they simply say how it’s all tricks, and their ideology is correct anyway. It’s like arguing with communists (“That wasn’t real communism!'“).
The problem with Libertarian thought continues; they believe in market self-regulation, but we can see in the matters of public health, the market does not self-regulate. They believe in individual will, but do not acknowledge that it is very easy to manipulate children, the poor, the uneducated, and control them to consume what you want against their rational will (we call it advertising). They believe they know best, and simply ignore the massive inequalities and the condition of the poor as ‘their own fault’, dismissing all criticism as ‘simulation and trickery, that you simply do not understand their philosophy’. The Libertarians cut out all idea of social responsibility, and social good, and care for your neighbour, and trump their ‘greed is good’ philosophy. The society they would live in makes for a good science fiction cyberpunk model; it would be a dystopian hell on Earth.
If you’ve enjoyed reading this, please consider following me on Twitter @LeonDeclis or on Apple News on the Idea Meritocracy channel. There is also a Facebook page at @IdeaMeritocracyEcon. Have a nice day!
ONS is the Official of National Statistics. NHS is National Health Service. The sources below are for you to read; I hide no sources, I want people to read these sources themselves and make up their own mind.
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