Alex Massie Alex Massie

The War on Drugs is as pointless as it is immoral; obviously it must continue. – Spectator Blogs

Like Tom Chivers I’d not planned to write anything about the latest suggestion our drug laws are sufficiently confused, antiquated and beyond parody that at some point it might be worth reconsidering them. It’s not that I’ve tired of reform, rather that I’ve pretty much tired of making the case for reform. I have precisely zero expectation that this Prime Minister, who once seemed unusually sane on drug issues, will fulfill the naive and youthful promise he showed on the opposition benches.

But then, like the redoubtable Mr Chivers, I saw Thomas Pascoe’s views on the matter and found myself sufficiently provoked by his argument that I was stirred to action once more. Mr Pascoe has had enough of all these utilitarian and empirical arguments in favour of reform (ie, liberalisation) and wants us to return to first principles. This, he thunders, is a moral issue. And you know what, I kind of agree with him. Consider this passage:

Reading is a moral issue. The fact that large numbers of young people feel the need to obliterate reality through books says something both about them and us. First, reading feeds into a culture in which people take refuge in imaginary lives, rather than taking practical steps to remedy their problems. Second, it implies that as a society we can offer nothing else to these people, that release from the crushing boredom of many people’s daily existence cannot be found in charity work or education or self-betterment.

Legalising books endorses both of those viewpoints. Whether you want to build the New Jerusalem or simply improve your own lot, one way to ensure you fail is to turn inwards and seek the solitary consolation of a fantasy world. To take such a despairing view of people’s prospects is a moral tragedy.

You may notice that I have cheated a little here, substituting “reading” and “books” for “drug use” and “drugs” in Mr Pascoe’s own copy.

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