Ron Paul, challenged on his position to legalize heroin, offered the perfect retort. “If we legalize heroin tomorrow, is everyone going to use heroin?” he asked. “How many people here would use heroin if it were legal?” The South Carolina crowd cheered the question. They understood it was not the laws that kept people from using heroin; it was their own personal moral character. Drug laws do not lift people of poor moral character; rather they push drug users into the shadows of mainstream society and exacerbate their criminal tendencies. Legalizing drugs would result in fewer drug abusers and billions in savings from drug enforcement and prison costs. Ron Paul is right on this issue.
No doubt, it is horrible to see someone ruin his or her life with a drug like heroin. We must do everything we can to educate people about the economic, social and personal harms of these drugs and to protect children from drug-abusing parents. However, as with most well-intentioned policies, the drug laws satisfy our emotional impulse to act, but do little to actually curb drug use and help people lead productive lives. Worse, in satisfying our impulse to act, the drug laws dampen our resolve to fight the real drug war—the war over people’s minds and morals that we are losing every time we fail to condemn the celebrities, movies, videogames and television programs that glorify drugs. The time has come to stop abdicating our moral responsibilities to the government.