bagpiper wrote:But in looking at Amsterdam I'm thinking that decriminalization or legalization fall into the category of simple, but wrong answers to a complex problem.
You mean the Amsterdam whose crime rate is lower than nearly every US city its size or larger? That Amsterdam? (Minneapolis is the only metro area larger than Amsterdam whose murder rate isn't higher -- most of them substantially higher -- per http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cities_and ... ted_States
, and http://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2009/data/table_06.html
. Other violent crime rates follow the same pattern.)
Yes. That Amsterdam.
Shall we assume that their low crime rate is due to their great gun laws and emulate those?
I trust you've seen how suicide rates vary across our nation and how our Western States tend to have higher rates than Eastern States. I'll bet one can find a correlation between gun laws and suicide rate in this nation. Shall we jump to assuming or implying causality there, Dive?
If not, it makes no more sense to suggest (even unwritten, but clearly implied given the context) that it is Amsterdam's drug laws, or prostitution laws, or pornography laws, that have resulted in the lower crime rates.
From many others, we might dismiss such an assertion--even by mere implication--as honest ignorance. But given your mastery of statistics, you clearly know better. And for a guy who has complained in the past about some supposed lack of "honesty" in my debating techniques...well let's just say you know better.
What makes Amsterdam an interesting data point to me is that they do have such low crime rates overall, and have for quite some time. And at first pass, other than the usual European disdain for the right to an individual self defense, might be mistaken for taking a fairly libertarian stance toward a lot of issues that we would consider major social moral problems. De facto legal and easy access to porn, booze, drugs, prostitution, and a much lower crime rate than the US. A guy could almost be convinced. About 15 years ago when they made the move to effectively decriminalize pot I was singing their praises as having found the
solution to the social ills of pot use. They had managed to convert those problems to nothing more than individual problems by removing the criminal element, denying illicit dealers high profits, and so on and so forth.
Only it isn't so simple. Turns out they had a low rate of violent crime before they decriminalized pot (and probably before they banned guns).
And even as secular and non-prudish as they are, somewhere between 10 and 15 years into their experiment they realized it wasn't quite the panacea that they and many of us thought it was. Turns out even secular, sexually liberated folks don't care to have people getting high, stoned, or shooting up, then having sex on park benches in play grounds, and leaving behind dirty needles and used condoms. Decent folks--including those without any particular religious affiliation or even belief in God--just don't care to have certain things going on in their neighborhoods.
There are lots of excuses about how the problems are the result of them being a magnate for such things that are illegal elsewhere and thus attracting more than their fair share of dopers and jons. But that is, to me, really just an implicit admission that such types do cause problems beyond their drug use and seeking out emotionless sex. It is basically a claim that the solution to pollution really is dilution: spread the problem children out wide enough and nobody notices what exactly is causing the problems. And even if it is true, it isn't like we're going to get the whole world to convert to libertopia anytime soon. Big chunks of the world are still killing people for praying to the "wrong" god, or any god at all. So any place that legalizes drugs or other vices is going to have to live with and somehow manage the magnate effect or else the policy will fail to achieve the promised result. In other words, excuses about Amsterdam, start to sound to me like excuses about socialism: it works great if only the right people are in charge or only if it is tweaked just a bit more, or if we could just get the whole earth to do it and thus shut down those evil tax havens that let rich people avoid their responsibilities.
So Amsterdam is reportedly re-evaluating their position on drugs (sadly, not so much so on guns/RKBA) and prostitution. Almost certainly they still end up far more liberal in their drug and prostitution laws than almost anywhere in the USA. But they seem to be deciding that some greater level of control is needed in order to keep the kind of self-absorbed, dysfunctional folks who tend to turn to recreational drugs and prostitution from ruining life for residents and non-druggie/non-sex-trade tourists.
I wish them great luck in finding the proper balance between laws and liberty, medical care and criminal justice and social work, to truly minimize the social costs for drug use/abuse and prostitution. I wish California and Nevada similar good luck. I'd truly love to see what the solution is...if there even is a solution. I've noted before, I'm a big fan of federalism and would like to see a dozen or more policies regarding recreational drugs being tried. One of them might just work. It would have been great to have 12 or 15 or 20 data points over the last 15 years rather than just one or two (and those being mostly very foreign and different than any culture in the US).
But I fear there isn't a good solution. I"m starting to think that the real problem is that any society that produces any significant number (even if their percentage is fairly low) of persons who insist on using drugs to escape or engaging in sex for money has problems that run too deep for any real fix. Short of somehow instilling in society some basic values about human life and dignity and the fundamental problems with recreational drugs and sex outside of marriage (much less sex for money or drugs), I don't think there is a good fix. Probably just a multiple choice list of bad alternatives, some with more side problems than others, some with more offensive side problems than others. But likely, all having some degree of problems. Maybe some jurisdiction can find the minimum on that curve. If so, I'd support trying it.
But I'm past the point of thinking that complex problems have simple solutions based on theories that are poorly tested at best, and when they are tested, don't yield the results promised or desired.
And to be clear, my desired goal for any drug policy is to minimize the number of lives damaged and destroyed by the drugs and associated problems. It is also to confine the damage to actual users while minimizing the externalities. I think it clear our current system has some major problems even by these two standards, much less if one starts to apply any concern at all for liberty, which I also do. But I'm not going to jump on the bandwagon to support a different policy based on promises that simply haven't shown to pan out in the real world.
It is the same standard I apply to laws regarding guns and self-defense.