Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Friday, 17 July 2009

It was different in my day...

If you were a politician and there was something that you had done when you were younger that you now wanted to stop other people from doing through force of law and threat of imprisonment, what would be the best way to go about doing this without looking too hypocritical? I can think of a few:

1) You could claim that you are entitled to have had a private life before coming into politics and refuse to discuss whether you did or didn't do the thing. People will assume you did, and they may even assume you did more of the thing or more extreme forms of the thing than you actually did but if it neutralises it as an issue after a few weeks then job done.

2) You could claim that you didn't enjoy doing the thing and only did it once, or a few times before realising this.

3) You could claim that the modern equivalent of the thing is now much worse than the variant you did many years ago. It probably wouldn't be enough to say perhaps 20% or 30% worse so you would need a big multiple say 10 or 20 times as bad to really draw a distinction between then and now and make it look like what you did was virtually nothing but the law is needed now because of this huge change in circumstances.

What I am referring to of course is politicians and drug use when they were younger. I must admit 10 or 15 years ago I had assumed that as a generation of politicians who would have observed casual drug use of all kinds at university etc. came to power and positions of influence that naturally, the general political environment would start to move in favour of a more progressive approach to drug use. After all, these politicians will have seen many of their contemporaries who used drugs continue in their lives and generally do well. They will probably as they got older have reduced and perhaps even ceased the casual drug use, usually when their jobs become more demanding and/or they start families of their own. They may have seen some have problems with drugs but it is more likely that they will have seen friends who have problems with alcohol and they would not in a million years suggest making alcohol illegal under penatly of imprisonment.

I am not seeing this progressive approach happening amongst the majority of mainstream politicains. They do not seem to recognise that it is only a minority who use drugs who end up with big problems associated with them. It is as if the experiences that many of them must have had (and indeed we know for definite some of them did from their own admissions) never happened. Perhaps they genuninely didn't enjoy their own experiences. Perhaps they genuinely do think that cannabis is 20 times more powerful than it was 30 years ago despite the fact that there is no evidence that it is much stronger now than it ever was. Perhaps they see no contradiction in having done something when they were younger that was illegal then, and when they are now in a position to do something about it insist that what they did was their own private affair and to continue with the failed policies that they themselves were lucky not to have found themselves on the wrong side of.

It just seems to be to be quite convenient that if you were trying to come up with a few textbook ways of trying to deflect this debate in order to not be seen as "SOFT ON DRUGS!" it would likely be one of the 3 forms of defence listed above or variants thereof. It's almost as if many politicians on this issue will say whatever they think will get them off the hook....


Oranjepan said...

Slogan time. Which of the following do you prefer?

"soft on drugs, hard on the causes of drugs"
"soft on soft drugs, hard on hard drugs"

Other suggestions..?

Lady Schwarz said...

I find politicians too apologetic on these issues, this silly "I didn't inhale" rubbish. It becomes hypocritical when you try to pretend your experience was different or didn't happen. You lit up a joint, you inhaled, probably coughed, you passed it around and then ate two tins of baked beans when you got home. Just be honest.

I agree with you that politicians lack proportion on these issues. Jacqui Smith upgraded cannabis, even though downgrading it had reduced usage. If they based their policy on facts instead of gimmicks, they certainly wouldn't look so hypocritical and silly.

Yet there are many policy's like this that just go with the status quo or seem puritan, rather than being progressive. We seem to have reached a point that politicians are reluctant to go any further.

Alex said...

4) Be bold and call for legalization, or at least decriminalization?

Mark Reckons said...

Alex - but how many politicians would do that? That would require political bravery!