A Propertarian Position on Drugs

Propertarianism is a particular ideological position within libertarianism. It bases economic and political characteristics around their voluntary acceptance in a world of legitimate contracts and real private property (not the state-guaranteed property that currently takes the name of “private property”). In this sense, boundaries can be created between particular individuals and communities as this is the remit of private property. At the individual level, this is as simple as preventing uninvited people onto your property. At a collective level, it means a contractual agreement among property owners to decide on particular policies and boundaries. “If fifty people decided voluntarily to set up an organization for common services or self-defense of their persons and properties in a certain geographical area, then the boundaries of that association, based on the just property rights of the members, will also be just”[1].

Thus under propertarianism, something can only truly be just if it does not aggress against a particular group or individual, and if it allows for decisions to be made through consensual contracts which guarantee the right to opt-out and secede.

In this sense, the outlawing of drug use and drug production by a state goes completely against the non-aggression principle inherent within propertarian libertarianism. There is no justification for the outlawing of drugs by an organisation that requires massive amounts of theft to maintain such a ban. However, that is not to say that by declaring an opposition to the state’s use of coercion to ban an activity that one endorses said activity wholeheartedly. Drug use can be destructive for family members of drug addicts, as well as having widespread community effects as seen by the crack cocaine epidemic in Black American neighbourhoods.

In a propertarian society, the issue of drugs would simply be solved by the decision of voluntary communities in creating social contracts. They would decide through democratic (or other collective) methods that drug use and production in their elected boundaries would be illegal. The enforcement and punishment for such “crimes” would also be decided by said community.

Some libertarians may say this is simply the making of a state in a microcosm, and that such coercion, even if voluntary decided, is illegitimate. But of course that means that private property owners are also microcosmic states, as they can decide what activities are done within their own homes and/or businesses. If one respects the legitimacy of a contract and of rightfully gained private property, they cannot deny the capacity of legitimate property owners in a given area to decide on particular arrangements and enforcements. Reductio ad absurdum, this allows for fascistic communities. But the reality is such things exist. Surely better to have it contained within particular localities, rather than trying to hide it under the dogma of inclusiveness and multiculturalism.

Going back to drugs, this means that certain communities will mandate the elimination of drug use, possession and production. Already such characteristics can be said to exist in Singapore and Japan (this coming from their having homogeneous societies). However, unlike the attempted international criminalisation of drugs seen today, in a voluntary, propertarian society the drug war would not be an ever present reality. Instead, each community decides how drugs are dealt with, and cannot enforce their collective will on other localities. Drug production most likely remains a cottage industry with production and sale for their respective direct economies. Where it is contractually criminalised, communities are able to stamp it out as they see fit (via community expulsion, jail time or some other contractually obliged agreement), potentially following the examples of Japanese drug enforcement or its enforcement in the UK prior to the 1960s. This a true libertarian perspective on drugs. Allowing for a panarchistic system of different legal systems and different material arrangements.

[1] Rothbard, M. https://thelibertarianideal.wordpress.com/2016/06/20/just-boundaries-and-national-self-determination/

3 thoughts on “A Propertarian Position on Drugs

  1. The issue of drug legalization should be a state issue. Just my thoughts. I must also note the hypocrisy of some leaders in the U.S. who admitted to using these drugs and at the same time wanting to deny the rest of us the right to make the same choices.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d agree. In writing this I meant to take the view that a collective group of private property owners would be able to ban drug consumption through mechanisms of a neighbourhood contract or housing association, in a world of decentralised, pluralistic polities with overlapping jurisdictions. Obviously there will be issues of scale, where above the neighbourhood or town level the costs of enforcement would outstrip the benefit the community might desire.

      The major illegitimacy however is in the state using coercive and expropriative methods in enforcing a law that might not be conducive to the desires of particular individuals or groups.


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