May 18, 2004
David Carr (and me) on drug abuse

David Carr writes at Samizdata about the use of sniffer dogs in schools, and wonders why there is so much less fuss about that than about prisoner abuse in Iraq, i.e. he disapproves.

Me, I think that if you favour compulsory schooling, you have to accept that (a) schools are then prisons, and that (b) since you get drug abuse in prisons, you are also liable to get it in schools, and that meanwhile (c) a school where drug abuse is controlled is probably better than one where it isn't.

In the longer term, I believe that the "answer" to children abusing drugs is to rearrange the immediate incentive structure that the average school-child now faces. If more children made a more immediate contribution to the world, and got immediate rewards for doing so, and hence more immediate punishments for not making such a contribution, then drug abuse, which would not be rewarded and would be punished, might diminish, although it would never completely go away.

Note that I do believe that there is such a thing as "drug abuse". I do believe that marijuana, to take a favourite example of the pro-drugs enthusiasts, is potentially a quite harmful drug. I do not regard this as inconsistent with favouring the legalisation of all drugs. Drugs are dangerous, but only directly dangerous to those who take them. The harm that drug abusers do to themselves shouldn't be a criminal matter, any more than the harm done by alcohol abusers should, in itself, be a crime. The crimes that abusers commit as a result of their abuse should, on the other hand, be treated as the crimes that they are.

And while we're talking about crime, I think that the age of criminal responsibility, as of economic and political emancipation, should now be lowered, to the beginning of teenagerdom. Votes at thirteen. Criminalisation for crimes at thirteen, no compulsory schooling from thirteen onwards, etc..

Children are powerful, as soon as they want to be (i.e. as soon as they become "teenagers"), and no good comes from attempting to sustain a political regime based on unreality, or on such irrelevancies as the fact that many children of that age are stupid. So are many adults, but that doesn't mean that stupid adults get locked up in schools indefinitely and searched by sniffer dogs for the drugs that they would then also use in huge quantities.

There is another posting here about how the market educates, plus yet another about how modern technology empowers children. Expect these Real Soon Now.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 02:36 PM
Category: Compulsion