Re: The Second American Civil War

Eliezer Yudkowsky (
Sun, 22 Dec 1996 13:59:16 -0600

Your statement that the generals in the Drug War don't want to win is
not only paranoid but outright wrong. Perhaps the politicians at the
top don't want to win, but the lower troops do. From O'Rourke:

"If a drug-free America is such a good idea, why aren't members of the
House of Representatives taking drug tests? Why isn't the U.S. Senate
pissing into jars on C-Span? "Get serious" is the phrase I heard a
hundred times from cops, DEA men, customs agents and people living in
drug-soaked neighborhoods. I'd be talking to them and they'd just start
yelling, not at me, but just yelling."

"Dick Weart, acting director of Public Affairs at Customs, yelled about
the drug destruction of families and social fabric: "This is the way
ancient Rome went down the tubes." HE SAID THE CUSTOMS SERVICE DID NOT
WANT MORE MONEY OR MANPOWER [emphasis added] - an amazing, unheard-of
thing for a person in government to say. "We just want people to get
serious," he said.

I've been convinced that drugs are evil. I wouldn't continue the
current police-based War on Drugs, not because the means are
unjustified, or because of my Libertarian principles, but because it
doesn't work. It's not my way in any case - if I go after drugs it will
be with bioengineered viruses, not guns and policemen and warrantless
searches. Nor would I ever attempt to stop (via force), say, David
Pearce from taking drugs - his ethical system says it's okay, and I
respect that. But it has to stop. Have you ever read O'Rourke's
description of a crack neighborhood? It reads like a description of
Hell. In fact, as an SF reader, I have to say that there are quite a
few Hells - and not lighthearted ones either - where I would rather be,
as myself, than in a crack neighborhood as a denizen. Niven and
Pournelle's "Inferno" comes to mind, or the concentration camps of the
Holocaust. The worst that can happen is that you die a horrible,
painful death.

I am a human first and a Libertarian second. Would you, as a
Libertarian, have kept the U.S. out of World War II, knowing that if you
did so the Holocaust would continue and Hitler would rule the world?
Why should your principles as a Libertarian stop at the U.S. border?
Don't the people ruled by dictators have rights too? Shouldn't they,
too, be protected against their government? Don't the Libertarian
principles - or any principles, taken to their logical extreme - demand
that one attempt to conquer the world?

There are laws above morality; they are called ethics. There are laws
above ethics; they are called "game theory" or the laws of symmetry and
doubt. Every theory of ethics demands that the user conquer the world
and convert the inhabitants to their own ethical system; it's an
inevitable consequence of the concept of "innocent children". What
holds you back can only be the conviction that you might be wrong and
that if everyone followed this logic, there would be a major war.

So my ethical system (and, I admit, my morality) says that drugs are
evil, it says that the crack neighborhoods are evil, and it says that
screaming, abandoned infants born addicted to crack have the same rights
as I do. I will not strike out with police and guns and force, nor
attempt to turn any human from the path they have chosen with more than
words. Not because it is not justified - I have no problem with others
doing that, except that it only makes the problem worse - but because it
is not my way. The problem lies not within any humans but within the
chemicals making up crack and the plants producing cocaine.

I deny to those plants the right to live; I deny their products the
right to exist. At them, I will strike. Some may consider those plants
and chemicals their private property, and I admit that those rights may
be violated. Imagine a virus which causes the infectee to believe that
the virus is his property, "choose" to spread it, and then kills the
victim. Is this virus protected by Libertarian principles? Certainly
if the person is inoculated, his right of private property is violated.

The Libertarian principles depend on free will. When people who have
free will but "not enough wisdom to use it" - such as children - become
involved, the Libertarian principles are either modified or abandoned
entirely, depending on the Libertarian. When a substance such as crack
starts infecting the population, the Libertarian principles cannot
provide a simple solution; they are up against a problem of a higher
order than the principles, one having the ability to modify the
postulates on which the principles depend. Under the circumstances, I
think that my response - that of obliterating drugs (but not users!)
without coercive force - is restrained, mild, and appropriate.

It violates the Libertarian principles, but so does crack. The
substance, in and of its action on the human brain, is a violation of
the Libertarian principles as strong or *stronger* than a mere
bureaucrat telling you what to do, because the government cannot yet
control your mind directly. Two wrongs don't make a right, but
sometimes coercive force has to be used against criminals or
governmental thugs. I think that we should estimate the number of
innocent lives destroyed by crack on a yearly basis, divide by fifty,
and call that the acceptable number of civilian casualties to cut drug
use in half. My plan, which involves no coercive force at all, just a
plague which would affect certain private properties, is as Libertarian
a solution as you're ever going to get.

Consider crack to be a hostile government equipped with mind control.

--       Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

Disclaimer:  Unless otherwise specified, I'm not telling you
everything I think I know.