Much fuss has been made recently about George W. Bush’s alleged drug usage. Apparently fearful of a scandal, Governor Bush has dodged the issue — with disturbingly Presidential style — creating a bigger scandal. Whether he has used drugs or not, he would have done better to follow the example of his New Mexican contemporary, Governor Gary E. Johnson. During his first campaign, Mr. Johnson admitted to collegiate use of marijuana and cocaine, before anyone asked him about it, thus exposing the “skeleton” in the closet before anyone even knew the closet existed. And he won the election.

More important, however, than Gov. Johnson’s personal honesty, is his advocacy for a change in America’s drug policy. Pointing to the failure of Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey’s “war on drugs,” Mr. Johnson advocates the decriminalization of drug usage, and even legalization so that drugs could be sold for profit.

Legalizing drugs would destroy the drug cartels and smuggling rings that invariably involve crimes of theft, assault and murder. This is true, but more importantly, legalizing drugs would be a step towards destroying the principle of government control over your personal life.

The use of drugs is not, properly, a crime. It is immoral and self-destructive, to be sure, but it violates no one’s rights, and preventing it is not a proper government function — which is solely to protect individual rights.

Furthermore, prosecuting drug users does nothing to cure the basic problem, which is philosophical: the user’s desire to escape reality. The cure to drug abuse involves a rational education, a willingness to live in reality, and personal pride, elements that are conspicuously absent from today’s schools and culture, and actively discouraged by a government that attempts to destroy individual responsibility at every level. The same politicians and intellectuals who claim that the individual citizen is incompetent to make decisions about drug use, also declare that the individual is incompetent to control his own investment, health care, and education. At every level, the principle of individual responsibility is being destroyed by the insulting paternalism and power-lust of our increasingly statist government. In this environment of insulting paternalism, it is little wonder that many people turn to drugs to escape a reality they are told they are not responsible for.

Those behind Governor Bush’s evasiveness, and the so-called war on drugs, should look deeply into the lesson of Governor Johnson’s acceptance of the principle of individual responsibility. Not only is it moral, but it works.

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Andrew Lewis

Andrew Lewis is a senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, Calif. The Institute promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.

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