In part two we looked at how once harmless drugs have been made harmful by their very criminalisation. This points to fundamental problems of detachment and lack of knowledge in modern politics.
Problem One – Against Our Nature
As long as governments seek to implement laws which go against human desire there will be trouble. Life is full of pain and poverty and people will want to numb that pain. The answer is not to criminalise anaesthetic, but to remove the source of pain.
People are also hungry and curious, they want new experiences and they like to party sometimes. Drugs will always be attractive to some people, and if they were easily available and clean, they would be far less trouble than alcohol, since people would want to relax, not vomit and punch each other. The answer is not to criminalise pleasures but to create safe spaces to enjoy them.
Problem Two – Ignorance of What Is
A wise person changes themselves to suit the flow of the world, a fool seeks to change the world to suit themselves – which is why only fools create ‘progress’.
This ‘going against the flow’ can be seen everywhere, in misguided healthcare, education, welfare, employment and prison policies. In every area ministers act without real understanding of these institutions.
Politicians seek to change the welfare system, but how many of them have ever relied on welfare? They interfere with the NHS yet use private healthcare. They make prisons and laws more severe then buy their way out of their own crimes with expensive lawyers. Public schools are crippled with over-administration while MP’s buy their children private educations.
These institutions are complex and intricate dances, and Governments are deaf-blind choreographers. Everywhere they try and change our steps without understanding the dance or the music, and create collisions, disharmony and discord.
Politicians used to come from the shop floor. They had real knowledge of the world and understood what would work and what wouldn’t. Now we have career politicians, with empty degrees and no experience outside whitehall. At one time a politician might understand factory production, farming techniques or transport issues. Now, the central skill-set for politicians is the production of soundbites, looking good on camera and electioneering. A politicians main skill is the ability to maintain a place in politics.
Problem Three – Emasculated Government
The purpose of government ought to be the regulation and monitoring of capitalism: preventing monopolies, ensuring fair employment law and pay scales, preventing environmental abuse and so on. Instead, big business has effectively bought government and neutered it.
Now that it is too afraid to act in its proper sphere, the government is attempting to create a new job for itself by over-regulating people and public institutions. A school is best run by teachers who understand how the school works. Instead, ministers with no background in education attempt to change the exam system, introduce new management structures or interfere with the syllabus – most often ignoring or going directly against the advice of teachers and other experts. The same happens to prisons, hospitals… basically most things politicians interfere with!
Problem Four – Distance
It isn’t that politicians are all stupid – the problem lies with the machinery of government. Even if they were experts – trying to regulate schools from a central government is like trying to drive a car while sitting in your lounge. Being at a distance means losing contact with the reality of the situation you seek to manage.
Effective policy requires a reversal, a return to localised governance so that institutions are managed from the bottom up, guided by shop-floor knowledge, refined by the expertise of those with experience.
Learning From Mistakes
With drugs the interference of government and the making of ill-considered laws has led to higher drug prices, wealthy drug barons, a poisoned and unpredictable supply, the inability to regulate the supply, the use of violence to protect trade, a massive prison population, a focus on petty drug-crime at the cost of dealing with serious crime, a failure to exploit drug revenues and taxes and no decrease in drug use whatsoever.
This is what a government without knowledge, acting in the interest of re-election, distanced from it’s subject produces:- a nightmare. And over the last two decades it has turned its attention increasingly to education, health, welfare, prisons, food, housing and untold areas which gradually impose on our private lives.
We have to disconnect the government from the personal, and free them from the purses of big business. Politicians should be drawn from the sectors they seek to effect so that they act with understanding. Then they can effectively regulate business and leave the shaping of private and family spheres to those who understand how it should be done.
By way of one solution
All politicians could be paid from the public purse at the rate of the minimum wage. Election campaigns have a maximum expenditure, also drawn from the public fund, to prevent the rich ‘buying’ publicity or elections. No donations, no ‘propping up’ from big businesses.
A politician is a politician ONLY. No appearance fees or pay for speeches, no directorships or places on company boards – one job, one focus.
Businesses can then be made to pay their tax bills, which today would net £5billion a year (the present amount of tax avoided by major corporations in the UK), more than enough to replace ‘donations’. (Incidentally – if they stopped the drug war, that too could save £16billion pounds a year in the UK – and raise who knows how much in tax revenues.)
Putting politicians on the minimum wage would ensure they did all they could to raise it, benefitting the poor. It would also weed out ‘career politicians’ who are more interested in the power and money that in helping their country.
Next time, part four looks at gang-wars and other crime ’caused by drugs’ to show how it is in fact caused by ill-conceived law-making.