The Cruelty of the Self-Righteous


I am generally favorable to President Trump, and I can give you reasons for that. But I am not favorable, at all, to his role in the current “you aren’t doing enough about this” war between political factions about the so-called opioid crisis. Trump has upped the ante by calling for the death penalty for illicit peddling of opioids. The only way you can call and raise him on that is by recommending the death penalty for users — something that, unfortunately, may already be entailed by the agitated proposals now issuing from Trump and other officials.

Look. Every 20 years there’s another drug “crisis.” This has been going on for more than a century. But seldom has it gone on about a more useful family of drugs than opioids. These drugs reduce severe and chronic pain, and pain is a good thing to reduce. Often it is something that needs to be reduced in order to prevent a suicide; very often it is something that needs to be reduced in order to give sick people a real life.

To arbitrarily limit the number of prescriptions for useful drugs is to arbitrarily increase the amount of human pain. That’s pretty much the definition of cruelty.

There is no doubt that these drugs can be falsely prescribed, over-prescribed, and abused. There is no doubt that they can cause addiction and death. I hope I am not offending you by saying that all of this is a familiar part of life on this planet. The best, and in fact the only, way of meeting this “crisis” is to exercise responsibility for your own medications. It is not to tell your neighbor to take those little pains to the nearest Zen master, or man up and bear them.

To raise the price of “illicit” drugs by raising the penalty for peddling them merely increases profits for the vast majority of dealers who always escape such penalties. To arbitrarily limit the number of prescriptions for useful drugs, which is what is now being proposed on all sides, is to arbitrarily increase the amount of human pain. That’s pretty much the definition of cruelty.

So I say, Damn your cruelty, Mr. President. And damn the cruelty of all the self-satisfied people who agree with you only about this, of all things.

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Scott Robinson

I agree, to extend Trump's logic, death penalty for drug dealers should also apply to car dealers and pool dealers and builders. What about my body, my choice? Does that only apply to shoving a vacuum cleaner into by body? If you choose to shoot up with OxyContin or fentanyl, that is your problem, not we the peoples'. I do like hearing people currently talking about how we need to develop a pain relief treatment that isn't addictive. It will be a cold day in hell before any pain relief pill is not addictive. Pain is a fact of life and any relief pill will be wanted anytime that you feel a little discomfort. You say that I'm cruel saying that you must learn tolerate some pain if you will avoid developing an addiction, however, I contend that life without pain is life without pleasure. People should not be punished for harm that they choose to do to themselves, and yes that is cruel because I'm not self-righteous, saying that we must help them. Just like they choose to do things that harm themselves, only they can choose to be ready to help themselves.


As a libertarian, I believe all drugs should be "over the counter." It is truly tragic when someone is addicted, but it occurs frequently with the most powerful and abused drug in our society: alcohol. We tried prohibition and it didn't work, but the current crop of idiots think they'll get it right this time.

Opioids are very good pain killers and people fleeing from psychological pain will try to use them to continue fleeing their discomfort. Helping them lead a healthier life is challenging and worthwhile, but entering another drug war will be disastrous. Just look how well the war on drugs has gone up 'til now ....

And .... how about that government war on obesity? That's been an incredible success. Huh?

Paul Thiel

Just a comment: to the extent that the problem is unintentional overdoses or accidental ingestions of other than known substances, this is something that can be completely eliminated by legalization and the option of going to a drug store and getting a certified dose of the intended drug.

Fred Mora

Mr. Thiel,

I agree that a rigid control of pain killer, like ours, automatically gives birth to a black market. I like the solution you envision, but it would meet an unmovable obstacle: trial lawyers.

There will be customers who legally buy a certified dose from a reputable pharmacy and then die, for reasons that might or might not be related to the pain killer. In today's system, both the pharmacy and the drug manufacturer would be sued into oblivion. Never mind that overall, your solution would most probably cut down on accidental overdoses.

So this aspect of Libertarianism seems to be incompatible with tort law. This is a paradox since a lot of our solutions involve courts and arbitration rather than an all-encompassing state.

Maybe some legal exemption would be required. IANAL so I will refrain from opinion, but I am interested in hearing yours.

Paul Thiel

I have long thought that at least some libertarians have an over-inflated opinion that judges can solve most of our disputes. Judges are only supposed to apply laws to cases to yield something approximating justice. Without good laws defining property, fraud and responsibility, courts are in vain. We clearly are in great need of tort reform. In the absence of high-minded libertarian legal experts creating these reforms, however, I fear that they would fail to solve our problems with informed consent and responsibility.

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