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Analysis of popular voting majority

The government should not override these decisions simply because it (or a popular voting majority) employs a different calculus of costs and benefits (see the discussion at Husak, 1992: 88-89). A free society allows people to make what most people believe to be mistakes. If nothing else, 6 One brief but sobering survey is available in Sweet and Harris, 1998: 448-49. From Fighting the Drug War to Protecting the Right to Use Drugs • 259 • • Fraser Institute ©2012 jailing the alleged victims is a particularly odd way to “protect” people from themselves (see, e.g., Husak and Marneffe, 2005: 41-53). Moreover, most users are not abusers. Contrary to popular assumptions, the vast majority of drug users enjoy productive, balanced lives. Noted Charles Winick of the City University of New York, “the conventional picture of uniformly negative consequences of regular drug use is not supported by the data” (1993: 136). The United Nations estimates that there are 250 million drug users worldwide, less than 10 percent of whom are considered to be “problem drug users” (Global Commission on Drug Policy, 2011: 13). Rejecting paternalism requires erasing the line between medical and recreational drug use (see, e.g., Husak and de Marneffe, 2005: 17-24). Controversial though this might seem, recreation normally is seen as a positive good. People rarely make a pretense of using alcohol or tobacco for medical or other “serious” purposes. The difference between using Viagra to treat erectile “dysfunction” and to enhance an otherwise normal sexual experience is small. Moreover, when it comes to non-drug forms of recreation, even potentially dangerous activities that participants sometimes describe as “addictive,” the government leaves people alone. Explained Steven Wisotsky, “Society simply defers to the freedom of the individual. It takes individual rights seriously insofar as it is willing to accept a high risk of injury or death as the natural or inevitable price of such freedom” (1986: 208-09). Yet, observed Douglas Husak, “For reasons that are deep and mysterious, many persons become apologetic and defensive about arguing in favor of a right to engage in an activity simply because it is pleasurable. Apparently the pursuit of fun is perceived to be so shallow and trivial that many persons feel obliged to find some other basis to defend their choice” (1992: 46). Of course, special measures are warranted to protect children. However, this does not justify treating the entire population like children. Moreover, prohibition for all makes it harder to concentrate enforcement on kids. “Leakage” to children also is more dangerous from an illegal black market than from a legal adult market.