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Monday, January 05, 2009

Marc Emery and the Liberty 100

The Liberty 100 is the Western Standard's list of the 100 Canadian friends of liberty who have made significant contributions to individual liberty (both personal and economic) in 2008 (Top 10, Top 25, Top 50, Top 75, Top 100). The list was selected by our publisher, Matthew Johnston, who has intimate and wide-ranging knowledge of, and familiarity with, the Canadian liberty movement.

Given that this is the first installation of an annual list, Matthew decided to also include those liberty activists whose lifetime contribution to the liberty movement deserved recognition and credit, regardless of their activities in 2008 alone.

The most controversial selection on the list appears to be that of Cannabis Culture publisher and Western Standard columnist Marc Emery. In the comment sections of the list (here and here), several people complained that Emery shouldn't be on the list. Kathy Shaidle (65 on the list) expressed, uhm, grumpiness at the selection. And in emails that both Matthew and I have received, people were unhappy at the inclusion of Emery.

Maybe these responses are a result of some confusion. The list is reserved for those who are struggling for individual liberty, in a political context. Since this is the goal, it is hardly surprising that the list features libertarians more than it features conservatives, liberals, or adherents of other political philosophies. 

Libertarianism, after all, is synonymous with the struggle for greater individual liberty in personal and economic matters against the intrusive power of the state.

Conservatives, generally and according to the stereotype, want to increase economic liberty, while maintaining government control over personal matters. That is, conservatives are pro-liberty when it comes to economic matters, but anti-liberty when it comes to personal, cultural, or social matters.

The reverse, meanwhile, is true, generally and according to the stereotype, of liberals -- more personal, social, and cultural liberty, and opposition to economic liberty.

For this reason, some call libertarianism an amalgam of fiscal conservatism and social liberalism. But the standard really should be liberty, and we should call fiscal conservatives economic libertarians, and social liberals something like civil libertarians. It's political liberty that is at stake when it comes to these labels, so why not make liberty the noun to be modified?

So given that the list is a liberty list, I'm having trouble identifying why anyone would be opposed to the inclusion of Marc Emery who, without any doubt, is the most significant advocate of individual liberty when it comes to marijuana. It is a violation of individual liberty to have the state dictate to us what we can and cannot put into our own bodies, just as surely as it is a violation of individual liberty to have the state dictate to us what we can and cannot read or say.

We might not want people to read or say certain things, and we might not want people to smoke, eat, or inject something or other, but it really is a violation of their individual liberty for us to make use of the coercive power of the state to enact our vision of how people should live their lives. Ensuring that people are nice, kind, decent and virtuous, that they not harm themselves, that they exercise regularly, that they read Shakespeare and avoid Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five or the writings of Oscar Wilde, that they eat their vegetables and not munch on hash brownies (or pot brownies, or whatever they're called -- I mean brownies with a bunch of marijuana in them), and so on, is, according to the individual liberty, or libertarian, perspective, the proper function of parents (in properly rearing their children), in civil, voluntary institutions like the church (in instilling certain virtues, and providing a community for fellowship and fellow aid), in voluntary market responses (like boycotts and public relations campaigns to make less profitable those businesses we disapprove of), and so on. It is decidedly not consistent with individual liberty to have agents of the state show up to shut up those people whose writings we don't like, to impose a daily eating and exercise regimen, or to imprison those adults who decide to smoke pot or sell it to consenting others.

If you think Emery should be imprisoned for selling marijuana seeds, if you think people who smoke pot should be jailed, then you are an opponent of individual liberty when it comes to marijuana. That's too bad, as far as I'm concerned, but so be it. Just don't call yourself an advocate of liberty when it comes to pot. Call yourself what you are -- an advocate of the state dictating to adults what they can and cannot smoke.

Some of the more clever advocates of state intrusion insist that they want the state to intrude for the sake of greater autonomy. The more nuanced advocates of jailing pot smokers claim that greater autonomy in this sense means greater liberty. After all, doing drugs alters your mood, your appetite, and alters your preferences and desires not through rational deliberation and rational endorsement, but through chemical means. And, at least when it comes to illicit drugs, many think this undermines our ability to create and act on plans and projects of our own choosing. Put differently, we might no longer identify with our plans and projects because of our use of certain drugs.

Of course, I don't believe that marijuana is fairly lumped in with heroin or cocaine when it comes to this position. Empirical literature and studies appear to demonstrate that marijuana does not have the effects that opponents claim it does, that it is not a gateway drug, that it does not diminish autonomy to anything like the levels that would warrant state action if we thought that undermining our own autonomy was both something to be opposed and something that it is right for the state to interfere with. (That both are necessary is crucial and often overlooked. I call it the "ought-state gap." We need to be clear that advocates of state action need to show not only that something is bad and ought to be opposed, they also have the burden of demonstrating that the state is the right kind of institution to effectively oppose whatever we don't like. Everyone agrees that, say, you breaking a promise to come see a movie with me on Tuesday for no good reason is wrong, but we hardly think that I should therefore call my local police department. We also agree that adultery is wrong, but very few think this warrants state action.)

More to the point, the diminution of autonomy through drug use is, while worrisome, not a matter of specifically political liberty. Political liberty is the freedom we have as against the state. It is the room we have to mind our own affairs without the intrusion of state actors. It is not the freedom we have simpliciter, or the effective autonomy we have in our daily lives.

There are, obviously, nuances that I'm not covering. I'm not, for example, explaining why children should be treated differently from adults, or giving an account of "harm to others" that explains the difference between the kinds of harms (theft, violence, etc.) that warrant state interference consistent with political liberty, and the kinds of harms (you making me unhappy and sad at your use of heroin, which most certainly counts as a "harm") that do not. So there is still much left to be said.

Nevertheless, it should at least be, I hope, clear why Emery deserves to be on this list, and why he deserves to be near the top of it. No one has done more for individual liberty when it comes to marijuana. No one. And not just in Canada, but in the world. Marc Emery just is the world's most prominent, most tireless, and most significant activist in defense of the freedom of adults to enjoy marijuana as they'd like, without the state crashing through their doors, destroying their lives, tearing apart their families, and otherwise doing what really is utterly despicable and revolting.

While we might not want people to do drugs, the state-run war on drugs is, really, a war on individual liberty. Since Emery is vociferous in his opposition to it, he is a defender of individual liberty. That's why he's made the Western Standard's Liberty 100 list this year in such a prominent position. And that's why he'll probably continue to be on it year after year after year. And a good thing too.

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on January 5, 2009 in Libertarianism, Marc Emery | Permalink


That's enough of the personal shots, Janet. You do not have a lock on what it means to have an open mind, or an enlightened attitude, or any of the other supposed moral or intellectual superiorities you ascribe to yourself. Your own arguments consist almost entirely of emotional platitudes. So if you've really got the science of argument down as well as you seem to claim here, why aren't we seeing it?

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-01-09 4:19:55 PM

Marc Emery Induction into the Western Standards' top Liberty 100 Distributors of 2008 Hall of Fame-- 4;20 today, reception to follow., *door prizes * Cash bar * light refreshments * silent auction* Awards ceremony for best online arguments in the VIP Lounge for stakeholders and their pets

Saskatoon Hilton-- Friendship Room

$ 5 in advance // 10 bucks at the door // $ !5 at end of event

Posted by: 419 | 2009-01-09 4:32:10 PM

you are just showing your ignorance again. I grow medical marajuana for myself and have been for years, I know how cannabis is grown and how it grows from personal experience, and thousands of hours of research, verified by personal experience. Cannabis does not need any dark period, they grow fastest when you leave the light on 24 hours per day. With my one light it costs me about 35 dollars worth of electricity per month to maintain my sustinence garden. A typical crop is vegged for 1 month after your cuttings have rooted, then the lights are flipped to 12 hours for 60-75 days until the buds(flowers) have ripened. During the two months of flowering you only use half as much hydro so about 17 dollars per month. Expected harvest from a 1000W Mh with a good full spectrum bulb is between 12-20 ounces with a maximum harvest of 1.5 pounds. So growing one's own supply of weed costs about 35+17+17= 69 dollars per pound.

I think people who are currently paying 80 dollars per quarter ounce for weed could afford to pay the hydro and get that quarter ounce for around $4

The number of plants is not as important to your yield as is the ammount of light and the effective use of the light. Sunlight is far more brilliant than any light you can provide artificially.

Posted by: DrGreenthumb | 2009-01-09 4:49:52 PM

medical marajuana use is legal in this country and has been ruled legal by the supreme court.

Posted by: DrGreenthumb | 2009-01-09 4:55:06 PM

If good ventilation is all that's necessary, my dear Doctor, why do even million-dollar homes succumb to mould caused by what, according to you, as an extremely simple fix? They don't really stink that much until they're smoked, do they?

Prohibition in itself harms nothing, since this is a drug of questionable value available with a prescription and pretty damned useless (and even pernicious) to everyone else. Only scofflaws who flout the law cause the harm. But then, we wouldn't know anything about that, would we?

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-01-09 6:19:12 PM

Well, Miss Holier-than-Thou Janet, I notice that your two sole contributions to this board are both cheap shots that don't even attempt to tackle the topic, so perhaps you'd better double-check what it means to have an "open" mind. Hint: It doesn't mean being "progressive" or "liberal."

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-01-09 6:26:03 PM

"...Any third party coming to this blog to read the comments with an open mind and without having previously formed opinions on marijuana prohibition or whatever..."

doth say the honourable Janet..

Hmm, thats curious, We thought that third parties, whatever, already have opinions and then they bring them here to the forum. Everybody has an open mind, just ask them- they will confirm this. Nobody has a closed mind, nope- nobody .
We wonder how many " whatever " people come here without any opinions, looking to get cheered on. Our guess is zero.

Posted by: 419 | 2009-01-09 7:47:19 PM

This exchange is a prime example of why the internet sucks. At least talk radio doesn't feature insults and trolls.

If you want to pass sentence on Mark Emery, at least get the facts. Meet him and talk to him first.

Having met him a few times at the Liberty Summer Seminar, I would say he has done more for liberty than most of the commenters here...

Posted by: EarlW | 2009-01-10 11:20:07 AM

Is this thread still running ? whew..

Posted by: 419 | 2009-01-10 4:27:06 PM

What aspect of liberty was missing that Mr Emery did more for?

Posted by: 419 | 2009-01-10 4:30:38 PM

"libertarianism" is flawed. you give one person the liberty to do what they want & beileve is right and in doing so, you takes away someone else's freedoms. What happened to pacifism? I do not agree with the currently instated laws on marajuana, simply because I don't beileve stoners are criminals. Have you ever heard of "an angry mob of stoners?" No, of course not. How about "an angry mob of drunks?" I can guarantee it. Weed does not make people violent & I can't fully conprehend why the government tries to convey the message that alcohol is acceptable but weed is not.. but I know that as long as the government continues to show me that it's laws are beyond ridiculous, I will use my better judgement before referring to their absurd ideas on how I should live my life. I know my opinions may be biased because I am not really affected by laws in any way shape or form, I dont grow marajuana & when I become a home owners & choose to do so, I sure as hell wont be staying in canada waiting around for our government to be okay with it, im going to move somewhere where my beliefs are supported. Right now, I have no issue smoking my weed in a place that is both discreet & doesnt affect others. I understand my way is not the only way & if others choose to be ignorant to the amazing qualities & benifits of marajuana, that is their own choice & I'm not going to be the one to stand in their way. I have just come to a point where Ive realized its clear that people will never be able to coincide in peace. & regardless of this, we cannot expect a corrupt government(i.e. every government) to be able to cater to everyones needs when they don't care. Governments are based around money & out-dated practices that dont work in modern day society. I can do my part in being a peaceful person & thats where it ends.. & the world will keep shooting itself in the foot no after Im gone.

Posted by: Tara Anderson | 2009-02-14 12:39:21 PM

OK so I'm a few months late in responding, but for the sake of archival posterity, I'll do so now:

Spanky wrote: “1. People are going to jail for growing it, but that's only because it is criminalized, so criminals profit from producing it. If it were legalized, that wouldn't happen.”

Shane Matthews responded: Firearms, tobacco, and alcohol are all legal products, Spanky. Criminals are involved in smuggling all of them. Did you know that in many American states it is perfectly legal to own a fully automatic weapon?

Spanky replies: That's a slippery slope fallacy, Shane. The smuggling of alcohol during the Prohibition Era resulted in a lot of harm to society. Whatever smuggling of alcohol that takes place post-Prohibition is miniscule, and is in no way a threat to society compared to the smuggling activities during the Alcohol Prohibition Era and compared to today, during the Arbitrary-Drug Prohibition Era. Furthermore, any smuggling that does occur of alcohol, firearms or tobacco occurs due regulatory differences in various regions, and that only strengthens the argument for reducing regulatory discrepencies between governments. And of course, alcohol, tobacco and cannabis are much more similar to each other than they are to firearms. Comparing them to firearms is a means of introducing an equivocation fallacy, in the same way that introducing weapons-grade plutonium into the discussion would be. Of course, usually when people introduce that fallacy into this type of discussion it's to suggest that regulating anything is pointless (ie. because weapons-grade plutonium is the most regulated substance on earth and still occassionally goes missing, possibly winding up on the black market, we might as well not regulate anything." The fact is, regulations impede proliferation, and stronger regulation equates to greater impedement to proliferation. Now, when a substance that strongly regulated, as prohibited substances are, greatly proliferates anyway, as is the case currently with cannabis, and during the Prohibition Era, was the case with alcohol, then it behooves the government to de-regulate that substances. Tobacco is becoming more and more unpopular, so we can expect it to be increasingly regulated. Similarly, because cannabis is relatively popular and its popularity isn't likely to wane much, we should expect to see it become less-regulated. Of course, it would be unrealistic to think that Canada could legalize cannabis without USA doing the same. Cannabis is already a major cash crop for Canadian organized crime to export, and if cannabis were legalized in Canada, gangs would rule Canadian cities openly. But violence would also plummet north of the border. Currently one or two gang members are being shot per day in Vancouver all because the cocaine supply was choked off from Mexico due to a massive increase in enforcement of prohibition in Mexico. If one requires further proof that impediment to supply begets violence (and that this violence ripples through the entire multinational supply chain), then one is clinging to ideology and won't be swayed by reality anyway. But hey, 'libertarianism' is all about clinging to ideology and not being swayed by reality, right??

Posted by: spanky | 2009-03-14 9:19:54 PM

Oh, and I noticed nobody responded to this nonsense:

Shane Matthews wrote: "If good ventilation is all that's necessary, my dear Doctor, why do even million-dollar homes succumb to mould caused by what, according to you, as an extremely simple fix? "

Because the people growing marijuana in 'million-dollar homes' are doing it illegally, they can't vent properly because the neighbors might smell it and call the cops. Another one of your reasons to deny reality turns out to be baseless. But as Janet pointed out, you have a never-ending supply of baseless reasons to deny reality. And like I said, that makes you an excellent 'libertarian'!

Posted by: spanky | 2009-03-14 9:28:02 PM

One more thing. Shane says that campaigning for an end to drug prohibition should be a 'low priority' for libertarians. He might be right, since libertarians are kooks, but I contend that ending drug-war violence by opening up supply is the most pressing issue facing society today. Even bigger than islamic terrorism. Islamic terrorists aren't shooting up Vancouver on a daily basis this month, people who profit off the prohibiton of drugs are.

Posted by: spanky | 2009-03-14 9:35:43 PM

the marijuana crisis is _not the most pressing issue facing society today-- food, housing, fuel, disease control are far more important physically- and there are abstract, spiritual political concerns to address.

pot and other party drugs are an annoying side show, at best/ worst- dope is only important to wipeheads-- not the rest of humanity

if you want the drug war to stop- stop using drugs

Posted by: 419 | 2009-03-14 10:18:36 PM

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