Huckabee on Drugs?

Mike HuckabeeOn the May 6, 2011 edition of Freedom Watch, Judge Napolitano interviewed Ron Paul and followed that interview with Mike Huckabee.  At 3:30 of the following video, the Judge tosses a question to Huckabee about Ron Paul’s stance on the de-federalization of drug laws.

The Huckabee Interview

In the first republican debate of the 2012 campaign season, Ron Paul had the following to say about “legalizing” drugs:

Chris Wallace:  Congressman Paul, you say that the Federal government should stay out of people’s personal habits.  Uh, you say marijuana, cocaine, even heroin should be legal if states want to permit it.  You feel the same about prostitution and gay marriage.  Question sir, why should social conservatives in South Carolina vote for you for President?

Ron Paul:  They will if they understand my defense of liberty is the defense of their right to practice their religion and say their prayers where they want and practice their life.  But if you do not protect liberty across the board, it’s a first amendment type issue.  We don’t have a first amendment so that we can talk about the weather.  We have the first amendment so we can say very controversial things.  So for people to say that “yes we have our religious beliefs protected, but people who want to follow something else or a controversial religion, you can’t do this”–if you have the inconsistency, then you’re really not defending liberty.  But there are strict rules on freedom of choice of this sort, because you can’t hurt other people, you can’t defame other people.  But yes, you have a right to do things that are very controversial.  If not, you’re going to end up with government that’s going to tell us what we can eat and drink and what ever.  You know, it’s amazing that we want freedom to choose the future in a spiritual way, but not when it comes to our personal habits.

Chris Wallace:  But Senator [sic], are you suggesting that heroin and prostitution are an exercise of liberty?

Ron Paul:  Well, you know, I’ve probably never used those words, you put those words someplace, but yes, in essence, if I leave it to the states, it’s going to be up to the states.  Up until this past century, you know for a hundred years they were legal.  What you’re inferring is “you know what, if we legalize heroin tomorrow, everybody’s going to use heroin.”  How many people here would use heroin if it were legal?  I bet nobody would put the heroin . . . “Oh yeah, I need the government to take care of me,  I don’t want to use heroin, so I need these laws!”


Chris Wallace:  I never thought heroin would get applause here in South Carolina.

Ron Paul’s position on drugs stems from two premises: (1) one person’s liberty ends where another person’s begins (“[T]here are strict rules on freedom of choice of this sort, because you can’t hurt other people, you can’t defame other people.”), and (2) the Federal government has no authority to criminalize drugs in Article 1, Section 8 (“[I]f I leave it to the states, it’s going to be up to the states”).

On these two points, Ron Paul’s case for drug legalization is very hard to argue with.  To understand how someone might disagree with him, we turn to Mike Huckabee’s interview with the Judge where he’s asked for his take:

Huckabee (on why Paul got a big applause):  Well, first of all, let’s remember that Ron Paul takes a great crowd with him wherever he goes.

I suppose that the first sign of weakness of a politician’s ideas is a strong following, but I digress.

Huckabee (continuing):  That overwhelming cheer is not representative of South Carolina.  I guarantee you if you polled the Republicans of South Carolina and say “would you like to legalize drugs,” it’ll be an 80 / 20 against.

Of course, this is completely irrelevant to Ron Paul’s argument.  The proper poll question should be “do you think that laws against drugs should be issued at the Federal or State level?”  I’d imagine if you polled the Republicans in South Carolina, they would respond 80 / 20 for “State level” . . . unless, of course, I’ve completely missed something and Republicans in South Carolina are real keen on a huge Federal government.

Huckabee:  Most Republicans do believe that there is a valid reason, that part of the social contract is that we do not allow illicit drugs on the streets and that we have some sense of those drugs being illegal.

This is meaningless.  I have no idea what’s written on Huckabee’s version of the “social contract” that somehow grants the Federal government the power to criminalize drugs.  One should look no further than the Constitution.  That said, if the “social contract” says that we don’t allow illicit drugs on the streets, then there really wouldn’t be any violation of the “social contract” to allow drugs on the street after they’re legalized.  It is a myth that all criminal activity is bad in and of itself simply because it’s done by criminals.  If the acts of another cause no injury or infringement of your rights, those acts should not be illegal.

But this is where Huckabee really starts to go off the rails.  The Judge sets him up nicely:

Judge Napolitano:  Should the Federal government–or should it be left to the states–be in the business of legislating morality?  So in other words, if you want to move to Massachusetts or California where morality might be different than South Carolina or Arkansas you’d have the chance to do it?  But if everything was uniform there’d be no place to go.

Huckabee:  Well, it depends on, for example, I think that there are some issues that transcend states’ rights.  That’s what the issue of the Civil War was about.  If slavery is morally wrong, then it’s not morally wrong because it’s geographical.  Morally wrong means that it’s wrong in New Hampshire and it’s wrong in North Carolina.  It can’t be right somewhere if it’s not right somewhere else.

This statement shows an astonishing lack of understanding about how our Constitution is organized.  To hear Huckabee speak, one would think that slavery was outlawed everywhere in the United States by virtue of the Civil War.  In fact, no act of war made slavery illegal, no law in the U.S. Code was enacted under Lincoln to permanently abolish slavery in all the states.  Slavery was made illegal after the Civil War when the States ratified the 13th amendment–because the Federal government did not otherwise have the power to “legislate morality” or enforce a “social contract” without explicit authorization in Article 1, Section 8.  Even the great moral issue of slavery did not “transcend state’s rights.”

Moreover, the Civil War didn’t change the fact that the Federal government’s powers are limited to those outlined in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution.  More than 50 years after the end of the Civil War, when the Federal government wanted to outlaw alcohol, the 18th Amendment was ratified by the States to make it illegal.

We don’t bother with the rule of law anymore.  If the Federal government wants to outlaw something but doesn’t have the authority, it just ignores the Constitution so long as there is a majority in congress. The fact of the matter is that Ron Paul warned in the debate that if we do not have the right to do things that are controversial “you’re going to end up with government that’s going to tell us what we can eat and drink and what ever.”  Of course, this is an untimely warning because this is the exact type of government we have already.  In fact, Huckabee himself passed a law in Arkansas that outlawed smoking on private property (when proprietors allow the customers onto their private property they somehow become “public places,” subject to legislative meddling).

Huckabee should also understand that the idea that moral issues “transcend states’ rights” and that some metaphysical power is granted to the Federal government to enforce a “social contract” is irresponsible and dangerous.  The Federal government only has those authorities explicitly delegated by the Constitution.  Using excuses to legislate outside the bounds of what is explicitly stated in the Constitution is the exact same “penumbra” of metaphysical Federal authority that made abortion legal in all 50 states.  As the Supreme Court said:

The Constitution does not explicitly mention any right of privacy. In a line of decisions, however . . . the Court has recognized that a right of personal privacy, or a guarantee of certain areas or zones of privacy, does exist under the Constitution. In varying contexts, the Court or individual Justices have, indeed, found at least the roots of that right in the First Amendment, in the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, in the penumbras of the Bill of Rights, in the Ninth Amendment, or in the concept of liberty guaranteed by the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment.

. . .

This right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment’s reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.

Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) (citations omitted).  How’s that for a social contract that transcends states’ rights?

With his penchant for legislating top-down morality without Constitutional authority, Huckabee might be more suited to serve as Grand Ayatollah of the United States than he would President.

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