Have you lived in a state with liquor stores? It hasn't exactly done wonders for PA, and mostly was a money sink. The state loses money on a monopoly on alcohol. Never mind that it doesn't seem to do any good for other goals.

I see two main problems with your disordered behavior definition. The first is that crime is different than substance abuse, specifically that it harms others. (I am assuming you mean crime like theft, muggings, destruction of property, etc.) Crime is largely what people care about preventing; your neighbor being a drunk isn't a problem if he isn't beating his wife or smashing his car into your house, etc.

Which brings us to the second problem: when does acceptable behavior drift into disordered? Who gets to decide that? With crime it is easy: when you steal my car, that's obviously disordered. With homelessness... its a bit less obvious. When does drinking become substance abuse? Once you get into the realm of legislating that you very quickly get into fights about "stop liking what I don't like!" with no objective lines to draw.

If you break off actual crime from disordered behavior, it does get easier to recognize the difference between allowing behavior and enabling behavior like San Fran does. Banning sleeping on the streets is an easy "You don't own the sidewalk, the city does, so you can't camp here." Same with parks, defecating on streets or private property. Requiring people sleep in shelters or other private locations instead of public areas is a normal rule about how to use public property. San Fran goes out of their way to provide benefits to people with substance abuse issues, which is pretty non-libertarian. It would be more reasonable to say "It isn't our business what you put in your bodies, but that doesn't get you special treatment, and it certainly doesn't exempt you from following the laws." At the moment they have negated those last two clauses.

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You can stare at all of the sociological data and statics you want about San Francisco. The reality is, as someone who’s lived in or near the city for 25 years, the quality of life in the city has declined precipitously in the past 5 years or so.

I hear arguments that, e.g., the data don’t show that San Francisco is an outlier, or that crime isn’t really up (which, to be fair, Alexander addresses), homelessness is just about expensive housing and not addiction, etc. I also understand that oftentimes people from impressions and ideas about things based on limited experiential information and sometimes inaccurate heuristics, that data reveal to be untrue.

But sometimes it’s the data that’s lying. (Cue Mark Twain) There is something uniquely awful going on in San Francisco right now. If the data don’t capture that, then the data are missing something important.

Maybe the issue here is that the quality of life in a city *is defined* on heuristics and impressions and human emotions. Human impressions are actually the thing that’s important because that’s what is being evaluated.

Also, I have a real beef with the section drawing a best-fit line between cost of living and homelessness and concluding that they’re causally related. Again, it is obvious that the people on the streets in San Francisco – often filthy, sleeping in tents, half naked– are not going to all of a sudden have a home and turn into In-n-Out Burger employees if rents drop 15%. There is, again, obviously something else driving that correlation.

I usually really like Scott Alexander, and I have no particular feelings about Schellenberger other than that I’m glad there’s someone out there asking questions. But certainly this review exposes the limits of the “rationalist” approach.

(I too found the suggestion of state-run stores peculiar. State-run marijuana stores in California haven’t stopped the black market. The regulations themselves are so onerous that it’s still easier for many to continue to act illegally.)

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The way Scott Alexander closes his essay, he almost says, "I would recommend the book if I cared most about the civilization/barbarism axis, but I care more about the freedom/coercion axis, so I can't.

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cott Alexander can be counted on to review the literature and then run screaming from the results if they do not support his previous belief. The issue is should the rest of society be forced to put up the externalities from homelessness. Libertarians should be willing to let the homeless die in the street if they wish. They should also be willing to let them be arrested for crimes they commit including sleeping in the street. Left and right differ in how paternalistic they are. The left wants to support bad choices, the right wishes to forcibly convert them to middle class citizens. (There is an old joke involving Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, and Episcopalians about this)

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I would argue that San Francisco’s policies are not libertarian. The government enables these people. If the government policy were libertarian, these people would be dying in the streets in much larger numbers, going elsewhere, or shaping up. They don’t have to, so they don’t.

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Qu.bec has both liquor and cannabis state stores. The SAQ sells liquor and high-end wines. The only black market is for some cheap liquor to some restaurants in a trafic going through an Indian reservation straddling both Canada and the US.

The SQDC sells various cannabis products. From my experience, it does a good business of good quality products. Given the amount of customers, it must have some black market lowering effects.

Both corporations are well run, profitable and employees are well trained and paid and act as good professionnals.

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Re: "I take the view that disorderly people have a low quality of life, anyway, and you are not making it much worse by trying to use coercion to change them."

Casual field observation suggests that a large subset of disorderly people -- specifically the homeless (and perhaps a subset of 'addicts') -- have a strong preference for autonomy. Many would rather suffer poverty and danger on the streets, and rely on panhandling, than submit to rules-and-bosses at shelters/rehab/the workplace. Many seemingly strongly prefer disordered autonomy, stigma notwithstanding. Presumably, coercion to change them would, *by their own lights,* make their lives much worse.

A paternalist might espouse a theory of seduction: Skillful coercion will cause the homeless, who now prefer autonomy on the streets, to come inwardly to embrace order.

Or a paternalist might ascribe 'mental illness' to any homeless person or addict who chooses disordered autonomy. A disorderly person might welcome this diagnosis, insofar as it is exculpatory. However, the diagnosis is a two-edged sword. Thomas Szasz, in his critique of psychiatry, writes: “The business of psychiatry is to provide society with excuses disguised as diagnoses, and with coercions justified as treatments.”—The Untamed Tongue (1990), p. 178

How to balance liberty and order? *The law* should tolerate seemingly self-defeating private behaviors, whilst swiftly and reliably enforcing rules against force, fraud, nuisance, abuse of public spaces. *Culture* should discourage self-defeating private behaviors, whilst encouraging humility among the puritans.

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This is only tangential, but here's a short clip of a NH comedian, Juston McKinney, who riffs on the various libertarian policies of NH vs. Maine and Mass (Live Free or Die!). Except for the liquor stores, which are state run - but conveniently placed at the first and last exit on I-95 coming and going out of the state. Very funny - especially if you have spent time in New England: https://youtu.be/hnTVNZojojU

NH sadly has been a leader in opioid deaths for years. We just don't have the population concentration like SF to have it make a good book.

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There is a certain group of people who are content with little, so long as they can get their fix. They hold themselves together just well enough to maintain that minimum standard. They will migrate to wherever that is easiest. Right now that place is the West Coast, plus other progressive cities.

The harder life in general is, the better they keep it together. It’s difficult to know how much this group overlaps other groups.

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The biggest change that needs to happen here is that libertarians need to understand the concept of *SIN*. They spend a lot of time debating what should and shouldn't be legal and how that should or shouldn't be enforced. Rarely though will a libertarian just say, "you know becoming a heroin addict is a sin. It's a sin against yourself, your family, your community, and any kind of objective reality."

Maybe this is a bridge too far, after all if you had a concept of sin you would be a conservative and not a libertarian. Still, the thing libertarians don't seem to get is that social carrots/sticks are the substitute for legal carrots/sticks. You can't let people and society go to shit and then think the state is just going to step aside and watch. You also can't assume that you can let people dissipate into a total mess and then all of sudden stop them right at the moment they "initiate force". Hell just losing their jobs means the state is going to initiate force to support them.

Libertarianism should be telling a story about how freedom allows you to be your best self. Not how freedom allows you to become an addict.

As to policy, there is always going to be a War on Drugs. It can be a total war (Singapore won its War on Drugs, it can be done). If you're not going to do that, you're still going to have to go after the worst actors and the worst drugs. Even if you decriminalize small scale use your still going to have to bust dealers and lock up street shitters and send people to rehab.

Instead of offering a heroic vision of human liberty whenever the topic is drugs we get a lot of whining childishness from libertarians.

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For me, the principle that must trump all others is consumer sovereignty: that is, each adult is conclusively presumed to know what is good for himself, even if addicted or mentally disordered. Thus we have an obligation to let the alcoholics and drug addicts use their stuff.

What we don't have an obligation to do is to let them take over sidewalks, parks, and other spaces the taxpayers built for other purposes just because they can't afford places to live.

Thus I advocate a mixed approach that avoids putting or keeping either the homeless or the normal population in untenable situations. Thus:

(1) Legalize all substances. But have courts willing to take away this right from individuals who impose costs on other people because of their use.

(2) Encourage communities to privatize parks, schools, some streets, and other public places (spinning them off to neighborhood associations or the residents or businesses on each block) so that the owners can demand the homeless (or past troublemakers) stay away, backed up by fences, locked gates, and/or private security that can use force.

(3) Restore and maintain the mental health treatment facilities and services that were closed about the time Reagan was governor of CA. Don't commit anyone against their will without a hearing with due process showing that they're a danger to others -- but do have the police expel from city limits at sundown those who cause problems and yet are unwilling to enter treatment.

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Two points here:

1. There are a significant number of people who use hard drugs without serious damage to their lives; Jacob Sullum chronicles this in _Saying Yes_, and Carl Hart is an outspoken example. One principled libertarian case against drug prohibition is that hard drug use is not a bad choice for these people, and they should not have to restrict what they can put into their own bodies just because others suffer bad consequences from drug use. You can argue that this is elitist, but it's hard to argue that the people in question don't really consent to their drug use or aren't really living good, functional lives.

2. Also, you can believe something should be legal for consenting adults to do/possess/sell in the privacy of their own homes without believing it should be legal for them to do/possess/sell it out on the street in broad daylight. "Time, place and manner" restrictions are a thing, and not necessarily an un-libertarian thing. From Scott Alexander's account of Amsterdam's approach, what they seem to have done successfully is essentially to enforce time, place, and manner restrictions while keeping private drug use legal.

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A not-discussed aspect of drug trade criminalization is the burden it places on governance of the supplying and transportation infrastructure countries as they have to go along with our policies.

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I find much of the writing about the bottom 10% or so of our society that exclude variable like culture, mental illness, and low intelligence somewhat silly at best. It is like many of the writer have never actually tried to help someone with addition problems an inability to be mentored or change their behavior. There is no easy solution and with some people even progress is impossible.

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Compare my (admittedly meandering) overview of a wide range of more-or-less libertarian analyses of prevalence, paternalism, regulation, taxation, and sundry issues around mind-drug policies:


Re: Prevalence and paternalism. The astonishingly consistent, indeed lockstep, long-term trend (exponential growth for four decades) in overdose rates by mind drugs -- despite great changes in drug use by region, demography, and kind of drug -- might indicate that policy has little impact on prevalence of acute self-harm. We should take seriously the case that individuals have a right to consume mind drugs (Michael Huemer). Insofar as policy has bite, there also are good consequentialist arguments for legalization, insofar as prohibition fosters much turf violence and corruption on the supply side, and entails also foreign-policy conflicts around supply chains. Taxation of mind drugs (Gary Becker) is simpler than a consumer license-regulation regime (Jim Leitzel), which quickly becomes byzantine and likely to foster black markets outside the regulations. Taxation and Monopoly State stores create (perverse?) government stakes (revenue interest) in prevalence of mind drugs. But these revenues might fund prevention, treatment, get-back-on-your feet programs). Prediction markets (Robin Hanson) about impacts of potential policies on drug prevalence and drug harms might be a useful institution to address concerns that legalization of mind drugs would be an irreversible leap in the dark. In every case, reliable enforcement of laws against disorder (crime), including abuse of public spaces, should be a constant.

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