Leading article

Let Greece leave the eurozone

Plus: Why it’s madness to legalise cannabis

21 February 2015

9:00 AM

21 February 2015

9:00 AM

To listen to Greek government ministers addressing the outside world during their breaks from negotiations with eurozone leaders this week, it would be easy to form the impression that Greece had a mighty economy upon which all other eurozone countries were pathetically dependent. ‘Europe is going through the difficult process of understanding that Greece has a new government committed to changing a programme that has failed in the eyes of everyone who doesn’t have a vested interest,’ said finance minister Yanis Varoufakis.

The reality is that Greece is the dependent country, propped up by its creditors, and it is Greek government ministers who are having trouble in understanding the situation in which they find themselves. A mandate from their electors does not allow them to dictate the terms of their country’s bailout.

The Syriza-led government is right about one thing, however. Greece’s debts have reached the point at which it has become all but impossible for the country to repay them. Moreover, while you cannot blame the current government for the debts built up by its predecessors, there is scant sign that, given the chance, the Syriza administration would do anything other than emulate those which have gone before.

Restructuring Greece’s debts will just shunt the problem down the track so that we have an even bigger crisis in a couple of years. The threat of default and an exit from the single currency will hang over Greece until it actually happens. The sooner that is, the better. At present, a Grexit seems to be treated as the ultimate disaster which all sides must unite against in order to prevent. What it should be is the inspired solution which offers a route out of the mess.

Twenty-three years ago a British exit from the Exchange Rate Mechanism was similarly seen by many as the disaster which had to be avoided at all costs — even if it meant interest rates rising to an economically ruinous 15 per cent or beyond.

A few weeks after the ERM disaster, many were left wondering what all the fuss had been about. The economy was recovering, homeowners were able to afford their mortgages once again. It became clear that the struggle to keep Britain in the ERM had been less about economics than about John Major and Norman Lamont saving face.

True, Britain in 1992 wasn’t indebted in the way that Greece now is, but the chief impediment to a Grexit is pure vanity. The European political establishment cannot bring itself to admit that Greece’s acceptance into the single currency was a horrible mistake. Let Greece go, it fears, and we will all look like fools. If eurozone leaders can get over this emotional hurdle, they might begin to see that Greece’s membership of the euro is the problem. It pushed down Greek borrowing costs to an artificially low level during the good times; then, when the bad times came, it prevented the country from devaluing its currency to become more competitive.

A Grexit, to be sure, will cause pain to many. In the short term, life for Greek citizens may get worse as a sinking new currency pushes up inflation. Yet simultaneously, Greek exports would become cheap to the rest of the world. Holidays in Greece will become a bargain. The economy would be in a position from which it can recover so long as businesses are allowed to do business.

Syriza’s ideology is hostile to free trade, but a Grexit would leave it with only one sensible option: to let the private sector get on with creating wealth and leave its social programmes for another day.

We have seen enough of how Europe operates to know to expect a fudge from the current negotiations. A six-month extension to the Greek bailout, which will simply delay the actual resolution of this dispute, seems likely. But we hold a glimmer of hope that the worst might just happen.​

Reefer madness

Nick Clegg likes to say that the NHS should treat mental health as seriously as physical health. This would be laudable were his party not simultaneously promoting a policy guaranteed to increase mental health problems: the decriminalisation of cannabis and possibly its legalisation.

This week, a study by King’s College, London, adds to a growing body of evidence that the drug is one of the chief contributors to mental illness, with a quarter of psychotic cases caused by it. Banning something, of course, doesn’t mean people don’t do it — otherwise Britain wouldn’t have any cannabis users to study. But it is a certainty that legalising the drug would increase its consumption as it became more widely available. The number of cannabis users in Britain — 6.4 per cent admit to having smoked it during the past year — is an order of magnitude lower than those who drink alcohol.

If you are going to make mental illness paramount to your health policy, you should be trying to reduce one of the biggest causes of the problem, by making it more difficult to obtain cannabis. But then consistency never has been the Lib Dems’ strong point.

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  • misomiso

    +1. Well done Speccie.

    There is on reason to be cautious. Up until now the Eurosceptics have been pro Greece leaving, as they believe that 6 months to a year down the line Greece will be doing very well, and so shame the EU leaders and make it easier for the UK to leave the EU.

    However it may be the case that Syrizia instead turns Greece into a kind of European Venezuala, and allies itself with Putin. This would make the case for leaving the EU much harder to make.

    Its all very exciting anyway.

    • grecian7

      Greece would not be “doing very well” because as well as all the other reforms needed, which the outgoing government failed to address, due to their penchant for helping themselves, personal friends and their families before helping the country, there is a huge impasse of unimaginable bureaucratic inefficiency and ineptitude to be overcome. Anyone who attempts to establish a business is blocked at each step by petty officials, who are often ill-equipped educationally to do their jobs. The clientism, job for a vote system, was out of control, completely unchecked ,and approved by the 1974 Constitution, for 40 years. Non-jobs were invented, usually ways of blocking progress. This still continues in all public services, although the excuse may be that with sackings there are now fewer people to deal with your case, and the relevant person is elsewhere. I speak simply as one trying to get a driving permit renewed!
      For someone operating, for example, a sailing school (which brings in foreign payments of course), imagine the frustration.

      A quick recovery is pie-in-the-sky, unless the Tsipras government can get a change in the constitution, and, believe me, that document is so composed as to make change impossible in less time than another parliament.
      Well done France, where rule and change by decree can get rapid action!

  • Asitis3

    The EUs lovely the EUs great everyone else is bad !…Is the Spectator funded by the EU ?

  • ohforheavensake

    Just on the reefer thing- you need to read what Tom Chivers posted on this website about cannabis.

  • grecian7

    Interesting, but a very limited point of view. I have lived in Greece, on and off since 1959, so have an outsider’s as well as an insider’s view.

    The point is that Greece has been forced, by the Troika to take on more debt. We can not continue in this way, hence we reject more Troika!

    Also Spectator should have mentioned that other countries have taken many years to pay off debt obligations, and some have been kindly excused, whilst they rebuilt their economies (Germany comes to mind).

    Why should Greece be treated differently? Greece has not wrecked Europe, even once, let alone twice in the 20th Century. It was only our own economy that was ruined by past Greek governments, of late mistakenly aided by the Troika.

    Blame politicians on the make, aided by irresponsible banks, who knew the score, and since 2010 by the Troika!

    • Malcolm Stevas

      Germany is hardly an apt parallel: it was flattened after WW2 and notwithstanding Marshall Aid etc, pulled itself up by its own bootstraps in a way Greece would never be able to emulate.
      “Greece has not wrecked Europe” certainly – neither has Europe wrecked Greece. Instead, the rest of the EU and especially the Eurozone has loaned vast sums of money to Greece – which that country flushed down the toilet through its wild, feckless over-spending, its bloated public sector, its absurdly generous retirement/pensions practices, and its apparent inability to facilitate wealth creation and collect taxes.
      The UK should be sympathetic to Greece – but not to the extent of giving it any more money, or encouraging others to do so. The Greeks made their bed and now they must lie on it.

      • grecian7

        Exactly what I have been saying in Ekathimerini for several years, about Greece’s own fault. I don’t disagree with one thing you’ve pointed to. On the other hand, many of us are being unfairly forced to pay for the iniquities you describe. My own close family have taken nothing from Greece and gain nothing in social and public services. We brought money into Greece and I still do The result is that, as a property owning family, claiming no benefits, and tax-paying, we have, in recent years, been robbed at the behest of the Troika.
        The attack is indiscriminate. WE have no pensions, no health care, nothing, yet we are forced to pay and pay because of the lousy politicians and their friends.
        The new Greek government has a plan which is supported by many economists outside Greece, but is damned by the one and only German Financial Minister. Germany business is not without fault either in its dealings with Greece.

        • Malcolm Stevas

          I have much sympathy with your personal position, but that government “plan” seems to outsiders to consist largely of continuing to borrow large sums, paying them off (or going through the motions of undertaking to do this) ever more slowly, and not making common-sense adjustments to spending plans. In other words, they want to have their cake and eat it too.

          • grecian7

            There’s much in what you say. Unfortunately the SARIZA government’s hope of getting people back into gainful employment in Greece will be hindered by bureaucratic obstacles which the previous Samaras/Venezelos coalition should have tackled. I wrote about this in a comment further down (reply to misomiso), A recent article in the N Y Times details two examples and a friend wrote to me agreeing, from her experience.
            But a little leeway would be encouraging. My own position is OK, for the present. I worry about my adult grandsons, one a budding actor in Athens and the other a philosophy student in England and France. But the terrible aspect of austerity is the suicide rate and the homelessness.
            Greece has had a rude awakening from its mindless acceptance of poor leadership, lies and corruption. As I have reminded friends, and in blogs, it was a system of Bread and Circuses such as in the declining Roman Empire, in the words of the satirist Juvenal. In accepted socio-economic terms “conspicuous consumption”…and that was obvious all too often. Sad to relate. On the other hand I have a Greek cousin,almost the same age as me (81ish) who will never let me leave even one bit of spaghetti in the saucepan . She says “We starved in the German occupation. Do not waste”

      • Terry Field

        Germany is an apt parallel; It twice raped the continent and murdered countless numbers. It was rebuilt with forgiven debt. It never repaid the stolen billions to Greece or Poland.
        Greece, however, will succeed outside the single currency, and others will leave after it demonstrates success.

        • The Hun

          Poland was repaid with enormous German territory. In case you do not know, Germany is still paying for WW1, just google it.
          Did Britain repay South Africa for the Boer war? How about enslaving millions of people during the period of the empire?
          (I am not German)

          • grecian7

            True about Germany’s WW1 payments. As I said, many countries can take years to repay, so why not Greece? The answer is that the irresponsible banks are in on the act!

          • ClausewitzTheMunificent

            That “enormous German territory” was mostly forest and infertile farmland. A geographical detail, little more.

          • The Hun

            If it was such a bad area why did over 10 million Germans lived there? Danzig was an old Hanseatic city. They were expelled without any compensation for their properties. The same happened to 3 million Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia too. Overall about 15 million Germans lost everything when they were expelled from their homes and about 3 millions died from revenge by civilians, Russian soldiers and also from hunger and exposure. Just google it.

          • ClausewitzTheMunificent

            Oh I know that perfectly well, and have never considered it wise or fair. But those 10 million people were living there because they had nothing better, not because the land itself was amazing.

      • ClausewitzTheMunificent

        Germany did not pull itself up by “its bootstraps”. It relied on its traditional national resources, coal and iron, even though shared with the French, and the huge postwar European demand for goods to replace all which they had destroyed, to replace their industries. Germany was no more devastated than many countries which they had occupied. Of course Greece couldn’t emulate German recovery after the Second World War – the Greek population is an order of magnitude smaller, Greece has no natural resources, and industry which cannot be compared the scale of the Ruhrgebiet. Moreover, the rest of Europe is not suddenly desperate to rebuild. Perhaps the Greeks should bomb Germany to bits to boost demand. The Greek debt problem was a Greek problem until EU expansionism and admittedly their naive greed brought them into the EU. Since the beginning of the crisis, the EU has simply shovelled money to the largely German banks holding Greek debt.

    • will91

      The problem with Greece is quite simple.

      According to the UN it has one of the lowest fertility rates on the planet – 1.3 children per couple.

      In practical terms 100 grand parents will have 42 grand-kids. Can you see where I’m going here?

      Greek public sector employees are not only entitled to fourteen monthly pay checks per annum during their working lives, but also fourteen monthly pay checks until death! Who the hell’s going to be around to pay for this?

      In Greece, public sector workers retire at 58 which sounds awesome!!! But when 10 grandparents have 4 grandchildren. Whose going to pay for you to sit in Cafe’s all day!

      • grecian7

        The problem with pensions in Britain and in Greece is that these ‘national’ insurance systems were set up and function in a way which is NOT in compliance with acceptable good insurance practicality.

        At the inception of such a scheme there should have been a very considerable deposit of money into a ‘kitty’ to meet pension payments to immediate and imminent retirees, with further provision to cover until such time as the balance would have been achieved, when a retiree would draw a pension funded by his/her own and employers’ contributions.

        The existing system breaks down when there is extensive unemployment, resulting in reduced input of contributions.

        Pensions should be a result of a person’s and employer’s own contributions, not on contributions of younger workers at the time.

        Grand schemes can backfire. National pension problems are nothing to do with a parents to offspring ratio,such as you imply.

        On other points, I agree with you.

  • Perseus Slade

    This is the fundamental flaw in the current vote-based democratic system. People like Tony Blair get elected by making promises they can`t fund. Who is going to vote for no pensions?

    It would be better if the lawmakers were chosen by lot.

    Fill the House of Lords with lord-for-day lot winners and have no law on the books that is not approved by a large majority of them.

    Let the House of Commons be filled with skilled professionals who know how to manage the state, not smarmy used-car salesmen.

    • Ed  

      Ah, yes, “experts”. Just what we need. Remember in 1900 when all the “experts” thought mass sterilization was a great idea? Remember in 1880 when the “experts” thought we could figure everything out from the bumps on your head? Remember 1962 when the “experts” prescribed everyone thalydamide? Need I go on?


      This is exactly what Churchill was on about when he said “democracy is the worst possible way of running a country …. except for all the others.”

      • Perseus Slade

        Is it better to have well-funded politicians who know nothing about anything except getting themselves voted in?
        They make up their policy on the hoof to the dictates of pressure groups.

        I`m for better democracy, not the current mess.

        • Ed  

          Great. How do we go about implementing this improved democracy?

          • For a start, you need to decentralize government and you need MPs with shorter terms in office: works in America! Makes government far more responsive to the citizens.

          • Ed  

            Are you sure the American system works? Often, when I talk to Americans, I hear wistful yearnings for a system less dysfunctional than theirs (not to mention one where they don’t have half the population that didn’t vote for the King).

            I suppose the grass is greener….

          • Well, as a British-American (among other things), I can say that I vastly prefer to be represented by the American system of democracy.

          • Ed  

            Maybe England, Wales, Scotland and NI should all be made provinces.

          • No, I think that would be against our constitutional principles : )

          • Ed  

            The British Constitution is whatever the House of Commons says it is. Those principles can change. Its the Americans who have carved their problems in stone.

          • To the contrary: our Constitution is our bedrock, and you misunderstand it fundamentally if you don’t grasp that. We are freer than you are: remember that.

          • Ed  

            (a) Who’s “you”? Where am I from?

            (b) What impediments are there to Westminster creating and disbanding new legislatures and new limits on free speech, and making other such significant constitutional changes?

          • grecian7

            I’m not in this discussion but with a close examination of your Constitution according to the precepts of the philosophy of language, there are ambiguities. Best not to look! Although it could be a useful way of resolving your gun ownership problems, once and for all!

          • Yes, there are ambiguities — which is why it’s helpful to have George Anastaplo’s books to hand.

          • Perseus Slade

            Is there not a more general moral to be drawn here? I seems that due the way democracy is set up in many countries, politicians get themselves elected by making promises that they can only keep by borrowing money, and that in the end that money runs out to general astonishment and confusion. Who is going to vote for no pensions?

            The answer is to arrange the situation so that this does not happen by involving the stakeholders directly in the political mechanism: given the situation given the man.

            We need democratic reform now.

            The House of Lords as it now exists is a mess and ripe for reform.
            This is a big opportunity, and not to be missed
            Historically, the House of Lords represented the great landowners, who at least had a real stake in the country. There is no going back to that but we don`t need a second house of elected representatives: that would only give rise to contradictions. Also, elections to not always produce the right sort of people, all too often smarmy gits like Tony Blair. There needs to be contrast, balance.
            It would be better if the House of Lords were filled with lord-for-a-day stakeholder citizens chosen by lot, and regularly rotated. This would preclude entryism à la Warsi and bribery à la Jack Straw, Nothing should be law except what this assembly overwhelmingly agrees to, a focus group of 1000 actually representing the people.
            This would neatly offset an elected House of Commons, in charge of implementing policy.

            Let`s start by adding a few chosen-by-lot to the existing House of Lords and progressively building up the numbers. Something like jury service combined with winning the lottery.

            There is a problem with the way the number of MPs does not reflect the proportion of votes their parties got. MPs should focus on the interests of the constituency voters that elected them. But national government should reflect the numbers of voters that voted for the policy platform of each party. Each party should put forward a number of leaders that corresponds to the proportion of votes it got, and these leaders should govern the country as a team of limited numbers focusing on running the country in an efficient and effective way on the basis of the laws established by the House of Lords, in a manner that consistently reflects the short, medium and long-term interests of the country. First-past-the-post for constituency MPs and proportionality for the national government committee.

            In short:
            law-making for a reformed House of Lords
            and running the country by a reformed House of Commons.

            I’m for evolution not revolution.

  • WillyTheFish

    Why the hysteria about cannabis?

    I have smoked the herb that cheers – including ‘skunk’ – for over forty years. Still no sign of psychosis.

    I recently discussed this with my GP whose opinion was that young people would be advised to abstain from the stronger varieties but that on the whole the herb was less of a problem than alcohol and / or tobacco.

    As for me – age 68 and still counting – my GP’s opinion was that after forty-odd years: “If it was going to do you any harm it would have done it by now”.

    • Ed  

      I imagine that you had no underlying mental issues for the weed to exacerbate. You’ve been fortunate. Not everyone is.

      • John

        The tax revenue from legal weed would be huge, as opposed to zero now. Plenty of money to assist people with difficulties, rather than putting them in jail, as the right wing so enjoy.

        • Ed  

          Wouldn’t it be better if we do neither? That is, neither tax weed, nor use it to worsen the conditions of those with mental health issues?

        • The ‘right wing’ of what? Where is this famous ‘right wing’ I keep hearing about?

    • Some people can drink like Russians and get through life quite well, too. Doesn’t make it a good idea as a general policy.

  • JSC

    “But it is a certainty that legalising the drug would increase its consumption as it became more widely available.”

    Not necessarily so. If I remember the statistics correctly, fewer people smoke it in Holland where it is legal, than in the UK where it is not. In my opinion the question isn’t “do you want people to smoke it or not” because in there’s little you can do to stop them, the real question is: “do you want the proceeds to go to organised crime or not?”

    As for Greece “… there is scant sign that, given the chance, the Syriza administration would do anything other than emulate those which have gone before”, rings very true. If anything Syriza seem to be determined to be even more profligate than their predecessors given half a chance.

  • mrsjosephinehydehartley

    I suppose Greece will have to find a way to transform an effective bridge into an effective gateway out of the zone, without detracting from its position as an EU member, or noticeably causing a lot of trouble for other members of the zone and EU.

    The best gateways work both ways, and I suppose something for Greece in particular, which has never been designed before, would be a great test of the mettle of the wider EU, and provide a great learning opportunity.

  • global city

    Beware of ideologues

  • Ed  

    This isn’t about Greece. At this point Brussels doesn’t care if Greece turns into the next Lybia.

    This is about Italy and Spain.

    I expect Berlin and Brussels to make a horrifying example of Greece, in order to cow Italy and Spain (and the Northern League, and Catalonia), to keep them from getting any uppity ideas.

    Analyze EU actions in this light, and they start to make sense.

  • Aporia

    One point regarding the Reefer Madness section:

    The King’s College study found only that specifically high potency cannabis – or ‘skunk’ – and/or an abusive frequency of cannabis use has an detrimental effect on mental health. According to the lead author of the study:

    “The results show that psychosis risk in cannabis users depends on both
    the frequency of use and cannabis potency. The use of hash [a much less potent form of cannabis] was not associated with increased risk of psychosis”


    In other words, it’s the difference between the health effects of, say, one pint every night of the week, on one hand, and three heavy 25-unit binge sessions a week, on the other. The Lib Dem’s policy is therefore contradictory only if not supplemented with measures which would regulate and limit the potency and use of cannabis.

  • Damian Hurts

    The Eurozone experiment is going to end in tears.

    The ‘partners’ are NOT standing up for each other.

    So what’s the point of being ‘partners’ in the first place?

    EU membership is crippling us too.

    Exit the EU now, no matter the cost.

  • Eric Priezkalns

    “If you are going to make mental illness paramount to your health policy, you should be trying to reduce one of the biggest causes of the problem.” If that simplistic logic was followed in every instance, then no politician could seek to improve road safety without banning cars, and nobody would discourage extremist beliefs without prohibiting free speech. Just because something is one cause of something else that we find undesirable, doesn’t justify the leap to making it illegal.

    • There isn’t a ‘leap’ to making it illegal: it already IS illegal, and became so for very good reasons. One is that it is one of those substances that are not bred, as it were, into our culture — as alcohol is. By the way, there are lots of things that are banned because they cause harm, and all you’re saying is that cannabis shouldn’t be one of them. Where’s the argument?

      • Eric Priezkalns

        You deliberately misinterpreted my argument. I’m saying you can’t ban something simply because that thing is a ’cause’ of something undesirable. That is where the logical ‘leap’ has taken place – in the argument that decriminalizing drugs must be inconsistent with wanting better treatment of people’s illnesses. By that logic, alcohol should also be banned if you want better healthcare, because alcohol ’causes’ an awful lot of illness.

        I find your argument that alcohol has been ‘bred’ into our culture to be stupid. I routinely hear messages asking me to drink responsibly and read newspaper headlines that bemoan how drunken people behave in real life. Perhaps your ‘breeding’ programme is not as successful as you imagine. Taking your fatuous position to its logical conclusion, cultures need never change because they’ve already been ‘bred’ to be the way they are. So we should not have stopped the slave trade or banned any drugs, because there was a point in history when slavery was normal and legal whilst there were no laws against any drugs.

        Admit the following: your argument, to the extent the word even applies to what you wrote, is just a roundabout way of saying you don’t like drugs. You’re so dim that you plainly didn’t read what I wrote. I said nothing about whether banning cannabis might be justified for various reasons – it’s just not justified by the author’s silly partisan sideswipe at the Lib Dems. How dare the Lib Dems ***gosh, heaven forbid*** push a policy that would increase personal liberties in our society at the risk of expecting adults to take some responsibility for their own wellbeing!??! What hypocrites they must be!!

        Only old school paternalists still think conservatism is synonymous with a rather absurd kind of nanny state that expects everyone to be responsible for themselves whilst simultaneously interfering in private matters to protect adults from the consequences of their own decisions.

        • If you’d like to rest your high horse somewhere in the shade for a minute, I’ll make my position plainer. People can drink alcohol without drinking to get drunk, which is why alcohol can be the subject of connoisseurship and also why it is part of social life — and indeed, quite high social life (society functions, political gatherings, balls, etc.). But of course, alcohol is also or can be intoxicating (as with all potential toxins, dose matters). I’m saying that we have a culture that has learned to accommodate alcohol — as have our bodies of course, unlike the poor unfortunate Amerindians — and this can’t be said for other drugs. I also think that, given we have a wonderful and readily available intoxicant in alcohol — but also the problems that go with it — do we really need to offer our society’s members yet more ways to get silly, soporific, and socially difficult? What is the moral argument for taking the complexities of alcohol consumption and making them even more fraught by adding other legally consumable, mood-and-mind-altering drugs?

          • Eric Priezkalns

            Conservatives like you give socialism a good name.

            “What is the moral argument for taking the complexities of alcohol consumption and making them even more fraught by adding other legally consumable, mood-and-mind-altering drugs?” The moral argument is stupendously simple. What substances adults can choose to put into their own bodies shouldn’t be determined by the irrational prejudices of morons like you.

          • How do you know that I’m a conservative? I’m a classical liberal, in fact.

          • Eric Priezkalns

            I’m a classical liberal. That’s why I’m sceptical whenever someone argues that the government must limit the freedom of the individual for his or her own good.

            You, in contrast, are not a classical liberal. You are merely confused. That is why you went to some trouble to share a rambling argument in favour of restricting an individual’s freedom to put whatever they like into their own body.

            Your confusion, combined with your misguided belief in your moral superiority, is a good example of why classical liberals wouldn’t want people like you to influence what the rest of us can do.

          • Well, if you are a classical liberal you’re a very presumptuous one. I am not trying to abridge anyone’s freedom for the sake of it, or arguing that we should; but I am also (unlike people who fondly consider themselves libertarians) concerned with the effect that ‘what we put in our own bodies’ has on other people. Being concerned for other people in some way while also defending our freedoms is what makes a polity possible. It’s what makes a neighbourhood possible, and a family. If it’s all hell-for-leather self-indulgence all the time, don’t we end up sacrificing more than we gain? Does the phrase ‘liberty not licence’ ring a bell?

          • Eric Priezkalns

            “I am not trying to abridge anyone’s freedom for the sake of it, or arguing that we should”

            Apologies. Having read your words, I thought that was exactly what you were arguing. Now I learn that your argument was even more incoherent than I could have possibly imagined.

          • Goodnight, Eric.

          • ajcb

            A classic liberal accepts that an individual has untrammelled freedom up to the point at which those freedoms limit another individual’s freedoms.

            You can fling your fist out all you like, but when it makes contact with my nose, I have the right, as a respectful classic liberal, to object. Keeping harmful drugs illegal is not designed to maximise the individual’s freedoms (nor is classic liberalism), but to protect the rest of us individuals-practising-our-rights from someone damaged by drugs. Do I not have a right not to have my community more filled with people off their heads? Who may, in their irrational, even psychotic, state, harm me (thereby robbing me of the (classic, liberal) right to walk down the street unmolested by nutters)?

          • Eric Priezkalns

            If you’re going to attack an argument, you’d best make it an argument that somebody actually made, not a straw man fantasy that you’d like to attack. Please note that I wrote: “I said nothing about whether banning cannabis might be justified for various reasons – it’s just not justified by the author’s silly partisan sideswipe at the Lib Dems.”

          • carl jacobs

            Who told you that you have an unfettered right to put whatever substance you want into your body? Is this some divine moral law chiseled into stone and brought down with the Ten Commandments from Mt Sinai? Because I certainly don’t recognize any such imperative. If you turn your brain into Swiss cheese, other people will have to deal with the consequences. That gives them standing to tell you “No.” You can whine about that, but don’t think you can stand up on your hind legs and demand some sort of inalienable right to chemically alter your perception of reality. There ain’t no such right.

            Now, I suppose we could try to find some hypothetical middle ground where the user and the user alone bears the consequences of his decision to submerge his brain in (say) Meth or PCP. In practice, This couldn’t be guaranteed because selfish adults often make selfish decisions that impact dependents. But leave that aside for the purpose of the thought experiment.

            1. If an addict commits a criminal act, he gets throw under the jail, and let out once every 30 days to see the light.

            2. Addicts don’t get gov’t financed health care.

            3. Addicts don’t get gov’t financed welfare.

            4. Addicts can’t beg in public.

            5. An addict is responsible to free himself from addiction.

            See, the point is that the drug user can’t turn himself into a non-functioning adult, and then expect other people to care for him in perpetuity while he spends his days indulging his habit. Drugs are habit-forming, after all. And the habit is destructive to both the individual and those around him. That’s why they were prohibited – nebulous claims of autonomy notwithstanding. You want help as an addict? Fine. It stays illegal. But don’t ask me to legalize it, and then also expect me to bear the personal cost of addiction incurred by the addict. If you want it legalized, then the addict bears the cost of abusing it. All of it.

            Agreed? At least in terms of this hypothetical thought experiment? Good. Autonomy can be a b***h, can’t it.

          • Eric Priezkalns

            Jogging is habit forming, and running injuries are treated by the NHS. Alcohol is habit forming, and alcoholism is treated by the NHS. Skiing is habit forming, and skiing injuries are treated by the NHS. Also, skiers sometimes hurt others by crashing into them. I was simply trying to point out that the dividing line in what people are ‘allowed’ to do with their bodies – as if we need explicit permission for everything, when the truth is we’re inherently free until others decide otherwise – is rather conveniently drawn to suit current fashions, and has little to do with a genuine weighing up of the costs of liberty. That is why this string of arguments in favour of keeping drugs illegal involves a lot of passionate language but few examples of comparative data. For all I know, it’s perfectly possible that the average cannabis smoker costs the NHS less per year than the average skier, and until somebody presents the actual data, these arguments are just a lot of sound and fury. In that respect, it’s certainly not hypocritical for the Lib Dems to propose better mental healthcare whilst urging the decriminalization of cannabis, as the author argued. To suggest this is hypocrisy requires a position which, if consistently maintained, would require us to ask if the NHS’ treatment of obesity means the state should enforce laws to forbid overeating. In that respect, my position is consistent, because when such clashes occur I lean toward the state ending the provision of collective care rather than the state enforcing limits on human behaviour.

            Anyhow, I have disdain for your comment which begins “who told you that you have an unfettered right…” Unlike the modern fashion, I don’t begin my analysis by listing the “rights” that people supposedly possess, because rights are just an artificial construction and usually a circular way of restating the speaker’s prejudices. Drawing on JJ Rousseau, I would say the reality is that humans are innately free until we find our freedoms curtailed by interaction with others. Hence I make no observation about the ‘right’ of the individual to put something into his or her body. It is just a plain fact that a person can put things into his or her body. I seek a debate about the ‘right’ of others to coerce the individual into not doing things they are physically capable of doing.

  • carl jacobs

    a Grexit would leave [Syriza] with only one sensible option: to let the private sector get on with creating wealth and leave its social programmes for another day.

    Because, as well all know, Socialists have proven to be the most economically sensible people in the history of man.

    Greece is doomed.

    • Paolo Paracchini

      I agree with carl jacobs! Greece (and other EU Member States) should try pushing down on the private sector pedal before it is too late. Vourafakis, do it “by the book”! Cut public spending and taxes; sell government (oops, sorry, “state” assets), the Acropolis if need be! Flood the Greek economy with this windfall of resources and hope the private sector can pull Greece out of the nose dive its in (thanks to corruption and social programs it cannot afford). Why not try a little capitalism for a change? What harm could it possibly do at this point?