“Addiction policy is broken. We must fix it,” writes Pierre Poilievre to critics who may have misinterpreted his previous YouTube video on addiction, treatment, and recovery.
Poilievre’s addiction policy of ending safe-supply sites is about compassion. So he writes.
For a Conservative, Pierre does a decent job of making his case. Not fool-proof. You’d think he’d demonstrate why his government wouldn’t pursue his proposed policy and safe supply sites. As opposed to having to choose one over the other.
Since he doesn’t address this false dichotomy in the editorial, it’s unclear why he holds such a belief. One can only assume it’s because he’s a conservative first and libertarian by proxy.
Like Jordan Peterson or Ben Shapiro, when Pierre’s traditions clash with liberty, tradition wins.
When Pierre says he wants to make Canada the freest nation on earth, he’s referring to “positive” freedom. This contradicts popular opinion, which associates conservatives with “negative” freedoms.
This latter “negative” freedom is freedom from state intervention.
Positive freedom refers to something like empowerment. Factors outside our traditional rules of law constrain this kind of freedom.
Popular opinion places Liberals and NDP in the “positive” freedom camp. They believe equality levels the playing field so anyone can succeed regardless of background.
Popular opinion places Conservatives in the “negative” freedom camp, where the state doesn’t tax and regulate excessively. Hence, you have the liberty to pursue your interests.
Pierre Poilievre and most Conservatives sound like they’re talking about negative freedom. But as I will demonstrate through Pierre’s drug policy, he actually belongs in the positive freedom camp.
Simply put, Poilievre’s addiction policy demonstrates the false left-right paradigm.
Where Does Poilievre’s Addiction Policy Come From?
I have a theory about Canadian politics. Our democratic clown show mirrors the American one, with a bit of a lag. They elected George W. Bush. We went for Stephen Harper.
They elected Barack Obama, and we responded with Justin Trudeau. The timing is a bit off, as the Americans have already had their stint with right-wing populism.
And, of course, this is just a fun theory. Not an ironclad rule. For example, Obama never faced off against Trump. But Pierre Poilievre will face off against Justin Trudeau.
And in a lot of ways, Justin Trudeau is our Donald Trump. He’s a populist airhead that cares more for optics and his ego than the people he apparently serves.
So who is Pierre Poilievre? And what is Poilievre’s addiction policy?
All you need to know is that he’s been a politician since his twenties. He’s a career politician, and it shows. He thinks like one.
Poilievre sees freedom of thought and expression under attack in the education system. It’s a long-term structural problem that resolves itself only when the state ceases funding these institutions.
But what does Poilievre propose? Appoint a free speech czar.
Poilievre sees inflation destroy our paycheques. Does he propose abolishing the institution responsible? Central banks are, after all, the creators of inflation.
But Canada’s “radical” populist sounds more like neo-liberal Milton Friedman than libertarian anarchist Murray Rothbard. Poilievre wants to return the bank to 2% inflation targeting, so you only lose half your savings over 35 years.
Inflation is a hidden tax, but Poilievre politicizes it by calling it Justinflation. A clever partisan attack that obscures how all parties have been undermining the money’s value. And it’s been going on for decades.
Why would Poilievre support the central bank and state funding of education if he believed in “negative” freedom? If he truly believed in “negative” freedom, Poilievre’s addiction policy would be nonexistent.
Conservatives Love the State
Why would Poilievre have an addiction policy? Why would he support a central bank and fund universities? It’s likely a practical solution.
Radical reform is impossible so long as the administrative bureaucracy wags the tail of the dog-eat-dog parliament. And the system enriches Poilievre just as much as it enriches Trudeau and his cronies.
But philosophically? Conservatives are not libertarian. A libertarian hates the state. A libertarian’s concept of liberty is in the negation of the state. Hence the term “negative” freedom.
Positive freedom says the state guarantees a particular lifestyle or standard of living—universal health care, public education, and welfare services, for example.
It can get a little bonkers. Suppose vaccine passports are an example of “positive” freedom, which is an argument people make. That means this is a philosophy where the state demanding your papers is considered “freedom.”
For Liberals and the NDP, it also means that addicts have access to treatment and a safe supply of drugs. The Conservative Party essentially says the same thing, minus the taxpayer-funded supply of Suboxone.
All parties support addiction treatment and recovery society. They may differ in the details, but the overall worldview is there. Remember that cannabislegalization was all about “public health.”
So how does Poilievre’s addiction policy demonstrate this false left-right paradigm? By appealing to treatment and recovery.
The belief that the state should involve itself to better your life. That the Vancouver tent city is Ottawa’s problem, which means it’s “our” problem, which means there’s a bureaucratic solution and the duty of taxpayers to pay for it, ultimately, at gunpoint.
In other words, they love enforcing more of the same “positive” freedom on us. The same “positive” freedom that leads to tent cities to begin with.
Deconstructing Poilievre’s Addiction Policy
If Pierre Poilievre’s addiction policy resembles his National Post editorial, we can discern and deconstruct a few myths.
But this doesn’t mean treating people struggling with addiction like criminals. Contrary to what my critics have implied, I have never advocated for this. I am an advocate for compassionate solutions that help people struggling with addiction take back control of their lives.
The rehab industry doesn’t allow people to take back control of their lives. It labels them addicts with disorders and diseases.
The problem of addiction isn’t biological. It’s cultural and psychological. A drug can produce withdrawals but can’t compel you to use it. You may strongly prefer opioids, but a preference is all it is.
If drugs didn’t provide benefits, people wouldn’t take them. The benefit may not be objective or even logical. But it’s only when the benefit of abstinence (or moderation) outweighs the benefit of heavy use that a person can change.
Therefore, all drugs should be legal.
People struggling with addiction belong in treatment, not prison.
The Soviets used to lock up political dissidents for psychiatric reasons. Nixon launched the drug war to undermine his political dissidents.
Treatment centres can be worse than prisons. Just what exactly is Poilievre’s long-term strategy here? What kind of power will he create someone like Justin Trudeau can later use?
Do you smoke weed and have anti-government views? Then you have an addiction and mental health disorder. Off to the treatment centre for you!
What About Organized Crime?
Prison should be for violent habitual re-offenders and kingpins who profit off these deadly and life-destroying substances.
No, prison should be for violent offenders and habitual property violators. Not “drug kingpins” who have done nothing wrong beyond providing goods to people who voluntarily take them.
Of course, because of prohibition, these groups overlap. But imagine Breaking Bad if methamphetamine had been legal the entire time. How violent would Walter White need to have gotten?
Yes, it’s a fictional show that’s been off the air for ten years. But it reveals something powerful about the illegal drug trade. And since it was one of Stephen Harper’s favourite shows, and Pierre was his lapdog during Harper’s years in government, I’m willing to bet Polilevre has seen it.
He probably bases his belief about drugs on it.
What is Addiction?
Addiction is, as Alcoholics Anonymous put it, a “cunning, baffling and powerful illness” that takes away the individual’s ability to choose.
Alcoholics Anonymous isn’t without its fair criticism. And that definition of addiction doesn’t make any sense. There are no involuntary behaviours beyond reflexes.
Addiction is not an illness. It is not a disease of the brain. It does not take away your ability to choose. This isn’t my opinion. You can read about it here.
The behaviours that come along with addiction are harmful to individuals, their families and their communities.
Pierre, you’re so close. Allow me to rephrase that for you: “The ideas that come along with addiction are harmful to individuals, their families and their communities.”
Pierre Poilievre is wrong about drugs. But so are the other guys.
Like the concepts of “positive” and “negative” freedom, people’s ideas have the power. Not the inert substance. Nor the state-guaranteed right to this or that.
People’s subjective minds can overcome drug habits without treatment. We can flatten our institutions within two weeks. It takes a lot of propaganda to make us feel small and powerless. And it only serves the interests of a few.
Isn’t it time to negate that control and take back our freedom?