The secret of Anglo-American civilization has been its ability to combine the two elements of order and liberty at successively higher levels of both. To think constructively about our future we shouldn’t be thinking about a zero sum tradeoff between order and freedom; we should be thinking about how to build the kind of order that extends our liberty in new and important ways.

An example of this thinking might involve new approaches to illegal drugs. As we’ve argued on this site, simply abolishing all drug laws is likely to create serious problems, but the status quo can hardly be called satisfactory. What’s needed isn’t the abolition of all laws about drugs but the creation of a legal, social and regulatory infrastructure that provides for more personal liberty about drugs but guards against certain potential consequences of the wider use of the these drugs: strong penalties for sales to minors, routine drug testing in many jobs, taxes on drug sales to support treatment for addicts, greatly expanded DUI laws and enforcement procedures and a major overhaul of the drug prescription system. There would have to be methods established to test newly created recreational drugs for safety and there would have to be laws aimed at preventing narco-trafficking cartels from dominating the legal drug business. There presumably would be zoning laws to keep drug dispensing retail outlets away from schools. There would be mandatory warning labels and, one suspects, there would still be stiff penalties for violating the restrictions that remained (selling to minors, reselling prescription painkillers, black market sales without paying tax, selling bootleg meth instead of the official, certified stuff and so on).

People would have more freedom to take drugs recreationally than they do now, and there would likely be many fewer people serving jail time for drug offenses, but we might also have more drug laws and a larger enforcement and treatment complex than we do now. The social order would be more complex, but the zone of individual freedom would grow.