Tories On Drugs

Apparently the competition for the leadership of the hapless Tory party in Britain has gone from a brief moment of optimism to farce. David Davis, who had been thought to be the front-runner for party leadership, suddenly faced real competition in the form of David Cameron, after the latter’s successful performance at the party conference in Blackpool. Cameron is young and libertarian in outlook, which would seem to be a good combination for bringing the party back to electoral viability. In a sign of the times, Cameron has recently been hounded by demands from the press (and supporters of Davis) that he answer questions about his use of drugs. Cameron has responded with variations on “when I was young and stupid I was young and stupid.” But apparently there are rumors about that his drug use was more recent and a bit harder than smoking the occasional joint. This is an issue where there is no question of hypocrisy–Cameron is in favor of the decriminalization of pot and Ecstasy (that said, I don’t think hypocrisy is usually an excuse for digging into a politician’s personal life). And from reading through the papers, I can’t detect any rumors that he is using now. Just to show my cards, I think that drug use when a politician was in college is really out of bounds. On the other hand, it’s hard not to believe that the public would have a right to know if, for example, a candidate for the leadership of a major party currently spends a significant percentage of his free time dropping acid. The issue is the middle ground–at what point between adolescent and contemporary drug use does the matter become fair game? I’m terribly libertarian on such things, but I can’t seem to come up with a bright line standard on the question. Can anyone help me? Mark? Mike? Our readers?

Author: Steven M. Teles

Steven Teles is a Visiting Fellow at the Yale Center for the Study of American Politics. He is the author of Whose Welfare? AFDC and Elite Politics (University Press of Kansas), and co-editor of Ethnicity, Social Mobility and Public Policy (Cambridge). He is currently completing a book on the evolution of the conservative legal movement, co-editing a book on conservatism and American Political Development, and beginning a project on integrating political analysis into policy analysis. He has also written journal articles and book chapters on international free market think tanks, normative issues in policy analysis, pensions and affirmative action policy in Britain, US-China policy and federalism. He has taught at Brandeis, Boston University, Holy Cross, and Hamilton colleges, and been a research fellow at Harvard, Princeton and the University of London.