High on freedom and honest debate

I find that a great test of whether your instincts are liberal (as classically and correctly defined to mean freedom-loving) is how you approach the question of legalising marijuana.

In the current issue of The Economist I try to summarize the debate in California about Proposition 19 in November, a ballot measure that would legalize cannabis for those 21 or older.

And in an accompanying podcast, I interview an opponent and a proponent of legalization, both carefully chosen, in an attempt to get beyond mere gut instincts to clarify the arguments for and against. I wonder how you guys would interpret that conversation.

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68 thoughts on “High on freedom and honest debate

  1. I wouldn’t use legalization of pot as a litmus test for liberalism or conservatism. In fact, I would not use any single issue as a litmus test for political ideology.

    I have some reservations about the legalization but they have little to do with political ideology. They are primarily issues of economics and expectations.

    There is a reason that marijuana is also nicknamed “weed”. It grows easily just about anywhere. Get a few seeds and grow your own. Legalization will allow people to grow their own thereby impacting the projected tax revenue. I am sure there will be sufficient numbers who won’t grow their own, preferring to let others do that for them. After all, you can make your own wine and beer, even distill your own whiskey… up to a certain amount. And I have known a few who did that. But it was messy, expensive to get started, and troublesome. Growing your own MJ is easy. All you need is a pot to put your pot in, water for it, and a reasonable amount of sunshine (or a full spectrum light source). And a couple of seeds.

    Second issue is the control factor. The government will try to regulate THC content. This will lead to yet another bureaucracy (probably within the ATF) which will issue regulations, raid small farms in favor of large production houses, and generally become corrupt. Or it will be toothless. All depending upon who is in charge of the government at the time.

    Yet, on the other hand, I have no solution other than legalization. Total prohibition does not work, we’ve seen that. Partial prohibition does not work; it didn’t with alcohol and it doesn’t work with medical marijuana.

    So, I am hoping California passes that resolution. Maybe we’ll learn something from it.

    By the way, that is one awesome doobie in that picture.

    • Allow me to be pedantic for a minute (because I actually put some deliberation into that first sentence of my post):

      The test is “how you approach the question of legalising marijuana”. You’re assuming that I meant that the test is “whether you believe it should be legalized” — ie, that I preempted what your conclusion should be. Actually, no.

      What I meant is this:

      Liberals (and I never use that word in the American sense, but in the classical sense) will approach the question by seeing it as the freedom of SOME individuals (those who might like to get high) versus the freedom of OTHER individuals (those who might somehow suffer from the choice of the first group).

      Examples: Most of us agree that people should occasionally wash, to avoid smelling like pigs. If everyone in your neighborhood smelled like a pig, the value of your property might go down and you would be hurt. And yet, we do not make body odor illegal and punishable by prison time. That’s because most of us agree that doing so would take undue liberties away from the stinkers, so that all of society (even you, ultimately) would be less free.

      One notch up: We agree that smoking (cigarettes) is really, really bad for you. We even agree that secondary smoke causes harm to others. And we even agree that smoking causes societal harm, via costs in the healthcare system that must be borne indirectly by others (higher premiums etc). And yet, again, we agree that we cannot make smoking illegal because doing so would rob us of liberty and make us a nanny state. The most we let ourselves do is to allow (free) individuals (eg, employers, restaurateurs) to ban it on their property, which seems alright.

      One notch up: Alcohol. The rationale is almost the same as that for smoking, with the addition of SAFETY (in traffic, mainly). Again, we have (since the disaster of Prohibition) agreed to keep alcohol legal within limits, because otherwise we would no longer be free.

      And now: The question of marijuana. You must apply the same, or similar, logic to arrive at your conclusion. You must draw up the balance of liberties lost and gained and the effect on society at large.

      If that’s your approach (whichever conclusion you arrive at), then you are a liberal thinker.

      If you take a different approach (eg “God says Thou shalt not toke…”; or even a purely economic cost/benefit analysis) then you are not a liberal thinker.

      Not being a liberal thinker, of course, is not a crime. It just so happens that the Hannibal Blog does liberal thinking.

    • @Andreas

      “We” haven’t actually agreed to those things, not all of them anyway. But, that’s unimportant. I have noted that definitions of words are dependent upon the particular bent of the person offering the word. My libertarian friends all call themselves “classical liberals” while my liberal friends call themselves “progressives.” Only my conservative friends call themselves “conservative.”

      My problem was not with your definition nor with the form of the question. It is the use of a single issue litmus test to determine ideology. But that might depend of what the meaning of “is” is…

  2. A remarkably rational and informed debate on both sides, although the fiscal effects cloud the issues.

    It is a difficult balance to draw between lack of technology to test the use of the drug and driving, the removal of the black market and freedom to determine your own actions if they do not harm others.

    No mention was made of the risk of graduating to harder drugs, and little of the health and social considerations.

    I must admit I am torn, and in the absence of more information than the purely statistical, would rather err on the side of freedom. Thus I am in favour of Proposition 19 in principle and as a fresh approach to a deadlocked problem.

    • I was actually surprised that Salazar (in my podcast) opted not to go into arguments against Prop 19 based on health or the risk of graduating to harder drugs.

      In the interview, I explicitly offered those points to him several times. (We cut a lot of the banal parts to make it better listening. I did not do the cutting.)

      It’s possible that Salazar avoided them because he felt they were easy to disprove. The health effects of moderate toking are apparently now worse than moderate boozing, and far less than equivalent smoking of cigarettes. If he had made those arguments, we would have heard Nadelmann’s rebuttal.

  3. Dude. The comments on your article seem to be overwhelmingly pro.
    I thought 4:20 was a criminal code for possession (or something). In my town, 4/20 is a huge holiday. Traffic is a mess. Consumption is conspicuous. > fifty thousand people acting like drunks (not stoners). Stoners are supposed to be home watching cat videos. Can we legalize pot and criminalize indiscretion?

    • Thank you Mr. C., I had no knowledge of the realities.
      Could you spare me some time, please, and explain, so that I may understand, how your comment relates to the question of decriminalisation in your town?

    • Mr Crotchety, being crotchety, does not mind people stoning as long as they stay home and watch cat videos on YouTube. he minds people being yobs, to use the UK term.

      Yobbism is indeed the scourge of our time. In LA, everybody becomes a prick as soon as they drive out of their garage.

      We hold these truths to be self-evident: …. life, liberty and the freedom to be an asshole.

      I don’t know how to write the law we need, Mr C.

    • @richard. We have a so-called medical marijuana law that has greatly
      liberalized distribution and use. You can look up medical marijuana
      laws in the U.S. on a state by state basis. Dispensaries flourish with
      very clever names (that’s my favorite part about the whole thing –
      naming dispensaries). One argument (among many) against this is that,
      unlike real pharmaceuticals, there is a great deal of non-uniformity
      in chemical content. To me, this is analogous to prescribing tomatoes
      because the taste is therapeutic. How would you standardize a tomato
      and its tastiness?

      Separately, the day 4/20 began as not much more than a day when the
      cops decided to look the other way while the college kids got baked
      and played Frisbee on the lawn. Now, unfortunately, losers from all
      over the state converge on our city to celebrate their right to party.
      Mark my words. One day, there will be riots. Couches will burn. 4:20
      is also a time of day. This is analogous to tea time. 4:20 is when
      you’re supposed stop what you’re doing and fire up the bong (unless
      that’s what you’re already doing). I don’t know how diligently this is
      practiced. It’s more about being in the know and the unwritten code.

  4. Any readers supporting legalising marijuana should see this one-hour film called *”Reefer Madness”* .

    If it causes you to change your mind, it will be an hour well-spent.

    What this film said in 1936 is no less true today, that marijuana – a violent narcotic and unspeakable scourge – if allowed freely to be smoked will destroy America’s youth.

    • Truly a great documentary, carefully researched. On the other hand, it would seem that the Evil Weed will also turn one into a frenetic dancer and/or piano player.

    • A deeply affecting film on this deadly serious topic, Phil. Thank you for informing my ignorance.

      In order that I may be clear in my own mind, would you enlarge upon the relation between abuse and decriminalisation?

  5. It’s easier to legalize and forget, on the short term. But then why stop there? Shortly you will have people clamoring for legalization of other so-called “recreational drugs” and where do you stop.
    Some can control their consumption but for too many more it is the beginning of a slide down skidrow.
    Solving the criminal aspect is a false debate. With legalization wil come taxes and control and soon, as with tobacco and alcool, you will have a black market just as mean and violent as the current one.
    Giving up on a problem has never been a valid solution.

    • I’m not aware that we have a big black market in cigarettes and alcohol.

      Also, those two are powerful examples of something else: that legalization NEED NOT lead to people “sliding down skidrow”.

      Smoking has dropped precipitously in the past couple of decades because of a new health culture. Alcohol is abused by mainly underaged (ie, illegal) college students at keg parties, then used, for the most part, responsibly by those same individuals as they sip Cabernet Sauvignon in their retirement home.

      The culture of use, our ideas about health and moderation, are the issue, no?

  6. I find all types and levels of intoxication so infinitely pathetic, I find it sad that the question of legalization even comes up because, alas, there’s a demand for that stuff.

    If it were up to me, I’d just shoot it all into space, booze included. So those are my instincts.

    The problem with my instincts is that they’re all over the place. When pressed for it, they would tell me to vote against pot legalization, plus I have no problem with the AZ immigration law, and I’d waterboard the living daylights out of suspected terrorists.

    On the other hand, I’m an agnostic-bordering-on-atheistic, pro-choice, pro-gay-marriage (except that I don’t believe it’s a civil right under Equal Protection) environmentalist vegetarian.

    So what the hell am I? Liberal or conservative?

    We all want freedom. In the spirit of the Laffer Curve you described the other day, however, too much freedom tends to beget its converse. Anarchy breeds chaos, and in a state of chaos, no one is safe. Lack of personal security and freedom don’t mix.

    The freedom to swing your fist stops at the tip of my nose, as Justice Holmes so aptly put it. If people around me are stoned and blasted, I have little confidence in their ablility to tell the tip of my nose from a staple remover.

    • If you read my reply to Douglas, right at the top of these comments, you’ll now understand why that internal dialogue makes you a liberal thinker.

    • Then what’s a non-liberal thinker? I’ve never met anyone who didn’t love freedom, except that individuals differ on the definitional minutia of the term. Some define freedom as the right of the fetus to live, others define it as the right of the woman to choose. Some define it as the right to keep what we earn, others define it as everyone’s right to their “fair share” of the collective pie.

      So when you define liberal as freedom-loving, the question arises, who isn’t?

    • A non-liberal thinker wouldn’t consider the rights of the person to ingest what they want into their own body as part of the equation. They might think that since pot is “bad” for you then it should be illegal – personal freedom isn’t a consideration. It might be more obvious on another issue that came up like gay marriage, for a non-liberal thinker another individual’s desire to marry another person wouldn’t weigh into their personal calculation. They might value tradition or religious dogma over liberty. It’s not to say axiomatically that those values aren’t important; they just aren’t “liberal.”

      Also plenty of people don’t love freedom – on one extreme jihadists clearly aren’t “freedom-loving.” Others think they love freedom because, at least in America, we’ve been educated to value the idea of freedom (however shallowly in many cases) but freedom doesn’t necessarily factor into their political decisions. Another issue that was brought up was immigration law. For many people (looking at you Tea-Partiers) that say they love freedom, freedom of movement for many migrants isn’t a concern of theirs: maybe they only think about the economic “cost” of immigration or the effect on local cultures or the supremacy of the rule of law regardless of consequence to individuals or have purely nationalist concerns. Again it’s not that those determinants aren’t worthwhile to a political argument, it’s that they aren’t strictly speaking liberal concerns. Hope that helps.

    • @Andreas

      As long as you have defined “liberal thinker”, you should also define “conservative thinker”. And, of course, it should not simply be “non-liberal”. I was wondering what the definition of a “classical conservative” might be.

      @Dan

      There are those, even those Jihadists, who believe that freedom is the right to enslave themselves. Communists, for one example; Nazis, for another. It is interesting that often the people espousing freedom mean only that everyone should view it as they do.

      In the US, we have a certain kind of freedom. We are not the only free country in the world and many others that claim to be free aren’t when viewed through our paradigm. That would include the UK, Canada, France, and modern Germany. And the US is not as free as it once was even a few decades ago.

      The issue of Tea Partiers and immigration is not that simple. Most might actually support a greater freedom of movement between other countries and the US. What they dislike seems to be the illegal movement. They are not “open borders” folks, I am fairly sure. I am not certain who is. Look at it this way. View the nation as you would your home. You may like your neighbor but you would not appreciate his slipping into your house and eating your food without your permission.

      We should be careful in how we view others. We should not assume that our view of things is somehow superior to anyone else’s.

    • Objecting to gay marriage on religious grounds is probably a good example of non-liberal thought, for whether Jim and George are married has zero effect on anybody else’s life beyond whatever ideological hangups one may have about the concept.

      Illegal immigration is a different issue, for this issue has ramifications all over the place, especially if you live in a border state, and the question becomes not if freedom but whose freedom, i.e., the freedom of people to enter this country as they please versus the freedom of Americans to live in non-chaotic environs.

      The freedom to intoxicate cuts both ways as well: an individual’s freedom to get wasted versus my freedom of not having to cross paths with plastered dimwits as I go about my daily routine.

    • @Cyberquill

      Objecting to gay marriage on religious grounds is probably a good example of non-liberal thought, for whether Jim and George are married has zero effect on anybody else’s life beyond whatever ideological hangups one may have about the concept.

      I object to gay marriage. Not on strict religious grounds but on Constitutional grounds. Let me explain. Marriage is not a secular institution but a religious one. The government should not be involved in it. It is involved because it is concerned primarily about property. When our government was formed, the concept of civil union did not exist. Today it does and it makes more sense to treat all current marriages as civil unions and remove government from entanglement in religious matters. Once you do that, any two (or more) people could enter into a civil union by applying for same from the government. If they wish to be married in the eyes of their particular church then they could also apply to their particular church. Doing this would be in accordance with separation of church and state.

    • So it sounds like you don’t object to gay marriage, but to government interference in marriage, period.

      Whether there actually is such a thing as a wall of separation between church and state (Mr. Jefferson’s personal interpretation of the Establishment Clause) or whether the First Amendment simply means that no religion—and in particular, no Christian denomination— ought to be given preferential treatment over another, is a matter of ongoing debate.

    • @ Douglas (or anyone else)

      I’m not sure even many of the jihadists would say they love freedom. They really do value subservience to Allah above any notion of freedom and many openly say it. Of course, it is possible some think that freedom allows them to enslave another human but that makes language essentially meaningless. Honest debate about the definition of words is one thing, but we can agree at a certain level we must have a basic consensus on meaning for communication to be possible. If someone were to argue that stripping liberties from individuals and valuing religious tradition over freedom of choice is actually liberal than I think it is safe to say that person is just wrong. If I called a square a circle and insisted despite reasonable argument and issues of translation it’d be pointless to have a conversation about geometry with me. Why should it be different for political philosophy?

      Certainly, we aren’t the only free country on earth – in many respects we aren’t even the most free. Just don’t tell me North Korea is more free than the United States. I don’t mean to suggest that language is rigid, but in order to avoid total nonsense, we should agree that those who consider even a vague resemblance of the concept of liberty in their judgement of a particular policy are definitionally engaging in liberal thinking; if they aren’t, they aren’t.

      Without getting into a broader debate about immigration let me just say that you missed my point. I was just trying to illuminate non-liberal thinking by giving an example of someone who didn’t consider a migrant’s freedom of movement in their calculation of immigration policy. That is to say, that they weren’t engaging in liberal thinking. It’s NOT to say that their thinking was flawed, just not liberal. We can agree that SOME people don’t consider a migrant’s freedom relevant – maybe they focus only on the financial costs or cultural disruptions or anything else that isn’t liberal. I hope my point is a little clearer now. {Side note: I’m sorry, but I just have to say that nothing I’ve seen suggests that tea-partiers actually “support a greater freedom of movement between other countries and the US.” Have any actually called for reforming our immigration law to allow more legal immigration? I looked for any polling in that direction and came up empty – but again this is a separate issue}

      Again, the issue isn’t whether I believe thinking in a liberal way is superior or not; it is just that one can actually engage in liberal thinking or not. Maybe they are engaging in Islamic thinking or communist thinking or democratic thinking or Aristotelian teleological thinking – it doesn’t have to be positive or negative; it is just different. Do you concede that someone can think about a problem without considering or valuing the policy’s effect on liberty?

      As for gay marriage, you illustrated nicely some non-liberal yet perfectly acceptable thinking. You are against it for what you call “constitutional grounds.” So you weren’t engaged in religious thinking, you weren’t engaged in liberal thinking, but rather legal reasoning. That’s fine, maybe it is better! – it’s just not liberal.

      Are we on the same dictionary page yet?

    • @Cyberquill

      So it sounds like you don’t object to gay marriage, but to government interference in marriage, period.

      Yes, if we accept that marriage is a religious institution. I obviously view it that way. Others may not. Government’s role in personal relationships is primarily concerned with property rights, as I stated. There is the added benefit of social stability created or enhanced by the family unit. But the government’s role is more about what happens when a marriage breaks up. Division of common property is a legitimate matter for government. At least at the state level. The federal government really has little to do with it.

      I would, as I said, prefer that all current marriages be considered “civil unions” as a legal status. I think that would resolve the issue of gay marriage. It leaves the religious status to the religious entities and the legal status to the government.

      It may clarify my point to know that I am atheist. But I am not anti-theist.

      I do not see why that is not liberal thinking, though. I have no problem with anyone creating a civil union. I would not limit that union to a man and a woman or even to two as a number.

      @Dan

      I know any number of people who have different opinions of what constitutes “freedom”. Some think that the only real freedom is freedom from want. To get that, they would eschew what we call basic liberties. See my reply to Andreas on free countries to see other examples.

      I have been to countries that were dictatorships and to ones considered “free” . I even lived under a dictatorship for 3 years and 11 months. It was called the U.S. Navy. I served a free country but had no real freedom while doing so. It’s one of those ironies of life. But it also gave me a different perspective on what constitutes freedom.

    • @ Douglas

      I don’t dispute that people can view freedom differently. Freedom and liberty are certainly malleable concepts. In economic jargon, we might say the definition of freedom has a high elasticity – yet it is not infinite. Can we agree that “Arbeit macht frei” is an invalid statement? Or that if I believed liberty meant government restricting my rights against my will, I’d be wrong?

      The parameters of freedom and its many forms like negative and positive liberty is a wide topic and I don’t want to place our lexicon in a vice, but words have to represent reality don’t they?

    • @Dan

      Can we agree that “Arbeit macht frei” is an invalid statement? Or that if I believed liberty meant government restricting my rights against my will, I’d be wrong?

      Actually, there is nothing inherently invalid about that phrase. How it was used, yes, but not the phrase itself. All it says is “Work makes [you] free” or to paraphrase, having a job means you are self-sufficient and, therefore, free. That it was used to make people think that they were not being marched to gas chambers does not change that.

      And I agree with you that, in my (or let’s say “our”) eyes, liberty does not include government restricting rights. But let me ask about restrictions. How about regulating the drug industry? Banking? Health inspections and requirements for food establishments? What about traffic regulations? Safety regulations for various businesses? Requirements for permits to do business? We have all these and much more. Are we, therefore, not free?

    • @ Douglas

      Sorry to belabor this point but I think you’re doing your best to avoid it. I’m not arguing that people can have different views on how best to promote different concepts of freedom. I’m not arguing that different concepts of freedom can’t exist. I’m certainly not arguing that restrictions on freedom can’t often be a good thing. And I’m also not arguing that restricting some freedom makes us “not free” in toto.

      I am arguing that people can be wrong about the definition of freedom. Not just in “our” eyes, but by any reasonable standard. People that think that freedom means chaining a black person and forcing him to work or marching a jew into a gas chamber are just wrong. Full stop. What if they believed liberty meant “a condiment consisting of puréed tomatoes, onions, vinegar, sugar, and spices” and ketchup meant “freedom from arbitrary or despotic government or control”? They’d be wrong, correct? And I don’t mean their language just happens to flip the words – I mean if you read a passage of the emancipation proclamation or the bill of rights to them they’d run to get a hamburger and not out of patriotic custom. If you concede this, it seems you have to concede people can be wrong about the definition of words. Therefore, can’t people be wrong about their concept of liberty?

      I’m also arguing that people can look at a problem and not consider AT ALL any conception of liberty or at least not find liberty to be of any importance or value. Feel free to go back and reread my examples of this mode of thought. Do you deny that it is possible to form a judgement about political policy and not weight liberty in one’s calculation? Please answer that specifically if you can. If you don’t deny that, you’ve acknowledged that one can think as a “liberal” and that one can think as a “non-liberal.”

      That’s all I was trying to get across.

    • @Dan

      First, let me explain that I am not arguing. About anything. I am trying to present how I view freedom and that people may view it differently than you or I do.

      You say that those views may be wrong. I agree (and think I agreed with that earlier). But I tried to explain that some, if not most, are wrong in our eyes, based on our view of what freedom is. Using a nonsensical definition that no sane person would have does not change my mind. Reasonable people may see freedom in differing ways. None of the people would be wrong… within the context of their understanding and experience. All of this is simply my opinion based on my experience and my observations over some 64 years (minus the few where I was too young to make much in the way of observations).

      Let me see if I can put it another way. People fought for their “freedom” at various times in history. Let’s take the French Revolution for an example. The culmination of that revolution resulted in the mass executions. The successful revolutionaries, and a great majority of the French people, thought they had attained freedom. Within their universe, they were right. They were no longer ruled by an aristocracy. They had created a republic. But that republic was repressive. And, in my mind, no better than what they had before. Yet, I will state now that they would have reasonably disagreed at that point in time. When the colonies broke away from the British empire, they felt they were free. Yet they were less free than they became some years later. And, of course, it was not universal (within the context of the new nation) freedom. Some people were still slaves, in most states women could not vote; in some states, you could not vote if you did not own property.

      Maybe what I am saying is that if you believe that others can be wrong about the definition of freedom or liberty (these are not entirely synonymous), wouldn’t you also agree that you could be wrong about your definition of the word(s)? Words only mean what we agree is the meaning. It gets even more muddled when we speak of abstract concepts such as freedom.

      I look at things, most things, differently than most people I have met. This may be the result of excessive use of recreational drugs back in the 60s. Or it may just be that I am a contrarian and a cynic.

  7. “The culture of use, our ideas about health and moderation, are the issue, no?”
    I guess it goes deeper than that. The whole debate, here at least, up to now seems to be much more about how «liberal» or «conservative» or «libertarian» one is. The Idea has superseded other considerations such as social consequences although they are mentioned in your reply to me.
    However I speak from a Canadian and Quebec situation and it is quite different than that in the U.S. and California for instance. Here, smoking in public places is forbidden. People go outside to smoke while on the job or having lunch in a restaurant. Simple possession of marijuana is not a crime…but selling it is; on the other hand doctors can prescribe it in certain cases and the patient can buy it legally in licensed places.
    We almost do not live on the same planet in some ways.

  8. At the beginning of the podcast, Roger Salazar seems to say that he could support a properly formulated proposition to legalize the use of marijuana. That got my attention. Is that genuine, I wonder, or is he simply framing the discussion to his advantage by limiting it to the specifics of the proposal at hand? If a chief opponent of legalization can imagine a bill he could get behind, I’d like to know what it would look like.

    Next, you mention that you didn’t do the editing of the podcast. How does that work? Seems to me that the guy with the scissors has a lot of control over the impression created by the end product. For instance, the introduction to the podcast is a Nadelmann quote and it sets the stage nicely for his point of view. Bit of a drag for Salazar, I suppose. I’m so curious how those decisions are made.

    And, check out the upscale, British version of Vanna White announcing: the Economist. Just two words, but WOW!…there’s a gig!

    • I was surprised to hear Salazar make that comment. This, of course, is what I try to do in my interviews: lead people to commit to things which are then hard to take back, as a way of focusing on their logic.

      Cutting: Huge power goes to the cutter. And I never even saw the final product before it went live. Lots of fun conversation was left on the cutting floor. For instance, with both of them, I tried to rank the traffic risks of 1) alcohol, 2) dope and 3) distracted driving (texting, phones, emails….). We know that, cognitively, texting is worse than alcohol and calling is as bad, and that marijuana, while not good, is the least bad of the three.

      Anyway, in a podcast, you need to keep it to a certain length, you need to keep a tempo, and so forth. Lots of compromises. It’s good that different people interview and cut.

      Glad you think I have a career as Vanna White ahead of me. Will practice a more sexy intonation….

  9. @Douglas:

    1) “In the US, we have a certain kind of freedom. We are not the only free country in the world and many others that claim to be free aren’t when viewed through our paradigm. That would include the UK, Canada, France, and modern Germany.”

    Wow! Are you serious? You don’t conisider the UK, Canada, France and Germany … free? How so.

    2) “I was wondering what the definition of a “classical conservative” might be.” Easy: Edmund Burke.

    The man and his thought still to this day summarize conservatism. It is unlike “conservatism” in America today (as with “liberal” and “Liberal”). I should do a post just on Burke.

    • @Andreas

      Yes, I actually consider them as “less free” though still “free” in a certain (common) sense of the term. Free speech doesn’t actually exist in GB, there are many restrictions. Citizens of GB, Canada, and Germany have no right to bear arms. In Germany, the name of your child must be approved by the government. France just banned the burqa. Would you like more examples? They are free countries but not the same “free” as us.

      Yes, you should do a piece on Burke. Wiki says he “has generally been viewed as the philosophical founder of modern conservatism, as well as a representative of classical liberalism.”

      I am not all that familiar with Burke so I would like to learn more.

    • Freedom of conscience is the ultimate test, Douglas.
      There are bound to be discrepancies in actual laws. They are man-made, after all.

    • @ Douglas

      “In the US, we have a certain kind of freedom. We are not the only free country in the world and many others that claim to be free aren’t when viewed through our paradigm. That would include the UK, Canada, France, and modern Germany.”

      While America does probably have more “freedom to’s” than the UK, Canada, France and Germany, it has less “freedom from’s”- the sorts of “freedom froms” which make people feel happier and freer.

      Do Americans actually feel free? I have my doubts, judging by by how Americans keep talking and talking and talking and talking about how free they are.

      What’s really going on?

    • @Phil

      What do you define “freedom from” as? I mentioned in an earlier comment (somewhere in here) that some people see freedom as “freedom from want”, is that what you mean?

      We have a right TO privacy which really isn’t what it was first intended to be. It stems from our 4th Amendment, I believe, which protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures. We have some freedom from government interference but less than we once had. Compromises have been made due to interpretations by our courts which, oddly, led to legalization of abortion.

      Do Americans actually feel free?

      That is a very good question. A whole blog and comment thread could be made out of it. Speaking only for myself, I feel free but less so as time goes by. When I was very young, I did not feel free because I was under the control of parents and teachers (and, in those days, most any adult). Then I felt not free because I was in the military. For a short period after the military, I felt quite free… until I got married.

      I was tied to a job, to responsibilities, to mortgages, to goals and needs. But these are personal freedom issues. I was free to start a business but ran into permits, licenses, insurance requirements, and taxes. I was free to move about the country (or even to leave it), live anywhere I could afford, but not completely free. I would have to abide by laws that required me to get a license to drive in the state I moved to, to license my car in that state. If I moved within a state, I had to inform the Department of Motor Vehicles of my change of address. And, of course, there are many more minor regulations and laws that impinge on complete freedom.

      Again speaking only for myself, freedom is a relative thing and a state of mind. That is the point I have been trying to make. So long as the government (any government) cannot control what I think (or even know what I think) then I am, in my own opinion, free.

  10. Marriage is principally a legal relationship, Douglas, and designed to protect the child-bearer against the philandering male.

    That we find deep meaning and fulfilment in it is a testament to the human spirit, and gay marriage is an acknowledgment that such depths exist between same-sex couples.

    • @Richard
      Freedom of conscience is the ultimate test, Douglas.
      There are bound to be discrepancies in actual laws. They are man-made, after all.

      Laws are like all things, somewhat flawed, and created by and for flawed entities.

    • @Richard (got my replies mixed up)

      In the eyes of the state, marriage is a legal relationship. Like incorporation, or a partnership. In religious terms, it is the device you describe; a moral binding. But marriage existed before the state existed, in my opinion. The state merely accepted it because it had a stabilizing effect for society.

      We tossed out adultery as grounds for divorce a number of years ago in most states. We now have a concept that fits with the idea that no one may “own” another and so we have what is referred to as “no fault divorce”, which is often filed under “irreconcilable differences.”

  11. nicely said richard,

    as usual.

    and welcome to douglas for a minority opinion which is always necessary (or it would be self-indulgence) and welcome jenny and dan for being repeat customers

    it always amazes me how much people can agree in point of view and then BAHM – they diverge!

  12. As the human shrapnel of two hopeless potheads, I have to wonder if my childhood would have been any more tolerable if marijuana were legal. OK, done wondering – NO. So glad this social experiment will happen on the other side of this continent. Clever entrepreneurs: submit your business plans for addiction support group centers now.

    • Law should never be used as a vehicle for social experiment or manipulation, Mimi.

      Legislation might simply bring an end to an existing unsuccessful experiment which has had unforeseen complications.

      The need is to concentrate on the problem itself, which causes such devastating suffering, not on what laws should be passed to protect people against themselves.

      Phil’s film, for example, confuses two issues: education and criminalisation.

    • @Richard
      Not manipulation. But on the aggregate, isn’t it a social experiment? Isn’t the proposed legislation a hypothesis? Aren’t the ‘unforseen complications’ just data for our final analysis? We have been hypothesizing the outcome of the legislation ie increased usage, increased preliminary usage, decreased usage, increased tax revenue — doesn’t it take this ‘experiment’ to prove the results, whatever they might be?

      States like California, with the proposition system, are basically promoting social experimentation with the law. Isn’t standing outside of Von’s with a clipboard a sociological experiment?

  13. Drugs do harm in two ways: via usage and attendant criminality. By legalizing them, criminality will be eliminated (except crimes committed, accidents caused, and children neglected by junkies), but usage will go up even further. So you reduce damage over here, but you add some more over there. Question is, which is worse?

    The most worrisome aspect here is that there seems to be far more debate about legalizing drugs than there is speaking out against using them in the first place. There certainly isn’t anything good about inhaling smoke of whatever kind, and if a person can’t find more wholesome ways to get their kicks in life, that’s disturbing, to say the least.

    • I am not sure that legalization will mean a sustained increase in usage. It is difficult to quantify that in advance. Alcohol consumption, I am told, increased during Prohibition. Initially, it dropped but over the life of the Amendment, it expanded.

      Prior to the 30’s, marijuana was legal in much of the U.S. Around 1928, a strong campaign to prohibit its cultivation, distribution, and consumption. So, based on history, we have been in a period of prohibition for the last 80-90 years.

      Lifting that prohibition would likely trigger an increase in consumption. Would that increase be sustained? Hard to say. Would some people move from light alcohol usage to light pot consumption? Would that be good or bad? How do we know, how do we find out?

      Is pot’s prohibition a restriction of liberty? Should people be allowed to use what they please… so long as their usage does not cause harm to others… or should the government decide what is good for you and what is not?

    • I know. It’s a tough one. I just figure if we blast some folks for being intolerant, we might as well blast others for being potheads while we’re at it.

    • @ Cyberquill

      It is definitely not entirely clear usage would go up. My hunch says it would, but not as much as many suspect. Portugal is the closest case-study we probably have. They decriminalized all drugs and teenage usage went down.

      Also, I think your statement: “There certainly isn’t anything good about inhaling smoke of whatever kind, and if a person can’t find more wholesome ways to get their kicks in life, that’s disturbing, to say the least” is a bit too strong. First, smoking anything and finding “more wholesome ways” to have fun aren’t mutually exclusive. Second, I can see some plausible arguments way smoking different substances could be “good.” The most obvious is to help people with medical problems (many associated with AIDS and cancer treatment) which could be helped by smoking – lack of appetite, nausea, etc. Also, who is to say that opening the doors of perception as Huxley put it isn’t good? Relaxing isn’t good? Being happier isn’t good? Enjoying a taste isn’t good? Spiritual exploration isn’t good? Sharing a bond with others isn’t good? Distraction from pain isn’t ever good? It’d be disturbing to me to have such a narrow view of what is “good.” Hope you inhaled my argument with a deep breath.

    • The effects you enumerated are all postive. What’s disturbing is if a person must inhale smoke to achieve them. If you can’t find a way to open your doors of perception any other way, you’re in trouble. And sure it’s mutually inclusive. What moron would purposely suck a carcinogen into his or her lungs if he knew another way to open those doors?

      The exception, of course, is medical usage for people for whom smoking weed is the only thing that brings relief, although is difficult to determine how many these claims are credible and how many are merely a ruse to get stoned. After all, if I say I have chronic back pain, and I’ve tried everything, and smoking a spliff is the only thing that eases my pain, no doctor on earth can prove me wrong. So then what? Then we must believe everybody who claims that getting stoned is the only thing that works for them, and then they might as well start selling that stuff over the counter at RiteAid.

      Sure my statements may come across as “too strong” to many, but in my defense, I’ve never tried a recreational drug in my life. I have a hunch that those whose attitude about drugs is more lenient than mine may be a bit under the influence already. Now put that in your bong and smoke it. (To whom it may concern.)

    • Cyberquill, you seem to get disturbed rather easily. Inhaling smoke in itself, viewed as narrowly as possible, isn’t good for you; however, if that’s the method to which your body receives the benefits of the smoked drug the entirety of the experience is positive (i.e. good). Take the practice of intravenous injection – what moron would possibly stick a needle in his veins? Well, how about a doctor administering a vaccine? What moron would agree to have someone cut out portions of their organs with a sharp knife!? Insanity or surgery? Who would say that pumping toxic levels of radiation on your body was a good thing? Hmm… maybe a cancer patient? Maybe you can see that just because one aspect of a practice isn’t perfectly good by your standard isn’t a reason to assume the entirety of the practice is bad or moronic.

      Furthermore, just claiming without any evidence whatsoever that a person who chooses to inhale smoke to open their doors of perception can’t possibly know another way to do so isn’t an argument. To adapt Mark Twain’s saying, evidence is the bones of an opinion, and Cyberquill, yours can’t stand up. Why, for example, couldn’t a mystic (secular or religious) expand his perception one day by consuming a narcotic and another day by mediating and another day by gazing up at the night sky? Did you really mean to imply those activities are mutually exclusive?

      I am glad you relinquished a bit and acknowledged that the effects from smoking that I cited are positive. Why this didn’t lead you to moderate your disgust with the practice is a bit of a mystery to me. I also don’t follow your logic that says if one person lies about their condition in order to smoke weed for non-medical reasons than we should prohibit all people from using that treatment. Do you favor the same for all pain killers and other legal medication? After all, those are abused but we don’t say to those in actual chronic pain they can’t get a prescription. For the record, I wouldn’t be opposed to selling most recreational drugs in licensed stores like a RiteAid – so don’t assume that quip of yours is a self-evident take down. There were less problems when drugs were actually sold in pharmacies than in our state inflicted black markets.

      Finally, I’m not sure never having tried any drugs is a defense of any kind for your strong opinions. You’d think that you’d have a bit more modesty in your opinions when admitting outright ignorance. I’d not arguing that you need to try something to comment on it, but you’re wearing that as some badge of pride or even that it gives you greater insight into the topic. With alcohol, for example, most of us aren’t teetotalers but we somehow manage to eat, bathe, and hold a job. There is a difference between use and abuse. Many things that aren’t good in excess are perfectly fine, even healthy in moderation (e.g.water). So let this wash over your critical faculties without drowning them.

    • Cyberquill just feels very passionate about some things, Dan, and then his considerable capacity for logic goes into hibernation, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

      If we are to tackle this perennial scourge rationally, it is a prerequisite that these deeply held views are taken into account.

    • And then his considerable capacity for logic goes into hibernation. I like that line, although, naturally, I consider it terribly misplaced in this context.

      Douglas’s entire argument rests on the thesis that recreational drugs afford benefits which outweigh their risks. You can play the evidence game all day long; precisely which way the scales incline on this score is difficult to determine objectively, especially given that folks who have “tripped” before may evince an understandable partiality for the experience. I’m not exactly sure why having drug-addled states of consciousness on one’s resume would necessarily boost a person’s capacity for logical thinking in this particular area.

      Fact is, all recreational drugs have undesirable side effects, prime among them an increased proclivity to experience precisely the state of emotions and the sensual cravings which tempted the patient to get high in the first place. And it is precisely this quality which affords drugs their drug-like attributes. The whole shtick of a drug is to get people hooked on itself; defending recreational drug use may, in fact, already be a symptom of subtle changes in the brain caused by having come into contact with the very substance(s) one is defending.

      As to my alleged ignorance regarding recreational drug use, what’s the big secret for the uninitiated? Taking drugs feels good. Everybody knows that. That’s the whole point of taking them. In fact, it feels sooo good that the user becomes attached to the experience. As stated above, that’s what addictive substances do. I spoke to a recovered heroin addict once, and he explained to me that shooting up felt like an orgasm that lasts for hours.

      Translation: it feels good. Wow. Who would’ve thunk it?

      Even without ever having taken a drug, I’m perfectly familiar with the concept of intense pleasure such that one wants to repeat whatever provided the pleasure. This is perfectly natural. And I stipulate that if I got intoxicated on some substance, I’d love the feeling, and chances are I’d be less averse to drug use on account of the experience. Once again, that’s what drugs do to the brain. No mystery there.

      Our main objective in life is to feel good. Feelings of pleasure correlate with the release of certain brain chemicals, specifically dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin. And yes, if a person knowingly sucks a carcinogen into their lungs just for the heck of it even if s/he is perfectly capable of releasing these brain chemicals using less destructive methods, that’s worrisome, for it obviously means the person’s logic is hibernating.

    • @Cyberquill

      Douglas’s entire argument rests on the thesis that recreational drugs afford benefits which outweigh their risks.

      My “argument” doesn’t actually exist. My opinion, however, does. And it is not that recreational drugs’ benefits outweigh their risks. It is that freedom outweighs all. In the US, I think we should always try to err on the side of individual freedom. Then, if problems arise, try to address them.

      I have reservations about pot legalization. Not because I see pot as harmful but because I suspect unforeseen consequences will develop that will be detrimental to society in the long term. I suspect the predictions of great revenue for the state in the form of taxes will be found to have been wildly overestimated. On the other hand, I am glad that California may give it a try. It is quasi-legal there anyway and has been for decades.

      Personally, I think pot is a benign drug. It has never been as dangerous… in direct harm to the body terms… as alcohol. It is not a drug which produces aggressive behavior (in fact, quite the opposite), it does not destroy the liver over time (so far as has been determined) and it does not induce a physical addiction.

    • @ Cyberquill

      I’m pretty disappointed you somewhat conspicuously failed to grapple with the vast majority of my argument. Moreover, you appear to be saying that if one aspect of a substance is bad regardless of its other beneficial aspects than that substance is definitionally bad. You also write, “Douglas’s entire argument rests on the thesis that recreational drugs afford benefits which outweigh their risks.” Well, do you deny that it is possible that the benefits can outweigh their risks? If they do, would you relent on your knee-jerk negative prejudice of all drugs? I am glad you recognize the difficultly in scoring the balance sheet; that fact makes me sympathetic to Douglas’s default reflex toward individual freedom.

      “The whole shtick of a drug is to get people hooked on itself; defending recreational drug use may, in fact, already be a symptom of subtle changes in the brain caused by having come into contact with the very substance(s) one is defending.” This is quite a leap of logic. First of all, I’m not sure drugs have a “shtick.” Also, it is pretty ridiculous to assume that having had contact with a drug will cloud rational judgement so much that one would be forced by their brain chemistry to defend all drug use. Penn Jillette, for example, has never tried drugs or alcohol before and somehow manages to believe people should be free to use them if they choose. This is the type of argument you may be susceptible to having never tried any drug before – you assume some drugs have some type of magic-like hold over a person’s neocortex so all logic is forever impaired. Did you fall for Reefer Madness as well? Although, one wonders how you so easily partition recreational drugs with other drugs. You must have taken medicine before, haven’t you? Even medical drugs that may be used recreationally by others – how can you be so sure they haven’t destroyed your capacity for cognition?

      You’ve also made a bit of a mockery of actual addiction as well. The idea that enjoying a substance and wanting to repeat that experience is an addiction is, if I may, hyperbole on steroids.

      Allow me to tweak your post a bit:

      Fact is, all junk foods have undesirable side effects, prime among them an increased proclivity to experience precisely the state of emotions and the sensual cravings which tempted the person to eat in the first place. And it is precisely this quality which affords candy their junk-like attributes. The whole shtick of, say, ice cream is to get people hooked on fats and sugar; defending junk food may, in fact, already be a symptom of subtle changes in the brain caused by having come into contact with the very substance(s) one is defending.
      […]
      Feelings of pleasure from eating fats and sugarcorrelate with the release of certain brain chemicals, specifically dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin. And yes, if a person knowingly ingests snack food just for the heck of it even if s/he is perfectly capable of releasing these brain chemicals using less destructive methods, that’s worrisome, for it obviously means the person’s logic is hibernating.

      So should we ban ice cream? Are fats and sugars “bad”? Is taking pharmaceuticals for therapeutic reasons “bad” because they all have “undesirable side effects”? Should all activities be banned with undesirable side effects? Consider that Gary Becker once observed that all deaths could be considered “‘suicides’ in the sense that [death] could have been postponed if more resources had been invested in prolonging life.” Is surgery “bad” because who would knowingly want their organs cut by sharp knives? Is there a difference between “use” and “abuse” in your mind? How much should liberty be curtailed for adults who want to make decisions over what to put into their own bodies, which John Stuart Mill argued we are sovereign over?


      On an unrelated note, I really liked your “Whatchamacall’em?” blog post.

    • Oh, did I confuse the Dans and the Douglasses? My bad.

      Yes, the same goes for the “bad” fats and sugars as well (as opposed to the good ones). It goes for all pleasure-inducing substances that have negative side effects beyond ordinary wear and tear, including pain killers and SSRI inhibitors when used for kicks rather than to alleviate genuine disorders as a last resort. Unfortunately, the urge to enter altered states of consciousness seems to be so powerful and widespread among the human race that many individuals may not even be able to identify their own motives for taking all that stuff.

      I’ve certainly been a chocolate and sweets addict all my life, and—as our Secretary of State would put it—I have the scars to prove it: three root canals and about a dozen fillings so far. On balance, nothing positive ever comes out of ingesting, inhaling, imbibing, or sniffing stuff for the sole purpose of attaining temporary highs.

      And I didn’t advocate banning anything, although I may vote in favor of banning recreational drugs if a referendum were held. Tough call. One has to weigh the damage incurred by increased usage upon legalization against the harm incurred by drug criminality and contaminated merchandise, then choose the lesser of two evils. I just happen to believe that using any of that stuff is so infinitely imbecilic in the first place, I’d like to at least as much fervor in speaking out against recreational drug use than there are passions expended on both sides of the legalization debate.

      Happy you liked my Whatchamacall’em post, which sprang from the selfsame thought patterns of mine. If it doesn’t gel, it ain’t Gel-o. (Line from Psycho)

    • On balance, nothing positive ever comes out of ingesting, inhaling, imbibing, or sniffing stuff for the sole purpose of attaining temporary highs.
      I really think this is the crux of the argument for me. It just seems like a totally extreme and obviously false statement. Say, for example, I used a recreational drug 1 time or only a few times and it gave me (1) personal pleasure (2) relief (3) expanded consciousness or (4) lubricated a social interaction/bond and didn’t result in any long-term addiction or long-term (or even much of a short-term) negative health effect, wouldn’t that be “positive”?
      I didn’t advocate banning anything Hmmm… If it were up to me, I’d just shoot it all into space, booze included.

      And again, is there a possible distinction between use and abuse to you? Or is use definitionally abuse for you? I’m also curious how you’ve concluded that all recreational drugs “have negative side effects beyond ordinary wear and tear.” What’s the negative side effects for average infrequent users of pot, psilocybin, or a glass of wine beyond wear and tear? Obviously in certain cases, situations, and for particular users the effects can be negative but for ALL users in EVERY circumstance? That’s where I find your argument unconvincing and lacking in sufficient nuance. Also, have you considered that if recreational drugs were legalized, designer drugs may be developed with less risk of negative consequences?

    • Yeah, I’d shoot it all into space, booze included. That would solve the problem. Banning it while it still exists here on earth is another matter, for obviously people would still have access to it and use it, albeit in a stealthy matter. Different ball of wax. You were bemoaning my supposed lack of nuance. So there’s your nuance.

      There are three classes of behaviors in life. Those that

      (1) feel good and are good for us
      (2) feel good but are bad for us
      (3) feel bad and are bad for us

      The trick in life is to replace #2 and #3 behaviors with #1 behaviors. Unfortunately, people in generally seem particularly attached to #2.

      Of course, if one indulges in category #2 behaviors in such small doses that a human lifetime is too short for the damage thus incurred to manifest, the “positive” emotions attained as a result of the behavior may outweigh the damage in that individual.

      However, consider this: drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes cause a lot of damage to society as a whole, and every time a person indulges in any of these for kicks or to open whatever doors of perception they can’t figure out how to open otherwise, they are literally subsidizing the industries which provide this stuff, which in turn does a lot of harm to people who aren’t as “responsible” in their usage, and in particular their children.

      In the end, it doesn’t matter how responsible you are in using this stuff. Other people won’t be as responsible, and by funding those industries, you ensure a steady supply of these products to folks who can’t handle them and will hang around stoned all day than feed their children.

      This is not meant as an argument in favor of banning these products by law—for obviously people wouldn’t stop using them—but as an argument that people who use or defend these products don’t seem to care much about society as a whole beyond their own pathetic little urge to get buzzed or stoned.

      Unfortunately, intoxication is one of the biggest scourges in our society and the overall damage done is simply incalculable. For the sake of the greater good, I believe it’s time to ditch the “responsible use” excuse and simply stop spending money on this. There are plenty of less damaging ways to induce states of pleasure. And yes, by damaging I mean the funding.

      For instance, the only reason there are all these drunk driving deaths is that booze is being manufactured in the first place. And the only reason it is being manufactured is because people spend money on it.

      Ergo, you buy a drink in a bar, you’ve got blood on your hands. Obviously, you care more about getting your buzz from that Scotch on the rocks than you care about the kid who’ll get run over by some plastered idiot tomorrow.

      So my basic argument here is that of the greater good versus the desire of an individual to get their kicks. Consuming intoxicating substances and thus funding their continued production, in my opinion, is a lazy and jawdroppingly selfish way to seek pleasure in life.

      Think society. Not just yourself.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful response. More nuance is starting to emerge in your position – I’m glad, if I can be selfish for another moment, that I helped draw it out. Unfortunately, I can’t say I’ve been convinced… but you knew that already anyway 😉

      You still aren’t being as discriminatory (in the good sense) as I think you should be in your treatment of all drugs. If you’d “shoot it all into space, booze included” you’d be shooting opiates, steroids, and narcotics which you should realize are used for entirely benign and therapeutic purposes. I, for one, would have trouble ripping the morphine drip out of the arm of a cancer ridden patient. I’m also not sure explaining to them that it’s for the benefit of society would be any consolation.

      Andreas, seems to have suggested this is a key difference between liberal and collectivist thinking. I’m happy if this discussion further illuminates that distinction. Wasn’t that the purpose of this original thread? haha!

      I am glad you recognize that banning it does have severe negative consequences and they possibly outweigh the benefits of prohibition. I’m also glad you’ve acknowledged that “behaviors in such small doses that a human lifetime is too short for the damage thus incurred to manifest, the “positive” emotions attained as a result of the behavior may outweigh the damage in that individual.” In other words, on balance drugs can be good for an individual.

      So the new crux of your argument seems to be this: “the overall damage done is simply incalculable. For the sake of the greater good, I believe it’s time to ditch the “responsible use” excuse and simply stop spending money on this.” However, even if something isn’t completely calculable, close estimates can be surmised through a preponderance of evidence. I recommend watching the two videos I linked above or by reading economist Jeffery Miron’s Drug War Crimes. So I’m not convinced the balance sheet is obvious in your direction.

      However, even if I granted you that it was, treating all drugs equally would still be a mistake. If someone grew his own marijuana does that really fund the industry which leads to all those terrible consequences? Same goes for the designer drugs I questioned you on previously. I must say I was shocked to learn it was blood on my hands rather than condensation from my gin and tonic. Where does that chain of logic end? Do I have blood on my hands if I buy a car, which leads to deaths? What about any use of highways? Am I filling pools with gallons of chlorinated blood every time I dive in at my friend’s underground? People die and are injured every year from playing sports, and if sports didn’t exist, no one would suffer from sports. Case closed, I guess. In fact, we could eliminate every activity where someone has died to prevent an uncountable number of selfish deaths (or are those homicides?)! Of course once that is complete, what is to save me from dying of boredom?

    • @Cyberquill

      First, let me say I admire your passion on this subject. I don’t agree with you but I admire your tenacity.

      Yeah, I’d shoot it all into space, booze included. That would solve the problem.

      But it wouldn’t solve anything. In order to eliminate alcohol, you would have to eliminate all ferment-able vegetation, such as grapes, apples, corn, and so on. What you need to shoot into space, to use your phrase, would be man’s ability to figure out how to make alcohol and derive drugs from plants and other substances. The genie got out of the bottle (forgive the pun) thousands of years ago and there is no chasing him back in.

      You would also need to program people not to want to escape reality. It may be simple for you to cast off the worries and tribulations of your day but others find it less so. Or lack the discipline required. Or do not have the ability to do so without chemical assistance.

      Addicts may be addicts because they are genetically disposed to be. To fight that addictiveness can require much more than you think. It is not like giving up sweets. I speak from some experience in this. Speaking for myself, I am a “binger”. That is, I have a tendency to indulge in something to excess. I am fortunate enough to recognize this and fight it. Though I am not unique in this regard, I am rare enough. It took my sister years to overcome her intermittent alcoholism and cigarette addiction. She had to seek help. But first she had to recognize that she even had a problem.

      It is not simply a case of insufficient will power or a lack of imagination.

      I can say I agree with you about there being a lot of collateral damage that isn’t really understood. I can agree that there are those who neglect their responsibilities because of some kind of substance abuse. And that there are many who cannot just imbibe whatever substance in moderation but will always use to excess. The same goes for power seeking, for risk taking, for food intake, for just about anything.

      Government is not our collective parent. It is not, in my view, there to protect us from ourselves. That part of your position is what bothers me most. Andreas referred to me as a “small government” type, I believe. What I like to call myself is an “indivdualist.”
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Individualism

      It includes the best government is the least government philosophy.

    • @ Douglas

      We’re starting to agree on too many things – I hope it doesn’t ruin your “individualist” or my contrarian cred. But seriously, I enjoy reading your contributions.

    • @Dan

      Scary, isn’t it?

      I often wonder if others appreciate my comments. My only hope is that they read them and that I do not make much of a fool of myself.

    • Just thought I’d share this from Atul Gawande in the New Yorker.

      Dave sat on the edge of his bed in fresh pajamas, catching his breath, and then Creed spoke to him as his daughter, Ashlee, ran in and out of the room in her beaded pigtails, depositing stuffed animals in her dad’s lap.
      “How’s your pain on a scale of one to ten?” Creed asked.
      “A six,” he said.
      “Did you hit the pump?”
      He didn’t answer for a moment. “I’m reluctant,” he admitted.
      “Why?” Creed asked.
      “It feels like defeat,” he said.
      “Defeat?”
      “I don’t want to become a drug addict,” he explained. “I don’t want to need this.”
      Creed got down on her knees in front of him. “Dave, I don’t know anyone who can manage this kind of pain without the medication,” she said. “It’s not defeat. You’ve got a beautiful wife and daughter, and you’re not going to be able to enjoy them with the pain.”
      “You’re right about that,” he said, looking at Ashlee as she gave him a little horse. And he pressed the button.

  14. @ Douglas

    “……some people see freedom as “freedom from want”, is that what you mean……?

    Given that America has the highest infant-mortality rate, as well the highest murder rate (by far), among all the industrialised countries, people in the UK Canada France and Germany are more free than Americans to have their children not die; and are more free than Americans to walk the streets without being murdered.

    Until quite recently (and perhaps it’s still the case) many millions of Americans lived in fear of bankruptcy if they fell seriously ill – something which Englishmen, Canadians, Frenchmen, and Germans don’t have to worry about.

    As to the American freedom to own a gun, think about what that means for a moment. The people of a nation which thinks that owning a gun is so important must live in permanent state of deathly fear – a fear akin to being in a state of civil war.

    How free is that?

    • Let me ask you this…

      Is security and safety freedom? If so, then the people of the People’s Republic of China are free. Very low murder rate, very safe streets. Not sure about the infant mortality rate.

      I am sure some people have guns because they fear threats to their safety. Most do not own guns for that reason but because they like to shoot them, at game, at targets, or whatever. Some own guns because they see them as interesting machines. Some believe that they do need them for protection because they are well aware that the police cannot protect them, only show up after the fact.

      But I think you have a much different view of my country than I do. I do not live in fear for my safety when walking the streets of my town or most any city I have lived in in the US. The most dangerous streets I have walked were in Mexico and in the Philippines. But I admit I have not walked all the streets in America.

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