Category Archive 'Drug Prohibition'
13 Oct 2017

Gun Control and Magical Thinking

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Bretigne forwards a brilliant commentary by Michael Owen on the Gun Control debate.

No amount of statistics or facts will sway either side in the gun control debate, because they are all looking for simple solutions to complex problems. The facts of those complex problems are uncomfortable and nobody really wants to come to grips with them.

For example, we don’t really have a single America with a moderately high rate of gun deaths. Instead, we have two Americas, one of which has very high rates of gun ownership but very low murder rates, very comparable to the rest of the First World democracies such as those in western & northern Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, South Korea. The other America has much lower rates of gun ownership but much, much higher murder rates, akin to violent third world countries.

The tough questions are those like, why do we have these two Americas? But that’s an uncomfortable discussion to have. So instead those on the left favor simple minded restrictions that target first world America, with its high gun ownership but very low murder rate, but don’t address the root causes of third world America’s violence at all. Meanwhile those on the right correctly feel their civil rights are constantly threatened, so they are constantly in a state of “better stock up before they finally ban it” and the guns and ammo fly off the shelves. The left’s constant gun control rhetoric is the greatest thing ever for arms manufacturers.

Meanwhile, over the past 40 years, while the number of guns in private hands has doubled, the murder rate has dropped by half. The left are constantly prattling about “assault weapons” which are almost never used to commit murders (about 1% of gun murders; all rifles combined are around 3%). More murders are committed with baseball bats than “assault rifles”; the vast majority of gun homicides are committed with handguns, but it’s easier to sell restrictions that target “assault weapons”, even though such restrictions, even if 100% effective, would make no detectable change in the murder rate (especially because of substitution effects). They favor ridiculous measures such as bans on “high capacity magazines”, as if magazines weren’t cheap and easily swapped out in a fraction of a second.

The uncomfortable fact is that roughly 80% of the US homicide rate is associated with the drug trade, and the drug trade is violent because the drug war reserves it for violent criminals. We have a system in place where the government subsidizes poverty in urban areas, imposes economic blight in those same areas through heavy taxes and regulations, renders the residents permanently unemployable via the “criminal justice” (sic) system, and creates a lucrative black market in drugs by restricting supply (not to mention increasing demand as people are desperate to escape their circumstances by getting high), meaning the only game in town is often entering the drug trade. The drug trade is violent because those in it have no access to courts to settle disputes. Powerful industries lobby to keep the drug war going; the top spenders are law enforcement unions, the prison industry, big alcohol, tobacco, and pharma.

Guns are not the proximate cause of gun violence in the US. Childlike magical thinking and simple “fixes” to complex problems will not work. But it is comfortable, and self-righteousness feels so good. So I expect it to continue indefinitely.”

06 Oct 2017

Prohibition Must Be the Answer!

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02 Mar 2017

Better than the War on Drugs

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French Opium Party, 1918

26 Jan 2017

The Myth of Addiction

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Image of addiction from anti-marijuana propaganda film “Reefer Madness” (1939).

Peter Hitchens has published, in First Things, an excellent essay attacking the notion of addiction, the preternatural ability of certain morally disreputable substances to offer temptations so powerful as to overwhelm completely the free will of any normal human being. The late Thomas Szasz was attacking the same generally accepted delusion decades ago.

The chief difficulty with the word “addiction” is the idea that it describes a power greater than the will. If it exists in the way we use it and in the way our legal and medical systems assume it exists, then free will has been abolished. I know there are people who think and argue this is so. But this is not one of those things that can be demonstrated by falsifiable experiment. In the end, the idea that humans do not really have free will is a contentious opinion, not an objective fact.

So to use the word “addiction” is to embrace one side in one of those ancient unresolved debates that cannot be settled this side of the grave. To decline to use it, by contrast, is to accept that all kinds of influences, inheritances, and misfortunes may well operate on us, and propel us towards mistaken, foolish, wrong, and dangerous actions or habits. It is to leave open the question whether we can resist these forces. I am convinced that declining the word “addiction” is both the only honest thing to do, and the only kind and wise thing to do, when we are faced with fellow creatures struggling with harmful habits and desires. It is all very well to relieve someone of the responsibility for such actions, by telling him his body is to blame. But what is that solace worth if he takes it as permission to carry on as before? Once or twice I have managed to explain to a few of my critics that this is what I am saying. But generally they are too furious, or astonished by my sheer nerve, to listen.

So let us approach it another way. The English language belongs to no state or government. It is not ruled by academies or even defined by dictionaries, however good. It operates on a sort of linguistic version of common law, by usage and precedent. And the expression “addiction” is very widely and variously used. There are people who claim, seriously, to be “addicted” to sex or to gambling.

It is now impolite to refer to habitual drunkards. They are “alcoholics,” supposedly suffering from a complaint that is not their fault. The curious variable ambiguity of Alcoholics Anonymous on this point has added to the confusion. AA, to begin with, asked its adherents to admit they had no control over themselves, as a preliminary to giving that power to God. Somehow I suspect that God plays less of a part in modern AA doctrine, but the idea of powerlessness remains. Members of the organization quietly moved from calling alcoholism an “illness” or a “malady” to describing it as a “disease,” round about the time that the medical profession began to do the same thing.

We are ceaselessly told that cigarettes are “addictive.” Most powerfully, most of us believe that the abusers of the illegal drug heroin are “addicted” to it. Once again, the public, the government, and the legal and medical systems are more or less ordered to believe that users of these things are involuntary sufferers. A British celebrity and alleged comedian, Russell Brand, wrote recently, “The mentality and behaviour of drug addicts and alcoholics is wholly irrational until you understand that they are completely powerless [my emphasis] over their addiction and, unless they have structured help, they have no hope.”

Brand is a former heroin abuser who has by now rather famously given up the drug. But how can that be, if what he says about addiction is true? The phrase “wholly irrational” simply cannot withstand the facts of Brand’s own life. It will have to be replaced by something much less emphatic—let us say, “partly irrational.” The same thing happens to the phrase “completely powerless.” Neither the adverb nor the adjective can survive. Nor can the word “addiction” itself, which is visibly evaporating. We have to say “they struggle over their compulsion.”

Or you might turn to this definition of addiction from the American Society of Addiction Medicine:

    Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.

This definition prompted one writer at Alternet, an influential pro-addiction website, to say:

    If you think addiction is all about booze, drugs, sex, gambling, food and other irresistible vices, think again. And if you believe that a person has a choice whether or not to indulge in an addictive behavior, get over it. . . . Fundamental impairment in the experience of pleasure literally compels the addict to chase the chemical highs produced by substances like drugs and alcohol and obsessive behaviors like sex, food and gambling.

In other words, conscious choice plays little or no role in the actual state of addiction; as a result, a person cannot choose not to be addicted. The most an addict can do is choose not to use the substance or engage in the behavior that reinforces the entire self-destructive reward-circuitry loop. So even if the supposed “addict” ceases (as many do) to be “addicted” in practice to the addictive substance or activity, he remains “addicted” in some spiritual, subjective way, which cannot actually be seen in his behavior.

The defender of the concept of “addiction,” confronted with evidence that many “addicts” cease to be “addicted,” will say that of course he didn’t mean to suggest the phenomenon was wholly irresistible and could not be mastered by will. Oh no, he will say, reasonable people quite understand that it is not like that at all. In any normal argument, this would be the end of the matter. Anyone who confesses to using a word in one sense when it suits him, and in a wholly contradictory sense when it also suits him, has expelled himself from the company of all reasonable people and admitted that he respects neither truth nor logic.

A must-read.

In reality, everything pleasurable is “addictive” in the sense that one naturally desires to repeat the experience. The notion that certain unholy pleasures are so powerful that they must inevitably come to dominate those foolish enough to dare to encounter them is really just an imaginatively compelling literary narrative that has been widely accepted as factual.

29 Oct 2015

My Favorite Moment in Last Night’s GOP Debate

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Tweet101

Hat tip to Stephen Green.

19 Mar 2014

Breakthrough

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29 Jan 2014

Most Harmful Impact of Drugs

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Hat tip to Danny Trejo.

05 Jan 2014

“Fear and Loathing in Falls Church”

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Patrick Non-White imagines the late Hunter S. Thompson’s reaction to that notorious bed-wetter David Brooks’ recent screed opposing the legalization of pot and arguing that government ought to “subtly tip the scale to favor temperate, prudent, self-governing citizenship” by sending out Gestapo teams armed with automatic weapons to break down doors and to nudge Americans in the direction of being better persons by throwing them into prison.

The silver 2001 BMW 535i roared through Adams Morgan, occasionally screeching over the sidewalks as my accountant wrenched both hands from the wheel for another toke at the weed-pipe. “Gadzooks, man!” I shouted. “Can you keep it together for another fifteen miles, or at least outside the District limits?” We were halfway through our 35 mile journey from Bethesda to Falls Church, with enough dangerous narcotics to stun a grizzly bear in the trunk: We’d started with nine ounces of weed, six rocks of crack, a sugar jar full of blow, 36 vicodin tablets, a cage filled with live Bolivian arrow toads, and two jars of ketamine. Plus two quarts of Beefeater gin, a case of Schlitz malt liquor, and a four ounce ball of Afghan hash: Surely enough to get this pair of degenerate drug addicts to Fall’s Church. After that what man could say?

It was Edmund Burke, the English statesman and philosopher of the Good Life, who asked, “What is liberty without wisdom and without virtue?” In the Burkean ethos, freedom unconstrained by wisdom “is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint.” I reflected that Burke’s wisdom had never been constrained by a head full of mescaline, or a heart thumping on two tabs of amyl nitrate, so perhaps there were things the grand old man of the eighteenth century British polity did not know.

Read the whole thing and raise a central finger in the general direction of David Brooks.

Hat tip to Tom Maguire.

04 Jan 2014

Tweet of the Hour

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The David Brooks editorial is here.

16 Aug 2013

Are Your Children Abusing Rocks?

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Hat tip to Steve Bodio.

11 Mar 2013

The Particle Physicist, the 34DDD Bikini Model, and the Suitcase Full of Coke

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Denise Milani

68-year-old Particle Physicist Paul Frampton was divorced and in the market for a new wife, hopefully a woman “between the ages of 18 and 35, which Frampton understood to be the period when women are most fertile.”

And what do you know? The lucky guy had only to log onto the Internet and start playing with one dating site, and he ran into the internationally-famous-for-her-enormous-upper-endowment supermodel Denise Milani. The couple exchanged texts and photos, and fell madly in love, though the apparently-shy model kept refusing to speak to him on the phone.

Finally, Denise Milani agreed to meet the professor in person… in La Paz, Bolivia. Alas! when he got to Bolivia, the lovely lady had been unexpectedly called away to another photo shoot in Brussels, and would he do her a favor and bring her a suitcase she’d left behind in La Paz?

Peter Frampton was arrested in Buenos Aires and received a 4 year 10 month sentence for smuggling cocaine. The real Denise Milani could not be reached for comment.

Maxine Swann tells the whole sad story in the New York Times Magazine.

Hat tip to Glenn Reynolds.

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Denise Milani’s breasts web-site.

22 Feb 2013

Coulter in Good Form

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The always-combative Ann Coulter takes on John Stossel before an audience of liberaltarian kiddies, whose prime issues happen to be legalized pot and Gay Marriage.

I’m a libertarian myself, and entirely in favor of abolishing all drug laws, but I do agree with Ann Coulter that there are currently larger issues under contention. I also agree with her that soi disant “libertarians” today far too commonly are a lot more interested in cosying up to the left-wing community of fashion on social issues than fighting against Socialism and Statism. I think she is quite right in calling them pussies.

As to Gay Marriage, Coulter is again perfectly right. Universal Marriage Equality currently exists. Everyone has exactly the same right to marry as anybody else.

It is not “equality” to redefine a fundamental institution in order to gratify the fantasies and pretensions of a subculture self-organised on the basis of a shared penchant for participating in sexually perverted activities.

Gay Marriage is not about equality. It is about securing formal recognition and approval of sexual perversity by government and making the moral and social equality of inversion enforceable by the state. And, like Ann Coulter, my own position is to hell with that. The rest of us may owe the sodomitically-inclined tolerance of private activities involving consenting adults, but we do not owe them public approval or the coercive modification of the moral opinions of American society in general.

One wishes this debate had been better-formatted and more substantive, but Coulter’s “take no prisoners” approach is always fun to watch.

11 Jan 2013

California Watch Dog

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Mr. Teeth

A five-foot caiman (presumably an example of Melanosuchus niger was found by Alamada County police guarding a marijuana cache in a private home in the Castro Valley.

Independent

18 Oct 2012

Scott Adams Is Firing Obama

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Scott Adams Blog:

President Obama… is putting an American citizen in jail for 10 years to life for operating medical marijuana dispensaries in California where it is legal under state law. And I assume the President – who has a well-documented history of extensive marijuana use in his youth – is clamping down on California dispensaries for political reasons, i.e. to get reelected. What other reason could there be?

One could argue that the President is just doing his job and enforcing existing Federal laws. That’s the opposite of what he said he would do before he was elected, but lying is obviously not a firing offense for politicians.

Personally, I’d prefer death to spending the final decades of my life in prison. So while President Obama didn’t technically kill a citizen, he is certainly ruining this fellow’s life, and his family’s lives, and the lives of countless other minor drug offenders. And he is doing it to advance his career. If that’s not a firing offense, what the hell is?

Romney is likely to continue the same drug policies as the Obama administration. But he’s enough of a chameleon and a pragmatist that one can’t be sure. And I’m fairly certain he’d want a second term. He might find it “economical” to use federal resources in other ways than attacking California voters. And he is vocal about promoting states’ rights, so he’s got political cover for ignoring dispensaries in states where medical marijuana is legal.

So while I don’t agree with Romney’s positions on most topics, I’m endorsing him for president starting today. I think we need to set a minimum standard for presidential behavior, and jailing American citizens for political gain simply has to be a firing offense no matter how awesome you might be in other ways.

I think it would be more logical to desire to fire Obama for arranging the Midnight arrest and subsequent detention as part of an effort to mislead the public about the causes and motivations of the attack upon the US consulate in Benghazi.

The obscure Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was practically the victim of a literal contemporary equivalent of the ancien regime’s lettres de cachet.

It’s not that I disagree with Mr. Adams though about the absurdity, immorality, and perverse inutility of Drug Prohibition, of course, or would not be on the same side on the federalism issues. Arguing that we ought to throw out of public office everyone who is willing to put people in jail for drug crimes who has himself smoked pot is basically a sound position.

Hat tip to Walter Olson.

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