Drugs Discussion Forum

The great Peter A. Taylor asks an interesting question over at Land’s place.

Do you have a position statement somewhere on drug prohibition? I’m wondering which way the wind is blowing in these parts, and why.

I left some of my initial impressions over there.  But I’m curious to see how else you all would address Peter’s inquiry.

On a small subset of that large subject, Peter Hitchens has been writing a lot on the subject as of late and recently got into an argument with Matthew Perry (‘Chandler’ from Friends) on the subject of addiction and related to his recent book, “The War We Never Fought: The British Establishment’s Surrender to Drugs

Hitchens likes to ‘heighten the contradiction’, as they say, in the progressive stance on drugs and addiction.  The progressives say addiction is a real, serious, and severe compulsion beyond the means of normal amounts of discipline, self-control, and willpower.

But, moreover, the use put to the ‘addiction’ ideograph is in its exculpation from personal responsibility, punishment, and stigmatization that it is supposed to provide to its ‘victims’.  If it is a ‘disease’, then the enlightened are supposed to ‘treat’ it as a form of temporary mental illness amenable to some form rehabilitation.  Paid for out of the public fisc, no doubt, because it would be unfair and socially unjust otherwise.

Well, fine, Hitchens says, but if drugs were actually so dangerous such that a single taste could dissolve one’s will and make one a total slave of the substance, then surely it is right and just and proper to make such chemicals dangerous contraband and expend all the great coercive resources of the state into prohibition.  And because it is the demand which creates the dangerous black market supply, we should punish users as much as dealers to achieve the desired deterrent effect.

But the progressives take the very opposite tact, and constantly advocate for less state enforcement, less severe sanctions, and definitely for more benign neglect of users contra the smugglers and dealers.

Hitchens says ‘addiction’ is baloney, and likes to cite Dalrymple’s experience as a prison psychiatrist to illustrate that withdrawal even from heroin is relatively quick process akin to a severe bout of the flu (a case explored in his Romancing Opiates).  He would be caught in his own contradiction if he didn’t cite the other deleterious effects of drugs besides ‘addiction’ on the minds and lives of its users, though in this respect I think he has a tendency to exaggerate the dangers.

Anyway, that’s enough context.  Have at it fellow neoreactionaries.  Is there an undiscovered country of a common position on the subject?  Or will it fray into fissiparous camps?

P.S. I’d like to recommend the tublr blog Odd Blots.  I wish OddBlot would move the blog to WordPress or adjust the setting to enable replies from people, like myself, without tumblr accounts.  But then again maybe there’s some tumblr-ninja magic code to get it done.  Anybody know?

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83 Responses to Drugs Discussion Forum

  1. drethelin says:

    can we stop saying drugs like weed and heroin are the same thing?

    • Handle says:

      What are you smoking? No one said that.

      • drethelin says:

        “Well, fine, Hitchens says, but if drugs were actually so dangerous such that a single taste could dissolve one’s will and make one a total slave of the substance, then surely it is right and just and proper to make such chemicals dangerous contraband and expend all the great coercive resources of the state into prohibition. And because it is the demand which creates the dangerous black market supply, we should punish users as much as dealers to achieve the desired deterrent effect.

        But the progressives take the very opposite tact, and constantly advocate for less state enforcement, less severe sanctions, and definitely for more benign neglect of users contra the smugglers and dealers.”

        Most progressives I know advocate for and largely talk about marijuana when taking that tact, and also in my experience don’t think weed is even addictive or destructive. This is the kind of thing I’m talking about. Don’t take one opinion about “drugs” and compare it to another opinion about “drugs” as if they’re necessarily about the same thing.

        • Handle says:

          I’ve seen the same arguments for crack and dope, which are more likely to be read overseas lately because, it’s true, cannabis issues currently dominate us discussion. Of course different substances have different levels of intensity, dependency, and personal and social harm. I’d actually make the question more abstract beyond chemicals and talk about compulsive intense experience generators in general as ‘vices’ that people tend to do to excess. What’s your position on vice control?

  2. SMERSH says:

    Whatever works. Executing drug traffickers works for some. Lax drug laws work for others. Nothing the US tries is likely to work, but at least the war on drugs keeps a lot of young black men in jail during their prime criminal years.

    What works is likely to depend on the demographics of the country in question and the goals of the people running that country. (Maximizing pleasure? Capitalist death camp? Something else?)

    • Wolf Tivy says:

      Prison isn’t exactly productive-citizen training. Maybe locking them up is superior to letting them run, but it seriously sucks, and there must be superior methods.

      I’d favor paternalism over prison. “You got caught with drugs? That’s pretty good evidence you need some authoritarian guidance. Forced apprenticeship and harsh curfews for a while for you.” More important would be experimenting/measuring and acting on social outcomes.

  3. VXXC says:

    Yer off on a dangerous and fruitless COA. There is no gain and much harm here…

    Progs position on drugs is to subsidize it. It’s power over the weak. Multiple axises of power.
    Generally the same tact should be taken as is taken with alcohol abuse and is indeed done by the state with regard to the addicts. The criminals who prey on them is another matter. If you want to compare wiffle ball bats with Uzi’s then you can compare weed with..anything.

    Tell them they can have their precious cannabis and let’s get back to the purged list..please…please…this is a complete and utter snipe hunt. For fsks sake it’s basically legal now.

    I realize the completely non-addictive cannabis is very important for some totally different reason to a certain segment of the..dude…right? And it doesn’t make you paranoid either….NSA is actually of course watching everyone. Right …wait…your one of ____!!!

    If great events can be determined from your mothers basement then this demographic has much to offer.


    PS – it may not be addictive, but it’s certainly chronic.

  4. Most whites can handle drugs, especially upper class whites. Most blacks cannot. Trayvon had brain damage from robitussen making him prone to fits of irrational violence.

    It is pretty obvious that most drugs, including a lot of over the counter drugs, should be illegal for blacks, but not whites.

    • Handle says:

      I don’t believe any of that

      • peppermint says:

        somehow, rich caucasoids seem to handle coke better than poor negroids handdle crack.

        Now, is crack worse than coke, in which case it should have a longer sentence, or shoud cocaine only be illegal for negroids, or for the poor?

        • Handle says:

          1. I’m sure you’re clearly on the wrong side of the ethnic-differences-realism and racial-over-generalization divide. Jim said something similar and I completely disagree with him too.

          2. So for purposes of discussion, assume some mostly homogenous group. Try to be abstract. Talk about the general dangers (severe or benign) of drug use, and what policy responses are optimal.

          3. Even if you’re not, I’d like to hear how a non-equal-protection society works in practice. I think a blunt class, race, or IQ distinction is ridiculous and unjust. A ‘licensed and revokable privilege’ regime with empirically-based revocation policies and as individualized-in-application as possible would be more appropriate, but might be unworkable practically given the administrative burden. So, with driver’s licenses, age is a very poor attribute to determine mature readiness for motor-vehicle operation and incident responsibility, but we recognize it’s more practical if governments are able to pick some center-mass bright line when it comes to some initial barrier to eligibility. We then test people at a very low standard for road-worthiness, with revocations individualized and based on demonstrations of bad behavior.

          • Lesser Bull says:

            For a drug license regime, maybe your bright line is a college education or equivalent (military service? Some kind of equivalent test?) or at least high school or GED.

          • Rob Banks says:

            I don’t think the administrative burden would be that onerous. We already license privileges like practicing medicine and law, owning firearms, etc.

            Possibly the matter could be simplified by creating legal bands of privilege, analogous to a caste system, based on demonstrated responsibility. Points could be assigned for property ownership, criminal convictions within a certain period, bankruptcies etc, similar to qualifying for a loan. For example, band 1 would restrict possession of drugs, possession of firearms, etc. Band 2 would permit such activities, and so on. It would be simple enough to include a field indicating your privilege band on your drivers license or Social Security card.

          • Handle says:

            Maybe. It’d be nice to be able to let every person have access to whatever quantities of whatever substances they have demonstrated they can enjoy responsibly.

            But it’s really hard to suppress the black market in ingestible chemicals (as opposed to durables with serial numbers that you could inventory, like firearms) from the approved group to the non-approved group.

            A drinking age of 21 guarantees that they will give/sell it to 18 year olds, but maybe reduces its use by high schoolers. And there are always plenty of Smugglers notches from permissive jurisdictions to areas with prohibition, ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ and Garth Brooks’ ‘Beer Run’ scenarios.

            I suppose there’s always pervasive drug testing to enforce the rules of the system, which a lot of people are already used to, e.g. High School athletes.

          • Rob Banks says:

            Given that we already have a robust market in ingestible chemicals, you’re worst case scenario doesn’t sound any worse than what we already have.

            It’s highly unlikely, short of implementing a Singapore like system of draconian punishments for drug crimes, that you’re ever going to stop people from taking illegal drugs. (And it’s not clear that a Singaporean solution would even be effective here.) The only thing my solution aims to accomplish is preserving the liberties of responsible people while maintaining whatever benefits are derived from prohibiting their use among the unruly. I’ll allow that using drugs as an excuse for jailing thugs is one of those benefits.

            Once again, it’s not so much the drugs that are the problem. It’s the assumption of equality that’s the problem.

  5. Commodore says:

    Seems like drugs are excellent Broken Window tools. Many a robber, rapist, gangbanger, or chronic jaywalker is caught due to carrying drugs. So sure, keep them as “stupid criminal” handles. Stupid taxes are regressive as heck, so nice and antiprogressive, right?

    Now just add some crippling side effects to the meth-ish drugs MBAs and law students take and you’ll have a chance of fixing the world.

  6. peppermint says:

    Some people don’t want to be forced to do drugs in order to compete. I’m not talking about roids, I’m talking about amphetamines. Why do people do meth? It helps them work 3 jobs, for a little while.

    For us intellectuals, amphetamines are also useful, and widely used at the most elite universities to get a leg up on competitors.

    That’s why the only legal drugs are so weak, with no real potential for getting people to work better.

    As our culture becomes less Christian, the argument that people should spend most of their time not doped up become harder to make. I expect rampant drug use in the lower classes to come of legalization efforts.

    Reader, did you ever hear of “Constituted Anarchy”? Anarchy; the choking, sweltering, deadly and killing rule of No-rule; the consecration of cupidity, and braying folly, and dim stupidity and baseness, in most of the affairs of men? Slop-shirts attainable three halfpence cheaper, by the ruin of living bodies and immortal souls?

  7. furlessape says:

    I think most of the dangers from drug use are scientifically overstated. One example would be heroin. According to most of the surveys I’ve seen, heroine is only slightly more addictive than alcohol and the chronic effects aren’t as bad as alcohol (though the probability of overdose is much greater). I want to emphasize that drug abuse is destructive, but the whole not even once stuff is nonsense.

    Secondly, as others have pointed out drugs can have different effects on different demographics. If you have a 150 IQ then taking a puff of marijuana and losing a few IQ points won’t impair your decision making as badly as someone with an IQ of 90. Drug abuse and addiction is significantly genetic and there is substantial variation across populations and within them.

    In terms of policy i think the war on drugs has been a failure. Handling things at a state or local level makes much sense. A libertarian policy towards drugs would work well in some areas but not others.

    I realize that i haven’t

    • furlessape says:

      I realize that I haven’t addressed everything but I want to keep it short.

    • peppermint says:

      if you have an IQ of 150, you are probably the kind of person who prides himself on his intelligence, and have the kind of career where the loss of a few points would mean the need to switch careers. Whereas if you have an IQ of 90, losing a few points wouldn’t do as much.

      • Handle says:

        You bring up something I’ve thought for a while. Because it’s measured in terms of variance, the marginal benefit and additional cognitive capability of an IQ point increases greatly on the margins. An extra few points for an average person doesn’t make much of a difference. But for a simple individual it can mean self-sufficiency, and for a gifted one can mean the adult-retained capacity to easily absorb new languages.

        Then again, I’m familiar with any research on how drug consumption affects cognitive performance, regressed against original IQ.

        • peppermint says:

          g is a polygenetic trait with some environmental input. The sum of a bunch of independently distributed random variables of finite variance is normally distributed.

          IQs have some kind of bell curve. It actually looks like http://imgur.com/Kca2f.jpg .

          So, assuming Spearman’s g theory, which has been hated for a hundred years, we have a monotonic function from one bell curve to another. I really think an IQ point is an IQ point.

  8. Handle, thank you for your kind words, but you’re going to give me a swelled head.

    My knee-jerk reaction is libertarianism. One thing that might move me off of that is if someone could convince me that drug prohibition was actually having a large impact on the number of addicts (as opposed to casual users). If someone suggests alcohol prohibition as a successful example of social engineering, with a short term policy having had a long term effect, I’d like to know how long the policy needs to remain in effect before we declare it to be either a success or a failure. Someone (Foseti?) has claimed that the legal system was broken by the Supreme Court some decades ago, and the “War on Drugs” is a workaround that allows the police to behave in practice in ways that they are no longer allowed to do in theory. I have no idea if that’s a realistic view or not, but it’s plausible enough to scare me.

    • Tryptophan says:

      Prohibition works pretty well in Singapore, but that might well be due to the functioning nature of the state there.

      Neocameralism is the only complete (if not totally convincing) vision of a reactionary society I have heard described, under that system I wouldn’t presume to set state policy, I’d just choose to live in the most pleasant state. For drug prohibition as for a lot of other issues I’m happy to note that the Liberal/consensus position is nonsense while not having an exact formula for the least-worst society. The correct “solution” might well vary by drug, exact chemical composition, demographic, racial group or level of penetration of each individual drug in a society (Hitchens likes to say that if alcohol were discovered tomorrow he would want it banned).

      Tl;dr – we shouldn’t have a “position”, we should want a functioning government with the best interests of its citizens at heart and then accept its authority. Thats why states like Singapore work actually isn’t it…?

    • Handle says:

      It might have been me with the theory. But the order if causation wasn’t so direct. If you study constitutional criminal law, you’ll be astounded with how many of those important cases are drug related. More to follow later, but I’m in a rush.

      • Steve Johnson says:

        I’m pretty sure it was Steve Sailer who first mentioned the idea.

        He didn’t phrase it in the NR way (the Supreme Court has broken policing) – he phrased it in his clear-eyed sociologist manner (something like “it’s easy to intimidate witnesses in an assault trial but hard to intimidate police chemists”).

        • Handle says:

          Most clear-sighted, perceptive, and disinterested observers of our criminal justice and law enforcement system are going to see the same trends and come to similar judgments about them.

          Plenty of folks on the left see the same things, except colored by their own perspective as all originating in racist conspiracy and fascist white-supremacist police state oppression, or something.

          When I get around to the Stuntz book (time to re-prioritize, I guess), I’ll give a fuller take.

    • Lesser Bull says:

      I know several lawyers who defend cops on civil rights complaints. Based on what they say, a broken criminal justice system workaround is a very good description of the War on Drugs (plus an excuse for tons of federal funding for local cops)

    • Handle says:

      One thing that might move me off of that is if someone could convince me that drug prohibition was actually having a large impact on the number of addicts (as opposed to casual users).

      Well, how about this. If you ever go to Afghanistan (word of advice: don’t) you find, especially near the Durand line Southern Border, plenty of cheap and ubiquitous opium, heroin, and hashish. You can get a fix of locavore heroin for about the price of a meal. The version of Islam practiced there is much more tolerant of those drugs than alcohol, which I found somewhat surprising.

      And what do you see? Tons of teenage junkies constantly abusing the stuff and engaging in petty banditry and homosexual pedophilic prostitution (which, actually, isn’t that uncommon there).

      That problem of rampant addiction because of easy, cheap and tolerated access is, as I understand it, pretty common throughout Central and Southeast Asia, extending South to India, East to Vietnam, and North up to parts of Russia as well. Obviously that’s a hugely different cultural context and extrapolating clumsily to richer Western developed countries is fraught with hazard.

      Nevertheless, I think there’s a lesson we can extract from these facts with a little bit of insight into basic human weakness, temptation, and vice. What is cheap, pleasurable, and easily accessible in American (indeed, so easy we even call them ‘convenience stores’)? Food. And most Americans are fat; myself included, I’m ashamed to admit. They don’t want to be fat, but it’s hard to stop eating delicious ‘hyper-palatable‘ calorific food.

      It’s hard for Americans to stop doing lots of pleasurable things – like video games, or binge TV watching, or reading, socializing, and blogging on the internet. Like Paul Graham says, life is getting more addicting, and addictiveness is accelerating. When there is huge commercial incentive to research and develop the absolute more compelling way to compete for your scare time and money, eventually that is going to spill over into making experiences that are very ‘drug’-like.

      The only things that survive the commercial evolutionary gauntlet will be so pleasurable, stimulating, and titillating that they release the absolute maximum saturation of endorphins, dopamine, and other pleasure-and-reward neurotransmitters.

      And I think no matter how much self-control people are born with and trained to exercise, those kinds of experiences pose a large danger of turning us into the rats that will stimulate themselves into starvation. If we’re not already there, we’re getting there quick.

      Add to that mix my guess that the American child-socialization process is teaching much less self-discipline, willpower, and self-control these days; especially in the post traditionally-religious era. The social stigmas against the consequences of instant gratification are not just seriously weakened, there are activist efforts specifically aimed at attempting to denormalize those stigmas and the carrots and sticks of the traditional external social pressures that helped people discipline their behaviors in the face of animalistic temptation.

      TL;DR: Foreign examples with drugs plus American examples of things besides drugs plus American cultural decadence = lots more likely problematic stoners and addicts associated with legalization of drugs with high risks for producing chemical dependence.

      Is this an experiment we’re willing to run? Can we put Humpty Dumpty back in his shell? I lean towards ‘no’, but I’ll split the baby and be a NIMBY and say some state should be the laboratory, just not the ones near where my kids will grow up.

      • “Is this an experiment we’re willing to run? Can we put Humpty Dumpty back in his shell? I lean towards ‘no’, but I’ll split the baby and be a NIMBY and say some state should be the laboratory, just not the ones near where my kids will grow up.”

        Two comments. One is that, as a frustrated wannabe libertarian ideologue, I don’t want to use coercion unless I’m confident that I know what I’m doing. I would probably set this confidence bar higher than you would, and quite possibly higher that you would think is reasonable. My other comment is that you’re quite right about needing to do this as an experiment in a suitable “laboratory”, possibly as large as a state or two, but maybe at the county level, like alcohol in Texas. But we need the data. And different drugs are different experiments. But I really want these experiments to get run.

        • asdf says:

          What I always wonder with libertarians and drugs is…what’s the upside. I mean there is a liberty fetish with libertarians. Is impugning ones ability to get high really so bad? Is getting high really that great? I mean you people make it sound like the worst thing in the world. It’s not like some great sacrifice is being asked for.

          I enjoy a drink now and again, but I don’t think my life would be much worse if I couldn’t, and it definitely wouldn’t be worse if someone stopped me from binge drinking. It’s kind of like sex. It seems important, till you have a lot of it. Then you wonder what the big deal was, and it doesn’t seem like those people telling you not to do it before where really being that big of a buzzkill when you think about it. It seems people get more pissed of about being told not to do X then how important X really is to their lives.

          • I have no personal interest in illegal drugs. I consider two beers to be heavy drinking. I’m looking at it from a big picture standpoint. Draw up a balance sheet, with the benefits of the War on [Some] Drugs on one side and the costs on the other. On the right, the US has a mind-bogglingly high incarceration rate, with all the costs that entails, financial and otherwise. I see the Wo[S]D essentially as an astronomically high subsidy for organized crime and police corruption, and a comparable motivator for disorganized crime (robbery, burglary, etc.). Then consider the loss of civil liberties, asset forfeiture, etc. War (on Drugs) is the health of the state. Now consider the left side. What are the benefits of the Wo[S]D? It’s all hypothetical. Maybe it has a significant effect on long term addiction rates, maybe it doesn’t. This looks like a no-brainer to me. I think I’m being eminently cautious by agreeing with Handle to go slowly and experiment. What really scares me is that I’m afraid I may have the high incarceration rate on the wrong side of the balance sheet.

  9. VXXC says:

    Absolute dead on target: “we shouldn’t have a “position”, we should want a functioning government with the best interests of its citizens at heart.”

    We have a dysfunctional government that means harm.

    It wants it’s citizens gone, replaced by theoretically more pliable immigrants on welfare.

    When you mean to do good you’ll probably stumble into good deeds, if you mean harm no check will balance your evil.

  10. Konkvistador says:

    My position is that arresting people for having drugs is a bad substitute for locking up thugs.

    Foseti: “My thesis is this: the Warren Court effectively made policing impossible, crime exploded, the war on drugs was implemented in response, crime dropped. As such, I’m not surprised by this: “the fourth amendment now has a de facto exception clause when it comes to drug -related crimes.” I’d only make one minor correction – “the fourth amendment as interpreted by judges in the ’60s.””

    • Handle says:

      You could go a long way to describing an entire semester’s worth of credit hours in law school and eight decades of the evolution of American law by saying, “The general exception to any original, plain-meaning restriction in the U.S. Constitution is when the obeying it would effectively stop the government from doing what the bureaucracy and judiciary agree are really important things. You can relax it just up to the point of effectiveness, but don’t go too far.”

      You could make the statement more formal if you add the jargon of ‘compelling interest’, ‘strict scrutiny’ and ‘narrowly tailored’, but those terms confuse more than clarify.

      Foseti’s thesis is a bit too concise (which is his great strength of writing style). I disagree that it was on done on purpose as a kind of semi-distributed conspiracy to get around the rules. Part of the story is just that the cops eventually adapted to the new crime-jurisprudence ecology, and it’s hard to differentiate ‘successful adaptation in an arms-race’ from ‘conspiracy to undermine’ (in the same way that human cognitive biases favor purpose-driven creationism as a tempting alternative to spontaneous natural selection). I’m going to review Stuntz’s book soon (hopefully), and will flesh out the multiple feedbacks and interactions that led us to the current dismal situation.

      But the fact is, it’s really, really hard to dis-aggregate drugs from overall crime since so much crime and underclass activity is motivated by the drug-trade these days. No one really knows what would happen to the typical thug class if contraband-dealing wasn’t an option. Part of the ‘benefit’ of allowing a drug trade is that much of it, and the resulting social-harm, tends to be concentrated in underclass neighborhoods, so you can likewise efficiently allocate your law enforcement resources to those areas. But because that’s been going on for over two decades, most U.S. municipalities are no longer used to doing regular beat-patrolling in good neighborhoods, and so still haven’t quite learned how to prevent ‘community-spillover’ phenomena like knockout games and flash mobs.

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  12. SMERSH says:

    Jim’s comments make more sense when you look at them in the context of his history of blogging and commenting. He doesn’t care for proles of any race and he hopes they’ll die off on their own, as soon as possible.

    Thus, when he says “white people can handle meth”, he means that “the kind of white people he cares about can handle meth”.

    • Handle says:

      I was hoping for a more abstract discussion of the theory and practice of paternalism in neoreactionary politics in societies composed more-or-less as they are today. Drugs prohibition is, partly, just such a paternalistic policy, ‘You wouldn’t like the person you’ll turn into, neither will anybody else, so we’re going to deter you from taking a taste, partly for your own good.’

      I’ll let Jim clarify his claim if he wants to. As it stands, I don’t believe there’s any strong, simple correlation between race or IQ and the sum of internality (personal) and externality (social) harm that might come from someone ingesting some psychoactive chemicals.

      Alcohol is a special case because of its special history being carried along with the spread of agriculture. Tolerance or vulnerability to it, like with lactose or heavily card-based diets, is more connected to your ethnic heritage than anything else. Given where most organic precursors of popular drugs originate, Europeans, arguably, would be predicted to be less tolerant than American Indians or Central Asians.

      But alcohol aside, in genetic terms, like with legal pharmaceuticals, most recreational, psychoactive compounds are ‘new’ and tolerance to them was not particularly adaptive, so you tend to observe a very wide variability in pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics and tolerances.

      That’s part of the problem, by the way, with the FDA’s ‘safe and effective’ mandate. Some drugs are perfectly safe and effective for 95% of the population, perhaps much better than anything else on the market for them, but with potentially dangerous side-effects for those 5%. I’ve read that Rofecoxib is an example of this.

      ‘Can handle’ is also pretty vague. Disciplined and conscientious people (which tend to also be smart these days) manage their impulses and temptations better, and so if they avoid some kind of ‘pathway to addiction’ because they have the willpower and self-awareness to get off the train earlier, then you’re just seeing a manifestation of their general self-control. You see the same thing with regards to obesity, for example. IQ may be a pretty rough proxy for self-discipline itself a rough-proxy for that kind of ‘supra-metabolic tolerance’.

  13. asdf says:

    This isn’t complicated. Soft drugs legal and taxed. Hard drugs illegal. A lot of ink gets wasted debating which pot is.

    Drug abuse is linked to a sick culture. Even if you have the IQ to not do something particularly stupid as related to drug use is tends to be a form of escapism/vitalism because something is wrong. If your society is particularly messed up it can cause a death spiral (see China and opium).

    None of us want them selling crack in Wal Mart. We all know what would happen then. The black market is a less bad alternative for certain substances.

    • Handle says:

      We’re going to learn a lot about legalized pot in contemporary American culture in 2014. A couple in Colorado that I know basically lived a nearly-open, but semi-paranoid stoner-bum life out there already where they had to occasionally deal with petty-criminals, and now it is a totally open and non-paranoid pot-smoking life, and they’ve mostly abandoned the petty-criminals.

      They have been consuming more lately and seem even more ‘stoner-bum-like’ because prices are down and they aren’t worried about the cops, so the combined deterrent has relaxed and they’re responded exactly as one might predict. I don’t anticipate a lot of change in the long term, though I’m very curious to see what happens to overall drug crime as the black market for weed evaporates there.

      I find it challenging intellectually to draw the lines between prohibited hards and taxed softs, as well as between use and abuse. I enjoy fine whiskey and I occasionally like getting moderately drunk to have an enjoyable, recreational flavor and psychoactive experience, usually, but not always, in a social context that results in a lot of conversational lubrication and bonhomie. I like to think of that as ‘use’ not ‘abuse’ of a ‘soft’ not ‘hard’ drug, that I can handle maturely and responsibly and which doesn’t indicate any sickness in my motives or culture – but I’ll admit that’s an awfully convenient interpretation.

      Then again, according to 23andMe, I’m maxed-out on rapid ethanol-metabolizing alleles without any known alcoholism vulnerability indicators, which makes me feel pretty lucky, but also reminds me that the alcohol experience is a very different drug for different people with different heritages. I try to judge these things on a ‘is like alcohol for me for most people’ vs. ‘is like my vices that are really difficult for me to control for most people’ basis.

    • sobl says:

      I concur 100% with this. I will add that ecstasy was a safe drug when you could buy it at GNC compared to just 5 years later.

      • Handle says:

        Wait, MDMA was available over the counter at GNC?

        • SOBL1 says:

          It was sold as herbal ectasy. It was a mood enhancer and natural antidepressant. I had aunts in the 80s who used to buy it. Completely uncut and unadulterated. Pres Bush 41 signed the bill into law that outlawed steroids w/o a scrip and changed the classification of ectsasy.

          • SOBL1 says:

            A quick lookup revealed I was wrong on timeline because ecstasy was classified schedule I in late ’80s. GNC did sell it when legal and then sold herbal ecstasy for years after. GNC’s own brand of multivitamin was dosed with a small bit of ephedra in the late ’90s, so of course someone would use their GNC special multi and lose weight due to the ephedra and think it was a magic pill. It was, God bless ephedra.

  14. spandrell says:

    I think it’s probably time to let one hundred flowers bloom and see what happens. Then crack down as swiftly as Mao to his dissenters.

    The idea that drugs can’t possibly ruin a society is easily refuted by looking at how Yemen spends most of its meager water supply in Khat. Half Asia is screwing with its teeth by constantly chewing betel nut.
    Of course SE Asians are hooked to betel nut, while the Taiwanese have it as a minor pastime. There’s an eugenic argument for opening drugs, and let the low impulse-control people stone themselves out of the gene pool.

    It’s hard to take the long view when you’re risking your children’s lives though.

    • peppermint says:

      There’s an eugenic argument for opening drugs, and let the low impulse-control people stone themselves out of the gene pool.

      sure sounds more humane for other people

      It’s hard to take the long view when you’re risking your children’s lives though.

      but you want your own children to fail quickly, preferably not even by testing amniotic fluid and aborting, but by picking the right sperms and eggs.

    • Handle says:

      You don’t think that the kind of people who do the most drugs also have the most babies?

      • spandrell says:

        I don’t think it’s that bad. Even in the US most white kids are still born inside wedlock.

        • Handle says:

          I was referring to that ‘stone themselves out of the gene pool’ comment. I don’t see that. I think the stoners are having more babies on average than the non-stoners.

          Maybe you get a few Darwin Award overdoses here and there, but not enough to matter.

          On the other hand, maybe drugs mitigates what would be an even high rate of fertility amongst the feckless, so the fertility of stoners is closer to non-stoners than it would otherwise be.

          • spandrell says:

            China has a lot of stories of young heirs of rich families getting hooked to opium, refusing women and gambling and all the riches, just stoning themselves out of the gene pool.

            Do the white stoners have more kids on average? The stoners I know wouldn’t let brats spoil their stoning. The money they don’t spend in dope is spent in contraceptives.

          • Handle says:

            There might be an inflection point somewhere down the class structure. Drug abuse is hard to disaggregate from a lot of other underclass social pathologies. If you go to your local urban ghetto (black) or rural trailer park (white) you see a lot of constant drug use, and also a lot of single-mother breeding.

            Welfare payments still have a lot to do with incentivizing procreation among these women, so it’s not just impulsiveness, though that plays a part.

          • Handle says:

            Now that I think about it, I guess the question is ‘which analysis’. You can look at drug abuse in general across the population, and you are going to find a lot of poor, feckless, impulsive people who have a lot of babies out of wedlock, etc.

            But if you control for socioeconomic status, then within a class there there may be some correlation between breeding and stoning. I’m not sure which direction that would run for high class or low class people. One difference is that there are lots of ways to fall out of the upper class through downward mobility, and the pressure encourages some people to voluntarily give up and select themselves out of the race.

  15. Bar says:

    In Portugal, a pragmatic policy that sought to put pressure on addicts by subjecting them to civil, but not criminal sanctions seems to have paid off.

    Basically, people caught using are issued summons to a stern talking to and offered help. If they refuse, a variety of civil sanctions (fines, loss of welfare) might be used against them to make them reconsider.


    • Handle says:

      I visited Portugal – mostly Lisbon – before and after the drug law. As an aside – I recommend the excellent site of theTemplar stronghold at Tomar.

      Lisbon was a kind of Mecca for young punk-fashion, quasi-vagrant, but seemingly middle-class origin junkies from all over Europe and it was the first time I saw lots of people squatting in filthy empty apartments with used syringes (freely available from government clinics) and cigarette butts heaped in piles and strewn all over the floor. I was invited into this world for a few days as a kind of semi-detached non-indulging observer by – no surprise here – an attractive Deutsch mädchen I met in a port-wine bar with some interesting piercings and who had lived in it herself for a few months.

      Heroin, cannabis, and cocaine were readily available if you had the money (or if the girls were willing to put out for it; which they most certainly all were). The kids spent a lot of time doing petty thefts (sometimes from each other and there was zero trust) and fencing the pilfered goods for pennies on the dollar which would instantly get converted into more drugs.

      I found this all to be a very degraded form of human existence, and while I was more libertarian and live-and-let-live back then, that judgment has cemented within me over time. They all had very innocent-sounding stories of how they ‘got started’ which always seemed to begin as experimental recreation with some friends at a party and then, somehow, a year or so later, Lisbon squatting and shooting up and stealing and prostituting themselves for their next fix. It was all very ‘Requiem for a Dream’.

      Now that I am a parent, I wonder to myself, ‘What things will I tolerate if it means that my own children will be sufficiently impeded and deterred from starting on the path followed by those other wasted lives?’ I find myself an increasingly paternalistic patriarch, decreasingly willing to allow them the complete freedom to ruin their lives for a petty thrill. I want them to be independent and to have choice and liberty, but I also want them to have the wisdom and maturity for moderation and self-discipline before they try anything so pleasurable so as to be potentially life-warping.

      It’s tough.

      • asdf says:

        “degraded form of human existence”

        Is the thing I think needs to be focused on. If your only problem with drugs are material effects of obvious excess then its a weak argument. People will always argue over that. And there will come a day when we have side effect free highs (soma) and self driving cars to make sure we don’t drive home drunk. Will this be a good situation? If your philosophy on things doesn’t pass the BNW test then its always just a change in conditions away from being meaningless.

        One of the best lines South Park ever had on drugs was one of its earlier episodes (though Medicinal Fried Chicken is hilarious). At the end Randy says to Stan:

        In all likelihood pot won’t do XYZ terrible thing you’ve been told. What it will do is make you feel good about being bored. And its exactly when your bored that you should be developing a new skill or broadening yourself in some way, you know being creative. If you smoke a bunch of pot the biggest problem is you might wake up one day and have wasted your life and not reached your potential.

        One of the big dangers with drugs too is it offers up a fake enlightenment. We’ve all noticed it, its why you and I have blogged buzzed. It loosens up some of the barriers we put up around our own feelings and intuition. There are positives and negatives to this, though on the whole I think its more damaging then good. I’m reminded of this bit from the beginning of Seraphrim Rose’s talk “The Search”:

        The search for reality is a dangerous task. You have all probably heard stories of young people in our times of searching have “burned themselves out” trying to find reality, and either die young or drag out a dreary existence at a fraction of their potential mind and soul. I myself recall a friend from the days of my searching twenty-five years ago, when Aldous Huxley had just discovered the supposedly “spiritual” value of LSD and had convinced many to follow him. This young man, a typical religious searcher who might be attending a course like this, once told me, “No matter what you might say of the dangers of drugs, you must admit anything is better than everyday American life, which is spiritually dead.” I disagreed, since even then I was beginning to glimpse that spiritual life spreads in two directions: it can lead one higher then everyday life and its corruptions, but it can also lead one lower and bring about a literal spiritual-as well as physical-death. He went on his own way, and before he was thirty years old he was a wreck of an old man, his mind ruined, and any search for reality abandoned.

        To me that sentiment, “anything is better then this life,” is the driving force behind drug abuse. I know the times I’ve used alcohol more then was healthy time up pretty well with when I was feeling particularly cynical about the world. Just because I had the self control not to have it turn in to something obviously materially bad doesn’t mean it was a good response. If they one day make soma it won’t get rid of that underlying spiritual problem, it will just cover up symptoms.

        • Handle says:

          This is slightly Gnostic theme. Gnosticism says that the pleasures of material existence are, ‘like a wine that makes your drunk and puts you to sleep’. Inside your spirit, you have this nebulous instinct and strong urge to seek liberation and enlightenment from the falsehoods you were raised to believe. That instinct manifests itself in boredom, in dissatisfaction, in skepticism, in burning curiosity, and so on. These are said to be the symptoms of your inner light calling you to quest towards ‘Home’.

          You want to rejoin the God from Whom you have been alienated and share in the secret knowledge of The Truth which will set you free and allow you to reach the heights of what is possible in your temporal existence. All you need is to ‘awaken from the slumber’, and that tends to avoid some turning away from indulgence in the pleasures that numb your instinct and tempt you hedonically with mere mundanity and away from striving towards your ‘true mission’.

          It’s a fitting red-pill religious tradition for the more theologically inclined amongst the DEC, and not exclusive to existing affiliations. Related thoughts here.

          • asdf says:

            “Our bodies – including our brains – are flesh composed of this evil substance and that is where all our animalistic desires come from that tempt us away from achieving ‘enlightenment’. The theme of most normal people believing whatever they are exposed to being ‘sleepers’ or ‘sleepwalkers’, with a few people – Gnostics – who have ‘awakened’ and know only that what they thought they ‘knew’ was lies.”

            I started reading Haidt’s book and early on he talks about a really unique study that fascinated me. A group of people had lost the part of their brains that was responsible for emotion. Their reason was still in place, including their ability to apply reason to morality. In addition they retained all of their previous knowledge about the world. If the gnostic view was true they should have become platonic philosopher kings. Instead it was a complete a utter train wreck where they destroyed themselves and others. Turns out we really do need our “evil” emotions, passions, and bodies.

            Gnosticism was a dangerous philosophy that could have destroyed Christianity in the early years, and it kept popping up throughout history. There is a pretty crazy story about Hippolytus of Rome. He was a wealthy gnostic who started a schism in the early church and appointed himself a kind of anti-pope. He was exiled to the mines along with the actual pope during one of the persecutions. There shackled and doing hard labor all day the two popes would debate each other. It was during this time Hippolytus renounced his Gnosticism and returned to the church.

          • Handle says:

            Maybe when they arrest both of us we can have good debates like that.

            Good grief, every day my words seem a little more Soviet-era.

      • Royce says:

        Could you not exercise your paternalism exactly through parenting; why do you need the state to do this job by propagating incoherent myths?

        • Handle says:

          A great question, and thank you for asking it.

          The short answer is, ‘Nope’. Can’t be done.

          Parenting alone is not nearly enough without a significant amount of buttressing and reinforcement and minimized (even suppressed) contradiction from the other major competitive social influences; and it’s a common myth that it makes a big difference.

          Not only is nurture the junior partner to nature in the expression of many important heritable human traits, but amongst a child’s various influences during their formative years, parents tend to have much less influence than schools, media, definitely all the social crap on the internet, and especially peers.

          Two great sources on this are Judith Harris’ The Nurture Assumption and Bryan Caplan’s Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids.

          So, there are several words to chose from of varying positive or negative valence when it comes to raising kids to believe certain things so that they’ll act certain ways. You can call it raising, rearing, socialization, acculturation, indoctrination, brain-washing, education, and so on.

          Sometimes you tell the kids age-appropriate stories you know are false, but serve a certain purpose, and then clue them in on the joke when they’ve reached the requisite stage of maturity. Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, Boogeymen, and so on. Sometimes you tell them the uncomplicated, black-and-white ‘incoherent’ fairy tell version of the story to young kids, and add complexity, uncertainty, and moral nuance when they are ready to handle it. This is what ‘Reconstructionists’ do with religion – “It’s ok to tell little kids about Noah’s flood and the animals in a completely literal matter-of-fact manner, and when they’re old enough you explain it didn’t ‘really’ happen like that, it’s a parable and symbolic allegory meant to help us work towards the journey of understanding what God wants from us, etc.”

          But back to the influences point. Parenting needs lots and lots of support and assistance from the general cultural and all its influential institutions. If it doesn’t get that support, or if the parent doesn’t bubble-off their kids in subcultural spaces that simulate those alternative influences (like the Mormons do), then its objective will fail because even pre-adolescents will naturally look for any seductive ‘reason’ whatsoever to rebel against the parental authority in their life.

          If parents in the same community have diverse acculturation and indoctrination goals, then most necessarily will fail to achieve those goals to the extent they contradict the general common culture. Over time, you would expect successful people to have their ‘particular’ heritages dissolved in favor of what they hold in common with other successful people, and they would eventually form a caste with its own distinct value system that it could successfully propagate because everyone they know believes the same things.

          I don’t necessarily think ‘the state’ needs to be involved with this (certainly not at the national level) so long as children can be raised entirely within communities that have a certain homogeneity of outlook on these issues (Zions), so the belief and behavioral patterns will not be disturbed and will cement in their minds and personalities before they are ‘released into the wild’. At the very least, the government should keep out of this community business, and maybe support it through an accomodative legal environment, with a reasonable exception to build that common national ethos that creates harmonious bonds and loyal patriotism in the citizens of one nation, and lets them integrate and work together in harmony when they all get ‘released into the wild’ together.

      • Bar says:

        Yeah, it is

        an attractive Deutsch mädchen I met in a port-wine bar with some interesting piercings and who had lived in it herself for a few months.

        that sentence reads to me like a complete contradiction.. 😐

        What things will I tolerate if it means that my own children will be sufficiently impeded and deterred from starting on the path followed by those other wasted lives?’

        The thing is that people who end up at parties and shoot drugs were probably the kind of people who weren’t really into anything. If your kids have hobbies or interests that occupy them, they’re less likely to be interested in drugs.

        Also, I’d recommend screening ‘Trainspotting’ and also maybe some accurate film on cocaine addicts. Sure, those films are 18 plus but a well-adjusted teenager can watch them. And it’s I believe a good, sly way of driving home the message that drugs are not worth it unless you want to end up stealing stuff and prostituting yourself in a slum ..

        The important thing is to never lecture teenagers though. Counterproductive, I’ve heard.

        • Handle says:

          ‘that sentence reads to me like a complete contradiction’

          Any ‘port’ in a storm, right?

          Heh, but seriously she had a nice face and great body and I still remember my brief time with her fondly.

          • Anthony says:

            I’ve been thinking about some of this – progressivism actually works pretty nicely for people who are above average in intelligence and conscientiousness. You get tattoos in places you can cover them up, experiment with various drugs, then settle on fancy beers or wines, have sex with various pretty girls or boys (or both), and then settle down, get married, and have 2.1 kids. And as long as you’re reasonably careful and diligent, you’ll do ok. You might have some crappy years digging yourself out of the hole you got into, and a few will get sreiously hurt or killed, or end up screwing up their lives so much that they fall into the underclass, but there are other sorts of dangers which can have the same effects in non-progressive subcultures. Libertinism for the elite is nothing new; we just have a wider elite than most previous times and places.

            The real problem is, as Sailer calls it, the left half of the bell curve, where one big slip might leave you someplace you don’t have the ability to recover from.

          • Handle says:

            In every civilised society, in every society where the distinction of ranks has once been completely established, there have been always two different schemes or systems of morality current at the same time; of which the one may be called the strict or austere; the other the liberal, or, if you will, the loose system. The former is generally admired and revered by the common people: the latter is commonly more esteemed and adopted by what are called people of fashion. The degree of disapprobation with which we ought to mark the vices of levity, the vices which are apt to arise from great prosperity, and from the excess of gaiety and good humour, seems to constitute the principal distinction between those two opposite schemes or systems. In the liberal or loose system, luxury, wanton and even disorderly mirth, the pursuit of pleasure to some degree of intemperance, the breach of chastity, at least in one of the two sexes, etc., provided they are not accompanied with gross indecency, and do not lead to falsehood or injustice, are generally treated with a good deal of indulgence, and are easily either excused or pardoned altogether. In the austere system, on the contrary, those excesses are regarded with the utmost abhorrence and detestation. The vices of levity are always ruinous to the common people, and a single week’s thoughtlessness and dissipation is often sufficient to undo a poor workman for ever, and to drive him through despair upon committing the most enormous crimes. The wiser and better sort of the common people, therefore, have always the utmost abhorrence and detestation of such excesses, which their experience tells them are so immediately fatal to people of their condition. The disorder and extravagance of several years, on the contrary, will not always ruin a man of fashion, and people of that rank are very apt to consider the power of indulging in some degree of excess as one of the advantages of their fortune, and the liberty of doing so without censure or reproach as one of the privileges which belong to their station. In people of their own station, therefore, they regard such excesses with but a small degree of disapprobation, and censure them either very slightly or not at all.

            Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations (1776), Book 5, Chapter 1

          • asdf says:


            I don’t know if this is true. That’s the ideal, its what progressives tell themselves their life will be like. However, in reality a lot of these people never actually settle down. The TFR for elite progressive women is under 1. These people don’t get divorced or end up single mothers…because they never get married or have children. I’m not sure how superior that kind of life is. At least the poors are trying. Strivers are increasingly living sterile and meaningless lives, no matter how good they are for GDP. These “experimentation” phases are instead becoming lifelong habits that become a center of the progressives life, crowding out other things.

            Moreover, the rudderless lives of progressives are having lots of externality effects on the society at large. Mass media is mostly a progressive affair. And progressive values are an intimate part of our political and economic lives, with the obvious negative effects we can see. These rudderless libertine strivers are making an awful lot of decisions that shape our society, and its come to reflect on the character of our society.

  16. Bar says:

    And because it is the demand which creates the dangerous black market supply, we should punish users as much as dealers to achieve the desired deterrent effect.

    It’s immoral to treat victimless criminals in the same manner as ordinary ones. Someone who sought to escape from shitty reality is not the equal of someone who seriously fucked up, hurt or exploited others.

    And it also shows a lack of imagination and is perhaps inefficient because as we all know locking people up is quite expensive and usually doesn’t help them..

    • Handle says:

      While my sense of the moral appropriateness of punishment plays a part in my analysis, I tend to put it in the backseat compared to more pragmatic concerns and the effort to apply reason and judgment to solving social problems. There are no formulas for it, but the general principles are to find the optimal outcome which maximizes the benefits and minimizes the costs.

      One of those costs, of course, is the social discord caused by widely-shared outrage and feelings of injustice and disproportion. But that goes both ways. Outside the worst crimes, I’m not a vengeful or retributive type, but most people will feel equally outraged if they think you haven’t punished someone enough even when you’ve achieved the social objective. The popular legitimacy of the criminal justice system relies in part on the feeling that it is dispensing ‘enough justice’ – completely aside from purely practical considerations of public safety – and if it isn’t people are greatly tempted to see the government as the enemy and stop cooperating with police or even take things into their own hands.

      But in general, in my economics-brainwashed mind, I think ‘the punishment should fit the crime’ means ‘the marginal rate of transformation from punishment into deterrence’ (measured, somehow, in terms of ‘social benefit’) should more-or-less equal the MRTs of all the other government functions. That means you have to be a good judge of social harms; which is a very tricky art of statesmanship.

      That is to say, human nature and incentives being what they are (and the comparative opportunities for low-skill folks between the white and black markets), it’s perfectly possible empirically that you just have to threaten people – even high-functioning people who just want to get a little high once in a while – with hell to keep the drug-trade down to an ‘acceptable’ level, and that despite all the tragic suffering that shocks our consciences, it’s still ‘worth it’.

      Alcohol prohibition makes an interesting case – more interesting that it is usually given credit for. If I had lived in the US between 1920 and 1933 then I would have been one of those people wanting to do exactly what I do now, which is get a bit tipsy from my fine whiskeys a few times a month (and often while I’m blogging). I think I would have been deterred from drinking, and this would have been aggravating and frustrating for me. Nevertheless, I might be willing to accept such a personal sacrifice if my society was as intensely hard-drinking in as socially-harmful a way as late 19th century America (Britain too) seems to have been by the sources I’ve read. Especially so with the rapid adoption of the automobile.

      Alcohol prohibition is considered a horrible failure and a dire warning and lesson, but it, and the heavy alcohol-taxes that followed seems to have contributed significantly and rapidly to a gradual cultural shift away from ubiquitous, frequent heavy drinking. There seems to be that classic ‘policy-attributed trend-discontinuity’ in that cultural phenomenon that is as close to a Historical Social Science gold standard as we have.

      On the other hand, as Peter Taylor points out, it’s not at all clear in the US that prohibition of other drugs, with a much longer history that alcohol prohibition had, has had a similar ‘sea-change’ effect on diminishing demand. I think it has, because I’ve been to other lawless countries where hashish and heroin are easily available and cheap (for us, not them), and drug addiction and abuse are rampant at levels that would shock most Americans in a way that is widespread and not just confined to underclass ghettos. Obviously that is a very different cultural context, but should it not also serve as a warning and lesson?

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Are you sure you aren’t confusing the early 19th century with the late? The 1840s Temperance movement cut alcohol consumption by a factor of 4. Prohibition only cut it by a factor of 2 and had no permanent effect. Here are Rorabaugh’s graph and table. Here is a comparison with other sources, who agree that Prohibition was not so dramatic, though no other source goes back to before the Temperance movement.

        • Handle says:

          Thanks for the references. I remember reading parts of Irving Fisher’s ‘The Noble Experiment’ and he may have exaggerated how bad the problem had been, but he also emphasized that there was a lot of geographic and socioeconomic variation in consumption. Uneducated men doing manual labor in remote or rural areas were, according to him, basically drunk every minute they didn’t have to be sober, spending every dollar they had that they didn’t have to spend on subsistence.

          The graph is kind of amazing, and somewhat suspect. 1 gallon of ethanol represents 210 shots of 80 proof liquor, so the average from 1840 to 1970 of about 1.5 represents a shot per day per person. That hardly seems sufficient to cause the early progressives to get all panicky and sanctimonious about a fake social crisis, but they certainly and enthusiastically were.

          Of course, if there was a big gender disparity, that might be two nearly shots a day for men. And four or more shots a day for the hard-drinkers. And that’s… still quite a lot, I think. By 1970, the women were drinking more, so overall people were getting less drunk and the graph might be misleading.

          But if I am to believe the graph, in 1830, the hard-drinking men imbibing twice the average were drinking about 10 shots a day. Whoa. A little ‘tough to swallow’.

          • asdf says:

            One of my old roommates would drink half a handle of scotch a night. While committing no spectacular crimes it was pretty clearly a shitty thing for him.

            One thing to remember is that alcohol used to be cleaner then water for most people. In addition it contained more calories. This was especially important for armies on the march as they had to haul everything with them and alcohol was a compact source of calories.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            First, to clarify something I said: Prohibition decreasing consumption by 2x was dramatic; what was not dramatic was its permanent effect.

            A simple hypothesis is that there was a bigger alcohol problem in 1830 that mobilized the Temperance movement and it responded to conditions in the late 19th century that would not have triggered its existence.

            If you distrust statistics and like first-hand accounts, then you should look at more first-hand accounts from different periods. I think Rorabaugh gathers them across the centuries and claims that they are consistent with his numbers. Of course, you may prefer an independent source, but that’s more work.

            Yes, changing sex differences may have to do with the post war trend. Another problem with the graph is that it is per capita. The right-hand table gives consumption per adult (15+), which is probably a better denominator.

            The secular trend may also be confounded by changing demographics. Are the Americans of 1920 better or worse able to hold their liquor than those of 1820?

            Urbanization may make drunks more visible, even if they aren’t more common. I am surprised that Fisher describes it as a rural problem.

          • Handle says:

            Tyler Cowen is not a big alcohol fan and has written some on it:

            1. Here’s his review of Okrent’s “Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition” which also mentions “Dry Manhattan”.
            2. Here he is on a Fisher excerpt.
            3. Here he is advocating a new ‘temperance movement’.

            I also think we should have a cultural shift toward the view that alcohol — and yes I mean all alcohol — is at least as dangerous and undesirable. I favor a kind of voluntary prohibition on alcohol. It is obvious to me that alcohol is one of the great social evils and when I read the writings of the prohibitionists, while I don’t agree with their legal remedies, their arguments make sense to me. It remains one of the great undervalued social movements.

            He seems to feel the same way, except much more strongly, about gambling and lotteries.

          • Anthony says:

            Liquor Laws, from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1911:
            In the year 1732 a complete and detailed survey of all the streets and houses in London was carried out by William Maitland, F.R.S. Out of a total of 95,968 houses he found the following: brew-houses 171, inns 207, taverns 447, ale-houses 5975, brandy-shops 8659; total number of licensed houses for the retail sale of liquor 15,288, of which considerably more than one-half were spirit bars. The population was about three-quarters of a million. About one house in every six was licensed at this time, and that in spite of attempts; made to check the traffic by restrictive acts passed in 1728-1729.

          • Handle says:

            1. The British really love their booze.
            2. But what great Encyclopedia authors they were a century ago.
            3. I liked this part and found it most relevant:

            These natural differences lead, in accordance with the principle discerned and enunciated by Montesquieu, to the adoption of different laws, which vary with the local conditions. But social laws of this character also vary with the state of public opinion, not only in different countries but in the same country at different times. The result is that the subject is in a state of incessant flux. There are not only many varieties of liquor laws, but also frequent changes in them, and new experiments are constantly being tried.

            Some things never change.

          • Handle says:

            1. The British really love their booze.
            2. But what great Encyclopedia authors they were a century ago.
            3. I liked this part and found it most relevant:

            These natural differences lead, in accordance with the principle discerned and enunciated by Montesquieu, to the adoption of different laws, which vary with the local conditions. But social laws of this character also vary with the state of public opinion, not only in different countries but in the same country at different times. The result is that the subject is in a state of incessant flux. There are not only many varieties of liquor laws, but also frequent changes in them, and new experiments are constantly being tried.

            Some things never change.

    • spandrell says:

      “It’s immoral to”

      Speak no further. A priori morality sucks. You lose.

  17. Stirner says:

    I will put on my pragmatic hat here for policy measures after the counterrevolution:

    Pot? Legalize it, sell it controlled like liquor, and have an escalating tax on THC content.

    The rest: try to minimize the damage. Nationalize heroin distribution, at clinics, to licensed addicts, at cheap/free prices. Sort of like a methadone program, that actually gets you high. Opiates aren’t that bad for you – its the crime, hooking, and unsanitary aspects that are the main externalities. Of course, licensed addicts would need to be on birth control (IUD for women, Gossypol for men), for cheap drugs, they won’t mind too much.

    Keep the rest illegal, and stamp out meth something fierce. The druggies will gradually all gravitate to the clinic to get their cheap and reliable high. The site of all the vermin waiting in line for their fix would perhaps be a “Scared Straight” moment for rebellious teens…

    Hallucinogens like DMT, Extacy, and psilocybin should be reserved for hospice cases. Let them get a glimpse of the beyond before they shuffle off the mortal coil…

    Also, invest in research into ibogaine, which supposedly has a 1 dose cure for drug addiction. Supposedly it is like hallucinogenic drug rehab compressed into the most fucked up 12 hours of your life.

    • Graceland says:

      my comment b4 didn’t make sense and it just bothered me … anyways … i think this is such an awesome idea! i’ve wanted to do sotmiheng like this with recipes, and get them laminated so you can cook with them and just rinse them off if you spill.

  18. Giacomo says:


    Elite progressives regard spontaneous discourse, outside the caste system of bureaucracy and accreditation, with a mixture of horror and fascination. Horror, because a few years of that would see us living under tyranny with lynch mobs and ideological police. (Or else because it threatens their status.) Fascination, because creative and interesting spontaneity of long duration is rare enough in this society for each instance to spawn a social-scientific cottage industry—like the communist elites who relied on capitalist price signals from the West.

    Progressives are eager to understand the origins and mechanisms of irregular discourse. They exhume each scintilla of spontaneity. To its participants, however, self-documenting discourse is fine.

    The imperatives of documentation, regulation and accreditation have percolated through society. They are everywhere from ISO 9000 to, like, talking this way?

    it’s perfectly possible empirically that you just have to threaten people – even high-functioning people who just want to get a little high once in a while – with hell to keep the drug-trade down to an ‘acceptable’ level, and that despite all the tragic suffering that shocks our consciences, it’s still ‘worth it’.

    This drugs analogy is poor. Firstly, because the effect of drugs on the human mind and body worsens over time, whereas as long as it existed in a worthwhile form, the “centre” of our contrarian discourse became more elegant and less crazy. Secondly, because truth is sober. Don’t mix the red pill metaphor with real drugs.

    There are undoubtedly big problems with Mencius Moldbug’s original corpus, as he tacitly acknowledges. Pseudo-Leninism is a temptation and source of cult entropy for any contrarian movement, which has to be warded off. On the other hand, progressives ought not to monopolise passionate intensity, and premature optimisation harms discourse; only people in positions of responsibility need restrictive speech codes.

    Important progressive ideas with which I disagree are concealed in the word “you”, above. The ideology of bureaucratic steering, programming or making culture is a rival that could be improved upon.

    I do think that, e.g., libertarians are autistic because they treat individual beliefs as fundamental, rather than an outcome whose development can and must be subject to criticism and design—in some sense. Progressives are light-years ahead in this respect. Also, although diversity of ideologies is desirable as long as the overarching dispute resolution structure is preserved, the most benign change would be one that doesn’t make bureaucrats, academics, NGOs etc. feel that their status is under immense threat. I would like, in ideal circumstances, for their beliefs to be gently supplanted so that institutional functions are modified but social status less so—close to a Pareto improvement. I don’t think the Cathedral’s organising principles would allow this change to develop endogenously.

    Although I find them peremptory and harmful, to everyone, I do not doubt the credibility of progressive threats towards online dissidents. They have discouraged me from similar behaviour in future.

    [I]f the absolutely essential task is not political liberation, but the liberation of our souls from participation in the lie forced on us, then it requires no physical, revolutionary, social, organizational measures, no meetings, strikes, trade unions—things fearful for us even to contemplate and from which we quite naturally allow circumstances to dissuade us.

  19. Giacomo says:

    I find it challenging intellectually to draw the lines between prohibited hards and taxed softs, as well as between use and abuse.

    It’s easy to sound smart and educated by putting a bit of gloss on cached progressive, or otherwise conventional thoughts. “Highways are socialist”; “efficient altruism and open borders”; blah blah blah.

    Consider separation of powers. The cached thought is that American liberty is guaranteed because its government has executive, judicial and legislative branches. Hans-Hermann Hoppe calls these three branches of the mafia. So a useful image, when thinking in this area, is a horse’s head in the bed of a supreme court judge. It clears away the cobwebs, the cached thoughts; it’s not a proposal. It makes space for real ideas.

    Consider police. Who watches the watchmen? The answer isn’t vigilantes and mob justice, and it would be constrained by the vast, formless things at our disposal. However, I like the absurdism of polycentric wrangling transplanted, without changes, into modern society. I don’t want anyone to take it seriously—nor would they—but it replaces a bunch of cached thoughts.

    I like Feynman’s description (though I ain’t clever like him):

    I used to enjoy doing physics. Why did I enjoy it? I used to play with it. I used to do whatever I felt like doing—it didn’t have to do with whether it was important for the development of nuclear physics, but whether it was interesting and amusing for me to play with.

    Just a word or image can be worth sharing. “Erik von Kuehnelt-Lenin” makes me smile. Perhaps it’s because there are people who believe in liberty, and also political status experts, almost all of whom are progressives. It would benefit society for these to be united: striving for liberty. Harnessing status to build cities, like the capitalist sphere already does. Can it be done? Well, that’s what free speech is for*, so we can have these discussions. Society needs creative people, as well as breeders and enforcers. The need for Cathedral entities to keep their high status is just another constraint, so don’t think it’s impossible, at this stage, for our reigning ideology to coexist with creativity.

    If the definition of memetic “abuse” is when an idea, taken literally or as a finished product, would be worse than the status quo, of course you have just abolished creativity. America notionally has the “imminent lawless” criterion of free speech for this reason.

    *Don’t worry, I know it has been abolished in practice.

  20. Dan says:

    When I read about how an Oklahoma woman strung out on meth raped her own children while other adults watched, my first thought is, how soon can we legalize that stuff?


    And when I read about how this one dude ate this other dude alive along the side of the highway while cruising on LSD, I wonder why LSD isn’t legal yet.


    And when I realize that the Puritans in power won’t let me get high on something that makes the flesh fall off I can only shake my fist at The Man!


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