Books: Dealing With Dope 

Books: Dealing With Dope 
Posted by FoM on December 12, 2000 at 06:04:12 PT
By Joel Miller
Source: Spintech Magazine
There are a number of books written on the drug war -- a number of them very good and a number of them very bad. There are two in the very good category, however, which merit a thorough reading by anyone even remotely interested in the war on dope. The first of the two is Our Right to Drugs (Praeger 1992), written by everybody's favorite bomb-tossing, idol-tipping psychiatrist, Thomas Szasz (author of the ground-breaking The Myth of Mental Illness). 
Szasz takes no time in challenging not only certain asinine drug-war practices (like drug testing and racial profiling) but also the philosophical undergirding of the war itself. Rather than, as many conservatives do, assume that "society" has a duty and responsibility to regulate and ban certain substances for the protection of people from themselves, Szasz champions the principle that people have the right to use their property in virtually anyway imaginable so long as they are neither harming nor defrauding their neighbors. Notice that Conservatives are willing to go to the mattresses when the property is timberland and the threat is a horde of smelly, unkempt eco-nuts, but when the property is a line of coke and the threat is a police squad, they're usually the arresting officers. Szasz basically calls for consistancy -- very consistant consistancy -- concerning drug laws. Not only should the government eschew bans on heroin, cocaine, etc., and let people use their property as they see fit, it should also, he argues, eschew pharmaceutical regulations like federal oversight of narcotics prescriptions. If a doctor wants to prescribe an opium deriviative to a patient, more power to him. Feds should sit in the waiting room, not the dispensery, looking over the shoulder of the medical establishment. By distilling the argument down to one of property rights, Szasz makes the case for a free market in drugs -- not "legalization," which usually brings continuing statist controls into the picture in the form of taxes and regulations, but a pure-and-simple butt-out on the part of the government, where free individuals would be at liberty to partake of drugs for whatever purposes they desired sans an onlooking nanny state. The pluses invovled in firing Uncle Sam as drug cop are many, as Szasz points out -- freeing doctors to treat patients unhampered by arbitrary political constraints, turning down the flame of racial antagonism in the legal system, and more. In their book, Undoing Drugs (Basic Books 1991), Daniel K. Benjamin and Roger LeRoy Miller (of no relation to yours truly) highlight many more positives on the balance sheet of sacking the entire anti-dope establishment in the federal government. To name a few: * Shrinking crime rates * Innovation in drug treatment programs * Possibility for mending in American inner cities * Ceasing of armed intervention into neighboring countries to halt the drug trade Where Szasz is thoroughly principled, Benjamin and Miller are decidely practical. Taking a very constitutionalist approach, Undoing Drugs argues that the gross abuses of American liberties that are part and parcel to current drug-law enforcement can be stemmed by simply remembing that the U.S. was founded as a federal republic not a singular consolidated state. This is, after all, the United States of America, and these states are very diverse with widely differing needs in terms of drug policy. As such, argue Benjamin and Miller, our drug policies should reflect that diversity -- each state deciding how best to deal with drugs for itself. Instead, what we have is a top-down, one-size-fits-all set of national drug policies with little or no respect for differences in regional needs, culture, or opinion. Without calling for national legalization or decriminalization (which they fully realize is a political impossibility right now), Benjamin and Miller offer a sensible alternative -- the "Constitutional Alternative," as they call it. Benjamin and Miller recognizes -- while many Constitution-championing conservatives do not -- that there is no constitutional justification for a federal war on drugs and suggest instead a devolution of drug policy to the state and community level, allowing the diversity in policy necessary for a nation as diverse as ours and freeing states and communities to innovate and experiment with drug policy rather than have a singular policy rammed down their throats by an overarching federal drug war. While a national ceasefire in the war on drugs is not on our immediate horizon, Benjamin and Miller's notion of localization is far more consititutional and winnable in the current political climate than Szasz's complete laissez-faire approach. Not that one cancels out the other. Put the two ideas together, and you have a strategy that would make Saul Alinsky either giddy or jealous. Using the consistant principled approach of Szasz as our goalpost, we can use Benjamin and Miller's plan in a football strategy of public policy and persuasion to run the ball down field. The American left has made every gain it has in the last century by careful concessions and compromises coupled with an undaunted political philosophy. It was a few nails here and a few boards there, but by never losing sight of the blueprints, the left constructed a collossal statist disaster in America -- part of which is the war on drugs. Likewise, only by gaining what yardage we can while always focusing our eyes down field will the drug war be won. Our Right to Drugs and Undoing Drugs go a long way in this effort and should be read by anyone who wishes to stem the drug war tide in America. Joel Miller is commentary editor of WorldNetDaily.Managing EditorWorldNetDaily Publishinghttp://www.WND.comSource: SpintechAuthor: Joel MillerPublished: December 12, 2000 Copyright 2000 Spintech Magazine and Joel Miller.WebSite: Articles - Joel Miller
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #4 posted by Lehder on December 13, 2000 at 06:30:50 PT
most interesting - and useful
You have found another wise man, observer, from whom we may take good counsel. His concepts of Ceremonial Chemistry, Scapegoating and Profanation explain a lot about this drug war's dynamics and offer insight into how we may better impede and halt its destruction of innocent people, world culture, and reality. Szasz' insights in general show us how many of the totalitarian war pigs are animated not simply by ignorance or money, but by dark psychological forces which they are themselves unable to apprehend. They need to have their consciousnesses raised, and perhaps articles like these may help (may help? now I sound like a Paxil commercial, too) sometimes. But in general, facts, reason and debate are ineffective with people who are driven by a religious fervor that has no basis in reality. We are fighting a Religion of violence and our facts and arguments of logic, our points of law and constitution, are often no more effective than an appeal to decorum is with a bawling angry child or an argument of public safety is in calming a raving suicidal lunatic. As mungojelly has pointed out, when we complain that so many innocent good people have been thrown in jail, drug warriors use the astounding counter-argument that they are *not* putting people in jail! So much for facts and reason. We are fighting a madness. What, beyond reason and fact, may we arm ourselves with? It's a very hard question.I chose the name Lehder (Carlos Lehder is the 'Father of Modern Smuggling') because I thought it would be offensive to the pigs, and I chose a marijuana forum for my ranting because, though my complaints are far, far broader and deeper than drug prohibition, marijuana has great value as the ultimate symbol of the sixties' counterculture and also really irritates them. Ridicule and insult, I hope, inflame the antis' madness and drive them to even more foolish and destructive measures that will ultimately lead to their self-defeat, just as Gore destroyed himself with his own relentless corruption. Szasz makes a good point in his opposition to such measures as needle exchange, prescription heroin and medical marijuana. These sorts of compromises, he argues, may serve a number of individuals very well, but they tend to mollify both sides of the war and delay the the ultimate implosion to come. The article also points out, arguing oppositely, that these compromises help familiarize people with the real and, relative to the war, harmless world of drugs, and dispel many of the antis' myths and propaganda lines - for those not already under their spell of drug war religion. But, again, facts and reason are low-calibre weapons in this war; we are dealing more with lost souls than with neutral or rational players. In that respect, Vietnam was the same.So I like to make 'em mad. But I want to understand their madness better so that I can choose better weapons for treating it. I have written to politicians urging them, in drug warrior language, to support Plan Colombia. My thinking here was that I cannot reason with these people, but perhaps I can lead them to their own destruction, fighting them by proxy and detouring a few of their goons to South America where they cannot damage our own cities and where they will surely be defeated by force. But I want better weapons and better ideas that target the core of madness that drives this war. We need psycho bombs and maybe even propaganda of our own that penetrate their shields and hit the disease. Because drug warring is not just a form of ignorance or greed, it is a mental disease. I'm thinking about it. Help me out. I urge everyone to study observer's excellent links.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by observer on December 12, 2000 at 14:25:10 PT
Szasz links...
Introduction to OUR RIGHT TO DRUGS, The Case for a Free Market The Drug Laws Constitutional? (from Our Right To Drugs) Fatal Temptation: Drug Prohibition and the Fear of Autonomy the Therapeutic State: Thomas Szasz interviewed by Jacob Sullum (Reason Magazine, 7/2000) Chemistry: The Ritual Persecution of Drugs, Addicts, and Pushers (selected excerpts, timeline from appendix) WAR ON DRUGS IS LOST 
more: Writings of Thomas S. Szasz, M.D.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by observer on December 12, 2000 at 10:07:34 PT
Szasz excerpt
I maintain that drug abuse and the War on Drugs are both transitory modes -- pretexts for scapegoating deviants and strengthening the state. Our official understanding of the drug problem rests on a fallacious scapegoat-type imagery and a correspondingly erroneous approach to remedying it. For example, we conceptualize self-medication -- say, with marijuana -- as self-poisoning rather than as self-pleasuring, and then rely on this image of the drug as poison to justify using state power to punish people who possess marijuana. Although in his important study, The Scapegoat, René Cirard does not refer to drugs as scapegoats, he remarks -- apropos of our scientific progress from the Middle Ages to the present -- that "frequent references to poisons" has remained a constant feature of the imagery and rhetoric of scapegoating. "Chemistry," he concludes, "takes over from purely demoniac influence."13 The chemistry that takes over, I would add, is not pharmacological chemistry, but ceremonial chemistry.Drug Abuse as ProfanationPrior to 1914, the main ingredients of American patent medicines, in addition to alcohol, were cocaine and morphine. Now, these drugs are our favorite scapegoats. In Ceremonial Chemistry I tried to show that we cannot understand the War on Drugs without taking seriously the scapegoat function of so-called dangerous drugs -- a suggestion that, because it presents an obstacle to the arguments of both the opponents and the supporters of drug prohibition, both have ignored. I contend, however, that without recognizing the importance of this theme for drug prohibition, there can be no informed discussion of drug controls, much less an end to the War on Drugs.14 The scapegoat's social function of saving the group by its victimization is clearly articulated in the Gospels. The scene is as follows. Jewish society feels itself to be in mortal danger: "The Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation." What is there to do? How can the community save itself? By sacrificing one of its members. Caiaphas, the high priest, addresses the congregation: "You know nothing at all; you do not understand that it is expedient that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish."15 Like a Jew defiling the Torah, or a Christian the Host, an American using an illicit drug is guilty of the mystical crime of profanation -- a transgression of the strictest and most feared taboo. The drug abuser pollutes himself as well as his community, endangering both. This is why, while to the secular libertarian the drug abuser commits a "victimless crime" (that is, no crime at all), to the normally socialized person he is a dangerous defiler of the sacred. Hence, his incapacitation is amply justified. After all, what greater good is there than saving the family, the clan, the nation, indeed the whole world from certain destruction? Thomas Szasz, Our Right To Drugs, 1992, pp.62-63
The Thomas S. Szasz Cybercenter for Liberty and Responsibility
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on December 12, 2000 at 06:51:38 PT:
2 More to Add
I am just reading After Prohibition edited by Timothy Lynch, published by the Cato Institute, a series of essays of very strong quality on the issues and how to achieve progress.   Also just out is a special issue of The Fordham Urban Law Journal, titled "The Drug Policy Debate" in which yours truly weighs in on the arbitrary designation of Schedule I drugs including cannabis, and how the government is ignoring useful medical applications and squelching necessary research.   Enjoy! Suggest to all your politicians. Educate and innovate.
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment

Name: Optional Password: 
Comment: [Please refrain from using profanity in your message]
Link URL: 
Link Title: