Providing straightforward information pertaining to drugs, drug use & drug policy. The Grey Pages promotes drug-related literacy and advocates a system of viable and tolerant drug policies. This is my personal collection of commentaries, essays, tid-bits, and other such writings on everything ranging from drug use, drug policy and drug-myths, to drug-science, addiction, human behavior, and the workings of the human brain. I started this blog with a particular focus on opioids, and over the past year have found my interest gravitate toward the intriguing, ever-changing world of designer intoxicants (i.e. "research chemicals" or "designer drugs").

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Adults Making Their Own Choices? What Blasphemy!

Former Bush Official Attacks Ron Paul on Drug Policy

image is the work of a political cartoonist and not my own

I recently came across an opinion piece that was written by a former Bush Administration Speechwriter, who was outraged following South Carolina's GOP Presidential debate in May of this year, where Ron Paul (along with one other candidate) intelligently spoke the truth regarding our fascist drug policy. Mr. Gerson was outraged by Ron Paul's suggestion that grown adults ought to be able to make their own lifestyle choices. Michael Gerson is a syndicated columnist for the washington post. So rather than feeding his paternalistic spew to the nation through Bush speeches, he now does so through a major news journal.

Mike Riggs at Reason magazine briefly discussed this piece, and so did David boaz in an article of The Free-Man. I would now like to add my remarks to this clearly misguided piece of propaganda.

Below in purple, is the opinion piece, paragraph by paragraph, with my responses in green text. Enjoy

Ron Paul favors legalizing heroin

Texas congressman deserves first-tier scrutiny.

Before last week's South Carolina Republican debate, Ron Paul supporters complained that their candidate was not getting the first-tier attention his polling and fundraising should bring. It is true that Paul has often been overlooked and dismissed, as one might treat a slightly dotty uncle. But perhaps some first-tier scrutiny is deserved.

After laboring through this piece, I've concluded that your nonsensical, paternalistic reporting deserves some first tier scrutiny; not so much the politics of Mr. Paul.

Paul was the only candidate at the debate to make news, calling for the repeal of laws against prostitution, cocaine and heroin. The freedom to use drugs, he argued, is equivalent to the freedom of people to “practice their religion and say their prayers.” Liberty must be defended “across the board.” “It is amazing that we want freedom to pick our future in a spiritual way,” he said, “but not when it comes to our personal habits.”

Not so much an 'arguement' as it is a truth. Just as individuals are free to pursue various faiths as a means of finding meaning in the human experience; individuals are likewise entitled to sovereignty over their minds & bodies, and are naturally free to regulate their personal perception of the human experience, through religion, meditation, or self medication (drug use).

This argument is strangely framed: If you tolerate Zoroastrianism, you must be able to buy heroin at the quickie mart. But it is an authentic application of libertarianism, which reduces the whole of political philosophy to a single slogan: Do what you will — pray or inject or turn a trick — as long as no one else gets hurt.

Just as your contrast of religion and drug use is irrationally framed. Must I point out the fact that you contrast the concept of a religious practice with your own terribly simplified & sensational version of the concept of the use of a pscyhoactive.. Going so far as to utilize blind assumptions with pop-culture slang in order to marginalize the relative merits of drug use in the reader's mind, you yourself have reduced the image of altering one's consciousness to a single ghetto-life stereotype.

Even by this permissive standard, drug legalization fails. The de facto decriminalization of drugs in some neighborhoods — say, in Washington, D.C. — has encouraged widespread addiction. Children, freed from the care of their addicted parents, have the liberty to play in parks decorated by used needles. Addicts are liberated into lives of prostitution and homelessness.

Here, you've taken your subjective perception of apparent social decay and irresponsible behaviors, which are prominent among the lower-class; blindly implying that drug use is the culprit behind a broad spectrum of lower-class behavioral traits. It seems all too common for manipulative journalists such as yourself to conveniently confuse cause-effect and correllative relationships where it serves your 'butthole-speak' agenda. It shouldn't take an anthropological genius to realize that the many behavioral & cultural traits of a particular demographic are much more the reflections of educational, socioeconomic, and character pre-sets, than they are of their collective intoxicant of choice. Furthermore, apathy causes addiction more than addiction causes apathy. The same could be said for criminal behavior. However, all that considered, this is not even the point; drugs have not been "decriminalized" in washington. As Mike Riggs of Reason Magazine puts it, "I want to know where in D.C. one can get away with slinging or using in front of a cop. The 2,874 people arrested by the MPD for narcotics violations between Jan. 1 and April 9 of this year would probably like to know, too." It is the prohibitionist policies of government and the societal marginalization which it has led to which continues to cause massive damage to the urban and suburban US.

But Paul had an answer to this criticism. “How many people here would use heroin if it were legal? I bet nobody would,” he said to applause and laughter. Paul was claiming that good people — people like the Republicans in the room — would not abuse their freedom, unlike those others who don't deserve our sympathy.

Or perhaps Mr. Paul was [symbolically] attempting to convey a much simpler point; the point being that the legalization of narcotics, (just like the legal availability of tobacco) is not a determinant of its use. Who is to say that the use of heroin is an "abuse" of freedom? Where is this arbitrary line that determines which neurochemically based pleasure is "good" vs which is "evil"? And why would one's overindulgence in heroin deserve our sympathy? Rather than deserving our envy? In fact, I find the acceptance of the poor choices of others to be far more "sympathetic" than your suggestion to criminalize & imprison them.
The problem, of course, is that even people in the room may have had sons or daughters who struggled with addiction. Or maybe even have personal experience with the freedom that comes from alcohol and drug abuse. One imagines they did not laugh or cheer.

The problem with emotional appeal is that it's not exactly conducive to sound reasoning or logic. Then again, neither is sensational journalism. And why do we constantly speak of overindulgent drug use as if it's something that "happened" to someone; using the terms "struggling", "battling", "victim" ... As if their behavior were involuntary.

Libertarians often cover their views with a powdered wig of 18th- and 19th-century philosophy. They cite Locke, Smith and Mill as advocates of a peaceable kingdom — a utopia of cooperation and spontaneous order. But the reality of libertarianism was on display in South Carolina. Paul concluded his answer by doing a jeering rendition of an addict's voice: “Oh yeah, I need the government to take care of me. I don't want to use heroin, so I need these laws.”

This interpretation of Paul's rendition, is of course completely subjective. Rather than the mean old politician mocking drug users, it is much more likely that this statement was used to support his point; that the legalization of narcotics does not represent "promotion of drug use", nor is it interpreted this way by any independent minded individual. Mr. Paul was in fact obviously mocking the idea of paternalism in government, and I can assure you, there is no drug user in this world who WANTS his government to protect him from the experience which he so eagerly seeks. As a side note; how does one find it necessarry to pollute concrete matters of  personal liberty with the mainstream "left vs right" party line rivalry? The fundumental philosophy of a constitutional republic is quite simple, and to even find it necessarry to establish a labeling system for the ever growing spectrum of government micromanagement ideologies simply goes to show how far we've gone astray from the intentions of our US founding fathers. I digress...
This is not “The Wealth of Nations” or the “Second Treatise on Government.” It is Social Darwinism. It is the arrogance of the strong. It is contempt for the vulnerable and suffering.

What you're implying is that to legalizate and regulate narcotics is to leave the overindulgent or "sick" for dead... As if it is an inherent duty of government to micro manage the personal habits of the hedonist, and as if leaving one the freedom and accountability of their own personal choices is tantamount to genocide. And some more realistic, less idealistic, individual might fail to see a problem in natural selection... Only in the last century have we found it necessarry to micromanage such petty behavioral traits. It is remarkable how paternalist figures like yourself can reach so far as to suggest that allowing other adults to make, and hold accountability for, their own decisions somehow constitutes "contempt"; yet you seem to find no contempt in persecuting and arresting these same adults for these personal choices. The paternalism of drug laws aside; all of the arresting and imprisoning in the world will not beat the darwinian law of natural selection.
The conservative alternative to libertarianism is necessarily more complex. It is the teaching of classical political philosophy and the Jewish and Christian traditions that true liberty must be appropriate to human nature. The freedom to enslave oneself with drugs is the freedom of the fish to live on land, or the freedom of birds to inhabit the ocean — which is to say, it is not freedom at all. Responsible, self-governing citizens do not grow wild like blackberries. They are cultivated in institutions — families, religious communities and decent, orderly neighborhoods. And government has a limited but important role in reinforcing social norms and expectations — including laws against drugs and against the exploitation of men and women in the sex trade.

Above is a perfect representation of a fundumental flaw in the popular perception of drug use. The "enslavement" rhetoric incorporates the science of the brain's instinctual reinforcement & reward mechanism and interprets the neurochemical workings behind drug use to represent drug addiction as an illness, and problem users as medical victims. The problem with this myth is that it completely disregards the higher functioning rational mind; which exerts control over all instinctual urges. Where as hedonist desire is an influential element to human nature, self control is a dominant element of human nature. I suppose however, in order to continue rationalizing the atrocity of arbitrarily prohibiting a drug of choice, one must rationalize the myth that narcotics, like viruses and bacilli, are capable of acting on individuals against their will, infecting the user with a "disease" which causes involuntary behaviors such as "crime and more drug use."

And call prostitution "exploitation" all you would like, it doesn't change the fact that it's consentual, SELF exploitation. Isn't there a degree of exploitation in all markets? Principles of marketing require it.

It was just 12 years ago — though it seems like a political lifetime — that a Republican presidential candidate visited a rural drug treatment center outside Des Moines, Iowa. Moved by the stories of recovering young addicts, Texas Gov. George W. Bush talked of his own struggles with alcohol. “I'm on a walk. And it's a never-ending walk as far as I'm concerned. ... I want you to know that your life's walk is shared by a lot of other people, even some who wear suits.”

In determining who is a “major” candidate for president, let's begin here. Those who support the legalization of heroin while mocking addicts are marginal. It is difficult to be a first-tier candidate while holding second-rate values.

Congratulations, you've demonstrated your inability to think intelligently, not to mention speak articulately, regarding drug use and "public policy". I suggest gaining some knowledge about that which you plan to critizice.. But then again, if one had any solid knowledge whatsoever regarding the science and sociology of drugs and their use, they wouln't be speaking out against legalization.

Fascist Colomnist Michael Gerson may be contacted by email: michaelgerson@washpost.com

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