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Radical Incline

The Golden Rule and Prohibition

Countering common erroneous arguments for prohibitionism; the Golden Rule as the foundation for good law.

Various arguments are commonly presented for prohibition. I will briefly address the error of each of these common arguments, and then address the single principle which should govern thinking in the matter of addressing private, personal recreational substance use in a free society.

Erroneous arguments and concepts concerning substance use

Drug users are individuals, not a class

The terms drug "abuse" and drug "use" are, today, often used interchangeably. Reference is made to "drug abusers" as if all recreational substance users are chronic abusers. Thinking of all users of all substances as a monolithic group denies the range of individual behaviors and choices. Categorizing so many with the label "drug abusers" stigmatizes all users as if they were a single type. The peaceful weekend pot-smoker is classed (and jailed) with the violent crack addict. Carrie Nation and her ilk sought to (and did, for a while) outlaw alcohol, unconcerned that this lumped together the occasional peaceful wine-sipper with the abusive habitual alcoholic.

Groups do not choose to use drugs. Individuals do.

The argument from socialized medicine

The cost of drug abuse to the system of socialized medicine is often cited as a justification for drug prohibitions.

These are not problems if individuals are made to bear the personal responsibility for any consequences of their choices. The personal cost of acts of intoxicated transgression would be borne by the individual in a non-socialist society. True, there is a social cost of policing required for the transgressions of many intoxicated individuals. However, in a society where prohibitions were not exacerbating black markets and exaggerating the frequency, attractions, and treatment of drug abuse, such policing would be on an entirely different scale than our current madness. The period between the Eighteenth and Twenty-First Amendments to the American Constitution is a lesson which has yet to be learned.

The argument from insurance costs

As with socialized medical costs, another justification often used for drug prohibitions is the effect upon insurance rates.

Repercussions to insurance costs of those who use drugs are a fault of a poorly-structured insurance industry. Insurance companies have the responsibility to their customers to make sure their insurance payments are not thus abused. The fire insurer should make sure that buildings are adequately fireproofed. Consider the parallels of insurance companies which offer discounts to non-smokers, or non-drinkers.

The argument from potentially increased abuse

Some hold that drug use, and drug abuse, are likely to increase if prohibitions are repealed. Although data is limited, indications from alcohol prohibition indicate that the attraction of "forbidden fruit" brought some to alcohol who otherwise may not have been that attracted. It's difficult to gauge, because so many changes in society (changes in church and family) accompanied the alcohol prohibition era and the subsequent other-drug prohibition era. But it seems that alcohol use did increase due to prohibition and then increased again with repeal.

That alcoholism may increase because alcohol is legal is not an argument for reinstituting Prohibition thereof; it is an argument for increased education and social pressure by non-governmental groups (family, doctors, church, businesses). A stable society tends to reduce the anxieties which lead to such drug abuse, while Prohibition de-stabilizes society. The call for prohibition actually worsens the situation it is intended to amend. We have grand historical proof in the alcohol prohibition era and the current other-substances prohibition era that the solution of prohibition has exactly the opposite effect from solving drug abuse problems.

The argument from majority opinion

In the United States of America, Constitutional guarantees, intended to protect minority opinions in a democratic society, are meaningless if society does not maintain the guarantees. But the intended protections should apply even when the majority holds that some speech, religion, or other private liberty should be suppressed.

When the majority held that slavery should be legal, that didn't make slavery moral or right. One of the reasons we have a Bill of Rights is an attempt (now largely vitiated) to protect us from just such abuse by the majority. The lesson of repeal of the twenty-first amendment should be universally applied, not just to alcohol, but to all comparable recreational substance use.

The Golden Rule and Prohibition

Prohibition condemns (presumes guilty until proven guilty) all users on the basis of the possibility that an individual's personal choice may affect society negatively. Such inappropriate grouping is a truly dangerous "drug" — a narcotic habit of thought — which ignores individual responsibility for one's actions.

The Golden Rule has several aspects. The older, passive form: Don't do to others what you would not have done unto you; the higher, active form: Do unto others what you would have done unto you; and the highest form: Love one another as God loves. At any level, wisdom is required. A stupid man might be attracted to a woman in lust and by attacking her sexually think he is applying the "Do unto others" rule. I presume my readers understand that he is not. I offer this illustration simply to show that wisdom is required in interpretation and action, and there are many more subtle and less easily discernable interpretation questions in dealing with such a general rule. Socialism is like that misguided lust-driven man, attempting to do unto others "for their own good" in violation of personal liberty.

One rule, the Golden Rule, is the principle "upon which hang all the laws," in good government. The Golden Rule is the basis for the social compact, and the succinct argument against drug prohibition. If using drugs constitutes a sin, that is between the individual and the Almighty's appointed Judges. If one uses drugs and transgresses upon another, by stealing, threatening, or the like, then that is a matter for earthly judges. Drinking a beer is legal. Driving dangerously (drunk or not, but especially drunk) is illegal. These comport with the Golden Rule. Smoking a joint ought, by parallel, to be legal. If someone wants to trash his or her own body and mind with nicotine, caffine, refined sugar, red meat, heroin, cocaine, sniffing gasoline or glue, that ought to be an individual adult choice. Don't force me to breath, drink, or shoot your drugs, and you're welcome to them. Come near my family in a demented state, or attempt to induce my children to doing such drugs, and you are subject to the consequences of my defense!

The Golden Rule is respect for one another. As it's been put, the right to swing your fist ends where the other fellow's nose begins (or more accurately, where you threaten the other fellow's nose). Don't do to others what you would not have done unto you. The thief, bully, and tyrant seek to take license (impose their will) at the expense of another, violating the liberty of another to be free from theft, threat, and force.

Not all people always live in harmony with their neighbors, of course. Many people live in relative harmony, many would never violate the liberty of another. Policing, in one form or another, is only necessary to control those who violate the Golden Rule of mutual respect for life, liberty, and property.

The Golden Rule social compact is simple, even if instances and enforcement are not always cut-and-dried. The right to blow your smoke ends where my nose begins. If a heroin user can maintain with a money hole in his arm and without violating the rights of others (and some do), it's not others' problem. When one crosses the line into theft, threat, or violence, whether or not drugs are involved the crime is transgression, not substance use. Drinking is legal and reasonably so; the drunk driver weaving down the road, the drunk vomiting on my shoes, the drunk and abusive spouse or parent, these violate the rule. Only an arbitrary social attitude (and the politicking profiteers and propagandists of both legal booze and illegal other substances) differentiates between this drug and others.

In summary:

Use should be a free personal choice.

Abuse is a personal, mental, and medical problem, for individual, family, church, or business.

Criminality — transgression against others — involving use or abuse — is still criminality, but use or even abuse in and of itself should not be.

This page was discovered to have been linked in a comment on BlogCritics.org, although it only seems to be visible with JavaScript off.

Related Mindful Webworks:
Prohibition fuels gangsterism —It's not drugs but PROHIBITION which provides the fuel for the modern equivalent of rum-runner profits and Al Capones.
Independent Religionist's Liberty — are USA Constitutional liberties not being extended to non-aligned religionists?
Repeal! / Repeal Heals — not only is the so-called war on drugs utterly unwinnable, it is in its very conception a
perversion of the important purposes of good government. The way to personal or social health is positive.
A run-in with Officer Green"WHAT'S THAT SMELL??" scowled Officer Green, and ordered me out of my car.
Head Shop — Cartoons, songs, and more regarding the appeal of indulgences and the consequences of desire.




Radical Incline

Repeal!

The so-called war on drugs is utterly unwinnable and in its very conception perverts the purposes of good government.

Repeal!

[Published in the [*]Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise 1997 Mar 25.]

1997 March 16

Editor, the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise
P.O. Box 1278
Bartlesville, Oklahoma 74005

Editor:

I write to take issue, respectfully, with a recent Examiner editorial opinion. We are not by any reasonable measure winning the war on drugs, and whatever statistical blips may so indicate cannot compare with decades of continuing social self-destruction. Indeed, not only is the so-called war on drugs utterly unwinnable, it is in its very conception a perversion of the important purposes of good government, an approach more suited to totalitarian governments we have always opposed than to our bastion of liberty.

Drug abuse is an individual, personal, and medical problem with social repercussions, but it should never have been made a criminal activity in and of itself. Whether the drugs in question are relatively soft like coffee and marijuana, or relatively hard like alcohol or heroin, we will never be able to stop their acquisition and use, and a government ostensibly of personal liberty and social responsibility should not even try!

The hypocrisy, dangers, corruption, and social destruction caused by Prohibition is written in our very Constitution, and in the dark history between the 18th and 21st Amendments. Although you can see it even right there in such as the historic-reprint pages of the Examiner and the Tulsa World, Americans have refused to learn this hard lesson of history. Many evil and powerful vested interests are allied with the misguided well-intentioned successors of Carrie Nation to give us an era of modern equivalents to the rum runners, poison bathtub gins, speakeasies, and all a hundred times worse than back then. Prohibition inevitably magnifies, rather than alleviates, the social problems which drug abuse can create.

We have learned the proper approach to the problem of alcoholism is to treat the alcoholic, and adjudge the drunk driver or public inebrient, without making a criminal of the individual drinker. Repeal did not do away with the problems of alcohol abuse, but society suffers infinitely less from legalization and regulation than it does from prohibition, which is tantamount to law abuse.

We must abandon the "win the drug war" prohibitionist propaganda which supports gangsterism, invites corruption, undermines drug-awareness education efforts, and criminalizes non-threatening private adult behaviors. We must embrace the legal models we have evolved for dealing with alcohol and tobacco and apply those models to all these currently-illegal substances. Turn our "drug warriors" back into peace officers, end the obliteration of our precious Constitutional rights, end the threat to personal privacy and to familial and social stability, and release us from the burdens of a perverse, protracted, unwinnable civil conflict. As families stood up and protested in a previous generation, let our cry be: REPEAL!

Repeal Heals

1997 March 27

Editor, the [*]Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise
P.O. Box 1278
Bartlesville, Oklahoma 74005

Editor, it's humbling to have one of my many swelled-headed opinions see print in our esteemed local paper, but my writing skills are poor if my call for repeal deserves the depressing headline "Lost Cause." Folks are weak, the toll of substance abuse terrible. Yet, in the spirit of the original editorial, I do see that we are making continuing progress in education efforts, franker and better-informed health-care approaches. Family, community, and congregation should continue to employ every tool in the arsenal of our families, educators, doctors, ministers to heal the sick in habit and educate for healthy spirits. In our "crusade for health," the social reform of repeal abandons a weapon which backfires. Repeal heals, amending the law to be just, consistent, conforming with the Golden Rule. History and faith both teach: the way to personal or social health is positive, peaceful yet powerful. This week most especially, I'm reminded that the best health habits come from strength of faith. Say not lost, but just cause!

Related Mindful Webworks:
Prohibition fuels gangsterism —It's not drugs but PROHIBITION which provides the fuel for the modern equivalent of rum-runner profits and Al Capones.
Independent Religionist's Liberty — Are USA Constitutional liberties not being extended to non-aligned religionists?
The Golden Rule and Prohibition — Countering common erroneous arguments for prohibitionism and applying the Golden Rule
A run-in with Officer Green"WHAT'S THAT SMELL??" scowled Officer Green, and ordered me out of my car.
Head Shop — Cartoons, songs, and more regarding the appeal of indulgences and the consequences of desire.



Radical Incline

Mass Media News

Cause for Despair, or...? On the evolution, status, and future of news reportage and the public interest.

Are you distracted about the news or about the media's handling of it?

ding!"What's the news, across the nation?
We have got the information
In a way we hope will a - muuuusssse yooooou...."
-from the old Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In

If you live in Cape Cod, the major all-columns headline and the large full-color photo on the front page is Rose Kennedy's death. All you mentioned, Bob, and this, just shows to go ya that the news is there for its infotainment value.

Originally, or at least in colonial America, weren't "newspapers" more like the editorial pages, mostly opinion sheets? News came by word of mouth. So I think the concept of "journalism" newspapers, as allegedly objective reportage, came later. (I'm open to correction on my history here.) But while the good reporters, also artists, statesmen and businessmen, were looking the other way, the salesmen took over their worlds. The point of your local newspaper may be to influence opinion in the editor's mind, to report nobly on human doin's from the reporter's point of view, but the real reason for both is to sell ads.

Same with videonews. Now, I'm not decrying making a buck, and I make more if I can, but when marketing, sales, being the biggest and charging the most, becomes the driving force rather than a supporting function, then you have news that is shaped by ratings weeks and by which vidclip best goggles the rubes. What's the biggest selling newspaper in the nation? The National Enquirer, I believe. Even if it's USA Today, that's not such a significant difference [grin — now I'm sure to hear from some hardworking, journalistic USA Today reporter who's right here on line]. They serve those selfsame shoppers as your local "news."

National network news, CNN Headline News, these broader markets still try to maintain an air of journalistic quality, or so I guess since I haven't watched a broadcast network news report in many years and even on CNN, with some of the dopey stories and sensationalist approaches, it's hard to see how these people can think of themselves as being much above tabloids. All products of the public school system no doubt, like their audience. :)

You complain about your local news readers (where is you at, anyway?) hardly covering Kobe; CNN did some good extended reportage, but an awful lot of that "lingering on the mourning victims and heart-breaking individual examples" stuff. Yes, I know what pain is like, thanks. What's the news? (I'm not saying there should be none of this, only that they dwell on it far too much.)

So, what've we got? The locals don't have to deliver ze big news (didn't he work for Nixon?) because the networks take care of that, so they can focus on pumped-up local-interest stories that boost ratings and sell ads. But in all cases, cheesiest local to best network, we've got a public that's too much entertainment-gluttonous and news-disinterested. The media cater to the market, and the market shape the media. A downward spiral of quality of expectations and goods shapes a mediocre system. I recall folks addressing this very problem 'way back in the '60s, and how far the media have fallen since then only seems to bear the problem out.

But there's a (I hate this phrase, don't even really know what the heck it's supposed to mean, but having seen it several times in the past few days, I guess it's a fad and I want to be among the first to jump on a bandwagon for a change) sea change going on in your news access. If you know how to pump the web, you can get news right here on this screen you're looking at (and — heh — please don't tell me you printed this out), faster and more complete than your local newshounds even know about it. Besides the various newsnet feeds (like AP, Reuters &c. which CompuServe carries), just tapping into various forums on CIS has often brought me news long before it hits the papers. I've sometimes seen some news story, not the latest hard news of course but not all that soft either, printed in a newspaper days after I got the same story off CIS, as if it had just happened. And I've more than once read major news from people it's happening to right here on the nets before the media have had the story. It's back to word of mouth, with a worldwide ear. And with some of the problems of the "coloring" of the news of those days. Would you like to subscribe to my vidtext opinion sheet? [kidding]

This is only an embryonic stage, of course. For that word-of-mouth, you have to dig, and that's not as cozy as Joe Blow turning on his tube. So we have a problem here on the front end of stratification — the lazy media catering more and more to an undereducated and lazy market with an interactive media demanding intelligent application. And news providing, which has for years been aggregating into a few major sources, is getting thrown open as well. You can't yet get a CIS menu of today's video newsclips, download them, and view them, the way you can AP text copy, but we're very close. When both regional and world news are available in such customizable form, news provision will still be market-driven, but you won't have the mass choices dictating the arrangements. Joe Blow can catch his big basketball story (and Joe's not such a bad guy for being more interested in the local team than a distant tragedy, is he?) first up if he wants, and you can punch up your congressperson's activities of the day. (Something about the image of punching up a congressperson that I'll bet appeals to a lot of people.)

As the technology becomes more accessible to the ordinary person, as we become less oriented toward "running computers" or "watching television" and more oriented toward being able to get out of them what we want, we may be able to reduce the stratification. I have great expectations about the educational value of this evolving "new" medium, as well, because I've got to have something to lend me hope that the attitudes of Joe Blow will transcend the local and the mundane and the trivial. Otherwise, we'll have fifty thousand channels of I Love Lucy reruns. Hey, I started out trying to cheer you up and I end up getting depressed? Forgive my rambling. Been under the weather the past few days.

LucyDid you ask for this?

Another Mindful Webwork about mass media:
TV or Not TV — Yes, Virginia, there is an 'off' switch.



Radical Incline

War of the Sexes

Dueling monologues between the male chauvanist pig and the women's libber.

[MCP:]

We're gonna take away abortion,
  Woman has to learn her proper role.
We're gonna outlaw the diaphram, take away your pill,
  and put the man back in control

We're gonna put ya back up on your pedestal
  And not care about what you think
Gonna take away your job so you'll stay at home
  Knocked up and at the kitchen sink

We're going back, back, to the good old days,
  of the bustle and the petticoat
We're going back to the ways that God intended
  Gonna take away your right to vote!
Oink! Oink! Gonna take away your right to vote!
[femlib:]

You can never take away abortion, 
  You can only make one hard to get.
I'll never give up my self-control
  And you haven't found yours yet.

I'll never go back the way it was
  Because slavery is dead.
And you better wise up or you're liable to find
  You're in a big cold lonely bed.

We're going forward ho! to the better ways,
  And we've only just begun to grow.
God gave me a mind and the will to find 
  what's right and She ought to know.
That's right! I said I think She ought to know.



Radical Incline

TV or Not TV

Yes, Virginia, there is an 'off' switch.

1997 March 22

Editor, the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise
P.O. Box 1278
Bartlesville, Oklahoma 74005

Editor:

The caller to Off the Cuff who likened a television broadcast to people fornicating in the middle of main street is the most profound, and pitiful, example of the hypnotic power of television. Or, more accurately, the weakness of some American minds. It was all the more poignant and pitiable that the caller was responding to a previous caller who had, wisely, noted that our televisions come equipped with a very important control called the "off" switch.

Our family has followed the uproar surrounding the broadcast of Schindler's List, and the comments of an Oklahoma representative, with considerable amusement. From the time our first-born was very young, television in our household has been tightly controlled. Their viewing habits were monitored and directed. Even Saturday morning cartoons were tape-recorded and they were early taught to use the fast-forward button to bypass the commercial announcements. This didn't prevent them from watching the ads they wanted to see, but they didn't have to sit through them repeatedly, and they soon learned that by fast-forwarding they could watch three half-hour shows in about one hour — learning to budget as well as control their own viewing.

When the kids were old enough to be granted more freedom, I noticed that their early training worked pretty well. The kids were able to distinguish between a quality program and junk. (So if they were watching junk, at least they knew it was junk.) When I'd catch them unawares, they'd be absorbing something from the Discovery channel. They've never yet seen any of the violent material most of their peers grew up on, and they never grew cynical about the better Disney productions.

Last year, for various reasons, we simply switched the tube off, and it's been mostly off ever since. The kids were forced to give up their cartoons, and Dad gave up his Star Trek and, with great regret, Babylon 5. We all miss Touched by an Angel. But, it's all on tape somewhere, I reminded them, it'll all be around for decades, in re-runs, and before long TV programs will be available like the computer files I get from CompuServe or the Internet — downloadable and watchable at our own time and convenience, not that of some advertising-motivated network program manager on the Coast. We cut the cable, quit the satellite subscription, and ignored the antenna. The VCRs, indeed, went into storage. We weren't even remotely threatened either by someone's idea of "entertainment" or by that most lurid and fictional of material called "the news."

The other night, I stopped at the video rental store, just to see if they knew when that movie Michael would be released. My daughter mentioned some other show we had thought to rent. We were all reminded that there are so many great movies, yes, and television shows, to watch. But we drove off empty-handed. I noted that we had been getting along pretty well, and had plenty to fill our lives, since we'd started doing without television, and to my surprise one of my wonderful offspring, indeed the one I felt had been most television-habituated, remarked, "That's for sure!" Gratifying!

So for that poor hapless victim of television addiction who called the paper, there is, for some of us at least, a monumental difference between what happens in the middle of main street and what we have the choice to view, or not view, broadcast into our homes. What you see on main street is unavoidable. What comes across the television you have to actually invite into your home, by purchasing the equipment, setting up the connections (antenna, cable, satellite dish), supplying the electricity, and turning it all on at certain times. A far more apt comparison than to main street would be whether you would permit a couple to come fornicate, or (more aptly) do violence to each other, in your living room while the kids were there. If you have your television on, it's your own choice. You have no one to blame but yourself.

Yes, Virginia, there is an "off" switch. It is effective. There is also self-discipline and parental discipline. But none of them work if you don't exercise them.

Another Mindful Webwork about mass media:
Mass Media News — Cause for Despair, or...? On the evolution, status, and future of news reportage and the public interest.
Mike the TV from Reboot



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