At What Price?

Lots going on around the homefront these days.  Been away from blogging longer that I’d like.  As usual, David’s given me inspiration to write some more on the topics of Liberty and Tyranny.


I caught an interesting article the other day.  The Journal of Psychopharmacology published a study showing evidence that a single dose of LSD significantly improved the chances for people to beat alcoholism.


I’m not a medical researcher or psychopharmacological expert.  So, I can’t comment on how the study was performed or if the conclusions were biased.  But let’s say for a moment that everything was legit and everyone agreed it was done correctly.


According to the US Federal Government and the DEA, if you’re suffering from alcoholism, you are not allowed to try this drug to help curb your addiction (without risk of imprisonment).  Doctors, psychiatrists, and medical facilities are not allowed to offer monitored trials to see if you can be helped.  In fact, due to Mandatory Minimum Laws, if a medical facility had more than 1,000 doses of LSD (>1 gram) in their possession, the judge would be required to give everyone 5 years in a Federal Pen for their first offense no matter what the circumstances.


So here’s the question you need to ask yourself.  If you were addicted to alcohol (something that we once tried to make illegal but failed miserably and thus it became legal), and you were desperate enough to try something other than a 12-step program to kick your habit – how would you feel knowing that there’s a potentially life-saving drug available but made arbitrarily illegal by some politicians hundreds of miles away?


Then ask yourself.  What if, long before the Journal of Psychopharmacology published its findings, there were people that already knew that LSD could help cure alcoholism decades ago?  How would you feel knowing that countless alcoholics and their loved ones might have been saved had LSD not been demonized by the DEA?


Now, I know what most of you old school conservatives are thinking.

Well, serves them right for getting addicted to alcohol.  I have a drink every now and then, but I never let it get out of hand.  They must just be weak willed or not spiritual enough.  Besides, what if LSD was made legal?  We’d have a bunch of crazed, tripping hippies running around the country jumping off buildings and shooting babies. . .


So all facetiousness aside, let’s pull apart some of the issues here.


At the top you have the definition of addiction.  Whenever people have the power to choose anything, society runs the risk that some people will consume more or less than the average.  We arbitrarily decide how much is too much of anything, and our definition is ALWAYS changing.  Whether it’s food, sleep, coffee, exercise, television, vitamins, collecting, spending, and yes, drugs and alcohol use, there’s a never-ending stream of research and debate on what’s a reasonable amount of consumption.


More importantly, though, is the following dilemma – let’s assume we were able to establish for everything that can be consumed a huge table of what society considers to be “reasonable” consumption.  On the list, it might say that it’s reasonable for a 6’ 2”, 50 year old, white man to consume 2 beers a day.  What if a man wanted to have 4 today?  Or 6?  Or 10?  How should society react?  Will every 6’ 2”, 50 year old, white man react equally to 2 vs. 6 vs. 10 beers?


Hopefully, you’re looking at this dilemma and see the ridiculousness of it all.  I’m actually hoping you are outraged at the very thought that someone can determine what YOU, as a grown man or woman, should be allowed to put in your own body.


This is the point where most skeptics will ask:

But what about the greater good for society?  What about when someone chooses to drink and drive and kill a busload of preschoolers?  What about the guy that gets hooked on meth and robs people?  What about the morbidly obese woman that ends up in the ER via a forklift because she can’t walk by herself (implicitly meaning that she can’t pay for the cost of her care on her own and society has to foot the bill)? 


And this is my response to the skeptics. 


I believe in the virtues of Liberty, meaning adults in a free society should be able to choose what they can consume, how much of it, and accept the consequences of their choices as long as it does not infringe on or endanger another person’s same rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  


Interestingly, Jacob Sullum shared in his speech: In Defense of Drug Use how most illegal drug users are perfectly functional, employed, productive members of society but that prohibition has forced them to go underground and in the closet.


Even so, if you want to sit at home and trip on LSD until your brain turns into Syd Barrett’s mush, that should be your choice.  If you, however, get high and go on a shooting spree, I believe law enforcement has a right to stop you from endangering us.


I believe that if I’m suffering from alcoholism and want to try LSD to ease my cravings, if I have cancer and want to smoke pot all day so that I can eat a meal, or I just want to sniff glue to get high – as long as I’m not causing you any harm, you have absolutely no right to stop me.


For those that still disagree, I ask AT WHAT PRICE are you willing to champion the cause of greater good?  And how far are you willing to push the definition of the greater good?


If society’s experts deem a Venti mocha frappa caramel extra shot chilato is just too much decadence and caffeine for you to have in one sitting, are you going to sit back and let some agency determine that for you?  If the experts want to ban chicken because it can cause salmonella infection, are you willing to abdicate your rights?  If enough experts conclude that not only processed sugar, but raw sugar, honey, splenda, nutrasweet, and all artificial sweeteners are causing obesity in kids, are you going to let them ban it?


The only rational, equitable, and moral way to handle consumption is to allow grown men and women to decide what and how much to consume and live with the consequences.

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8 thoughts on “At What Price?

  1. You make some extremely valid points in your post this evening. It is difficult for me to reconcile myself with some of this reasoning, if only because I’ve been trained since junior high to “Just Say NO!” But I get it. Especially the medical marijuana issue. The treatment for cancer is bad enough – can’t we do something to help its victims keep down a meal or two so they have the energy needed to fight for their lives?

    Your last comment regarding sweeteners made me think of the FDA’s irritating “stamp of approval” or disapproval on everything. I’m a big fan of stevia as a natural calorie-free sweetener. But the FDA will not allow it to be marketed as a sweetener. It’s a “food supplement” — what the heck difference does it make? We’re still putting it in our drinks and ingesting it. The little men in the cubicles have to feel like they are important, and they do that by telling us what we can and cannot do.

    So frustrating.


    1. I am not disagreeing with the message to “Just Say No”. I think addiction and chemical dependency, taken to the extreme, causes tremendous harm to individuals and families. I do believe, however, that Prohibition distorts the public’s view of the average user and ONLY allows us to see those extreme cases. As Sullum pointed out, to suggest that your average heroine or cocaine or marijuana user is recklessly out of control of his own life would be the same as saying the average drinker is like the homeless wino living on the streets.

      And again, all I’m daring to suggest is that we allow grown adults to make their own choices.


        1. Hehehe … I did not even notice that and I am usually a proofreading maniac. Now Merry and Pip … don’t let them near fireworks, or all of humanity may be in danger. 😉


  2. I can see people’s worry here. If we made everything consumable legal, a HUGE amount responsibility is added to society to educate itself–which I think is great.
    But I think I see the argument building here: What about those without that education? What about people who don’t understand the science and ramifications of dangerous or contaminated substances?
    My question is: how do we protect ourselves in a non government-regulated (DEA, FDA, USDA, etc.) world?


    1. Great point. When you are coming from a world of control and where someone else is thinking for you into one of liberty and personal responsibility, there obviously has to be a transition period. If we don’t prepare people for such a transition, you get the same result as most high school kids leaving home for the first time to go to college. Without ample communication and education for that transition, you end up in world of “Girls Gone Wild” and the Freshman 15. I’d never advocate waking up overnight to anarchy.

      Transition aside, I think your question is more focused on *after* transition. And here again, the alcohol industry is a good example of what “could be” (though I would argue that there are things about the consumption of alcohol right now with which I take issue).

      Alcohol is semi-liberated. We have free-er access to it if we want, but the Feds and ATF still manage to interfere and make things worse. I would argue that government controls creates a false sense of security for society. People believe the govt is protecting us, so there’s no reason for most to invest in education, prevention, or protection.

      Obviously, the govt has failed horribly to do any of these things which is why we do see many non-governmental educational, recovery, and support groups pop-up. People freely organized and established these groups because they couldn’t wait around for the govt to do anything other than throw people in jail.


  3. Interesting topic to tackle! I’m thinking about this in connection to what David brought up about the demand for morality in our statist society. People who are not used to being responsible for their own lives are more likely do things that are detrimental to themselves without experiencing the consequences of their actions. We have decreased the demand for morality and personal responsibility, and so we place a low value on those virtues. I believe the problem of addiction and its effects would be much less in a free society because each individual would be responsible to take care of themselves, and most of us are pretty motivated to fill our bellies once in a while. Also, if someone had a serious problem, they would be more likely to receive help from someone who knows them and therefore holds them accountable for their actions rather than an anonymous government worker.

    Do you find this to be a difficult topic to discuss with Christians? I know I do. The very suggestion of condoning the use of drugs and alcohol is so taboo, that it’s hard to get the point across that if we accept regulation of those substances we set up a slippery slope that leads all the way to preschoolers’ lunches being confiscated by government inspectors. The conversation with Christians often starts off with bemoaning government regulations, but ends with, “Of course we have to regulate drugs and alcohol!” Ugh! How do you help fellow believers to see the problem without painting yourself as a morally depraved lunatic?


    1. I find all conversations about Liberty to be difficult for Christians to process, but in particular, drugs and alcohol are even more so. And you touched on many challenges that are relevant to the conversation.

      1) Does freedom necessarily mean approval? From a Christian’s perspective, this should be pretty easy to understand, but we still manage to get shortsighted.

      God gave us a free mind to choose sin or righteousness. To say that freedom = approval would require us to believe that God somehow approves of us sinning. In fact, the logic used by Christian critics of freedom would actually translate to “God is FORCING some to sin.” Again, not sure why Christians can’t follow the logic, but obviously freedom does not necessitate approval of behavior.

      2) The deeper question in my mind, and some of this is speaking from personal experience, is “What is the emptiness in the hearts of man that drives us to abuse ___?

      If our hearts are lacking, we look desperately all over the world to find the things that will fill our need. Some turn to addiction. As a result, others want stricter government controls to prevent man from making destructive choices. The notion that by limiting the number of “bad” options available to the world will somehow solve the world’s heart problem is ridiculous. In fact, it causes us to lose sight of the greater issue and need. As the cliché goes, we’re attacking symptoms and not the problem.

      I believe that all the prohibition in the world does not answer the basic and fundamental needs of the heart. These can only be truly found in Christ. Jesus said “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.” Paul also write that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”


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