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James Roberts mans the barricades

Last week, I wrote about the excellent discussion on the war on drugs going on over at Cato Unbound. I’m pleased to see that discussion has recently been picked up by El Paso’s Newspaper Tree.

Remember the Heritage Foundation “economist” that I talked about last time — James Roberts? Well, he returned with a new response called To the Barricades — for Freedom!, which is apparently his way of saying that we must all band together to incarcerate massive segments of our population for participating in consensual activity, so that we can be free… to… band together to incarcerate…

I know, I don’t understand it either. But he thinks it’s important.

…a culture war [has] been raging against western civilization with increasing intensity for decades. In fact, the entire 233-year history of the United States is a testament to the fight against the dark forces that would enslave humanity. Now is not the time to give into them.

He starts out the piece whining that people have been mean to him in this series.

When the ad hominem attacks begin, it is a cue to the reader that the debate opponent is finding himself on the losing end of the argument. I would expect the assaults if they were coming from the left, but it is disappointing to see them coming from an ally on the right.

The “ally on the right” is presumably Ted Galen Carpenter, a VP at Cato Institute. Here Roberts shows something remarkable — that he believes all conservatives are supportive of government imposed morality. Sure, the sado-moralists have grown in power and number on the far right, but there’s still a huge core of conservatives with fiercely libertarian beliefs.

But Roberts can’t believe that anyone with principles would fail to join in his condemnation of some drugs, and his sure sense that a massive criminal bureaucracy (and a massive criminal justice bureaucracy) is the way to deal with them.

I love the way he finds to defend alcohol, while maintaining his zero-tolerance certainty about other drugs.

The drugs differ greatly from alcohol, with which people have had centuries of experience. Indeed, beer and wine were drunk in European towns and elsewhere in the Middle Ages because the water back then gave people dysentery. So over hundreds of years, people built up a tolerance for alcohol and created social institutions that could deal with its consequences. Many even developed DNA resistance to alcoholism. However, the citizens, social organizations, and cultures of Mexico and the United States have no collective behavioral or physiological experience to draw upon in order to deal with the effects that psychotropic drugs will have on society, especially the young, if taken by masses of people on a routine basis.

Moreover, while alcohol can damage one’s health in many ways, it is not likely to lead to lung cancer and emphysema. How will governments condone marijuana smoking while maintaining sanctimonious campaigns of opprobrium against the use of tobacco, which poses a far lesser threat to social order?

Wow. Eat your heart out Fred Astaire. That’s some fancy footwork, there, Jim.

And, of course, nothing he says has a bit of evidence attached to it, such as when he imagines the “newly disabled and diseased drug addicts (and their broken families) that legalization will create.”

Ted Galen Carpenter does a great job of responding with Cracks in the Drug War Fortress

The allegation by James Roberts that he has been the victim of ad hominem attacks is bizarre and unhelpful. Until his latest post, the discussion on Cato Unbound has been both civil and substantive. Since I seem to be the principal target of his complaint, I want to point out that I criticized his use of logic and evidence, not his character.

One persistent, troubling feature of his essays is his tendency to counter arguments that no one has made.

Carpenter’s essay is an excellent rebuttal, worth reading.

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8 comments to James Roberts mans the barricades

  • paul

    If Roberts thinks that Cato is “an ally on the right”, he’s got another thing coming. Ally on economic rights, sure, but other conservative issues do not cross over. Cato is libertarian, and they do not agree with much of the mainstream conservative agenda. They are always anti-war, anti prohibition, and in favor of small government and individual rights. The drug war and the drug warriors are pro big government and anti individual rights.

    Many conservatives struggle with this, because it is the conservative instinct to distrust government and support individual rights, but drugs are Bad, so they have to make a choice. Unfortunately, principles go out the window more often than not, mostly because everyone can see that drugs are Bad.

    Defending alcohol as a safe alternative to drugs is a very weak argument. Everyone knows that alcohol is a scourge that has killed untold millions of victims down through the centuries, erodes health, and inspires violence. And heavy alcohol use most certainly causes cancer in some people.

    When he asks how governments will condone marijuana smoking while they tolerate alcohol and tobacco, I think the answer is pretty clear. MJ is not nearly harmful as alcohol and tobacco, and even if it were, government is no stranger to hypocrisy and would find a way to cope. It certainly does with alcohol and tobacco.

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  • Cliff

    Many even developed DNA resistance to alcoholism.

    Where does this guy come up with this? he just throws it out there with no citation, just blabs it out like it is an accepted fact. I have never heard of DNA resistance to alcoholism mentioned anywhere. What a tool.

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  • DdC

    It (he) might be referring to the not proven “X” chromosome in some alcoholics. 10% have this gene that supposedly predisposes them to become addicted. I guess these warpo’s are claiming then that 90% have overcome the potential of addiction. So since everyone has cannabinoids in their body I guess we’re all predisposed to fire up the doobies… But then the buttheads at the Heritage Foundation always say weird things.

    “We can’t go out and find this information because it’s an illegal activity where they shoot you in the back alley if you try to find out, Today we’re making guesses. This will guide us toward a scientific basis.”
    ~ David Murray, ONDCP

    Statistical Assessment Service, Heritage Foundation

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  • paul

    About genetic alcohol resistance, I think the theory is that the Old World had alcohol for so long they evolved a certain resistance to the worst (or best) of the effects. Alcohol seems to have hit the New World natives very hard.

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  • Jon Doe

    Yeah, but you also have to understand that the American natives were first exposed to alcohol in the form of whiskey and rum. Back then non-medicinal liquor was still a relatively new drug even in Europe and gin had just as much a devastating effect in 18th-19th century England as whiskey did among the Native Americans.

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  • Hope

    I just don’t know whether to laugh or cry, every time I see, “man the barricades” or “To the Barricades — for Freedom!”.

    What? Who? What “barricades”? Where?

    Is it some kind of secret signal to other prohibitionists?

    Is it a war cry? A rallying cry? What in the heck are they, it sounds like there must be more like him, fixing to do?

    What barricades? Has the man lost his mind?

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  • And look at how he ignores that MJ is way safer then Tobacco- particularly those doped with burn accelerants and unlabeled Virginia Bright Leaf coffin nails.

    The man must be some variety of a frat boy.

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  • Hope

    Roberts sounds a bit self righteous and more than a little bit strange, to me.

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