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A loss of reason at Reason

David Harsanyi has a particularly ignorant column at Reason about legalization, which is a real surprise. Waiting for the Man
The long road to marijuana legalization

This is someone who is in favorof legalization. He seems to be saying that nothing is going to come of legalization because the politicians aren’t ready to act, and we don’t have any arguments that will sway them (or sway the people enough to make them act).

His conclusion is:

The minority that wants real reform? Politically speaking, our bad arguments are terrible and our good ones are worse.

Really?

Well, maybe if you look through the arguments that he cherry-picked to represent us, and ignore all the arguments that he chose to leave out, then maybe you’d get a little of that feeling, but even then, you’d have to take his sarcasm seriously (I’m halfway wondering if his OpEd was supposed to be sarcastic and he really means the opposite, because he jokes a lot in it, but I’m having trouble reading it that way).

Sure, we can claim that illicit drugs are harmless. But having partaken in youthful “experimentation,” I can say with empirical certainty this is untrue. If drugs are harmless, why did I try to convert Pez dispensers into bongs or choose journalism as a career?

What a strange person.

Besides, we don’t claim that all illicit drugs are harmless. We claim that drug prohibition is harmful — much more so than drugs, without the benefit of reducing any of the harm of drugs. Now that’s a solid argument with traction. One he leaves out entirely.

Or we could keep pretending that pot has profound medicinal value. In Denver, a sham medical pot industry has blossomed, and coincidentally there have been mass outbreaks of Andromeda strain and cooties among 20-somethings. This makes a mockery of real sickness and threatens to turn one-time public support into deeper skepticism.

Pretending that pot has profound medicinal value? It does, and the fact that others want to use it as well doesn’t change the medicinal value.

We could argue that legalizing drugs would provide government with a great source of revenue. (No worries; the “wealthiest among us” would pay their fair share.) But a new Cato Institute study by Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron and Katherine Waldock at New York University finds that there would be a rather unexceptional $17.4 billion in yearly national budgetary improvement from legalizing marijuana.

Unexceptional. In today’s economy? Let’s see, with that money, you could send over two million young people to a state university for a year.

There are plenty of other solid arguments that can resonate with the people (and thereby to the politicians). Reducing corruption. Starving the black market. Reducing the collateral damage to society of being over-reliant on prisons. Improving the relationship of cops to the community. Doing a better job of helping those with drug problems.

I don’t know what Harsanyi was thinking, but it sure wasn’t Reasonable.

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17 comments to A loss of reason at Reason

  • kaptinemo

    I went there. I read it. And I can only say, “WTF?”

    He’s all over the place, like a handful of items thrown into the spin cycle of an empty washing machine, randomly bouncing off of each other and the inside of the drum. I don’t get it. And I am an unabashed fan of Reason. Been reading it for years.

    Why was it even published like that?

  • I have been following the clown site for a while. Reason has (or had) but one redeeming quality… their supposed alliance in this endeavor.

    But the more I read, the more I realize what a hack-filled, silver-spoon run place it is.

  • mikekinseattle

    Here’s a better take on the subject.

  • Shap

    Huge fan of Reason magazine, but this was a terrible piece. Sounded a lot like one of those: “I’m for legalization but I want to put out a ‘different’ opinion piece” kind of article. Read like one of those pro-legalization but also anti-legalization Mark Kleiman articles.

  • Duncan20903

    Pete, I think we’ve established over the last few days that using sarcasm and parody to humiliate the know nothings just doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because even the most ludicrous nonsense you could imagine is possible to hear a know nothing present as if it were fact. Hey I know, how about another pothead joke?

    Did you hear the one about the stoner that spent his life just loitering and looking up at the stars? This dull stoner thought that he could talk to alien beings from another planet and actually searched the cosmos actively with a bunch of his nutcake friends. They must have had a straight person to think up the name “Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI). No way do a bunch of moronic dope smokers know words with so many syllables. It isn’t possible that this idea came from stoners. After smoking the new super reefer of today the brain of a bunch of loser stoners is practically shut down from the brain damage that pot causes. The brain takes on the consistency of Jello. The only thing a stoner thinks about is that next bag of Cheetos and that he has to get his car keys and drive to the store to get some. But its only a matter of time if you are a dope fiend like that Carl Sagan loser. Like all dope fiends, he ended up dead.

  • Duncan20903

    Found in the articles comments:

    You may think that marijuana is harmful, that it ruins your life, that a single joint has the same effect on your ability to drive a car as a quart of bourbon, that it leads irreversibly to smoking crack in a bathroom stall of the Port Authority Bus Terminal, and that it will cause you to rape white women while listening to negro jazz. But you know who’s telling you that? The government. Are you going to believe the government, or are you going to believe me, a guy who has smoked quite a bit of weed, and hasn’t totaled his car or raped any (white) women, at least not while listening to negro jazz.

    Now that’s just plain funny.

  • Rhayader

    This is problematic indeed, but it’s a rare flat tire at Reason. I stopped by to comment on the piece, and I’d suggest others do the same. I think much of the piece is simply an assessment of political reality, but some of it does deserve criticism (especially the quip about medical value).

    But “BuelahMan” is dead wrong: Reason’s fight against the Drug War is principled and largely consistent. Go read Jacob Sullum or Radley Balko or Nick Gillespie before you condemn an entire group of allies based on a single bad column.

  • claygooding

    I am still spitting up chunks of Heritage Foundation’s oped last week.
    Did they have an imbeciles convention and forget to invite me or what?

  • […] loss of reason at Reason A loss of reason at Reason DrugWarRant / Pete Guither / 09,30,2010 David Harsanyi has a particularly ignorant column at […]

  • davidst

    Rhayader is correct. Reason is mostly on target with the WoD. This is a rare miss step.

  • Duncan20903

    I’ve already posted my list of authorities that have accepted cannabis as medicine. It’s a pretty damn impressive list if I do say so myself. The single most impressive authority on the list in my opinion is the Iowa Board of Pharmacy, which recommended that cannabis be moved to Schedule 2 which requires an acceptable medical use. I find this impressive because the Iowa BoD declined to do the study needed to make that recommendation. Evidently they’re not allowed to do that under Iowa law as the fellow who wanted them to examine the evidence filed a lawsuit with help from the Iowa ACLU and the court ordered the BoD to do the required study. I was just shaking my head and thinking, Carl, Carl, Carl, what’s the point of compelling them to do a study? They’ve already made up their minds. The entire process will be a kangaroo court like when Los Angeles finally got around to the hearings required before they could close down the dispensaries that opened while the Council was keeping its head buried in the sand. Surprise, surprise, surprise, not only did they decide cannabis is a valid medicine the vote was 6-0. Of course now they’re fighting to keep from having to actually implement what they recommended. They claim they’re not authorized and that it’s the legislature’s bailiwick. The legislature insists it’s the responsibility of the BoD. It’s simply unbelievable that they’re still scared of acknowledging that cannabis is medicine. Almost 80% support country wide, and I can’t imagine that there wasn’t extremely compelling evidence to have the vote 6-0 in favor. Did I mention the Iowa BoD vote was unanimous?

  • Steve in Clearwater

    To be a bit more fair, DH’s original column was written for and published for his employer – The Denver Post.

    Reason certainly picked it up, but I’m pretty sure it’s not intended to neccesarily reflect the editorial opinion of Reason magazine editorial board.

  • Miron is an economist, and in one sense he’s right that the money saved isn’t particularly big in absolute terms. Lots of things aren’t. It’s just not a particularly useful method for evaluating something.

    Pretty much ALL economists (and citizens) really hates the idea of spending money on something that gives NO benefits whatsoever when that money could be used to gain actual benefits elsewhere. It’s a principle us economists wouldn’t even want to deviate from for $10.

    Furthermore Miron never misses the opportunity to raise the moral/ideological question of whether the drug laws are not damaging to the very fabric of successful democracy.

    Anyway, these are the correct numbers as per Miron:

    “Prohibition is fiscally irresponsible. Its key goal is reduced drug use, yet repeated studies find minimal impact on drug use. My just-released Cato Institute study shows that prohibition entails government expenditure of more than $41 billion a year. At the same time, the government misses out on about $47 billion in tax revenues that could be collected from legalized drugs. The budgetary windfall from legalization would hardly solve the country’s fiscal woes. Nevertheless, losing $88 billion in a program that fails to attain its stated goal should be anathema to conservatives.”

    Baiscally: wouldn’t it be better to get SOMETHING for those 88 billion dollars than get NOTHING? No ordinary citizen would belittle that amount of money.

    I believe Harsanyi is not interested in legalization. Or Mark Kleimann is the one inside of Harsanyi at the moment.

  • Carol

    When we talk about the money gained by legalization, it’s larger than we realize. Think of money spent on lawyers, on Social Services because a breadwinner is in jail, the lawsuits due to police brutality because the cops are inclined to do those random busts of minority men. Think of the people who will be free to work because there will be no more “felonies” on their record.

  • David762

    Can “Reason” be irrational? Apparently so. The War on Drugs has been an abject failure in every metric, excepting of course for rate of incarceration for simple possession, and the 100% employment rate of LEOs, oh, and the Billions of USD seized from otherwise law-abiding citizens through asset forfeiture laws.

    But when examined strictly as an economic issue, with $41 Billion spent per year on enforcement versus the potential $47 Billion in tax revenues, this is only the focus on cannabis as a medicine or a recreational drug. In nearly every study I have seen, the single largest cash crop for every state isn’t corn, or wheat, or soybeans — it’s cannabis, a currently illicit product. Nowhere is mentioned the other myriad formerly commercial uses of cannabis, or hemp, for textiles and paper, for rope and construction materials, for fuels and plastics, or for food and livestock feed. What about those lost economic opportunities, and new jobs in new industries?

    Cannabis is in so many ways a miracle plant, originally made illegal by crony commercial special interest groups allied with racist bigots. Within 5 years of full re-legalization, cannabis could easily represent a $2 Trillion USD per year boon to the USA economy. That, my friends, is the miracle yet to happen.

  • Chris

    Not surprised. Reason has many blind spots and many hack writers. Some really good stuff from them over the years but also some really pathetic stuff as well.

  • newageblues

    I had the impression Harsanyi was a serious person. His comment about medicinal cannabis demolished that impression. Just because people in California and now Colorado are getting MMJ who don’t have serious health problems, he’s letting himself be blinded to the rising number of serious condition for which it can or may be able to help, research NEEDED).
    It’s like some imp took his brain over temporarily(hopefully).