Follow-up on the Kleiman post

On Tuesday, I wrote a post: Where Kleiman gets annoyed once again that people are having a discussion about Mark Kleiman’s post: Another Drug Legalization Pitch, reacting to the Esquire piece: A Radical Solution to End the Drug War: Legalize Everything.

I expected some fireworks and was not disappointed. Mark himself stopped by and joined us in comments (you’re always welcome, Mark — I’d love it if you’d try comments again at your site). And there’s still a good discussion going in our comments section worth checking out.

Kleiman updated his post with a rebuttal to mine.

My objection is to the claim that there’s a hideous monster out there called “prohibition,” and that the main drug policy task is to slay that monster with the magic sword of “taxation and regulation.” That claim is just as stupid as the drug-warrior claim that there’s a hideous monster out there called “drugs” and that the main drug-policy task is to slay that monster with the magic sword of a “a drug-free society.”

Over at, Lee does a very fine job of addressing that attempted bit of misdirection…

First of all, both “prohibition” and “drug abuse” are “hideous monsters”. Prohibition is such because it takes a commodity that has significant demand from both responsible adults and people with addictions and hands it to criminals who have significant income with which to fight over their share of the marketplace. Drug abuse is a “hideous monster” because human beings are flawed creatures who often make mistakes and end up without the control to help themselves overcome an addiction. Both are things that we need to deal with as problems in our society, but the important difference is that one of the two is a basic human tendency that we can’t stop while the other is a creation of government that we most certainly can stop.

Second, one only needs to look at the example of alcohol prohibition to see where the “magic sword of taxation and regulation” has slayed the monster of prohibition.

Spot on. And the rest of Lee’s post is definitely worth reading as well.

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11 Responses to Follow-up on the Kleiman post

  1. daksya says:

    Kleiman’s counterpart claim is inaccurate:

    In case 1, the monster is “prohibition” and the putative illusory magic sword is “taxation and regulation”, which is, of course, a policy action. In his counterpart, the monster is “drugs”, but the the putative illusory magic sword is “a drug-free society”, which is a goal, not an action. It should have said, “prohibition”.

  2. Jon Doe says:

    You know that Sword of Taxation (surely a +5 Vorpal blade if ever there was one) is a powerful piece of steel. Wield that sucker along with the Sword of Death (also a +5 weapon) and you’re the master of temporal reality.

  3. truthtechnician says:

    I forget… Is Kleiman one of those people who believes alcohol should be legal and regulated but other drugs illegal?

    • Pete says:

      At the risk of simplifying or mis-representing Mark Kleiman’s positions… Generally, he feels that alcohol should be legal, but with additional regulations beyond what we have today (he’s suggested a revokable drinking license as a possible approach). He thinks marijuana should be legalized in some limited way (perhaps a grow-your-own only or grow-your-own plus give it away, but no commercial sales). As far as I’m aware, he believes in continuing criminalization of all other currently prohibited drugs.

  4. Steve Clay says:

    I appreciate Mark’s desire for intellectual rigor, but I think the frustrating aspect is that he spends a lot more time criticizing little orgs like LEAP than he does the UNODC, ONDCP, DEA, HHS, FDA, et al. which clearly lie to maintain the harmful cannabis policy he’s ostensibly against.

    I imagine there were many small orgs opposing the Iraq invasion which had some misguided arguments. Meanwhile the Cheney administration had the full ear of the national press and congress. If it were demonstrable that the administration was lying, guess which group was more worthy of your criticism.

    I’m not saying reformers should get a free pass to lie, but equal opportunity criticism would be appreciated, especially with such a ridiculously slanted playing field.

  5. Steve Clay says:

    @truthtechnician: Mark’s ideal policy (as of early 07) is summarized here (he’d also get the DEA out of pain relief and foreign policy and more loosely regulate hallucinogens). It’s worth reading and I think it would be a drastic improvement, but that doesn’t make it a movement that will bring about substantive positive change. That’s where LEAP comes in.

  6. kaptinemo says:

    “Magic swords”, huh?

    The Hindus have a minor deity, Manjushree who’s depicted as waving a sword used to separate you from ignorance. Pity it’s never been used on prohibs.

  7. Joe says:

    That summary provided is interesting reading. It’s a mixed bag but really, does he have any grounds for sarcasm?

    No minimum drinking age? Sure teenage drinking causes problems, but we are making them into criminals and look at all those fake ids! The fake ids should be limited to “drinking licenses” given that even those guilty of drunken disorderly conduct should be denied a right to buy liquor. His “practical” policies even he admits in the field of alcohol are unpopular.

    Then, we have pot. He says just legalizing it will lead to a dangerous vast expansion of use. But, don’t worry — you can grow it or get it for free. Sounds totally practicable to me!

  8. Steve says:

    > I’d love it if you’d try comments again at your site

    Try now Pete. They just made some changes over there.

  9. Pete says:

    Thanks, Steve. That’s good news.

  10. paul says:

    Opened comments? That’s brave! The internet as a whole strongly supports our position, and posters are not going to be gentle.

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