Is David Frum a harbinger of Idiocracy?

Conor Friedersdorf has a delightful retort to David Frum’s nonsensical article that we discussed here.

Would Legalizing Marijuana Be Too Hard on Simpletons?”

Conor takes apart Frum’s seeming need for simple social rules like “Just Say No,” and points out that the Project SAM approach isn’t about simplicity at all.

There are several problems with his argument.

1) Most obviously, under every proposal for legalizing marijuana it would remain illegal for minors, and perhaps for adults up to age 21. Parents won’t be deprived of the ability to say, “Marijuana is illegal, stay away,” until their adolescents are in college or living in an apartment and working.

2) Legalization advocates actually favor the simpler policy apparatus: everyone understands that you can vote at 18 and that you can drink at 21. Making marijuana legal for all adults, or all people 21 or older, is about as simple as it gets, and its laughable to compare a standard age rule to zero-down-adjustable-rate mortgages or the complexity of an open sexual relationship.

3) Using illegality as a heuristic for “most dangerous” is itself going to turn out badly for some people who aren’t very smart. Marijuana abuse isn’t anything to take lightly, but the substance is less dangerous than alcohol in many ways, less dangerous than huffing paint, less dangerous than lots of prescription drugs, and less dangerous than hang gliding.

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49 Responses to Is David Frum a harbinger of Idiocracy?

  1. DonDig says:

    I’d like to add another distinction to this discussion. One point that is repeatedly made is that it should be OK for people to damage themselves by smoking pot if they want to, since it is less harmful than alcohol. I don’t entirely disagree with that statement, but the truth of it as I’ve observed it for four decades or so, is that not only is it less harmful, generally, but it is so much less harmful than alcohol that any discussion based on that comparison does pot a disservice.
    Smoking marijuana tends to evoke mild mannered and civilized behavior, not wild and crazy testosterone fueled violence: it’s kind of like the English having tea in the afternoon.
    The vast majority of people are not damaging their lives by smoking pot, that’s why the prohibitionists are grasping for straws and criminalization of this activity is so misguided, as the quote by Morgan Freeman on points out.
    The prohibitionists enjoy saying ‘so should we allow pot because it is less of an evil, and release another evil on society,’ and we let them get away with this argument at times, (saying that it is less harmful than alcohol), but it is so much less harmful that even comparing them slants the discussion incorrectly.

  2. divadab says:

    It’s a sad commentary on the state of Mr. Frum’s career when he has to take a paid publicist job for government-funded prohibitionists. I suppose as a family man he has bills to pay but to whore yourself out in such a transparent manner is beneath contempt.

    • Peter says:

      I’d love to know more about the funding for SAM… Pat Kennedy may be able to do it for free, or to atone for his road barrier problem, but I’d be surprised if Sabet and Frum get out of bed without some dollars down.

      • Duncan20903 says:


        Don’t they write books for fun and profit? Keeping your name in front of the target audience increases sales. If that’s not Prof. Kleiman’s main motivation it’s most certainly a not insignificant part.

  3. Dano says:

    David Nathan has a great article on CNN:
    Why marijuana should be legal for adults

    Takes on a response to Frum’s nonsensical decriminalize, but don’t legalize stance.

  4. Dante says:

    One day, people like Mr. Frum will be ashamed of their own stupidity. Or perhaps his kids, when reading this when older, will shame him for writing it.

    Bottom Line: Prohibition (still) does not work.

    • War Vet says:

      What about Anslinger’s great grand children? But if any of them have their Mellon money, they may be too wound up in their daily lives to care about the legacy of their ancestor or how their good fortunes were created out of bad laws and human suffering.

  5. allan says:

    in retrospect… at one time Calvina and her cronies held sway over the issue, writing unchallenged opeds, testilying before congress… but now, heck, they appear to be about as potent as the Black Knight. (an appropriate spot for a Python break)

  6. NorCalNative says:

    Peter, thanks for staying on this story.

    I’d bet Frum that I’ve read more world-class literature in the last decade than he has. Stuff like Moby Dick, War and Peace, Don Quixote, etc..

    He likes to portray us as stupid, but David’s the one out of his depth. Seems like the last-gasp of propaganda before LEGALIZATION.

  7. kaptinemo says:

    The prohibs are not only sado-moralists, they’re masochists, too.

    What else could explain their constant ‘leading with the chin’?

    The tide has turned, it’s very evident it has, and yet, the prohibs just keep on keeping on, like a faded comedian who refuses to accept the fact his schtick has worn out. They keep telling the equivalent of flat jokes disguised as official pronouncements, not realizing they are the ‘straight man’ in their own skit, and most everyone else in their target audience is either experiencing a sense of embarrassed pathos at their cluelessness, or is laughing at them, not with them.

    The specter or irrelevancy is haunting them, and they feel its’ ghostly approach and think that if they scream their inanities louder, said specter will magically disappear…when in fact they’re only attracting that specter’s attention to their ultimate ineffectiveness…and impotence.

    Rave on, prohibs, rave on. You nailed yourself to a cross for the sake of your own twisted beliefs, and few are impressed with your self-imposed ‘sacrifice’. The more you yammer, the less patience it engenders. You’ve worn out whatever welcome you had by lying to the very generation you wanted to ‘save’ (even though they didn’t need any rescuing) and that generation refuted all your efforts by voting for legal cannabis in WA and CO, a trend soon to be emulated elsewhere.

    The time comes when you have to take the car keys from increasingly dotty and delusional parents. When it is a national policy instead of a car, and its’ loons who are running it, usually there’s a fight for the ‘keys’…but in the end, the kids usually win. The prohibs should save themselves the inevitable public humiliation and just hand them over now…

  8. Liam says:

    David Frum’s malleable ethics vis-à-vis entheogens and war.


    […Such a rule might say: “You shouldn’t use marijuana until you are over 25, or after your brain has ceased to develop, whichever comes first. You shouldn’t use marijuana…”]


    […David “Axis of Evil” Frum first gained notoriety as one of George W. Bush’s more polemical speechwriters. During the run-up to the Iraq war, he was all over the media, agitating for the invasion and viciously denouncing anyone who questioned the wisdom of such a course. …]

    Age Demographics of total US Military Casualties in Iraq:

    Statistics as of June 2, 2007:
    younger than 22 years old – 827 deaths
    22-24 – 946 deaths
    25-30 – 929 deaths
    31-35 – 362 deaths
    older than 35 – 416 deaths
    Total 3,480 deaths

    Summing it up:

    “Religious and social conservatives have been uncomfortable with mind-altering substances for some time. It’s a hugely important aspect of their personality type, and so they can’t help themselves but play the role of Society’s Responsible Enforcers. Just as David Frum retreated into the easy world of group-think and ignorance when he hatefully vilified those who opposed the Iraq War, he has burst magnificently onto an important national debate only to immediately stub his toe. …”

    • War Vet says:

      Since Frum is on the payroll, he obviously doesn’t care and it would be a good bet to state he has no soul. But what about society who follows the likes of Frum? Should one question the value of a society that creates Godzilla for the purpose of destroying cities? We created the war on drugs, which can be summarized on any ‘Yo-MTV Raps’ Music Video when it comes to crime and the proliferation of the ghetto . . . the Movie Scareface was a prequel to the 89′ war in Panama. 1991 showed us how illicit drugs could topple down a potentially strong nation, the Soviet Union –when said illicit drugs keeps one’s nation from achieving military victory, thus forcing one’s troops and economy to pull the shoe strings of war ever so tighter, no matter how much dope money keeps tripping the soldier’s boots up. For self preservation, America is forced to send it’s militaries to fight real threats coming from Asia and Africa, but at the same time, the War on Drugs is a suicide machine set on: Funding and Financing said threats, which kills the very citizen (9/11) and soldier (Iraq/Afghanistan/Yemen/Somalia etc) meant to bless and protect the nation. We know that the war on drugs is hurting Mexico and yet have done nothing to stop it or reduce it, which I find to be proof that outlawing drugs was intended to create the Mexican Quagmire, just like it was intended to create more and more dead U.S. soldiers who in all reality have to go and fight in our wars because drug money threatens our nation and has done so numerous times. What do we tell our children: that we outlawed drugs so we could go about the business of creating wars and prisons and all the jobs associated with law, military, war, munitions, security, cleaning up ‘ground zero’, construction on a new World Trade Center, beefed up boarder patrol etc? Russia and 9/11 should have taught us our lesson, while Mexico was right under our nose the whole time –do we tell our children we didn’t end the drug war earlier so we could create a post-recession and War on Terror America just for them? That we had ample warning and time to simply legalize it all and defuse the bomb before it blew up in our faces? What does this say about our society which created and fed the beast and even offered up to it our economy and troops and citizens for sacrifice? Does the average American who at the very least knew about Mexico deserve another shot at the American Dream or was it a privilege we lost out on . . . that we’ll have no more ethical and moral ground to stand on, demanding or wishing for ‘a better tomorrow for us and our kids (economically speaking).’ Was the American Dream that nice new Ford Mustang that the teenager was given as a gift to and then later drove recklessly and totaled and thus now has to drive grandma’s old 81’ beat up Buick that smells and is always needing repair? What happens when we legalize drugs? Will we learn our lesson then? We didn’t learn our lesson from mistreating the Indian, making blacks into slaves and segregation –the War on Drugs shows us that.

      • darkcycle says:

        Chill out, W.V. We’re on the same side. Save your ammo for the enemy.

        • War Vet says:

          But the enemy is inside us: the citizen who gives Frum and the like their power. DC –you are a minority when it comes to activism –the same kind of activism that destroyed the American Monarchy of England in the 1770’s. Remember the last time two major powerhouses battled for global Hegemony? It created the breeding ground of Nationalist Socialism with Germany the loser . . . People who feel robbed of their future can or will do unspeakable things. DC –you don’t represent the average American or silent majority . . . you are not one of those millions of Americans who only show muscle at the voting booth -you are far more active and thus out matched by the voter who looks for the politician to solve problems and not inside themselves. The end of the war on drugs will look like a mute point in comparison to $17 plus trillion in debt ($6-8 of it coming from the war on drugs herself). Right now as you have read, cocaine is sending 3-4 thousand U.S. soldiers from Fort Riley, KS to Africa because we know that cocaine destabilizes whole nations as seen in the assassination of the Guinea-Bissau president in 2008 -that cocaine is the reason why we have a person called the ‘underwear bomber’. Violent police officers will be cheaper to pay than a larger police force using rational crowd control . . . a drafted soldier will be cheaper than a volunteer . . . China will demand it gets more shares of the American pie it worked so hard to bake. We will still have the likes of Frum and his American followers, even if the war on drugs is over. The military and economic misery we created by outlawing drugs will be felt for many years –the question is: can we as a nation rationally handle the problems we created from the war on drugs or are we going to create problems to solve the problem . . . eventually the little old lady died from swallowing too many things to swallow the animal that swallowed the fly. We may come to look at the economic/political climate around the age of drug prohibition to be the best of times for all of us . . . yes, we won’t go to jail for using pot, but it was sure nice having a job that paid well or a home to live in or an educational system where the sky was the limit. Hopefully all of us on the Couch won’t quit fighting once even Special K or crack is legal . . . surely you and I are smart enough to help fix the nation rationally from it’s self inflicted gunshot wound created by all the problems a war on drugs can create. No DC, the enemy is inside us –it’s inside the way we do our politics and our willingness to elect someone to do the job, instead of us doing the job ourselves . . . those of us on the couch are too small and few, unless we take full responsibility for our nation’s faults and demand an active participation in it’s reconstruction –demonstrate to the people that policy isn’t something created out of laws and votes, but the muscle of the people. How will we fix and win the War on Drugs once all the dope is legalized . . . I mean, if all the banned substances were legalized tomorrow, we will still have a war on drugs to fight in the form of war and recession –all created out of the War on Drugs in the first place.

  9. Servetus says:

    David Frum uses paternalism as his excuse to depict prohibition as an act of compassion directed at poor dummies throughout the world.

    To some degree, it’s probably true that idiotic anti-drug propaganda influences only those who can’t or don’t think for themselves, such that intelligent people can still be expected to use drugs. Meanwhile, curiosity and social identity are more likely than intellect to dominate the choices people make regarding their use of mind altering substances. By defending prohibition, Frum risks condemning the curious, as well as attacking non-conformist cultures that are uniquely superior to his own.

    Frum’s conservative circle is defined by its strict hierarchies, making it basically a modernized and extended feudal system. For his feudalism to survive, it’s imperative that a greater number of people always be at the very bottom of Frum’s pecking order. This process requires methods to place and keep people at the bottom, regardless of their skills, potential, or intelligence. In a modern, class-based society, drug arrests are one means of achieving that goal.

    Frum isn’t trying to protect the poor or the dissolute. Like others of his social class, he’s protecting his own cultural hegemony.

  10. kaptinemo says:

    “When we write social rules, we always need to consider: Who are we writing rules for?”

    David Frum, meet the writings of the sadly late Professor Whitebread I believe you’ll see someone he described peering back from the mirror he holds up when he talks about the US vs. THEM mentality present in every prohibition.

    Frum is another reminder:

    “Political tags — such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth — are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.” – RA Heinlein

    Or, more to the point:

    “The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.” – HL Mencken

  11. n.t. greene says:

    “A moral one imposes on another for the sake of protecting the individual from themselves is the basest and most transparent form of social control… however the guises of compassion and social good make it among the most effective.”

    It could use some work, but I think the thesis of the above is good for now.

  12. Deep Dish says:

    Here is some awesome international coverage:

    The video advocacy team of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) travelled to Seattle in November, to find out why people voted ‘yes’ on I-502, an initiative to regulate and tax marijuana. After interviewing several professionals and activists, we found this to be a piece of carefully-considered legislation, which addresses human rights, social justice, and public health concerns, in relation to the region’s number two cash crop after apples.

    The video notably features Dominic Holden of The Stranger, and Tonia Winchester of New Approach Washington.

  13. SelwynBoyce says:

    “The marijuana was found in Okun’s vehicle at a Border Patrol checkpoint near Yuma. State drug charges against her were dismissed after she showed she had authorization under California’s medical marijuana program.
    The Arizona court declined to consider prosectors’ argument that federal drug law invalidates Arizona’s medical marijuana law.”


  14. drwoo says:

    Yes, yes he is.

  15. Jose says:

    Sign a petition to allow liquor stores to sell marijuana if they stop selling alcohol.

  16. n.t. greene says:

    SAM: sadistic and masochistic.


  17. Francis says:

    Yet as a parent of three, two exiting adolescence and one entering, I’ve found that the argument that makes the biggest impression is: “Marijuana is illegal. Stay away.”

    I know I’ve already commented on the above, but man, there is a lot of stupidity packed into that one little quote. A few more thoughts:

    1) “Marijuana is illegal” isn’t really an argument. Arguments are based on reason. “Marijuana is illegal” is simply a threat.
    2) But if that is the best “argument” for avoiding cannabis, that strikes me as a pretty significant admission. In other words, the most dangerous thing about marijuana is the risk of being arrested for it. That’s a point reformers have been making for years.
    3) Frum claims to be worried about losing the ability to say: “marijuana is illegal, stay away.” But he also says that “we don’t want to lock people up for casual marijuana use — or even stigmatize them with an arrest record.” That strikes me as somewhat incoherent. What does the message become then? “Marijuana is (technically) illegal. Stay away. Or else you might have to pay a small fine in the unlikely event you’re caught.” It kind of reminds of this scene (worth watching ;)).

    • allan says:

      I think we’ve flummoxed ’em Francis. Discombobulated their sense of normalcy. And for those unprepared, there is a certain loss of balance when standing on the tipping scale of reality. It’s like that first hit of acid when you realize everything is funny… only for them it’s not funny… and I find that hilarious. It’s hard enough standing on one leg, but when that one leg is mostly hot air…

      I’ve been getting the Black Knight sketch in my head lately every time I read another article, from them or us. When they speak, they do their cause no benefit. Kind of like John English standing down the road from Conde’s.

      • Duncan20903 says:


        It’s been a while since I’ve heard anything from Mr. English. Is he too busy replacing peoples locks to generate any hysterical rhetoric?

        Hmmm, nothing later than 2009 came up in a quick search. Perhaps he “relapsed”?

  18. allan says:

    oh lordy… folks, I stand and bow. To you all, respect. As Frum is part of SAM and SAM is Patrick Kennedy, it gives me a grin, a delightfully happy grin when I read that Mr Kennedy believes our ragtime amotivational disorganized *snicker* group of pot heads (and their non-consuming friends and fams!) are now driving a

    “300-miles-per hour freight train to (marijuana) legalization”

    That one will put a smile on Jerry’s face.

    Woo woo! choom choom!

    while my math is pretty basic I do understand the impact a 300 mph freight train will have when it hits an already crumbling wall. Heck, ya know we may have to put down the hammers and set up chairs and sell tickets to that!

    Heh… the little train that could has become a 300 mph leviathan.

  19. Duncan20903 says:


    So does anyone think that this is the real John Kavanagh responding to one of my comments? linky

    His posting history sure doesn’t scream fake on its face but I’m a bit confused by the question it begs, “if it is Rep. Kavanagh is he a regular follower of ‘The Weed Blog'” or “does he Google his name as a matter of habit?” I suppose its also possible someone tipped him off.

    But regardless, I do stand corrected, only 3/4 of Arizona SB-1070 was struck down by the SCOTUS as blatantly unconstitutional. Mama Kavanagh can still be proud of her little boy.

  20. Duncan20903 says:

    I’m not sure how to pronounce “Frum”, does that rhyme with choom?

  21. allan says:

    in Ideeho

    Blaine County GOP votes to legalize pot

    comments are open (as far as I can tell)

  22. allan says:

    man, when the head of a group called the Anti Drug Alliance says it’s time to legalize:


    Van Kerken [Anti Drug Alliance chief executive Quintin van Kerken] said that every day more and more dealers were on the street. “Sadly, there would not be so many drug dealers if there were not so many drug users,” he said.

    “The fact is that we have lost the war, and all that the government is doing is spending billions on catching a few criminals who are trafficking large quantities of drugs.”

    Van Kerken said that when a dealer was removed, he or she was simply replaced by someone else.

    He called for the legalisation of drugs as a solution to the problem because the current system was not working.

    He said the possession of soft drugs such as dagga was seen as a time waster in court, and people were simply given a warning and let go.

    The alliance believes the police are stopping maybe 5 to 10 percent of the drugs flowing into the country and does not believe it makes any sense to criminalise a person who suffers from an addiction.


    That from South Africa

  23. For all my fine friends on Petes couch:

  24. kaptinemo says:

    “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” – CS Lewis

    Their consciences…and their paychecks. But, for most prohibs, there’s no distinction; “Whose bread I eat, his song I sing.” A merc will salute any flag, so long as he’s paid by the arm-swing, cha-ching, cha-ching. And that’s just what the vast majority of them are, just a mercenary looking to make an easy buck, and willing to knowingly spout drivel for it.

    The problem is, the mercs don’t make policy, the loons do. The wackos inhabiting the taxpayer-funded ivory towers that actually believe their own propaganda. They more than make up for the mercs, because they are the font of the lunacy that gets turned into policy. The ones Lewis warned us about. The ones like Frum.

  25. Marijuana debate isn’t just legalization vs. incarceration
    Posted: 01/12/2013

    Patrick J. Kennedy and Kevin A. Sabet sing a duet

    The Denver Post

    The addiction psychs must have told Patrick all their “facts” while he was there kicking those oxy’s.

  26. primus says:

    One question; Why do these people keep lining up for those inevitable trips to the woodshed and blistered bottoms? Every time they publish, they get shellacked in the comments, which negates any chance of convincing anyone that their arguments are correct. In fact, the more they talk the stupider they look. Are they masochists? Is this how they get their jollies? Do they read the negative comments and touch themselves? What motivates them to be so scorned?

    • Duncan20903 says:


      Of course we always win in the comments sections. Haven’t you ever heard Mama Gump say “stupid is as stupid does”? Also don’t forget that a large super majority of prohibitionists are functionally illiterate.

  27. primus says:

    So if the Know-Nothing Knuckle Dragging Mouth Breathers (KNKDMB) can’t read well, they are getting their information from TV and radio, which thrive on sound bites. We must develop some short sound bites of our own which amplify the harms of prohibition. So we total all the costs, including 9-11, the police, courts, prisons, lost productivity due to having a record, the war in Iraq, Afghanistan etc. We total up all the lost opportunity years of all the drug war prisoners, assign a value such as minimum wage for all those hours and add that in. (They would, so it’s fair for us to also) We total up all the lives lost; the drug war fatalities in Canusa, cartel sourced killings in Mexico, Ivory Coast etc., the dead in the armies of the invaders in Iraq, Afghanistan etc., the civilian dead in those countries and so on. Once we have a vast dollar number total, we can present it either that way, or as a rate per hour/day/year etc. The dead can be done the same way. Then we blab that “Prohibition has killed X numbers of people in the past year, and cost Y dollars in the same period.” “Prohibition paid for 9-11 by sending W dollars to Al Qaida.” And so on. By using this method, we can shock the KNKDMB, and hopefully they will begin to back down from their stupid position.

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