Cold Fury

Harshing your mellow since 9/01

Scolds and killjoys

When you get right down to it, that’s all they really are.

I think Kristof is sincere and admirable in his concern. Alcoholism among Native Americans is a huge problem and I have sympathy for the tribal authorities eager to do something about it. I’m not prepared to second-guess their decision to ban the sale of booze on their lands.

But it is an intriguing thing to see a liberal embracing Prohibition. And that’s what he’s doing. His argument boils down to his belief that Indians can’t handle the freedom to buy booze on their own. And he may be right for cultural, historical, and biological reasons. Some Native Americans, like some Asians, have a genetic handicap when it comes to alcohol.

Still it’s intriguing because it is a widely held article of faith – on the left and the right – that Prohibition was stupid. Amusingly, today’s progressives never like to mention that their ideological forebears were at the forefront of Prohibition, and that the temperance movement was inextricably entwined with the suffrage movement. I always chuckle when progressives brag about all the wonderful things progressives did, but conveniently skip over Prohibition.

The contradiction becomes even more acute when you consider the fact that drug legalization is so fashionable among progressives today. Kristof himself has come out in favor of drug legalization.

It should be obvious to people that many illegal drugs – meth, heroin, cocaine – are just as destructive and addictive as booze, at least for very large numbers of Americans. Of course, some people can try hard drugs or alcohol and then turn their backs on it forever without much trouble. Other people can’t. My own brother, who died in no small part because of his troubles with booze and drugs, was one such person.

Call me crazy, but I find it very hard to reconcile support for banning Budweiser for Indians with advocating the legalization of narcotics for everybody.

Nah, call THEM crazy–because they can reconcile it, and they are crazy.

That excerpt is from an oldie-but-evergreen G File, and the main point is one that will discomfit libtards everywhere–or at least it ought to, were they not so inclined to harbor ten directly-conflicting, half-baked articles of blind faith in their heads at once, believing desperately in all of them.

I have no great overarching lesson here. Freedom has costs. And I think it is reasonable to ask whether some of those costs are too great for society to bear. Conversely, there are very strict limits to what you can accomplish with paternalism. And I think it’s beyond foolish to ignore those limits out of a desire to fix a demand-side problem with supply-side solutions. As a society, we’ve decided not to ban alcohol. That was the right decision, but it had costs. As a society, we are pondering whether to lift the ban on drugs. Excepting marijuana, I think that is the wrong decision. Reasonable people can disagree and they may be right. But reasonable people cannot dispute that doing so will have costs, too.  

Ahh, but that throws the Progressivist Prime Directive–that society is perfectible if we just allow them to run our lives, and that elimination of all risk is a desirable and necessary step towards that perfection–right out the window.

Via Ed, who says:

Well, the time-out during the 1960s and ‘70s when the left didn’t act like puritanical scolds was fun while it lasted — the “ban all the thingz!!!!” modern day Comstocks at the HuffPo are merely returning “Progressivism” to its form around this same time a century ago.

Yep, pretty much. Although I’d say that the Left’s Church Lady impulses were still there in the 60s and 70s; it’s just that their desire to throw off the “shackles” of dignity, civilization, adulthood, and their horrible, horrible Daddies briefly pushed it aside.


2 thoughts on “Scolds and killjoys

  1. Older age teaches me the wisdom of monarchist conservatism. A bit of hypocrisy and inconsistency is just what the doctor ordered, most of the time.

    Just as it’s good to get hammered on Saturday night and better to couple it with a superhuman effort to be human and drag the kid to church on Sunday AM, it’s good to have prohibition, in the right places and for the right reasons.

    So as much as it bothered me when I lived in the Midwest to have to stock up on liquor before the big game on Sunday, and that real beer was only available in liquor stores… I’ve come to respect that the locals want to limit everyday workingman drunkenness. Used to be out there, before the Jamaican and Mexican walking crime waves moved in, they turned a blind eye to ditchweed. They decided to get locally tougher on that because the newcomers had a habit of shooting everybody in the neighborhood if a deal went bad – y’know, the people not being decent enough to just grow their own on the back 40.

    So too the discussion about drug legalization. We probably should legalize ganja. Its effects are comparable to booze with probably not as severe side effects. But if your town thinks it isn’t worth it, fine. Your choice locally. I can move to Stonerville if I want, it’s just a couple towns over. Hard drugs – gotta get hypocritical here. Too many people just flat out get destroyed by them and it’s not an individual thing. They wreck their own families, their jobs and random strangers in the process. I get why we ban heroin and crack. It’s not just a personal choice to use them. Seeing what booze does on Indian reservations, I don’t blame the local legitimate tribal leadership if they want to ban booze. Yeah, that brings a smuggling problem with it, but the effect of booze on Indians is comparable to the effect of crack on the ‘hood. It’s like a scythe. And that’s their local business.

    But that ^^^ is the minimalist approach. It’s not these sweeping, utopian and dumbass ways of going about it. In for a penny, in for a kilo of the finest Bolivian, they say. Well, fuck that. Being a free person means not just opening your mouth and swallowing the whole world but being able to exercise a bit of thought and judgment, and set a different path that doesn’t treat the individual as a simple prop acted upon by outside forces. Policy doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

    And yes, it’s the puritans plaguing us again. Or a particular form of them who have made actual religion a sin, while turning buggery and abortion into sacraments. They are the odd and twisted folk whom H.L. Mencken identified as “the uplifters.” God save us from the uplifters. They have grand ideas for bringing us a heaven on earth, ideas which will flop disastrously but they will have moved on to new pursuits by then, new fallen men to plague and lift up.

    They mean well, and I mean that description in the worst possible way.

  2. Reasonable people can disagree and they may be right. But reasonable people cannot dispute that doing so will have costs, too.

    Ah, but would it have net costs? Speak not to me of “costs” without a complete and candid accounting of all that flows from the proposed policy. I want the books open all the way. But there’s a larger point to make, as well.

    In these days of moral, intellectual, and political degeneracy, we tend to overlook the qualitative difference between objectives and rights. This conflation has made possible some of the worst atrocities of our time, and is on its way toward legalizing still worse: government-controlled medicine is only the one most often discussed. But the difference remains, and remains critical:

    Either rights exist, or they do not exist. If they exist, they involve absolute consequences…Furthermore, if a right exists, it exists at every moment. It is absolute today, yesterday, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, in summer as in winter, not when it pleases you to declare it in force. — Louis Thiers

    If rights exist, then they completely trump all other considerations: We are morally bound to respect them. Costs there may be, but to treat any right as if it can be legitimately traded off against some lesser consideration is to destroy rights as a concept — and “costs,” whether in the objective sense of the word or in some nebulous, tendentious “social cost” formulation, are definitely a lesser consideration.

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