This just in from Astute Reader Dexter, our man-not-on-the-beach in Hawaii. As a one-woman walking/talking guinea pig, I concur. (I drink alcohol every day and exercise five to six days a week.) (Currently dealing with a truly nasty case of swimmer's elbow, I might add.) (No! Not drinking elbow. Swimmer's elbow.)
That argument I described in Part 1 is apparently gaining ground. (Mine was a decidedly minority view thirty years ago, which means the rest of the world is getting smarter, or I was dumb long before it was fashionable.)
I mention this because legalization is in the news, thanks to our economic woes. Federal lawmakers are pondering ways to raise revenues, and as is always the case when times are tough, they’re turning their attention to “sin” in all its forms. (As I noted a few days ago, Senators recently heard arguments in favor of raising taxes on a legal ”drug,” alcohol.)
The other is also interesting, but problematic. The author is Michael Winerip, who writes the “Generation B” column in the Times’ Sunday Styles section. (*1) (The “B” refers to “boomer.” Winerip is a Baby Boomer and comments on life for us middle-aged types.)
The essay is worth reading, if only for the comments of Ethan Nadelman, a legalization advocate. But the gist of his essay is the conundrum that drugs pose for many boomers: They did drugs; they’re not sure they want their kids to do them. He muses about his own experience, and his worries about his kids’ fondness for alcohol.
He also interviews David Sheff, who wrote a memoir about his son’s drug addiction. Sheff apparently opposes, or at least fears, legalization because he believes, based on his son’s experience, that “soft” drugs lead to “hard” drugs.
I understand his pain --- no one wants to their kid to become a drug addict. But it doesn’t make sense for him to extrapolate from one case to every case.
The reality is that some people can’t handle drugs, probably because their genes are wired that way. Some people can’t handle alcohol; again, it’s likely the culprit is their genes rather than some character flaw. I can’t handle caffeine. My son-in-law is lactose intolerant. Should we outlaw diary products? Or coffee? I don’t think so.
Here’s the point, such as it is: When it comes to alcohol and drugs, we humans (or, more specifically, we Americans) throw reason out the window.
The facts are that millions of people consume alcohol every day, and they’re not degenerate drunks.
I’ve known, what?, several thousand people in my life? I’d say that most of them drink. But I’ve only known two people who drank themselves to death. And in the case of both, it was clear when they were teen-agers that their relationship to alcohol was, well, different than everyone else’s. They weren’t bad people; they simply couldn’t handle alcohol. That’s sad, and I’m sorry they both died young (age fifty).
But that’s not a reason for me to stop drinking.
Ditto for drugs: I’ve done lots of ‘em. So have many people I know. And nearly all the people I know who did drugs stopped doing them. Only a tiny percentage had a “drug problem.”
Our illegal “drug” problem, however, is gargantuan and harms every member of society. People who want drugs will get them People who want to shoot guns are gonna find, buy, and use guns. All the laws in the world won’t stop them from doing so.
So let’s do the rational thing and legalize drugs. You’ll be safer, your kids will be safer, and we could use those tax dollars to fund schools, parks, libraries, and other good stuff.
*1: “Eh?” you say. “The Styles section? What the hell you doing reading the Styles section??” Answer: It’s my weekly anthropological expedition into the world of the shallow, the vain, the neurotic, the terminally rich-hip, and the fashion-fascists. The inhabitants of the Styles section live in a world remote from my o own, and so their lives are, anthropologically speaking, fascinating. (Well, okay, I'm shallow and neurotic. But not vain. Or hip. And, as anyone who's seen me in the 3-D world knowns, definitely not, um, fashion-oriented.)
Let’s talk for a moment about illegal drugs, shall we? Illegal drugs and the legalization thereof.
First let’s get some background out of the way, so you don’t think I’m a random dumbass who’s shooting my mouth (or, rather, my keyboard) randomly.
When I was in my twenties, I tried and/or used regularly every drug known to humankind and then some. Name a drug, I’ve at least tried it. (Okay, I exaggerate a bit, but not much.)
Nearly every adult I know between the ages of 45 and 60 used drugs at one time. I have friends who who still smoke pot regularly.
Can drugs be dangerous? You bet. A few weeks ago, the son of an old friend died of an overdose. (He’d overdosed several times before; this time, however, was his last.)
I also know alcohol. I grew up in a household dominated by parental alcoholic insanity (although the booze only exacerbated other problems). I spent two of my 20-something years drunk, and I mean that literally: For two years, I was never sober.
I still drink alcohol every day. I haven’t done any illegal drugs for years, mainly because there are only 24 hours in a day, and I’ve made choices about how to spend those hours. (*1)
So I am no stranger to alcohol or drugs. I’m not some wide-eyed pollyanna or knee-jerking liberal.
And for thirty years, I’ve favored the legalization of currently illegal drugs. My opinion of thirty years is simple (because I'm simple-minded?): Drug dealers make billions every year selling drugs, and yet they pay no taxes. Drug users spend billions on drugs every years, and yet they don’t pay taxes on those purchases. The drugs are gonna get bought and sold whether they’re legal or illegal, so we taxpayers might as well reap some benefit from the industry
*1: I’ve long said that if there were 48 hours in the day, I’d probably spend about half of them drinking and drugging to excess.)
I'm obviously not running up to speed this week, blogging-wise. (But hey, I'm getting a lot of other stuff done . . . . Mr. Cranky Beer Magazine Publisher better like this essay, 'cause it's sure gobbling my blogging time....)
Anyway, I only just heard about the Senate Finance Committee "round table" discussion, on, among other things, the wisdom of raising taxes on alcohol. And about it, I say: Ugh. WHEN is Michael Jacobson going to go away? (Not, frankly, that it matters if he goes away, because some other nanny do-gooder numbskull will promptly take his place.)
(And no, I'm not bothering to create a link to his wikipedia page or his nut-job center for "science." There ain't no science, and the only center is the empty space in his head.)
He's been at this "alcohol is EVIL and we need to TAX it out of EXISTENCE" routine for over thirty years. Give it up already.
Glib ranting aside, every one of us would do well to keep an eye on this "discussion" about taxation on alcohol. Because this historian is here to tell all of you that this is precisely how the prohibitionists did their work one hundred years ago.
Anyway, my buddy Jay Brooks dismantled the discussion at his blog. (You think I'm fanatical on the subject of rational drinking; you ain't seen/heard/read nuthin' till you've imbibed one of Jay's rants.) Here's his money quote:
The number one priority of most, if not all, politicians is to stay in office. Using alcohol as a bogeyman can be an attractive alternative from having to face the real causes and consequences of our current economic situation.
True, true, and true. A century ago, politicians hopped on the alcohol-is-evil bandwagon like rats on an overturned garbage can because it was the politically expedient thing to do. As I noted in Ambitious Brew (pp. 150-51):
An Alabama politician who had been "run over" [by the prohibition] "steam-roller" moaned that . . . "gullible people" [had allowed] themselves to be humored and hoodwinked . . ." Politicians who "surrendered, save themselves from slaughter." But he and others who resisted "were just swept aside to make room for the more susceptible."
Jacobson and his pals are just as determined. Don't think it can't happen again. It can --- and it'll start with something like a hefty tax. Because of course the tax will only prove Jacobson's point: alcohol is evil and dangerous and ought not be allowed.
How do we know that? Because, ya know, we taxed it in order to pay for the damage it does. See how this works? Beware. (Can you tell I'm in a pissy mood after a loooooooong week at the keyboard?)
Okay, this is interesting. The "money quote" is this:
The creative effect of alcohol, then, seems to involve a delicate counterpoint between stimulation and relaxation.
Now, if only we could all figure out where and how to achieve that "delicate counterpoint." Tip o' the snifter to Drew Weinstein, a "friend" at Facebook. (Truth be told, I have no idea who he is, although I think he may be a "friend" of my son-in-law's and that's how he ended up "friending" me at Facebook. (It is called "friending," isn't it?) (If so, awful word!)