to Strakon Lights Up #115


Straightening out the libertarian line


In the 1970s when libertarians were assembling their intellectual armory on the drug issue, they tended to argue that drug abuse, per se — stripped of its black-market distortions — wasn't much of a problem at all: "Hey, man, we smoke weed, but you guzzle Scotch, so lay off!" But that riposte doesn't strike me as all that groovy nowadays, man, what with whole crowds of 13-year-olds not only smoking crack but also vacuuming out all the bottles of Scotch they can lay their pierced lips on.

One favorite tactic of us libertarians, back when, was to adduce some famous creative genius who did his finest work at the same time he was heavily using heavy drugs. A typical example was the surgical and antisepsis pioneer William S. Halsted, who for many years imposed a serious drain on his pharmacy's cocaine inventory. (He died — and I really hate to impart this tidbit — of too much cigar-smoking.) We also enjoyed pointing out that in those halcyon days at the dawn of the last century, before the Narcotics Act of 1914, Bayer sold its miracle drug heroin right alongside its miracle drug aspirin. Not only that, we made sure everyone knew that all manner of patent medicines containing stiff doses of opiates and cocaine were sold openly and freely, including by mail order. And there didn't seem to be hordes of people staggering around getting stoned all the time.

We were not wrong, but in retrospect I doubt that those particular lines of argument impressed many of those who were parents of a non-genius drug burnout and who remembered with amazement the complete absence of mind-altering drugs at their own high school in 1954, apart from that one time when some doofus spiked the sock-hop punch with apricot brandy.

To be sure, in the days when my generation of libertarians was just starting out, American society positively quivered with hysteria over drugs (times ten, now), and a lot of that quivering was sedulously promoted by our rulers (times ten, now); but no libertarian old enough to worry about his prostate or literate enough to read a little social history should try to deny the fact that drug abuse was a big social problem in 1970. Nor should he deny that it is at least as big a problem now.

Libertarians should admit it and in fact proclaim it, while proclaiming at the same time that drug abuse is a social problem that state power cannot solve. State power can only make it worse. (And it has.)


When they contemplate changing times, many people seem to reflect: Well, at one time men wore tricorner hats, and now they don't. At one time people said "23 Skiddoo!" and now they don't. At one time a few 13-year-olds took a tiny amount of cocaine a couple of times a year, in their cough syrup, even though it was perfectly legal, and now thousands blast their brains with it every day, even though it is massively illegal. Well, times change ... there's no reason for the season ... but the government really ought to start cracking down on that cocaine stuff!

The truth is that while times do change, they change in a particular way and for particular reasons. The mass escape into mind-altering, or mind-destroying, drugs in the face of ever-escalating legal penalties — in the face, even, of years of officially sanctioned homosexual rape in America's Gulag — is just as much a sign of a collapsing civilization as the disintegration of white Western morale and identity. Neither calamity is repairable by converting the country into more of a police state than it already is — especially when state power has been complicit in the civilizational collapse from its beginning.

Why do so many white Western youths imitate the least successful and most violent of our subpopulations, not just in drug abuse but also in dress, music, speech, manners, and attitude? Why do they flee their civilization, and flee it so desperately? Or, worse, so proudly? Why do so many youths, and their elders, too, exhibit such profound contempt for the white West? Doubtless that is what the owners and beneficiaries of the state want and what they unceasingly work for. But as Ronn Neff wrote in "Repatriating the West," "there [is] no Negro interest group that force[s] white children to listen to 'rap' anti-music and prefer it to Brahms or even to Grainger." Likewise, leaving aside a little covert experimentation here and there by the military and CIA, there is no Drug Administering Administration that actually forces children and adults to desert civilized life by shattering their mind with drugs.

Libertarians are good at figuring out what the people who call themselves "the government" are responsible for. Now we have to become as good at figuring out what we ordinary people are responsible for. That's assuming we care about saving what is still there to be saved.

Nicholas Strakon
March 2, 2002

© 2002 by WTM Enterprises. All rights reserved.

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