Monday, December 28, 2009

Dave Swindle v. Mary Grabar on the Pot Issue:

I knew Dave Swindle when he was less of a somebody (when he wrote for his college newspapers). He always had nice things to say about my work and still does. Back then he was an enemy of David Horowitz. Now he's an editor for Horowitz's Frontpagemag. He still has the same more or less libertarian worldview, but has switched from progressive politics to conservative. For that (libertarian) reason, I'm one of his friends from the past who hasn't been at all bothered by his move (truth be told, he probably moved closer to where I am politically).

With that, he sent me the following links that relate to his dialog with Grabar (one, two, three).

Not that it need be said, but I think Swindle is obviously correct. I'm tempted to just insult Dr. Grabar's post with an ad hominem and move on. But I won't. There's way too much for me to respond to, so I am going to pick my battles.

Her first passage that stood out:

[Marijuana] is not safe. It has serious health effects. It is addictive. I personally know people who smoke it every day. They started young. One started after being in a motorcycle accident and used it for pain. These are people who are supporting themselves, true. But they are people who are operating way below capacity, who have lost the ability to think logically or to care enough to argue logically. Their emotional relationships are shallow. They have lost initiative and that fighting spirit that defends the idea of liberty.

Why now put the imprimatur of legality on a substance that does this?

This is just refer madness style, meaningless anecdotal citation, making stuff up about pot, hitting and running with it.

Neither she nor her authorities prove MJ is "unsafe" or that is has "serious health effects." As far as it being addictive, no evidence shows it is in a physical sense (like alcohol is for some, and tobacco, heroin/opiates, for many more). Is it psychologically addictive? For a great many, yes. But ANYTHING can be psychologically addictive. (Think about how much time YOU spend on the Internet.)

As for her claim, "[b]ut they are people who are operating way below capacity," and the rest of the passage that follows, I could flip every assertion she makes on its head and would have as much anecdotal and empirical evidence from which to draw. But I won't waste space.

[Note, MJ may cause adverse health effects; the problem, so far as I have seen, is that the prohibitionists, since "Refer Madness," haven't been able to honestly cite research. This is somewhat speculation on my part; but the worst that I have uncovered about MJ is that for a very small % of the population who suffers from chronic (mainly biological) depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia, MJ may act as a catalyst towards a bad psychological experience; yet, I've also witnessed people who suffer from such problems benefit or otherwise not be harmed by MJ.]

The other thing that stood out was Grabar's appeal to America's Founders, "Judeo-Christianity" and "Western Civilization" on behalf of the prohibitionist side. As she wrote:

....I revert back to an argument based on tradition and specifically our Judeo-Christian heritage. I openly—and non-relativistically—assert that it is a heritage that is superior to all others. I base my arguments on this premise.

The fact that I am accused of being a theocrat for simply invoking our cultural heritage and advocating for its values again points to an absolutism on the part of these libertarians, and I think, implicitly a rejection of the Judeo-Christian foundations of our culture. Many of my detractors are absolutely hostile to the mere mention of the Bible or of why we should pay attention to it.


In order to invoke the founding fathers, one needs to understand the cultural tradition they drew from. They read deeply and drew upon the rich traditions of Western thought. They agree with George Washington as he says in his Farewell Address, “Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. . . . Who that is a sincere friend [to our form of government] can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?” I believe I was pointing beyond the isolated use of marijuana to the foundations.

Elsewhere -- I'm not going to bother to find the quote -- she invokes "Western Civ." Just note, "Judeo-Christianity," "Western Civ." and the American Founding are not synonymous. The "Christian" or "Judeo-Christian" (oft-used interchangeably with no explanation of what the differences might be) is one of Western Civ.'s founding sources (Jerusalem). Western Civ. has a pagan source as well in Greco-Romanism (Athens).

The two are so intertwined that it's impossible to separate them. To use an imperfect analogy, if Athens is black and Jerusalem is white, Western Civ. is like a mixture black and white paint, where parts seem purely black, parts, purely white, with countless swirls and shades and gray.

Some religious purists, for instance Francis Schaeffer, wish to try. And God love them in their quest for a new Puritanism. (It might be a fruitless endeavor trying to separate all that white paint.) Other Christians, following Aquinas and the Roman Catholic Church, have embraced Western Civilizations noble pagan roots (to the extent that they are noble, as they teach Aristotle, the Stoics, etc., are). (They embrace and make something noble out of the mixture, though where they try for the white paint to dominate.)

And both of these sources -- the Judeo-Christian, Greco-Roman -- could be and have been used for or against marijuana prohibition and marijuana use itself (and those two are not synonymous either; many drug legalizers don't touch the stuff and don't encourage others to do so, because prohibition is WORSE).

Indeed, the potheads have their own biblical prooftext:

And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

-- Genesis 1:29

Re the Founding Fathers, while I've heard rumors that they grew hemp and even that they smoked it (I have yet to turn to to verify) Washington embraced a pagan Stoicism that would probably caution against such use, Jefferson embraced a pagan Epicureanism that would seem to permit MJ indulgence.

Of course, regardless of whether they would have viewed MJ use as immoral, this doesn't settle whether they believed men had a right to do so within the privacy of their own home. But they did, keep in mind, hold that individuals have an unalienable right to pursue happiness.

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