The Real Culture War (Intellectuals Say the Darndest Things!)

People need to wake up to the fact that there is a cultural war going on in this country.  Nearly a half million drug users are currently imprisoned; a disproportionate number are African-Americans.  On the other hand many states have recently moved toward liberalizing marijuana laws.  My home state has reduced the fine to $100, and many local police have indicated that they don’t plan to bother issuing those fines.  Voters in some conservative western states have recently voted to legalize “medical marijuana.”  It’s easy to get a prescription, so that’s also a step in the right direction.  But if you really want to reduce crime, you also need to legalize the sale of pot.  There are referenda on the ballots in Colorado and Washington state that would do just that.

Now we have Pat Robertson coming out for pot legalization.  Meanwhile, the Obama administration is sending federal law enforcement officials to states with medical marijuana, trying to get them to shut down the dispensaries.

This is one of the those issues where future generations will look back at us in shock and disbelief.  Nearly a half million people in prison for using drug crimes?  They’ll scratch their heads like we do when we read that the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence owned slaves, or when we read that FDR ordered 100,000 Americans be put in concentration camps because of the shape of their eyes.  What were people thinking back in the early 21st century?

People can’t continue to stand on the sidelines debating trivial issues like whether insurance will pay for contraceptives.  They need to wake up and discover the real culture war.  And take sides.  Are you with Pat Robertson or are you with Barack Obama?  I know which side I’m on.

PS.  I read that Ron Paul got a huge round of applause when he proposed legalizing heroin in a debate in South Carolina.  The crowd was made up of conservative Republicans.  I’m too old to follow the zeitgeist, but I’d be interested in hearing the thoughts of my younger readers who are more tuned in.  Is the climate of opinion finally beginning to shift?  Will we still have 500,000 innocent people in prison in 2020?  How about 2030?

PPS.  The two pot referenda are arguably much more important than the Presidential election.  We know that whoever wins the presidential election we’ll get more war on drugs and more war on terror.  The politicians are useless in civil liberties battles; only the voters can put a stop to the madness.

PPPS.   I found this post by Paul Krugman to be especially odd, even by the standards of Krugman’s other posts on conservatism:

Of course, maybe the people we think are reasonable actually aren’t. Some supposedly libertarian bloggers have let down their guard, coming out in favor of the vile Virginia probe law and the Rush slut attack, and revealing in the process that all that reasonableness was just a facade.

But what’s mainly going on, I think, is cynical ambition — an unwillingness to take the hit to hopes of future office and influence that would come from acknowledging that this is not the Republican Party of yore.

So if you are a conservative intellectual who is embarrassed by Rush’s idiocy, would you:

a.  Keep your mouth shut until it blows over, so as not to antagonize influential conservatives.

b.  Say the following in your blog, in the hope that that it will make you a popular choice for top Washington jobs:

There’s one place where I part company with Rush, though: He wants to brand Ms. Fluke a “slut” because, he says, she’s demanding to be paid for sex. There are two things wrong here. First, the word “slut” connotes (to me at least) precisely the sort of joyous enthusiasm that would render payment superfluous. A far better word might have been “prostitute” (or a five-letter synonym therefor), but that’s still wrong because Ms. Fluke is not in fact demanding to be paid for sex. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) She will, as I understand it, be having sex whether she gets paid or not. Her demand is to be paid. The right word for that is something much closer to “extortionist”. Or better yet, “extortionist with an overweening sense of entitlement”. Is there a single word for that?

Paul Krugman seems to think the answer is b.  And that is why neither Paul Krugman nor Steven Landsburg will ever again work for the federal government.

Steve Landsburg also said the following:

His dense and humorless critics notwithstanding, I am 99% sure that Rush doesn’t actually advocate mandatory on-line sex videos. What he advocates is logical consistency and an appreciation for ethical symmetry. So do I. Color me jealous for not having thought of this analogy myself.

I’d guess that roughly 99% of the time when someone tells me they are “99% sure,” they are in fact less than 99% sure.  So kudos for to Landsburg for not abusing mathematical probabilities.  Heck, I’d go 99.9% sure.   I love to read Steve Landsburg, but I’d respectfully suggest that if he insists on insulting those he disagrees with, he should at least learn from Paul Krugman, who makes it seem like he’s very sorry to have to inform his readers that all the (conservative) people who disagree with him are either fools or knaves.  When you show glee in your attacks, people will not react well.

PPPPS.  Krugman’s post was useful in one respect, reminding me I have to work extra hard to avoid “letting down my guard,” lest progressives find out I’m a closet social conservative.

PPPPPS.  However conservatives should take heart, because although Krugman doubts the existences of reasonable conservatives, he does concede that such creatures are theoretically possible, not in violation of the underlying laws of science:

For such people do exist — or at least there is such a position.

Intellectuals say the darndest things!

About Scott Sumner 492 Articles

Affiliation: Bentley University

Scott Sumner has taught economics at Bentley University for the past 27 years.

He earned a BA in economics at Wisconsin and a PhD at University of Chicago.

Professor Sumner's current research topics include monetary policy targets and the Great Depression. His areas of interest are macroeconomics, monetary theory and policy, and history of economic thought.

Professor Sumner has published articles in the Journal of Political Economy, the Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, and the Bulletin of Economic Research.

Visit: TheMoneyIllusion

1 Comment on The Real Culture War (Intellectuals Say the Darndest Things!)

  1. A major factor in the continuance of the Drug War is the fact that loyal Americans feel that they are somehow betraying the country if they don’t support “The War”. To put it into perspective, there is a huge difference between Govt and Country. The War on Drugs is a government war, or IOW’s a political policy. The thing about political wars is that the people who start or support them don’t know how to end them. It’s OK to love your country but not your govt. With Congress having a 12% approval rating, and the great majority of road blocks we face on a daily basis are caused by Govt agencies, which are run by people we don’t elect, our govt doesn’t deserve to be “Loved’. Here’s a prime example; In his autobiography, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam (1995), McNamara expressed his regret for his role in the Vietnam War. He wrote: “We of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations who participated in the decisions on Vietnam acted according to what we thought were the principles and traditions of this nation. We made our decisions in light of those values. Yet we were wrong, terribly wrong. We owe it to future generations to explain why.”
    50000 dead and all they can say is Oooops. They’re doing the same thing with this drug war. JMHO
    LEAP member, 82nd Abn, NYPD, ret.

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