Skip to main content

Prohibition, ctd


Watch the full episode. See more Ken Burns.


The whole prohibition era raises some interesting questions.  There's the obvious comparison to the current war on drugs, but I'd like to set that aside for a moment.  Consider just pharmacological properties.  Conventional people react with stunned disbelief if you rate alcohol's effects as comparable to that of other "hard" drugs.  The reasoning seems to be that since alcohol is legal, then there must be some kind of medical rationale behind it.

That is, of course, utterly bogus.  Alcohol is one of the more dangerous drugs—serious abuse can damage nearly every major body system, while just the other month the Lancet rated alcohol as the worst drug in existence.  And yet, somehow modern countries seem to handle widespread alcohol consumption without societal collapse.  The reason is entirely biological coincidence.  Alcohol doesn't deserve its own category as the moronic "drugs and alcohol" phrase would have it, rather it is by far the easiest drug to make.  Even other plant-based drugs have to be cultivated (and often bred to increase potency, which takes some skill), but alcohol happens all by itself, in things people normally eat and drink.  It's no coincidence that humankind has been doing it for so long.

As a result, drinking has been deeply imbedded in the social fabric for thousands of years, and cultures around the world have developed elaborate rituals around the practice of drinking.  This provides a set of norms around acceptable use, helps keep abuse down, and often provides abusers a way back to respectable society.  Prohibition, on the other hand, creates a deviant subculture, with all its attendant problems.

Just saying there ain't a hell of a lot of light between opiates, for example (opium is to heroin as beer is to, say, Everclear), and booze.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Why Did Reality Winner Leak to the Intercept?

So Reality Winner, former NSA contractor, is in federal prison for leaking classified information — for five years and three months, the longest sentence of any whistleblower in history. She gave documents on how Russia had attempted to hack vendors of election machinery and software to The Intercept , which completely bungled basic security procedures (according to a recent New York Times piece from Ben Smith, the main fault lay with Matthew Cole and Richard Esposito ), leading to her capture within hours. Winner recently contracted COVID-19 in prison, and is reportedly suffering some lingering aftereffects. Glenn Greenwald has been furiously denying that he had anything at all to do with the Winner clusterfuck, and I recently got in an argument with him about it on Twitter. I read a New York story about Winner, which clearly implies that she was listening to the Intercepted podcast of March 22, 2017 , where Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill expressed skepticism about Russia actually b

Varanus albigularis albigularis

That is the Latin name for the white-throated monitor lizard , a large reptile native to southern Africa that can grow up to two meters long (see pictures of one at the Oakland Zoo here ). In Setswana, it's called a "gopane." I saw one of these in my village yesterday on the way back from my run. Some kids from school found it in the riverbed and tortured it to death, stabbing out its eyes, cutting off its tail, and gutting it which finally killed it. It seemed to be a female as there were a bunch of round white things I can only imagine were eggs amongst the guts. I only arrived after it was already dead, but they described what had happened with much hilarity and re-enactment. When I asked why they killed it, they said it was because it would eat their chickens and eggs, which is probably true, and because it sucks blood from people, which is completely ridiculous. It might bite a person, but not unless threatened. It seems roughly the same as killing wolves tha

The Conversational Downsides of Twitter's Structure

Over the past couple years, as I've had a steady writing job and ascended from "utter nobody" to "D-list pundit," I find it harder and harder to have discussions online. Twitter is the only social network I like and where I talk to people the most, but as your number of followers increases, the user experience becomes steadily more hostile to conversation. Here's my theory as to why this happens. First is Twitter's powerful tendency to create cliques and groupthink. Back in forum and blog comment section days, people would more often hang out in places where a certain interest or baseline understanding could be assumed. (Now, there were often epic fights, cliques, and gratuitous cruelty on forums too, particularly the joke or insult variety, but in my experience it was also much easier to just have a reasonable conversation.) On Twitter, people rather naturally form those same communities of like interest, but are trapped in the same space with differe