In a recent article for National Review, Dennis Prager illustrates (unintentionally) why the conservative/GOP coalition is struggling to survive.

Marijuana: A Gift of the Left to America's Youth

Denver television station CBS4 reports that Colorado has seen a sharp spike in marijuana use among teenagers since voters passed Amendment 64 last November, legalizing recreational use of the drug. As described in The Economist, along with a Washington State measure also legalizing marijuana, Amendment 64 is "an electoral first not only for America but for the world."

That means two American states are to the left of the Scandinavian countries, Holland, and every other liberal country regarding marijuana.

Is Dennis Prager intentionally misleading his readers, or is he truly that ignorant of history? Either way, he's got a serious credibility problem right from the get-go. As historian Wiliiam Leuchtenburg points out in the PBS documentary, Prohibition, "People think of Prohibition as a conservative movement, but not at all. It was a movement that was embraced by progressives."

That's right. The people who now wish to ban soft drinks, McDonald's and guns, are the same (progressive) folks who gave us that ridiculous 18th Amendment.

As the Prohibition website notes, progressives championed prohibition for the same dubious reasons Prager and his kind support prohibition today.

Prohibition was intended to improve, even to ennoble, the lives of all Americans, to protect individuals, families, and society at large from the devastating effects of alcohol abuse.

Sound familiar?

Anyway, regarding Prager's emotional appeal that "children are getting higher than ever with alarming levels of THC, marijuana's active ingredient, in their bodies" … Forgive me for being highly skeptical of any statistical inference that is drawn from barely 3 months of data, collected by one drug testing company (what's their angle?), in only one Colorado school district. That's some pretty weak sauce, Dennis. Besides, this whole business of compressing all of society into mathematical models is the very pith of everything that's gone wrong in the Western world.

Have we really become so utopian, so collectivist, so enamored with top-down technocratic societal management that we believe we can reduce questions of individual incentive and human will down to blurry snapshots made of numbers derived from small, often arbitrary samples?

More from The American Conservative's Jordon Bloom:

The source for Prager's claim is the assertion of a drug-testing company that it's been called in to conduct tests more often. He characterizes this as "based in part on data from a local drug-testing lab." But the company provides no numbers in the CBS4 article, so it isn't really "data" at all. And drug testing companies have a long history of inflating their claims, which is understandable because they profit from the drug prohibition. Does Prager, who's done radio shows about cronyism, really not get that?

Look, marijuana use among children is a problem that should be dealt with — ideally by parents. But people who make the argument that decriminalization equals more stoned children rarely have to confront the opposite argument that prohibition equals mass incarceration of nonviolent offenders and the enrichment of drug cartels rather than American businesses. The latter evidently doesn't bother Prager, who will likely do quite well concern-trolling movement conservatives with columns like these for years to come.

Yet the biggest error of his piece is one of omission — the suggestion that letting states do what they will with regard to certain drug laws is some sort of leftist cause, and that conservatives have no reason to grapple with the realities of the drug war.

That's right. According to Prager, even "states' rights" is leftwing nonsense.Apparently, anything he doesn't like is "leftwing" to Prager.

As he pulls out all the standard myths and scare tactics, his argument only goes downhill from here …

Simple-Minded Scare Tactics

Despite decades of dire warnings — your brain will fry like an egg, you'll go criminally insane, you're funding terrorism, you'll morph into a lazy pothead "loser" — kids (and adults) just keep on smokin'. Why is that? Maybe it's because no one has ever seen these scary warnings come true.

Everyone knows an angry drunk, right? But who knows an angry stoner? As for charges of apathy and laziness, well, admitted potheads Bill Clinton and Barack Obama managed to do okay (as become the most powerful man in the world). George W. Bush, who also admitted to drug use, managed to get elected president too. So much for the stereotypical pothead dumbass, huh? Smoke marijuana, and you can even become president!

Apple founder Steve Jobs said that "taking LSD was one of the two or three most important things he had done in his life." Swimmer Michael Phelps, who has won more medals than any Olympian evah, smoked pot. Country legend Willie Nelson has done pretty well for himself too. Even basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar happily smokes the devil's weed. The endless examples of productive marijuana smokers even includes Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Whatever legitimate concerns there are about drugs, that should be raised, sadly get drowned out by the simple-minded scare tactics and constant handwringing … until they're dismissed in toto.

Conservative?

Is this, being a Drug Nazi, what it means to be a "conservative" today? Wow! What about the Constitution? At least the early progressives had the common decency to amend the Constitution before declaring their war on alcohol. Conservative prohibitionists, on the other hand, just skipped the amendment process altogether (aka broke the law), creating a secular Leviathan like no other.

The War on Drugs has been systematically used to destroy constitutionalism, trample states' rights, attack traditional medicine, usurp family authority, and ultimately crush individual freedom. Adding insult to injury, hard-working Americans have been forced to cough up $1 trillion for the pleasure of this disaster too.

What kind of culture has this war, with its militarized police, senseless violence, arbitrary murder and "mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history" created? Face it. This ain't no war on drugs, it's a war on America itself.

Make no mistake, the War on Drugs is a very real war, executed by very real violence, that results in very real "collateral damage." This is what Drug Warriors like Dennis Prager refuse to acknowledge yet need to confront: fighting a War on Drugs requires (often extreme) acts of inherent immorality.

Since Christianity played a formative role in Western Culture, and because most conservative Drug Warriors claim Christian morality as their reason to support the war, it's important to contrast the Machiavellian "ends justify the means" philosophy with Christian ethical doctrine.

Why not say, then, "Let us do evil so that good may come"? Some people, indeed, have insulted me by accusing me of saying this very thing! They will be condemned, as they should be. — Romans 3:8

It's hard to conceive of Christian pastors/priests dressed up like soldiers, donning black masks and armed to the hilt, breaking into private homes throwing flash grenades and killing pets because a member of their flock had a pot smoking habit. Ridiculous. Absurd. To conceive of Jesus advocating such over-the-top violence in the name of correcting human error is absolutely impossible. Yet, whether they realize it or not, this is exactly what Drug Warriors champion with great zeal — "Let us do evil so that good may come."

As conservative intellectual Robert Nisbet wrote, "keep in mind that the state's origin and essential function is, as philosopher David Hume pointed out in the 18th century, in and of force-above all." Violence is not only the sine qua non for the state's existence, violence is the only tool it has to enforce its edicts. At the root of all secular (state/government) law is a gun. If you don't comply, the state will wreak violence upon you.

Let us say that someone robs in order to feed the poor: in this case, even though the intention is good, the uprightness of the will is lacking. Consequently, no evil done with a good intention can be excused. — John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor (1993)

"According to FBI crime statistics, in 2011 there were 663,032 arrests for pot possession across the U.S., more than all violent crime arrests combined." In other words, as a society, we've come to accept more violence is in the name of correcting vice, than we do in defense of crime (Vices Are Not Crimes). That's a tough position to square with the idea of being a Christian society.

Freedom, not law, makes man a moral subject. To be morally evaluated, his acts must be chosen freely. It is not wrong to judge him and seek to correct his errors, but this morally good act requires the goodness of both the means and the ends. Evil means necessarily corrupt good ends, therefore good intentions are never enough, because in no way can they ever justify the use of evil means.

The modern "pragmatic" philosophy that "the ends justify the means" has brought about lawlessness (unconstitutional acts/crooked enforcement), destroyed families, turned doctors, drug stores and banks into arms of the state, enriched criminals, trampled private property, condoned strip searches, undermined respect for law … and helped usher in what Nisbet called "licensed immorality."

I do not think it extreme to link the breakdown in moral standards in all spheres — economic, educational, and political — as well as in family life — to the effects of two major wars … What is in the first instance licensed, as it were, by war stays on to develop into forms which have their own momentum … Many of the basic values of war and revolution are identical. In each there is legitimization of violence in the name of some moral or social end that transcends violence.

Let's not accept the "legitimization of violence in the name of some moral or social end," instead, let's bring this destructive War on Drugs to an end.

References